Tuesday, November 10, 2015

I Was Raised In A Cult

I want to write about all the positive and sexy. I want to cover up the unpleasant things. I know I shouldn't. I know that hiding from those truths makes it harder for me to truly express my full self (and prevents you from better understanding who I am). How can I show you all of me if I keep hidden such an impacting force that has plagued my life and "helped" define who I am today. Please bear with me as I step lightly and honestly through my past. I am only now beginning to understand my true self.

I am defined by my genetics. I am defined by my upbringing. I am defined by the places I have lived and the events that have happened to me. I am made up of the people that have crossed my journey. I am made up of the stories that have touched my life so profoundly that I became a changed person. 

Me and my father, 1980, CA
Me and Mom, 1980, CA
I am scarred by misunderstanding. I'm marked by a narcissistic father and a mother who grew up in a world surrounded by hate, verbal, physical and sexual abuse. I'm misguided by the cult I was raised in. I'm greatly affected by the emotions/feelings of those around me.

The cards were stacked against me from the beginning.

This is my curse. This is my blessing. This is my gift. This is my undoing. This is my design. This is my journey.

Since I was a child I have questioned who I am, where I come from and, ultimately, why am I me? Why am I here, in this body, in this life, in this time? Why aren't I the kid down the street, sleeping soundly in bed? Why am I me. 

Recent revelation has shown that I also have been suffering from sleep paralysis since I was at least 7 years old. I've only recently been made aware that's what it was/still is. It's frightening to find myself paralyzed in bed. Unable to move. The deafening sound of my silent screams. Is this real? Is this my imagination playing tricks on me? Is this normal? Who do I tell? How do I explain it? I told no one. I could not explain it to myself. Who would believe me? 

I've been accused of being a liar since I was old enough to know what a lie is. I have always felt guilty, even when I know I have done nothing wrong. This accusation was further ingrained as I got older. 

I would cry often (still do). Many times for no apparent reason. Emotions would just flood me and the only way my mind could cope was by shedding tears, letting that energy go (as I would later come to understand it). As a child I had no means of understanding and explaining these events. (I now know that I am empathic.)

My mother would ask, "Why are you crying?" 
"I don't know."
"You have to have a reason for crying. Why are you crying?!"
"I don't know."
"Why won't you just tell me why you're crying?!"
"I don't know why I'm crying!"
"Now you're just lying."

To this day I feel guilty when I try to voice my emotional state. I feel like I'm lying because it's so ingrained in me to believe that the words which flow from my mouth are not true. That I do not know my own mind, my own feelings, my own thoughts. In my mind's eye I am still a child and those around me are the adults and they will always know better than me. 

My early childhood is very foggy. I fear learning of the things I have repressed. My nightmares haunt me of events not fully understood. Why does the phrase "You little shit!" leave such a sour taste in my mouth? Why does the thought of being alone with my father send chills down my spine? Why can't I remember much of my life until I was 11 years old? Why am I afraid to go out alone? Why do I fear making my own choices?

Recent enlightenments have shown me that the LDS religion (read - cult) has played an overwhelming role in the choices that I have made, or have failed to make. 

I used to proudly carry around a pamphlet titled "For the Strength of Youth". My youth revolved around this. The standards and expectations were placed before me. As young woman I dreamed of graduating high school, marrying a Returned Missionary (RM) in the temple for all time and eternity, being a loyal housewife, and bearing many children (to "go forth and multiply"). 

My mother clung to these notions. She desired so strongly for me to have everything she did not. I would later discover that she was attempting to live vicariously through me. By my Junior year of High School, she was buying bridal magazines and gathering wedding package information from Disney World (she was obsessed with all things Disney). 

Modesty was drilled into me. Modestly by TSCC (The So Called Church, AKA LDS) standards. Shorts below the knees. No bare shoulders. Minimal makeup. No one-on-one dating. Beware of the devil in your worldly desires. Be ashamed and repress your sexual urges, they too are of the devil. 

