My Escape from Fundamentalism: A Story Told in Pictures

Earlier this week, I said I’d be posting memories from my escape.

Today I’m telling it in pictures. See captions.


May 20, 2012: I’ve just finished three years of college, and this is my last family vacation. We’re in Maine, around Kennebunkport and Camden.

I’m not allowed to take my laptop or cellphone so that my friends’ opinions cannot influence me.

Mom and Dad have a private chat with me about transferring from UCCS to Bob Jones.


July 28, 2012: My sister and I rode the Pikes’ Peak Cogwheel Railway up to the top. Our QuiverFull friends with 13 kids are visiting, so we went with them for the afternoon.

The parents are Bob Jones alum. All of their children have gone to Bob Jones or Clearwater Christian. They all are praying for me. They know I’m “struggling.”

I have been to Bob Jones. My parents took me to visit the campus on July 4, 2012. I hate it. It smells moldy and I feel like I might die there.

The Sunday before, my pastor told me that unmarried adult women have to obey their parents, that it is the same as honoring them.

I’m faking a smile. I’m so tired.

Credit: Mary Nikkel

August 3, 2012: I have only been moved out and in my own apartment a few days.

I had one final talk with my pastor on July 29th. He walks out on me and says he has nothing more to say to me because I am deceived by Satan.

I’m at pre-Moot, just before our annual CleanPlace writer’s conference.

Photo credit: Mary Nikkel

My sister is allowed to come, with my dad watching the whole time and questioning these “bad influences” who have encouraged me to move out.

It’s the last time I am allowed to see her for months. I won’t be able to talk to her much for the next two years.


June 26, 2013: I’ve been moved out nearly one year.

I have dyed my hair red. I’m going to a Disciple concert with my CleanPlace friends. (So scandalous!)

A handful of friends in oppressive churches and controlling families like mine have asked me for help. Some of them took shelter in my apartment with me and my roommate, Ducky, who was also homeschooled and isolated but got out.

I am healing. I am brighter.

I am learning how to fly on my own. That having fun isn’t wrong. That grace is real.


October 13, 2014: Two years out.

I am dating people. I have gauged my ears.

I am trying to finish college, despite my parents saying I’d never make it without their help. I have started blogging for Homeschoolers Anonymous.

I am enrolled in 20 credit hours. I have many conversations with my parents about how they have hurt me, which mostly end in me being frustrated and crying.

Three of my homeschooled friends are depressed and suicidal. They can’t live with their families anymore. They want to get out.

I am overwhelmed, but I am fighting.


September 28, 2015: I have moved over 1,000 miles away from my family.

I have dyed my hair blue. I have a tattoo.

I have walked in commencement at UCCS. I just need to finish a few classes at the college in Texas.

I am slowly going back to church, but to my childhood church where I feel safe. I’m figuring out all sorts of things about myself now that I’m back in my birthplace.

I call my pastor Mullet Jesus (long story, once upon a time when I was a child, he played Jesus in a play and he had an 80s mullet).

I don’t know exactly what I’m doing but I think I’m on the right path.


July 3, 2016: I have shaved the side of my head. I’ve been published on the Huffington Post.

I have been part of my church for almost a year. I am a theist with lots of doubts and questions, but I still just really love Jesus and I love people. I’m still Christian, but much more progressive. And I often do so-called pagan things like burning incense or sage because it’s soothing and smells nice and makes my apartment feel clean.

I’ve helped 11 other stay-at-home daughters like me get out. Some of them lived with me temporarily, some of them we gave advice and support.

It’s been four years since I left.

4 thoughts on “My Escape from Fundamentalism: A Story Told in Pictures

  1. I just found you today through a friend’s Facebook like, and I’ve been reading all afternoon. You’re making me feel less crazy. Most stories I had heard up to this point were just a shade too extreme for me to find relatable. Now I see just how extreme it all really was. THANK YOU. I write as well, trying to cope. Poetry is a beautiful way to heal.


  2. As always, dear Eleanor, I am proud of you! I admire your bravery! You’re still young and things will change so much, but you will always, always, always be a survivor! God bless you, El. Love you, my friend.

    Liked by 1 person

  3. Thanks for sharing your story. Fundamentalism has damaged a lot of people. My husbands was emotionally abused at a fundamentalist Independent Baptist private school as a child and it still effects him in some ways to this day. You are a very strong and intelligent person to have freed yourself and overcome so much!


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