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  • Writer's pictureShannon Makujina

Why Healthy? (For All Of Us Who Are Not)

When you hear healthy, what comes to mind? Vegetables? Yeah, me too. That’s not the kind of healthy I’m referring to, and we need to have a talk about it.


When I first left the IFB, I thought I was incapable of having a relationship with anyone. I lost my family. I lost my best friend (my own fault, more on that in a minute). I lost my home and church. Everything I had invested in my whole life was gone.


But the problems started long before I walked out the door.


In my time since I’ve left, I’ve shared my own personal story of not being healthy, and trying to find healthy, numerous times with the people I’m close to (or sometimes an unfortunate stranger), in tears. What I’m met with in response? People with the same stories. People who broke relationships and tried to bring havoc on those they loved. People who didn’t believe they were worthy of a spouse who loved them, or worthy of a faithful friend, and sabotaged what they most wanted. Parents who took decades of trauma and abuse out on their children before they realized they were turning into their parents.


We need to talk about healthy, because unhealthy is an epidemic for those leaving the IFB.

I’ll go first.


When I met Elaine (name changed to protect privacy) I was barely 15. I had had three close friends before her, all of whom either suddenly left, or were taken from me by my parents. Prior to the age of 10, I had never had a close friend or even consistent exposure to other kids to play with. When I met Elaine, I was grieving the sudden loss of previous best friend #3, who got taken away because I disagreed with my parents on some point of theology.


Elaine was on the internet. She was a secret, something to be hidden from Mom and Dad. The first time I talked to her, all I wanted to do was cry. I told her about everything I had lost. I told her that my parents might kick me out of the house. I told her that my dad was verbally abusive. I told her I had PTSD. And then I told her my whole life was broken and that I was toxic and incapable of having a real friend. I was unworthy of it.


She wouldn’t leave.


She spent the next three years standing by me, holding my hand through everything (virtually, of course). I got in trouble for talking to her and refused to quit, hiding under my blankets at 3 am to talk to her. She brought me the Gospel. She showed me the way out of the IFB church.


If Elaine hadn’t been there, I know for sure I would be dead today. But as she saved my life, I destroyed hers. I turned into the emotionally manipulative monster that my authorities were. Elaine was crumbling as I placed the weight of my whole world on her, again and again. She was younger than me and yet she was talking me out of suicide night after night. Sometimes she was tired. Sometimes she wanted a break. I told her that if she left, I would kill myself.


To be honest, I would have. I loved her with a passion. I loved her because she chose to stay. It seemed like the worse my behavior got, the tighter she hung onto me, promising that there was nothing I could do too bad to make her leave. She preached the Gospel to me. She showed me the love of God in her own life, when I didn’t believe love was real anymore.


But the more she loved me, the more I tried to make her leave. I would constantly tell her that she needed to go away and I would delete the app we talked on and leave her hanging, waiting for her to send me frantic emails begging me to come back. I did this more times than I could count. And I would sit there and watch the emails come in and I would laugh.


In my mind, I was making her understand what my parents had done to me. I was making her understand how much it hurt every time my dad told me, “I don’t want you anymore.” And I was also doing her a favor. If she would just leave, she could be free from me. I felt so unworthy and I knew our relationship was toxic and wanted her to be ok.


I was doing something even darker. Elaine stood between me and suicide—between me and my coffin. I couldn’t die till I got rid of her first. And I thought if I was mean to her, she would leave me to my fate.


Elaine stayed with me till I left the IFB and then she snapped. She stopped talking to me and only replied occasionally. One memory that seared into my brain is when I was texting her while she was babysitting one day. She was busy with the baby and couldn’t talk. I told her to kill the baby and come talk to me.


I was too clouded over with suicidal brain fog to realize I had turned into a monster.

 

This summer, when I finally found the love Elaine had shared with me so many times, she was gone.


I hated myself for driving away the best friend I ever had, the person I loved more than anyone.


And I believed more than ever that I deserved to suffer for what I had done. As I slowly started to realize how I had abused her, I was sickened with myself. I fled to something else darker.


(This gets really dark. I was never planning to share this publicly, but I wasn’t planning to share about Elaine either, so here goes.)


Ever since I was little, like a little kid, I was fascinated with corporal punishment. Like most IFB kids, I was spanked (something in between spanked and beaten would be more accurate?) regularly and harshly, even as an infant. I think my young mind was trying to rationalize everything that was happening to me, when I started to beat my dolls, mercilessly. I tortured them.


