What cult were you in and how did it affect your life? How did you cope after leaving and what advice or insights do you have for others?
Chabad. I was a minor when I was in for a year or two. Its a blur.
I don't know how it effected my life for sure because it was when I was at the age of discovering myself (early teen). By nature, there are so many other factors. I was scared for a long time when talking to people, I always assume they had ulterior motives. How did I cope? I didn't. I just became even more introverted. Recently I have come out of that shell, am in therapy for all the self-esteem issues I have now based on this part of my life. Another issue is learning to take people at their word. I also have gravitated back to my birth church, the Roman Catholic Church. I am able to sit down and pray to God through the psalms without letting someone else's ideas of what they really mean come into my life. Now, I am working with a group who helps people when they leave a cult. It helps me by knowing I am helping others, and I also validate my experiences by seeing others go through similar things.
Advice? Seek therapy. Do not go with an MFT/MFCC but a psychologist. I hold little against MFTs but they are not equipped in their training to deal with the many issues that come out of our experiences. They are Marriage and Family counselors and are great at normal life issues. They are not so great at "I left a cult and have no life skills". Personally I am spending half of my student funds to see an MD for therapy. It took a long time for me to realize spending money on this is okay because I am worth it
. For years I thought it was throw away money if I spent it on something that is not tangible. If you are recently out of a cult, let me tell you, you are worth it too.
If you were a child in a cult, you may want to pursue taking the GED exam if you live in America. Many community colleges offer GED Prep classes for little or no charge. The exam itself is less than 50 dollars in most states. This will help you obtain employment. If you later wish to attend college, most accept the exam in place of a high school diploma.
Read General Interest Magazines at least once a month. This includes magazines such as People or Us & Time or Newsweek. You can read them for free at your local library or scan them at the checkout line. I found this really helped me to become more aware of the world around me. It also helped me to chit-chat with others I came across, and I appeared more "normal". It helps to be able to join others in "water cooler" talk. I knew who Paris Hilton and Britney Spears were when they were in the news and everyone around me was talking about them. When people talk about the Primary Elections I did not have to sit on the sidelines feeling dumb.
I also visit CNN.com daily and scan the headlines. When I walk by the newspaper kiosks I scan the headlines. Together these activities take less than ten minutes but I can communicate with others around me. If there is a giant plume of smoke in the air, I know it is caused by a fire in the county south from me. This is very important, I believe, in integrating back to society.
To this day I have a list of key words that were drilled into me in the cult. I remember them so if they come into my thoughts, I can stop my thoughts before they stray into "cult think".
These are just my experiences.