Where to begin?
I've thought about writing this a few times and then stopped myself. One: through sheer embarrassment and two: for fear of opening a can of worms.
I don't even really know how to say this and can feel my cheeks flushing as I write. But here goes...
I was brought up and raised as a Jehovah's Witness. Don't all roll your eyes at once, as was the standard reaction when I was a kid. I walked away from it all at around the age of 17 and haven't looked back since, however, my thoughts and feelings surrounding the way in which I grew up remain strong and if I'm quite honest enrage me at times.
It's not something I think about daily but every now and then it will rear its ugly head or I'll see something about Jehovah's Witnesses and think 'Oh what now!' Yesterday my friend shared this video on Facebook and watching it just reminded me of the things I was told. When I look back, it really is unfathomable to me that anyone can teach this indoctrinated way of thinking to children and get away with it. Here's the absurd video, straight from JW headquarters, this video is absolutely genuine and demonstrates the same 'lessons' I was taught as a child. Watching it really does beggar belief.
This is what it's like to grow up in a cult.
You are told that there is only one way, that 'worldly people' are evil and corrupt. That homosexuality is wrong, that blood transfusions are wrong, that the bible is wrong. Sex before marriage, women in positions of power, HARRY POTTER (!) Yep, you guessed it...
Wrong, wrong wrong!
Jehovah's Witnesses are not worshippers of God in the traditional sense, they have their own version of the bible and of course their literature in the form of The Watchtower and The Awake; you might have had them thrust at you on a street corner, or worse had someone knock on your door, armed with magazines, inviting you to bible study. They call what they believe 'The Truth' and when you meet another JW at a conference or similar you would say to them 'Do you believe in The Truth?'
As far as I know there's not a secret handshake.
I should point out that since meeting Justin I converted to Catholic and although I suppose I'm not practising (as in I don't go to church regularly) the children are all baptised as Catholic. I think part of me feels guilty for not going to church but the other part of me is relieved that I live my life without the constraints of having to. I don't feel quite brave enough to walk away from organised religion and go it alone.
I do believe in God or at least I want to believe in something.
To not believe when I was growing up would have meant exile from all that I knew and even from my family. My Dad was disfellowshipped, looking at that expression written down summons all sorts of weird Lord of the Rings connotations and actually makes me laugh out loud at the absurdity of it. He was shunned and expelled from the congregation because he smoked and liked a drink. As far as the organisation and the Elders (I told you it's very Tolkein) were concerned they wouldn't speak to or acknowledge him if they were to see him. As his children, we were also supposed to shun him so that he lived in eternal condemnation. We did not do this, and neither did my mum but still it must have been incredibly hard for him emotionally.
Now considering my dad was very poorly for much of his short life - he died aged 46 when I was 18 - I lived with a constant sick feeling that when he did eventually die he would be bound for the depths of hell.
I grew up believing that one day pretty soon armageddon would hit. Decisions would be made; you would either be chosen for eternal life or you would burn in hell. No in between. Being a naughty headstrong and mischievous little girl, in my head I was convinced that I wouldn't be chosen and so I had my escape route planned. I remember being around 8 years old and practising throwing all my soft toys from my bedroom window in a bid to save them and myself from impending doom. I am not sure what I imagined but getting out of the front door was never an option. I used to have dreams that my sister and I would be dragged from our beds, separated forever.
Her in heaven me in hell.
The good from the wicked.
It was actually like living a nightmare and my sister and I have both agreed that we had a heavy feeling and an anxiety that we were never quite safe from it. Often at 'meetings' - Tuesdays, Thursdays and Sundays -we were reminded that armageddon and judgement day could happen at any time. The sooner the better for most of the congregation, I recall the excitement on the adult's faces at the prospect of the end of the world. Of course, it meant eternal life for them but every other living person and creature would be anhilated, this would be far worse than any war we've ever had.
God's decision would be final and I probably wouldn't make the cut.
So while other young children were read soothing bedtime stories we were faced with the grim images of burning buildings and dead bodies piled up in the street. It's no surprise that I still suffer from night terrors to this day as does my sister. Below are a few images I found and are the actual images I was shown as a child.
If all the preaching of doomsday wasn't enough, we were set apart at school because we did not celebrate Christmas or birthdays. I will never know how it feels to believe in magic, in Santa or the tooth fairy. I will never know what it feels like to make a wish when blowing out birthday candles and believe it might come true.
Because to believe means certain damnation from God. Even if that belief robs you of your entire childhood.
