I Am Learning To Love Myself: Mara’s Story, Part Two

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HA note: The author’s name has been changed to ensure anonymity. “Mara” is a pseudonym.

< Part One

Part Two

My mother probably has both undiagnosed bipolar and borderline, but her symptoms then were not as bad as they have gotten to be. She also is extremely intelligent and manipulative. Unless you know her, it’s very hard to see.

Appearance was huge in the church. They harped on gluttony as a major sin. Almost all of the girls in my family growing up were rail thin. My sister, who we later found out had a food allergy and intolerances, was not overweight by any means but just slightly heavier than all of us. My mother, who had been slightly overweight growing up, saw this as one of her greatest disappointments — a visible sin for all the church to see. She would get my sister up early in the morning to run on the treadmill, watch and restrict her diet, and spank her if she didn’t lose weight. My best friend, who also went through the loss of one of her closest friends and was big-boned but not overweight, would also be harped on her by her family for what they saw as sin.

The year before puberty — when fluctuating hormones cause bloating — was the worse for all of the girls at church. We would be sat down by parents and told that they were afraid we were gaining weight and that we needed to exercise more and watch our diet so that we weren’t sinning.

Almost all the girls in my family or in my best friend’s family have struggled with anorexia or bulimia at some point in time.

My mother would tell my sister that no one would want to be around her if she was fat and that people wouldn’t find her attractive. My sister became very reclusive — hiding in her rooms behind books or playing with animals, not people. When in public she would almost look down on others before they had a chance to tell her anything my mother said they would. My sister also hated all the ditzy little girls her age who played stupid to get attention, she hated attention and could not understand why they would want to attract it.

When I was 16, my best friend’s older sister (who I was close with) invited me to a birthday party she was having and didn’t invite my little sister. My mom believed in almost complete inclusivity and anytime our friends came over, we had to allow anyone who wanted to be with us in the room all the way down to the babies.

My mom took this exclusion personally and took all her anger at the other family out on me. She would get mad at me if I saw my best friend without taking my sister, even though my sister didn’t really want to go. She would tell me how I was in sin for not confronting my friend and her family for excluding my sister and then tell me I couldn’t tell anyone in the church about it because it might “embarrass” my sister. I was told that if I had a problem with her I could get “help” from my great-aunt who got offended and hurt for my mother if I said anything assertive or had any problem with my mother. After two or three years of this, I finally caved and told my best friend’s mom who ended up becoming a second mother to me. My mother left the church at this time and I kept going alone because my best friend went to this church. I didn’t have any other friends (as children we were told to tell people about 1 Cor 14 church and, if they didn’t immediately convert, it was sin to be spending time with them).

During this period of time, I started struggling with depression.

To deal with my father I had to turn off all emotion and feelings or he would sense it and use it against me. I couldn’t ever talk to him in any way unless I was challenging his actions toward my mom or my mom would become hurt and guilt us. My mother would become offended if I had any personal feelings and preferred me as her emotional caretaker than as her daughter. The church taught us that any negative feelings were a sin and it was our job to “take them captive.” Depression was viewed as a sin and medication the epitome of not trusting God – that it stemmed from some unknown root of bitterness that we were supposed to work out.

My mother’s swings became worse and worse and I started seeking an escape from that house. I was taught in church that we are under our family’s authority and if there wasn’t a bible verse contradicting what they were telling us to do, than we were supposed to do it. My mother didn’t want me to leave, so I felt chained down.

One thing that I am glad about is that all the fighting led my mother to both hate men and fantasize about them. She believed all of her girls needed to have a stable career as soon as possible so that they didn’t have to rely on men. She also believed that the school system repeated the last 2 years of high-school in college. So, when I was 15, I CLEP 5 college classes and, when I was 16 began prerequisites for nursing school. I finished at the age of 21 with a BSN in nursing and to this day, at the age of 26, I have had 8 years of hospital experience, 6 as an ER/ICU nurse. I am a hard worker and I can have a steady, self-supporting job anywhere I want at any time.

