Sunday, 18 December 2016

Escaping Religious Manipulation

I acknowledge that many reading this blog may be religious. Please understand that my views are completely based on my experience. I know that there will be backlash for this, and I fully accept that.

So, as you know and gathered from my previous posts, I struggle with BPD, Complex PTSD and Bipolar traits. And to say that church made these things reveal themselves quickly is an understatement. I began struggling with mental health issues back in 2012.
Many people didn't believe that I was emotionally manipulated and abused by my mother for years. I began speaking up about the struggle and many thought I was lying.
I had a good friend of mine tell me right upfront "I don't believe that."
So, I began to hide my pain from everybody apart from a few people. And then even from them, because that's war no reasons for them to have to listen to it all.
And in February 2014, I searched for support as I had cut for the first time. I didn't know that I would get stuck am intense reaction from my former pastor. "WHAT ARE YOU DOING THAT FOR?! STOP THAT!" and he wrote a Bible reference on my grand to memorise for the next time I would see him. Fair to say I cried on my way home that afternoon. And memorised the verse purely out of shame. And it was effective in a way, as until late summer, I didn't cut. Out of shame too. A few weeks later I confessed to then Elder and his wife about what went down that day and a week later my former pastor apologised. Gosh, even recalling this is making me cry.
Months went on and I first reached out to my mum about my issues. Who, of course blamed my then diagnosed depression on not wanting to do anything around the house, and made remarks here and there about it. I've never told her about church's effects on me and their behaviour. I didn't tell her about being suicidal or about my self harm.
In July, I reached out for help via A&E (Accident and Emergency for non British people reading this, it is the same as the Emergency Room) and was meeting up with this lady from Child and Adolescent Mental Health Service (CAMHS) and during the summer, I volunteered at a Scripture Union camp. I stayed in my room a lot during times in between sessions, activities and meals. And never went to the ceilidh at the end either. I was emotional 24/7. Though I put my heart and soul into teaching and enjoying time with my group of campers, I was using free time as means of self regulation. I had to have a conversation with one of the main leaders, who bluntly told me to stay away from campus until I am stable. Which was fair enough in one sense, and in another, not completely fair considering no one in the team really bothered with me. They just saw the person that wouldn't go to evening prayers after lights out (I would be asleep by 9:30pm out of emotional exhaustion.)
I could handle that. Stepping back from that, in June, I was at LeadUP Christian leadership training camp. 

I was openly sharing my struggle and asking for prayer. Including emotional manipulation from the church. And two leaders told me to not talk about it. It was as if they were afraid of something.
So, I began isolating during free time and spent an ungodly amount of time on the swing, texting my CAMHS therapist, or in the dining room on my own, or on my bed writing stories and songs, walking around on my own, and cried a lot because of being forced into silence when I needed support. Didn't stop me from talking about it in the dorm, but during the day, I was isolating, and depression hit during the day a lot. I faked being happy for the sake of keeping peace. I felt alone, like none of the leaders really understood what I was struggling with and none of them would listen until I became vocal about what was going on back home for me. It is like they wanted to cover my church's manipulative tracks.

At the end of July through to beginning of August, I was a leader at an SU camp. I struggled immensely with my emotions, but at the time, I was struggling with depression side of Bipolar. I spent a lot of free time in my dorm that I shared with a few other female leaders. When it came to nighttime, I was asleep by 9:30-10pm. I was exhausted. I think that of emotional overwhelm became too much for me to handle. However, I tried to be there for teens who had similar issues.
By the end of the camp, main leader took me aside and said that I should stay away from leadership until I am "well again" (same thing that a college tutor had said in February, but that is another story all together.)

