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Nightmares, A Cult and A Beautiful Life

I don’t like waking myself up screaming.

I don’t like awakening with a start, shaking, gasping before realizing with relief that my family is not dead, I am not being tortured by Nazi’s, I am not trapped in a tall building with bad guys hunting me down.

I do like that the more my life is filled with real love, real happiness, real peace, those nightmares are fewer and farther between.

As a girl I found myself in a religious cult, far from nurturing family and friends, trapped in a 10-story former hotel in Indianapolis where I would be worked 17-20 hours a day with no pay, no holidays and no breaks save for a few hours early Saturday morning when I was allowed outside in the parking lot to play volleyball in a long skirt with tennis shoes. It was the highlight of my week. 🙂

During the day I would have my “ministry smile” firmly affixed to my face, so afraid to appear anything other than radiantly happy lest I be accused of a rebellious spirit and sent to solitary confinement in a room void of furniture where I would be isolated on bread and water until my “heart changed.”

I smiled when they said I was worth nothing and only good as a servant. I smiled when they would take away our food on Sundays and lock the kitchen so we could “free our minds from distraction and focus on God.” I smiled when they tried to break me by demoting me to scrubbing toilets and folding laundry for ten or more hours a day.

But at night, safe behind the locked door of my room I would cry, wondering what was wrong with me that made me so unlovable to the people who ran that place.Why did they look for opportunities to publicly humiliate me, discipline me harshly, isolate me from all who loved me and saw value in me? It got so bad that even a few in leadership positions would wait for a rare moment when I was alone, whisper how sorry they were, explain with tears that there was nothing they could do, then hustle off before anyone saw them. They’ll never know how much those secret messages meant to me.

Looking back now I should’ve called my parents at the first sign of abuse and asked them to get me out of there. But I didn’t. I couldn’t. Two things the leadership drilled into me: 1 – if I truly loved God I would want to encourage my parent’s hearts by only giving them good news. 2 – if I tried to get out of a painful situation, God would only put me in a worse one so I could learn the lessons He had for me. They’re both lies, of course, I see that now, but back then, they were an effective tool to keep me terrified and silent. My situation was bad enough, the thought of something worse awaiting me if I tried to leave was beyond reckoning. So I stayed. Said nothing.

Somewhere in those years I found comfort in reading about the Holocaust. I devoured every story I could get my hands on (biographies were allowed in that place, novels were verboten), finding solace in the stories of people who had been through so much worse than me. It made me brave, strong, able to face my persecutors each day. I’ve carried those books with me ever since, just seeing them on shelves was a reminder that I could do it, I could make it, I could overcome anything those wretched people did to me and my friends.

But when I was packing up to move last month, I had the strangest feeling wash over me as I looked at those books.  I smiled as I realized, I don’t need them any more.

I am free from that place.
I am at peace.
I am dearly loved.
I am stronger every day both in spirit and in the body they broke down.
I am happy, so happy, with the dearest friends and family a girl could ever hope for.

So I packed them up to give away. Perhaps they’ll provide strange comfort for someone else.

I still have a nightmare now and then. Usually when I’m working through some particularly painful memory from those years. But now I have people I can call, who remind me that I’m no longer trapped, no longer abused, no longer stuck in a place void of love, hope and peace.

I am free.

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Cults and Comfort Food » ramblingtart - […] a teenager I found myself in a religious cult masquerading as a Christian ministry. They promised to provide a home-away-from-home where we could […]

On the Other Side of Nightmares » Rambling Tart - […] week I was tired to my bones. Nightmares returned a few weeks ago, the worst nightmares I’ve had yet, filling me with fear and anxiety […]

Matt @ The Church of No People - Krista, I can’t imagine what you went through or how you were put in that situation, but I am glad that you are free and are healing. Thanks so much for sharing. I’m glad I came over from Bryan Allain’s blog to check yours out. I hope you have a great Christmas season.