I met a boy through one of the extracurricular activities and we became close. He was a good, homeschooled, Christian boy who was very outspoken. He didn’t live in the area and, therefore, didn’t go to my church he just went to a regular church. He was very opinionated on what sin was and what it wasn’t and, after church, his whole family would stand around and talk about how the other members in the church were hypocrites and in sin. I had saved all of myself, first kiss and everything. We began “courting” or hanging out with each other’s family. But one thing led to another and he leaned in and kissed me one night despite my trying to wiggle free. I was 21 at the time and felt so guilty for kissing him, for tempting him and not staying strong enough, for being alone with him.

I didn’t tell anyone because I knew it would be my fault and I wouldn’t be allowed with him again.

Part Three >

I Didn’t Want to Be Broken, I Wanted to Be Whole: By Neriah

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I Didn’t Want to Be Broken, I Wanted to Be Whole: By Neriah

HA notes: The author’s name has been changed to ensure anonymity. “Neriah” is a pseudonym.

It’s with excitement that I’ve read all the articles posted on Homeschoolers Anonymous — yet I could never figure out which experience of my own to write about.

Until the mental health week.

I was anorexic from about age twelve to thirteen — honestly, the months are blurry and I can’t handle going back and reading my journals from that time to get a more precise number.

But, safe to say, for about a year I starved myself.

I dropped from around one hundred pounds down to seventy-nine; my body began to shut down. My hair and nails suffered, and my period stopped.  When I look at pictures from that time, I’m shocked — my body is gaunt, my bones protrude out, my face is ghostly. I was twelve and yet I could have passed for nine or ten years old.

Those are the biological details.

Once I began eating normally again (as in, being able to eat a bag of skittles without freaking completely out), the next six years were all about recovering mentally: shifting through feelings, engaging my family, etc. I was constantly depressed and unable to participate normally in social situations. My mind was upheaval—until I was twenty, I spent many, many days in a guilt-and-shame induced nausea.

I had no formal counseling. In fact, when I wrote a speech about my battle with anorexia for an NCFCA speech season, my mom read it and asked, “but did you ever struggled with anorexia?”

It was at that point that I realized I was on my own to sort through the mess in my mind.

Since then, I’ve spent a lot of time thinking about cause. While finding the origin of anything is tricky and often impossible, a significant factor has emerged in the past twelve years that I believe contributed my anorexia and concurrent mental issues: my religious background. In hindsight, my family’s constant emphasis on the Bible, for me, lead to drastic jumps in logic that reinforced my depression, shame and guilt.

Here are few logical fallacies (what I now realize are fallacies) that I’ve mulled over these past fifteen years:

1. If my body was my temple, I had intentionally ruined it by starving myself. I was therefore disrespecting God as the creator of my body. This all equaled shame and guilt—and fear.

2. I had always been a very strong-willed child—my mother commented that she had read James Dobson’s Strong Willed Child and she had a few chapters to add. Furthermore, my mother did not often deal with my passionate, argumentative nature well. Often, in the heat of frustration, she would lob Bible verses at me to convince me to change my behavior. Common ones include the following:

Proverbs 16:18, “Pride goes before destruction, and haughtiness before a fall.”

Exodus 20:12, “Honor your father and mother. Then you will live a long, full life in the land the LORD your God is giving you.”

She never quoted the following verse at me, but I had read the obscure (and more interesting parts!) of the Old Testament, so I remembered this one that terrified me:

Deuteronomy 21:18, “If a man have a stubborn and rebellious son, which will not obey the voice of his father, or the voice of his mother, and that, when they have chastened him, will not hearken unto them:  Then shall his father and his mother lay hold on him, and bring him out unto the elders of his city, and unto the gate of his place; And they shall say unto the elders of his city, This our son is stubborn and rebellious, he will not obey our voice; he is a glutton, and a drunkard. And all the men of his city shall stone him with stones, that he die: so shalt thou put evil away from among you; and all Israel shall hear, and fear.”

As a result of these verses, I began to believe that my anorexia was a punishment from God intended to turn me toward him and my parents.

It was my “pride” and “haughtiness” and my “lack of honor” that caused me to come into such problems. Thus, if I listened to what God was trying to teach me, the hardships and pain of anorexia would be instrumental in my walk with God— and my depression and guilt and shame would go away.

3. Once I saw the cause of my anorexia (namely, my sin and pride), I would be better. I tried to repent.

I would go forward at church, confessing my sins…..and I’d still feel crippling guilt.

