On the Outside Looking In
They say that if something doesn’t kill you it will only make you stronger.
After many years of struggling with my past, I have tried to adopt this approach to life. Looking back today, on good days, I can even see the emergence of a pattern, especially regarding the more unpleasant incidents in my life. Then I wonder if perhaps each challenge was actually part of a Grand Master Plan devised for the main purpose of waking me up to my innate potential. @
I have heard many people say that it is only in times of major crisis that you truly discover your inner strength and endurance. This certainly applies to the earlier stages of my life, especially with regard to growing up in the Moonies, which I experienced as one long, never-ending major crisis.
Seen in a more positive light, I suppose that in some ways this prolonged crisis actually provided me with a vast array of potentials and possibilities to grow and expand in more ways than I could ever have imagined at the time.
I have always thought of myself as strong and resilient. I refused to be a victim of the past and every in many ways I am grateful to the challenges that life has presented me with, because they have made me stronger and wiser on many levels. At the same time I am also getting tired of fighting this inner war and bearing scars that no one can see. At times my life resembles a never-ending nightmare and memories I thought I had buried long ago suddenly re-appear, manifesting in numerous destructive disguises in the most unlikely places, again and again until every day begins to resemble an insurmountable battle with invisible demons attacking me in every corner, leaving me lifeless, miserable and drained.
Maybe writing about it will help, by putting words on those hidden facets of my life that have remained unspoken and unexamined before now. Invoking the demons and giving them names, facing the dragon and casting light on the shadows. Maybe this will change things; maybe I will find peace and help others like me do the same. Who knows, it’s worth a try anyway.
To err is human, to forgive is divine they say, and I discovered long ago that pain can only have power over me if I cultivate painful memories and give in to the anger they instigate; there is freedom in forgiveness.
Whereas anger and resentment are all natural reactions at some point, in the end they only serve to tighten the bonds to that which caused resentment in the first place. In this respect, anger cultivates more pain, and ultimately only prolongs suffering, while in forgiveness there is release.
I do not in anyway condone what happened to me and others like me, yet my own journey towards healing has slowly led me towards a deeper understanding, forgiveness and every once in a while, a little taste of freedom.
I have certainly wallowed in anger, hate, bitterness, and resentment at some point or another, and still do at times, all seemingly appropriate responses, but I see that in the end they don’t really serve a useful purpose. With this in mind, I would also like to point out that the motivation behind this piece is not revenge, but the hope that it may in some way empower others like me to let go and move on, and possibly even prevent the segregation of children in the future.
It is for this reason I feel that my story needs to be told, to hopefully serve a useful purpose in this regard, and not breed more resentment. I strongly believe that the greater the challenge, the greater the opportunity, or blessing, within that challenge. Seen in this light, I am actually quite lucky; at least I refuse to see myself as a passive victim. I believe that within every human being lies a field of unlimited potential, but tapping into that field sometimes means weathering extreme circumstances. Although many of my experiences as a child were due to circumstances beyond my control, I did have a choice in terms of how I chose to react to those circumstances, and that makes all the difference.
Heart of the Experience
If I were to single out one of the most challenging parts of growing up in the Moonies, it would have to be the relentless, almost haunting, yet mostly exasperating feeling of never quite fitting in anywhere. This feeling still lingers on to this day, and I have yet to discover whether it is a blessing or a curse, perhaps a little of both.
Like many other cult kids, I was generally set apart from society and grew up in what to me felt like a dogmatic cocoon for most of my formative years. The intent was obviously to protect me from the perils of the world, yet paradoxically, as a direct result, my life became extremely turbulent and unstable. From the age of about two or three, I never lived more than two years at a time in any one place. By the time I was eight, I had already lived in four different countries and learned three different languages (two of which, unfortunately, I forgot, as I no longer used them). I can’t remember how many caretakers I had, but it was probably more than twenty yet fewer than fifty, for both my parents were missionaries, busy saving the world elsewhere.
My mother used to tell me that I was a sacrifice for the sake of a greater good. She put me into God’s Hands, and with the help of a lot of faith and a seemingly endless number of dedicated prayers, she ensured that He would protect me. A bit like paying holy installments toward my sacred life insurance, I suppose. This might have worked for all I know; I was an almost abnormally healthy child. Even today the most serious physical illness to fall upon me has been the flu and some nasty stomach problems in India.
