Suicidal Tendencies

It was the summer before my 24th birthday. The summer everything changed.

In nearby Lafayette parish, a Catholic priest had just been accused of molesting a young alter boy. The country wide scandal took several months to reach the Deep South, as most progressive things took longer to reach here, and the day it hit the news the pastor of our church preached an angry sermon on Catholics and how they were doing wrong not letting their priests marry. Our Pastor thought his church was the only one who did anything right, because he thought he was the only doing right in “the eyes of God” and that our church were the only Christians going to heaven. I think he was just trying to get members in his church, as Catholics were the largest religious majority in Louisiana, but that was neither here nor there. Pastor Daniel had a God-complex and a hideous ego. Although it was true that Catholic priests had been molesting young boys, and it was a scandal, no one found out about our church and our scandal that Pastor Daniel was leading. There were no physical marks of rape, no DNA evidence to make a case on, but there was plenty of psychological damage among those of us who left the cult before “they” said we could. We’d been mentally raped, brainwashed, made to “drink the Kool-aid” so to speak, and yet we didn’t have any physical markers to take to the courts, and technically we’d come there to the cult of our own free will.

None of us knew it was a cult when we went there, and few of us struck up the courage to leave. Those who did leave were made outsiders, and cut off from all their friends and all acquaintances. We were the “spawn of Satan” or “rebellious” if we left…if we disagreed with the Authority of God, our Pastors.

On the night I contemplated leaving, I replayed my dad’s words to leave. He called me a month after his trip to Louisiana to meet my boss, Pastor Daniel. My dad didn’t like Pastor Daniel. “Lisa, I don’t like the way he spoke to me about you—as if he’d assumed the role of father in your life. That’s just not right,” my dad’s anger could be heard through the phone line, “I mean, what right does that arrogant man have to tell me that he’s going to pick out my own daughter’s husband? He doesn’t have faith that you can meet someone decent on your own? I know I’ve never told you what to do in your life, but Lisa—you need to get out of there. Come home.”

My dad was right. Pastor Daniel just wasn’t right. But my life had become wrapped around these people, and saying good-bye prematurely meant ripping away seven years of my life’s history away and becoming invisible, or worse yet, rebellious and unfit.

I sat in the driver’s seat of my car, parked on the dirt road that was flanked with sugar cane and fireflies on either side of me. Tears poured down my cheeks as the thoughts ran through my mind. I knew I couldn’t get out of here, without my life falling apart, and I was afraid of the only other option—but it seemed like the only way out.

The frog-filled swamp stretched out long and ominous before me: calling my name, and beckoning me to enter. Just gun the car and drive into the swamp, the water spoke to me like an old friend who had my best intentions in mind. I reached for another Kleenex from the passenger seat, as my whole body shook violently with sobs and my head pounded with pain. I tried to search for any other options, but there just seemed to be no other way to escape.

I looked around for anyone in sight. To the south of the road where my car sat were the dorms where all the students slept. I was supposed to be asleep, as well, making sure there was someone responsible watching over them. My fellow staff members were there, tucked into their single beds and surrounded by the students in their bunks, peacefully resting, unaware of my desire to escape, and the misery staying here was causing me. I was the only one awake that piercing dark black night. I was the only one deliberating how I could rid myself from their negativity. I was the only one trying to get the hell out of there. I was also the only one sitting alone by the dense fields of sugar cane, under the dimly lit star-filled night sky, thinking about killing myself.

The term killing myself sounded so harsh, but I guess in reality it would be a harsh thing to do to my family and my friends, those I had left that is.  My family, however, lived in California and I lived in the blasted mosquito infested hellhole of the U.S. Swamps and gators; frog legs and crawfish. Yes, the Deep South. Louisiana. The only good about Louisiana was Tim, and he wasn’t allowed to speak to me anymore because Pastor Daniel felt he was unfit for me to date, unfit to be a pastor and Pastor Daniel said God spoke to him that I should be a pastor’s wife.

My story obviously didn’t end here…but the concept of it was true. While I was in the cult, I did want to kill myself. I had reached the end of my rope and I’d asked the directors of my ministry group for vacation time to gather myself together after serving selflessly for about seven years with hardly a break. I was burnt out and breaking down. I’d never felt so low, so depressed, and never before that point felt suicidal.

When I finally made it out of the cult and home, I told my dad that story and he hugged me so tightly and said he was so sorry he didn’t get me out of that cult before, and that he’s sorry he let me stay there so long.

It wasn’t my parents fault. I’d become so tightly connected to the director of my ministry training group that I felt they were my family, my life, my friends.

