I have been hesitant to write what it’s like to be a cult survivor. As a society, we hear about cults on TV. We are aware of them, but sometimes it’s just so bizarre that you question, “How is that even possible?!”
Well, my answer is that cults are very real and very scary.
As a child, the church I went to was not only my everything, it was my way of life. We had a very strict way of life. Socially, I wasn’t allowed to hang out with people outside of the religion unless it was to convert them. I was not allowed to celebrate any of the holidays, including birthdays and Christmases. How I dressed was always extremely modest. Women could not be leaders at my church, only men, because they were seen as the weaker vessel. I could go on and on, but it was so “normal” for me that, at the time, I didn’t see that I was in a cult.
At the age of 18, I had premarital sex. Months afterward, the leaders of the church heard about what I had done, and they decided to publicly disown me from the church. Not only was my family not allowed to talk to me, but neither were any of the people who were a part of the church. It was emotionally devastating for me to be cut off like that at such a young age.
How This Affects My Family and Me Today . . .
Eventually, I met my husband. It was an enormous challenge for him to understand my situation. My parents, along with the members of the church, tried to convert him. Naturally, he just couldn’t grasp how shunning a person was a loving thing to make someone change or comeback.
Fast forward several years, we welcomed two beautiful children in five years. My children have never had something as simple as a dinner with my parents and me in the same room (especially alone in public for the fear that someone might see them). My parents also get shunned for associating with their only daughter, me. My second child has only ever seen my parents twice.
As for my marriage, we have that natural yearn to have active grandparents around to help us raise our kids or just be with us as a family. So to be alone and not have anyone for support is just tough. My oldest child is, and will always be, confused because she thinks that they don’t love her enough to see her again. As for me, my sadness has passed. Yes, I have that yearn for my parents, but it also has made me realize what not to do as a parent.
I will admit, because of this traumatic experience, I do have trouble searching for a new religion in fear of what might happen. I acknowledge that I have trust issues just for the simple fact that my parents chose their religion over me without hesitation. But I know it’s just me that has to overcome this fear.
Looking at This as a Blessing
Yes, not having my family has been a challenge, but I look at this as a blessing now.
I have ended my family being stuck in a cult, which they had been a part of for generations. I will give my children the free will to decide what they do and don’t believe in without fear.
They won’t have to worry. I will never choose something over them. I want to make my children aware that if they are in trouble, they can come to me. I want to communicate that I will help them overcome any situation.
I don’t want them to live in fear that my love is conditional. My love for them is unconditional.
As a family, we learned that friends can become family. We have many friends that we adopted as family. My husband and I, to get over the pain of rejection, joke around and say one day we need to put out a “Grandparents Needed” yard sign. The saying is definitely true, though: “You can choose your friends, but not your family.”
I am beyond grateful for the family that I do have who are not in the religion. They have helped me over the years to comfort me, and I am also blessed to have friends that have been listening ears even though they don’t fully understand my pain. In the meantime, I try my best to look at this as something I have been through so I can help others in similar situations.
You just never know what people are going through. It could be as crazy as escaping a cult.