I would read the Bible with discipline and focus…..yet I would still feel horrible depression that made it nearly impossible to get out of bed.

I would simply assume there was a hidden sin somewhere in my life causing me shame—something I hadn’t confessed yet. I searched my soul— wracked my brain. Prayed and prayed, and yet I still felt the urge to work nearly 50-60 per hours a week one summer because I simply could not handle being in a room alone with my racing mind.

I felt I could never repent enough to make the depression go away permanently.

Plus, with all the talk in Christianity about the benefits of “being broken” and how one must be broken in order to be used by God, etc, etc, etc—- I began to feel an impasse with my faith.

Hell, I didn’t want to be broken; I wanted to be whole.

It was at that point that I realized that Christianity and my religious background were not helping me overcome anything— instead, it provided the framework, the worldview to perpetuate these overwhelming waves of depression.

Thus, for me, I left Christianity behind. I believe in God, and yet I find the organized interpretations and literal approach to the Bible not only shallow, but dangerous. My depression and feelings and of guilt and shame have been helped with actual counseling, new “worldly” friends, and a fuller awareness of myself resulting from exposure to ideas in undergraduate and graduate studies.

The very places and people my church tried to save me from instead became my mental health salvation.

Sharing the Burden of the Pedestal: Renee’s Story

Sharing the Burden of the Pedestal: Renee’s Story

Renee was a student instructor on the 2004 Communicators for Christ tour.

I toured with CFC (now ICC) in 2004. It was a fast-paced, high-stress whirlwind of a tour, and it was one of the best of my highschool experiences.

Let me give you some context. I chose to start debating competitively in the HSLDA/NCFCA at the age of 12. I was introverted and shy, but learned how to be outgoing and adopt a care-free attitude. I trembled with fear at every cross-examination, but learned to project confidence. I had some natural ability, a lot of determination, and a successful older sibling who was well liked and respected in the league. I made it to octafinals at Nationals by my second year.

The following year began well: my partner and I (a girl/girl team) did well at several tournaments. People I barely knew started coming to watch my partner and me “in action” in preliminary rounds. They stopped cheering as loudly when we made it to the finals, because it was just expected that we would be there. They predicted that we would win the national tournament. We didn’t. Instead, I had a losing record for the first time in my life. The crowds disappeared in awkward silence, and I was left with a staggering sense of very public failure. I was 14. I developed an eating disorder and severe performance anxiety.

The fear of a repeat failure spurred me to greater competitive success, bringing with it friends, popularity, and far too much of a spotlight. The increased attention raised the stakes of failure, and within a month of the new season’s start I had turned to self-injury to manage and escape the anxiety. My parents recognized the signs and intervened in the summer of 2004; by then I was 17 and had already been accepted to be a CFC staffer for the fall. At their insistence, I called Teresa and confessed that I struggled with anorexia and self-injury, and waited with a knot in my stomach. Was I too broken, too dysfunctional to teach? She asked whether I thought it would be a problem on tour, emphasizing that it would be a very stressful environment; that we would be under scrutiny almost continuously.  I said no. She trusted me, and in August I joined the team.

What I didn’t know, or didn’t fully appreciate at the time, was how much different the homeschooling culture I knew was from those in which I would teach. NCFCA had a normalizing effect on the parents in my community. My parents, and many others in California, made it clear to me that they hoped I would pursue a high-power career, encouraged me to take leadership positions in the club, and were receptive to criticism or advice when I gave it tactfully. I wore ties and pantsuits, had one of the most aggressive cross-examination styles in the region, and was used to people being more or less okay with both. I would learn, over the course of the tour, that some people think all women who wear ties are lesbian, that it is ungodly to encourage people to read books that aren’t explicitly Christian, and that women should in no context teach men (or boys over 13). Tour was eye-opening.

For the most part, I thrived on tour: I got to see friends across the country, coach fledgling speakers, comfort & reassure terrified parents, and teach the activities I loved without the constant pressure to be the best. When conferences went well, my performance anxiety was almost non-existent. When they didn’t, it was rarely because I had taught badly: the tough days were when a parent would complain about me. For some reason, such complaints rarely came directly to me; instead, the offended party would approach Mrs. Moon, who would then meet with me to relay the concern. The first few times, I fought back the tears, feeling like a failure, and went back out to finish the day as though nothing had gone wrong. Then one day when she pulled me aside, Teresa noted that she didn’t share the concerns, but that in the scale of things the project we were working on was worth the pain of accommodating the whims of the conference attendees, when not unreasonable.