I was only 5.


As I got older, it only got worse. In my teens, I found out my attraction was actually a fetish and there were many other people in the world with it. I even found so-called “Christian” men who would beat their wives. They called it Christian Domestic Discipline (CDD). Please don’t look it up.


CDD fit very well into my patriarchal, IFB world. It was all about authority and men having the ability to enforce their authority and how women and children needed to learn submission.


I hated abuse. I hated what my parents had done to me. I hated what the church taught. But just like I turned into an emotional abuser, I gravitated towards being in an abusive relationship, with a husband who would beat me whenever I disobeyed him. I somehow convinced myself that it was ok. But deep inside I knew it was wrong. I wanted to believe that I was worthy of being loved and respected, but I didn’t believe it.


I had already succeeded in pushing my best friend away, why not go all the way? I found a man, just an hour away from my home, who claimed to be a Baptist Christian who promised to “correct” wayward girls. I messaged him and told him that I had hurt my best friend and I needed to pay for it.


I deserved it.


I never made it there. I called a friend who I had only known for a few days and poured out my heart to him, sobbing and crying. He picked me up and drove me around in his car for five hours while I sobbed about Elaine and how I couldn’t let go of feeling like I needed to pay for what I’d done.


I had been abused for so long that I didn’t know how to be healthy. I thought all I was capable of was wrecking my own life and others. I needed to pay for it.

 


This year was the best year of my life, because while I lost everything that I counted dear, I now count it all loss in view of the surpassing excellency of Jesus Christ.


Jesus paid for my sins. Jesus was tortured and killed in my place. I could never pay for what I’ve done, but he already did.

Elaine is still gone and she is hurting from what I did, in a way that I understand far too well.


How could I turn into the very thing I hate the most? I ask myself every day. For someone who hates and speaks out again abuse, it’s important for me to acknowledge that I was abusive. Yes, I was being abused and I was suicidal, but that is not an excuse. I hurt Elaine in a way that only Jesus can heal. Pray for her with me.


I can’t live in the first question. Here’s what I can live in. I am a filthy, rotten, disgusting sinner, who Jesus died to give infinite value to. And I ask myself every day, how can that be?


It’s a mystery the angels can’t understand, but one day we are promised we will. Right now, I just trust it. Jesus paid for my sins, it is enough, and I am forgiven.


Forgiving my family was hard. Forgiving the man who assaulted me was hard. Forgiving my church was hard.


Forgiving myself has been hardest, especially when I know my friend is still hurting because of what I did. Days like today, I just buckle under the pain and cry. I am so, so sorry. What wouldn’t I give to take it all back? What wouldn’t I give to take this all for her?


All I can do is apologize and remind myself that I have been forgiven. And this is my public apology for all my readers who know me as an abuse advocate: Elaine, I am sorry for abusing you. I have no excuse for my actions and I am deeply sorry for them. I hope with time and healing, you can come to trust me again.

 


Why am I sharing all of this? I’m sharing it to publicly take responsibility for my actions but I’m also sharing it because I know I’m not the only one who’s done this. Because the more I shared my story with people this summer and the more I cried, the more I found so many other ex-IFBs who struggle with healthy relationships after they leave and have done things they are very ashamed of.


We need to talk about this because we learn healthy from watching healthy. IFB was not healthy. IFB relationships were manipulative and controlling. You were either in authority or in submission. Boundaries were non-existent. Respect was a façade. The marriage instruction we got was horrible. The parenting techniques we were taught were abusive. And for many of us, we grew up and did it all again before we realized we had become the monsters….


Over the next few weeks, I hope to share with you from myself and other ex IFB’s about how to learn to be healthy in relationships. Some special guests to the blog are going to be talking about healthy marriages, healthy parenting, and a healthy relationship with the local church. I’m going to talk about forgiving yourself for your past, and the importance of setting boundaries in relationships, as well as emotional control, anger management, and a host of other things.


Hurt people hurt people. We have all heard it. It is true. We hurt others when we are hurting inside. We feel like we deserve to be hurt because we don’t see our own value. However, we have the choice to break this hurtful cycle so it stops with us. Let’s embark on this journey together, prayerfully, and watch God bring beauty from ashes and turn mourning into songs of praise.




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