Feeling Alone? You Don’t Have To Be…
I was 15 when my parents faded out of the Jehovah’s Witnesses, and for the first time, I found myself very alone. My friends were shunning me, we moved to a new neighbourhood, and I was sent to a new school. In the middle of this upheaval, my parents were reverting to their pre-cult identities, and my siblings and I were left to navigate this strange new world.
To make matters worse, I went around for another 15 years with an undiagnosed mental illness (Complex PTSD). I had a disease as a child called Ulcerative Colitis, and had to undergo surgery at age 11 to remove my colon, via a “bloodless surgery”. I had no idea I was so traumatized by this until many years later. Being in and out of the hospital for bowel surgeries in my adult years kept increasing my anxiety, but as a second generation cultist, I always suppressed my emotions. I began having flashbacks, and experiencing insomnia, depression, and the inability to relate to normal life.
Believe me, no one gets it. Most people know who the JW’s are, and lots of Christians know about their heretical beliefs, but no one can understand the mind control and dehumanizing tactics they use. Luckily we live in an age where one can anonymously google JW Facts and find mountains of hypocrisy. Not to mention so many documentaries are coming out that expose the Watchtower. When I left the cult, we didn’t even own a computer! No one talked about it and my parents offered no explanation. The natural thing to do was try to escape from my past, but little did I know how deeply it affected my very being.
After a major bowel surgery where I needed a blood transfusion, and I found myself once again refusing blood. When asked “why, are you a JW?” I said no, but I couldn’t give an answer as to why I wouldn’t do it. Not long after, I heard about a program at Centre Street Church called Cults Class: Witnessing to JW’s & Mormons. I thought, “I used to be a Jehovah’s Witness, maybe I should go.” There, I was introduced Don, who has been researching cults since the 1980’s, and has deep insight into the JW’s and Mormons… and for the first time I realized I grew up in a CULT. I was so personally impacted by the class, that I became good friends with Don after it ended. As I began to understand what I had been a part of during my youth, I began to look for cult support, and it didn’t seem exist in Calgary. In 2012, I decided to start a group on Meetup.com, and by 2014, Don and I formalized Vigilant Minds, which is a weekly meeting which mostly revolves around what I would call “theological deprogramming”. Yet, as I started to meet other JW’s leaving or who have left the cult, I had more and more repressed memories coming out.
During the past few years, I’ve been reconnecting with my past, and it’s been like a strange dream. For the first time I have been getting serious help, from therapy, to Christian self-help programs, to CBT, and finally PTSD therapy, which have all proven so useful. I see more and more of a need for a small group where we can discuss the emotional impact of the cults, and delve into the way we have been affected.
If I could go back in time, and had a group like vigilant Minds, I know I would have benefited immensely, and not ventured down some self destructive paths I’ve taken. Maybe I would have learned to trust people, and find some self autonomy. Maybe I would go to university, and not live in fear about the future… who knows. Yet, I’ve seen some ex cultists make some serious progress, and know this is possible.
You will find other ex JW’s, Mormons and even lesser known cults. Experience varies between shunning, trauma, disfellowshipping, and more. We are all at different levels of willingness and openness. We will be discussing a variety of topics, and sharing our hearts.
If you can use some support, please join us on Meetup, or contact me via the Contact Form. The Cult Peer Support Group will be held every month, so please visit our Events page for the time and location. I have so much hope that people can overcome the cult and find healing.