No Longer Wanted: Natalie’s Story

My parents meant well. They wanted the best for me. They were excited to find the perfect formula to raise a perfect daughter.

And somewhere along the line they stopped wanting the best for me and started needing me to be what they decided was best.

And when I wasn’t that picture they no longer wanted me. That’s the best way I can describe it.

I think like many people raised in the world of homeschoolers, I’ve had the gut feeling that it’d be inappropriate to share my story. Our 11th commandment was to never speak ill of our family or lifestyle. There was always a push to hide what we were doing and never cast any negative light on the angelic conditions of homeschoolers and our perfect families. I’ve only told a few people what happened with our relationship.


 

When I was five we moved to acreage in the middle of nowhere. We listened to programs that told us music with a beat was scientifically proven to kill your brain cells. We didn’t have cable because all the shows would make us worldly. We stocked up for Y2K. We supported groups like HSLDA that told us the evil government would take away our children if we didn’t fight with them by paying membership fees. We obsessively absorbed the wisdom of the Pearl’s.

My experiences with the outside world were limited to church activities and the library, but even this was enough to make me question if my parents were really raising me correctly. My parents couldn’t keep up with all the books that I read. I’d borrow big piles and hide the ones that wouldn’t pass inspection in the middle.

My parents told me that people who didn’t homeschool their kids didn’t really love them. That people who dated didn’t value their future spouse and would get divorced.

Purity and gender roles were everything.

My mother obviously wouldn’t work outside the home, even when my dad lost his job multiple times and money was tight. Respect was the most important thing to my dad. We were all to submit to him without question, to the point that we couldn’t ask something that ended with a question mark. We had to direct conversation as respectful statements that he could choose to respond to if he wanted.

My mom couldn’t explain anything past simple math and my dad would get frustrated at me when I didn’t immediately understand it. I faked the majority of my math work past 2nd grade. Science was a similar story. My parents made it clear that I only needed it because the state required I learn it. It wasn’t vital for a woman’s education. What was vital was understanding that my goal in life was to be a wife and mother. I needed to sew, cook, clean, and learn to be the best wife and mother. All of my life was focused on that aim and that meant everything was focused on getting married.

I’m still sorting my education into the facts and what was just an elaborate attempt to shape my worldview. The “mistakes” that my parents made were probably the only way my brain developed in the shape that it did. They regret letting me have part time jobs, taking classes with other Christian homeschoolers, and not monitoring me close enough. My friends were all very intellectual. They pushed me to excel when my parents didn’t necessarily care. I started to question their mandates. I didn’t want to solely be a stay at home daughter. I wanted to figure out what I believed for myself. I wanted to understand my father’s beliefs. He wouldn’t explain them to me. He said my questions were disrespectful and I should just accept that he knew what was best. My role was to serve his family until I got married and then I would serve my husband’s family.

I wanted to go on a mission’s trip after I graduated. They grudgingly agreed, assuming I wouldn’t be able to raise the funds. I worked all summer and then my brother told them that it wasn’t appropriate to let me leave their guidance. They postponed my trip for 6 months. They canceled it again. Then my dad borrowed $2000 from my account without asking. When I sheepishly mentioned it he said he needed it to pay bills for our family and was offended I had brought it up. Months later I saw that he had paid it back. Eventually I convinced them that I should go on a mission’s trip for 3 months with our church. My reasoning was that I should serve others some before I got married.

College wasn’t ever a choice for me.

Going into debt was sinful. My parents couldn’t afford to send me even if they approved of the choice. I knew I wasn’t educated enough in math and science to get a scholarship.

My sister had the perfect long distance courtship. They only wrote letters for months. They didn’t hold hands till they were engaged. They didn’t kiss till they were married. My dad gave an hour long sermon at her wedding and he cried from happiness. She was everything they wanted in a daughter. Since it all worked out so well for them, my parents insisted that it was the perfect method. When I didn’t act like her I was a disappointment. They had been (untrained) marriage counselors for years. They’d insist on telling me all the intimate details of people’s marriages. Sometimes they were my friend’s parents. When I didn’t want to hear it I was disrespectful. When I didn’t want to read another book about submission I was rebellious. When I didn’t want to watch another marriage DVD series I was selfish and disobedient. All the scenarios ended with the wife realizing that if she just respected her husband more he would love her and things would be fine.

