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Jun 10, 2018 94 tweets 23 min read Twitter logo Read on Twitter
Story time, #emptythepews edition.

Warning: suicidal ideation, depression, conversion therapy, unsupportive parents, Christian fundamentalism.

You have been warned.

Story begins in the next tweet.
1: Once upon a time in the late 90s, there were common websites, basic cable and magazines that put out various hotlines you could call in a crisis. If not, there were search engines where you could find the numbers to places like BoysTown and the Suicide Prevention Hotline etc.
2: My parents were SUPER controlling. So much so, that we felt the control in every little way, and suspected other means of control that we did not verify until we had all moved out.
Raised in the QF/ATI-adjacent communities, you can guess at what levels there were,.
3: For ex: I had my door taken off a few times. Mom watched an @Oprah episode about "Out of control teens" and decided to look for our diaries *all the damned time* and we had 0 privacy, but were not out of control by any means. I quit keeping one after she found it in '97.
4: I had been confronted because of @ArchieComics that I had and was schooled on how these were inappropriate relationships and behavior (dress and actions) and I should give them up and put them in the recycling bin. I quit buying comics, one of my few joys.
5: the one diary I had been keeping was sort of a letter to my cousin, and I kept having to move it around so my mom wouldn't find it. It was exhausting! She literally would turn out my drawers with the "Oh I'm just putting your laundry away! I LOVE YOU!" if I caught her.
6: She also did this to my sisters. One sister was intersex and amab. My dad is cruel and kept slipping @VictoriasSecret catalogues and slightly racy images from other catalogues under her mattress. My mom would get pissed if she found them bc #purityculture
7: you know, because, #purityculture says you should be 100% ace, get married and be a sex machine in bed to make oh so many babies because #quiverfull #joshuageneration #dominionism - and any sort of masturbation is #thebigbadsin
8: keep in mind, my sister was finding these things stashed in her room, where she would typically move a diary around and had no knowledge of having owned these things.

My mom would then interrogate her. CRY BUCKETS to manipulate and say how disappointed she was.
9: Then, she'd finally work out somehow after grilling her, she's innocent. Which means she now has to do the same thing we have overheard - to my youngest sister (who never did anything bad) and then me, the black sheep - She never was fully convinced it wasn't us until...
10: I caught my dad and threw a HUGE fit. Like, I got in so much trouble (yelling, screaming, bible lecture on disrespect and anger, grounded etc) -- but my mom finally found out.
11: What makes this so bad is, she never really apologized to any of us, and she didn't stop snooping. Dad did it, mom assumed he was trying to create a "healthy interest in girls" for her amab child, and would quietly remove it if she found it.
12: My sister was being bullied, because she figured out something was very different about her around the time I was 17/18. She is almost 3 years younger than me.
We were in Gothardland and not given much of any sex ed, let alone proper anatomy. Yes, we were VERY homeschooled,
13: Something happened that we sisters never fully found out about for years, because of my parent people's controlling behavior. I find it very hard to call them mom/dad or say I love them due to what happened from here on out.
14: being the fundamentalists we were, #abortion and #lgbtqia issues were absolutely verboten. I'm talking vitrol to the point we couldn't even ask questions. We were truly isolated, as my parents didn't like homeschool conferences and didn't want to be involved w/politics
15: we did do the teen group get togethers, but these were kids even more isolated and controlled than us, so we had no base reference for what was or wasn't normal at all. Our normal was all we ever saw until we went to work. This was made difficult by the fact my dad was USNavy
16: So, this thing happened, that we can only sort of guess at, and have gotten snippets of information about - but my sister did the brave thing and actually started calling not only a suicide prevention hotline, but boystown and an LGBT hotline for help.
17: This is where it gets bad. My parents had 1 computer at this time and it was in our living room. We divided time on it. Dad installed keyloggers we had no idea about. We had some kind of purity blocker on too. This was pre-tabs, so hiding an open website was HARD.
18: My sister started being on the phone, but we knew she only had about 2 friends from church, one of them she hadn't been talking to, was actively trying to avoid and hide from. (hint: this was impossible in a 20 family church) My sister and I were curious but didn't ask her.
19: We'd walk by the computer and see her flip windows so fast, and wonder if we just saw something or were imagining it, but LEFT HER ALONE. We'd done it too, therefore it must be okay. If it was Pr0n, we'd hear something. Those websites always had noise of some sort back then.
20: One day, my mom comes in and tells all of us to go to the living room. WE KNEW SOMETHING BAD WAS ABOUT TO HAPPEN. This was classic intervention. She was going to grill us all for hours, and also punish each of us. We knew it going in. We were terrified.
21: Mom had gotten the phone bill with several 800#s. Mind you, those are FREE hotlines. It wasn't like something you'd pay for minutes of talking. But these numbers were NEW, and for LONG PERIODS OF TIME, and suddenly this meant that she was losing control of the situation.
22: WHAT IS THIS NUMBER?! she demanded. WE DON'T KNOW. We're lying. ONE OF YOU KNOWS. Actually, two of us had no clue and were terrified we were going to die that day. Okay, maybe not die-die, but definitely something that makes death so much easier than mommy interrogation.
23: We were legit terrified. I think my youngest sister and I had to beg off to the bathroom a few times because we were going to legit shit ourselves. I think I threw up at least once. The stress of these interrogations and control caused eating disorders in two of us.
24: My mom figures if we aren't going to answer, she will put it on speaker phone and call if we keep "lying" to her. She called, let it ring through to the machine that directs the calls. I had heard of these call lines, but never actually called one.
25: Why, you ask? Because I knew they would find out and this would happen. I learned about child abuse in public school and was going to report them on two occasions. Child logic: warn them first - they'll change their behavior. Instead, I got the HSLDA type line of horror.
26: what is the HSLDA horror? YOU WILL NEVER SEE YOUR PARENTS AGAIN. You will not be placed with family. You will be sexually abused. You won't be allowed to go to church. You will have nothing of your own and never see your family again. You may die.
27: so yeah, I might have been smart, but I didn't know any different and I didn't try anything after that shit, and just put up with their abuses that I knew about, and many more that I was sure was abuse but couldn't prove until I was married and away.
28: my sisters heard that story as a "haha, and she was learned that day!" and would look at me in horror and decided if anyone was to try, it would be me.