Nonetheless, this sacrifice was no small feat on her part, the pain of leaving her only child at such a young age still haunts her to this day. I certainly hope some good has come out of that choice, because it certainly took its toll on her, and it almost destroyed me. I was too young to remember when she first left; all that comes to mind now is a big house and many fading faces.
My very first memory is of jumping on a dusty old couch in a basement together with an old man. We were laughing our heads off and having a blast when a woman came in screaming and yelling. I could never figure out why she got so mad, it was just a dirty old couch. Maybe he was going senile or something and that made her anxious. Old men don’t normally jump on couches, but of course I didn’t know this at the time.
As a young child I was mostly good natured, cheerful, adapted easily, and from what I can remember, highly resilient with a wild streak that has remained to this day. Still, many years of moving about, learning new languages, making new friends, adjusting to different environments, only to be torn away from it all and repeat the process all over again (and again, and again, ad infinitum), eventually took its toll. After a while I started to feel more and more like a weird little muddled misfit, a perpetual stranger, forever the foreigner.
I became a bizarre product of shoddy acculturation, sloppy socialization, or whatever one chooses to call the process through which young children develop a sense of belonging, and identify with their nearest and dearest. I did not quite understand my predicament at such a young age. I just felt more and more lonely, and being an only child didn’t help matters either. In many ways it felt like I died many small deaths as my world disappeared time and time again, and what once seemed stable and secure vanished and was gone.
A Sustaining Memory
The first and most devastating death that I can remember vividly was leaving Germany when I was five, so that I could be closer to my mother, who was living in England. That was when I lost a brother and the best friend I ever had.
He wasn’t my biological brother, more like a soul brother, and I loved him more than anything in the world. In many ways he was my world; after my mother left he became the most important person in my life.
We lived in the same house for a year or two, his room was next to mine, and we were very close. I don’t think we ever fought, although I remember him scolding me because I was always wanting to do things we weren’t supposed to. He was about two years older and very caring and protective; he always let me play with his toys and made sure that I didn’t do anything too mischievous.
He was the only person I ever became really attached to, and the day I heard that I was moving away from him was one of the worst days of my life. After all, I had no one else to love, and when we were separated it was as if part of my heart had been ripped out. I don’t think I ever fully recovered from that shock. I still cry to this day when I think about it. I never forgot him, and every little “death” since then became almost painless in comparison, because until I gave birth to my son, I never loved like that again.
To add to the fear and loneliness inside, they sent me away with a complete stranger who didn’t speak a word of German and knew nothing about children. To the Moonies, all members are like family, but to me he was just some guy who didn’t seem at all pleased to have to drag me around Europe.
I remember standing alone in the dark somewhere in London surrounded by suitcases while he went off to buy tickets or something, and being completely overwhelmed by a wave of loss and pain. I started to cry uncontrollably when something very bizarre took place that I still remember with a smile. A group of black men all wearing shiny white suits saw me and came over to try and console me. Unfortunately, I didn’t understand a word of what they were saying either, so they started to sing. I guess they must have been musicians. They just stood there in their glittering white suits and sang and sang and sang for what seemed like an eternity, just for me. I’ll never forget that experience, although they couldn’t stop the tears from flowing or take away my pain; they certainly did catch my attention. Sometimes I think that maybe I wasn’t completely alone standing on that street corner after all. Maybe someone was watching and sent the dark singing men in dazzling white suits just to distract me, if only for a moment, from my despair. They were quite a sight.
Growing Up Not Myself
In the years that followed I did my best to fit in everywhere I went; children generally don’t like to stand out. Luckily, I made friends easily, was unusually outgoing, learned languages and dialects in record time, joined the Girl Scouts, the swim club, the ski club, and even a glee club (chorus).
I wore the right clothes and probably liked the right things, but to no avail; that lonely feeling just never left me. And all this, by the way, relates purely to my experiences with the Outside “fallen” World. That is how we Moonies referred to what other people usually think of as normal society, or the rest of the world in general. Children growing up in cults or in any kind of fundamentalist movement, for that matter, always get stuck between (at least) two worlds.
There is “consensus reality” and then there is the little bubble within that reality, comprising mostly the set of belief systems and/or rituals of whichever movement (political or religious) one belongs to. Problems arise for children and members when these two worlds clash substantially, because one is forced at some point or another to make a crucial choice. This choice usually entails either continually blocking out and devaluing key aspects of consensus reality, or, in many cases, turning one’s back on her own family and closest network. Most kids are torn between these two alternatives for years before either leaving altogether or arriving at some kind of compromise.
