My leaving home was painful, considering I was ostracized by my family (I was called the 'prodigal daughter') for leaving to 'live in sin' with my boyfriend (check out my blog post "I say this to you in LOVE" for just one example: http://www.atheistnexus.org/profiles/blogs/i-say-this-to-you-in-lov...). I was still a Christian at the time, so I was actually planning to save myself for marriage and had never intended to move in with him. All I wanted was for my family to act like good Christians for my boyfriend's sake, who was struggling at the time in his home life (he wanted to finish school, but felt pressured to quit because of his drug addict mother who was not owning up to HER responsibilities. He was used to this lifestyle, and therefore didn't expect help from anyone- but I wanted it for him - I thought that good church-going people would care enough to help in his sort of situation).

My mom was too focused on the fact that he wasn't raised in a Christian home and that by dating, we were headed down a dangerous path that could lead to us being 'unequally yoked'. (He wasn't a Christian, but he was very idealistic - the types Christians tend to love - and open to some ideas in Christianity. He did eventually accept Jesus as his savior, but this still wasn't good enough for her.) She didn't care a thing about getting know him, and actually RARELY referred to him by his name (he was always 'that boy' to her). When he became a Christian, she was even angrier - and had concluded that it must be a lie. ("well, we shall see - by their fruits we shall know them!")

I wasn't allowed to see him outside of a church/christian activities (she hated that he was there, but there wasn't really much she could do about it) but going to church even became difficult because of the judgmental glares of many of the members. Some of them simply felt uncomfortable because they didn't know how to be around us - they didn't want to get on my mom's bad side, but they were quietly excited that he was there and interested in Christianity. Others only knew him by what my mother said (and she talked a lot, to everyone).

It was so frustrating for me - still viewing the world through Christian lenses, I was so happy that he was interested in my beliefs, but couldn't stand that these supposed 'Christians' weren't doing their part. I think it was mostly my mother's influence but to me, it was still no excuse.

This situation solidified his idea (OUR idea, at the time) that Christianity is good, but its Christians are often bad representatives. This mindset stuck around for quite some time and led me to a more liberal brand of Christianity, spiritual explorations outsides of Christianity, and eventually agnosticism.

I had never planned on moving out seriously, but did fantasize about it. Moving in with my boyfriend was out of the question (even for me at the time), but I knew I couldn't deal with the emotional stress involved in not being allowed to freely date (my mom liked all of the good little church boys who were either secretly playboys, pompous assholes, or often a mixture of the two. I had a tendency to see deeper than the surface.) My mom claimed that when I turned 18, she would no longer control me that way. I knew she'd still treat me poorly, but I figured she'd eventually mellow out once we were officially dating.

My 18th birthday came and went. Yes, I was allowed to freely date ... but she took her anger out on me full force. It got to a point where I felt that I needed to avoid home as often as possible because whenever I was there, I was made to feel like a slut (even though I was actually still a virgin - not that she believed that), a rebel, a sinner, etc etc. I dealt with that for a while, at some point, I knew that I needed an out. The guilt trips, I couldn't deal with and the gossip, I just didn't have the energy to compete with (by the time I even had a chance to tell my side of the story, others had already formed opinions. My mom is loud, opinionated and talkative; I have always been quiet and easy-going.) The last straw was when she began holding things over my head (learning to drive, my education, and various other things). This is when I was ready to admit what a part of me knew all along- that it was not going to get better. I realized I needed to either choose to a) submit completely to the life she wanted for me or to b) go my own way. There was no middle ground. Obviously, I chose 'b' - and it's the best decision I've ever made.

I felt guilty for it at first, but moving in with my boyfriend was the only option, since even though some friends wanted to help, they felt they shouldn't get involved. Living with him was a great learning experience though, as it exposed me to a lifestyle that I didn't even know existed, having lived in such a bubble all my life. His home life was the opposite extreme. I had to wise up quickly in order to survive it! Our goal then became to get out of that living situation and make a better life for ourselves. During this time, I had a whole new set of issues - so those frequent 'lifestyle-bashing' letters from family members and the 'appeals' from the church (apparently there is a such thing as 'church-court' at my church, where the elders and pastor review your 'case'. From my understanding, I would have had to repent, change my lifestyle, and then they would have decided whether or not to cancel my church membership. lol - I didn't respond to these letters.) became more annoying than anything else. It took a couple of years, but we did achieve this goal. We didn't have much, but we got out. He was able to get his GED (since he did end up dropping out of high school to get a job in order to pay the rent), moved up north, got a place with some friends ...

