Saturday, 31 May 2014

The Happiness Trap

Sooooo...today is my five year anniversary of getting kicked out of my home, the cult, the family, etc. 

Anniversaries suck. And are awesome.

On one hand, I wonder where the past five years have gone. How much of that time have I spent in bed crying? A lot. Thank the Universe for my brother who put up with me and held my hand. 

On the other hand, five years might not be that long of a time to reset yourself. Today I was feeling sorry for myself, yet again. I had to take a step back and realize how lucky I truly am. 

Three years ago, I had been reinstated as a JW for a year. I decided to leave on my own. My choice this time. That decision led to my divorce. I love my ex-husband, but we had different views of the world at that point. We tried to work it out for two years, but no JW elder can have a wife who is a non-believer. So it wasn't meant to be. 

I still deal with anxiety, which as I've learned lately from being an active member of many Ex-JW websites is a common theme. But I'm happy. I think the happiness trap is that we think we should be happy all the time. Which no one is. And that belief is making us miserable. Negative thoughts and emotions can actually be positive if they incite us to make positive changes in our lives. 

Look at how many famous, rich people commit suicide or die from a drug overdose. This idea that our happiness is controlled by external forces is silly. It's not. We all go through the peaks and valleys of life, sometimes, we have really hard things to get through: sickness, relationships not working out, change, rejection. It's up to us to overcome. And we can. 

I have a new friend who rocks my world. Last night at the beach:

Cameron: Have you written a blog about me yet?
Me: No, not yet. 

He picked me up at the downstairs bar one night, called me over to weigh in on a conversation. He said he just knew we had to be friends. We're going to two charity events this coming week together. I totally love him and he makes me so happy. 

Lizzie said the same thing the first time we hung out. "I need to be friends with this girl". She's the best friend. I would never trade the relationships I have now to have the old ones back. It's a completely different concept, people who just love you for who you are and accept all our differences whether it's beliefs or lifestyle, instead of asking you to conform to a certain set of rules to be allowed into the group. My dad always said you can count the number of real friends you have on one hand. I have more than that. I love my job (but it stresses me out), I love where I live. I love my freedom. 

I started out this particular anniversary day feeling sad. I'm not anymore. I've wished over and over again that I could have grown up differently, gone a different path than putting all my effort into a cult. But it's not all bad. I learned how to work with people. How to help others. I had a marriage that I don't regret. 

Don't fall into the Happiness Trap. Those bad feelings, when they come, are part of life. And don't they make you appreciate the good ones so much more? Embrace them. Learn from them. And don't take the good ones for granted. 

Sullivan out. 








Thursday, 29 May 2014

Murmurations by Margaux

Murmuration. Have you heard that word before? It means a flock of birds that fly in formation and create amazing shapes in the sky. If you have a couple of minutes, click the picture below and watch the video. It's amazing. 



I have to say that besides a couple of old, lifelong friends who have made the same choice I have to leave the Jehovah's Witnesses, I've stayed out of the ex-JW community for the most part. 

Sure, when I was first "out" I checked out some of the websites. I was afraid though of getting pulled into negativity and I really just wanted to heal and move on. I believe some of those sites are very helpful to those who are looking for an outlet to express their pain, their disappointments, their sadness. I chose to express my feelings through this blog instead. Maybe the idea of speaking to anonymous readers was easier for me, maybe I wasn't ready to let anyone in again just yet. 

The experience I've been through over the past month though of being so publicly "out there" with my story has been both healing and empowering. The outpouring of support I've received from perfect strangers within the community that decided to leave the only community we've ever known, is almost overwhelming. 

Of course, you always get the haters. One woman commented online that she didn't feel like it was a story of growth and development so much as a "one sided sob story meant to incite hate". If she ever read this blog, she would see that as much as I am committed to exposing the truth about the Witnesses, hopefully to help others not go down the same road I did in life and end up regretting years and years dedicated to a cause they no longer believe in and that I truly feel ruins many people's lives and happiness, I do not hate. I say over and over and over I love most of those people and wish them well. It's the organization that controls them that I am not happy with. 

Unless you've been through it, grown up indoctrinated by a cult that controls your every action, you just don't get it. When I read the comments and messages from readers of that article, I can tell right away who has been raised JW and who has no idea what we've gone through. 

