This blog entry is basic, no pictures, just raw, true, honest words. Here's my story:
What a year 2019 was...and what a year 2020 will be. It has been an odd mix of a Lifetime movie and a Hallmark movie. This past year, my world was rocked and completely brought to rubble in ways I never would have imagined. Chunks and bits are still floating aimlessly through the dark silence of what used to be my life, my belief system, my daily routine, my goals, the people I knew and the people I was close to, the few good memories and the insurmountable emotional and physical pain. But even in the space where there seems to be no up or down, where the compass spins without anchor or direction, this purgatory where one finds themselves waiting for a former life to fade and a new one to begin, there is hope, joy, love, support. Parts of the scene of what my new life will look like are already in focus. It's as if all the windows and doors blew open at the same time and the wind is vivaciously spinning and dancing with every opportunity that wasn't allowed to be there before. I just have to be brave and inventive enough to figure out how to get through those openings because even though they're there, it's like they are placed cattywompus in a funhouse. Some are quite lofty or angled weird.
Back in April of 2019, I escaped a horrible, abusive (physically and emotionally), loveless and narcissistic marriage. I also escaped an equally abusive and controlling religious cult...the two were tied together. And all while having debilitating, chronic health issues. The reason I stayed in my marriage was because, for one: financial stability. I can't work a typical job even full time so he was the bread winner (and believe me, he knew it and would dangle it over me every chance he got). Between that, the brainwashing from the cult, the hope that someday he'd get better....he'd actually love me, the illusion that things "weren't that bad", kept me trapped.
Never does anyone ever think that they'll end up in a religious cult. Never does anyone believe that the seemingly benevolent and even inspirational religion that they are drawn to would end up being the most evil and vile thing they've ever matched eyes with. Never does anyone think that the person whom they marry, whom they love, admire, trust and promise forever with - will end up being a monster, an emotionless shell without concern or fear of consequence. And on top of it all, never does anyone think they'll be chronically ill with debilitating health issues before they turn 30.
To give you some understanding on how this whole situation came to be: my father was and is massively abusive. He's one of the worst narcissists I've come in contact with (I'll cover what it means to be a narcissist in a later blog). He was also into radical religious beliefs spending hundreds to thousands of dollars each month in donations to organizations while my mom, brother and I were forced to live close to poverty even though we all lived under the same roof. My father got us kicked out of our local Catholic church because of his behavior and he chose to home school me for my spirituality, forcing me to watch and listen to his many videos and cassettes from his warped spiritual leaders every Sunday morning for at least 2 hours...and I was under the age of 10. At one point, he wanted to move us to a compound out west (with others who shared his ideas, phobias and beliefs), to await the coming of the end of the world. Thankfully that never came to fruition but in the meantime, he stored up hoards of non-perishables in the basement along with things like guns, ammunition and silver coins to be used for trading when currency went bust in Armageddon.
Being exposed to a person like that for so long as a child molded my brain and my self-worth, created a warped view of what relationships should look like, which would affect who/what I would be drawn to and who/what I would attract.
When I was 19, I became comfortable with the idea of religion again. I was becoming an adult...I saw myself potentially having babies one day and I knew it might be a good idea to have some sort of spiritual foundation. At the time, I was dating a massively unstable, tumultuous guy who introduced me to the religion that would suck me in.
For 13 years, nearly my entire adult life up to this point, I lived and breathed the secret, sweet smelling poison of the cult. It lulled me into submission and a zombie like state, where I willingly following what I was told, no matter how weird or wrong it was all while believing I was walking in sunshine - sunshine that was only available to those in the cult because we were The Truth (that's actually what they call themselves), serving the True God - Jehovah. It was all twisted, false bliss that usually left me sobbing from heartache - a real life version of The Matrix.
In 2009, I met the guy who would become my husband. It happened in classic text-book cult fashion: at one of our big assemblies. I was assisting with collecting donations and he was assisting the older men in charge. Though I was a convert, he was a born-in, and both of us were already shining examples of what it looked like to be good members of the religion. We dated a year before he proposed (which is considered quite lengthy that culture). As soon as he got the ring on my finger, a switch flipped in him. He became recoiled, apprehensive, uninterested...checked out, at a time when he should have been the most excited, motivated, loving and hopeful. Little did I know that it would mean years of me begging, sobbing, pleading with him to show me affection of any kind, or any support or leadership or guidance. It was so bad to when I became suicidal due to him, the cult and my health, he was more upset that the attention was on me instead of him. He'd rather see me off myself than do anything that would have helped me.