Birthdays were such a non-event in our house, I remember one day I asked my mum what the date was:
'Oh it's the 6th of September'
My birthday is on the 4th I'd turned 13 two days before, my journey into womanhood had begun with no mention, no salutation, no card, no cake or songs or candles, no present.
It has damaged me and not because I wanted material things, but because I longed to be normal.
By the time I got to secondary school I was becoming wise to it all, I knew that I didn't want people finding out and so I would lie when people asked what I got for my birthday making up elaborate stories of parties and new trainers to save myself the embarrassment of people finding out my secret. I carried around a lot of guilt for living a lie but it was better than the alternative.
I thanked my lucky stars each and every time we were sent on 'the work' to go knocking on doors in an attempt to convert others. I think I would have died if I'd happened upon someone's house I knew. I was very clever at getting out of things though, knowing by the age of 10 that if I put the thermometer under a lightbulb and then shook it down to just below 4o my mum would let me stay home. Or drinking just enough salt water to induce a light vomiting and then I wouldn't have to go.
All I really wanted to do on a Sunday morning was watch The Waltons, not go and listen to a load of crazies talking about how abhorrent gay people are or how stoning people that had sex before marriage in bible times was perfectly acceptable.
Or that Satan is the invisible ruler of the world...
I went to a sleepover at my friend's house once and we were watching some sketch programme on the tv. They did this thing where there was a pretend door and a different dubious character would knock on it, of course all my friends roared with laughter when behind one knock a man in an anorak showed up with a couple of magazines 'Jehovah's Witness calling' I went so red and wanted to cry, none of them knew about me but I felt like I wanted the floor to open and swallow me whole when it dawned on me just how much people in 'the world' loathe Jehovah's Witnesses.
Once I'd left 'The Truth' I went as far off the rails as humanly possible. Underage drinking and drug taking, I've lost count of the number of casual one night stands I've had, I rebelled in the truest sense of the word. I hurt myself and those around me.
I stopped caring, I met a boy who would treat me badly and I ended up pregnant by the age of 18, at the time there couldn't have been a worse predicament to have landed myself in but actually, somehow I managed to turn my life around and the rest, so they say is history.
Growing up in a cult has taught me a few things: there are crazy extremist people in the world, that couldn't care less if armageddon came and destroyed your life in fact, they would be gleeful. There are people that can not accept you if you're different, there are people that think they know the truth and you do not.
Armageddon never came, I turned my back on an organisation that is anything but holy, I have an open heart and a lot of love and acceptance for others.
That is how I have chosen to live.
That is my truth.
Leigh - Headspace Perspective
Oh my goodness my lovely Amy. Your post made me cry for you, and for the little girl who lived under such terror. Grown-ups are free to follow whatever religion they choose, and the key there is 'choice' - it shouldn't be imposed. What a beautifully raw post. Well done you for getting it out. You are a special lady who is living well, and that is definite truth. xxx
Seeing this comment this morning made me well up. Thank you so much, I don't think I even realised the extreme of it until I'd written some of it down. I haven't looked at the pictures for years but when I sit and think about the books my children have and compare them it makes me so sad. I'm miles away from that little girl that was so frightened and in many ways it's shaped who I am today. Thank you for your support xxx
Lucy Melissa Smith
I think this is the best post you've ever written and I hope it's brought you some relief getting it all out and down on paper, so to speak? What a very different life but you're away from it now lovely.
I had no idea that you were brought up this way and the true extent of the beliefs and restrictions imposed. The video and images you've shared both scared and enraged me, I'm not particularly religious at all but I do believe that if he does exist, he will be happy as long as we're good and kind to others that's all.
I'm so sorry to hear of what you went through but you are so strong and brave, look where you are now and the life you've made for yourself, you are amazing!
Thank you so much, Lucy for all your support I can't tell you how much I appreciate it and your uplifting words. It was very cathartic writing this, I still feel angry about it but try not to let it rule my life. Thank you xx
Mummy and monkeys
Wow Amy you have written this beautifully! I had absolutely no idea you were raised this way, so you have obviously come so far from it. I did cry at the thought of you a little child never believing in magic, in Christmas, so sad. I'm not surprised you still have night terrors the fear must have been something else to always have in your life growing up. Such an honest, brave post. I hoped it helped you to write it. Xx
It did help me to write it but reading the comments helped me more and the messages of support just blew me away. Thank you so much, for commenting here and for messaging me I can't even tell you how much it means to me xxx
Jenni - Odd Socks and Lollipops
This is just scary - to think that people still think like that. I felt my heart breaking as I read about the things you had to go though as a child - that is not a childhood. Those pictures were awful to look at - so I have skipped the video.