So, this hotline was called and mom tried ALL the options to figure out which one of us was "stupid" enough to call them.
29: My youngest sister and I exchanged glances. It wasn't us. That left dad or my middle sister. I made some sort of attempt to deflect and say whoever called needed help, was it really her business? maybe it was just a question and not a cry for a psychologist.
31: You literally could not logic with my parents. "Because." was always the end of a convo. Sometimes angry ones that got your grounded and cut off from any and all contact outside of church.
32: Turns out that my sister was suicidal. She didn't know who to talk to, and strangers vs nouthetic counseling seemed to be a solid choice. She was also thinking she may be gay, so she called a hotline for help to figure that out without judgment. MULTIPLE TIMES.
33: What happened next, terrified us, but we had no way of knowing who to talk to or what to do. We were kids. My parents didn't tell us what happened, and we were scared to ask or talk amongst ourselves, because my dad had joked he had bugged our bedrooms.
34: at the time, these aren't things you would rationalize as "omg, this is really bad, I should maybe run away for help", because you logicked that the church was going to turn you over to your parents, and you knew the cops would too. Who do you go to? Not CPS, because HSLDA.
35: Years later - I'm talking nearly 20 years, we find out that the "men's retreat" she was taken on, wasn't a "retreat" or for "the men". It was five teens from the church taken out by the pastor for a "BE A MAN" talk, and then conversion therapy "camp" for about 2 weeks.
36: Because nothing was discussed, us girls had no idea. She said nothing. she was sworn to secrecy and was certain our parents knew. She confronted them before she confronted us, and they swear they didn't know. ALL of us think they're lying.
37: It was after this that she found out she was intersex. We still cannot get straight answers from my parents as to how she was amab or why they never told us. They swear they didn't know, but you don't "not know" these things.
38: They took her to the doctor as a teen for testosterone shots and swear up and down it was due to some teen issue that would never otherwise be a problem if it weren't for #purityculture iykwim. Like, they legit get explosively mad if we pointedly ask.
39: As the years come along and go, one of us got brave again and called the hotline. I'm not sure which sister it was, but know it wasn't me. I am pretty sure my middle sister is/was covering for my youngest sister. I never was brave enough to call because I have phone anxiety.
40: Not to mention, any time I was on the phone, my mom would spy and listen. I did not have legitimate privacy until I married and moved across the ocean as a 25 year old, because we were all made to live at home until we married and our ownership transferred to our husband.
41: I know now for a fact, those hotlines have saved two of my sister's lives. One is back in the closet, and living with them due to financial difficulties. My parents are NOT affirming in any way. They have suspicions on one of us but not two of us.
42: because we are not safe with our parents, we will never be out. ever. to them.

