After leaving, there may be a time period of trying to find some balance, a time when a person might go to opposite extremes with a sort of pendulum effect. Different people seek different kinds of balance. Some may go to extremes with their looks or actions. For me, I think the majority of my pendulum time has been spent learning to set boundaries and say no.
I learned a lot during this time from just being free to do these things. I was amazed when I discovered I wasn’t shunned for saying no, setting boundaries, or even leaving situations that made me uncomfortable, even if my friends stayed in those situations. I was even more amazed that these people remained friends. Yes, a few people ended their friendships with me, but many others were true friends and encouraged me and were there for me through this time. Just being able to set my own boundaries and make my own decisions was helpful and healing, but knowing that I was accepted as I did these, even when I was more extreme, was even more so.
I’ve known people who didn’t seem to understand why I might need to do this. Maybe they didn’t share my experience of feeling I had to stay in an unhealthy church, had to support them or do things for them, keep participating in their activities, or had to remain silent and accept what I saw as harmful or frightening. It’s taken nearly 8 years to regain some of the balance of being able to say “no”, to set boundaries, and even to leave a situation when I want… and it still takes a whole lot of self-talk sometimes to do them, especially without feeling guilty or embarrassed. But I’m learning.