I have had to debate a lot about what I’m going to write today. Generally, I am very upbeat about what I’ve been through. I just brush it off as a learning experience, or roll my eyes and laugh. I joke about cults, about Lord of the Rings, etc. And most of the time it’s accurate; I really do have a happy, full life that doesn’t leave me a lot of time to focus on the past. This is a good thing.
The thing is, there are aftereffects that I don’t know if I can ever shake. My general philosophy is, when I’m feeling something that I want to hide away, is to publish that shit on the internet, mostly because I know how healing it is to read someone else’s experiences. It’s a lot harder these days, because certain people have decided to become a creepy look-at-me-being-the-hero tumblr-trawling emo-stalking creeper with wall-of-text pleas for desperate, lonely, damaged people to call him. Because that isn’t creepy at all.
But I won’t let that silence me; the days where I lock up my life because of him are over. Which is kind of ironic, given that I’m writing about lingering aftereffects. But whatever, that’s reality. I went through an incredibly, profoundly fucked up experience, and it startles me how it still pops up. The thing that I’ve found hardest to recover from in this whole thing is that my entire concept of reality was torn to shreds. I mean, everything I knew, everything, was wrong. Which went along with the one-two punch of people I loved and trusted turning on me (with reason, true, but that’s not the point) and believing people I loved and trusted had turned on me. I sometimes wonder if it has permanently damaged my ability to trust.
It’s hard to explain. I am lucky enough to have a tremendously supportive “village” looking out for me. My friends and family are deeply worthy of my trust and affection; I have absolutely no reason to distrust them. And in truth, I trust them implicitly. See, like I said, it’s hard to explain. I’m not afraid my framily will betray me. But I am truly afraid that I will betray them; that I will shake loose from reality again and live in a dreamworld.
I don’t like to think about some of the ways being in the cult changed me. Certainly I don’t like looking at the person I was while I was in it. I don’t like that person, that damaged, frantic, lying phantom of myself. But I can deal with that; it’s over now, and I’m not that person anymore. I guess I’m afraid I could be her again, like that specter could take me over. Even though I know in both mind and heart that will not happen. But fear isn’t always rational.
And I’m definitely not who I would have been if I had not gone off on the yellow-brick road. That’s a good thing in a lot of ways, because I was sad, unmotivated, undiagnosed and in general just kind of a boring loser. I don’t regret the changes that got me out into the world. But I do regret the fear and anxiety I carry, despite therapy, medications and time. I wish I didn’t have this default that the cult installed in me, this notion that I am responsible for everything in my life. If somebody is unhappy – even a stranger – it could be my fault. He exploited my natural desire to please people with my low self-esteem, and that is the hardest injury of all to heal from. Every off day, every tiny mistake, every frown or argument, I have to remind myself that it’s not about me. Maybe ultimately I am actually deeply selfish, given that I assume every negative thing is because of me. And that’s absurd.
And that’s how it circles back around to me being afraid that reality will be ripped away from me. Because I wasn’t fully cognizant of what was going on when I was in the cult, and because I instinctively assume blame, I am afraid I will somehow (against my own will) sabotage and destroy the things I love. And that? Is not a fun feeling to carry around.
I don’t feel it often, so don’t get yourself too worried about me. It’s something that catches me on bad days. Days when the boy won’t nap, or when money’s tight or I’m not feeling well. The kind of days when your mind just goes looking for something to feel shitty about. Or if something pokes a scar, like if I catch a whiff of cheap raspberry bath products (his fragrance of choice in the very early days) or if a memory startles me. That’s life; there’s always things that stay with us, no matter what we do. I mean, just because you let skeletons out of the closet doesn’t mean they don’t fucking haunt you.