I’m afraid you’ve been seeing a lot of sponsored posts and not enough posts from me lately, so I thought I’d try to explain why.
After a relationship in my life was destabilized and I had an outsized reaction to it, I started trying to figure out what was going on with me. I was pointed toward Complex PTSD and from there I discovered that Religious Trauma Syndrome, while not a part of the DSM, was a recognized thing, and that the causes and symptoms fit me perfectly.
I’ve spent the last couple of weeks trying to unpack what this means for me. So much of the me I’ve come to know is explained by this: my attention issues, my memory problems, my emotional dysregulation, my drug addictions, and even my Bipolar Disorder can all be tied to RTS and CPTSD.
I grew up as a “different” kid in a fundamentalist church. As a young child I had urges and thoughts that I constantly feared would send me to hell. When I wasn’t worried about my eternal soul, I was worried about my non-Christian friends and their eternal souls. By the time I was in Middle School I was drinking and trying to cope with what amounts to a constant fight or flight response, in addition to grief.
Being neurodivergent, queer, and highly sensitive was not a good combination for me in the church I grew up in. And I was taught to put all of my value, all credit for my successes, and all forms of attachment into God, not earthly things. So when I decided the church wasn’t good for me (or, in my mind, for anyone), I had the secondary trauma of leaving. Becoming emotionally estranged from my family, losing my Christian friends, and losing a god, the one thing that I had ever believed could save me. I still have a lot to learn about attachment theory, but it’s safe to say that I never felt securely attached to any people in my life, from my earliest memories. Which, to be fair, are very sparse, because a symptom of CPTSD is amnesia, if I understand it correctly. I’ve always wondered why everyone else remembered so many things from their younger years and I only had occasional memories of moments. Not events, not periods, nothing substantial, only snippets. I couldn’t remember who was there, how I felt about them, only whether I felt safe or scared in that moment. And most of what I remember is feeling scared.
I started therapy with a new counselor last week. She actually has a psychology PhD and does trauma-informed therapy, and I think she’ll be much more helpful than my last therapist. I have high hopes. All I know is that if it doesn’t work out I absolutely have to keep working to find a good fit, because this shit is more than I know how to deal with on my own, and I can’t expect the people in my life to deal with it for me. All of my insecurities have been laid bare, I’m reacting to the world from a raw and frightened place non-stop, and it’s exhausting. I need to learn how to find security, validation, and love within myself and not depend on external sources just to exist. And that’s something I never learned how to do as a Christian. It’s been 30 years since I stopped believing, and I’m still not a whole person.
I’m an atheist these days, and it was a hard fought battle against my ingrained thoughts. I declared myself agnostic in my late teens, but it seriously took 20 years for me to stop looking over my shoulder and wondering if I was making a serious mistake that would definitely doom me to eternity in Hell. I’m over that now, I think, but I still watch anti-theist YouTube all the time, and it makes me wonder if part of me is still scared. I don’t have any interest in the god of the Bible — he’s a real asshole. And I was raised to believe that any other version of God was heresy — even other sects of Christians were going to hell. If you didn’t worship the specific version of God that was defined by my church, you were going to burn. So if I can’t accept that religion, then there’s no religion that would calm my nervous system. It was trained into me as a child. I’m constitutionally incapable of having Faith (capital F), and I was taught that without Faith you’re doomed, and now I’m just trying to put it all behind me. I’m flailing a bit.
I had to tell my parents I couldn’t see them for Saturday morning breakfast for a while. They’ve always been kind to me. They (and their friends) have prayed for my eternal soul. They raised me the way they were raised and I don’t blame them for repeating the trauma. But every time I see them I’m re-traumatized and I didn’t realize what was happening until now. I’ve been to the hospital multiple times with heart problems, and guess what? It was almost always within 24 hours of having breakfast with my parents. I’ve decided that’s not a coincidence. They were very understanding, and I really believe they want the best for me, I just can’t disassociate them from my childhood trauma. Hopefully I can let go of that and reestablish a relationship with my parents.
So that’s why I haven’t been writing. I’ve been trying to grapple with 45 years of fear I had successfully avoided until now. I’ll be back. I’m reading, I’m going to therapy, I’m working to understand and develop tools for moving forward. I’m going to be stronger for having all of this laid bare and being forced to deal with it.