A bit like death

My title is a play on that movie title: A lot like love. Isn’t it cute?

I can’t even begin to explain how badly I don’t want to be that person. That old person who complains about every ache and pain and bad day. Oh, but I am. At the moment, my body hurts so badly I just want to take a …..I don’t know much about pills, so I guess I’ll let you guys guess.

As I wrote about here, I was recently diagnosed with PCOS (polycystic ovarian syndrome) and I very much feel like shit. All the time. I’m not entirely sure that it’s all PCOS related. Who knows? You know how that stuff goes. I’m actually beginning to think it’s stress related because apparently (after a recent trip to the dentist) I discovered I grind my teeth at night. Some of my teeth have been affected, too, which is awesome. But mostly, my face and neck hurt when I wake up.

What is PCOS related, I assume, is the emotions I’m having today. I’m crying a lot over just about everything. I cried over accidently destroying this Drupal website I was building. I was so sad because it has taken me so long to master different parts of Drupal and I have broken the site at least twice now. If you have a website, you can’t exactly break it all the time or your readers will email you like crazy about it. Come to think about it, when I started this site, I broke it pretty often. Hmm. I remember a few good friends kept emailing me, “Hey, did someone shut down your site?” they would ask since I was writing explosive rants about churches I had been a part of. “Nope, just broke my website.” I would answer.

After the random cry, I did some things and then some more things and then started looking at an internet friends photographs. She’s a wedding photographer and has some great photos. Oh, she’s awesome at architecture photos. And she’s also cool because she is an ex-JW (Jehovah’s Witness), which means she’s been through what we all have.

And THEN, I started crying AGAIN. Come on. I cried over the engagement photos–everyone is getting engaged and married and having their children. And I’m not. Well, it’s not as bad as all that, but I’m not.

Anyway, here’s a fluffy monkey brought to you by Mr. Morck.

cute-monkey-on-a-branch-of-tree-widescreen-1920x1200

 

 

Completely off topic, do you have any older relatives? I became really close to my Grandpa the past few years (long story) and he’s getting older. He lives so far away, and I feel so sad I can’t visit him more often. What do you do in this situation? (Besides go visit him, I guess, which is the most logical answer.)

I’m Kind Of In An Interesting Place Right Now

I’m going through this really interesting (I say interesting because I don’t want to put myself down) phase right now. I want to blog so badly but I have this aversion to good and bad attention. What the f*ck, right? It’s every blogger’s dream, really, and really what I set out to do in the first place, I suppose. But now that I have eyes on me from time to time it’s suffocating at times. I just don’t know how to deal with it, so instead of running away, I’m talking to this great therapist here and trying to figure out if blogging is something I should let go of for good (I think that would be something I could live with but I might regret it later) or if I should just be courageous and let people see me for who I am.

Bloggers have so much pressure on them, even from other bloggers. The fashion bloggers COMMAND that we bloggers never say a negative thing on our social media or posts. “No one wants to hear about your bad day,” they say.

I’m screwed, I think. I’m so moody right now I can’t even cover it up with comedy like I used to. The doctor is checking me out right now for the moods, don’t worry, but in the meantime, I have to live with it.

As you know if you’ve followed my blog at all, I’m not the kind of person who WILL fake it even if I can. And you know what, I think that’s an awesome thing and that’s what I look for in people I want to connect with. Also, I’m so over the self-help/always gotta change thing. I’m pretty kick ass as I am. Sure I have flaws but as I grow older, they grow into strengths and I grow stronger.

Searching for Privacy: A Brief Adieu

Update: This lasted all of two days before I was going crazy wanting my blog back. Anyway, it was a really heart felt and appropriate post (at the time) so I’m leaving it here.

It may seem contradictory for a blogger to want privacy. After all, we put our lives on display-often with photos. We talk about our pets, our sexuality, our day jobs, dating, and our religious beliefs. Over the course of this year, I’ve come to terms with the fact that I not only want privacy–I need privacy. I feel…not overwhelmed, but irritated by all the noise. The idiots. The shoddy journalism. The debates about everything and nothing. The inauthentic displays. I’m quickly becoming tired of the of “my perfect life” posts. You know who these people are and you have your own set of ‘friends’ who do this. They fill their social media profiles with such perfect status updates that you’d think they should live in a 5th Avenue storefront display. They never have a bad day or get acne. They’ve airbrushed out the flaws and the moodiness and the failures and left us with their vacuous self-image to stroke.

