I remember the very first "thought" that popped into my head about leaving occurred shortly after high school graduation. However, I quickly stuffed that thought away.
Then, about 1 year later I had a conversation with my mom while driving about going to night school. She obviously was concerned about the meetings. I remember saying something like "I cant sit on your lap forever. I have got to live my own life sooner or later." I ended up taking a night job and going to college during the day. I didn't attend a weeknight meeting for over 1 year. I loved it! But I still distinctly retained my identity as a Jehovah's Witness to anyone who asked.
On a gorgeous Saturday morning during the summer of 1996 I was walking around a neighborhood with a large group of witnesses. The group included 1 80 year old woman who I loved dearly (she passed away 1 month ago). We were all walking along from our parked cars and up a hill to get to some houses. I suddenly raised my head up and realized something. We were all shuffling along with our heads down looking down at the ground and avoiding conversation with each other. I said to myself "It's such a gorgeous day and we all look like idiots walking around this neighborhood looking like this?? F**k this!! I'm leaving!" I just turned around and went back to my car and went home. That was the last time I went out on field service.
Shortly after that I was at the District Assembly. It was soooooo boring. I cant even remember what the theme was, or what any of the talks were about, nothing. On the last day as the last talk was winding up I took off my earrings and threw them on the ground underneath my seat. To this day I'm not sure why I did that but I know I had decided that it was going to be my last District assembly.
The following year I no longer identified myself as a JW. I wanted to have a normal life. I attended birthday parties and I made plans for Christmas, even if I was to spend it alone. I went back to college and worked part-time wherever I could, I paid no mind to the meeting schedule at all, and I only very seldomly attended the weeknight meetings. I still attended the smaller Circuit assemblies and special assembly days though, and that was only because my mom really couldn't find her way to that hall. The last special assembly was May 1997, I walked out around 2 pm complaining of a migraine. That caused a stir. Shortly after that I was called by the elders to meet with them. They asked me why I was not attending any meetings,and they pointed out that I hadn't been in field service almost 1 year. I didn't want to talk much but I told them that I hadn't been physically well and that I needed some time. But I knew that I wouldn't be seeing them again.
At that time I still hadn't been introduced to the internet. While I was in college my Law History professor met with us at the computer lab to teach us how to do research on the 'net. It just turns out we were researching religious freedom, specifically, the 1943 Supreme Court's decision on flag-saluting (I cannot recall the name of the case but it was about the two children who were JWs and expelled from school for not saying the pledge of alliegance). Then, something happened. I entered MiningCo.com and linked around the religious topics. There was so much information about JWs!! I completely lost myself. One of the first sites I remember seeing was Support Group for ex-JWs and The information super highway freed their souls. I had recently been given an old 386 computer with a 14.40 modem so I raced home after class to see if I could get more information. I couldn't enter chatrooms or see much graphics on this computer, but the information was all there, clear and accessible. It was amazing! I found a link to Freeminds.org but I had to wait an eternity for the page to load. When it did I remember my reaction when I saw the graphic of the eye with prison bars on it. I was just beside myself. I remember reading the stories on Support Group and how I could relate so well to almost all of them. I briefly made an email contact with someone from Argentina on that site. Then I posted my picture and started posting on the discussion board and became very actively involved. Oh yeah, and I did order Crisis of Conscience from Amazon.com. Needless to say I handed in my DA letter June of 1998.
It was over. Done. No more depression, no more anxiety attacks, I had enough!
Thanks for letting me share!