Hi, I'm Valerie from NYC, and I've been "free" from the JWs now for about 14 years. I put "free" in quotes because although I stopped going to meetings when I was about 17, I lived in fear of dying at Armageddon for many years (1975 had come and gone, but surely, the Great Tribulation was going to come any minute!) Then one day my sister gave me a copy of "Free Minds Journal," a newsletter that a dear man named Randy Watters was publishing for ex-JWs. This was pretty much "pre-Internet" (does anyone remember life before the Internet? It's fuzzy to me...LOL.) BTW, Randy's website, www.freeminds.org, is a really great place to get good books and up-to-the-minute information and research. He still publishes the newsletter, and it's just as good as always.
Well you could have knocked me over with a feather...after reading a couple of newsletters I got turned on to David Reed's "Comments from the Friends," another newsletter, then I ordered some books, and then the scales fell from my eyes and I realized with sickening horror that I was a brainwashed victim of a mind-control cult, and all this stuff that had been pounded into me from childbirth (yes, I'm a "native" ex-JW, born and raised) was WRONG and FALSE and that I and my family had been deceived by an evil false prophet.
Finally, I could stop sweating when I heard about an earthquake, or a flood or famine. For so many years, I was so sure I was doomed that I led a life... well let's just say I threw all caution to the wind since I thought I was going to die any minute anyway. I got caught up with some people who weren't good for me and some other stuff that was...never mind. I'm lucky to be alive, I think. But now, I realized I could actually enjoy the life that was given to me. I got a hold of a "real" Bible instead of that doctored up old green thing and found the scripture in Ephesians where it says that our salvation is a free gift from God. I didn't have to "earn" it by slaving for some man-made organization that inserted itself as a mediator between me and Jesus. I also went into psychotherapy, which helped immensely.
All well and good, except that I was still caught up in a lot of guilt (that was the last to go.) I had ailing parents (JW, but they didn't shun me because they needed me to take care of them). I will spare you all the details of what I had to go through for YEARS, all the hospitalizations, heart attacks, operations, psych ward episode, no blood transfusion hell, etc., suffice it to say all my free time went to taking care of them and visiting them. I was diagnosed with depression, anxiety, dangerously high blood pressure and was drinking way too much. (I went on meds and I'm OK now.)
When my father died in 1996, my mother had progressed pretty far with dementia, and finally she went to a beautiful assisted living facility in Florida where my sister took the responsibility for her care. She died in 2001. Interestingly, her dementia freed her from the JWs. She remembered who she was and the long-ago past, but no longer cared one iota about the organization. She partied at the "home" and had a boyfriend, attended the Christmas party, and sent me (at my sister's urging) birthday cards.
Well, between the guilt and taking care of my parents, I didn't have my own life except for a career and my own place. I didn't get married nor have children. When my parents were finally gone, I started to build my life (better late than never!) I joined the Episcopal Church, which I love because it is very free and non-judgmental, no one is forced to believe anything they don't want, and I met lots of really good friends there. I also met my ex-husband there; I'd known him for years and we had a whirlwind romance and eloped in Hawaii. What a mistake! The first year was OK, but then his anger began to surface and it ended badly two years later with my black eye and his arrest. Nuff said.
Eventually I also got hooked up at this board, first when it was Tishie's and now Randy and Rap's. Thanks to all three of them, this place has been a Godsend and really helped me get rid of some lingering sh... er, I mean stuff. I also like helping other people get OUT. Being with other exJWs feels good.
I've since met the most wonderful man in the world who treats me like gold. He tells me every day he's the luckiest man in the world. I feel pretty lucky too, I'm really in love and in a healthy relationship for the first time in my life. I'm currently chasing a Master's degree in interpersonal communications at NYU. I have four cats (3 Abyssinians, which explains why I wish everyone an "Aby Birthday" LOL), one gerbil, a surly parakeet, and an aquarium (children come in all shapes and forms.)
I know this is getting long, but I have to mention my childhood (or what passed for one, anyway.) Nobody but another native JW can understand how awful it is to be raised one. Being hit for yawning during two-hour boring meetings. Beautiful sunny summer Saturday mornings slogging the streets banging on doors trying to peddle trash for a billion-dollar publishing company, being bitten by dogs and chased by nuts with baseball bats (true.) Followed by a Sunday of personal study and meetings. Every weekend shot to hell!! Plus two other nights a week! School? I can't even go there. Sheer and utter torture. I was really starting to hate this Jehovah dude. Seven days a week of my life I was completely and utterly miserable. And let's not even talk about the conventions....how sick were they??
And I was one of the lucky ones! My father was "inactive" and my mother wasn't a rabid JW, but I was still forced to live by all the rules. I do have some good childhood memories (vacations mostly), and my mom and dad loved me and tried to be good parents, but man oh man, does it ever suck to be a JW kid. I have to keep reminding myself that my parents were victims too, and they did what they thought they had to do to save themselves and their children.
I loathed being a JW. However, I believed it was "the truth" (I hate that phrase SO MUCH), so I decided I'd rather be dead and dust than live forever with nothing but other JWs around me. An eternity of being a JW? No thank you!! That's when I stopped going to meetings.
I tried to commit suicide once; it was when I was about 14 and had a furious fight with my mother because I refused to go to the book study and I was too large to drag by the hair. She stormed off without me (my father only went to the public talk, and then only to keep peace.) He was watching TV. I was so miserable, I just wanted to die. Being a JW was literally killing me. I went into the bathroom and locked the door and emptied the contents of my mother's Valium bottle into my mouth and filled a glass with water. I spit them out at the last minute... only because I didn't think there were enough of them to do the job and I didn't want to wake up a vegetable, and still a JW. I never tried anything like that again.
To end on a light note, everyone wants to know why I use "PurpleV." All I can say is that it has something to do with the Purple People Eater, and I'll leave you with a little Mona Lisa smile.