PTSD,  Religious Abuse,  Religious Trauma

Never Safe for Very Long

A survivor never feels safe for very long. For us, safety is a dream always just over the horizon, a rare gem at the end of a rainbow.

When you risk everything to break free from the confines of your reality, leaving behind the steepled box as the only place you’ve ever known – it’s a leap of blind faith. A survivor’s instinct will often tell you that leaving would be too dangerous. Sure, things are pretty bad, but at least you know what you are dealing with. Outside is unknown. Besides, you’ve been threatened with what could happen if you leave.

A survivor has to hope against hope that they can trust their intuition, that they knew something on the inside just isn’t right. That’s quite the feat when everyone and everything in your life tells you one thing, but your heart tells you something different. It’s courageous trusting in your own sanity and goodness when you’re in that mess. Leaving is rejecting the only instincts you know how to use, stepping off the edge and believing something you’ve never seen will catch you.

Leaving hurts. You must break out through stained glass windows, bleeding knuckles punching away the beautiful prison walls, gaining scars that will bear witness to your power, trusting your cuts can be healed on the other side – trusting there even is another side.

For those of us who will now live with PTSD for the rest of our lives because of high-control religion, every moment of existence is a test of endurance. With every breath and every heartbeat, we strain to shut out false alarms and critical voices whispering: “You are bad”, “You will be punished”, “You are always in danger”.

For survivors of religious trauma, this present crisis in our country is particularly terrifying.

Survivorship is years of training our brains to know we are safe when we don’t feel like it. Its hundreds of little moments repeating to yourself “I am free” when cages seem to lurk in every shadow. Its feeling like you can’t make it any farther but clinging to mantras: “I have the skills now to keep myself safe. I can recognize red flags. I won’t ever go back. What they think of me doesn’t matter anymore.” Those words carrying you through… finally starting to relax, finally finding peace… and then the ultimate bait and switch.

Blindsided, church walls suddenly come crashing down all around you and the water you were once drowning in floods out into your neighborhood, your city, your country. Nowhere is safe. No hill is high enough.

You have no control this time. You can’t just walk away. Leaving an entire country is possible but very difficult. And how can you know they won’t follow you then, too? Your safety is up to the whims of a powerful, hard-hearted minority, just as it was before.

The cold grip of your nightmarish past squeezes you by the throat. You can barely breathe. As you start to lose consciousness and the blackness closes in, frantic thoughts flicker in and out of your awareness. “Was I wrong to leave? Would it have been safer on the inside? Were they right all along? Would it have been wiser to remain in their favor? After all, they take care of their own.” Their list of requirements for belonging is long and impossible, but “perhaps I could have somehow worked hard enough…?” Silence.

The church is chasing us down and following us into our secular lives. They will never be satisfied with totalitarian control over just those inside of their building. It’s baked into their theology. They believe the Almighty God has called them to rule over the earth and subdue it. Forcing people to look like them and act like them is at the core of their religion.

A survivor never feels safe for very long, and one often wonders if safety will ever come around again or if they just got a lucky break. In fact, maybe safety isn’t even real, maybe it is a mirage, a fantasy in the minds of rebels and Jezebels.

A survivor never feels safe for very long.

This is today in the life of a survivor.

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