Sunset & Vine

There is life after leaving a cult. It takes time to re-adapt to living a normal life, but it can be done. I’ve decided to start blogging about some seemingly mundane topics, such as a Saturday of shopping, because for years these were things I wasn’t able to do while living inside the cult.

Chris and I usually spend one or two Saturday’s a month in the Los Feliz area, eating at Umami Burger and buying books at Skylight Books. It’s one of our favorite areas in Los Angeles.

Yesterday, I was feeling a little more adventurous, so we threw out ideas like a day at Universal Studios, Disneyland or wine tasting in Solvang. After deciding that those were all too far to drive to, we settled on a few things we’d been wanting to do and set out to do them.

The first thing Chris wanted to do was go shopping at Amoeba Records, followed by a trip to the comic book store, Meltdown. I wanted to try Roscoe’s Chicken and Waffles, having never been there. They were all located near Sunset & Vine, so we ended up in that area, and just ended up walking the area.

Roscoe’s was way too packed. There were about thirty people standing outside, so we had to skip that plan.

We walked back down Sunset, and found something called The Waffle. There was a crowd waiting, too, but only a twenty minute wait. I had some pretty amazing waffles with baked in pecans and candied pecans on top, followed by some amazing coffee.

Woofles, at The Waffle (for dogs)

At Amoeba Records, Chris and I split up. He went to the music section and I went to the movie section to try to find one or two of the artsy films I’d seen in my film class last Spring. One was called Il Conformista, an Italian film that translates into The Conformist. Another was Waltz with Bashir, an animated documentary-esque film about the First Lebanon War.

I love Waltz with Bashir because the filmmaker, Ari Folman is an Israeli veteran of the First Lebanon War who encounters a friend who keeps having nightmares about several particular moments of the war, but can’t piece together his role. The film becomes this poignant statement about memory, post traumatic stress disorder, and the pain of war.


I remember watching the film in class, and several moments of the film made me cry. Particularly because so many moments have these really profound statements about memory and trauma.

Upon leaving Amoeba Records, Chris and I stopped to wait for the crosswalk to indicate we could walk. I saw an Eckankar building, which is a cult that my grandma participated in for years before her death, so I took a quick picture of it on my phone for my mom. I was going to send it to my mom with a joke or a memory of how my grandma worshiped the founder of Eckankar, or Eck, as we used to call it.

I put my phone away, just as the crosswalk light turned green, and we crossed the street.

We glanced over to the right to see an SUV coming straight at us full speed. Then, a guy on a moped sped in front of her. She slammed on her brakes and he swerved to miss the SUV. His swerve ended up taking him off the road full speed into a light post, where his bike flippped over onto his chest and his head pounded onto the cement.

Chris and I ran back over, not sure what to do for a moment, and then someone yelled call 911. Which should have seemed obvious, but having been so close to being killed and struck by a flying motorcycle, it was hard to instantly react. I started dialing 911, and then hung up because my fingers were unsteady. I then tried to dial again, but hit Chris’ number. People were yelling, “Is anyone calling 911?” and I became more nervous.

I finally got 911 on the line.

The operator transferred me to another line, where the 911 Emergency Operator asked me if the man was breathing.

Yes.

Was he awake?

Yes

Did he seem to have any obvious bleeding?

No, I said.

The operator continued, “Don’t move the injured person. Don’t give him anything to eat or drink, because that may interfere with what the doctor may have to do later. Stay on the line until I receive confirmation that the ambulance is on their way.”

Okay.

“The ambulance is on it’s way.”

I hung up and walked over to the injured man.

The ambulance is on it’s way. It should be here in a few minutes.

People were urging him to stay still, even though he really wasn’t moving.

A homeless looking man kept telling the crowd, “Keep talking to him. Don’t let him fall asleep.”

Minutes later, we heard the blare of the firetrucks approaching.

I leaned down and said, The ambulance is a few blocks away.

When it approached the corner, They’re here. They’re just parking. You’re going to be okay.

As the firetrucks and ambulance parked, swarms of men in blue shirts jumped out, putting on their plastic gloves. They walked over quickly to where the man was laying and started speaking to him. They touched his fingers and asked him if he could feel that, and then eventually the man was able to sit up.

My head hurts. He kept saying.

He tried to stand up, and wasn’t able to so the EMT’s brought over a stretcher for him. After they wheeled him away, I kept worrying that the EMT’s wouldn’t know the bike fell on his stomach and chest and he might have internal injuries. I was so tempted to walk over there, but instead I just stood still questioning myself.

The driver of the SUV was still there. The police questioned her and then brought Chris and I over to be questioned. Chris recalled every detail to the officer and we were free to go.

We took a moment to regain ourselves before trying to cross the crosswalk again, and set off toward Meltdown comics.

Finding a Therapist

Today, I’m back at the therapist search. After moving, I ended up losing a great therapist who specialized in cults and destructive groups. She’s not accepting new patients, so that’s a bummer.

Searching for a therapist is HARD work. Right now, I’m fortunate to have two things I didn’t have before: a job and health insurance. This makes the search WAY easier.

Up until now, I’ve had to search for a therapist who offered a sliding scale (they offer you counseling services for as little as $10 a session based on your income) or attend therapy at my University Counseling Center (which were free, up to 8 sessions).

I’m now searching for a therapist who specializes in cults, PTSD or anxiety. How do I know to search for that? Well, I’ve been fortunate enough to see a psychologist and psychiatrist in my days (thanks to Kaiser Permanente and CSUN’s Counseling Center), and those have been the diagnoses. So, I try to narrow down my search to someone who deals primarily with those issues. Also, take time to familiarize yourself with terms such as CBT (Cognitive-Behavioral Therapy) which is what your therapist will most likely use.

If you haven’t already done so, check out International Cultic Studies Association. They provide resources, articles and this helpful page on How To Find a Therapist.

The U.S. Department of Veterans Affairs offers some information on PTSD, including Finding and Choosing a Therapist. Here, I went to Anxiety Disorders Association of America, where you can do a local search for therapists who specialize in anxiety disorders. Also recommended by the U.S. Department of Veterans Affairs, is Sidran: Help for Post Traumatic Stress and Dissociative Conditions. There’s an article on the site called What to look for and how to choose a therapist.

After looking at various resources from NAMI to Psychology Today, my advice is simple.

  • If budget is an option (if you have little to no working budget for therapy), ask around for referrals from a University or a city/county mental health office. If you can’t find individual therapy free or low cost, consider group therapy or classes in your area.
  • Look for someone who specializes in your specific issue. Do some research. Know what your symptoms mean, or at least have an idea before you go.
  • Be picky. If you don’t feel comfortable with the therapist you chose, there’s nothing contractually binding you to stay in that relationship. If they’re not qualified, or tend to give you the impression they’re not a good fit, feel free to ask them for a referral.
  • Go as often as you feel comfortable, or as often as you can afford.
  • Remember that attending therapy is good for us (cult survivors) but it’s also something that can reopen existing wounds. Make sure you have a good support system of friends and family members who understand that this may be an emotional time for you. Sometimes an hour session can bring up emotions that last hours, days or weeks. Don’t be afraid of this, but just realize it’s normal for this to happen.
  • You might find it helpful to write things down. I keep notes of events I remember that I want to speak to my therapist about. I journal after visiting the therapist about what we talked about and any thoughts I had about it.
  • TIME HEALS and time changes things. Sometimes it takes years of therapy, years of talking about something traumatic, and even medication or alternative treatments to see improvement. Be patient with yourself. Don’t expect change to come over night, but do keep working toward it and preserve your energy for positive improvement, positive relationships and a positive future.