I read about Complex PTSD on ESN and bought the book Trauma and Recovery. I’ve been trying to trace the cause of my illness for many years now and this book represents a real turning point for me in understanding. I’ve suffered from depression, anxiety (which I now know, for me is much better described as hyper-arousal), insomnia and poor sleep, for 20 years now and have had two breakdowns. I just wasn’t aware the extent to which childhood abuse and trauma can cause mental symptoms. Also the book explained how I was in denial of the abuses of my childhood situation at the hands of my Armstrong-mind-controlled father. My brother also has suffered with anxiety and sleep problems as well as intimacy and relational problems.
The thing is, my dad never actually attended the WCG. He was preparing for baptism for all of our childhood! Apparently two ministers once visited the house. My dad said he felt intimidated by these people who seemed, to him, to display an air of specialness as true ministers of God. He was a Co-Worker and received the magazines and devoured all the literature including the Bible Correspondence Course, all the booklets and books like The United States and Britain in Prophecy etc., also, unfortunately for my brother and me, Garner Ted’s booklet, The Plain Truth About Child Rearing, which he seems to have followed to the letter.
My mother (who wanted nothing to do with to “the church”) and my dad (who is still mind-controlled by Herbert Armstrong) have actually began to deny that we were ever told much about the WCG, even though “The Plain Truth” about God’s plan for mankind was in our minds from quite an early age. We were “called out” and “special” to have this knowledge. The “end of the age” (not world) was soon coming. The Great Tribulation. The World Tomorrow. My dad would only tell us things when mum wasn’t there and later on he would pass booklets and books to me and suggest that I read them including things like The Seven Laws of Success and The United States and Britain in Prophecy. At age 15 I even started the Bible Correspondence Course and got myself a real dose of structured thought reform. Later I read Mystery of the Ages and Herbert Armstrong’s Autobiography (Volume 1). I distinctly remember my dad telling me that we may be taken away as slaves to the European Empire. This scared me so much that fear of this has always haunted me. I remember wishing so much that it was all not true.
My dad seemed to get a lot from Armstrong, but for me it only brought condemnation, guilt, fear and a feeling of being isolated from the rest of the world. We were in effect a little cult of four people: My dad, his sister, my brother and me. Our dad was a self-righteous, sometimes abusive man who controlled every aspect of our lives emotionally and spiritually. He would rebuke us for not being righteous enough, sitting in judgment on us all the time. He was very zealous when it came to not eating pork or celebrating pagan holidays, etc. Christmas was a dour time emotionally because although we never had a Christmas tree or decorations, my mum made sure we had presents and my dad would be sitting in the corner in a bad mood. Armstrong effectively caused an emotional split down the middle of our family: Dad, me and my brother on one side and our mum on the other. Her resentment I believe caused the emotional distance we have always had. And the constant criticism we received from her was partly because we didn’t measure up in the “real world” due to being raised mostly by my dad.
The only things I’ve since read about the WCG that I was not exposed to were the whole “Petra” thing and the no medicine doctrine. (My mum would have drawn the line at that I imagine!) It has taken us a difficult 20 year journey to discover that my dad really was wrong and that he was mind-controlled by a religious cult the whole time. Without the Internet showing us the shocking falsehood of Herbert Armstrong, I don’t know what would have become of us. We are still struggling to adjust to a new world. To understand that we can effect our own lives through our own actions.
The thing is that my parents’ recent insulting denial, together with the fact that we never actually attended the WCG is effecting my validation and my belief that my illness could be complex PTSD. I am seeking a therapist with experience of treating complex PTSD.
I really must thank you again and everyone involved in ESN which has been and continues to be an absolutely invaluable resource and source of encouragement and hope. I just read your article: Feeling Hopeless and Discouraged Regarding Life and Love which was very helpful and which I sent to my brother.
So on behalf of us both, THANK YOU!
By Gregg Billingsley [real name used with permission] – Child survivor of WCG
Recovery After Exiting a Spiritually Abusive Group
Complex Post Traumatic Stress Disorder
Victory Over Depression by Bob George (6 Audio CD Set) [offsite link]