Disclaimer: The information presented and opinions expressed are solely the author's. Names have been changed to protect identities. The only names kept true are leadership.
I was young, I was depressed, I had been sexually assaulted by someone who I thought was a friend, and I had spent my childhood believing I was going to hell for the abuse I endured. I was in a vulnerable state because the one thing I knew in life is that I needed healing. I already carried the belief that demons possess Christians and believed I had demons I couldn't free myself from. I was continually haunted by this since I was a child, believing that something was wrong with me and I needed to find a way to fix it or I wouldn't survive.
That's when I found the farm and it all made sense. Jesus would heal me through God encounters at this place. They said the land was special, they said the leader's teaching was special and that God would use it to heal people like me. I was absolutely and completely desperate for that.
So when I was told adamantly not to leave, even for an hour, I dismissed my surprise (I don't think I'd taken that rule as a no exceptions thing and I told myself if I had needed to leave for something, they would of course let me do that). When I was falling into even more depression, I reminded myself that they had said it would be hard at the farm and that a lot of people wouldn't make it. I wanted to make it, I worked hard to show I could be valuable. I gave all my time to manual labor and prayer and worship meetings but it was never enough because I wasn't measuring up.
I was triggered by a lot of Christian media because of my background and I found solace in some of the work of secular artists who could articulate so well their experience in a relatable way. I came to truly believed that my proclivity to listen to favorite musicians on the farm would bring a demonic presence and I had an enormous guilt about that, it was not unfounded. As I came to discover, what an individual listens to, watches, reads, says, even how well they clean can bring good or bad energy. I had no control over the depression I experienced, I came to believe even my demeanor was causing negativity. This made me hide myself and try and play a part, it made me feel unsafe and unwelcome and somehow ashamed of even more aspects of myself. I wasn't a good enough actor, I sensed I was not liked by leadership and that was not new for me. I had hoped I had finally found a safe place to heal, but actually I landed in one of the least safe places for people with trauma that I can imagine.
The worst part for me is that I already deeply distrusted myself, and being there made that so much worse. I watched as the leader's word was respected on a completely different level than anyone else's. I watched as disagreement and questions were labeled as divisive demonic spirits. I received warnings from several people about the farm leadership which I dismissed. Looking back that scares me, it scared me then and I just couldn't let myself admit it because my only hope of healing lay with them. They disparaged professional counseling as ineffective and even harmful, where else would I go?
I was terrified all the time and I didn't know why, it got worse everyday. Until the day I finally left, and no one talked to me again. Once I was gone all the fear that had been growing evaporated off of me and I was still me, still hurting in the same way. Then I noticed that I had lost a lot of my openness in Christian spaces which I believe is a long term effect of being in an environment that was so controlled spiritually. I also struggled to open my Bible, because I was afraid of what I'd find; it's hard to unhear the shame and fear that was laced into so many passages.
I feel myself wanting to say ‘I'm sure they have good intentions’, I still believe most if not all of them do. But the truth is I have no idea what their intentions are in creating and maintaining such an increasingly controlling environment. I think it's telling that I am still considering their side. I put so much hope in the farm and still wish it had been the piece of heaven on earth they said it was. I think it's important to say, whatever their intentions, they are not equipped to help people like me. And because of that it's really easy for them to hurt people like me who have experienced a lot of control and chaos already at the hands of authority. We don't need more, and we especially don't need more in the name of God.