There were several more complaints throughout the tour; there always are. It was still crushing to hear that I had offended or disappointed someone so badly as to make them complain, and it still kept me up at night, but it was easier to bear knowing that Teresa didn’t condemn me for it. Once I made a judgment call in the moment that offended some parents, but when they complained, Teresa took responsibility, saying it had been her call, and diffused the situation for me.  Hearing her handle the situation, I realized then that whatever strains and stresses I had suffered as an intern, it was likely she had undergone them a hundred-fold, each and every tour.

Occasionally, on the long drives between conferences, while we each sat up working late into the night, we would talk: about the stresses of living such a public life, about the delicate balance between truth and tact, about politics and people, exhaustion and motivation, and, of course, about failure.  Sometimes we talked about adjusting to life after tour—I was relieved that I had only one more season to compete. If I had been popular before, tour transformed me into a homeschool celebrity: students would ask for pictures, shoving binders and shirts towards me for me to sign. I loved being loved, but hated the pressure. On bad days, I could hold onto the thought that soon tour would be over, and in a year I would graduate, and I could leave the limelight. I knew that Teresa did not have this comforting thought: for her, the years stretch out unending, all under the title ‘Director of CFC’. When we had our differences, it was this thought that helped me to understand, at least a little bit, the kinds of strains that she must be under, and marvel that she was as even-handed and controlled as she did manage to be.

Teresa Moon is far from perfect, but I worry that too few of her critics stop to understand how difficult it is to live the life that she leads. Teresa lives on an awfully high pedestal: she must routinely make decisions that have weighty consequences, and must decide based on very little information, or in a very short period of time, and all under unforgiving scrutiny from all of us. The perverse thing about the sort of fame that she endures is that mistakes and missteps get more attention than all the right decisions she makes. There’s a logic to it, of course: we notice outliers, so if things generally are going well, we are likely only to notice when things go wrong, taking the successes—and all the effort required to achieve them—for granted.

It would be misleading to say that Teresa and I were close friends by the end of tour. One of the costs of living a life as public as Teresa Moon’s is that she cannot afford to open up to many people; confidants must be few, carefully selected, and stable. Interns just don’t fit that bill. We did part on good terms, and I returned to assist with the annual Masters’ conference every year until the demands of my college coursework precluded such activity.

Tour was not a panacea: it did not fix my self-injury problem (it took years of counseling in college to even get close to doing that). Nor did it eradicate my performance anxiety; unfortunately that may be here to stay. What tour provided was an outlet for my energies, a chance to do what I loved in a way that mattered, to help people rather than just collect trophies, and a group of close friends who understood and could share the burden of the pedestal together with me.

At 17, that was exactly what I needed.

Cookie Cutters and The Power of Secrecy: Esperanza

Cookies Cutters and The Power of Secrecy: Esperanza

HA note: The author’s name has been changed to ensure anonymity. “Esperanza” is a pseudonym.

Trigger warning: self-injury.

I was so grateful when I saw that HA was doing a series on self harm. Because it is something that I feel is so prevalent within the homeschooling subcultures, yet, is the one thing that everyone is still afraid to speak up about, because it is “that” problem. In my opinion, self harm is not merely restricted to cutting, or injuring one’s self, but can also include eating disorders. With over two million cases reported in the United States alone, anorexia has the highest mortality rate of any psychological disorder, and is something that the homeschool community simply cannot afford to ignore any longer.

Before my mid teens, I had never even known of someone that had an eating disorder, or self harmed. I certainly never thought that I would ever in a million years be “that girl.”

Growing up, I was the perfect little ATI daughter. I wore the jumpers and culottes, wouldn’t even look a boy in the eye, and constantly bent over backwards to protect my family’s good image so as not to tarnish their ministry. I rarely did anything wrong, and that is why it came as such a shock to me when I realized I was actually pretty darn good at lying. I lied about the scars, the sudden weight loss, the passing out. I only remember ever telling one lie before this in my life, and so it surprised me when this life filled with lies just came so naturally.