Then, of course, there's the "affair". I understand y'all hating on me for that. All I can say is that unless we've been in someone else's situation, you don't know what happens behind closed doors. I'm not proud of that. It's easy to say I should have just left before that happened but there is NO WAY to get out of the JWs or a JW marriage. It's like Hotel California. You can check out anytime you like, but you can never leave. I was depressed, on the verge of a nervous breakdown, obviously my thought process was skewed. Will I always regret it? Yes. But I can't change it. It is what it is. 

At the end of the day, whatever I've done wrong, whatever mistakes I've made, I was obviously terribly unhappy. Happy people don't throw an entire life: their marriage, every friend they ever had, their family away for no reason. 

And now? I am happy and I know I'm not alone. Being part of this community of ex-JWs I can see that we all experience similar things in different ways: post traumatic stress, depression, anxiety, bad dreams. A lot of my closest friends are gay and their coming out has often meant the same kind of challenges and losses. 

If you're around my age, our grandparents fought in the last huge war. They experienced trauma and loss so we could live in a world where we have freedom. Freedom of religion, of thought, of expression, of speech. 

Whatever we're currently dealing with, don't forget - that freedom is ours to embrace. Let's fly together and in formation like the birds and create something beautiful together. 

Sullivan out. 

Tuesday, 27 May 2014

Someday I'll get it Right

Guess what? We're online!

Understanding religion in a modern world

One writer shares how being shunned from her Jehovah Witness Community forced her to start over, after her failed marriage.

Check us out. Click the link! :)

I don't actually view it as a failed marriage. I always said he was an excellent choice for my first husband. He was the best friend I ever had, my partner in everything. Had I been more successful in persuading him to leave a crazy cult we'd probably still be together. 

I will always love that guy. We just got to the point where even if we were right next to each other we'd always be alone. We would have had cute kids though. Bluest eyes you've ever seen and blonde as they come. Smart too. He is one of the smartest people I've ever met. Who just picks up Vietnamese? I worked my ass off to learn that language, he was just a natural, like he was at everything. He was actually great at anything he ever tried to do. Except us. 

The Universe always takes care of you - I've learned that. My best friend back in the day, she could instinctively tell how I was feeling by how I looked. Even if I looked fine, she'd know if I was wearing too much makeup I was covering something. 

I walked into work yesterday and my current bestie just looked at me and said, you're not doing great today. Me: What do you mean? Her: You're wearing your switchblade necklace. And that's when I knew I've come full circle. 

All this time I've been feeling my way through the darkness trying to find the light. I didn't know how lost I was until I found a different path and learned how to navigate it.

I still don't know how everything will end, I'm not sure of the outcome of all these life changing decisions. But I have no regrets. :)

Saturday, 24 May 2014

Changes (it's not just a David Bowie song)

It's been a rough past month. I switch up my jewelry constantly but lately, I just wear the cross my brother bought me for Christmas because it has a switchblade in it. Yes, it could only kill an ant or a maybe a bumblebee, but I feel more protected with it around my neck. I love that guy, because I really believe there is no other person in this world who would know how much I would love a cross necklace with a switchblade in it. We might be twisted, but we've got each other's back. 

I've been reading all of your comments, and I have to say that while I agree all bloggers are somewhat narcissistic, I am not a diva. People, I am in the trenches. I show you the good, the bad, the ugly. 

This month, for example:

Good



Bad


Ugly


I definitely believe that unless you are one of those super blessed people, life is a series of peaks and valleys. Sidepoint: I did not try to off myself in that last photo. I just got sick. 

But that's what makes it interesting right? How would we ever cherish those good times so much without the bad times? How would we appreciate how lucky we are without the not so great experiences to relate it to?

Change can often be an uncomfortable process. But it's necessary. It's part of life and the more you resist it, the more difficult you make things for yourself. I still HATE change. I always have. But I'm working on it. 

If you're currently contemplating making a change, for the right reasons, at the right time, don't be scared. Just get yourself some protection. :)




Wednesday, 21 May 2014

Be Happy : )

Soooo, I had an interesting comment on my blog today. For your reading pleasure:

Why am I reading this? I was expecting to get the perspective and experience of someone who bravely left an abusive cult. Instead, I'm getting a shallow soap-opera of an attention seeking diva, who feels the need the delve on her breakfast and her latest lover. And who's sole accomplishment is to appear in the national enquirer.