My Quandary with the Cult Beliefs
When it came to my own choices, perhaps if I had felt a sense of belonging in the Inside World, or “The Family,” as we usually referred to ourselves, things might have been slightly different, although not necessarily better. Alas, this fate was not to be mine for one main reason that can be explained only by examining the Moonie belief system. The Family came complete with a set of True Parents and True Children (their fourteen or so children). Accordingly, all the other members referred to each other as True Brothers and Sisters to complete the Holy Metaphor, and also to symbolically discourage sexual activity between these spiritual siblings. The Family regarded premarital sex as an almost unforgivable mortal sin, worse than murder, it seemed when I was growing up. Sex was so terrible that any children born as a result of this impure act were blemished forever with the stain of Original Sin, passed on through generations all the way back to when Adam and Eve had premarital sex.
This is “The Fall” according to the Moonie bible (otherwise known as The Divine Principle ) — which, incidentally, was Eve’s fault because she had sex with Lucifer first but then felt guilty because she remembered that it was Adam she was supposed to have sex with. She seduced him also, but it was too late or too early, or both, so God banished Adam and Eve from the Garden of Eden. Furthermore, since Eve was to blame, women became the inferior sex, cursed to suffer rape, childbirth, menstruation, and all sorts of womanly misfortunes.
All this because of one badly timed and somewhat bungled-up sex act. I remember thinking that God must be incredibly cruel to punish us so severely for a mistake that anyone can make. After all, they were only teenagers (according to The Divine Principle, anyway). Although having sex with evil angels isn’t exactly a widespread practice among teenagers these days, they do have a tendency to get into trouble. Everyone knows that.
Fortunately, there were some ways to remedy this calamity, one of which was to pay indemnity, and this applied to both men and women. Any kind of personal misfortune could be seen as one form of paying indemnity, but most members supplemented this payment with additional suffering, just to make sure that indemnity was indeed being paid. There was fasting (often for twenty-one days with absolutely no food whatsoever), cold showers, and getting up early to pray fervently and study Father’s teachings. The more devout members did this for years. My mother still gets up at 4 A.M. to pray and study, although I don’t think she sees this as paying indemnity anymore. To her this has simply become a well established spiritual practice and part of her daily routine. There was also fundraising and witnessing (roaming the streets and universities in search of other unsuspecting Outsiders to welcome into the happy Family).
The only other activity that could completely remove the stain of Original Sin, passed on through generations after The Fall, was The Blessing. Here, several hundred (sometimes several thousand) couples, who True Father himself had put together from pictures or in a great big gathering called “The Matching,” would all get married at the same time by True Parents, in some big place like a football stadium or Madison Square Garden. Not only the “Blessed Couple,” but all future children born from that holy matrimony would then be freed of Original Sin. This explains why it was so popular; I think the Moonies are even in the Guinness Book of World Records for the biggest mass weddings in history. The offspring of these decontaminated couples were subsequently given the title “Blessed Children” as they entered the world unblemished and free of Original Sin. In all metaphysical respects, as perfect as can be.
The Unblessed Child
Unfortunately — or fortunately, depending on one’s point of view — I was no such child. Born to an unwed mother before she joined the church, I was doomed to carry the burden of Original Sin. They frequently reminded me and others like me of this unfortunate state of origin, continually referring to us with the rather unflattering designation of Unblessed Children.
As an Unblessed Child, I was excluded by the Family in several different ways: ritually, during Sunday morning prayers (which always took place at the ungodly hour of 5 A.M.), where they consistently prohibited me from saying “The Pledge of the Families”; socially, during big Moonie celebrations such as God’s Day, where members often saved special seats for Blessed Children (although they did let me sit there on many occasions, but hardly ever without first informing me that the seats were really for Blessed Children). Then there was the obligatory trip to Korea, usually around the age of ten and up, that often lasted several years and was regarded as an absolute must for most Blessed Children, but not for me. Although, from what I’ve heard, I think I was blessed to have missed it.
Finally, as opposed to many of the Blessed Children, I also had to fundraise and witness. I have many (not so very fond) memories of standing on street corners selling flowers with my mother, usually for some worthy “Christian” cause. We hardly ever said it was for the Moonies, unless we happened to be in the mood for some rather unpleasant “persecution,” as we called the stone throwing, name calling, and other verbal abuse.