When I got tired of my life only being focused on marriage, I asked them if I could focus more on pursuing God.

They told me the only way I could pursue God was to pursue marriage.

Single people were selfish. Pursuing independence was sinful. Living outside the protection of my spiritual authority was unthinkable. My dad told me whatever I was doing, I should think of what he would want me to do and then do that. If I didn’t I was sinning against him and God.

When I got back from my missions trip I wanted to move out and for some reason they complied. A couple months later it was a different story. I had a full time job, and I wanted to buy a car. It was a battle. I wanted to pay for my own car insurance, and they finally lost it. They gave me an ultimatum: quit my job, move back home, stop pursuing my selfish independent lifestyle and I could remain their daughter. They couldn’t bear to see me living in sin any longer.

My father told me that God would always forgive him if he strayed, but he was a human so he couldn’t promise that he would always forgive me and take me back.

I couldn’t agree to their terms. They told me the choices I was making would make me a horrible wife and would ruin my marriage and children. My dad wouldn’t bless my marriage. My mom started crying and told me that she shouldn’t have had such high expectations for me. Maybe if she had lower expectations for me this wouldn’t be so hard. I was 18 and on my own. A couple months later I tried to reconcile with them, and my dad clarified that we didn’t have a relationship unless I could come back to the biblical model. I couldn’t.

Six months later my dad shared that he still felt the same however cutting off relationship meant he was giving us responsibility for me and he couldn’t do that as he was still responsible for all my sinful choices. He said he was sorry if I was hurt by the things he said, but they were true. He said we needed to have a relationship again so he could show me how to be better.

It’s been a couple years since then. Things are still rocky between us. It took me over a year to come out of the depression that our broken relationship caused. I was suicidal and cried continuously.

They were my entire world.

The hardest part is that I was close to my family. I didn’t think they were capable of disowning me. They were all I had ever known, and I was relatively happy with my brainwashed life. I didn’t know how to function without them. I had to learn to support myself on my own. I had to figure out who I was without my family. I had to deal with my parents turning my whole family against me.

Since then I’ve found out that members of my family helped and supported an elder that molested his adopted daughter for years. They protected him because he was the head of his household and knew best. Now when stories surface of incest and abuse I don’t question them.

Of course this happens, we were all taught to blindly obey.

I still have to fight the guilt when they say I ruined our relationship. I still hear that I should just be like my older sister and things would be better. I still hear that I’m not what they want. I still deal with them poisoning my relationships. Counseling and time helps. But it’s still complicated and it still hurts.

22 comments

  • Your dad keeps saying “Biblical model” and I keep hearing “I am so deeply insecure that I can’t even deal with people asking me questions, which may explain why I keep losing my jobs, and instead of getting therapy for this I want the whole entire world to tiptoe around my massive psychological problems. God included.”

    On a more practical level, how is it the Biblical model to deprive a purported prospective wife and mother of the math skills she’s going to need to invest money on her own (in real estate or the modern equivalent), run a home business on her own (in cloth production or a modern equivalent), or travel around “like a merchant ship” in search of the best bargains? (All in the paean to the perfect wife in Proverbs 31, for those who don’t already know.)

    • Exactly! Proverbs 31 woman was probably highly educated for that time. And she probably also had servants and/or slaves to help with the farming and cloth production. But she had to keep track of costs acquiring the land and sheep, and dye and slaves, and make sure that the family was making a profit, and not taking too much risk or loss.

  • Dear Wende,
    Your well-written gripping story brought back many memories of what it was like to be born into and marry into Evangelical-Fundamentalism AND later find myself in a psych hospital due to what I’d experienced and the destructive 24/7 stress it created. With extensive therapy I recovered from PTSD, Bipolar Disorder and DID/Dissociated Identity Disorder. These diagnoses are not uncommon for those of us who grow up in cults because it is very stressful and stress hormones literally affect our genes turning good genes off and bad genes on [epigenetic changes] and reshapes our brain and affects our body in harmful ways. [see: The Body Keeps the Score by Harvard’s leading trauma researcher Bessel van der Kolk, MD] IF I could recommend only one documentary/book for you to watch/read it would be The Bible Unearthed by Israel Finkelstein at the University of Tel Aviv’s archaeology department. The documentary is easiest to follow. I found it on topdocumentaryfilms.com What he discovered is that none of the OT stories are true — the facts on the ground do not match the facts in the bible, the stories actually non-historical and are 7th century BCE “propaganda.” All the laws we were taught were divine were actually created in cult fashion and based on, “if they do it; we don’t.” I’ve recently published my own memoir Shattered Diana; I have an honors masters in history, experimental psychology and religious studies from Colorado State University. I would be happy to answer any questions you have along these lines. Digging out of fundamentalism takes lots of support. I hurt for your gut-wrenching alienation pain; I know it also and I admire your search for truth and wholeness — you will never regret it. Diana Lee, MA
    DianaLeeLtd@aol.com Shattereddiana.com