At this point, he was still the same 'spiritual' guy - against organized religion, and believing firmly that God exists. I, on the other hand, having had plenty of time to deal with the pain, therefore finally able to look back and reflect on what had actually happened and analyze my feelings on everything, was no longer sure. I began to embrace the more rational voice that had been suppressed for so many years (due to the negative reactions to my questioning as a child). As much as I loved my boyfriend (he truly was/is a good person) and as connected to him that I was in the sense that we had been through so much together, I realized that I had changed so much, so quickly ... and found that mentally, we were on two different wavelengths. I saw good in him, and that was the emphasis all along - but had concluded that, having been so focused on 'the fight' (the fight to be together and then the fight to have a better life together) I had little time to contemplate what I even wanted in a man (he was my first boyfriend, after all). I didn't even know myself, back then, let alone anything about personality compatibility.

Maybe for some couples, a past is enough to keep them together (ours certainly was strong enough to where that could have worked) ... but I craved too deeply to connect with to him on levels that simply weren't possible. It was hard to leave him because he always so good to me and I cared so much for him. Thankfully, it worked out for the both of us and we were able to come to a mutual understanding, both cherishing our past together and accepting where/how things had ended. For that, we have been able to remain good friends. We have also both moved on and are in new relationships (and have been for a couple years now), but keep in touch, even still, whenever we can. :) He is a father now, living the simple yet happy life that he always wanted, while I am on my quest for higher learning.

As for the pain connected to losing my family, I am pretty much over it. I have alienated myself from family due to being ostracized (although, to them, I am the heartless one who has little to do with family 'for reasons they can't comprehend'), and as painful as that was at first (losing my 'support system' - even though they never really felt like one) I am used to it and am finally at peace with it. I have like-minded friends now who are more of a 'family' then they ever were anyway, so that decreases the little desire there might have been to go back, having experienced for myself what healthy relationships are supposed to be like. My aunt (whom I was rarely allowed to associate with during childhood since she was not religious) contacted me after she found out that I left home and has been there for me emotionally ever since. Basically, I have all the friends and family I need. So, negative feelings connected to loss of community have *mostly* faded. There are shadows every once in a while (does one ever truly get over their own mother not liking them?) but I am fine where it counts.

My current issue is that I want to get into a good school, and have wanted to for quite some time. I've been forced to put it off, all for reasons connected to my parents. I don't want to be angry - I know it doesn't do any good. Sometimes I am okay, but when I struggle, I think of why and it sets me off.

First is that since my parents home-schooled me (they took me out of public school before I would have started high school), I have not been properly educated. I have come to realize how much I have missed, having been taught from a curriculum based on the Christian world-view. Even with the subjects that you can't really go wrong on (like math), apparently I wasn't taught all that I should have been (I don't think my mother was technically qualified to teach a high school student).

I now have to work extra hard to catch myself up JUST so that I'll be able to get a decent score on the SAT (I was never required to take it in home school).

Second is the fact that my education has been held over my head. According to FAFSA, I am considered dependent on my father's income, even though I do not and have not lived with them in years, until the age of 24. Since my dad makes A LOT, this means I will not qualify for the financial aid that, in reality, I desperately need. My mom knows this, but doesn't care. In her mind, it's my 'bad decisions' that have made things difficult.

This one doesn't make me as angry anymore, considering the waiting has been useful in the sense that I have time to prepare my brain.

Third is the fact that learning to drive has been such a hassle. When I lived at home, my parents were teaching me to drive, until I met my boyfriend. My mom held that, as well as certain other freedoms, over my head as one of her many attempts to manipulate me. My learners permit eventually expired and I had no way of getting a new one. When I moved in with my boyfriend, no one in his family even owned a car, so it didn't really matter anymore. Not to mention, I had more important concerns. When we moved out of state (in a more rural area where we NEEDED a car), he was able to obtain a license, but since we both had to work a lot to get by, I never got around to getting one myself. He drove us wherever we needed to go. I got my learners, and he took me out driving when we had the time, but that was as far as I got with it.

