I Suffer From RTS (Religious Trauma Syndrome)

Several years ago I started a blog called “I Left the Fold” – a title derived from the book Leaving the Fold by Marlene Winell.

This article has a paragraph about the book and how she coined the diagnosis-how-conservative-christianity-can-warp-mind/

“Religious Trauma Syndrome (RTS) is a new term, coined by Marlene Winell to name a recognizable set of symptoms experienced as a result of prolonged exposure to a toxic religious environment and/or the trauma of leaving the religion. It is akin to Complex PTSD, which is defined as ‘a psychological injury that results from protracted exposure to prolonged social and/or interpersonal trauma with lack or loss of control, disempowerment, and in the context of either captivity or entrapment, i.e. the lack of a viable escape route for the victim’.”

I never finished the book, but maybe it is time to open it again and do the work that she outlines so that I can get fully well.

I have come a loooong way, but my journey of leaving the fold began back in 1980 and the events leading up to me physically packing up my two littles (2 and 4 years old) and moving from Elmira, NY to Houston TX by greyhound bus.

I have touched on some of my past… maybe now is the time to get back in the “road.”

Thanks for stopping by.


43 thoughts on “I Suffer From RTS (Religious Trauma Syndrome)

      1. I have seen to it that my familial relationships are irreparable severed. There is nothing more that we can do to hurt each other. Any future dealings we may have are now in the hands of the afterlife… I wish you better…

        Liked by 1 person

  1. I have Winell’s book on my shelf, has been useful in my work with those who leave the fold. The various international census show a drift of a minimum of 24% of people who hold a belief in God, have chosen to be independent of an institutional form of religion. What is still ignored by the institutions are the primary reasons the people leave, as you say, so much trauma, and none of it acknowledged.

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  2. I must admit that I have never read the book or heard the phrase religious Trauma Syndrome however I can well believe that it exists and I too left the church I wont mention which one but they have a lot of Freemason type handshakes and are worth billions and are based in the Rocky mountains, anyway I lived in Manchester in the UK and was in a very abusive, coercive and controlling marriage and left in 2014. I got a phone call from one of the leaders of the local church asking if I would go back and try and fix things with my now ex-wife after saying no, I have not heard from any of them since and I am so thankful but if I see missionaries I go into a state of anxiety and panic often crossing the road or speaking on a phone when there is no one at the other end.
    I know that it may not be the same experience but I have heard of people suffering tremendous abuse because they have wanted to leave some religious organisations and I am so glad for all of those who do get out, I know that my life improved immensely in so many different ways although mine wasn’t a greyhound bus it was a 2 carriage train with leaking windows and no heating.
    Enjoy your writing and I look forward to sharing and contributing to your journey by comments in the future.
    Good luck in your future endeavours.

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Thank you for sharing. I feel like I was brainwashed from infancy. Facebook connections with some of my childhood contemporaries have helped me regain connections, but they are not the same. I have not come out all the way (for example I do not call myself a Christian any longer or I don’t believe in God… at least not the one who hates gays etc. thinking my dad will find out these things puts me in a panic but… oh well. I’m who I am now….


      1. It is funny that you should mention about gays in your reply I watched a film today based upon a book based upon a true story called Boy erased, really powerful and very moving but also quite scary in the message that it portrayed especially when the boy they were talking about was the son of a Baptist Minister who was raped by a man in college and was branded as a homosexual and sent to aversion therapy, what a cruel thing to even consider and yet in the States it is still legal in 31 states. It was proven many years ago that aversion therapy didn’t work and will never work because it is not a choice how people identify sexually, you can’t turn a sheep into a ram no matter what you do to it, it will always be a sheep, the same with how people identify sexually.
        Even being who we are changes in time as we move forward in our journey, just a small piece of advice from an old man who has been there, it is never the same when you go back and renew old acquaintances, I know that it offers a sense of security and comfort but as you or I have changed so have those we are reconnecting with.
        I found when I moved that making new friends was a better thing for me to do and I just have contact with my immediate family in my home town which is a couple of hundred miles away from where I live now and who I see once a year but that is enough for me.
        If you ever want to talk on Facebook you can find me on there Paul Oliver GuisbourneHilton.
        Take care and good night for now.

        Liked by 1 person

      2. No problem at all and yes you are right about the treatment that he received along with many other people by the sounds of it, what surprised me though is that it is still legal in 32 states.
        Some of the treatments will that some people endure is beyond belief, my Aunt had a nervous breakdown in 1978, I was just 14 and I thought that it was my fault and when she was eventually discharged and treated as an outpatient she was given electric shock treatment and it was really awful.

        Liked by 1 person

  3. I hope so much that you’ll share more pieces of your story. Though our stories differ as well as out paths, we also have some very similar experiences. I have always appreciated your perspective for it opens my mind as well as helps me better understand my daughter who seems to be on a similar path as you.
    I know doing that work and reliving some of those experiences as you write will be painful, but stretching and growing pains ultimately leave you in better condition. Trust the process. Hoping that in it, you’ll unlock whatever it is you hope to see, learn, or set free.


    Liked by 2 people

    1. I feel stuck. I thought I was done but find I’m not and maybe never will be. The cultish programming was/is almost uneraseable. I will republish some of what I wrote back then and finish the work I started. Thank you.

      Liked by 1 person

  4. RTS is a real thing. Some people don’t realize it, but it is. It seems hard to believe that something which is supposed to bring joy and fulfillment into your life can do just the opposite. Be strong. Love yourself. My chickens and are will be cheering for each and every success you experience on you way to recovery and wholeness.

    Liked by 1 person

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