Understandably, after many years of this kind of treatment, I started to feel vaguely inadequate and prone to a slight sense of inferiority with respect to those holier than thou. On top of that, they started to see me as a bad influence on the Blessed Children because of my defiant and unruly demeanor. At thirteen I was even kicked out of Camp Sunrise (the Moonie summer camp) after walking out of an important candle ceremony.
I thought I was doing a brave and honest thing because at the beginning of the ceremony we were told that those who were not going to take it seriously should leave, so I left. I was called back shortly afterward and publicly humiliated for allegedly seducing young Blessed Boys because I had forgotten to wear my bra and was dragged out by my ear. I ran off crying into the night, slept in a car I found unlocked on the grounds, and was forced by my mother to apologize the next day. To finally make my point, even in the Inside World, amidst my own True Brothers and Sisters, I felt like an outcast, a recluse, a misfit, and once again, the freak in the group.
Psychologically, there are perhaps several ways with which I could have coped with this dilemma. I can think of at least two primary methods: either to buy into their bizarre reality, or not. Choosing the first method would have been highly destructive to my fragile psyche. No complex psychological analysis needed here. I simply state the obvious: believing that one is fundamentally inferior to most of one’s peers, for whatever reason, can dangerously stunt one’s personal growth and development. Moreover, believing that their superiority is due to a somewhat more elaborate mating ritual between their parents than that of one’s own, is completely absurd. Even though, admittedly, some fifty-odd years back, the majority of our God-fearing citizens adopted a remarkably similar attitude toward unwed mothers and their “bastard” children. They still do in many parts of the world today. I guess this just goes to show how cruel and easily duped we humans can be.
Therefore, probably to protect myself and avoid serious damage in the long run, somewhere in the depths of my psyche (possibly even subconsciously), I decided at a relatively early age that I was surrounded by a group of gibbering morons. This was perhaps not the most sophisticated strategy, but it was effective, and it worked wonders when it came to ignoring and shutting out most of the ranting and raving that composed the greater part of the conceptual reality tunnel in The Family at that time. Although every so often, when I was worn and weary from the exertion of opposition, I would contemplate adopting their belief system just to avoid the strain of being stuck betwixt and between two worlds. On those occasions I really did my best to convince myself that the plump little guy jumping about energetically on stage, flailing his arms and barking loudly in Korean, really was the Messiah, here to save the world and populate the planet with little Blessed Children.
This phase was usually fleeting, however, because no matter how hard I tried, I just couldn’t muster up the necessary faith and devotion to become a long-term believer. I couldn’t bring myself to see anything more extraordinary than an energetic Korean guy with strong charisma and impressive leadership abilities (and of course reproductive abilities), whom I held largely responsible for the sad and unpleasant state of affairs that my life had become. So after a brief flash of tepid faith, and a further blow to what appeared to be a remarkably underdeveloped spiritual sensitivity, I was back to my familiar, non-believing cynical self.
Had I been a Blessed Child, on the other hand, I think it would have been more difficult to develop this much disbelief and skepticism at such an early age. This is because Blessed Children had for the most part been told by The Family all their lives how very special, important, and unique they were. Sort of like Holy Super Kids, the whole world depended on them, and if there is still widespread misery and suffering today it is because they haven’t taken their role and mission seriously enough (what a burden, poor kids). Essentially, my guess is that it is much harder to disregard and block out positive affirmations that build self-esteem and make one feel like a Very Important Person than it is to ignore and block out a belief system that ultimately makes one feel like a tiny piece of poop. In other words, I think I was blessed to have been unblessed. Life is funny that way.
Another factor worth mentioning here is that many of the Blessed Children, in addition to being conveniently matched off to one another, sometimes became economically dependent on the church. Members of the church could mediate and sponsor both jobs and higher education, making it difficult for recipients to break free completely, even if they did start developing a different belief system. Today, many, if not most, of the Blessed kids I grew up with are still affiliated with the church in some way or another, although I seriously doubt that most of them are firm believers. I think it’s mostly a safe and practical arrangement. They have each other and a Family that supports them, and apart from that, most of them do what they like. The majority are adults now, with families of their own, and are doing quite well as far as I know, at least on the surface. So why spoil a good thing? As for myself, I was not sponsored and have had to make do with a combination of student loans and welfare, sigh.
