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Thread: Post-Traumatic Stress after Escaping Scientology

  1. #1
    Silver Meritorious Patron Intelligence's Avatar
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    Default Post-Traumatic Stress after Escaping Scientology


    I escaped from an intimidating and dangerous cult—Scientology—on October 28, 2009. The days and months that followed throughout the past two years have been an ordeal I would not wish on anyone.

    Only moments after I announced I was working on this article for the Examiner, many persons came forward with similar stories and nightmares that reflect a sometimes very debilitating level of post-traumatic stress.
    David Ball wrote: “Yes, I was taken off work for the summer because of that hellhole. I wasn’t diagnosed with PTSD, just insomnia, but I still have nightmares.”
    Robert Robinson wrote: “David, my Brother, I cannot tell you how many times
    I have woken up crying after having a nightmare about Scientology, even to this day, 17years after leaving. Most of them have to do with sec-checks [security interrogations], which you already know I have had very bad experiences with.”

    I responded: “Robert, I think if tears were a stairway to Heaven, many of us would be there now.”
    Earlier today, Tory Chrisman wrote me: “I'm not sure if mine is ‘PTSD’ or what—but I live each and every day with NO ‘short term memory’ and this causes often difficult times, to say the least, in my life. I've lived with it since 1972 when C of $ insisted I get off of my medication for epilepsy, routing me out of the Sea Org to get on a vitamin program to ‘fix it.’ It not only did NOT fix epilepsy, I had numerous grand mal seizures, knocked out my front teeth in the bathtub, etc.
    Dr. Winell quotes from a suffering victim:

    “I’m really struggling and am desperate never to go back to the religion I was raised in, but I no longer want to live in fear or depression. It seems that I am walking through the jungle alone with my machete; no one to share my crazy and sometimes scary thoughts with.”



  2. #2
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    Default Re: Post-Traumatic Stress after Escaping Scientology

    Thanks heaps Intelligence. I've been rattling on about memory loss on my story thread earlier this week. Having some "serious" issues with it.

    Gonna have to read this later as about to take myself for walk on beach. Stress burning striding it out here I come...

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  4. #3
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    Default Re: Post-Traumatic Stress after Escaping Scientology


    If PTSD is a recognised condition amongst people escaping Scientology, the last thing they need is more Scientology.

  5. #4

    Default Re: Post-Traumatic Stress after Escaping Scientology

    Quote Originally Posted by Infinite View Post

    If PTSD is a recognised condition amongst people escaping Scientology, the last thing they need is more Scientology.
    Spot on, Infinite, and completely true.

    Fighting COS and even talking about scn restims many of us, but there is a good measure of relief and satisfaction in taking this evil cult DOWN for us, too. The majority of us got into it thinking we were doing something good, so there is that extra bit of self-satisfaction in knowing that, finally, we ARE - by destroying it.

    Hard to miss the irony. Juggling to keep a personal balance on this is not always easy, though, but what can you do?

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  7. #5
    Crusader SweetnessandLight's Avatar
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    Smile Re: Post-Traumatic Stress after Escaping Scientology

    I just want to add that stress effects most of us in our short-term memory skills. Reduce the stress, and the short term memory seems to return a bit more over time.

    I think Tory's issues may be more long-term, due to damage from the grand mal seizures, but there are always new treatments and more being learned all the time.

    Styles of Cognitive Behavioral therapies (talking therapy) seem to be very effective for making fairly rapid strides towards recovery from PTSD issues. I speak as one who has dealt with them myself, personally, in the past.

    Don't think that you just have to live with it!
    Yes, you can fly, but first you have to break out of that cocoon. You are capable of self rescue at all times. "Every blade of grass has its own special angel watching over it and whispering, 'grow...grow'." -The Talmud "I am still determined to be cheerful and happy, in whatever situation I may be, for I have learned from experience that the greater part of our happiness or misery depends upon our disposition, and not upon our circumstances." -Martha Washington

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  9. #6
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    Default Re: Post-Traumatic Stress after Escaping Scientology

    I just got back from walking miles along the beach. There was a full moon! I succeeded in not howling. Okay...not entirely true - there was a little (semi-elegant) jumping and mildly-muted yelping going on. It was so so so so beautiful!!! Then I drove home to the loud tunes of Pink Floyd. There are moments of perfection.

    Great article David. Thank you, and others who contributed. This is a subject dear to my heart because I have struggled so hard to get my head sorted. Hand me the blue pill and fix me!

    I'm still untangling the mess in my head after nearly six years of intense times. The nightmares in the beginning were terrifying. I’d wake up sobbing and completely disorientated. I feared going to sleep for quite a while, maybe for about a year or a bit longer. It is only recently I have started sleeping without a night-light on. From time to time, I still hit patches of nightmares and have to work hard at those times to face the memories/feelings that surface.

    Recently I have had to begin dealing with memory problems. I am about to explore this with medicos. It is a little more than “I’m getting older”. I knew I had memory issues but something happened recently which made me realise that it may be worse than I initially thought. The saga continues cleaning up the mess that leaving scientology created.