I still remember the day I stopped eating. It was a very simple decision, and one that oddly enough gave me courage. I was at an extremely broken place. The only person who offered me  protection had left my life, and life was about to become even worse than it had been. Nothing was mine, everything was being taken from me, and I felt trapped in this massive cycle of manipulation, threats, loss, and depression. I could not see that there was any way out. I’d never been told that this way we lived, the things that were happening were wrong. How could they be, when I’d been shown Bible verses that “proved” otherwise? My head was so twisted around that I couldn’t tell up from down, right from wrong. The only thing I knew for sure was that no one could make me eat. That was the one tiny part of my life that I could control, and as long as no one knew my secret, I could keep at least a little control over my own life.

The dangerous thing about the homeschooling culture like the one I was raised in, is that no one expects their daughter or son, brother or sister, friend, to cut their body, or to stop eating. And in these type of cultures, because of the secrecy and lack of education on the issue,  it can very easily become a dangerous situation very fast. These types of behaviors are a reaction to what is happening in one’s life, or a release of some type of pain. As we all know by this point in our lives, we certainly didn’t  grow up learning how to properly talk about and process the difficult things in our lives, and homeschoolers, in my opinion, are even more likely to engage in these types of harmful behaviors. Being homeschooled leaves you feeling very isolated, with no way to reach out, and certainly not as much access to help as those in a traditional school environment.

In my case, I kept lying, every single day. It helped that I was actually working outside the home at the time, and so very often I only ate one tiny meal a day when I got home. When I eventually found freedom for myself and left, and finally had a chance to just stop and be in a peaceful place, all of the emotions of the past 21 years came rushing at me like a tsunami, and I had such a hard time dealing with it, that my eating disorders suddenly became ten times worse. Suddenly I wasn’t eating for days on end, and it was getting harder and harder to lie to the people around me. But suddenly I was meeting people that were actually caring and noticing and saying that I was too valuable to be hurting myself this way. However, the problem with eating disorders, and harmful behaviors, is that while they most often start as a way for you to control your life, before you even realize it, they suddenly control you. Once I was out, and had a chance to begin to really process and heal, I no longer wanted to starve myself. However, this cycle of self harm had become an instinctual reaction to the pain and issues I was facing during this healing process had completely overtaken me. Once I realized that the only power this thing had was in the secrecy, I opened up to the people closest to me, that loved me, and cared, and it was as if immediately, the massive hold this disorder had over me was gone.

And that is the problem with eating disorders, and self injury in the homeschool world. All of our families are supposed to be picture perfect. Cookie cutter families who never have any problems. So many families I knew growing up acted as if this life were a competition, to see who’s family they could beat in the godliness Olympics.  I know that growing up as the daughter of a preacher, there was an enormous amount of pressure placed on me to be perfect. So, when I would see little cuts or burns on my friend’s arms, when I would notice a friend who wouldn’t eat anything in front of anyone, my heart hurt for them because I knew. I knew that we shared this unspoken burden. One we could never reach out for help from because that would mean breaking that perfect little family picture into a million pieces.

These days things are a lot better. There was a time last year where I thought that this thing, this pain that took itself out on my body was never going to go away. That I could never beat it. While honestly, there are still bad days where food is not my friend, and there are sometimes new scars on my arm, but the battle is getting easier to fight.There are still days where my father’s nasty comments about my weight echo in my head and I hate my body all over again. But the days when I remember all the people that love me for me, just as I am, who tell me daily that I am valuable and have worth are far more. The ability to just be me, to have struggles and to be broken is strangely enough the most freeing feeling in the world. The need to be perfect is finally gone, and I can rest in each day, just taking one step at a time, doing the best I can possibly do that day.

I Was Trained to Torture Myself: Grace’s Story, Part Three

I Was Trained to Torture Myself: Grace’s Story, Part Three

HA note: The author’s name has been changed to ensure anonymity. “Grace” is a pseudonym.


In this seriesPart One | Part Two | Part Three | Part Four


April 4

"I don't think she ever realized that I just wanted to have my own voice, and be heard."
“I don’t think she ever realized that I just wanted to have my own voice, and be heard.”