How I Survived
There were several relevant factors that I feel made it easier for me to break out compared to the others. For one thing, all that moving about during my early years with no siblings made me extremely individualistic, in addition to never bonding normally with my parents. My mother was away for years, and even though she did call and visit sometimes, it took me a while to realize that she was my mother. I used to call her the same name as all the other kids did.
As for my father, he didn’t appear in my life until much later on. In fact the idea of a father never even occurred to me until I was about five, the first time I remember meeting him, and then he would come and go sporadically. Therefore, filial piety, or playing the role of an obedient and respectful daughter, didn’t really develop into a stable part of my psychological make-up. I was far too independent and self-sufficient to adopt a belief simply in order to please others. Then, once my father drifted out when I was about twelve, there was really no reason for me not to leave.
I have often wondered why it was so easy for me to turn my back on the Family, and (almost) never look back. I guess there just wasn’t enough in it for me at the time, no real goodies, just a whole load of blame, loneliness, and confusion.
I first left to live with my ex-Moonie father in California when I was fourteen (although mentally I was long gone way before then). I was fighting more and more with my mother at the time, mostly on issues dealing with my “purity”. She tried in vain to mold me into becoming something resembling a dutiful, compliant, sexless and obedient little Sunday school girl while more and more I seemed to be growing into the exact opposite. In California I experienced my first real dose of the Outside World, unfiltered and totally raw. This phase lasted for only about two years, I guess the Outside World was just too much for me at such a vulnerable age; things basically went from bad to worse.
The loneliness and emptiness I felt in the Outside World at that time was extreme and intense. The best image I can think of to illustrate this feeling is that of a small animal, locked in a cage most of its life, and then suddenly set free to manage as best as it can in the jungle. Or, as another cult kid I read about in a Norwegian newspaper described it, it’s like growing up in a spaceship, protected and confined, and then one day leaping out into space. Compared to the coldness, the incredible loneliness, and overwhelming freedom I encountered out in the big cruel world, life as an Unblessed Child in the Moonies seemed like peanuts. I had to escape before it swallowed me whole and I lost what was left of my will to survive.
To make a long story short, I fell in love with a boy who broke my heart, got pregnant at fifteen, and lost all my friends and what little I had left of my self-respect in record time. It was a kind of replay of the abandonment, heartache and isolation that I had already experienced as a child. This time the pain was so relentless and severe that a part of me really wanted to die but for some reason the other part won, so I turned to sex, alcohol and drugs instead.
One morning I woke up and knew I had to leave California, something in me was dying there and it had nothing to do with the drugs, they were simply a symptom of a much deeper emptiness looming inside. A shaman would call this soul loss, I was losing too many pieces of my soul. You can only lose so many pieces before you turn into a living corpse. Sometimes I feel like I inhabit a dying planet of living corpses. But I knew that I was dying, and I had to save what was left. One night I had an unusually lucid dream of Paris, and then I just knew. The next morning I asked my father to buy me a one-way ticket and that was it. I think he saw that I was sinking fast and needed rescuing; only he didn’t quite know how to initiate it himself.
I quit high school midterm and set off to France to sell orchids and convince other lost souls to come to our friendly weekend workshops and meet The Family. Once again a stranger in yet another strange land, but as things turned out this was probably one of my wisest and most courageous decisions. Sunny California would have been the death of me in one way or another; it just wasn’t a healthy place for me to be. Even today I cringe at the thought of living there. In some peculiar way it’s as if I instinctively knew that I had to get away, no matter where, no matter how. I worked as a missionary for almost one year in France, where my mother was based at the time. This was probably the most serious attempt I made at “buying it” my whole life.
Growing up in the Moonies was due to circumstances way beyond my control, but the decision to rejoin in France at the age of sixteen was a desperate and conscious choice. It was a matter of survival, at least existentially. Rejoining meant that I could be a part of something, even if it was the lesser part of an otherwise perfect Family. Orbiting the Outside World, having cut all ties linking me to the Mother Moonie Spaceship, I felt utterly and completely alone. When I think back of that time today, I’m really quite surprised I emerged from it all as relatively unscathed as I did (my mother was most certainly paying holy installments to my sacred life insurance more than ever back then).