I am so glad that you have found your truth " I have an open heart and a lot of love and acceptance for others." this... exactly this.
Hey Jenni, I think it's good you skipped the video-that way of thinking is just vile. I'm shocked by it and I know what they are like. Thanks so much for for taking the time to read and comment xx
What an incredible hard post for you to write. I feel your heart racing when I'm reading it. We strive to be honest wig ourselves and by writing this you have been. We are the only judges in our life judgement and to me you have made peace with your upbringing even though the memories it stirs up are sad. As mums we are now creator of those memories for our children and striving to be the best we can be for them, for us and for each other. Well done for being brave
Oh gosh, thank you so much for this comment it's made me well up. I'm so grateful for the support x
Alexandra | I'm Every Mum
Wow Amy, just Wow!!! This absolutely brought tears to my eyes. I had no idea you were raised this way. I'm so sorry that this is how you had to live, I am so, so happy that you are free of this now. Even though I have a faith and the children come to church with us I would never make them do anything. I have friends that even as christians say believing in Santa is lieing to our children but I will never be the one to take away the magic of childhood from them. Your 'truth' is beautiful and perfect and I'm so glad you managed to escape this. I'm horrified that this still torments you even now, it absolutely breaks my heart. You are beautiful person with an amazing heart and I hope everyone reads this and thinks about what they tell their children. Even though I always give our children free choice to believe what they wish the memory of this post will make me remember to check myself in situations and make sure they're not being indoctrinated. That the choice is always theirs. Amazing post, I'm so proud of you for being brave enough to write this and I hope you feel so free now. I will pray for peace for your mind everytime I remember you before bedtime xxx all the love in the world to a precious princess who I will make sure personally has the most magical of birthdays one year with some other bloggers help
When I hit publish on this post, I was so nervous I could barely look at the comments and then I felt brave and I read them, and yours came through and I felt so much love, Alexandra. Thank you from the bottom of my heart, for being there, for being my friend, for knowing what to say and for being a beautiful person, it means the world. Can't wait to give you a hug (I might cry) xxx
Firstly, may I just say that for many reasons you're an incredibly brave woman. You have nothing to be embarrassed about - and everything to be proud of. This post could go on to help hundreds or thousands of others just like you who have been raised in the same or similar ways.
I had no idea what being a JH involved to be honest. But now that I do I don't simply have no interest, I actively deride them, if that's not too strong and unprofessional! I couldn't care less what adults choose to believe in and how they choose to live their lives - but to inflict that on children is nothing short of cruel.
The more I get to know about you the more I see you and I have in common, though for very different reasons. I understand the horror of night terrors - I drank too much in my early twenties primarily because I was afraid to go to sleep. I also did many things I'm now ashamed of, but I force myself to view them as the antithesis of how I want my daughter's life to be, and in that sense it's a worthwhile education. Take the positives where you can, right?
Look at the incredible woman you've turned into. You inspire so many, and whether or not you realise it, you're also surrounded by people who aspire to achieve the amazing things you have. It's wonderful that you've not allowed this to define or break you. Instead it's made you into the strong, determined, and compassionate person you are today.
Well done for being so honest and I've no doubt you will get nothing but applause for talking about this issue. If anyone has anything negative to say about it then I'd put that down to them being involved in a very warped way of viewing the world.
Lots of love xxxxx
Ps. I'm totally in Alexandra! ;)
There are some things that I can't even bring myself to write about and they are mostly to do with the appalling way that I behaved in my teens, I can't ever take any of it back but what I will do from now on is remember what you've said "I force myself to view them as the antithesis of how I want my daughter’s life to be, and in that sense it’s a worthwhile education" because reading that is like I can see clearly through a bit of a fog if I'm honest. I've taken so much from that Kate, thank you so much for your friendship and your support it honestly means the world xxxxxx
You Baby Me Mummy
Oh huni, I have no idea where to start. I am crying for the childhood you had and for the childhood you missed out on. The things you write so beautifully about are truly terrible and no child should have to live like that. I am appalled that things like this are considered normal to some, when they are so horrendous to most of us. You, my darling friend, are a total inspiration and such a remarkable person. I am so honoured that you are my friend xxxxx
Oh babe, I love you so much. I honestly don't know what I'd do without you. Thank you so much xxxxxx
I just do not know what to say. Up until I read this I thought JW were harmless, I just politely said no to their teachings when they offered them and went on my way. I had no idea that this was the reality.
