Befriending My Doppelganger
Raised in a religious cult, the author found that the best way to leave it behind was looking herself up for a phone call.
Let me tell you about the time that I reached out to someone on a whim, almost as a joke, and ended up having a life experience that has brought me joy every time I recall this story. It also brings me hope that there are still people in this world who show compassion and kindness. We just have to look for it.
I Left a Religious Cult but It Didn't Necessarily Leave Me
I have a very long history of trauma from leaving a religious cult, relatively recently. I was born there and lived there most of my life. I still suffer from depression and PTSD from my history. Some days are just too hard to deal with and I often feel lonely, anxious and without purpose. After leaving my entire support system I had in this commune, I often go through waves of time where I struggle to find meaning and motivation to build connections with people in my current life.
One day, I was feeling very down. Everything seemed to be going wrong. I felt that one of my coworkers had been wrongly chastised in front of customers and I immediately went into a tailspin. Negative things kept happening, and I could feel myself going deeper into this depressive state. I drank a shot of whiskey, after months of not drinking hard alcohol. I lost $60 gambling. I backed into an SUV that only damaged my car. And I dropped half my dinner on the floor.
I could feel myself spiraling into a bad headspace, though I also noticed that all the things that happened could have been much worse. I could have drunk excessive booze, lost more money, damaged more than my taillight and dropped my whole dinner. It was almost as if the universe was telling me: “It's okay to have bad things happen. There are still positives in this world.”
I was almost angry at myself for trying to put a positive spin on things, but I also didn’t want to fall into a depressive episode. I know how I get when I’m in these moods, so often putting a cheery spin on things helps me through waves of depression.
I’ve been trying to focus on the abundance in my life, and the gifts I do have. However, leaving all I knew for most of my life sometimes is overwhelming and I go to a dark place.
When I finally settled in at home, smoking some weed to take the edge off, I was feeling particularly bitter and sad about my past. I desperately looked up the cult on Wikipedia to see if I was strong enough to write an objective viewpoint of it. Maybe if I could do that, it would mean I had moved on from my hurt and I could live life normally.
I Found the Help I Needed When I Googled My Own Name
They did not have a Wikipedia page, which was probably for the best. Next, for some reason that is still not clear to me, I googled my own name. Let's say it's Lola Pennywig. Maybe I was curious, maybe I was looking for answers or maybe I was just trying to find a glimpse of myself before my world was turned upside down—back when I was happier albeit extremely misguided.
I didn’t see much of my own name, but I saw someone, a different Lola Pennywig, who lived across the country. Their phone number was listed.
I knew most people would tell me not to reach out to a complete stranger but something in me—probably the copious amounts of THC that coursed through my veins—inspired me to do just that.
I called the number and after about six rings it went to voicemail. I don’t remember exactly what I said, but I remember talking to “Lola Pennywig” as if I was talking to myself, possibly a version of myself in the future. I am pretty sure I rambled for a good minute but all I remember saying was: “Hi Lola Pennywig, this is Lola Pennywig. I know it's a little weird I am calling you, but I just need you to tell me that I’m going to be okay. I know I am really sad now, but, I am sure everything will turn out okay. It’s okay to be sad.”
The next morning, being a little foggy and slightly hungover, I told my coworker about my night, forgetting I had called Lola Pennywig. I was in a better mood, and proud of myself for not letting those series of events affect me as intensely as they probably would have in the past. I was ready to move on and remember to try to live in gratitude, thankful for the abundance in my life.
At lunchtime, I looked at my phone and I noticed I had a voicemail. As soon as I saw it, the memory of the phone call came back to me and I was nervous— though a bit curious and excited. I listened to the message. “This is Lola from Springfield. Calling you back. This is my cell phone and if you want to call me back you can. I understand what it's like to be sad, but I think I have some answers for you. I hope you have a blessed day. Bye.”
My Doppelganger Was Sincere, Thoughtful and, Above All, Kind
After my initial embarrassment had washed over me, I was so excited. When I got home from work that night, I called Lola and we talked for a couple of hours. For some reason, I trusted her and told her about my struggles being in a strict religious commune. It was difficult for me at first, because I could tell she was religious. She talked freely of Jesus and the Bible which normally stirs up raw emotions about my past. However, the way in which she talked made me feel like she understood me. I still feel so much shame and guilt for leaving the commune. It was nice to hear someone who was also religious tell me that what I did was right.
She shared with me that her husband was also once a part of a similar group. When he left he was shunned by his family and was left feeling rejected. It wasn't until years later when the leader died that he finally started to find peace and broken family bonds starting to heal.
She talked to me about how God wants us to live abundantly, a concept in which I was indoctrinated to think the opposite. She also told me that I should consider not smoking marijuana, but I have to say I have not yet taken that advice to heart.
I mark this conversation with Lola Pennywig as the beginning of my active recovery from my trauma. While we only text every once in a while, the kindness this Lola showed me—which may not have meant much for her— helped me navigate through a time in my life when I was focused on the negative. Her kindness in reaching out to me, and the friendship and connection we formed, gave me the confidence to listen to my inner voice more strongly than I was taught. It may sound corny but I still believe it when I say, “Always listen to your heart. Kindness is everywhere if you just look.”