#WhyILeft Fundamentalism, Part 4

Source: invisigoth88, Deviant Art.

Continued from part 3

Can You meet me in my room?
A place where I feel safe
Where I don’t have to run away
Where I can just be me. – TFK, In My Room

I was like a kid on an adventure the first night in the new apartment.

The second or third night, I called Cynthia B. crying and homesick. She said it was normal and part of growing up.

Until 2012, I never spent a night away from home without my parents. Then I stayed at a friend’s house one weekend in June before leaving.

And I had no idea how to cook.

My first roommate taught me how to make ramen in the microwave.

Dad always worried I’d burn myself on the stove or slice open my finger. Or spill something. I begged them to teach me throughout my teen years. I even planned a dinner when I was 14 and brought Mom the recipes, but Dad didn’t let me.

I started seeing through the cracks, saw how much fear had controlled all of our lives.

I biked to school and rode the bus for the first three months. Then my parents gave me back part of the money so I could buy a car in November 2012.

My second roommate taught me how to live paycheck to paycheck, how to find cheap, gluten-free food when I discovered I was allergic like her.

In April 2013, I found Spiritual Abuse Survivors blog network through a friend and soon after, Homeschoolers Anonymous.

I read about more gentle parenting methods at Permission to Live.

Through reading blogs and talking to friends, I learned it’s not normal to spank your children until they stop crying because crying is “rebellious” and leaving bruises and teaching your child to cover them is also considered abuse.

Most people, even those who grew up in church like me, weren’t spanked until they were 14 and threatened with a belt until age 18.

I started dealing with my dark side, confronting why I self-harmed.

A school counselor helped me through the first year, and my Christian counselor later came out of retirement briefly and my parents and I went to group counseling summer 2013.

Because…my parents did not back down because I left.

The first Sunday after leaving, I went down the street to visit a new church.

My family drove by while I was walking down the sidewalk, rolled down the car windows, and shouted, “Just remember, Bob Jones is still available!”

My dad sent me advertisements for cars he would buy for me if I went to Bob Jones. And a deluge of letters and text messages and emails and phone calls pleading for me to reconsider the first year I was away. My parents dropped by the Science Center on campus while I was tutoring, bringing gifts and asking me to come back.

My anxiety issues spiraled, but my professors understood, giving me extensions.

Heart and brain argued on where to draw the line. I loved my parents, but I wasn’t a child anymore. I didn’t want to have to choose between my family and my adulthood.

Which is why I identified with Tirzah’s story on Homeschoolers Anonymous last week: “Only in my mom’s sad world of jumbled theology would moving out be akin to losing one’s family.”

Everyone told me that my freedom would have a price.

But some days, I ache, wishing my family understood me. Understood my heart.

Understood that I don’t write to condemn them, I write because I’m in pain. I write because I want our relationship to change and heal. I write, pleading with other homeschool parents, “Please, don’t do this to your kids.”

I’m told that blogs are biased, I’m accused of not showing both sides.

So I’m including three open letters between me and my parents and one of the more impersonal ones my sister sent. Quotes can be taken out of context, so here is the entire conversation.

Right now, my relationship with my family is inconsistent. We talk sometimes. They help in a pinch, but I fear control creeping in again.

But I know they don’t accept me or approve of me. Nothing seems to count now. Not being self-sufficient, not holding steady jobs, not graduating college this spring. Not my passion for journalism or theater.

It’s like my leaving was an earthquake, and now a canyon lies between us.

But I found others on this side of the canyon, too.

Friends who later asked me to help them escape their own boxes. Professors who encouraged my independence, who had life phase changes of their own in college. My pastor friend in Texas who listened to my story and made me want to try church again.

In July 2013, I told Lissi on G-chat:

You know what?

I realized something yesterday.

I don’t think my family is my family anymore.

I mean, I will always love them, and they are blood.

They are my kin.

But they are not the family I grew up with anymore. That is now changed forever.

My “family” now emotionally is more like Ducky [my second roommate], you, the two Cynthias, other close friends, and my professors.

You all treat me more like family and support me more than my own family does.

I think this realization makes me more okay with emotionally separating from my family, too.

Because at least I have you all. ❤

She replied, “Ahhh… the Chosen Family realization.”

Yes, the fight was worth it. Now I am free. Free indeed.


Part 1 | Part 2 | Part 3 | Part 4



16 thoughts on “#WhyILeft Fundamentalism, Part 4

  1. You are so brave and strong and beautiful. Your story is so important to hear. I pray that your parents read it some day and have a heart change. I do think your mom is a lovely women but she is suffering from domestic violence and probably 1. Doesn’t realize it or 2. Doesn’t know how to get out.
    I have a lot of regrets on how I raised my older kids. I just wasn’t “present” for them emotionally. All I ever did was try and keep them in a box because j was afraid to let them fly and make their own mistakes. I hurt them and I’m deeply saddened by it; however, there has been a lot of healing in my relationships with my kids and we are doing so much better. I long for good relationships with them now. I hope that your parents feel the same way some day about you. Relationships are so important. You are wonderful E. Thank you for sharing.