I had a conversation with my mom today. The HA group came up. I was, of course, very careful about how I worded things. She is still very much a homeschooling giant, if there is such a thing. She was one of the homeschooling “pioneers” although she laughed today when I told her the name of the group, stating, “Not that long ago everyone in the country was taught at home.”

I’m always careful when I talk to my mother. I can’t tell her that I smoke. She knows that I have in the past, but I never told her I started up again. She’s never seen me smoking.

Today, I was standing on the porch talking to her on the phone while smoking a cigarette. Ironically, after asking her questions about what it was like growing up in the 1960’s, when she was a teenager, she told me about “smoke alley,” at her high school. That was what they called the area beyond the sports fields, where all the smokers would hang out. I asked her if there was a legal smoking age at that time. She said there was, and that likely the students procured their cigarettes from an older sibling, stepdad, or other kids at school.

She told me that there was a radical change in the ‘culture’ from that of the 1950’s. She remembered families spending time together for holidays, girls wearing dresses to school, and “never showing any skin,” in the 50’s. “Then the 60’s came along, and it all went to pot.”

She laughed, then added, “Literally!”

She went on to talk about how when she went to college, she managed to stick to the straight and narrow, even though her classmates went a little overboard with partying. “There was this rebellion…” and kids were drinking, smoking, doing drugs, and the whole Woodstock thing. She thought that a great deal of it was fueled by the controversy over the war in Vietnam, and that the response of the people was “we’re not going to be told what to do,” and she also said that there were similar feelings of unrest that were an underlying cause of some of the rioting that went on during that time.

I told her I was interested to know why the homeschooling movement seemed to pick up and become popular around the 80’s and 90’s, and she agreed that it may have been a reaction by parents to what they had experienced in their school years.

I found all of this fascinating.

My mother is fascinating.

I used to be able to confide in her. I would tell her everything. But as I got older, her thinking what I said was cute, and then telling her friends about it got old, fast. So I’m careful what I talk to her about. I am much more open with people my own age. I think it’s something I learned as a child. Parents, people in authority, and people older than me were not to be trusted, because they could bring a world of hurt crashing down on you should they so choose.

I was careful to point out to my mom that I did not think homeschooling was bad, or wrong, only that some people had been in abusive environments, and were sharing their stories, and supporting each other and healing. I’m also careful how I talk to my mom because she was abused for so many years. First by her parents, then her husband, my dad. So she is used to being attacked. I think she expects to be attacked. Now that I am older, I don’t think she minds as much as she used to when I disagree with her, although it’s mostly trivial things, I haven’t tried to bring any of the big things up with her.

I’ll get to more of what those big things are later.

I remember when I was 12 years old my mom throwing her hands up, exasperated, saying, “If I said the sky was blue, you’d say the sky was green!” Which was stupid, because the sky was blue. And funny, because I’ve seen tornado skies, and they are most definitely green. But I don’t think she ever realized that I just wanted to have my own voice, and be heard. I was becoming my own person, from a very young age. And she didn’t know how to handle that.

I think that when the last kid moves out of her house, she will have no idea of what to do with herself. And she is already trying to ensure that she never has to face that, by keeping my youngest sister forever…


To be continued.

I Was Trained to Torture Myself: Grace’s Story, Part Two

I Was Trained to Torture Myself: Grace’s Story, Part Two

HA note: The author’s name has been changed to ensure anonymity. “Grace” is a pseudonym


In this seriesPart One | Part Two | Part Three | Part Four


January 25

I’m finding that my story is more about my parents, and their relationship with each other, which is now falling apart, than it is about homeschooling or religion. Everything I learned about the world was from them. That knowledge motivates me to be a better parent to my babies.

I am trying to make my life more organized and manageable, and ask for help when I need it. I had been really good about not isolating myself and shutting down, but I did shut down last week and it got bad fast. I found myself staring at [my husband’s] rifle thinking it was an easy way out.

Usually I recognize the depression symptoms before that point and catch myself.

I hope that sharing this might help you to not feel so alone, because I bet you can identify in some way.


February 17

I’m going to talk about the depression and anxiety with which I struggle. This is going to be mostly about my life now, maybe not so much about when I was younger.