Yet no one is perfect. With the illusions we create online, we strip away part of what is real, vulnerable, and authentic about ourselves. The struggles, the tears (or holding back from tears in order to be strong), and the moments of great tragedy that we would love to share with caring people–if they weren’t preoccupied with Instagraming their vegan omelets.

I do care–rather deeply. Many of you have noticed that and reached out to me. Over the years, I’ve formed some of the most priceless friendships with some of you.

***

I’ve created an entire blog about a subject I was passionate about for years. When I first started, I wanted nothing more than to give all the people who had really twisted their power and greed into an abusive machine a big FUCK YOU. I’ve done that–rather successfully. Each and every person I wanted to have that message now has heard it loud and clear. Some have even pleaded that I let up, and I feel pity on them now. I also realize that there is power in telling your truth. I never realized how powerful my message would be until it was capable of making change. Yet, I don’t wish to destroy anyone completely and I never have. I have ethics–far superior ethics to those I write about and yes, I will gloat about that.

I hold their fate at the tip of my fingers and yet I won’t destroy them completely. This is my one fault; my one weakness. They destroyed me completely for a time but I will show them pity and release them. 

 I’ve rebuilt myself. I am strong. I have spent two years realizing my strengths and abilities vastly outweigh my weaknesses, and I am confident in them. They don’t belong to some deity or to anyone but myself. Stella got her groove back. My anger is gone. My introverted side is back. I’ve been happily reunited with my pensive nature.

Over the course of the year, I’ve spent a lot of time reflecting. I’m fortunate enough to live near some really pretty places:

Copyright by Lisa Kerr, 2011-2012
Copyright by Lisa Kerr, 2011-2012

Through that refection, I’ve realized my work here as a blogger on cults is done. You are stronger than you know and you don’t need me or anyone else to tell you that or to guide you through the steps. I never set out to be anyone’s leader or guru and I will never take on that title or position in your life, but if I can be your example now, I want you to be strong and unapologetic about your strengths. Yes, people will always be escaping from cults and coercive groups, but there are people who have made full-time careers out of helping people recover. They are called therapists. I am a writer. There are also great people I’ve met along the way whom you may find with a simple Google search, or you can get in touch with International Cultic Studies Association.

My hope for you is that you own your weaknesses fully-be honest about them and apologize to people you hurt-but experience your weaknesses. Don’t shun them and don’t beat yourself up because you have them. Do you assume it’s abnormal to be weak?

Don’t criticize yourself for being different than other people, for in your differences you’ll find your greatest assets and strengths. Don’t set out to be anyone’s hero or guide. Instead, instill in people the idea that they will be strong, too.

 

Of course many people will return to this website and over the course of time, I would love to expand the content to include things that are new in my life. I’d love to include inspiration, recipes, and pictures of pretty things. Yet, I’m not entirely sure I will rebrand at this point because I need a hiatus from giving and I need to give back to myself. I miss spending hours outside in nature, not worrying about ‘checking-in’ or my blogging schedule or returning emails. I miss spending days mulling over writing a single sentence–making it beautiful. In Internet time that’s old news-but you know me: I don’t follow the rules. I break them.

I’ve also learned that being online can be a bad thing for a young writer brimming with ideas and a marketable story because people willfully steal those ideas, even when they’re still in formation (shocker!). I’m not talking about small things but there was a time this year when I suspected this TV show was influenced by the video interviews I did for DiGa Vision. Those interviews included all the secret workings of my own investigative journalism, cult advocacy work, my own personal struggle with PTSD, and my blog’s sphere of influence. The timing of the interviews being shown to the CW executives and the development of Cults was all too coincidental. The CW offered me a six year contract for my own reality TV show and then, when the Cults pilot was announced, they scrapped the show. I may never know, but I won’t ever share that much again with something that isn’t green-lit or bound contractually.

