Breaking Through the Fog of Fear
| by Julia Lance Winston |
How did my husband and I get here, sitting in a family therapist’s office? We have been married almost 40 years and we are barely speaking to each other. We are both in deep emotional pain. We can’t even look at each other. My eyes are transfixed on the therapist. I don’t know this woman. I am petrified. I am staying in a motel and my husband is living at home.
How did we get so far off? Have we somehow failed?
I was so scared I almost threw up.
Thankfully our therapist was wonderful and we loved her right away. Her expertise was in stress and trauma.
We sat there feeling no judgement from her. Really, no judgement? I had never known that feeling before. She was there to help. She was not there to intimidate, browbeat or scare us. And I soon learned that getting help is not failing. It’s brave and courageous.
But thus began the hardest 18 months of my entire life.
I was born and grew up in a religious cult.
My husband’s family joined when he was 12.
It was founded by Herbert W. Armstrong.
It was known as The Radio Church of God and then the name changed later to The Worldwide Church of God. It was controlling and abusive. We had to believe what the founder believed. After all, he was the “One True Messenger From God.” We were exclusive, everyone else was wrong and they didn’t understand we had special knowledge. I lived a sheltered life.
I went to the school associated with it for 12 years.
I was physically, sexually, mentally and emotionally abused in school. I lived in fear. I hated school. It was hard to get up in the mornings. I could barely eat.
I developed OCD as a result and not long after our first therapist visit I was diagnosed with Complex Post Traumatic Stress.
How did I not realize the magnitude of how much fear and anxiety I had been living under? It permeated every fiber of my being. It effected most of my decisions and every relationship I ever had including my own husband.
And from grade school on I lived in fear of possible beatings with a board in front of the class. We girls were required to wear shorts under our dresses and skirts and we had to pull them up when we got swatted. It was humiliating. I went home covered in bruises, welts and broken blood vessels. People were to scared to go against the “authorities”.
We were swatted for flinching, not getting right answers, droplets of water on the floor, laughing, and sneezing. The list goes on.
And as six year old this is all extremely confusing.
I developed major anxiety by age 12. I was so frightened I didn’t tell anyone. I had nightmares and insomnia. How does a 12 year old articulate those feelings? I didn’t know what was wrong with me. I looked at the whole world as a scary place.
When I was 40 we finally left the cult. We were no longer allowed to see some of our friends or family. It was terribly painful.
My husband and I had no idea all the emotional baggage and stress that we had brought to our marriage. It effected us deeply. We struggled with the unhealthy patterns we had learned just to cope.
Our therapist said we were lucky to still be together. But we were willing to do whatever it took. There were many tough times, lots of tears and hard work. We had to unlearn and relearn new patterns.
I also began to read books and learn how to manage anxiety. Our therapist gave us assignments, tests, and taught us why we responded to things like we did.
I was slowly coming out of the fear induced avenues I’d gone down that had continued well into my adult life.
At age 59, I decided to skydive. It was very frightening, but I was so determined never again to allow fear to hold me back. I have now skydived several times. It was freeing and liberating! My husband got choked up when I landed safe and sound. It was my attempt at getting past my fears. I’m planning to do it again.
It’s now seeped through other facets of my life. I try and not allow negative thoughts and anxiety to keep me from growing into my own personality. I don’t go by what someone else tells me I have to be like.
It was and still is, a journey I am on. I’m trying other new things.
I’m not just learning who I am, I’m learning to ‘create’ who I am.
My husband and I are finally finding true happiness together and a freedom I never knew existed.
I’m literally breaking through the fog of fear.