That turning point was to be my last major attempt at trying to become a truly committed devotee. However, after many months of endless debates, fights, and far too many unanswered questions, I finally realized that it just wasn’t going to happen. The Divine Principle just wasn’t equipped to encompass the whole kaleidoscope of realities that made up my weird and wonderful world. This observation also applied to the majority of conventional belief systems in the Outside World, but that’s another story. For one thing, I could never take material reality seriously enough; there was always something greater, looming in the background that defied form and convention.
Throughout my childhood, youth, and especially during that last encounter with the church, I felt like I was gradually pressed further and further into a cramped box. A rather uncomfortable feeling when every part of my being just wanted to fly and soar freely across an infinite sky.
Connection with My Higher Self
Around this time, I also became increasingly aware of a growing friction between church discourse and what I will hereafter refer to as my Inner Voice. This Inner Voice has been a guide and source of power to me for as long as I can remember. Although I didn’t always have a name for it, I felt its presence, especially in times of crisis.
I sometimes wonder if maybe pain and suffering makes one more susceptible to this Voice. Every so often, when the pain of being me became almost unbearable, there was a kind of opening and a part of me surrendered, the controller perhaps, and that’s when the Voice trickled through. It didn’t speak in the ordinary sense, but gently guided me to that place prior to words, where there was just Knowing and Sensing, beyond concepts and belief systems, to a place of Original Goodness and Purity that no sin could ever stain.
I think anyone can tap into that Voice; we are more powerful than we dare to believe, but sometimes it takes extreme circumstances to wake us up to that realization. Children are unique individuals with different needs and different paths. Parents, of course, want to protect them from the dangers of the world and, in so doing, create shelters, with the best of intentions. In many cases however, they appear to forget that what seems to work for them might not necessarily be right for their child. Some children simply need a lot of space while others may thrive in a cocoon, as long as they are loved and respected.
Stifling belief systems are not only a product of cults; they are everywhere, limiting who we are and what we dare to achieve. Cults are basically an extreme manifestation of what I see as a widespread dynamic all over the planet. The Moonies were probably one of the least destructive cults compared to many others, promoting stronger family values, anti-racism, and an end to ideological warfare, at least in theory. They have obviously made blunders, but I guess that’s only human. I can’t think of one religion that hasn’t, at some point in history, inflicted inconceivable suffering in the name of their God. This doesn’t make it right; it just makes it a fact of life.
Even the greatest wisdom, in the wrong hands, will create more suffering, and it takes an unusual capacity to be a pure vessel for love and light in this world. I would think that the main purpose of a true spiritual teacher is to help seekers find and connect with their own inner source of wisdom, so that they too may embody that realization for the benefit of all. When one is able to remain open and receptive to the guidance of that innate inner wisdom, there is no limit to what can be accomplished. This is when true healing can take place, new gateways appear, great ideas are born, magical dreams are woven, and intuition flows freely.
In my case, having decided once and for all that the weight of Original Sin was an unnecessary burden that I had no intention of dragging around, I chose to follow my Inner Voice. In so doing I also reclaimed my power and created my own path.
Finally I was free, and to make a long story short, met a Norwegian philosophy student, fell in love, settled in Norway, and for the first time in my life discovered a place called Home. And lived happily ever after, of course.
Well, actually nothing could be further from the truth.
I lived with my boyfriend for about one year and then we split up, after which I ended up in a long series of mostly abusive relationships, numbing out my pain with alcohol and whatever drugs happened to be floating around at the time. I used to think that perhaps I had an invisible sign on my head that said “Please Hit Me”; I just couldn’t understand why this kept happening to me.
In Norway I met many other kids my age who were also living alone, refugees from war and domestic violence running away from years of conflict, chaos and turmoil. We formed a very strong bond to each other and they became like a surrogate family for me. It was like I finally belonged somewhere, I finally fit in and people liked me, I had finally found home and my tribe. There was a lot of partying back then (and still is come to think of it) but today I realize that the majority of those people were perhaps just as traumatized as I was, we found comfort and support in each other’s company, while altered states, whether they were induced through legal highs or not, became like a kind of collective dissociation and self-medication bringing us even closer together and thereby serving a very useful purpose.