I don't care about your FB-type status updates. I don't care about your input on relationships; you're so focused on your inner ramblings that you're clearly incapable of showing true perspective and empathy towards those that may need help.

You're clearly on your way to glory, or so you might think. I would just rather you accept your contribution to what it really is: pointless self-complacent yawning dabble that no one will remember the day you forget to post your vomitus. And leave the real meat to those who have both the inclination and the ability to reach out.

Enjoy your Sex in the City audience. It won't last. Meanwhile, I'll look for real help somewhere else.

Regards,

A suffering ex-JW. 

First of all, I'm sorry you are suffering, apparently all the more so now having been exposed to my blog. My advice? PLEASE don't read me anymore. It will be better for both of us. 

If this individual had read through the library of blogs I've accumulated over the past couple of years, they would see that there are SO MANY posts where I've openly and honestly exposed the WT society for their unkindness and self-serving control over their followers.

There have been a lot of blogs where I speak out about the seriousness of mental health issues and how we need to break down the stigmas associated with that.

If they knew me, they would know I spoke at two sessions during mental health week at work on these issues in front of over 100 people each time. An important but still difficult step to put yourself out there because you feel so naked and exposed. And they would know how many people have contacted me since and said it really helped them.

That I spend most of my effort and mind space trying to be good at my job. That I'm a caring and compassion friend, who has helped many people who previously shunned me for years to figure out an escape strategy and listened to and supported them when they decided to leave the JWs.

I am an activist and I take what I do very seriously.

Two things though:

1) I will never hate on the JWs as a group. While I have issues with the WatchTower, the people are not all bad. Like any organization, business, religion, whatever (they're the same thing anyways) there are good, loyal, sincere people and there are bad people. ALL organizations are the same that way. I have suffered greatly but hating them will only hurt me. And there are so many good (yet misguided) people that I've left behind that I will always look back on with fondness. I refuse to give in to hate. Plus, I've been on the other side. When I got disfellowshipped, I called a girlfriend I hadn't talked to in years. We were like sisters. And she picked up the phone and we picked up where we left off. That's unconditional love.

2) Life can't always be serious. We need the fun times, the laughter to be good at what we do the other 80% of the time. That's what keeps us going, keeps us young.

Sometimes, I just want to talk about boys or lipgloss or how awesome was Game of Thrones this week? I work hard at working hard on the hard stuff. But that's not all of who I am. I believe in what I do in that area, but I also believe in love, I believe in friendship, I believe in being silly sometimes. And that's ok because I've stopped doubting myself a long time ago. This is who I am and I like it.

I don't know about their comment on enjoying my "Sex in the City audience while it lasts". Sex and the City had a pretty good run. I'm pretty sure I will too. And at the end of the day, this is MY blog. If you don't like it, fuck off. If you honestly are looking for support, someone to talk to, some help, I'm here. Even if I do just talk about boys sometimes. : )

Saturday, 17 May 2014

Big Love

Last night I was at the bar downstairs. (Shocking, I know.)

Someone came up to me and said they'd read the magazine article, they'd read my blog. They thought I was a good writer. He just had one question: Is "Eric" the same person as "Big"?

Hell ya. 

I was talking to my girlfriend this morning about soulmates. Now, I know Matthew Hussey is going to have a hissy fit over this but I believe in this concept because, I've been there. And so has she. 

Maybe your soulmate is not the person you're meant to be with, for a variety of reasons. What I think impedes it from working out the most though, is the fact that it's terrifying. To love someone that much? It's the most wonderful and horrible thing you'll ever experience. They have the power to make you smile bigger and feel happier than you ever have and at the same time, rip your heart apart. It's too much for most people to process. 

On one hand, you can say at least I had that once. I got to feel the way I did. I will not die not knowing what it's like. The problem with finding it though is trying to move on afterwards. There are so many different kinds of love out there and they all serve their purpose. I could have stayed on the "safe and easy" path with my husband. He never would have left me, I never would have had to experience being alone. 

If you don't know what you're missing, it's easy to live without it. But it's like going out for a great steak dinner and then going back to your local pub and ordering one there. You were happy with it before the other one blew your mind. Now, it just doesn't satisfy you. 

I've dated some great guys since Big. GREAT guys. But no one who gave me butterflies just by looking at me. No one who I wanted to have kids with. No one who I would have been happy to die in their arms. No one who I ever thought we could just live anywhere or anywhere with just us because we wouldn't need anyone else. No one I could picture sharing a single bed with because that's all the room we'd ever need. 