I have felt a tangible darkness in my life almost as far back as I can remember. And I think the anxiety started more around my teens. When I was younger depression took the form of guilt, and not measuring up. I remember learning about God in the earliest stage of my life. At 5 years old I felt the weight of my sin like a burden (remember Pilgrim’s Progress? Did your family have that book?) and gave my life to Jesus because I felt the need to be forgiven.

When I think about it now, it is amazing that I have continued to follow God, because that first conversion was very much out of a fear (afraid, not respect) of God and his wrath because of what my parents taught me. I have always been extremely sensitive, caring, and aware of others’ feelings, whether in general or their feelings towards me. I believe it is a gift, but it also has its challenges.

So here I was, 5 years old, feeling the need to be saved from myself because I believed that I was very evil. I’m not sure when the voices started, but I did hear voices as a child. I’m not talking about negative self-talk, which did happen later in life. I’m not talking about a still small voice that is supposed to be God. I heard narration in my head of what I was doing. My mind was tortured.

I believe it stemmed from witnessing and experiencing the violence my father dished out. I was “disciplined” by being spanked with a wooden paddle, which was bigger than my dad’s hand, and his hands aren’t small.

I learned later that he made the paddle himself. It sickens me to think about it.

I really do forgive my parents for the things they did, because I think they were doing the best they knew how, and even when my dad got a little nuts and hit us or threw us around, which was totally wrong, you simply cannot live a healthy life without forgiveness.

So as a result of being abused, which to me was not as hard to deal with as the trauma of watching my dad hurt my siblings or my mom, and seeing what I saw, I think my child-brain dissociated, and the part that distanced itself decided it was safer to tell the story so that perhaps there would be a happy ending.

This is all speculation.

Another theory about this is that I wanted to be able to blame myself for my father’s outbursts, because if it was something I had done wrong, I had control over that, I could fix that.

So I became a perfectionist and a control freak.


February 20

Anxiety has been a part of my life in a big way since I was 12. I walked in on my dad looking at a picture of a naked woman on the computer. I confronted him about it, and he said he didn’t want Mom to know. I waited until he fell asleep on the couch, and with my heart pounding out of my chest, snuck out of the house, over the backyard fence, and slept in my neighbor’s backyard until 5 am when my friend’s mom woke up. Then I scared her half to death by knocking on the window. She invited me in, and let me sleep on their couch until morning.

My dad came over, looking for me, and then took me out to breakfast. We talked about other things, and he finally said that he had told mom about what happened.

The thing was, it took me years, more than a decade, to realize the damage done by witnessing that one event. The anxiety and anorexia started at the same time. I became afraid of gaining weight, because in my young mind, that was the only thing I could see that was wrong with my mom, that she was slightly overweight, and not happy about it. I somehow equated my dad mentally cheating with my mom’s so-called imperfection.

My mom even remembers that all through my teens, I was never hungry. I didn’t even become aware of my eating disorder until I was in my 20s and didn’t gain enough weight with my pregnancies, and lost weight after I gave birth. At one point I was 111 pounds, and I’m just over 5’6′.

Counseling, years of counseling, has brought up all these issues, and I have been able to work through many of them and continue growing and maturing. There is much pain in my heart, but pain is what helps people grow.

So back to my story.

I was anxious, fearful, and never hungry. I was afraid, no, convinced, that a man would leave me, whether emotionally, sexually, or just plain get up and walk out the door, if I was fat. The thing is, my mom has never been obese. I never thought she was overweight. My mother is beautiful. Her eyes and smile are radiant. And she’s curvy, in a good way. I never saw anything wrong with her. But she was unhappy about her weight, and I picked up on that. So I thought it must be really easy to gain weight. I thought maybe I wouldn’t even know when I was fat. So I didn’t eat very much.

When I did eat a lot, I felt guilty, like I was doing something wrong. I’m not even talking eating a lot. To me, a lot is like what normal people consider a regular portion of food. This fear of being left eventually drove me to losing my virginity before I was really ready for it, to practically manipulating my ex-husband to marry me after we slept together for the first time, before we were married.