I am so sorry that you have experienced this but you should be so proud for finding your way out and becoming the love filled, wonderful human being you are today.
I am proud, I am a bit shocked with myself that I wrote about it though, once I started I couldn't stop! I am so grateful for your comment, thank you x
You are an amazingly strong woman and I hope writing this had given you some freedom from what was weighing you down. I'm sad that you missed out on some of those childhood events you longed for but I feel so sure that it will only make your excitement and love for yours and your families milestones now even stronger. Love you lots - what a beautifully written post x x
Aw Mim, thanks so much. I honestly do feel better it really is like a weight has been lifted. I'm really blown away with the support. Thank you my lovely xx
It's really scary for me to read this, my friend has just converted to a sect of Christianity that's really similar. I remember her lying to her now husband when they were dating about going to see Harry Potter. The way he handled their miscarriage was brutal too. It makes me really sad. I feel really awkward now too.
Oh gosh, it must be so hard when it's an adult friend. I guess the only thing you can do is be there for her if she needs you. The miscarriage thing is dreadful :( x
Sue @ Home Heart Harmony
Heavy stuff. I'm sorry you had to cope with all of that, it makes my heart bleed for you. I'm sure you will feel better for having shared. xx
I do, I feel so much better. Thanks for reading xx
What a woman! I've seen so many programmes on cults and it really scares me so for you to share an accountant of your journey is so brave and beautiful of you. I'm so relieved for you and your children to be able to live a life that YOU want to live xx
Ah gosh what a lovely comment, thank you Harps I appreciate it so much xx
Amy this is one of the most eye opening and moving blog posts I've ever read. Those images and that cartoon are absolutely horrifying.
I'm such a believer in live and let live and for that reason I'm always very welcoming when JW knock on my door - and probably because of that they often do and often have young people with them who always look a bit embarrassed - I never feel comfortable turning them away or being nasty but I honestly had no idea of the extent of these teachings and how damaging it must be for the children.
There was a girl in my class at junior school who has a JW and I remember her being teased for not getting birthday gifts - I had no idea the extent of it though. I feel so sad to think of how her childhood must have been now, and of course for you too - I suppose its a vicious circle...if you're raised in it and you know nothing else then you carry on and live the same way but thank goodness you broke that chain and your children will never know that life. You're a very brave woman to share your experience and to write it so beautifully too. xxx
Thank you so much for your comment I was truly moved when I read it. It was pretty awful knocking on doors as a kid I must admit, it's just so cringe and I was always so scared it would be someone that knew me and then they'd tell all my friends! I am so blown away from the support that this post has had. It was really hard pressing publish but I'm so glad I did. xxx
A Cornish Mum
Absolutely fantastic post lovely, so honest and brave. I can't imagine what it must have been like growing up like that, but it just shows how strong you are that you left it behind.
Thank you so much my lovely xxx
Wow what a post I had no idea that this was a part of your history. It's amazing to read first hand accounts of religious practices and cults because often what you read is all based on hear say and stereotypical opinions. I'm glad you chose your own path and got to make your own choices!
Thank you Sarah. It must all sound so crazy for people that don't know what's behind it all. Thanks for commenting.
New Mummy Blog
Oh gosh Amy, what a childhood, I can't imagine any of what you've written, it's so alien and so terrible for any child. Those beliefs are so harmful and dangerous, I'm stunned. I hope you treasure every single birthday, Christmas, book, and mindless happy book (I'm thinking Cecelia Ahern) you can get hold of, and every single childrens book you read your children. You've come so far, well done on escaping and I seriously have tears in my eyes thinking of what you've written x
Thank you so much, I really do love children's books, I read them all the time and especially the ones aimed at teens like Twilight as we would never have been allowed anything like that so I read them all! Thank you for taking the time to read and comment x
Wow Amy, I was glued to that all the way through, it has really opened my eyes to it all. I had a friend who grew up a Jehovah Witness and turned his back on it, moving in with his girlfriend and joining us clubbing every weekend. I remember his girlfriend telling us how excited he was about spending his first Christmas with her and her family. ( I can't even imagine how it must have been for you growing up with this stories in your head. )
Thanks Ali, I can imagine how exciting it was for your friend. I didn't have my first proper Christmas until I was around 20 and I'll never forget it xx
Cardiff Mummy Says - Cathryn
Wow, Amy. Such a powerful and moving post. I had no idea things were like this. I am so sorry you had to go through all of this but I think this is a really important post and you are so brave for speaking up. xx
Thank you so much Cathryn, I appreciate your comment and your message of support xx
Oh hun, I'm so sorry your childhood was such a traumatic one. It sounds rather scary... You are certainly one strong lady for running away from something you did not feel at ease with, did not believe in, something that did not make you happy. One of Crevette's best friends in a Jehovah's Witness and he's always sad not to be able to mention birthdays or celebrations of any kind to her. x
Thanks so much Mel, I feel better for getting it all out. So sad when the children can't celebrate I feel for that little boy x
What an amazing woman you have turned out.