So this is the opposite of my usual Margaux posts where I'm all girl-power and moving on and creating our own destiny. I still believe in all that stuff, I guess having all my past churned up the past few weeks in such a public way just makes me wish things had turned out differently. 

There's good love, great love, big love. They're all special. You shouldn't turn you back on a big love if it comes along though. That's your one chance. You get one. 

Wednesday, 14 May 2014

A-Type Ambition

Alright, the past couple of weeks haven't been smooth sailing. I  cry more than usual when I watch Glee (that's my happy crying time), I haven't been completely on my game at work and to be completely honest, I've been freaking out a little. 

It was the perfect storm. Hey, mom's back in town. Shit. All these months of waiting for this article to come out when she was away, and now look, here she is and there it is. Bad timing. Then, after a year of no contact, "Big" decides to drunk text me. After a year. Then, this article comes out. People at work are having brunch with people who are talking about it. 

Then I do these two mental health week events where I told my story and now everyone wants to tell me their story. You know, we talked about how we all face difficult times but we pretend things are fine and then we all feel alone. Tell your story publicly and you'll see that it's silly that we suffer in silence. People have come to me and talked about their battle with depression, with anxiety, with suicidal feelings, with spousal abuse, with marriage break-ups, with partners who deal with depression or addictions. 

Build in the ex-jw community that's been contacting me every day and I'm feeling a little overwhelmed. I decided I wanted to be an activist. Tell my story to help others. And I have to believe it is helping. So many people have told me so. 

Perhaps people with anxiety issues should not become activists though. Someone from work cautioned me about doing all of this at once and if I was smarter, I would have listened. Because of course, bringing up all my past and hearing everyone else's, I'm flying with slightly broken wings right now. Trying to keep my head above water. (I know, I can't be both a bird and a fish. But I'm A-type, I can try.) :)

I guess all I really want to say is, I'm humbled and grateful for everyone who's contacted me, who has shown support, who has shared their stories with me. But I'm also a little fragile right now and I live in a world where my family who does support me is far, far away and my support group here is limited. Please be patient with me while I adjust. You know you can trust me to always give it my best shot, even when I'm not perfectly succeeding. :)

Monday, 12 May 2014

Blackbird Rising

Phone rings.

Her: Am I interrupting your yoga class?

Me: You know I didn't go to yoga. Bitch.

Her: Well I didn't go to the gym either.

We both sigh.

Me: I did watch Game of Thrones. Twice. It was too good to just watch once. I might watch it again.

And this is the delicate line we walk, always trying to be perfect, never quite succeeding.

As long as we don't take it TOO seriously, it's ok. That striving for perfection, however out of our reach it may be, makes us better people. It makes us people who are willing to take chances on the long shot. People who are willing to put ourselves out there for other people, whether or not we're successful in making them happy, in helping them. People who know how to be honest. There's too few of those people in the world, maybe because we know it's not the safe path.

Is the safe path making you feel fulfilled and happy though? If it is - that's amazing. If it's not? Why not take some chances?

The past week for me has been at the same time exciting, wonderful, terrifying and stressful. Right now, after all of that, I feel more naked and exposed than I ever have. I've received an outpouring of support from strangers. I've also never felt more at peace with the decisions I've made or stronger for having done these things.

Maybe "naked and exposed" aren't all that bad. Hey, when Daenerys did it with the dragons that was a hot mess. (If you don't watch Game of Thrones, you won't get that. And I pity you.)

Someone at work today came up and said she read my article, checked out my blog and thought I was a fantastic writer. She said maybe I could work on some Communications pieces for an upcoming project on her team.

I went down to the bar last night with a friend for a drink and his new lady-love came by. She wanted to read the article so I went upstairs to fetch it for her. She sat at the bar and read it...and started crying. A lot. I didn't really know what to do, it's my story and I'm not crying anymore. So I gave her a hug and tried to convince her that I am fine.

It's funny, the few people who know the real story think the article was pretty tame. Not dramatic or too honest at all. The ones who've never heard the story? They cry. Or worry about me.

I have to be honest, I kinda liked it that she cried. Not because she was hurting, I hated that part, but because it just reminded me of the incredible amount of compassion and love someone can have towards a perfect stranger.

That's the life I live in now. One of understanding, of feeling, of unconditional love. Things are good right now, better than I ever thought they could be.

