How long did it take you to decide to disassociate?
I had serious doubts for a long time but it was after I had a child and realized that I couldn't raise her in the religion the way I was. I didn't formally write a letter. I just stopped going to meetings and as I became more able, I was more vocal about not wanting to be a Witness.
How has this impacted on you?
I had a lot of conflict about it. I'm a 3rd gen on my mom's side and a 4th gen on my dad's side. So, all of my immediate and extended family were attached to it in some way. My husband is still an active member. It's been hard on my marriage, and I did a lot of therapy in order to have the support to work through my fears and anxieties. Now, though - some 15 years or so later? No anxiety or depression meds, and I'm very comfortable living my own truth.
Has your mental health in any way been affected since you disassociated? Eg if being shunned by family.
As mentioned above, at first I dealt with a lot of depression and anxiety until I was able to de-program that inner critic constantly condemning me for the decisions I'd made. It took awhile for me to verbalize my feelings about leaving to my mom and she definitely pulled away from me for a long time. My step-dad pretty much cut me off. I was living in a different state from my other relatives, so the distance made it easier to move on.
Do any of your current JW relatives associate with you? And if so to what degree?
My mom is getting up in years and will associate with me -- I think she sees it as my duty to be there for her and she has to allow that. I think because I didn't formally write a letter, I'm not "officially" (in her eyes) disfellowshipped or disassociated. It's all semantics but the formality (or lack thereof) of my leaving has allowed the door to remain open.
Do you feel your life is better now that you are completely free of the watchtower?
Yes. Even though my husband is still active, we've come to a place where he doesn't discuss the congregation or issues around the religion, and I don't ask. Religion is not a subject we engage in discussion about much. I went to college in 2006, completed a BA, then an MA, and am working on a PhD now. I feel like I'm living my authentic self now and, even if he doesn't think I'm right in leaving the religion, he can see I'm more happy and satisfied with my life now.
Do you ever get panic attacks about Armageddon or that you left "the truth"?
I did at first but when I went through the major depressive episode that led to being in therapy and working through my "stuff" - much of which was my feelings about the organization and not wanting to be in it anymore - those panic attacks dissipated. I don't believe that Armageddon is "around the corner" and I refuse to live my life in a constant state of fear. So, the panic attacks went away too. It took a long time to let go of the fear that being a JW asserts into your life. That kind of fearful anxiety is not normal.