Sadly if truth be told, man has for centuries, used scare tactics, believed in the unbelievable.
It really surprises me that even in this modern age, there are so many gullible believers.
There are so many religions, different sects, branches of different ideas. Growing up I was always curious about why people were so negative about JW, so I did what I do, I befriended a girl from school, I attended some of the meetings and I was totally appalled at the hate and negative to non JW's baring in mind I had not committed, I was interested and curious about so much, but I got to see for myself and make my own mind up.
It was not that they were awful people, just awful beliefs, we had a family live next door to us, who had lots of children and Christmas time was always hard for the whole street would celebrate bar the one family. I found my school friend still so lovely, but was sad that to me they were so gullible.
I also looked into other religions, always curious, my first true boyfriend, was a muslim, so I was fascinated, but again not overly impressed, I am born into a non practising Christian family and because I was curious about religion, all religion and rather than take the word of others, I would look into them myself and find out first hand. The loveliest religion was the Bahai Faith, but still they are a off shoot from the Koran teachings.
I have had my children Christened as I was, but it just gives them a root base, but we rarely attend church.
I am not sure what I believe in, apart from life.
Faith does not define the person, personality does that and yours Amy, has shone out and I am so glad your fiery spirit was strong, stronger than others, to break free of the constrains of a sect of a faith that like so many others is not really good for individuals.
I believe in Mother Nature, in Fairies and Magical moments, I believe in freedom and I think this post is so beautiful, it must of taken you a lot to of written it all down, well done lovely, be so very very proud of yourself, sending big virtual hugs x
I know I've told you already but I just wanted to reply and say I've been reading through everyone's comments again. Your words will stay with me Sadie. Thank you from the bottom of my heart. I hope you know how much what you have said means to me. I felt physically ill when I published this but reading comments like yours have given me courage. Thank you xx
I'm very proud of you for writing this. Love your big sister. xxx
Babes about Town
It takes immense courage to recognise that your belief system might be warped, to go against what you've been taught since childhood and break free, even if it breaks you a little in the process. But to adapt one of my fave Hemingway quotes, you are most definitely 'stronger at the broken places'. This is a powerful and moving post that gives such clear insight into a way of thinking that can be outright dangerous. I watched a documentary about cults a few months back and hear many echoes in your story of the lady who also left JW to start a new life. I'm so glad you published this Amy, it took a lot of guts but I think the impact it could have on others in similar situations could be life changing. Thanks for sharing your truth x
Oh Uju, it has taken me two years to write this but I feel like a weight has lifted, honestly. I love that quote. Thank you for your uplifting words xx
Laura - dear bear and beany
Typing through the tears Amy. I can't believe those pictures and the things they put you through. Im sad that you didn't get the magical childhood that every child deserves. I am so pleased you are as far away from this, as you can be. Written beautifully as ever, well done for writing lovely lady. Xx
Hi Laura, thanks so much for your beautiful comment. I so appreciate your support it means a lot xx
Laura's Lovely Blog
My goodness Amy, what an honest post. I want to hug you or perhaps the girl you once were. I cannot imagine how hard your childhood must have been. I am glad you escaped and have the life you now do. I think you should have a child's birthday party with a bouncy castle, jelly and ice cream the works for your next birthday to make up for it X
I also wanted to thank you for explaining what JW believe, we live very close to a base here and get callers all the time. I tried to google once what they believed and never really understood. It always takes me back how young the callers are sometimes and I never have it in my heart to slam the door on in my mind what are children. My husband finds it even worse and was there for 20mins once trying to politely extricate himself!