A lot of these situations were also exacerbated by my fear and religious zeal. I was so worried about trying to obey God so that I wouldn’t be in trouble, I tried to fix any mistake, and would many times mentally beat myself up because I had made what I considered the wrong decision, whether I had the information to be able to make a better decision or not.

I was mean. I was harsh. I hated myself, and hated on myself.

Negative self-talk was a way of life. Sometimes I joke about this being from the “Catholic” side of the family, because of the idea of penance, or atoning for your own sins. But Jesus… the whole reason he died was supposed to be to save us from these sins we’re trying to make up for.

My eyes are tearing up as I write this. So much wasted time spent trying to make things right that were already covered by God’s grace. Imperfection. God loves it. He loves us. It took me so long to know this, to experience this.

I had heard it many times but it meant nothing because my parents modeled self-hatred. I think this is the core of what tortures many of us: our parents’ modeling of behaviors.

It would be impossible had I not already been sharing it all along, in bits and pieces, with friends, and hurting people who needed to hear it. I so appreciate the opportunity to reach people on a broader scale. Connection is the heart of existence, I think.


February 26

There are plenty of times when I want to just have it out with people, but experience (being the scapegoat, especially having my dad yell at me, which I still have nightmares about on a regular basis) has taught me that:

1. Nobody likes being yelled at, and

2. The people who have made the biggest impact on my life are the ones who always assume the best of people.

I want to be like the latter, because it will have a positive and comforting impact on the people around me, and shows the love of Jesus. I will, however, attack religious zealots with great fervor. See Jesus v. Animal Sellers at Temple.


February 27

More about depression and anxiety. From January until April, my depression is hardcore. I had a miscarriage in late March, another in early April (different years), right after my grandfather died.

When I was 11 I was molested (in January), and again in April.

My sister was sexually assaulted in April when she was young, and was hospitalized as a result.

February is my birthday, Valentine’s Day, and the anniversary of my ex and my marriage. January was when I left my ex, and also when he took the kids from me and wouldn’t give them back.

One year I tried to commit suicide in April.

March I was served with divorce papers.

April he had his first supervised visitation and I started smoking.

The list goes on… These are definitely not in chronological order. But you get the idea. So, left unchecked, my auto-pilot goes into self-destruct mode during those months. It’s not too bad the first couple months of the year, and I can get through it alright, but once the end of March rolls around, I am a dead woman walking. It’s a struggle to do anything productive. The rest of the year, the depression is much more easily manageable.

This hasn’t always been the case. It’s taken years of counseling to even realize I had depression.

I could describe some of the symptoms, but my parents had always called it laziness. I thought I was just stupid, lazy, a bad person, and not good at life. Even though it’s clear that mental illness runs in my family, ex. depression, anxiety, possible bi-polar, and a distant relative was institutionalized when I was a kid. I know relatives who have eating disorders, paranoia, OCD, and aggressive tendencies. But almost none have been evaluated or diagnosed. I think it’s more about the stigma, and not enough information being out there about these illnesses, than refusal of treatment.

I think there is a correlation between mental illness and homeschooling. Not that homeschooling creates or affects mental illness, but that those who suffer from mental illness tend towards the option of homeschooling their children. When people with social disorders who have a hard time getting along with others are deciding on school options for their children, they may have the idea that their child may suffer from the same anxiety when around other children that they did when they were kids. I think unfortunately they may only think about this subconsciously, and not think about it as possibly a challenge to be overcome, but rather something to be avoided.

So we see a lot of socially awkward parents, isolating their children, homeschooling them, and the children may or may not be socially awkward, and whether this is a genetic disorder that is passed on, or simply something the children learn from their parents is something else to figure out.

I think another sad reality of people who choose homeschooling is that some use it as a way to hide abuse in their home. They are already paranoid about the authorities, especially in homeschooling-hostile states, and don’t realize how damaging, illegal, and cyclic abuse is. They also seem to believe they are above the law.

It really is like a separate religion.

And then when you have crazy cult leaders like Bill Gothard and make your children wear jean jumpers to the floor and dear God no shorts or tank tops!

It just makes the whole bunch look like nutcases.

So don’t drink the koolaid. Homeschooling is not evil, as I used to say, and neither is communism, and in a perfect world, they would work.

But this world is imperfect.


To be continued.