I was wrong…when I needed them most, they let me down. More than that, their brainwashing, mind-control, yelling, belittling and abuse left me with PTSD and after effects that I’m still working on recovering from to this day.

As a 17 year old girl who was a high school honor student, 10th in her graduating class, active in her church youth group, never smoked, drank, done drugs with a real future in front of her to a nearly thirty year old woman who has to see a therapist who specializes in cults for the anxiety, depression, and fear that rules her life due to the abuse done from the directors who mentored her for years…it was not the transition I thought would happen when I first left home to join the ministry.

 

 

15 thoughts on “Suicidal Tendencies”

  1. I remember reading this story when you first wrote it 2 years ago…I still have the emails we exchanged with changes to make the story an amazing opener to your book.

    I also remember the phone calls that shaped this story, the real life story characterized above. I had already left by that time and the reality of what I had experienced had set in and I desperately wanted you to leave too.

    I remember the similarities in both our father’s discernment…oh the daughters they raised, so stubborn and so ready for a challenge. Challenged we were. Challenged we are.

  2. I would like to point out that Lisa worked in the home of this pastor for a very long time and was intimately familiar with him and his family. The things Lisa points out are not trivial. She is bringing to light very serious issues and the devastation caused by this twisted theology. This pastor and his entire staff need to repent for the way they have manipulated and used people. Great work Lisa. I would like to suggest that you change this pastor’s name to “Deceiver”. Seems to make more sense to me and it is ironic that is what his real name means.

  3. That took a box of kleenex to get through. My brother committed suicide; it is one of the worst deaths to endure; thank God none of these MC people killed themselves.

  4. Massive kuds for writing this. As a former member, its very relieving to see things brought to light. My experience I the group seemed like (looking back) that everything was about the director, not God. I don’t consider myself christian or religious and that group and the thoughts of it are part of the reason why.

    1. Wow! to think that we all thought they were family! Family is there for one another when we need each other. Yet at the first sign of need, they all disappeared. I remember when i left MCA, I never heard back from any of them. And it sucked. love you Lisa

  5. Hey Lisa, I feel like I may have apologized before, but If I have not than I am truly sorry for your experience. I witnessed it 1st hand, as I have witnessed those before you & after you. More over, I’ve experienced it in my own life. The really shitty thing is that you have to understand that these people will never ever ever ever accept responsibility for any of the damage done. I mean never. In their mind, people like you are pitiful & need more help than they can offer. You will never receive the apology or Acknowledgment that you are looking for. It would be so easy for them to do & it would mean the world to people like you & me, but it will never happen. What my time in that environment taught me ultimately was how to quit. I tried so fucking hard for so fucking long & it was never enough. I worked to become the man “God wanted me to be”, all the while never thinking that maybe God created me exactly the way I was. When I reached the breaking point, I finally just quit. I quit everything, the church, the ministry, my job there, my life in Louisiana, My marriage, my relationships that were so “meaningful” at that time. The people who discipled me & seemed so heaven bent on walking this journey out with me never so much as picked up the phone to see if I made it out to nashville alive. No one cared enough. It only reassured me of my assumption that all the “work” that is being done there in the name of God, is really guilt & fear motivated (unless your one of the senior pastors in which case it’s money) manipulation, & once your out of sight, no one feels any obligation to do shit. The only fate that I can imagine worse than being abused by those people, is becoming those people. By the grace of God you & I have been spared from that at least. Hope your well Lisa, I love you & I believe in you & again I’m sorry for my part.

    1. Jacob Thomas,
      I love you with all my heart. You apologized to me years ago and your apology then made me break down and cry. This one made me cry too, because you said it best: at least we’re not becoming those people. I am so proud of the person that you have become since you left there, and I’m equally proud of the person I’ve become. I think you have something amazing to contribute to this world, and part of that contribution will come from the inner peace you have from walking the path you’ve chosen for your life–not one forced down upon you. You’re exactly the person you’re supposed to be, and a damn good person, too.
      Thank you, friend.
      Lisa

  6. Lisa,

    I must say that I think I have read all of your blogs this afternoon…and I am blown away by your talent, articulation and honesty. Keep writing.

    This also reminds me that being in leadership is a very dangerous place to be when we forget that there will be judgment for ALL our actions.

    Love you.

