No Favour To Return

This is probably not helpful, because I’m much younger than you and not part of any community to speak of but: I have been quietly following you since I made a tumblr to follow people with because I was in a cult in my teens and something no one ever talks about is the ANGER and the HURT and the way that it just KEEPS GOING even as I keep going– the way that it so overtly breaks you and so subtly continues to break even years later– but you. You talk about it. And that– that is a light for me. Not because of ‘it gets better’ or anything hopefully trite like that, but because it /doesn’t/, you just live with it better and worse and your writing sets it out so plain– trauma is trauma, and even in the older pagan/polytheist circles I’ve found, no one likes to just face up to the scars. You do, though, and write it so well– I don’t know. It helps, and I can’t say that I can return the favour at all– but it helps. So. Thank you. I am sorry you hurt so much.

That was a message sent to my Tumblr blog quite some time ago. I never answered it publicly there because I didn’t want to expose the sender to undue harassment.

It’s funny how whenever I brought up the abuses I experienced in the Christian cults that the responses would mostly lie at two extremes. Either there would be an avalanche of people declaring that my abuses are why Christianity needed to be crushed, wiped out, and made illegal, and in doing so, be completely blind to the fact that they are continuing the very same thoughtcrime punishments that my abusers did but with a different name. To them Christianity was a virus that required purging even if it meant destroying the youngest and most vulnerable of hosts.

Or there would be a large number of professed Christians who would drown my inbox with messages of love and sympathy while doing their damndest best to make sure I did not identify them with my abusers. But they didn’t realize that in making sure that they stood on the neck of those who hurt me, they were also stepping on the neck of their victims who believed them or could not escape them at the time.

Both groups, in making sure I knew that they were not like those evil people over there, also made sure I knew that to them, I was responsible for what was done to me because of my beliefs at the time. They didn’t come right out and say it in those clear words, but they made it clear that anyone who yielded to the abusers, deserved the abuse.

There is still a vicious judgement from those who have never been hurt in this way when the question of “Why didn’t you run?” is finally spoken. I have had one baptised, redeemed, washed in the Blood™, gentle soul of a Christian tell me to my face that it was obvious that the only reason I remained in the cults for so long, was because I obviously had to have enjoyed being exorcised beaten, because she wouldn’t tolerate even a rude word spoken in her presence.

Those of us who have been prey, have been taught how to recognize a predator. And many in the various religious, spiritual, occult, and/or metaphysical circles have that predatorial aura to them even though they will declare to their own people how welcoming and safe they are. Folks like me who have come through don’t want to trade one master for another, but we are not given space to find out how to master our own lives, much less how to learn how to navigate our freedom.

I have rage the depths of which I am only now beginning to understand in the literal decade since my apostasy. It took stepping back and looking at not only the cults themselves I was involved in, but the actual cultural fabric of my country, my socio-economic class, and the racial entanglements that made me vulnerable in the first place.

But so many people don’t want to look at how all those pieces interconnect to create snares and shackles that are hard to avoid and harder to escape. It is so much easier to point to the Person Who Got Away™ and blame them for being hurt. It is so much easier to say that their community would not have allowed this than recognize that their community would not have accepted the runner because the runner is the wrong ethnicity, age, gender, excuse.

It is so much easier to tell the Person Who Got Away™ that because they don’t know, they can’t help, and because they can’t help, they won’t try to help. And it’s not like you were really hurt, because no one knows that the mask you wear is glued to your face by your dried tears and snot.

After I declared myself apostate, every year I avoided everything possible during the Christmas Season until last year. My family thought I was being surly. My coworkers thought I was being a bitch. How do you explain to people that the church body you believed in and supported had told you that you were too demonically tainted to participate in church body Christmas celebrations, so either stay away or better yet, allow yourself to be locked in this small room with a bible and a chair so you can study away the demons that would otherwise ruin Christmas for everyone else, and because of that, any group gathered for doing something Christmasy sends you into a panic attack because you are expecting to be asked to lock yourself away again? (Or that because of that anxiety, you are not comfortable in any public celebratory group, and you’re leaving so no one sees you crying?)

You don’t.

You make excuses like how you made excuses for the bruises, the cracked rib, the lack of spending money, your unavailability to your unapproved friends, your subservience to anyone with a loud enough voice.

You continue keeping the abusers safe.

That is how the abuse keeps going even though it has been years since I was in the same space as them. It’s just easier to let people think that you’re just “odd”, rather than you’re dealing with PTSD.

Last year, when Christmas season began (prior to Halloween, what the hell!), I stopped hiding. When people asked why I wasn’t at the numerous (formal and informal) work related parties, I had only four words to tell them. “That’s not my thing.” Because of my work, I have many clients who feel they are entitled to more personal information about me and would ask if I was brought up “that way” or if something happened.

“Don’t worry about it.” If they persisted, my answer would be more blunt. “That is not for discussion.” I may not be declaring what was done to me, but I’m not making excuses, either.

I am as I am and I will not adjust myself to make you comfortable because you want to continue believing that your personal value system of choice has never been used for harm.

I will tend to my scars and make myself comfortable as best as I can in the environments I am in now.

And that makes people who don’t have those scars uncomfortable.

So here I am, a decade into my apostasy, and involved in Christianish things like saints, and angels, and prayer, and the like. I have had people drop ugly messages in my inbox about obviously not being able to function like a “normal human” because I’m apparently going back to my abusers. There have been declarations that I deserve whatever pain comes from my actions, because if I hadn’t learned before how evil Christianity was before, then I’ll never learn.

Something something dog vomit something.

And ya know what… that is fucking abusive. That I’m choosing to walk out this part of my recovery from the cults by making the active and aware choice to investigate and explore other ways Christianity can present itself is seen as a sign of mental illness requiring physical restraint is abusive. Those of you who say/type that are no different, and no better, than the people who tried to literally beat the devil out of me.

I will not hide that some of my wounds are still mending. I will not hide that some of my scars itch at the sounds of certain words. But the fact that I can recite the Pater Noster with a grieving client in my office and grant her five minutes of peace will always triumph over whatever ugliness people with agendas try to carve out of my side.

*deep breaths to let the rage evaporate*

My Dear Reader, I don’t know if you now follow this blog or if you are still only viewing what is on Tumblr, but I hope, and pray, that comfort, healing, rest, and solace reaches you. That you are able to find how to clean your wounds and soothe your scars in ways that don’t damage you further. That you have found a path to come out of the pain still etched in your memories so you can create new memories with new sensations. And that however you come through, whether through kink and/or abstinence, silence and/or exposure, stillness and/or creativity, abandonment of what you grew up in and/or discovery of something else to mature in, that you come through on your terms, to your health, and for your recovery.

If you still feel indebted to me and want to return the favour, do this: Live however you damn well feel like living, and we’ll call it good.