Okay, I'm about to engage in a major word vomit. Just giving you fair warning as your time may be better spent somewhere else.
So, I'm sitting on my lunch break, bawling my eyes out, and writing on this forum to people I don't know yet probably have a great deal in common with but at the same time, used to scare the daylights out of me. For years, I would come across this forum and 'lurk' awhile if you will, or see things on Youtube. Afterwards I always felt such a rush of adrenaline. My eyes would swell with tears, my heart would ache, and I always felt the need to go out and fervently preach to combat the efforts of people on these websites. I always pictured 'apostates' as people wearing hooded cloaks, who met in the middle of the night and tortured JWs. I thought 'apostates' were people to literally be scared of. I thought they were crazy..."don't they anything better to do? They're making us out to seem crazy and twisted! Why can't they just go on with their lives?!"
Yet, here I am. I was born and raised a JW. My mother joined when she was in her 20's from someone knocking on her door. My father was born in, but his parents were brought in from someone knocking on their door. This always solidified in my mind that our house to house work did have real purpose. I had three real life examples in my own family.
As a family, I've always considered us to be pretty normal. Even a little better than normal, and I always gave credit for that to being JW's. My grandfather was a military veteran and my grandmother was an independent woman for her time. They didn't come in until their late 30's. They raised several children and gave them all the same opportunities (cars when they turned 18, living at home for free if they chose to go to college). My grandfather, an elder and the presiding overseer, even let my father go to high school prom. Both my parents had college degrees and worked normal jobs. We lived in a nicer than average home, my siblings and I always had what we needed and to a certain extent, what we wanted, too. My mom was always very involved in our education, always making a presence and doing things for the teachers. Because of this, we were always the preferred student in the class. To everyone who knew us, we were always praised for being so polite, never getting into trouble, being respectful and kind. My family and I took nice vacations all through my childhood, we had dinner together every night, we were allowed to play with neighborhood kids, we got help with our homework, and so on and so forth. Even as a child, I was able to look around at my classmates and see, I had things pretty good compared to a lot of them. The only thing (I could see) that was different, was that I was a JW and they weren't.
Growing up as a JW wasn't even so bad, aside from forced field service as a kid when I would have much rather been watching cartoons. In hindsight and seeing the way others were treated, my family was relatively lax about certain things. While my mom explained why I didn't say the pledge and couldn't participate in holiday activities, it never really bothered me. My parents made up for it in different ways. Instead of Christmas, we celebrated a giant gift giving day on my parents wedding anniversary. Instead of birthdays, my mom would acknowledge it was a "special day" and usually take me to do something a little extra special that day like getting Wendy's for dinner or going bowling as a family. My siblings and I also weren't banned from certain "worldly" activities like other JW kids were/are. We were allowed to go to school dances, football games, and participate in some extra-curriculars after school. Also, my parents actually encouraged us to pursue higher education. They would scoff at other families kids in the hall who would proudly say "after graduation, I'm going into the full time service!" My parents would laugh in the car and then say statements like "Hope their parents are prepared to support themselves forever!" or "that's fine if you want to pioneer, but you have to make sure you can take care of yourself." I was always so grateful to have such level headed parents. Granted, going to college didn't mean "going to college." It really meant, going to the local college or university and living at home--Which was fine with me, heck it even seemed to make the most sense. My peers were in so much student loan debt yet because of my scholarships and living arrangements, I got my 4 year degree debt free!
But that's not to say everything was peaches and cream. I wasn't allowed too much interaction with friends from school. I recall crying for hours and hours when I had to turn down invitations to sleepovers and movie nights. My mom would say "I know their nice girls, but they don't serve Jehovah so you don't need to be spending your weekend with them. Besides, we have service on Saturday and the meeting on Sunday." Eventually, my friends would stop inviting me altogether. As a teenager, I ended up dating a boy from school behind my parents backs. Long story short, he ended up being a very bad kid. I still believe to this day that if I had the kind of relationship with my parents that other kids did, and could've openly dated this boy, I would've broken it off myself. However, anytime there were issues, his rebuttal was "it's your parents!" I ended up being in an abusive relationship for over a year at only 15 years old, with no one to turn to. Even worse, I was labeled as 'bad association' from teenagers in the local congregations. It was a very isolating experience which turned to a legitimate depression and a bad habit into self-harm.
Growing up, I never really had much of a relationship with Jehovah and didn't really understand how that worked. A sister studied with my for a few years and through a few books, so at the age of 13, it just seemed like baptism was the next step. No one was forcing me (my father actually wanted me to wait) but it was the social stigma "after you've gotten a few books under your belt, why aren't you baptized yet?" that energized me to push forward. However, I honestly had no idea what I was signing up for and I knew in my heart that I had no relationship with God.