    Which is one of the hardest aspects for me. I get so sick and tired of dealing with the layer upon layer of shit that comes up. It is frustrating and tiring. No matter how much I try to “forget it all” and move on, the shit keeps surfacing. I long for the day when I can go for months without any triggering or nightmares or memory issues or emotional content impacting in my life. Patience and I are becoming good mates. Sometimes. Maybe.

    I am still cognitively sluggish at times. By this I mean I simply can’t string thoughts together or work stuff out. In the beginning I could not get one plus one to equal two. These days I mostly have my sharp fast cognitive skills back (ripping roaring along with concepts, etc) but every so often the train stops without my volition and I am like a fish out of water struggling with the most basic concepts.

    I am of the strong opinion that if I don’t deal with this stuff it will come back to bite me in years to come. I don’t think suppressing this stuff is healthy. A pressure cooker situation can be created if a safe way is not found to deal with this stuff. It is a balancing act of distraction, of looking back to integrate it so that moving forward is possible and just being in the moment. If that makes any sense.

    Again, thank you David for bringing this vital subject into the light.

    I wish you peace.

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  11. #7
    Crusader SweetnessandLight's Avatar
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    Lightbulb Re: Post-Traumatic Stress after Escaping Scientology

    For those who aren't sure if this is effecting them or not, here's some info on it, from:

    "The difference between PTSD and a normal response to trauma

    The traumatic events that lead to post-traumatic stress disorder are usually so overwhelming and frightening that they would upset anyone. Following a traumatic event, almost everyone experiences at least some of the symptoms of PTSD. When your sense of safety and trust are shattered, it’s normal to feel crazy, disconnected, or numb. It’s very common to have bad dreams, feel fearful, and find it difficult to stop thinking about what happened. These are normal reactions to abnormal events.

    For most people, however, these symptoms are short-lived. They may last for several days or even weeks, but they gradually lift. But if you have post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD), the symptoms don’t decrease. You don’t feel a little better each day. In fact, you may start to feel worse.
    A normal response to trauma becomes PTSD when you become stuck

    After a traumatic experience, the mind and the body are in shock. But as you make sense of what happened and process your emotions, you come out of it. With post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD), however, you remain in psychological shock. Your memory of what happened and your feelings about it are disconnected. In order to move on, it’s important to face and feel your memories and emotions.
    Signs and symptoms of post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD)

    The symptoms of post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD) can arise suddenly, gradually, or come and go over time. Sometimes symptoms appear seemingly out of the blue. At other times, they are triggered by something that reminds you of the original traumatic event, such as a noise, an image, certain words, or a smell.
    While everyone experiences PTSD differently, there are three main types of symptoms:

    Re-experiencing the traumatic event
    Avoiding reminders of the trauma
    Increased anxiety and emotional arousal

    Symptoms of PTSD: Re-experiencing the traumatic event

    Intrusive, upsetting memories of the event
    Flashbacks (acting or feeling like the event is happening again)
    Nightmares (either of the event or of other frightening things)
    Feelings of intense distress when reminded of the trauma
    Intense physical reactions to reminders of the event (e.g. pounding heart, rapid breathing, nausea, muscle tension, sweating)

    Symptoms of PTSD: Avoidance and numbing

    Avoiding activities, places, thoughts, or feelings that remind you of the trauma
    Inability to remember important aspects of the trauma
    Loss of interest in activities and life in general
    Feeling detached from others and emotionally numb
    Sense of a limited future (you don’t expect to live a normal life span, get married, have a career)

    Symptoms of PTSD: Increased anxiety and emotional arousal

    Difficulty falling or staying asleep
    Irritability or outbursts of anger
    Difficulty concentrating
    Hypervigilance (on constant “red alert”)
    Feeling jumpy and easily startled

    Other common symptoms of post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD)

    Anger and irritability
    Guilt, shame, or self-blame
    Substance abuse
    Feelings of mistrust and betrayal
    Depression and hopelessness
    Suicidal thoughts and feelings
    Feeling alienated and alone
    Physical aches and pains

    Symptoms of PTSD in children and adolescents

    In children—especially those who are very young—the symptoms of PTSD can be different than the symptoms in adults. Symptoms in children include:

    Fear of being separated from parent
    Losing previously-acquired skills (such as toilet training)
    Sleep problems and nightmares without recognizable content
    Somber, compulsive play in which themes or aspects of the trauma are repeated
    New phobias and anxieties that seem unrelated to the trauma (such as a fear of monsters)
    Acting out the trauma through play, stories, or drawings
    Aches and pains with no apparent cause
    Irritability and aggression"

    I repeat, help is widely available! Don't suffer in silence if you are experiencing this!
    Yes, you can fly, but first you have to break out of that cocoon. You are capable of self rescue at all times. "Every blade of grass has its own special angel watching over it and whispering, 'grow...grow'." -The Talmud "I am still determined to be cheerful and happy, in whatever situation I may be, for I have learned from experience that the greater part of our happiness or misery depends upon our disposition, and not upon our circumstances." -Martha Washington

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    Gold Meritorious Patron Lurker5's Avatar
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    Default Re: Post-Traumatic Stress after Escaping Scientology

    Wow . . .

