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The Real Me

The memories started from easiest (fondling) to more difficult (penetration) to horrific (cult activities). The incest began at age 2; cult involvement at about 4. Both at home and at the cult’s “farm,” abuse grew exponentially more awful as I grew older. I am now working on the worst of the worst of the worst memories. (I hope.) They are triggering old ways of coping, but I have more knowledge now and more skills in coping. I am stronger now than when I first started.

I have taken time off from therapy, the largest chunk of time off when I was raising my daughter. Then, most of the therapeutic work done was centered around her own unique and challenging problems. I have not kept up the same level of intensity in therapeutic work over the past twenty years. If I had, I would have become undone. As it is, I am unable to teach as a result of physical problems, many stemming from the abuse, and because of what has been diagnosed as major chronic acute depression.

The biggest losses I experience due to the abuse are in the area of relationships. I spend most of my time alone. I have believed myself unworthy of love. When I was 8 years old, I knew no one would ever want to marry me. I didn’t realize then that another part of me was given in marriage to Satan in a bizarre ceremony. I just knew no one would ever love me. I couldn’t look ahead to see that I would be the one to prevent that from happening. I thought I wanted a close relationship (marriage) in my twenties and thirties. (Even at my most optimistic, though, I never expected love- just hoped for loyalty. ) The truth was, though, that I was afraid of relationships and sabotaged many potentially intimate ones. I have put up walls. I have almost deliberately misunderstood the intentions of others. And, the problem with sounds makes prolonged, close contact difficult. I cannot sleep in a room with another person.

I am morbidly, grossly, obese. I just recently realized that being fat saved my life by keeping me from even more abuse, even more involvement with the cult. But, like everything else that once served a purpose, such as having alters, this now is only emotionally safe. I am learning to be braver, to face the truth, to become healthier in all areas of my life. I’m not there yet. I’m still working, still learning, still healing. But, I’m nearing the end of the most intensive work. (I hope!) I suspect that things will surface all my life, things that will tempt me to resort to old ways of coping. But, I am pointed in the direction of health.

Things that have not helped in the recovery process are: shame, condemnation, disbelief, people calling alters “demons” and trying to cast them out, people telling me to put the past behind and go on with my life when I haven’t yet dealt with the past.

If I had read books on incest before I had begun remembering, that would have been detrimental because I would have believed my memories were being influenced by those of others. The same with books on dissociation and SRA.

Something inside me knew to avoid these topics until I had memories that were my own. Afterwards, reading others’ experiences helped tremendously.

Other things that have helped have been: people who listened and believed, prayer support from the non-exorcism crowd, some hospitalizations, friends who would drive me to the emergency room when necessary and take care of my cats when I was hospitalized, writing, drawing and, especially, my therapist.

So, here I am, even at the old, old age of fifty-three, still growing and learning. When my 8-year-old alter, Barbra, is out I feel very young although sometimes she feels very old. When the memories come, they’re still hard, even overwhelming. While I’m afraid, still, to look forward to a happy future, I am looking toward being stronger, healthier, safer and, above all, more whole.

–Janet Wood

The Real Me

Personal Story

A personal story contribution is a story told by someone who is living with mental illness, a caregiver or family member, or a professional who treats mental illness. We believe in the importance of the patient's voice, and those most impacted by the effects of mental illness. These stories are a vital part of the mosaic that makes up the complexity of living with mental health concerns.

APA Reference
Story, P. (2020). The Real Me. Psych Central. Retrieved on January 27, 2020, from
Scientifically Reviewed
Last updated: 14 Jan 2020 (Originally: 17 May 2016)
Last reviewed: By a member of our scientific advisory board on 14 Jan 2020
Published on Psych All rights reserved.