From "For the Strength of Youth":
You are not just ordinary young men and women. You are choice spirits who have been held in reserve to come forth in this day when the temptations, responsibilities, and opportunities are the very greatest. You are at a critical time in your lives. This is a time for you not only to live righteously but also to set an example for your peers. As you seek to live the standards of the Church, you will be able to reach out and lift and build your brothers and sisters.
God loves you as He loves each and every one of His children. His desire, purpose, and glory is to have you return to Him pure and undefiled, having proven yourselves worthy of an eternity of joy in His presence.
Your Father in Heaven is mindful of you. He has given you commandments to guide you, to discipline you. He has also given you your agency--freedom of choice--"to see if [you] will do all things whatsoever [He] shall command" (Abraham 3:25). Freedom of choice is a God-given, eternal principle that carries with it moral responsibilities for the choices made.
We counsel you to choose to live a morally clean life. The prophet Alma declared, "Wickedness never was happiness" (Alma 41:10). Truer words were never spoken!
You cannot do wrong and feel right. It is impossible! Years of happiness can be lost in the foolish gratification of a momentary desire for pleasure. Satan would have you believe that happiness comes only as you surrender to his enticement to self-indulgence. We need only to look at the shattered of those who violate God's laws to know why Satan is called the "father of all lies" (2 Nephi 2:18).
You can avoid the burden of guilt and sin and all of attending heartaches if you will but heed the standards provided you through the teachings of the Lord and His servants. (See Following the Prophets home page)
We were the chosen ones. I had a lot to live up to. I had unrealistic expectations placed before me. The ultimate goal to be perfect in all things. Every "sinful" thought was to be fought with repentance, prayer, scripture study, paying tithing and attending all church functions. To avoid temptation my circle of acceptable friends and activities was very limited. 

Example: I was so moved by my 3 week trip to Utah in the summer of 1995 (15 years old), that upon my return I phoned my boyfriend, CJ, and asked his opinion on having sex. "If it happens, it happens," was his response. I could not abide by such loose standards. I was shocked and appalled. How could someone have such low standards to something so sacred as sex? I promptly dumped him without a second thought. 

Oh, I was very much a hypocrite. This was the same guy that I used to make-out with behind the C building before and after school (sometimes during lunch as well). Yep, I was a "heavy petter". I relished the feelings and then hated myself afterwards. 

As an LDS youth I was taught that we were, in fact, better than everyone else. We belonged to the one and only true church in the world. We had modern-day revelation. As TBMs (True Blue Mormons) we had all the answers, to life, death and the hereafter. We were systematically taught not to question ("Therefore, my dear brothers and sisters—my dear friends—please, first doubt your doubts before you doubt your faith. We must never allow doubt to hold us prisoner and keep us from the divine love, peace, and gifts that come through faith in the Lord Jesus Christ.").

These teachings were the foundation by which I built my expectations of my future. Should I falter even but a step from these "truths" I would be outcast and shunned. Ultimately I would spend all of eternity in "Outer Darkness" (AKA Hell). I would be called to repentance and told to beg for forgiveness, which could only be given to me through confession to my Bishop. The steps towards forgiveness would include denial of certain practices, such as partaking of sacrament on Sundays, (everyone saw when you simply passed the sacramental trays to the person next to you without taking for yourself), and saying prayer in public, (a scarlet letter might as well be pinned to your chest when you must admit that you "cannot" offer up a prayer at the opening or closing of a meeting). Church callings would also be revoked and worthiness to enter the temple would be suspended.

I know all of these shames. I have cried before my church leaders as a young woman, declaring my sins, naming them and asking god, through them, for forgiveness. I freely offered up a willingness to do whatever was required of me in order to be seen as spotless before the lord once more. My parents encouraged this. 

Confessions being kept anonymous
What confessing looks like to the LDS

As a teenager I would dress in my Sunday best and sit alone with my Bishop in his office and tell of my sexual transgressions, what greater sin was there for the Latter-Day youth? Yes, alone. I, a teenage female, would tell a grown married man about my sexual thoughts and deeds, including masterbation. (Thoughts are just as damning as actions.) I would be pressed for details in order for my transgressions to be truly weighed and to determine how long my repentance period should last. Sometimes these meetings were held with the whole Bishopric (three men: the Bishop and his first and second councilors). 

This was the foundation by which my perception of sexuality was built. I believed it. I preached it. I testified of it. I judged others based upon it. I condemned even myself because of it. Even now, at 35 years of age, I am still breaking free of this indoctrination I was subjected to. 

[There is a lot here I have shared. I have read and re-read my words. I have provided links to help build a better understanding of where I come from and the expectations by which I was raised. I, by no means, expect the sources I have provided to be read in full.]