    • What do you need to “moderate”? Everything I said, is what I was told from day one by my licensed therapist and psych hospital. Survivors of fundamentalist trauma need the truth, the full truth and nothing but the truth. That is how we recover. Our brain needs truth. If my comments need “moderation” then there is something VERY wrong with the mental health education of whomever is running this site.

  • Admin Note: Some comments in this thread have been deleted for containing language that could be deemed offensive or triggering due to abuse survivors’ experiences.

    For more information on our comment policy, please see:

    https://homeschoolersanonymous.org/forum/

    • was it my reply again? I am so sorry that every thing I write on this blog is not appropriate. Just wanted to help. again i apologize if it was my comment that was not written correctly.

      • Hey, Susan. We appreciate your desire to help. Something to think about though: many of us here have been victims of spiritual abuse on top of sexual and physical abuse and neglect. God was used as a justification for this abuse. We had God thrown at us as a band-aid to cover a lot of wounds or to produce guilt and manipulate behavior. So comments that sound “preachy” or use a lot of what we like to call “Christianese” often can be really triggering for people who are victims of horrific violence and abuse in the name of God. For many of us, God is hurtful, not healing. Comments that seem to be saying “if you just knew the right God the right way, you could be healed” will usually get deleted. Because it sounds very victim-blaming, like we just didn’t do the God thing correctly so our pain is our fault. We can only judge a comment by what’s written, though we do try to see the heart behind them. But we have to take a firm stance against anything that sounds like victim-blaming, for the sake of the people here who get that from every direction in their lives, even when couched in spiritual language. The fact is, that a lot of spiritual cliques *are* very victim-blaming and very unhelpful. I hope that helps clarify for you!

  • Hey Susan, you have a need to believe and you will do anything to trigger it, it seems, even fast for days without water! (This is, by the by, perhaps risky for your body and positively dangerous for somebody who is distraught! Where you cleared by a doctor for this? One needs a bit of water to stay sane during reasonable fasts! Certaily you will hallucinate more readily without any fluids but holy smoke, that is extreme, don’t you think?) I have read nonsense about fasts being biblical and so forth but because I do not believe the wild stories of the bible, I cannot say okay to something done in woo-woo belief. And even religious people warn about fasting beyond three days, so why court danger? No wonder the Gawd voice started barking your own truths at you after your stay on the couch without food and water. Did you allow yourself permission to wash and go to the bathroom?
    I am sorry you felt such a depression but am happy it ended in supporting yourself in your art and love of animals. I do not believe in the God you say finally spoke to you after spending three days in his waiting room but I do support your freedom to go on about voices and us being masterpieces of the divine. I am pleased to know that you stand firm in your choices for life and do not require yourself to be a baby factory, that you can make healthy choices for yourself. But understand this, please Susan: Just because you were able to survive the fasting couch for three days and hear voices and then come out the other side intact, it is not okay to come here and tell ME about your extremes. There are some here who have issues with food and who have suffered traumas regarding church abuse, the biblical ways that include harming women and children because that is the way it is in the bible. So go fast in the closet if you must and do not bring your big Christian muscles here to show me your faith. It is a sickness, Susan. Stop harming yourself. Let go and be who you are without needing to hear voices…. Wait. Delete that last part and go ahead and believe whatever the heck you want but keep your rituals to yourself, please.

    • Let me apologize to you if this story hurt you in any way…I was just sharing what happened in my life. … I do not say that anyone else has to have the same experience as what I went through. It was not a fast as such, it was just I could not eat until I had to have an answer. I felt no need for food nor water. By the way, I have very little in the way of Christian muscles, I am weak and needy and that is why I depend on someone stronger than me. That fast happened in 1987 and I have not felt to need to fast since. It was a one time only situation. I do not hear actual voices, just impressions in my mind.