When I became sick, it started to be harder and harder for me to get out, to drive, to sit, to walk. I'd beg congregation members to come visit me but they claimed I was simply just faking it and that their focus on the missionary work was more important than coming to encourage one of their own who was struggling. Elders even would stop by and tell me I was bad association for not being more involved in cult activities and going door to door in the community, pushing the cult's agenda. I would spend entire days alone in my house with no interaction except my worthless husband in the evenings who often tried to find excuses not to be there.
I almost woke up around 2016 but I was still too faithful to the religion even despite everything I was going through. I had been struggling so badly and started reading "apostate" material online...stories of others who had woken up, which profoundly resonated with me. But with every fiber of my being, I believed that this was the true religion, I could not leave it because it would mean eminent destruction for me and I'd lose everyone I'd known for years. So I took a big whiff of that sweet smelling cult poison and lulled myself back into the matrix even if it meant I'd potentially later kill myself due to horrible mistreatment by others.
Tragically and suddenly, my then husband and I came into quite a bit of money when his mother unexpectedly passed away. For as badly as she and he treated me, I had always wished that one day she and I would have a wonderful mother-in-law/daughter-in-law relationship. But that never happened and as much as I hate to admit it, losing her was what kept me alive. Her estate provided us with the needed funds to not only move away from the situation we were in but it allowed us to have quite a bit of financial freedom which was rare in the cult since most people were encouraged to live with as little as possible. My husband chose the new city to move to and I got to buy a big and beautiful home, go on very nice vacations (including flying domestic first class multiple times), high end clothes - which was all fueled by my need to fill the deep, vast voids that had formed during my 8 years of marriage.
But what finally woke me up was how badly my marriage was and the way the elders were handling it. I caught my husband in an affair (but with no proof), I found out he was addicted to porn (which was weird since he never wanted to be intimate with me), he was an alcoholic (hiding and lying about his drinking), keeping financial information and access from me, compulsive liar, not doing his cult duties of being the spiritual head (he'd go out preaching in the community without me even though I begged him for years to take me), he was a pro at "gaslighting", stuck in a never ending cycle of broken promises and "oh baby, baby please, I promise I'll treat you better", then immediately going back to his old ways. The creepy things he used to do at night and the fact that he became physically violent on top of it all. At one point towards the end, we got into a huge fight and he body slammed me to the floor. We're not allowed to report things to the police because it'll put the religion in a bad light so I reported it to the elders. They asked what it was that I did to insight him to do something like that. They told me I needed to be more submissive and win him over without a word. A little while later, we had another drag out fight and I had pulled his baseball cap off his head and smacked him in the face with it. He reported me to the elders and they asked if he had called the cops. He said no and they told him he should have because he could have had me forcibly removed from the home and taken to the mental ward of the hospital. I had also started contacting people who I knew where ex members who had been in similar situations. Just so you know, doing that sort of thing is considered a HUGE sin so for me to do that...to reach out, took massive amounts of courage. They encouraged me to watch specific things on YouTube and Leah Remini's episode on the Jehovah's Witnesses. Watching that not only validated that I wasn't crazy and everything I was experiencing was real and unfortunately quite common but it also opened my eyes in a large way very quickly. Also, talking to friends and my mom (whom I finally disclosed EVERYTHING to) helped wake me up and started clearing out the toxic fumes, beliefs, thoughts and lingo of the cult.
In April of 2019, I finally took that leap to not only escape my husband (which I had been wanting to do for years) but I escaped the cult (which I never even thought was even part of the problem). I left my new lifestyle, my beautiful home that I had put so much love and work into, my financial security. Even though he had put his inheritance into the joint account, I got close to zip. He's getting to walk away with over $200,000, a job in uptown Charlotte that pays $50,000, a car that is paid off, a place of his own, friends, support and he's still viewed as a shining example of a Christian man in the cult, knocking on doors in the community, telling people about his love for his god. Meanwhile, I'm over here with debilitating health issues, no way to fight for disability, struggling to get my business off the ground, no friends close by and little support, with my belief system shattered, my sense of self gone, along with diagnosed PTSD, crippling anxiety and depression.
But in the midst of all of this, I have gained back my mom and my brother, I've reconnected with other family members, I've gotten back in touch with old friends from high school via FaceBook, opportunities are endless now that I'm not under the strict regulations of the cult, I'm safe and most importantly, my freedom awaits. The divorce should be finalized come February/March of this year. In fact, my phone today reminded me that tomorrow (January 4th) is the 11th month marker from when we separated on February 4th 2019.
To Be Continued...