Since we have separated, my current boyfriend has been teaching me to drive. I should be taking my road test soon, it's just a matter of finding the time (again, we both work a lot, and different hours most of the time).

It's so hard to get started in life without help from family. I witness normal families on a daily basis ... and I see mothers excited for their kids' visits home from college ... mothers taking daughters out driving, wishing them luck on their road test ....fathers helping sons pay for their first car ... basically, families being supportive. It all reminds me of how cheated I was.

I know I need to get over it and just accept that I chose a difficult path. I KNEW going into it that it wouldn't be easy. It's just hard - I am not where I want to be, and even getting where I am (which is pretty far from where I started) took A LOT of work. I appreciate everything my ex boyfriend, current boyfriend and friends have done and are doing to help me ... but I feel like such a burden to them for needing so much ... and when the guilt over that takes over, it leads me to the angry source. Everyone that knows the situation says that I have a right to be angry. I don't like being angry though (what purpose does it serve?) ... but I have yet to see how exactly NOT to be. :-/ Sometimes I'm okay, but when it hits ... it hits hard!

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Replies to This Discussion

Tai- Thank you for sharing your story. You have been through a lot and you are continuing to have many hurdles. Despite feeling defeated, overwhelmed and alone, you have come a long way. You have been able to find support system though I know it is not the same as having the support of your parents.
I, and I suspect many others, have felt cheated. I was a left handed, fat, gay kid raised in a Free Will Baptist world. ( I mention the left handed thing just to show how even more different I felt.) I have been shunned for being gay by the religion and for being fat by the gay world and my family. It is ironic that I am now a lefthanded, fat, gay, atheist psychiatrist. Go figure. Freud would have a heyday with that. :=).

Anger is a normal, healthy emotion. Anger becomes a problem if we don't know what to do with it. I think that is your issue, as it is with all of us at times. Even when we try to deny being angry or try to not be angry, we will be. Pushing it out of our minds just makes it simmer and later boil over. Dealing with it is a healthier solution than not dealing with it. There is purpose to anger. Anger can be motivating, clarifying and can allow us to move on. Saying that, sometimes it can take a long time for the anger to diminish and sometimes it does not go totally away but it becomes more manageable. Choosing the rational, moral route can definitely be more difficult. Being the minority can feel like a uphill battle.

When we are feeling angry, alone, hurt, annoyed, spat upon, lost and just plain pissed, we need to hold onto each other by venting, by continuing to live honestly, by keeping supportive people around us and by not letting the bastards get the best of us.

It sounds like as time proceeds, you will be able to obtain a student loan and then go to college.
You will reach your goals. Don't give up.

Phil
Thanks for your reply, Phillip. :)

This site, and this group particularly, has exposed me to many different experiences (quite a few that I consider to be far more extreme than my own) and that is helpful in relieving any lingering feelings of loneliness. I knew even before that I wasn't alone, but feelings don't always care what the brain knows as fact. It also helps to have others confirm that my path is okay. I feel guilty for needing that sort of confirmation, though. Even though I know on some level that it's silly, I think to myself what Christians might think about my doubts. "Of course you doubt your path and need the approval of fellow sinners - isn't that proof enough that your way is wrong?!"

In my fantasies, I am strong and independent. Needing conformation goes against this strong idea of who I'd like to be. On one hand, I can see that there's nothing wrong with needing a little support once in a while. There must be a limit, though? I'm stuck between still feeling like the victim (or that I want to be viewed as such), needing to be coddled and reassured and the realization that I could be even stronger because my past and that I need to use what I've gained to push past it all.

It's been years - what's happened has happened and to wallow there is meaningless (as far as I can tell). It doesn't make any sense to linger here, and I can see that. Why then is it so difficult to leave behind, even still? I wonder if I am on some level afraid to be successful - all my life, I've had to fight and struggle (mentally and emotionally) in order to express my true self. Even though I've gained small pieces of what I'd wanted, which are small successes that should lead up to the bigger goals, I'm still far behind, at least in my mind. I think I may be stuck in a pattern that, as miserable as it is much of the time, has become increasingly familiar, and therefore 'comfortable', in sense. Do you think maybe I am afraid to be better? I know it sounds silly, but I get in my own way often enough (and in such extreme ways), that I really question myself as to why that would be. It really is ridiculous.