After everything that happened around the ages of 15/16, I secretly went a little crazy for being a JW, which consisted of being a sexually active teenager with whoever my boyfriend at the time was. Looking back, while I regret being so quick to agree to do certain things, I wasn't a bad person. I did well in school, worked hard at my little part time job, and was a caring person who enjoyed helping other people. Eventually, though, I started feeling MAJOR guilt. I would hear talks at conventions and all I could do was think "I'm definitely going to die at Armageddon". This troubled me SO much but I was so afraid of getting disfellowshipped. This anguish persisted for several years. Finally, after having moved out of my parents house and supporting myself for several years in a different city, I came clean to the elders. To my sweet relief, I was only reproved. However, I still had this guilt chipping at me on the inside. I never prayed. Like, ever. It had been years. I still felt that I was going to die at Armageddon because I had no relationship with God. All of my well thought out comments and service hours were pointless and ultimately just a sham in trying to "play the part".
A few months go by and I ended up getting involved with another JW. Only having my prior "dating" experience to go on, things quickly became "immoral" and I wound up pregnant. This solidified my thoughts that if I had only done things Jehovah's way, I could have avoided so much pain. The brother and I were forthcoming to the elders. We were both disfellowshipped. However, I made it my resolve from that day on, I was going to FINALLY establish my relationship with Jehovah. For a few months, I was at every meeting. I ended up going to my boyfriends meeting with him, even though we weren't married. I also felt like Jehovah was really answering my prayers in a real, tangible way.
Now, through my whole life, anytime I heard anything about apostates, it was that they were bad people. Any information they give you is wrong and twisted. Any time a person in the congregation was disfellowshipped for apostasy, everyone would say "they went off the deep end." While being disfellowshipped, a few people reached out to me and told me to use this time to try and figure out everything I've ever had a question over. After all, I was already 'out'. I couldn't get in more trouble. At first, I ignored them. But one night after meeting, I was feeling especially hopeless. I was sitting in an aisle and a brother raised their hand to comment. The brother passing mics refused to let me touch the microphone. instead, he reached over 4 seats to hand the mic to the brother and then rushed around the entire section of seats so he could collect the mic from the other side of the brother. I was floored. I know I'm disfellowshipped, but I didn't think I was a ghost or a leper. I was still a living, breathing human who could pass a damn microphone.
So, I went home and started researching. Immediately, my brain started spinning. I downloaded CoC and read it in one night. So many things I heard over the years started to click. Any time I had heard things over the years, I would always resort to "it's an isolated incident" or "that's not true, it's twisted" or "the crazy JW's do that, not normal JWs" or "just ignore apostate information." But that wasn't so much the case. I've come to see that most "apostates" are just normal people who want to shed some light on what's really going on, and most of the material they use is from the organization. All of the child abuse was not an isolated incident. All of the changing beliefs to best suit the organization is not an incident. I used to be so proud to be a JW because we were different. I would look around and see other religions that were all "happy, clappy, feel good." But not us, we did deep Bible research! I grew up studying Daniel's prophecy and the Isaiah books! As I was doing the research, I remembered those thoughts. I was embarrassed because I had just come from a meeting that studied a dumbed-down, poorly written book about people of faith in the Bible. I used to think my life was so much better than my peers and 'worldly' family because we were JWs. I realized it wasn't because we were witnesses. It was because my family was made up of good, hard working people and followed their moral compass, which probably would have been pretty similar without being witnesses.
So now, here I am. Frustrated and pissed off. Pissed off that I was born into a freaking cult. Pissed off that my family and friends shun me. Pissed off that my miscarriage was viewed as a 'blessing.' Pissed off that my life will NEVER be the same. Pissed off that I'm all alone because I never forged friendships with 'worldly' people because "why would I want to do that?!" Pissed off that I allowed so much mind control and indoctrination to determine how I lead my life. I haven't been at the meetings for awhile because they were making me feel nauseated. My family has been begging me to come back because they miss me, yet I'M RIGHT HERE. Occasionally they reach out to me and tell me that they're waiting with open arms. I want so badly to show them everything I've found but I know that would certainly sever all ties. Instead, for the past few months I've been researching, lurking, and studying. Today marks the 13th year since I've been baptized and it all just hit me and I'm crying like a child. I can never have a totally normal life again. I can stay true to my feelings and stay OUT or I can suck it up and go back. If I go back, I'm screwed with my family because I'll forever be disappointing to them for not being "strong in the truth." If I stay out, I'll be viewed as the "sad daughter who never came back." I want to blow my freaking brains out because of all the headaches I've been getting due to the emotional conflict I feel.
Well, if you've made it down to the end, I'm really impressed. That's my story. After writing it and re-reading it, I do feel better to have gotten it off of my chest. I also have an appointment to see a therapist so I'm hoping that'll help me work through some issues. I'm just in so much disbelief at how one religion can warp so many facets of one's life but I also feel better in knowing I'm not alone in feeling like this.
Okay, word vomit over.