We didn't even talk to each other much at all while any of us lived at home, or when we had to return to them because we found out about the keyloggers and know mom listens in on the phone
43: We are careful even with our phones. Mom has been caught reading texts if they pop up. She tries to open our phones. We are in our THIRTIES. This is how the church told her that she would be guaranteed to have good xtian kids.
Ack, a tweet got lost - 30: Teen logic, right? At least I tried. See, in our world, Psychologists and Psychiatrists were THE WORST THING, and if you ever got involved, they'd brainwash you and make you this horrible shell of a person and you'd definitely go in a padded room
44: The church taught her and my dad to be this way. Control = compliance and compliance = submission and all the good things. We were not to question their authority because our parents were under direct authority to G-d.
45: This was taught to us in two models, which we later learned came from ATI/IBLP I believe the second one was altered for our specific church setting, but I can't be certain because I find that so triggering that I literally need help to process it all.
46: I remember one that had children at the bottom, but memories are faulty and I could have imagined it due to how my parents talked about the #umbrellaofauthority

The main idea is that if a wife steps out for help, she has stepped into ungodly authority. Same for kids.
47: Everything is handled at home. If it can't be handled there, it IS handled by the church. This is why, even though what happened to my sister is tragic and inexcusable, my parents still believe the church had the authority to do that, even if they didn't expressly know.
48: They have made a halfway apology (a nonpology) about what happened and how it has affected my sister. They still refuse to acknowledge her intersex condition and call her transgender, deadname and use wrong pronouns.
49: Once in a while my mom uses triangulation techniques to ask me or my youngest sister if we heard from our middle sister. Because my sister puts herself as invisible, limits contact etc.
I had enough of it and blocked her, my dad, and all her family for this shit this yr on FB
50: Mind you, I've been out of the US almost 11 years, not under their authority, married etc - but they are still visiting control over us, because the church says they have to as our parents. Middle sister is in CA. Almost as far away from them as I am and they're still trying
51: to control her in some way. Due to my going to limited contact (Skype and email) My parents have huddled and are upset and "hurt" and can't believe I'm cutting off contact - but I have logicked to them that I quit facebook and all social media other than IG due to GDPR.
52: I had found my dad on Twitter and blocked him as soon as I rejoined. Mom can't figure out Twitter. But, she is on a forum I am on, and even if I block her there, she isn't fully blocked, I just won't see what she posts. She stalks me and my youngest sister online
53: why? Because we set up healthy boundaries and don't discuss everything with her. I have one foot out the door on the forum she followed me to, because they do not see what she has done and if I complain, it will be handled "in house" because of reasons ATI/IBLP -
54: and IFB churches have laid out. The leadership on the board are IFB and SBC homeschool mommies. I've seen three board splits. I know how this will go now that the people who would kick her off are no longer in charge.
I limit my sharing and conversations there.
55: youngest sister is on Ravelry. Mom has stalked her there. But, sister got smarts and decided to post in upper level forums and requested mom be perma banned to those forums because she is abusive.

HOWEVER, none of this can be discussed with family. This is "Normal".
56: We are not under the right authority to be telling my parents what they are doing is abusive.

This is why two of us are now #nones and all three are #exvangelicals. One of us is catholic.
57: each of us has tried talking to the church (at large, and individual congregations) to be rebuffed and further abused by them. #spiritualabuse is very real, and all of us are pro #EmptyThePews because #churchtoo and #lgbqia reasons that are very real to all three of us.
58: I'm probably the only #done out there. I'm done talking to people still inside. The people inside don't want to hear it. I'm happy with the people who have emptied their pews and come outside to see what there really is to offer, and found healing.
59: so yeah, this is why I'm an #exvangelical. I was spiritually abused, emotionally abused, physically abused and no one wanted to see, hear or intervene. #parentalrights outweighed #childrensrights and no one gave the slightest little fuck about us. Am I bitter? No. I'm done.
60: I have talked about this to one therapist. She didn't get it at all. I am still searching for a new therapist. I was diagnosed with a panic disorder, anxiety disorder, depression and PTSD.
61: My sisters have their own diagnoses I won't discuss, because those are private matters.

I did ask my sisters about hotlines. Both of them have called them since, and both have found them helpful. They also have an online network of people to rely on when they are not ok.
62: That online network got two of them out of my parent's house. One of them temporarily, but we are in hopes she isn't going to be stuck for long.