"Anger becomes a problem if we don't know what to do with it. I think that is your issue"

Yes - I think I agree. Many of the darker emotions connected to my experiences in Christianity (as well as in general) I have been able to sexualize, which has proven a good way to vent, if nothing else. Anger and guilt are the two emotions I have most trouble dealing with. My boyfriend used to have the same problem with anger (not knowing what to do with it) until he learned that it could serve as 'fuel' in constructive activities. I see how this is a good thing, but it's yet to work for me personally. Perhaps I haven't been truly trying, though.

"It is ironic that I am now a lefthanded, fat, gay, atheist psychiatrist. Go figure. Freud would have a heyday with that. :=)"

first off, I too am a lefty! (southpaws unite!) When I was really young, I remember feeling insecure about it (once trying to learn how to be a righty) but was never seriously ridiculed over it. In fact, it is one of the only 'differences' about myself that actually made me feels special in a good way.

I also had it easier being tiny and 'cute' all of my life. On the other hand, I think this is part of what made my mother so crazy, though (worrying that the world would be even more likely to steal me away from the light). I can't imagine though, not only being ridiculed by the Christian community, but by also, otherwise potential friends and sex partners. You had it worse than me, that's for sure. Sheesh, I had (have) a rough time dealing with rejection from family. I wonder if I could have even dealt with it from another group of people? Kudos to you for coming out of that, mind in tact. :)

"Freud would have a heyday with that. :=)."
This made me chuckle because of a fantasy I have of bringing Freud back to life for a little chat. I've exposed myself to many books about him and there are specific memories I can recall from childhood (ones that I was originally too ashamed to admit to anyone) that could definitely serve as evidence for some ideas he had that were apparently looked down on by many, like the 'Oedipus complex'. I'm not sure exactly what I think about it, but it's all very interesting to me.


I leave my options open, realizing that I have much learn and discover about myself, but as of now, I think mostly of majoring in psychology. Seeing first hand what can happen (to that person and those connected) when people allow the darker emotions absolute control in their lives (religion often gives an 'excuse' to do so) has inspired me, and I'd like to help others someday. I think right now, I have a lot to get over in my own life ... but this is a dream for the future. :)
Tai- Everyone has doubts, even those christians. So, they say that since you have doubts, then your path is wrong. Trust me, they have doubts also. So, then, they must be wrong also. This is example of the typical convoluted, hypocrytical arguments they use.

From everything you say, I see someone who is much further along than she thinks. You have doubts, you need reassurance, you feel lonely at times, you feel you should be further along than you are, you live in the past at times, you live in the future at times and you even live in the present at times. Hmmm.....you sound like all of us. We are all like this at varying levels. The intensity waxes and wanes through our lives depending on stressors, achievements, relationships and many other triggers[i.e. Venus lining up with Mars :=)]. The one thing I have been trying to learn especially now that I am an atheist is that what matters is the journey, not the destination. All we can do is embrace the emotional roller coaster that gets less rocky as we go.
What I do is I keep reaching out to others(like you are), keep using rational self-talk to counteract the old tapes(like you are doing) and keep working on my everday activities so that I can reach my goals(like you are doing).
By the way, it would be interesting to talk to Freud but remember, he was more screwed up than we could ever be. Talk about Oedipal complex and neuroses(not to mention the drug use). But he did have some important contributions. So, even the neurotic(Freud and myself) can make significant contributions. :=)
Hi Tai, thank you for sharing about the difficult choice you made. I am glad you can look back and know you did the right thing.

My dream is to live a life without anger too. Anger is natural, but as you say it can hold us back to if we have no constructive way to direct it. Especially since my wife is a Christian, I find I have to walk a fine line there.

By the way, I hope you find your way into a college one day. You write well, and I think you'd excel there.

Peace,
Round Peg
Nice to meet you, Round Peg!