RamblingTart - Sarah, Maison Cupcake said…
Incredible post, I cannot imagine what you went through. The photos of flowers make a stunning contract to what you’ve written.
March 11, 2010 7:07 AM

Jerusha said…
My husband once put a moratorium on “any more Nazi movies”! I wondered recently what the attraction was to “testimonies” from dreadful concentration camps. Here’s to peace, love, and less laundry. 🙂
March 11, 2010 7:35 AM

Rambling Tart said…
Thank you, Sarah. It’s so healing to be able to write about it. 🙂 Takes the power away from the bad guys. 🙂
March 11, 2010 8:18 AM

Rambling Tart said…
Oh, that’s funny, Jerusha. 🙂 I’ve had to do that to myself, but it’s very hard to resist. I join you in your wonderful toast. 🙂
March 11, 2010 8:28 AM

Jason said…
Thank you for your beautiful words. I was once in a cult myself. I don’t believe anybody has the right to abuse people in the name of the Lord. Your story is a positive one and an inspiring one because you were able to get out and speak about it. I know many others who have gotten out and are still afraid. The bad guys want us all to stay quiet so they can move on to the next victim.
If it is possible, please share this blog which recalls the encounters of the cult I was in: http://whathappenedtodeerfield.wordpress.com/
The more people can speak out about this, the more this can be controlled. Keep getting the word out!
March 11, 2010 8:37 AM

Rambling Tart said…
Dear Jason, thank you so much for the link. I feel a bit sick inside reading it because it so mirrors much of what I went through as well. I’m so glad you have this group of people to help you work through your past. I wish you much happiness, freedom and peace. 🙂
March 11, 2010 8:51 AM

{lauryl} said…
Beautiful. I used to read a lot of WWII literature too, and often had horrific nightmares about being in a concentration camp and watching my family die. Years later I think I’ve figured out that I was connecting to the persecuted Jews because of all the BS we were told about in seminars… how families who wouldn’t stop homeschooling in states where it was illegal would be imprisoned, etc. I really thought that we were doing the righteous thing and that at some point we might be put in a concentration camp for our decision (I should say: my PARENT’S decision) to homeschool. It all seems so very ridiculous now– but there were some masters of manipulation at work in our lives “back in the day.”
March 11, 2010 9:21 AM

FlowerLady said…
Dear Rambling Tart ~ Your story is so touching. I am so glad that you escaped that horrible life and now are living a life of love, freedom and joy. May peace and beauty fill your days. Your pictures are beautiful.
Hugs ~ FlowerLady
March 11, 2010 9:41 AM

Vanillastrawberryspringfields said…
Oh my God…what is this and what cult …i mean im so stunned and know and not heard nothing like this…im sorry u had to go thru this …lousy………But the flowers depict that ur out of it now…the end of the tunnel shows sunshine…..
Sunshine that will soon rock ur life and u’lll have happy moments forever …..Baby a huggie and a smile jus for u…..
March 11, 2010 9:48 AM

Vanillastrawberryspringfields said…
Am actually still getting over what i jus read and re read it again…..God is definately not the way they said….he wants an absolutely happy life for us…enjoying everyday life…..U deserve nothing like that coz ur so precious sweety…..
March 11, 2010 9:53 AM

Rambling Tart said…
Thank you, Lauryl. I had no idea others had those dreams too. Masters of manipulation is so true. I’m very glad we’re out now, luv. 🙂 And I’m so glad I got to meet people like you who bring SO much beauty to this world every day. 🙂
March 11, 2010 9:55 AM

Rambling Tart said…
Thank you, Flower Lady. There is so much peace and beauty in my life now it almost overwhelms me. I treasure every bit of it. 🙂 I’m so glad you like the pictures. I thought of you as I posted them. 🙂
March 11, 2010 9:56 AM

Rambling Tart said…
Thank you so very much for your hug and smile, dear Vanilla. You’ve got me all teary now. 🙂
March 11, 2010 9:56 AM

Rambling Tart said…
Your words mean so much to me, Vanilla. I still struggle with what to think about God, but I hope he is as you say. 🙂
March 11, 2010 9:57 AM