 

Yesterday I Googled “going offline for a year”. I wanted to see if anyone had done it because I wanted to take the leap and I wondered if any bloggers had. I came across Paul Miller, a tech blogger, who announced his departure from the Internet for a year this past April. The comments were atrocious and hateful as usual. My particular favorite was “Jesus Christ, these hipsters now have themselves convinced that going to the library is underground.” Paul is a tech blogger and gamer. In no way did he strike me as a hipster. He’s a bit too smart for that. I shared the link on my Facebook along with the above comment as a bit of an experiment and got responses like “I have no words” and “Pretension has no realistic self-image.” Disdain. Of course. Miller has the luxury of having an editor who will post his articles for him, so he will continue to post throughout the year. I do not. I also have no real intention of going offline for good, but I do aim to spend less time on social media–trimming my personal Facebook down to just people I know in real life (shocking!) and actually speak to intimately. Or maybe I’ll delete it altogether. I haven’t decided. I want to go off the grid, so to speak. I envy people who don’t feel obligated to be online. Novelists like Cormac McCarthy who shunned interviews and remained relatively unknown for years. I’ve learned that I don’t operate well in the spotlight and I think it’s best to operate within your own strengths and space. Like McCarthy, I relish intellectual conversation above being acquainted with the masses:

Novelist Cormac McCarthy shuns interviews, but he relishes conversation…[He]…has proved more elusive. He won’t be found at book festivals, readings and other places novelists gather. Mr. McCarthy prefers hanging out with “smart people” outside his field, like professional poker players and the thinkers at the Santa Fe Institute, a theoretical-science foundation in New Mexico where the author is a longtime fellow.

McCarthy became commercially successful in 1992, with “All the Pretty Horses,” a National Book Award winner. Journalists did write about him then, but a quick glance at their tone and you can tell they despised his desire for privacy.

The question on every writer’s mind these days is (or should be): Can you be successful if you don’t have an online presence? I’d argue that you can’t. You certainly can’t sell books. If you don’t generate your online presence and cultivate it, someone will have to, but you’ll notice most established authors now run their own social media and many do so from their personal accounts. This is smart marketing. People are attracted to writers because they personally identify with them. For young writers still finding their voice I think social media is far less important-something I wish I’d known a few years ago. I don’t regret becoming successful at it–the skills I’ve learned are invaluable. Although I will say, I’ve learned I prefer the technical side of social media and websites as opposed to the content building. Online content as you know can often be garbage.

My favorite movie of all-time has to be “You’ve Got Mail” with Meg Ryan and Tom Hanks. I can quote much of it and even had a friend send me a ‘bouquet of newly sharpened pencils’ one Spring. You may remember moments of Cathleen Kelly happily reading to kids gathered around the storytime rug:

When Cathleen Kelly shuts down her store, The Shop Around the Corner it is so sad. She leaves this sign:

This is how I feel. I’ve loved being part of your lives for the past two and a  half years–walking many of you through my own story, my healing process, and my thoughts on religion. I’ve relished in our many conversations over the years and have grown to adore you. I’ve loved seeing so many of you grow into strong people–getting your voices back, finding yourselves, creating beautiful lives around who you are today (which includes the pain you went through). We have all developed this intimate community where we have gathered strength from one another, asked genuine questions and have accepted that we may not have all the answers.

In January I started working with some very special of young women at Mercy Survivors. I have seen them all become stronger than they already were. None of them are victims of Mercy. They are all far more powerful than Mercy and I anticipate that the next few years you will see some incredible stories come from their website. I would continue to watch them, if I were you.

One of my initial blogging connections was with the creator of Recovering Alumni. I am so incredibly grateful to her for introducing me to her fellow alumni. Their alumni network is so strong and vibrant. In many ways, the men and women I’ve met there have contributed to my own growth and healing like no other group has simply because Honor Academy was so similar to Master’s Commission. It was nice to ‘swap stories’ with people who KNEW how I felt and felt that same way. This is the best thing you can do for yourself as a survivor–find the community you feel most comfortable in and tell your story. Tell it over and over and over. This is what you need to do to heal. 

As for further help, or help for new readers who may come in the future, I compiled an eBook several months ago that I feel is a complete guide to sorting out the questions you may have. It’s not available in print. You can buy it on Amazon here.

As for cults, I’m done for awhile. I’ve definitely kicked ass whatever I’ve written about, but one can only exhaust a subject so much. Then it becomes forced. A writer can tell she’s lost her passion for a subject when she has nothing left to say about it. Trust me, I have plenty to say, but I’m ready to talk about something else.

