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#OffLocation - 12

I was brainwashed as a kid.

My church was an extremely toxic place where we were taught some really f*cked up things. The pastors were corrupt and low-key terrifying. The adults who belonged to the church were sheep, soaking up every word as truth, forgetting that Jesus calls us to love and not judge, to put family before institutions, to hang with the "sinners," not shun them away, to embrace our differences & show no partiality.

But none of that happened at this church. It was the most judgmental, money-hungry, political, false prophet, fake thing I've ever been a part of, and if it sounds like I'm bitter, I AM.

The psychological damage it did to me and the other kids in the church especially has been life-altering. And now, still, every single day I have to fight off the false rhetoric I grew up being forced to believe.

I had it luckier than some of the kids though. Both of my parents didn't go to that church. My mom was not a part of it. She was so patient & fought so hard to make sure we lived a normal life when we were with her. Even when some of the church tried to brainwash my sister and me into hating my mom, she still remained hellbent on showing us love.

You know the craziest part of it is now that I'm older, nobody from the church will talk about their experience there. There's a deeply rooted fear in all of them that we will be reprimanded somehow for discussing it.

Well I might be scarred, but I'm not scared.

I'm not afraid to say this happened to me. I'm not afraid to face it. I WISH people would talk about it. I WISH we could find our way to a place where we feel free of the burden we have been forced to carry throughout our lives. I would love to make a documentary about it and expose all of the corruption.

But this is just wishful thinking. I've got better things to do with my time than seek vengeance.

I'm saying all of this just to say this: Find a way, or make one. It's my motto. I'm self made. I rose from the ashes. I'm a phoenix. I got through it. I'm getting through it each day.

When I started college, I was finally on my own, and I was meeting people from all over the world. I finally had a chance to find my way on my own, without being told what to believe. It was then that my eyes opened to reality. The reality that whatever God you believe to be the one, he (or she) is love. And if he is love, then he loves ALL of us. There is no gatekeeper to the afterlife, whatever you believe the afterlife to be. No matter your religion, sexual orientation, how many times you've "repented" or if you've never repented at all, there is no way a God who "created you in his image" would not accept you EXACTLY the way you are.

You are loved. You are worthy of love. You are worthy of a happy and full life. You will find your way.

If you feel lost, I just want you to know that I understand what you are going through. I felt lost for years. I felt like I would never find my way in this world. But I made a way for myself. And you can and will do the same.

If anyone relates to any of this and you ever want to talk, I'm here to listen and talk with you. I'm an open book.

And if this gets in front of the eyes of any one of you who willingly took part in the massive brainwashing that was going on, I hope you've changed, and if you haven't, may God have mercy on your soul. That's not a threat, that's a thought & a prayer.

Video by Alyssa Valiente.


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