A Homeschool Apostate: Two Years Later
CC image courtesy of Flickr, Moyan Brenn.
Editorial note: The following is reprinted with permission from Calamity’s Daughter’s blog, This Way of Being. It was originally published on September 16, 2016.
Edited by Wende Benner, HA Editorial Staff
CW: Attempted Suicide and Religious Abuse
When I left my parent’s home a little over two years ago, I packed my backpack with a few days worth of clothing, my money, and a toothbrush. I lived out of that bag for a few weeks.
I left my mom a quick note, and kissed a few of my siblings good bye. I was scared that if I tried to say good bye to them all, my mom would wake up from her nap and keep me from leaving. So, I left. I saw my siblings only a handful of times after that, and half of those situations involved me picking up my things.
It’s one of my biggest regrets. I wish I had had time to sit my siblings down to tell them that I loved them so, so much, and that me leaving was not their fault.
Not being with them, and dealing with the lies they’ve been told has broken me up inside more than anything else I’ve experienced.
It’s a tactic I’ve seen used over and over in other homeschooling families. It’s punishment for our sin of desiring freedom, hidden under concern. “We just don’t want the kids to be influenced by your bad behavior.”
So, why did I leave?
I left because I didn’t believe in god, and I was tired of pretending.
I left because the emotional abuse I dealt with on a day to day basis was eroding my sanity.
I left because I had discovered that I had been shamelessly lied to. I was told the world was too much for me – my place was at home. I was told that anything that the world offered was evil, and would send me to hell. I was told the only good people were Christian people. Feminists were man haters who were trying to destroy the traditional family, homosexuals were evil child molesters, and atheists took delight in abortions and destroying the foundation of our Great Christian Nation.
In short, I was raised in a cult.
My world was so tiny when I was at home. I didn’t have a driver’s license, a bank account, or anything even sort of resembling freedom. My actions were closely monitored. My parents knew every aspect of my day to day life. Reading material was monitored, internet use was monitored, and friends had to approved. For so long, I thought this was normal. I was told it was, anyway. I had to obey and respect my parents, or fear the fires of hell.
For rebellion is as the sin of witchcraft, and stubbornness is as iniquity and idolatry. Because thou hast rejected the word of the Lord, he hath also rejected thee from being king. 1 Samuel 15:23
The day I left and refused to come home was a big fuck you in the face of all I had been indoctrinated with my entire life.
With only one local friend (who was barely approved by my parents), I had nowhere to go but to my then boyfriend’s house. I was lied to and told that my extended family was angry at me, so I had no one to reach out to. I was naive and alone, and people took advantage of that.
Life was hell for a while.
Over a year ago I spent some time in a mental hospital. The stress and grief from family issues and the betrayal from supposed friends was just too much. I tried to kill myself.
Thankfully, I failed. It was a sobering time for me. Sitting around other people who had attempted suicide, or were suffering from a psychotic break, brought me straight back down to earth. I had to do something. A change had to take place. The pain I had felt had grown so much that I had tried to end my life. This wasn’t acceptable. I was better than this.
There was no sympathy for me when my mother found out. It was held above me, a threat.Don’t you dare talk about what went on at home. You’re crazy after all. No one will believe you. My mother told me that suicide was for the weak.
It hit me around that time that my mom would not change, that she was incapable of loving me.
I was expecting things she simply could not give. I had to move on.
So, kicking and screaming the entire way, I learned to let my mother go. No amount of angry words on my part, no amount of pleading or begging, could ever change her. The mother I so desperately needed did not exist. It’s part of my nature to search for the good, to insist that there is some good here, even when it is painfully apparent that there is nothing good to be found. While looking for the good can be a good quality, it hasn’t served me well in my life. I’m too forgiving, and people use that to their advantage. Experience has taught me to be careful about who I let into my life. Anyone who has ever told me that not trusting people is “a sad way to live life” was using me.
A lot of people were lost once I left home. But the people who mattered – the people who truly cared for me – are still here. The support I’ve gotten from people has been invaluable, and I’ll never forget what they did for me. I was struggling so hard to find my footing, and they were there to help me up.
Nearly ten months ago, I was given the opportunity to visit a friend across the country. I had never met this person in real life, and I knew that flying out there was incredibly risky. But once again, I had a choice to make: leave, or be crushed. My environment wasn’t safe. The people who took advantage of my naivety were relentless. I was so scared. I didn’t leave the house. I couldn’t sleep. I was so depressed during this time that I can only recall snippets. PTSD had a strong foothold, and I was a shaking, terrified mess on a day to basis. My bedside table was littered with medicines prescribed to me, and none of them helped.
I booked the flight and came here. I remember landing, and it was then I knew that I would never go back. I couldn’t. I was far from my parents – I would never run into them in our tiny town again. I was far from violent and abusive people who stalked me and threatened the people I loved.
I left all my things behind. Clothes, books, childhood mementos. I left my cats, two beings in my life that have been better therapy to me than any psychiatrist I’ve seen. My friend paid for the cats to be flown up here, and I was reunited with my babies.
It’s been three months since I wrote the words above. I was overcome with emotion and stopped writing. This is something I’ve dealt with for a while now – writing something and stopping halfway through due to overwhelming emotions. I’m trying to break this habit, so I’m back, ready to finish this post.
My life has drastically changed since I left my parent’s home. I grew up very quickly, due to necessity. While the past two, almost three years have not been the best, this past year has been healing, in so many ways.
Moving away from a bad situation was the best thing I could do for myself.
The first few months here were hard. I was in a huge city, far away from any family and friends, with literally fifty cents to my name and the clothes on my back. The universe looked at me favorably, because I was with someone who quite literally saved my life.
If this was a movie, that would have been the end. A happily ever after. I wished mental illness worked that way! The PTSD was pretty bad for a bit. I still struggle with it, but not nearly to the extent I used to. I was properly diagnosed within a few months of coming here, and given medicine that has helped me immensely. Therapy has been a life saver. My friend eventually became my boyfriend. He is the most supportive person I’ve ever had the privilege of meeting. He has encouraged and gently pushed me into self confidence and incredible growth. I have supportive friends, people have been with me since the beginning. Healing has been hard fought for, but my steps are more sure and steady with everyday.
I’m learning everyday. Forgiveness has grown easier. The world has more color again, and I’m happy to be alive. Suicidal ideation is a thing of the past. My scars are fading. Life isn’t perfect, and I haven’t reached all my goals (not even close), but I was given a chance to bloom. I’ll always be grateful for that opportunity.
I’ve got a warm cat on my lap right now, gently purring as she sleeps. What more could I want?
And so rock bottom became the solid foundation on which I rebuilt my life. -J.K. Rowling