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Kim

Former Nuns

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gloriana35
On 2/13/2020 at 12:51 AM, Antigonos said:

It must have been painful for you to share this with us, Gloriana35.  Thank you for doing so.

It's been many years, but the pain never is completely gone - and it was terribly intense. If Kim has PTSD that is rooted in her experience of religious life, I would imagine she had experiences far worse than most. 

I intend no disrespect to anyone on this forum in saying this, but believe it deserves a mention. Those who have been thrown out of religious communities, but who still intend to pursue the vocation elsewhere (even if, as happened to me, it ends up being as a solitary - I've been in private vows since 1982), may be pained by some of the 'stock answers' many offer. Joining a third order, for example, does not involve consecrated life (probably few in such groups live a vowed life), and recommending 'you can still be a Secular Franciscan' only makes the pain worse. Some left and chose to marry - not a problem for them, but it's terrible when someone knows she is called to vowed chastity, and others reassure her that God will send her a husband. All of us know the 'correct' answer - oh, I wasn't in final vows; it's only a time of discernment; it's what God wants, not what we want that matters... But how can those who are in a situation such as the one I described not feel that tearing pain, and the sense that no-one understands or will be supportive?

If Kim has no interest in entering religious life again, but still is having PTSD, I can't imagine what she went through with her community (and I'm not asking.) But there indeed are dysfunctional superiors, and it is possible (I could cite a few cases I've seen) that they can view their own odd ways as special holiness or example. They can hide behind that they supposedly are the voice of God.

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Bonkira

I left a cloistered contemplative heavy-on-the-silence order just before I reached solemn vows. It was a process of growing shock for me over the last 2 or so years there as I came to really know in my body, mind, and soul that this was not where I was meant to be. It was in large part to the community present at the time; in looking back through the help of a good counselor, things were quite harmful and downright dangerous in many ways. Those last couple years were really discerning that I did not need the cloister to engage in the internal life I have with the holy ones, or the oversight of what was a damaged system...so I left. 

It was wrenching in a lot of ways, but really drove home to me that my mystic life is mine, and is best lived with the input of a good spiritual director and that I personally do not need the vows or the cloister to live that out. Once in awhile I dream about being back in the monastery, but it is either an outright nightmare or it is forming a narrative that never existed (nice people, a solid community, etc).

I spent a lot of time angry with holy ones because what took me out of the monastery was not of my own design...there was not a way to remain and remain whole. After all, I said yes to enclosure and the vows, and they led me to a community that failed me and then followed that with the church failing me by not being involved in the community and providing appropriate oversight. But...I don't need to be angry and when I am, I can place that at the feet of the holy ones and let them decide what to do with it rather than trying to hold onto it.

As much as religious life is a gift for some, it can be a terribly flawed burden, and we are often better for leaving.

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Thomist

Hello! 

Former ex-con(vent) here.

First, thank you for sharing and know you are not alone.

While I chose to leave the congregation, I really had no other choice. I was in a community where God was used as a tool to manipulate; where I was immensely overloaded and burned out, but told that the reason I was suffering was due to my selfishness, my refusal to pray more deeply (i often fell asleep praying...or when I sat anywhere for an extended period of time), and being unfaithful to my vows.

After I left,  I was diagnosed with PTSD. I have worked with two different therapists.  Neither was Catholic (or even religious) but both gave me valuable skills and perspective. 

I tell you this to really encourage you to find a therapist. Any therapist that is skilled in dealing with your issues will work.  Many have sliding scales if you don't have insurance, and can meet via skype or over the phone. There are even a few apps that offer therapy for a reduced rate for a while. Look at your budget, and make yourself a priority.

You will not regret the healing you can find. Will you still have pain or flashbacks or whatever?  Sure. But you will also have the tools to work through it. 

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gloriana35
19 hours ago, Thomist said:

I was in a community where God was used as a tool to manipulate; where I was immensely overloaded and burned out, but told that the reason I was suffering was due to my selfishness

I greatly appreciate Thomist mentioning this. Many of us experienced similar situations. I frequently refrained from saying so, because I knew there were those on this forum who would insist they never saw such a thing, and don't relish being called a liar. I am by no means referring only what happened to me personally.

Some of the superiors in this category were not mentally ill or lacking in any conscience. They could have traits amplified by believing they were the voice of God, or that their abuse was 'good for your soul,' or that they were showing some heroic example. I spent years trying to 'do penance', because I'd been convinced I was proud and worldly (in many ways, I still am a total innocent about the world - and I have the scars to prove this - so how anyone could think me worldly would be a joke, were it not so damaging.) The worst superior in my own life was horrid to other Sisters - yet she would say outright "See how I am! That comes of a deep relationship with Christ!" She was constantly enraged, and, if she misunderstood, and someone tried to explain what really happened, she's sneer, "Well, that MIGHT have happened." I could understand her hating me - I didn't need to say so for her to realise I did not have the adulation for her that she expected. But there were simple, innocent Sisters, whom I cannot imagine offending anyone, whom she would have in tears.

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Antigonos

While I fully recognize this is a forum for discerners, I too think it's important to recognize that not all "matches" between individuals and communities are "made in heaven."  IMO, the most important thing to remember is that there's no failure involved, to think of the experience of living in religious life as a learning experience, and to move on in one's spiritual quest.  Ultimately, it's one's relationship with God that matters, and there are an infinite number of pathways to tread, just as the theologies of Judaism and Catholicism are radically different, the goals are the same in the end.

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BarbaraTherese
2 hours ago, Antigonos said:

While I fully recognize this is a forum for discerners, I too think it's important to recognize that not all "matches" between individuals and communities are "made in heaven."  IMO, the most important thing to remember is that there's no failure involved, to think of the experience of living in religious life as a learning experience, and to move on in one's spiritual quest.  Ultimately, it's one's relationship with God that matters, and there are an infinite number of pathways to tread, just as the theologies of Judaism and Catholicism are radically different, the goals are the same in the end.

In thought and in expression.........well said :)

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underatree

Leaving religious life was the hardest thing I have ever done, by far. 

My community had a number of significant problems, not least of which was that the novice mistress was highly controlling and manipulative. The wrong sort of expression on your face could lead to an hour’s scolding and questioning whether you were really in a state of grace and whether you had possibly committed some secret sin. She had/has serious anger/control issues and not having to deal with her is certainly one of the joys of secular life! 

I don’t have an interest in returning to my previous community (it’s been about five years since I left) but remain interested in religious life. I originally entered pretty young, swept up in all the vocations happytalk. Now I have a much better idea of what kind of spirituality/life/ministry fits me, and what kind of community I can live with. 

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