Thank you for sharing such a brave piece X
Standing on other people's doorsteps and preaching was one of the cringiest times of my life BUT I have absolutely no fear of speaking to people I don't know/giving a talk as an adult so there is that! Thanks so much, Laura. I actually love the idea of a kid's party. Thanks for being so kind xx
I just want to give that little girl a hug and tell her it will allow ok and one day she'll be away from it all living a wonderful life and that that is the real truth! What a powerful post, it made me shed a tear. Thanks for sharing x
Thank you, your comment made me shed a tear too. I appreciate it so much xx
Laura: Adventures with J
This post has really got me thinking. I have never had a hatred for JW or for any other religious, ethnic or cultural group. I have had people with JW on the periphery of my life since I was 11. At secondary school a girl in my class, some of my husbands distant family who live in Australia, who I must say couldn't have been nicer and more welcoming when we visited them. And as an adult children I have taught. I am saddened to think that any of them may be going through or have been through what you experienced as a child. As a teacher it isn't something that is seen as allowed to be discussed with the child and although the other children were always tolerant and there was no division between friendships it was very much a do not discuss subject. Now I feel that this is something that really ought to be questionned. However, people are too afraid to question others' beliefs in our current society. I hope that you have been able to reclaim some of the magic of innocence and childhood dreams through the raising of your own children? This must have been a very difficult post to have written but I hoped it has been theraputic too.
Hi Laura, it's really interesting you say that the JW's you have encountered have been welcoming. I can really understand that, I'm sure that in the main there are some really decent people wrapped up in a totally warped way of thinking. From what I remember all the adults I knew had good jobs, were nice and polite etc but then at moments it's as if they were crazy and waiting excitedly for the world to end I just can't make sense of any of it, really. I know when we were at school our teachers never asked us about it, it was really taboo and I'm sure some of them thought I was odd but I do have a huge complex when it comes to what I believe people think of me and what they actually do. I am glad I wrote some of it down. Thanks so much for reading and commenting.
Oh Amy, I read this on Friday but I found it so moving that I didn't know how to reply. I am so sorry for your lost childhood. I think you have been so brave and honest in posting this and I think that this post will hopefully help so many others out there. It is great that you are taking this negative experience and changing it into something postive. By writing this post you are showing that you are no longer afraid. Like you I want to believe in something but I am troubled by some aspects of religion. Thank you for publishing this. I hope that it helped you in writing it too. The scared little Amy would be very proud of the brave, wonderful adult she became! Big hugs xx
Hey Emma, thank you so much for your comment I really appreciate it. I know it's all a bit crazy but wow do I feel better for letting it all out! Thanks for being so kind xx
Julia @ rainbeaubelle
Gosh Amy, I want to say what an interesting post but I know it's more shocking than that as it's all about you and your childhood. im glad you've written about it though and it certainly seems to me that you are a pretty sorted grown up sophisticated lady now! x
Thanks so much Julia, I have loads more to say but then the post would be epic and too long haha! I appreciate your comment xx
Elizabeth (Wander Mum)
A really interesting, powerful post Amy and beautifully written. I'm so sorry you missed out on the magic of your childhood. No one should miss birthdays or have nightmares about going to hell! Thanks for shedding a light on the teachings of Jehovah Witnesses. Although they are often ridiculed, I didn't realise the extent of the beliefs they have and how harmful they are. Hearing about JW from someone who has experienced it is eye-opening and a fascinating insight. You have clearly come a long way and I'm so glad you wrote this post and hit publish. Well done for getting out and finding your own way in life away from the hatred taught by this 'religion'. I bet you savour each one of your children's birthdays that bit more and ensure you are the best mum giving them the best possible childhood you are able. Xx
Oh Elizabeth, I am so grateful for this comment and your support on social media. Thank you so much. I really do love birthdays now you know! I probably go over the top with celebrating but it's just my way of snatching a bit of it back for myself. Thanks for being so kind xx
Such an honest and powerful post! I'm so glad you got out and have managed to build a better life for yourself. I attended a pentecostal church for a while as a teen (through choice) but realised I needed to get out when they too declared that I shouldn't read or watch Harry Potter- seriously?! I now have nothing to do with organised religion but believe that there must be something bigger than us. I believe that the important thing is to be honest and kind, try your best and that is all anyone can ask!
I'm the same as you, I do believe there's something bigger I'm just not sure what it is. Ultimately I don't think it really matters. No one should be banned from Harry Potter, crazy!
Sadly this doesn't shock me Amy, I know people that were brought up in the same way. I always felt so sad that they weren't allowed to celebrate birthdays and christmas. Odd for a people who were supposedly believers (we are christians). I couldn't work it out and I guess still can't. How unfortunate for you and the story of your father is tragic. I'm so sorry you had to grow up in this environment.