    Liked by 1 person

  2. Eleanor, I think you are so brave. Thank you for sharing this. It’s so interesting to me how much I relate. I didn’t consider my family super strict, but reading those letters I was surprised by the thoughts coming up. The reminders of all the similar manipulation I experienced, my tendency to believe my parents overall. Some of what your mom said reminded me so heavily of my own mom. She’s in a bit better of a place now but I still worry about her.
    I’m so glad you shared this with me, it’s been super helpful for me to read, and also I am just really inspired by your courage. Keep writing. I hope to hear you at HearHere soon 🙂

    Liked by 1 person

  3. I’m a fairly old guy who never had to deal with anything close to the existence you have described, but even so I recognize it as an extreme form of what most people (including me) deal with as they inevitably separate from their parents and start to live their adult lives. The extremity of your situation is augmented by the homeschooling and the religious aspects, as you’re obviously aware, but again, I think a much milder version of this process is more common than is acknowledged. Parents are just flawed people with their own emotional needs, not the selfless caregivers we often portray them as. They’re no more selfless than couples who are in love with each other. You care about the other person, but also can desperately need things from them, including the need to feel they need you, and sometimes that need to be needed gets translated into a need to control.

    I have no children, but watching some of my friends deal with their children growing up and leaving for college, and maybe not doing everything exactly as their parents imagine they should, has reminded me of couples who spend too long breaking up, as one person starts to move on. It’s an unhealthy period, even if hopefully usually much less extreme than the experiences you have described.

    I wish you luck.

    Liked by 1 person

  4. The sentence, “God may not be patient with you much longer” from the first letter horrifies me and speaks for itself of the spiritual harm you experienced, and makes your struggles will self harm so clear in the context. Grace is a gift, given freely. I’m so happy that you are able to accept that gift and live abundantly.

    Liked by 2 people

  5. Each day that I sat in the front office, people would come by and ask, “What’s with these people? They travel in a pack and wear skirts to the floor with tennis shoes! Those kids are scared of everyone and everything! Are they Amish? Are they Mormon? Just what is with that family? They have assimilated you in your clothes! You used to dress so cute, but now…!” LOL! I was late to work one day for reasons beyond my control, so your dad gave me a watch. I’ve never worn watches, I’ve tried, but they bother me. I didn’t wear the watch, so your dad gave me another, which I graciously thanked him for and told him I had one. Since I wasn’t wearing it, he “assumed” I had lost it. They showed up with five minutes notice to my home with a turkey as a gift, but left the children in the car. I can only assume that this was to be sure my home was acceptable. The look on your dad’s face was priceless, as he had spoken many times about how much he dislikes the color green, and my main room is painted bright green. They never did let the kids come in, maybe you took yourself out of the car and came in, I can’t remember. I hope he learned a lesson about opinions and tastes and judgements. Everytime I pass by that Chinese restaurant, I’m reminded of the time they invited me to lunch to meet a pediatric dentist, then embarassed me to death by having me sit with the children at another table. I saw that dentist at an open house later and he asked me if I’d left that office yet. I received letters from your mom like the ones you have, accusing me of speaking badly about her family, wrongly accusing me of lying, saying Dr. Skelton gave me gifts to earn my respect. These letters were sent certified and my rebuttals were returned to sender. When your dad spoke of his sister who was elderly and had never left home, never married, I feared that for your future. I am happy, so happy that you have broken those chains. I remember your dad saying that the world’s problems are a result of people not honoring their children. I hope he will honor you someday.
    You are an incredible young woman, exuberant and loving. I too was horrified by “God may not be patient with you much longer”, as if, in her perfection, your mother can know the mind of God, but she left herself a safety net with the ‘may’. I too, am so happy that you are able to accept God’s gifts and grace in your life. I hope someday, you find it in your heart to paint something green! I love you, beautiful, quirky, funny, sweet Eleanor, just the way you are. I believe that God will always be patient with you. Be good to yourself. Thank you for your incredible story.

    Liked by 2 people

  6. Eleanor…..want to extend a HUG to you. We met while you were holding a sign at GBC 1/23/15. Just want to tell you, I think you are interesting and courageous.

    Liked by 1 person

  7. Eleanor, I just finished reading your four-part series on leaving fundamentalism; it is a heartbreaking story. I’m sure you have already discovered that there are VERY MANY who have left fundamentalism, but have not left Jesus. Your journey out of fundamentalism is different from mine, but I think we are on the same road.

    Liked by 1 person

  8. Eleanor, I am so glad you are on the “other side” now. How far from the canyon’s edge, really only God knows. (But aren’t you glad of that, because He ultimately knows where you’re headed.) However, it’s safe to say that you are on the move AWAY from that precarious precipice.

    My family wasn’t the “conventional” fundy family, but the toxin seeped in quickly and deeply, and my family and I still deal with the baggage that periodically unzips itself over 16 years after we started our exodus from my fundy childhood church (I was the first to do so at the age of 24). At the time I didn’t know it, but I am now glad that my dad wasn’t the churchgoing type; he and my mom helped me become the strong, independent, and compassionate woman I am today. Nowadays, there are times I wish my dad had attended that church, just so he would have yanked us out and made us find a healthier church; but I digress–God had a purpose in it. To use a phrase frequently sung by Ms. Clarkson (which I always enthusiastically lip sync), what doesn’t kill you does make you stronger.

    I am by no means an expert, or someone who has a calling to do what you and my fellow PCC alum Dale Fincher do. But I can say that I “was once lost, but now am found, was blind but now I see,” and I have learned to forgive them, for they sadly know not what they do.

    Eleanor, I encourage you to just keep putting one foot in front of the other; learning how to walk in health, balance, and freedomw takes much time and intentional practice. 🙂


  9. It’s incredibly interesting how self-styled religious people cherry pick the scripture to morph it to mean what they themselves want in this world.

    “I distrust those people who know so well what God wants them to do, because I notice it always coincides with their own desires.” – Susan B. Anthony

    Ever wonder why they don’t explain why the kingdom of heaven didn’t come before everyone had died who’d heard him?


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