Always Loving, Never Receiving

I have always had a deep amount of empathy and sympathy for people, along with lofty ideals of charity and giving in community. In many of my close relationships, I have been the one whose soul bleeds for the other person's pain. It is very healing for me to read some of the posts in this group though, because I was raised very isolated (in a cult and with abusive parents to varying degrees), and I think I have always thought that nobody could care about me the way I can care about others. In my healing process from my past, those myths had already begun to melt, but in reading just a few posts here, it's really helping destroy that lie that has held me isolated and unable to be vulnerable or get help.. Left me unable to say exactly what I've been through (instead, minimizing it to a degree that is confusing to people, so that they don't realize how serious it is). When my mother went nuts on me and became dangerously abusive, I had to leave home, at 23. I had just severed from the cult, so I had no friends/community. It was the worst timing possible. I went from a moderately safe (well, in retrospect, I lived in fear of her threats/harassment) middle-class home to staying with a loose friend in a tent, then to staying with a loose relative in a pretty isolated situation (no access to car, etc.). The few friends I had left, who had been outside of the cult, were close to/respectful of their parents, who were acquaintances of/friends with my mom. So at that point, I cut ties with them. I knew they would not believe me or understand how dangerous my mom had gotten toward me. Also, I had to keep my location secret, because my mom would have stalked me since she knew this loose relative (who also wanted to avoid her). This relative I stayed with, it soon became evident, was also harassing and had at times threatening, intrusive behavior. I soon did everything I could to be away from her and essentially put myself into bootcamp to train to be in a homeless shelter (being out and about all the time). Even though I had some painful issues with agoraphobia. (I had spent all my time hiding from the world in my comfortable room with my tv.) I felt like an outcast from society. Like the lonely runaway on the bus or the street curb, that I had only seen in movies, that I had never imagined (in a million years) would be me. I still struggle with feeling unloved, isolated, and somehow unworthy of friendship, with some strange perception of myself as an outcast by a world that will never care. I don't know how to communicate with people about what I've been through. I still need help, but don't know how to get it without seeming desperate/burdening or, alternatively, understating the seriousness of the situation. (All this even though I am a friendly, often outgoing, fun-loving person.) It's as if I find it almost impossible to believe that anyone could or would really care, or I am somehow frightened that they would have ulterior intentions or something. Thanks for reading :) (Any advice/input would be greatly appreciated!)
beautyandlife beautyandlife
22-25, F
3 Responses Dec 29, 2012

I'm very impressed - leaving a cult is a tremendously difficult thing to do.

In terms of dealing with people.... well... I suppose the standard advice is to follow your intuition/instincts.

As someone older than you I can honestly say that the friend I had at school who was instantly a very 'natural' friend is still that same great friend, 25 years later. So my point is, when you find an individual who you feel just automatically relaxed with you should trust that sense and value this person.
It works in reverse too, those friendships/relationships that seemed a bit strained to begin with never really change, they're always over-demanding and annoying.

You're a brave person, you'll figure things out.

Oh man, I relate to so much of what you say here. My story is not exactly the same - I didn't have it as bad in the home, but I grew up in a cult - a double cult, really. My parents were part of a cult and then also homeschooled us using materials from another cult.
It was so painful that I've blocked most of my memories. But it was all psychological pain, which most people cannot understand. How can you know the kind of mental anguish and scars others can inflict on a child - how can you know what that child goes through as he or she grows into an adult - unless you've been through it?
The process of escaping the cult is one thing, but to escape the mental shackles is quite another. It haunts you and hunts you. It turns you into your most abusive adversary.
And you cannot escape yourself.
Well, I've managed to, but I had to get so close to the edge of sanity that I could see insanity staring at me just beyond a thin veil.
But let me encourage you. It can and will get better. My story proves it.
Life is so different for me now. If you had come to me when I was 16 and told me that I would one day have a wife that loved me and children that love me, that I would be a loving father and a competant provider. That I would be in front of crowds giving presentations with style and flourish, I would have laughed in your face, and then wept from the pain of knowing that could never be my life.
At 16 I was contemplating ending my life because I couldn't accept what I was becoming and the story that my life would tell. I knew I didn't fit in anywhere. I was rejected by my parents, couldn't live up to the demands of our cult, and had been so isolated from the outside world that it felt foreign, scary... I was alone, so alone that... Well, you understand. So alone that I could not bear the thought of being alone the rest of my life. I was so far behind in knowing anything, learning anything, being anything that I couldn't imagine ever catching up. No one could ever love the loser mess I had become. People kept their distance from me, like I was leprous. And I was on a trajectory of becoming a homeless loser mess... Worse and worse.
I distinctly remember wandering onto a college campus, and standing in the middle of a busy walkway, surrounded by thousands of students rushing to their next classes. A world so alien to me, so strange and bewildering - longing to know what it must be like to take for granted that you know how to relate to others, how to dress normal, how to study, how to speak. I was surrounded by more people than I had ever seen before, and felt more alone than ever before.
I was at the end of myself and didn't know what to do - but I found a path to healing. And slowly, oh agonizingly slowly it seemed at times, healing came.
I've almost completely forgotten my past life. I'm almost an entirely different person. Who could have guessed that me, who was once a teen so shy that I made people feel uncomfortable - so awkward that people avoided me - so different and unlearned in the ways of society that I didn't stand a chance of fitting in, of being accepted and loved, of surviving... Who would have guessed that now I am at peace with myself, confident, with a family that loves me and whom I love (though I am still growing in my ability to love - I suppose I am never satisfied with what I can provide for them, though they assure me that I'm the best daddy ever).
And, after all that, I find that I am the same as you describe. I feel other people's pain so acutely. I empathize so deeply that it hurts - or maybe it is just causing my old hurts to resurface?
I don't see this as a bad thing. I see it as the beautiful rose that has grown up in the composting dung of my childhood.
I have a vision for community. A crazy dream of a society based on an economy of giving and love rather than money and debt. An economy where people are connected in healthy and transparent relationships - where we identify with each other and it is safe to be who you really are - safe to be open...
Yet I know that this dream is not fully possible in this world. I have seen too much of the human nature to believe it. Even so, I reach out to those I encounter in my life to do my small part of making this dream a reality. I help those who I can. Especially those that everyone else looks down on and despises. The outcasts, the rejects, the ones left behind and abandoned. My heart moves for them - because that was me once, and no one - not a single soul - ever made the tiniest bit of effort to reach out to me.
As you mend and find true friends... Well, it may take a few years for you to believe they are actually loving you, but as you begin to realize that you are worth loving... then the issues you are seeing, like dependency, what others might consider "clingy" ness - these will diminish. You will begin to discover yourself. The path to healing isn't guaranteed. Your will and faith plays a part. But you can and will find it if you don't give up hope. And if you do lose hope for a moment, grasp for it. Come on here, or talk with someone who might be able to help you find it again.
Finding real friends and support is huge. It made such a big difference in my story. But I had no one at all for several years. I bade my time by trying to love others, even though I got only rejection in return. I would find ways to help people, even though I mostly had to do it in secret, since most people did not feel comfortable around me. I at least began to learn through those attempts how to relate to other people in a healthy way.
Wow. Just thinking back to how I used to feel and what I feel now. Yes, it can and will get so much better as long as you hold on to hope.

I may actually share this comment in the "I grew up in a cult" group as well.

Dont know about advice but it seems to me that money would certainly help your life a great deal! Lots of money and something a lot of us do not have in abundance.

Yeah I had just been a student taking time off. My scholarship was up soon.