Thanks so much Suzanne. I could never understand why they didn't celebrate the usual Christian holidays but looking back it's the element of control that they have over the 'congregation' there was so much more we weren't allowed to do. Thanks for your kind words.
Oh Amy. This is such an honest and heart-wrenching post. Thank you for being brave and strong enough to share it. I hope this brings you some form of release. I am really struggling with this at the moment, as we relocated three years ago and our neighbours have become like family to us, but they are witnesses. They are the most wonderful people you could ever meet. My 21-month old even starting calling the Mum of the family 'Nanny'! I always listen to what they have to say and have even done Bible study with them (I come from a strongly atheist family so I was curious to know more), but I just can't accept what they teach. They really are dedicated but I just can't see how they can so whole-heartedly believe everything they preach. I hope the memories become less painful and infuriating with time. X
This post has left me breathless and brought tears to my eyes with its honesty. Thank you so much for shedding light of such a damaging organisation.
I'm so, so sorry that you and your family went through something so awful. When we get those knocks at the door I've always just given a smile and a roll of the eyes and thought no more about it. Now I feel enraged. Now the next time they come I want to grab those tiny children in suits and hug then and try to help them. What a sick organisation.
I'm so glad you got away and rebuilt your life. You should be so incredibly proud of yourself for sharing this journey here xxx #sharingthebloglove
Wow this is such an honest and eye opening post - there's so much I didn't know about JW and I am shocked that even birthdays are not celebrated. Well done for getting yourself out of that situation, moving on and living your life for you. xx
This spoke to me on so many levels! My mother decided to dedicate herself to 'The Truth' when I was 16 and was baptised when I was 17. She was a very narcissistic person to begin with so you can only imagine how she became with this religion (cult)! I was told every day I was the devil incarnate! 'Get thee behind me Satan!' was her mantra to me as I celebrated birthdays and Christmas without her!
When I had my twins as a single unmarried mother! (The shame!!!) She became even worse! She lived with us from when the twins were 5 until she passed away last year aged 81 and they were aged 20 by then. She made every celebration about her. Christmas was a nightmare! Once when the twins were 8 she came downstairs Christmas morning as they were opening their presents and declared that 'someone' had taken her headphones and they had better be found right now!! We had to stop what we were doing and search for these headphones......over an hour later, I found them under her pillow on her bed......Need I say more? BUT she was the one who bought the Christmas food she enjoyed, (it was like a grotto in our house before she became a JW at Christmas time) but she hated us to celebrate because she couldn't/wouldn't.
We HAD to go to the Memorial every year! and I had to accept all the Watchtowers and Awakes and cherish them! (I never read one!) I had to call her JW only friends Auntie out of some kind of respect and act in a very false way to appease her in front of them. She dragged the twins to the Sunday meeting for years until they were old enough to refuse! They hated it with a passion!
I am so sorry your childhood was robbed from you by these people! Easily led sheep who believe in nonsense! (How many times can Armageddon be predicted wrong?!) I am really sorry they took my mother away from me too. They brainwashed her in to a raving religious nut! who even in her death last year I had to play along and have a JW funeral and memorial at the Hall. I have not seen one of them since then and have even moved house so they don't know where we live. They knocked on a few weeks ago at the new house, on 'the work' but I didn't answer.
I am so glad to be away from them........a terrible way to live and I cannot imagine what it was like for you as a child listening to their utter nonsense and terrifying you in to submission.
Hi Alica, thank you so much for your comment. Sadly what you're recounting is all ringing so true to me. It really is unbelievable isn't it? I am so sorry that the organisation (I refuse to call it a religion!) robbed you of your mum. That is so sad, I wish I could shake people and make them see sense, it's just so crazy when you are looking in from the outside isn't it? I have heard from so many people over the past few days, all with similar stories I've actually only had one person say it doesn't sound too bad! (Erm, ok!) Thanks so much for reading and taking the time to comment
Michelle Twin Mum
Thanks so much for sharing your experience of growing up as a JW. I know so many of their views are very different to mine but the only bit I really know is that they believe that salvation is through works and being a chosen one whereas I know it is through the truth you now believe in - love and acceptance.
Bless you for having the courage to speak out, Mich x
JuggleMum, Nadine Hill
Thank you for being brave enough to press publish Amy. Before reading this I didn't know what JV's preached, only the things you mentioned like they don't accept blood transfusions or celebrate birthdays or Christmas. I didn't realise such brainwashing was going on behind the scenes and how if you turn away from the teachings you are exiled from even your family.