Vanillastrawberryspringfields said…
Oh dear…u know i am not known to say what i dont mean…nevr till date …and what i said is what i have experienced ….HE is as real to me as the air i breathe….and His love over whelms me ….i cant imagine living w/o that precious feeling that He’s there…i wont say more …jus wish for u to know Him as He is and get over those people who so badly used u in the Name of God…i still cant believe it sweets …makes me squirm to think that u went thru and actually im so teary eyed now….
loads of smiles and hugs and cheers jus 4u…..
March 11, 2010 11:11 AM

Mary said…
Just like the beautiful flowers you photographed, you’ve broken through the earth and made your way into the light and warmth of the sun. This was a wonderful post and amazing story. Blessings…Mary
March 11, 2010 2:53 PM

Rambling Tart said…
My lovely Vanilla girl. 🙂 Thank you, thank you for everything. You cheered and comforted my heart so much today. 🙂
March 11, 2010 2:53 PM

Rambling Tart said…
Thank you, dear Mary. 🙂 It’s so lovely to have hope and a new chance at life. 🙂
March 11, 2010 3:39 PM

Joanne said…
You have so much strength and courage my dear. More so than you can ever know. I can see how much you’ve grown in these posts and how much you have worked through. Someday all of this will be so far away in your memory. But it will always have made you a stronger person. You are so lovely and have so much to offer…don’t ever let anyone tell you otherwise.
March 11, 2010 5:10 PM

Nan said…
I’ve only just found your blog through FB, and I had no idea of the extent of your experience with the “unnamed” cult until now . . . and I thought it was bad enough just to have the false teachings and be a staff kid in MI. I am so sorry. 🙁 You are blessed beyond measure to have family who fully support, love, and encourage you in your journey of freedom. Would that others could say the same.
The crocuses are such a fitting photo for this post–the flower that so often blooms first after the long winter. Lovely–just as you are.
March 11, 2010 7:30 PM

Dustjacket Attic said…
Hi honey, your account is very moving. It makes me so mad to think there are awful people who take the word “God” and use it as a tool against people.
I’m so pleased you feel so great that you could pass those books on.
hugs DJ
March 11, 2010 7:35 PM

Rambling Tart said…
Thank you, dear Joanne. I needed that so very much tonight.
March 11, 2010 8:10 PM

Rambling Tart said…
Dear Jan, thank you so much for your understanding words. It’s been a rough haul, but I’m going to be OK. I know that now. 🙂
March 11, 2010 8:11 PM

Rambling Tart said…
Thank you so much for the hugs, DJ. I’m a bit of a puddle tonight and your words are a comfort. 🙂
March 11, 2010 8:12 PM

Not Quite Nigella said…
Absolutely beautiful post Krista. I felt like I was reading a beautifully written personal journal. I am so glad that you’re at this place now 🙂
March 12, 2010 12:28 AM

Ellie said…
Beautiful pictures and beautiful post!
March 12, 2010 1:24 AM

Rambling Tart said…
Thank you, Lorraine. 🙂 I’m so glad too! Raising a glass to leaving the darkness and living in the sunshine. 🙂
March 12, 2010 8:18 AM

Rambling Tart said…
Thank you, Ellie. 🙂 I’m so glad you like them. 🙂
March 12, 2010 8:18 AM

Ozoz said…
Oh Krista, everytime I read one of your posts on the past, I shudder….and shiver….because those sort of things still happen today. Its unbelievable how people interpret/misconstrue and torture other human beings, thinking they know God and are his representatives. It is well with you. Stay blessed and enjoy your weekend
March 12, 2010 3:49 PM

Rambling Tart said…
I know what you mean, Ozoz. That’s how I feel every time I write one. But afterwards it is truly a burden lifted. It IS well with me and, as a dear friend told me last night, “you’re safe now.” Thank you for your kind heart to me, Ozoz. 🙂
March 12, 2010 4:45 PM

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