  7. Lisa,

    Wow i have just now read most of your latest blogs, and I could not but help and agree with you more. There were times that felt absolutely hopeless. I was trying to explain what you had written to my girlfriend and she asked simply, “why didn’t you just leave.” I said that is the thing, I never felt like that was a viable option. My thinking was I could never leave because then I would be quitting on God and all those who I thought loved me. The fact of the matter is that for all the positions I held and and people who said they loved me, I can count on one hand the people who have tried to contact me after I left. Aside from Barry and Jana, Tim, and Jenny not one person called to see what happened to me. I was told things that made the decision to leave very easy finally and I did, not in the best of manners, but I did and I am so thankful that God moved me on. Now I am one year away from earning a Master’s Degree in History and hopefully being accepted into a reputable PhD program. Anyways, I have moved on with my life and hold no grudge on anyone there and wish them the best. But i have always spoken the truth about what happened when I come in contact with people from the church and will continue to do so. Lisa, I stand by you and still think of you highly. May we be stronger and better people than what we encountered.
    Barry and Jana, Know that I miss you terribly and long for your fellowship again oneday.
    Jacob Thomas, My brother who I have known since we were kids, I hope all is well and that you find success in your music and life.

    Cheers,

    James Hoogendoorn

    1. James,
      Thank you for reading and the sweet comment. I wish I had talked to you more–it drove me crazy not knowing who was a genuine friend and was trustworthy and who was just snooping around for gossip to go “report back on me.” So, at one point I had to cut out everyone but now I’m an open book–like it or not. lol

      You may be happy to know that I am a proud mother of a…..CAT! Yes, the cat-hater, herself. 🙂 Where is Junior, btw?

      I’m very proud of you! You’ve worked really hard in school. 🙂 Isn’t it good to feel a sense of accomplishment? Please let me know when you earn your Master’s Degree–I’d like an announcement! I should be following soon after you, and hopefully onto a book publication in the next 5-10 years.
      Lisa

  8. Thanks Lisa, I have worked very hard and really enjoy what I’m doing and the people I’m around. It is refreshing to be in a place that values your intellectual contributions instead of stifles them.

    Joy Mac adopted Junior for awhile because I did not live in a place that allowed animals, and I honestly think he just became the Lodge cat.

    Good luck with finishing your Master’s Degree, it can be very hard at times, but very rewarding. I will be writting my thesis this semester and then finishing up the remaining classwork next semester. I think you should publish somehting, maybe a MyCult life book. haha, what ya think about that?

    Cheers,
    James

  9. Wow Lisa… I guess I never really knew any part of your story or why you left MC. I was only there for 4 months and during that time I was so wrapped in my own person hell and misery that I couldn’t really see that anyone else was going through the same thing. I was convinced that it was just me and my “discipleship leader” liked to reinforce that belief. I know just how you feel when you sat there contemplating how to escape and toying with the idea of ending it all. It may seem a bit crazy now but at the time, questioning everything you’ve been taught for the last 5 or more years is really scary. I remember fighting with myself and trying to convince myself that somehow everything my body and mind were telling me was wrong. It was demons, my own selfishness, or satan himself. But it wasn’t any of those things. It was a simple case of manipulation. It was really hard on me when I came to that conclusion because at that point I had no idea who the hell I was or what the hell to believe in. I had been lied to and manipulated for a long time and accepted those lies as the truth and let that consume my life. The next several years became a very trying time of rediscovering who I am. It took me a long time to come to the conclusion that Jacob mentioned earlier. Maybe God created me exactly the way I was. But I’ve got to say I am thankful for that. I now know who I am because of what they put me through.

    1. Ryan,
      Thanks for reading and thanks for sharing! Please share feel free to share more. 🙂

  10. WOW…I soooo understand this Lisa!! I wasn’t in your group, but we were shunned, excommunicated, church disciplined, slandered from the bully pulpit, all because we wanted to LEAVE. But in an abusive environment like we were in (I think very similar to the group you escaped) nobody, nobody ever leaves on good terms. We were told to “watch out for god’s fiery indignation to devour the adversary…” I guess we became god’s enemy because we had had enough friggen abuse in the name of god, the bible & religion. It is like a rape, a spiritual rape. I cried every day for over 2 years, I lost 20 lbs in a matter of a few weeks. That was some of the darkest times, because I was told by the leader that the devil was getting into me for questioning….that does something to a person. But I overcame & God didn’t walk away from me. Though I don’t know what I believe, I think I’m a deist, I don’t believe the bible in some infallible word of god….it’s the word of some pretty controlling men who definitely have some megalomaniac issues. Thanks for your writings Lisa….KUDOS

  11. It’s great you have the courage to share this story! Because as I’m guessing you already know, when folks feel alone while they face this it may take a while for it to sink in that there are folks who can relate….

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