I too believe in God, and whilst I think that everyone's version of God is different - there are many Gods that people pray to, I also think that there is room for everyone's belief system.... As long as respect is shown for each other's beliefs. However this organisation doesn't sound very accepting and that is very sad. You have shown incredible strength and courage in breaking free but also speaking your truth. Thank you for that, and for shining a light for those who maybe want to break free but don't know how. Much love, Nadine x
Thank you so much, Nadine. I did feel a bit sick to press publish because I still carry around this worry that everyone will think I'm a weirdo! I am in total agreement with you, I believe that there is room for everyone's beliefs and I wish religion wasn't at the crux of so much wrongdoing but I understand that people will always find a way to exploit and hurt one another. I wish things were different and my childhood was easier but in many ways it's taught me a lot of things too and I do try and remember that. I really am so grateful for your kind and encouraging words, they mean ever such a lot. xx
I've only just found this post Amy and I think I read the whole thing open mouthed. I grew up learning to close doors on JWs and calling them 'bible bashers'. Until recently I didn't even know what being a JW meant but someone at my work is one, doesn't celebrate Birthdays and laughed at me when I booked tickets to see Father Christmas at Harrods last year - why would you pay that much money to see someone that isn't real?!
The part about growing up without magic made me actually want to cry for you. I am so sad. It saddens me whenever children don't believe anymore but to never have believed? It's unthinkable.
I am so glad you turned things around, it sounds like at 18 we were in a pretty similar place although we made different choices... I can relate a lot. You should be so proud of the person you are and the childhood you are giving your children x
This post is so moving and unusual. I don't think I've read anything like it! Thank you for sharing such personal things and opening my eyes to something I really knew nothing about.
Thanks so much for taking the time to read and comment Kimberly!
Thank you for sharing lovely. I know we've had a fairly light hearted conversation about Halloween/Christmas/Birthdays etc but now I realise it's more important in a way if that makes sense! Part of me wishes we'd had this conversation a month ago so I could get a birthday card in the post for you!
Wow this was an incredible read, do you onow Ive heard the term so amy times but didnt actually onow anything about that faith. Such a harroing read but teuly inspirational to have come as far as you have and be able to write this so succinctly. Much love.
Thanks so much for your lovely comment, Pam.
Lucy At Home
Oh Amy, this sounds awful. Children take these things so deeply to heart, and to think of you playing games with your toys about armegeddon just cuts me to the core.
Why are so many evil things in the world done in the name of religion?! I have a strong Christian faith, but I see so much judging and prejudice and hate spread in the name of Christianity (as well as many other religions), when that is not the point of it at all. Probably the most famous verse in the bible (although I don't know anything about the JW version so I'm not sure if it's in there or not) is John 3:16 "God loved the world so much that he gave his only son. Anyone who believes in him will not die but have eternal life." - this isn't a message of hate or fear - it's about a God who LOVED. In fact it's about a God that loved so much that he gave the most precious thing He had in order to rid the world of hate and fear and death. This should be a happy, joyful message that we love to share, not one that frightens people and that celebrates others perishing in the end of the world.
I guess all I can say is, let's try not to make our minds up about God based on the people who try to represent Him here on earth. They distort His message based on their own ideals and traditions and perceptions.
But instead, let's see what He's like based on his word in the bible - it says "God is love" - his very essence is love. In which case, "God is patient, God is kind. He does not envy. He does not boast. He does not dishonour others. He is not self-seeking. He is not easily angered. He keeps no record of wrongs. God does not delight in evil but rejoices with the truth. He always protects, always trusts, always hopes, always perseveres." (1 Corinthians 13:4-7) #blogcrush
I think that all forms of religion are a form of indoctrination on children, because they are often forced to participate in it and grow up initially unquestioning. So to have been brought up in the JW cult must have been horrendous. I could feel your pain when you were at that sleepover and they knocked - I could cry for how it made you feel. This is just so wrong - the fact that you didn't celebrate your birthdays and of course Christmas. I was brought up to go to church, but it has made me extremely cynical. Some of my family are Christians and I respect that, but I was put off years ago. It must have felt incredibly cathartic writing this. Thank you so much for sharing. You will have opened many people's eyes. Alison x
Susie at This Is Me Now
Wow Amy this is really shocking! Those images are scary! you must have been so scared. it's mad me well up. it's so sad. My parents aren't religious but i like to believe in God or as you say something. For me it helps me cope in difficult times. I'm glad I've come to my decisions/feelings by myself as an adult though. This was a really interesting raw emotive post xxx #BlogCrush