It’s been over twenty one years now since I made my final escape from the church but in many respects I am only coming to terms with that part of myself now. Somehow through it all I had managed to develop a highly critical and analytical mind which has served me well at school and later even allowed me to get a doctoral degree in anthropology. Still, I have never held down a “normal” job. Academic research became a refuge for me because it allowed me the flexibility I needed to cope with all the chaos in my life without anyone really noticing. I could be away for weeks at a time and no one ever made a big deal out of it (the department was very liberal and as long as I always managed to meet demands there was a high degree of freedom at work).
It gradually dawned on me that I just wasn’t cut out for a 9-5 job. I suffered from frequently recurring mental and emotional collapses that left me almost paralyzed with depression, self-loathing and anxiety, and every evening I seemed to be attacked by some kind of bizarre nervous energy or restlessness that made relaxing and winding down seem almost impossible. I called these attacks my “demons”, and would self-medicate by drinking which usually left me even more drained and exhausted the next day. I would also often fly into inexplicable rages completely disproportionate to whatever triggered the outburst, which unfortunately mostly affected those people closest to me, like my son.
I became more and more tired and drained, gradually lost my short-term memory, ability to think straight, concentrate or focus on one task for a very long time. I never slept well, but would spend most nights hyper alert, half-awake, and unable to fall asleep and then woke up feeling like a train wreck practically every day. I also developed bizarre muscle pains, especially in my lower back and generally felt very uncomfortable under my skin. As a result I became increasingly isolated as the years went by. Intimacy, which inevitably resulted in pain and re- traumatization, frightened me. I was exhausted from the relentless inner conflict and I couldn’t risk anyone seeing the “real” damaged me. I had an image to uphold after all, that I had it together, was competent and strong, and as a single mother with hardly any support network I really couldn’t risk falling apart.
I did yoga, meditation and retreats and probably spent thousands on alternative treatments trying to find a “cure” for whatever was wrong with me, but to no avail. I write in the past tense, probably to create a safe distance, but I am still tormented by many of these issues today. Sometimes I wonder if I will ever fully recover, but fortunately I have found a good shrink and after years of therapy at least now I know why I recreate so much pain.
I finally got an ADD diagnosis in 2007 and a Chronic Fatigue diagnosis recently but the one that has made the most sense to me so far and covers every aspect of my life is the Complex-PTSD diagnosis that my shrink mentioned casually and unceremoniously after five years of therapy. Although it has not been officially recognized as a diagnosis, it is the only one that explains my fear of intimacy, inability to bond and the fact that I seem to keep obsessively repeating the interrelational traumas that got me into this mess in the first place.
Life has become a kind of sick and twisted replay of my childhood with abandonment, abuse and betrayal as the main themes. This in turn leads to dwindling self-esteem and a seemingly never-ending cycle of addictive behavior as I try to numb the pain and leaves me more and more lifeless and depleted as the years go by; bleeding to death from invisible wounds that no one can see. Although I have many friends I am starting to seriously wonder if I will ever be able to experience closeness or love and trust anyone ever again.
So in the end, life in the Outside World was anything but easy, just different, but it was my life and I was finally treading my own path. Subsequently, no matter how many obstacles I encountered (and there were and still are many), I am still creating my own life and my own reality, and trying to take responsibility for that and this makes all the difference. Although I stumble and fall many times, these are my own struggles and I am free to navigate them as clumsily as I wish. In other words, I am both the storyteller and the heroine in my very own tale.
They say that pain can open doors of wisdom if you let it be your teacher, strip you to the bones until nothing but naked reality is laid bare, and pierce your heart so completely that nothing other than the highest form of love can enter there. Perhaps there is some truth to that, sublime pain can raise you up while it drags you down to the deepest pits. Then, when you look around, you see that you are not alone. Sooner or later we will all walk through those gates and descend into that pit, I met my mother there, and there are many more. I can reach out to them because I have been there, look into their eyes and feel their pain. I have learned my lessons well but it is time to move on now, there are new lessons to be learned. I’ve been a pain junky for so long that I have forgotten what it feels like to smile without tears and laugh without crying inside.
I guess in many ways I am still that defiant little misfit, standing on the outside looking in. But on a far deeper level, I was never really on the Inside, just like I’ll never be on the Outside. You’ll find me floating in those fuzzy gray zones in between, where there are no boundaries, concepts, or limitations. If anything, my past has taught me that, and for this I am grateful. I am truly Blessed.
Ulisse Di Bartolomei
17/5/2016 03:15:11 pm
An unmissable book for who foresee to deal with sects or to undertake a mystical tourism in the oriental esotericism.
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