I had a nervous breakdown, growing up in a very strict, abusive religious community that you know of.
Living throughout the world in modern 21st-century cities, we strongly believe the end of the world is nigh due to moral decline, and thoroughly follow a moral code which I respect, seeing drugs etc. do harm people. However, what never rested well with me was the incredible power yielded often rather arrogantly by the self-appointed leaders of the faith, elders, some of whom were kind at times, but generally they treated us like dirt.
You may experienced leaders who 'fly by the seat of their pants', such as a boss at work. In a religious setting, the reverance for such people bars them the criticism they would face in the workplace. It rely disturbs me that many have no ability to manage people, let alone provide emotional support. In fact, many don't even have common sense, which isn't a crime, but generally they were needing support rather than struggling pityfully to give guidance. Every congregation I was in was as corrupt as a stereotypical 3rd-world state. Leaders cover up each others violation of the moral code (Bible) we are meant to promote.
My revered grandfather was a serial paedophile (and a ministerial servant for years before being removed and then leaving the organisation). His moral failure distressed my mother so much that she lived for the return of morals to earth. My father had violent parents. In general, this religion denies access to 'demonic' therapy', even if on paper it permits it. "Chips on the shoulder", grudges, "fits of anger" are rife amongst members who brush it off as human imperfection, while they need medical help.
My family was like many - beatings from my father who like many elders was so desperate to control his family, due to insecurities from being abused as a child or feeling maligned in the workplace - to me, this seems to be sociopathy, or a passive-aggressive situation, though amongst the faith, physcology is incredibly taboo. Stressed by this situation, I went to many elders (our counsellers, shelter in a storm etc.) for help, but they had no time for me. He was a leader (the elders cover up each others 'weaknesses' as we all have them, but I have to question at what point imperfection is sin.) It seems that an elder can escape all kinds of misdemeanours if he keeps the right high-profile elders happy.
My mother was forced by the disapproval of divorce to endure violence. Seperation may be permissable on paper, but the elders would shame, basically bully, people not to do so. After my parents split, I was pressure by two elders from another congregation to not speak to her until my parents re-united, but told them I couldn't as she had done nothing unscriptural. She couldn't even consider leaving the movement for the morally-declined world around us because it would be to accept the moral decline and her depraved father. To me, it seems to be Stockholm Syndrome. To be honest, I doubt I will ever really accept the world.
Generally, we were taught one thing, while another occured around us, either hushed up or when it couldn't be so, excused as merely imperfection. However, I was heavily-bullied by leaders for feeling confused by their violations of the code and lack of interest in promoting it. They would preach one thing from the pulpit and at times openly do another on the street.
As a naive young lad, I worked harder than many in the movement, twice giving up a good college education to become more involved in promoting the treasured moral code to outsiders, though I never really bought bits such as the blood issue - sure, I don't want to catch AIDS, but that's not what it was about - it's a sign of loyalty to God, and this reminds me of Maya people sacrificing themselves to their gods, or the Baal worshippers throwing their children to the fire to appease their said god.
We would be counselled on entertainment, dress, etc., but the leaders generally turned a blind eye, unless they wanted to keep a young lad in his place, then there were lectures on hairstyles being literally millimetres too long. One leader who didn't want me to have more 'privileges' lectured me about my hairstyle, while his son-in-law had the same style and had so many responsibilties that he was practically a leader himself. We were bought up in a patriarchial society were the men lead the women, but blatantly, few women were co-operative on this, often the opposite, at times merely to make a point.
I was a good orator, often praised for my small parts on the pulpit. My education was rather average for a middle-class person, but was despised by the mainly working-class members of the religion, which discouraged any higher education. Most worked as cleaners or labourers, often struggling with basic maths and grammar. They had never gained any position in the world in general, such as being a manager, so sought, rather fought for and to keep their position of religious leadership like power-hungry politicians.
I volunteered numerous hours a week. I kept asking to be an assistant to these unpaid leaders, and to go on fast-track to become one, as such was drummed into us as the sole important goal as in a career. The selection process was simple, no tests or training: they just elected a lackey from the flock when they felt it was necessary, often to avoid work. I was continually denied entry to what they actually rather disturbingly called the upper-class.
I had enrolled to learn a local minority language spoken by many local people, so as to promote the moral code to them. However, the leader of this project showed no intention to make the effort, hard work to learn this challenging tongue, and rather seemed quite uninterested in anything but maintaining his revered status as a God-appointed leader. He repeatedly told me to leave, but it had been drummed into me that people would die if they failed the moral code, so I stuck to my life-saving assignment, though it was blatantly too much pressure. Blatant signs of illness were played down as a lack of prayer.
Again and again, I would patiently counsel and advise people, helping them cope with their underlying mental problems/stress, so they could overcome vices, then some naive arrogant leader would berate them in public, even from the podium, because they didn't make him feel special enough, and they would leave the movement, returning deeper than ever to their vices, to "death" - it hurt!
I would be doomed, because I wasn't a 'yes-man'; I would question unethical orders. I had given up my career, hence much money, and was living a life of celibacy, to promote a moral code which leaders told me to violate. The hypocrisy was blatant, and I couldn't close my eyes and smile like the majority. I would be abused by leaders, desperate to shut me up - hitting me, screaming abuse, throwing tantrums, threatening to remove any 'privileges' I had, openly barring me from the moral leadership, and slandering me amongst the community.
Defamation was serious indeed for the leaders words were from God, and we were to have no friends outside the community, so simply I had no friends. My girlfriend was basically taken from me - the leaders told her I was spiritually weak, and pressured her and other friends of mine to avoid me.
I ended up in hospital. Meanwhile, after I came out, struggling to work, literally living hand to mouth, leaders robbed me of money through a dishonest business scheme. I was homeless for a time, but not member of the flock helped me. I had evidence of a leader reading porn, but the regional leaders refused to hear. Again I was before a committee. The branch wouldn't properly handle the matter. I was slandered as immoral though no evidence. Surely I need counsel, support, guidance from the leaders, not shunning.
The community would frown on "demonic" psychology, and felt mental illness was a sign one wasn't loyal enough. I was frowned on by family, friends, the community in general. They denied I had suffered a nervous breakdown, but said I had upset God, and told me to pray harder. Typical medicines, even strong doses of vitamins were viewed as "withcraft", and a lack of focus on the future Kingdom of God as the solution to ill-health.
Eventually, I have pulled my health back together, with help only from a few select individuals in the community. I needed help to feed myself, to have a roof over my heads, so my "brothers" would tell me to pray more, and at times I had no food. Turning to the government welfare for help was frowned upon, but I had to. Once even considered help from a church. The world in general may be a cruel, harsh, place bent on brute survival, but a few outsiders did more for me then any of my fellow believers.
The majority of my "brothers" still frown on me, many refuse to talk to me, though I'm officially still a member, and literally other than two ot three, no one can seem to understand that I am ill, or that this was due to stress from the community.