"Especially since my wife is a Christian, I find I have to walk a fine line there."

I can imagine that being difficult. I remember a woman from my church whose husband never came along. I remember how everyone felt bad for her ... "this is why you shouldn't be 'yoked up with non-believers', my parents would say. I guess she encouraged him to come along with her all the time, but he never would ... so he was silently judged as the 'hard-hearted' husband and she was the 'victim' trying her very best be lead him toward the light. Sheeesh, I can't get over how different it looks from the outside! Now I feel bad for the poor atheists, just trying to live in the light of truth! lol (As a child, I was scared of atheists :-)

Another thing I dislike about these sort of situations is that 'outsiders' are not good. They can't be ... 'they don't love Jesus'. So Christians become fixated on that (they have to because of that mindset), while blind to any good traits. They say they reach out in love, but they can't see you for who you are ... they can only see you as a sinner. That's what makes a relationship with my mom impossible - she's in so deep. I just hope that your wife isn't quite this bad off - and that she can at least see past enough to see you for who you are.

"By the way, I hope you find your way into a college one day. You write well, and I think you'd excel there."

Oh, thank you! :) Even though I do enjoy writing, I hope to get better at math also. I may not ever excel there, but I'll feel accomplished once I have filled in some of these learning gaps and get past some of these mental blocks. I also really want to understand science - that subject was the biggest NO-NO in home-school! ;)
It's nice to meet you too!

"I remember a woman from my church whose husband never came along."

That's me to a tee. I still tagged along to church and home group at first after my de-conversion, for solidarity purposes, and because I felt bad for my wife. But I haven't attended now for a couple years; I just can't do that anymore (except I did promise to make a rare appearance there next week - it'll be another 60+ minute hell & brimstone sermon I'm sure).

"I just hope that your wife isn't quite this bad off - and that she can at least see past enough to see you for who you are."

She can sort of see me for who I am, just like I can sort of see her through the Christianity she embraces. But there's no deep connection between us, and we both feel it. Actually we've had a tumultuous marriage through and through, but that's another story.

"I appreciate everything my ex boyfriend, current boyfriend and friends have done and are doing to help me ... but I feel like such a burden to them for needing so much"

I think that's just human interdependence, taking and giving... one of the most beautiful things in the whole world probably.
I didn't know if you were aware of special circumstances that could allow you to not give your parents information for FAFSA. Also apply for as many grants as you can, it may not come to fruition quickly for you but don't give up on your education.
I looked into the special circumstances, but apparently my dependency could have only been overridden had I been emancipated as a minor. Maybe it's possible that certain schools are a bit more open as to what qualifies as a 'special' circumstance, but the two schools I asked weren't. I think it's dumb the way they do things. If my parent's don't claim me on their taxes, why should it matter?

Oh, getting married or having a child would have also declared me independent. no kiddies for me though (not any time soon anyway) ... but I joked about marrying my friend just to get into school at one point. ;)

I think I'll be okay. I'm not going to give up.:) I am going to wait until I'm 24 though (it's only a little over a year from now). It gives me lots of time to get better at math and to educate myself on anything else I've missed out on being home-schooled. I can say this for sure - once I do get into a university, I will appreciate it and work my ass off in order to succeed!
I see, 24 isn't that long off. I hope you get into the school and program you are hoping for and good luck!
Thanks again for telling your story. Anyone brought up in this garbage will no doubt have to sort some things out. From what I can tell you have pretty much done the heavy lifting. I know after going through so much you probably don't feel all that young, but trust me you are. You can now design your life free of all that nonsense. The good thing is this. There is no should have been. There is no supposed to be. We are not part of some grand experiment. We were not put here for anyone else. In fact, we were not put here at all. It took me a few more years that it has taken you to come to that, but I take great comfort in it. I was thirty before I decided that if this is only world and life that I am likely to experience, I had better start to find out a few things. I started with a basic mathematics review book in the local library. I am rapping up calculus 1 and my first chemistry class no problemo. You will be amazed what genuine intellectual curiosity can do. Start wherever you have to. Put down some good grades and you can pretty much transfer wherever you want. It's obvious to anyone reading you are on the right track and have your head on straight. You'll do it I have no doubt.

Keith

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