      I gave the person who runs this site the option to delete it if they felt the need to as other of my comments had been deleted because I came across too strong… so I sent this to the moderator to explain who i was. If you feel this must be deleted, i will not be offended as i understand that several on this site are in very delicate situations of hurt and pain. If you want to ask the moderator to delete my story, i understand.

      • Hi Susan, I don’t wish to delete what triggers me, only to say it as it is for me. I am glad you survived the trauma of those three days of extreme feelings, or rather, perhaps a lack of them. That you did not experience hunger or thirst suggests to me that you were in an almost psychotic state of mind. To actually shut down the natural needs of a healthy body is very far from the norm and that you did not feel even thirsty for three days! You might be a lot stronger than you think you are. I get impressions in my mind too and my Baptist preacher father always said it was God talking. I tried my best to believe that for years but one day decided that God was not and you know what? I still get impressions because impressions are human. I feel much better, more human in being honest with myself. I don’t believe, simply don’t. That is my experience. When I was young, I was taught that my heart was fallen and that I needed big strong good God to save me. It was not the truth for me. Best wishes, Susan.

        Natalie, you sound like such a strong person, able to feel your pain without succumbing to Cnristian abuse your family keeps ready for you. The guilt you feel comes from way way back, as you well know and it is okay to feel it, to feel things. We are fully human when we feel freely, when embrace our joy and sorrow. I feel guilt too sometimes but it has grown less significant over the years. To me, stories like yours are stories of ghosts who break out of the shadows and become real people, free to be, free to make mistakes and be angry or not, be sorrowful or full of joy. Not like it was in the Jesus gulag.

      • Admin Note: Brain, please refrain from using abelist statements such as using “psychotic” to describe another’s beliefs. Also, in this space we try to respect all people’s religions as long as they are not advocating for abuse.

        For more information on our comment policy, please see:

        https://homeschoolersanonymous.org/forum/

  • One thing that really bothers me was when the dad discouraged Natalie from seeking more religious training rather than marriage. If I recall, it said in the Bible that serving God and not marrying was considered *better*. But I’m not Christian, so what do I know. :/

    May you have healing and happiness, Natalie.

  • Admin Note: Some comments in this thread have been deleted for containing language that could be deemed offensive or triggering due to abuse survivors’ experiences.

    For more information on our comment policy, please see:

    https://homeschoolersanonymous.org/forum/

  • We are all free to believe or not as we please. I certainly did not wish in any way to imply that Susan’s religious beliefs are psychotic.
    Susan, if you felt that I was calling your belief psychotic, my apologies. I do not believe religious belief is psychotic.

  • Thank you so much for sharing your story, Natalie. How awful that your parents could not allow you to be anything but a vessel for their ideals. You are so much more than that, and it is their loss that they will never be able to see all that you are and will become. I wish you the best in your recovery. May you find joy in becoming yourself, and may you find friends who delight in you for all that you are.

  • It never seems to amaze me that these narcisstic dads, who actually think that marriage is how you become a Christian or serve God, is so batty ! The things this father demanded of Natalie, or the parents in tandem doing it-and the elder who molested his adopted daughter( I hope he is reported and serves time)for years and was protected so that he could continually do that- how DO they think this could ever come from God, that’s what I’d like to know. Giving sermons at weddings ? Nutso ! I grew up in slums, no father, just a hard working, low-wage earning single mother….but I am glad it was secular as well. I wouldn’t want any child of mine adopted by a Christian family, because they so often believe that they can/must abuse any child in their presence. This is one main reason why for the secular, abortion makes more sense. And yes, anesthesia should be used for the fetus, regardless how early the trimester is-just in case.

  • Thanks Natalie! So far your story is the most similar to my own. Really appreciate hearing it.

  • My parents were doing this to me and I left home at 16 with my now ex-boyfriend and now live with my grandparents. I don’t have contact with my family because they told me I had to repent and come home and then they would think about what to do with me if I did come home. I am glad I left and I also almost have my first job(worldly in my mum’s eyes.) smh:/

  • Catherine Bowers

    Natalie, you are awesomely brave! It will get easier.

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