Almost a year ago when I started writing this was an anonymous place to put my story. Later I put my name on it and it has now become a place for the things God is leading me through. It’s no longer somewhere to tell the story of my childhood. Every now and then I may tell parts of my past but my past is no longer the focus of my life.
However I am part of online forums for people recovering from religion and religious abuse. This is written to you.
Take me out of your box
Almost a year ago my friend sat across from me and asked ‘How bad was it?’
‘It’ being my childhood.
I looked him in the eyes. ‘Bad’. I left it at that.
For the next 30 minutes he listened and asked questions as I tried to communicate the pain of my childhood.
I know he will never really understand. But that’s okay. I know he’ll never be able to identify and I’ve come to be okay with that too. Trying to make someone understand my pain will never work or make me feel better. I’m just looking for someone to give me an excuse to not face my stuff, feel the pain and come to the place of letting go.
There are people who have walked away from me thinking I was past help and a friendship with me would cost them to much. I look back and understand.
The reality is that unless you have walked in my shoes you can’t understand my life. And if I insist that you must understand I will never heal from my past. Those wounds will be uncovered and recovered without healing taking place.
I’ve found that when people ask about my life (my job, relationships, church, and past) it is usually so they can put me in a box in their mind. Somewhere I’ll fit into their life nice and tidy.
I’m not a tidy person and my past is anything but nice and tidy. This is confusing to many people and instead of owning that confusion and inviting me into their lives to get to know me personally people tend to transfer that confusion to me. If I’m not conscience of this I take their confusion (or frustration or annoyance) onto myself and internalize it. I try to explain and help them put me into boxes. This never works.
Putting people into categories never works because in doing so we are only looking at similarities and differences. We are not seeing an individual (specifically created by God. Put into our lives to love and care for).
Over the past few months it’s been interesting to both refuse to let myself be placed in peoples boxes and to see them do it anyway. Only to later stop mid-sentence in a conversation and realize I don’t fit into their box. Making me smile and letting them realize on their own that I’m not who they think I am.
But then how do I explain my childhood to friends?
It completely depends on who it is. If it’s a friend invested in my healing and who I feel safe sharing my heart I’ll ask them to be specific. Usually my childhood will come up in conversations over coffee or lunch and I’ll get to share more of my life. They will have taken me out of any boxes by now and are seeing me an individual. We’ll have some sort of relationship where there is trust and safeness.
These people are part of my healing process. They are usually close enough that that remind me of someone on my past and I’m responding or reacting to them out of my relationship with the person they remind me of.
Realizing and voicing this gives me a chance to work through my past and lets them experience me.
If it’s someone I don’t feel safe with or am not sure I want to trust I give a vague answer along the lines of ‘I grew up in a religious cult’.
Experiencing people trying to ‘manage’ and ‘fit’ me into their life can be painful. It’s been painful for me to hear people tell me they understand and I know they don’t. But I’m learning to stop and just let them think that.
In wanting to be loved and understood I need to stop and love and understand them also. They have a story and a past and while it’s not the same as mine that doesn’t make it any less real or painful. I’m faced with realizing that people cannot fill those deep longs (which when you get all the way through all the surface things usually ends up being loneliness).