As far as whether the blog will stay up indefinitely, not exactly. This is why I wrote the eBook. The blog will eventually be morphed into an inclusive website (not a blog) for information purposes only (excluding some of my personal writings which I may publish at a later date). It’s important that people know the truth about Master’s Commission and youth discipleship programs/residential treatment centers because they’re not going anywhere for the time being and I’ve always said if there had been anything available for me to read like this blog on Master’s Commission when I was applying, it WOULD have changed the course of my life. However, regardless of whether you shut a group down, the leadership will still start over somewhere else under a new name because they believe they are doing “God’s work”. So they need to be tracked.

I’ll still be updating my website here: www.thelisakerr.com and I started a personal blog awhile ago that I’ve enjoyed posting on about writing, creativity and inspiration. I hope to revisit that after I take this much-needed break. But first I need to feel refreshed and vibrant again.

You can follow me on Facebook here: www.facebook.com/thelisakerr  and here: www.facebook.com/mycultlife. I will have a more private Facebook account just for personal family and friends, which means several HUNDREDS of people may be deleted from my existing account. I do feel terrible about this, but I’ve come to realize this will serve me best. Some people will be angry at me for this, but if you’re really interested in keeping up with me, please follow those pages above. I will update those pages and my website as often as I’m able to.

I would love to hear from you in the interim. I will read all the emails you send, but I will not be responding during the holidays because I’m going to enjoy my family and friends, some jazz and all the Hallmark Christmas movies I possibly can. I’m even going to stop obsessing about writing my book and put it all aside to enjoy winter. And these guys:

The most adorable creatures on the planet, both of whom were adopted from high-kill animal shelters. Adoption saves lives and is rewarding. Just look at them.

So for now, adieu, farewell. We will meet again. For now, though, I leave you with this:

 

GO SOMEWHERE:

Spend some time with yourself, after all, you know yourself best.

Enjoy the moments you have to yourself to ponder about what is important to you.

So with that, GOODBYE. I’m off to find my new HELLO.

Q & A: Why Did You Lose Your Faith

The past few days have brought on a surge of new inquiries about why I lost my faith in God. Some people wonder How could you love Jesus so passionately and with such zeal and not love him today? Some people call me to tell me they’re praying for me, or if I have a bad day or go through a surge of anger, they pray for me.

To be fair, I always prayed for people. But by always I mean a span in my life that lasted about 10 years or less. From age 15, when a very catastrophic family event occurred, to 25 when another catastrophic even occurred, I prayed. I believed. I loved God.

I really did love God and now I truly do not believe he exists. I am what’s called an antitheist which is actually one step further than atheism, if you will. Christopher Hitchens wrote, “I’m not even an atheist so much as I am an antitheist; I not only maintain that all religions are versions of the same untruth, but I hold that the influence of churches, and the effect of religious belief, is positively harmful.” This is closer to what I believe than atheism. Religious belief and churches are harmful.

In case you’re not following, theism is the belief that at least one god exists. I find that idea not just unrealistic, but dangerous. I think it’s wrong.

Yes, I think I was wrong for 10 years. But religion is a very powerful force. There’s the pull of group thinking, peer pressure, societal pressures and essentially the false confidence in “knowing the truth.” It’s very appealing.

Atheism was not appealing to me. For years I assumed atheists were hateful and doomed. Then, I started thinking for myself (That’s not an insult. There’s no other way to say it.), discarded all my Jesus beliefs and attempted to reevaluate them one by one.

I asked myself questions:

  1. Where did I first hear this belief? Was I born thinking this way?
  2. What did my first experiences in church influence me to think and do?
  3. How did my desire for a “perfect family life” (my childhood was very dysfunctional) make religion appealing?
  4. At age 15, when first entering church, I doubted the Bible. Where did I lose my ability to doubt? Who influenced me to do so?

These questions were some of the beginnings of what you see now. But that’s been several years, and many other questions have followed.

If I ask you to question and doubt and you’re still very religious, it falls on deaf ears. To doubt, as I was taught at 15, means you do not have faith.

But is that so? Perhaps that’s not true with liberal or progressive Christians, but in fundamentalist or evangelical circles, it’s true.

So, if I wanted to doubt, how could I claim to be a Christian? I couldn’t.

Many people I know have a LOT of questions for me. I’d like to give you the opportunity to ask me anything about why I lost my faith.

Put your questions in the comments or you can email me at mycultlife@gmail.com.