We leave trails of bread crumbs as a way to say, “Please find me.”

“You are so selfish,” said the woman sitting beside me. She was verbally punching me in the stomach, stinging me with her syllables. I prayed she might look into my eyes and see what I felt every morning. Emptiness. “Hannah, you are being so selfish.”

Sometimes memories such as this one come back to me and decide to stay for a little while. I don’t mind so much anymore, because I am a strong individual and I have found my way back. Found my way back.

This blog is not about me. I have said that on numerous occasions but I mean this. This blog is my hopes at sewing a common thread between all of us, to realize that we are all very different, yes, but also the same in that we are all searching every day. So why not search together?

But this is one of the first personal stories that I am choosing to share because I think that maybe someone will need to hear it.

In the fall of 2008 I came very close to becoming a member of a religious cult. The word “cult” has always lent a set of stereotypes to me: kool aid, Charles Manson, brain washed individuals. The list could go on. I never thought I would be susceptible to a cult and I am pretty sure no one else around me thought so either.

But I know now why I can wake up everyday and say that I am full, that I am vibrant, that I am happy. Because for the three months that I was wrapping myself up with this group I was feeling the exact opposite. Empty. Tired. Alone. Sick. I began studying the Bible with a group of these people because I was feeling unfulfilled in my everyday life. I was constantly thinking there had to be more. And these individuals offered me more. I was given no warning, heeded no yield signs, and went forward- despite what I should have seen as a dozen red lights.

I am not here to preach right from wrong or to denounce all I was taught. I am just here to share my experience. I learned of a God who I would never be good enough for, a God that expected perfection, a God that was unwilling to simply allow me into the light… This God would make crawl through the darkness first.

I was a victim to what is referred to  as a “spiritual tear down.” I was told that I was worthless, that my previous faith practices were worthless, told that their way was the one way to be saved. I was called selfish for having other obligations. I was expected to give up all my past beliefs for this group. I was emotionally manipulated to feel guilty and fearful because of the person that I was. I watched scriptures that I had grown up with be twisted right in front of my eyes and I sat complacently with my hands by my side, not fighting the emptiness that came with each breath of silence. I disclosed information and sorrows that I had never shared with anyone before and watched as they were spat back into my face in the form of a word called “sin.”

I told no one of my ventures. I drew a heavy line between my friends and I. They were in the darkness and I was headed towards the light. Someone was going to love me at last. That was my mentality, a hungry look in my eyes that would make anyone believe that I had never been loved before. I woke up each day and found no reason to get out of bed. I was empty and even God did not want to speak to me. I pulled away from normality more and more each day, caring less about my commitments, my school work or my writing and fixating on the happiness I could only achieve through surrendering myself to this group. Becoming baptized became my sole purpose; An Effort. To Feel. Something. Anything. At All. Brain. Wash.

You knew it all along God. That I was coming. That I was giving it all up for you. No turning back. You knew that even when I begged and pleaded that I did not want this, there was something more urgent in my selfish, selfish words. A girl who was crying out between every syllable, pleading with her father in a broken nature, “I don’t want this. But I need this.”

November 5, 2008. The day of the baptism.

I can speak today as someone who did not cross over to what many people deem to be a cult. I was saved from the destruction of my own self just 20 minutes before I was scheduled to be baptized in. I had a complete breakdown brought on by friends who were concerned with my behavior; crying, screaming, cursing. I screamed outwardly, inwardly. Screams that are still the saddest sounds to ever come from me. But then someone reached out a hand to stop me and then to save me. Saved. Saved by friends. Saved by family. Saved by ministers. Saved by strangers. People I had never even known before offered up a hand for me to hold and an ear to listen.

It has been more than a year since this dark period. Even after I was pulled away from the long hours of studying with the group and the beliefs that became my backbone, I was ashamed that I had been so vulnerable and manipulated, that I put so much faith in a group that I feel used me.

Today is a different story. Today I smile and I laugh and I no longer worry about emptiness. Today I pray and I live and I trust. Today I am thankful for even this dark road because it led me to a deeper understanding of fear and suffering. And today I know what great souls exist in this world. And so I walk around with a hand out stretched, to hold anyone’s hand who needs it. Because once mine were held. And those hands saved me.

26 thoughts on “We leave trails of bread crumbs as a way to say, “Please find me.”

  1. Wow. Thanks so much for sharing this story with us. It takes incredible strength to come back from something like that, and even more strength to share it.

