When I first left the Community I wanted to be alone. I really just wanted to be alone and didn’t want anyone telling me what to do, even in a secular sense. I knew I had to find a place to live, and I did, on my own. I knew I had to find a job, and I did. I did go to Boston Housing authority, but they didn’t help me. I rented a room on my own through Craig’s List, and I did stay with family one month between moves, but I did the housing bit on my own, completely on my own. (It isn’t that BHA didn’t want to help me. There were no openings.) And with the job thing, I did the search on my own. A senior program got me an internship, and then I was hired, but I made the effort to look, on my own. I wasn’t given housing, and I wasn’t given a job. I went out and got it. But as far as, like, going to church, asking people for help, getting counsel, I just wanted to be alone. I intuitively knew that I just needed some alone time. I didn’t want to jump into a group, even a support group. I didn’t look for help right away. I just needed to have my mind back to myself with no one telling me what to think. I mean, I wasn’t silent. I did talk, I did share my story with a couple of new friends, but I was very uncomfortable going to their church. I would cry with grief and loneliness when I was there, and I wasn’t longing to go back, either. I wanted to please them, and it was very emotional ‘cause it just highlighted for me just how alone I was. But I wanted to be alone, I needed time to heal. I had been beaten, and I needed to just crawl into my own little space and lick my wounds and heal.
When I finally decided to talk with a psychologist, after I had been out a year, it was because I couldn’t get the Community out of my head. Every day I was thinking about them and the thoughts were intruding upon my daily life and I was beginning to get bugged by it. I didn’t want to be thinking about them all the time. I knew I needed to talk it out with somebody. So I went through a process and finally settled on one man. He sounded very mature and professional on the phone and I went for a session with him. I was nervous. In talking to him though, he seemed stable, steady. He’s my age. I wanted a man. The Community is run by women and I didn’t trust women. I sometimes thought, maybe if I find a woman psychologist she would understand my woman issues and the grief I felt about my kids being taken away from me, but I like men and I can talk with men. So I took the plunge and told him, yes, I wanted to work with him and have him work with me.
So I started going once a week and I started talking, and it was really, really hard at first. I talked about everything. I talked about the Community, and then I talked about my childhood, and then I went back and talked more about the Community. It was so upsetting to talk about it. I was tense and shaking and I’d walk away and be upset. It wasn’t because I didn’t feel safe talking to him, it was just the talking, the saying things, adjusting your mind. You can kind of push it down and think it’s not so bad, but when you actually tell the story to somebody, it makes it so real. You’re not just enduring it anymore; you’re not just shutting your mind off to numb yourself. You’re actually… to put it into words and to tell someone what you experienced and what you felt and what happened makes it very, very real and made me look at it in reality for what it truly was.
There’s no excusing it or explaining it away, or saying, this is actually a good thing. No, this isn’t a good thing. It isn’t good to have to dream up places where I’m wrong. That’s crazy. It isn’t good to be told and to accept and to batter myself that all my motives are bad. They’re not all bad. It’s a terrible way to live, and to talk about it helps me to realize how bad it was. And then there’s the whole pain of why did I stick with it. So he’s been really good in helping me to understand that I’m not stupid. There’s nothing wrong with me. I was brainwashed and that can happen.
It was really scary. I really, really, — I had to take my courage in hand and make myself go. I knew I had to, but it was so, so scary because in the Community, telling people everything that I’m thinking and feeling was a very negative experience. It was used against me, it was held over my head, and it was re-visited. I was told how bad I was because of how I felt, and telling my therapist was just so upsetting. But it became, like, OK, no matter how I feel, it’s OK. The things that I was told were so horrible, in the Community. He’s like, “Of course you feel that way. Everybody does. It’s ok to hate, or be angry. It’s just what you decide to do with it. Everybody has those feelings.” In the Community I couldn’t even be annoyed at somebody. If I had a flash of annoyance cross my face, they told me how I hated them. No emotion was small. If you disliked something, you hated it. If you didn’t want to do it, you were rebellious. There was no room for degrees. It was all extreme.
After a couple of years of talking, I am glad to say that I feel normal again, and the Community no longer haunts my thoughts.