Excellent post. I found leaving was the easy part. It coinicded with leaving for college. My college was elite and people were extraordinarly nice. I messed myself up by feeling inferior b/c of the Witnesses and my working class family. Rather, than seek help I retreated deep into myself. My whole life turning eighteen was the signal for a wondrous life, free of many abuses. I was never more miserable and lonely. Therapy was not good. I wanted a local doctor and paid dearly rather than see the much more competent college therapists. I forced myself to go to social events and left crying.
Over four years, I assimilated every so slowly. I shudder when I think back on all the rich resources tthat were available to me that I shunned out of fear and not knowing. Despite leaving the Witnesses and viewing them as loathsome, their crazy ideas were firmly embedded in my brain. I found very good therapists in the city. I could not go straight to law school b/c college was so wonderful but also hell. A rest was needed. I was overwhelmed. Besides, I had to teach myself percentages for the first time after college for the law boards.
I was accepted into law school on a full scholarship and what a law school. The first day I was so terrified of a repeat of lonely college. Without knowing it, I had changed. I felt as though I belonged. People were so social. Parties everywhere. Nightly post library vents at historic coffee houses. The two schools, however, had very different ambiances. The four years made law students much more outgoing. I can't begin to tell you how great my law school experience was. Of course, birds of a feather flock together. Anyone who was not a poli sci or History major had much clout socially.
TV and popular magazines showed the student life as one fun experience. Asking for help would have changed my agony. I was listening to NPR recently and they were discussing students similar to my experience. Books have been written, intercollegiate symposiua exist--a wealth of information and serious commitment of resources. I was so positive that I was the only contaminated one.
I always encourage young people to ask for help at college. It is not a Norman Rockwellian experience for anyone. I feel silly but I also must embrace the person I was at that point in time. Life is glorious outside of the Witnesses but it is a very rough transition. Of course, it is definitely worth the angst and the angst I may have faced if I stayed would probably be much more worse.