    Quite frankly, I am speechless.
    Cautious as one crossing thin ice . . .
    (LaoTze-TaoDeJing, Chapter 15. 2nd verse . . . )

    For Ray - I have not forgotten you, my friend
    Or you Scott, this is for you too. I hope you are out.
    Kay is out . . .

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  15. #9
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    Default Re: Post-Traumatic Stress after Escaping Scientology

    I left the cult almost five years ago. It was difficult to claim any psychiatric disorder after over thirty years of indoctrination about the consequences of such.

    A few years after leaving the cult I started to contact the people who knew me before I joined, mostly to discover who I was before I submitted myself to the brainwashing and mental manipulation. I found a friend who was well versed in psychology and psychiatric conditions. She gave me books to read to help me understand how non Scientologists view emotional issues. It was difficult to grasp at first.

    I read a book on co-dependence which helped me define my emotional state before I entered the cult. I also read a book called "Shadow Syndromes" which defines psychiatric conditions and explains the potential of having acute rather than chronic conditions.

    PTSD and OCD fascinated me as I could see the patterns in myself and other exes that I knew. It took me a long time to examine Depression and Bipolar disorder as this seemed to be the most dangerous of labels. I was only able to entertain the possibility of this condition as a shadow syndrome. The idea of having this as a chronic condition was too painful to examine.

    Recently I have been facing the symptoms of depression and realized that the Scientology lifestyle creates bipolar behavior. While not fully committed to following up with actual treatment I have become aware of the pattern of Bipolar behavior and yet another reason to disagree that it is only the upper bridge that is damaging.

    There is an agreement among many in the ex community that the Sea Org and OT levels are the major mind fuck that Scientology offers. But each of us struggle with our own demons and can only face what we choose to.

    In the cult if you had a few sessions of auditing and lots of real life experience between Scientology you might have been able to achieve some relief and sense of balance. But if you really bought into the idea of getting up the bridge and keeping your ethics in, you set yourself up for a lifestyle of manic behavior with depression episodes peppered throughout.

    A good Scientologist operates at a highly productive level and presents a high tone level in his interactions publicly. This could be seen as manic behavior. At the same time in order to move in the Bridge to Totally Fucked up you have to have issues worth addressing. You can't have auditing while you are "winning" (manic) so you allow yourself with your mocked up reactive mind to sink into a depressed and self critical state. This pattern repeated over a period of years is classic Bipolar behavior.

    Just some of my recent thoughts on the subject.
    Last edited by Good twin; 29th September 2012 at 02:07 PM. Reason: typos

    Sometimes I'm the Evil Twin.

  16. #10
    Silver Meritorious Patron Arthur Dent's Avatar
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    Default Re: Post-Traumatic Stress after Escaping Scientology

    Hard work and challenges are not the problem, I think. Staff, be it tons of volunteering, mission, org or sea org, are damaging mainly because of the never ending twisted mind-fuck of ethics. Whom you may or may not associate. What you can or cannot read. Reporting on people. Left to be unencumbered and used as a general therapy, scn. may not be so bad. But the helpful parts are so intermingled with dangerous, thought-stopping data. And, yes, I know it is all scn. I'm just saying the abuses of ethics, which are physical and mental are the worst. The screaming from seniors, the threats, the punitive actions. Pure nuts. And illegal in any other sector. (Hostile workplace??) Hiding behind the religion curtain are mice and cowards. They are taught to be bullies and rewarded for it. It is one sick organization. It really does break people.

    It's a hard mess to undo once you leave. If only on staff a couple years maybe it would some practical experience and then you move on but the long term commitments most make set aside our real selves. And we do become manic/depressive. We come off as being so "able" but it's like the Emperor's clothes.

    Again, I thank the gods every day that I didn't ruin my children with it, although i tried! Since being out I've made some new friends, kept a few old ones of like-mind, recouped my family, have not fought with my spouse and got out of debt. If only I was in my 20's! Or 30's! Or............................

    I've had to deal with demons coming up day after day for a long time. They seem to have settled out. Haven't woken up with a scn nightmare in awhile. I don't panic when the doorbell rings (although I am still cautious!). I've moved on to challenging my stagnant intellect with more education. I would highly recommend this to anyone out of the cult! It's a journey and I've decided to make the rest of mine something worthwhile (at least to me) as scn. ate up the majority of my lifetime years.

    The hardest part was and is fitting in anywhere. It's gotten better. Physically, there are no big signs of wear and tear and no one can tell I'be been in a cult as there is no big scarlet C on my chest. The staff-think is often there and I have to constantly battle it out of my mind and try to improve my critical thinking. It's an ongoing process and getting better. Scientology, staff, whatever...provides a comfort zone. A misnomer for sure, but it is built around us and we get used to it. It helps to get out and get to know new people in all walks and rub elbows and study how real people think and behave. That has been a good therapy for me.
    Arthur Dent.

    Lurkers, hate to disappoint, but it really is a cult. Sorry.

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