  2. That is an incredible story, and it must’ve taken a lot of strength to share it. You are too right; so often in life it’s the darkest, scariest times which deepen our understanding of fear, and also our appreciation for the greatness that exists in the world. I have yet to share my “dark period” on my blog – I’d like to think it taught me a lot about myself, and I truly do think it led me to where I am today, but I don’t know if I’m ready yet to share it with the world. I have some work to do on myself first. I have so much admiration for your courage in sharing your story.

    1. Thank you Emily Jane. I was nervous to even touch this subject today but for some reason when I went to type it was the only thing to come to my fingertips. I figured that was sign that I was ready.


      Hannah Katy

  3. Holy Shih Tzu. I’m not going to pretend to know what that’s like, but what I will offer is a smile in appreciation of your courage and your once again baring your soul to us so nakedly. Cults like these are despicable, preying on people’s deepest insecurities and desire to better themselves. You seem like such a shiny person that I could never have imagined that you’d undergone this! There’s of course that cliche that what doesn’t kill you makes you stronger, but I think that actually applies here: having been through such a dark time and survived, you’re that much wiser and experienced for it, and have probably matured a heck of a lot faster than your peers. Thanks for sharing.

    1. Thank you Stephen. I am so thankful that people have been responsive to this. Yes, it taught me a heck of a lot and it was definitely nothing that I ever expected would happen to me. And while it went on I really had no clue that it was happening.. Not until after the matter did I realize that it was a cult and I indeed had been sucked in. But friends and family who support me made my journey to recovery and a safe place that much easier.


      Hannah Katy

  4. I’m so sorry you had to deal with that. It was wrong of those people to tear you down because of what you believed in. I’m so glad you’re in a better place! It’s amazing how God really works in the most mysterious ways. But He’s always there. I’m sure you’ve learned so much through all of this.

  5. what a truly amazing and touching story. i can recount many times where my friends were the hands that saved me. it’s a wonderful thing to remember, and i’m glad you can turn such a dark time into your life into such a great moment by remembering how you came out of it.

  6. Hannah, thank you for sharing this story. We all have something in our lives that has the power to save us. The question is whether or not we will open ourselves enough to ask for or receive help.

    1. Yes, I agree. And sometimes we don’t even open ourselves up, sometimes we just fall and something catches up. Life is beautiful and unexpected like that.


      Hannah Katy

  7. Wow. Thank you so much for sharing this with us. It’s a very personal story and I enjoyed reading it. It’s so good to hear how you made it through this incredibly rough time. There are terrible people everywhere. It’s just sad to see people give God a bad name and a bad reputation built off of twisted scriptures 😦 I’ve seen it before too. But, it sounds like you were brave enough to tough it through and find the real God on the other side, the one who loves us no matter what–imperfections and all 🙂

    Thanks again for sharing.
    And thank you for stopping by my blog :))


  8. You’re offering a hand to many a person who comes across your post. I know how painful it can be to write from the heart. But, it also becomes cleansing and therapeutic.

    You seem full of concern and compassion for people and I wonder if some of that comes from your own experiences, perhaps this one, where you walked a path leading somewhere you now know you were not meant to travel.

    Good of you to share.

    michael j

    1. Hi Michael:

      I absolutely agree with you. I believe my experiences, this one among many, have molded me into the person that I am and have caused me to want to reach out to others. At the end of the day I can only be thankful for these unexpected roads because they have brought me to this very point. Thank you for your feedback.


      Hannah Katy

  9. As I’ve been following your blog, I was reminded a few weeks ago of that day. Reminded of how scared you were, how obvious it was that you were reaching out to others. Reaching out because you knew something was wrong, even if you couldn’t pin point what.
    What I remember more than that day though was the ones that followed it. I remember you copying information on the computer in the CampMin office. I remember you bringing that information to who needed to see it. I remember reading an email from the Dean banning the group from campus, and simply thinking “thank God.” I remember that even in your weakest moment, you knew enough to be strong for others.

    Taking care of yourself and being selfish are very different. Keep showing the world you know that difference.


    1. Thank you Lauren. Thank you for being one the hands that reached out to me. You were ultimately the one that guided me in the direction of doing the research. I will eternally be grateful for that.

      Senior retreat this weekend!! Remembering you!


      Hannah Katy

  10. Not only was this beautifully written, but I am in awe of your courage in sharing such a dark part of your life. It amazes me how people can use someone’s vulnerability against them in such a destructive and hateful way. And I absolutely applaud you for being so positive now. You are amazing.

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