By the time I started college, things really blew up. End of August until November were hell. Not just became of my moods shifting more rapidly than the Scottish weather in springtime, but because church has become distant, then suddenly love-bomb and attention, distant, love-bomb. Especially my former pastor and his wife. The push and pull became very hard to deal with.
I remember that one time when I was particularly struggling with my relationship with my mother. We've been at odds with each other at that time, but I didn't know why. I still don't.
That day, I was invited to go to this laser tag event with my church friends. I didn't have any money on me, so I went home to get some and got out quickly to avoid my mother. I got to the place where I was told someone would be waiting to let me in, as I would be a bit late. No one was waiting. I texted about 5 people to tell them I was there. Nothing. So, I went home disheartened and.... Quite suicidal. And I posted about that feeling. I didn't answer anyone on the post. But, my former pastor had tried to call, but I full out ignored it. I didn't want to talk. He then called my mother and left her a message. And from then on, my mum knew how bad things were getting.

Following Tuesday, I went to meet with him and his wife to talk about things. From that point on, I was caught up in a covenant. A covenant I had no idea of how long I would be able to keep, because I had no coping skills like I do now. Rather, my "coping skills" were to be read and journal on Bible verses, reach out to my Home Bible Fellowship, talk to them if I cannot reach anyone from HBF, in worst case scenario, go to A&E. And to be honest, the first week of the covenant went fine, and then ended up in hospital. But, funny thing was, some saw this as me failing at keeping up with the covenant that was supposed to help me heal. And they told me that. Which felt incredibly disheartening. I did a lot of that spiritual journaling in hospital for the few days I was in. But, then more I deconstructed the verses that I was recommended, read them in context and realised that they had no relevance to my struggles at all. Just the verse I had learned out of shame made no sense with my emotional struggles, self harm, suicidal behaviour (which exploded by the point of hospitalisation.)

I don't want to go into detail of what happened when I was at A&E in October 2014, as this has thrown me over the edge WHILE there. But, it became obvious to not just me, but to my mother and a few college friends that the church's pastor was all about me keeping up with the religious rituals and beliefs, not the fact that I was on the brink of suicide, me sitting and crying at A&E, self harming... Instead, it was all about the covenant, I could not keep up with religious stuff at that point. I was broken, and kept on breaking through lack of meaningful friendships, but superficial Christian "friends" who just cared about my life with "God" than my constant anaemic state, my constant suicidal urges and attempts, the little hope I had to keep going, crying myself to sleep every night, nightmares, paranoia, delusions of being sure that I was being followed.... People just cared about my walk and life with God. Which was even more invalidating. My emotions and feelings were invalidated a lot of times, but one I recall was in a Facebook message that had said something along the lines of not letting emotions having power over me, but letting God do it. I don't remember, and my old profile is now deactivated because of triggering reminders. But, I became the church's emotional healing guinea pig, and it was not nice. These kinds of messages were repeated to my face as well. And, imagine being in a crowded room, of people you thought of as friends. But only one or two really try to get to know you and who you are. In a crowded room, to feel alone and like no one understands. Being in a crowded room, but alone.

As I have started therapy, one thing that threw me over the edge that was the trigger for me leaving was a few devout Christians telling me what to do. "Quit that therapy, it has mindfulness in it. It's not Christian" "Stop listening to Christian rock music." as well as giving me really dirty looks when leaving the service to deal with my crisis by going to the bathroom to practice my DBT Skills.
Also, I was made aware of people spreading rumours about me when I left for a month or two.
But now that I am out of it for good, with no intentions of going back, the hell continues. Certain people are always in my nightmares, in PTSD flashbacks that are like hallucinations and have caused serious danger to my life and I have ended up in hospital in January because of this.

If you are reading this and you find that you have a similar situation, reach out. Talk to someone from the leadership. Talk to friends. Change the church. Leave church if that is what needs to happen. Or just take a short break from it. If this is what's happening, I also suggest finding a counsellor to talk about this with, as the damage could be long lasting if it is left without dealing with it.
Important thing is to reach out and either talk to leadership, change or leave the church.
I wish someone told me about the warning signs earlier so that I would've left before the major damage was done. Now, I am rebuilding my life, my thinking, my emotions, my sense of self, my personality and my identity without church and the Bible, which is really difficult because of how much faith changed me for the worse.

No comments:

Post a Comment