A few days ago I wrote a blog post about how my life didn’t turn out as I’d envisaged and how the best laid plans can’t always come to fruition – you can read that post here. Today, I’m delighted to welcome Mary Grand to share her story.
Tegan has been raised by her parents in an isolated religious cult. The novel opens when at the age of twenty-seven, Tegan is cast out of this cult. This means she is then completely alone, rejected by her parents and members of the cult. She is sent out into a world she does not understand and has been taught was evil, a truly life changing moment.
Free to Be Tegan is based on some of my own experiences of being raised in and then leaving a very controlling religious sect. (It is called a sect as it was a breakaway group from a mainstream religion). It did, however, have many characteristics of a cult). In particular I wanted to talk about healing from the long-term damage of some of the teaching I received. The major life change for me took place not only on the day I walked out of the sect and never returned. It was also the day I recognised the damage the teachings had done to my mental wellbeing and sought help and started to heal.
In order to try and talk about these things I decided to write a novel rather than an autobiography. This way I could try and reflect a wider range of experience, and also create a story that I hoped would handle a difficult subject in a more accessible way.
The setting of the opening chapter is London, where Tegan’s cult is based. When she is cast out, Tegan is forced to seek out distant relatives who live in the stunning Cambrian Mountains. The family there have their own secrets which she becomes involved with. However, at its heart, the story about Tegan learning to cope with the dual challenges of trying to live in a world she has little understanding of, while, at the same time, battling the effects of psychological trauma.
The cult in Tegan’s story is fictitious, but within that I included the teachings I felt had been most damaging for me. The main message I received growing up in the sect was ‘If you don’t follow our teachings terrible things will happen to you.’ These punishments were described to us vividly and in great detail. From as young an age as three we listened to graphic descriptions of eternal punishment in hell, or of how our parents might suddenly be taken away and we would be left alone for ever. We were also taught that we were in essence sinful and corrupt, nothing I did in my own strength could ever be pure or good.
When I first left the sect, I struggled with making the connections between the teachings and the mental health problems I was trying to hide, such an Obsessive Compulsive Disorder and Hypervigilance. It was a few years until I sought help.
In the novel, Tegan is forced to confront her issues far more quickly. Friends and her doctor quickly see she needs help and support to recover from her past. Her recovery is not easy, and there are many setbacks.
However slowly she starts to heal. It was very important to me that Tegan’s story is far more than one of survival. It is a tale of hope, self-discovery, and the joy of living.
You can find ‘Free to be Tegan’ on Amazon here,
And Mary on social media here –