Blackbird is rising from the ashes. Watch out!

Saturday, 10 May 2014

FREEDOM: sometimes you get some cool comments on your blog :)

Check her out. She's beautiful. (click!)




Don't suffer in silence

Alriiight, I'm still talking about Mental Health Week. It's technically not over till the week is...

So at the second event I spoke at this past week, one of the questions they asked to me and the partner from the firm that I was presenting with was: What would you say to someone who is suffering in silence?

My response? DON'T. 

Not everyone is comfortable sharing their story in public. This week was the first time I've done it, and it wasn't easy - to be completely honest and put it lightly. It was fucking hard. 

Now that it's over though, I feel lighter, more liberated. Did I think I'd become some kind of advocate/spokesperson for ex-Jws and mental health issues? No. But life throws you curveballs sometimes. (By the way, those two situations are closely related.)

One thing I've learned over the past, very difficult week is...being honest about these things is what helps you find your community. Your people. Since that magazine article has come out I've had an outpouring of support from the ex-JW community. People I've never met who want to talk, want to meet me. 

Since speaking at these two events this week at work, so many people have come to me and said "We ALL have experienced this in some way." If you think about it, it makes sense. One out of four Canadians experiences mental illness during their life. Count in all the people who love them, their families, friends, co-workers and we are all affected with the same disease. 

A disease which is not always preventable, but it is curable. It's been said that suicide is a permanent solution to a temporary problem. And I'm not trying to downplay the seriousness of that, I would never judge anyone who had attempted to take their own life. I've been there myself. 

But in Canada, we are so lucky to have so many resources and so much help available to us. Whether it be meditation guides (easily attainable for free on the internet), physical activity, therapy or even in some cases, medication. If we put in the hard work (and I'm not discounting the fact that it's hard) and take advantage of these things, we can overcome. 

The most important thing in my opinion though, is not suffering in silence. How can anyone help us if we don't tell them we need the help? There's a stigma around it and it could make us feel weak. Which is the last thing you need if you're feeling bad about yourself already. But it's the only way not to feel so alone. 

In my experience, people who are the kind of people you want in your life, will never leave you for disclosing that. Some of the flakes will, but you probably are better off without them. 

One of my girlfriends broke into my apartment the night I tried to kill myself and called an ambulance. Another one, on the anniversary of that night, I walked over to her apartment and asked her to keep all my big, sharp knives for me until I felt better. They are both cherished friends to this day. 

If we're all honest and support each other, what do we really have to be afraid of? We've got each other. 

Well, this was a heavy topic for a sunny Saturday afternoon. I've accidentally frozen a bottle of wine so I'm having a wine slushy for lunch. Then I'm going for dinner and a movie with my oh-so-wonderful adopted family. I'm super happy to have someone to buy Mother's Day flowers for. Your people are out there. You just have to find them. When you do, everything gets better. :)

Tuesday, 6 May 2014

Get it while it's HOT!

One more plug for you to buy the June issue of Canadian Living and then I will stop, I swear. It will however, save you so much time, because instead of reading my blog from the beginning, you can get the whole story summed up in three pages. (One of those pages is a picture so for the very lazy amoungst you, this is good news.)

The reaction I've received has been mostly great. I spoke at a meeting yesterday morning at work for mental health week with two of my colleagues where we shared our personal struggles. I was really nervous but I found the experience very uplifting. 

At the core, we are so much more alike than we think we are. We ALL have something we're hiding that makes us sad, anxious, stressed. But we pretend we're ok. Then we post fabulous pictures on FaceBook and Instagram and sit around in the evening and compare our lives to everyone else's. 

We don't have to. We're unique. Struggling with depression, anxiety or addictions may make us feel weak. We don't have to feel that way. Because we're trying to overcome it. In doing that, we become so strong.

I've had my doubts and fears through this whole process which are probably quite normal. I honestly believe though that unless we speak out, we can't move forward, we can't help other people and we limit our capacity for personal growth. 

Some people are of the opinion that talking about it keeps you rooted in the past. For me, it's the opposite. Every time I speak out about what happened, it sucks a little bit more of the poison out of me, and I heal. 

My family - both JW and not - keep asking me why can't I just tell another story? I will someday. But not right now. :) 




Friday, 2 May 2014

Freedom

All you have to see is that I don't belong to you and you don't belong to me. - George Michael