I have an online network and haven't called the hotlines. But I know they do help some of us.
63: It was a combination of a hotline and online friends that safely got my youngest sister stationary in a mental health facility last year. If that wasn't there, we would have lost her to depression last year.
I am forever thankful for people who helped her find the light.
64: A hotline didn't help me. It was my general practitioner who did. I couldn't tell him what happened when the PTSD flashbacks happened and I found myself disassociating. It was Elizabeth Esther's book that even showed me what PTSD and disassociation were for non vets
65: in broken German and English, I told him what happened and he gave me a script for xanax if I was having panic attacks like I did that week I came in. He gave me a script to go see a psych immediately. It took me a month to reach out. I was scared I would be institutionalized
66: and lose my children. Why? because that is what I was told would happen. That IS what happened up to the 1960s to women in my family who were deemed "insane" or otherwise "unstable" by psychologists and psychiatrists.
67: I broke down at intake when they told me my script ran out and they didn't have anyone that day. I knew I wouldn't make it if I was sent home. I had to sit down and I bawled. DH was with me and he calmly talked to the receptionist who got me in to see someone.
68: I stuck with that psych for about 2 years. She moved, and I need to find someone else, but - with my diagnosis and how busy we are with the mental and physical health of my kids, I'm on the back burner. Reaching out is hard. especially if you are unsure you can drive after
69: I asked my GP if we can stay with the current medicinal protocol for now, get things in order, fix my language deficiency and then try again. He said OK, so long as I go immediately if it gets worse or someone WILL take me.
Get this: My insurance will cover that.
70: My situation is looking a bit up, so I may actually be in/near the city and able to go to the facility I need to change doctors for. I already know the waiting list is over 8 months for a cancellation and up to a year to be seen. But I know I can hang on rn.
71: someone else might not be able to. I know that. Mental health issues vary from person to person and need a carefully tailored plan.

My depression is able to function if I have to function for someone else. I might hate me or neglect me, but I can and will take care of *you*
72: My therapist asked me when the depression started. I literally can remember when it was. I wasn't even 13. We lived in Spain. I barely could sleep due to my neighbors and the way my parents kept me running as a mini-mom.
73: it worsened as I came into puberty and endometriosis took hold and we didn't know what was wrong. By the time I was 15 I had suicidal ideation. I didn't go through because of how my mom harped on suicide and how it fails sometimes.
74: I was less afraid of dying than becoming unable to care for myself and stuck with my parents caring for me. I knew how that would play out.

It still terrifies me as a 36-yo how scared I am to be in my parent's care. That isn't normal.

I limit my kids contact with them.
75: Due to all of this, my kids have grown up in an affirming household that discusses everything, including depression and suicidal ideation. My oldest has been able to verbalize when he needed help, and he has gotten help. People assume we are #thoseparents who have no clue
76: they find out quickly that my husband might not quite follow, but that I've been proactive and I know where the psych is going next because I research and because I am ready to do this together. They always ask why, and I will always tell them - I was & am not supported.
77: All of this to say that the church isn't always a safe place. Homeschooling isn't a safe place. Parents are not always a safe place. Sometimes, hotlines are the safe place. Sometimes, going in as an emergency patient is the safe place.
78: Yes, we have all gone into debt because of seeking mental health assistance (me, for gasoline costs and car repair), and we have been turned down multiple times and lost insurance etc. It is not an easy road.
Everyone has a different road and different mileage. Ymmv.
79: One thing we all have determined in the last 18-ish months is that we sisters have to stick together, because nobody will for us like we can. We may have ideation issues and depression that murders us, but we can muster for each other.
80: Three of us become nonverbal when the depression is "that bad". We text each other as our own sort of hotline to stay afloat. Because healthcare in America sucks. Mental healthcare is even worse - underfunded and not enough doctors.
81: all three of us are advocates for homeschool alumni and current homeschooled kids. When people ask us why, we have trouble verbalizing it because it is hard to figure out what is overshare and whether the person will label us as "bitter".
82: We stick up for alumni and current homeschooled kids because we are tired of seeing the same thing that happened to us, happen to other people. And we know we are a very much underserved demographic thanks to the HSLDA.
83: We know we aren't the only ones this ish happened to. We know that things we haven't even told each other are things that are happening to other kids or did happen to our peers. We can rally for them, because no one rallied for us. Maybe not on the bad days tho
84: Bad days are when your brain lies and tells you that no matter what, you aren't helping anyone and that you're yelling in the wind and everything everyone said was right. #fuckbaddays

All this to say: We need to, and can do better. TALKING will help.
85: We should be able to answer someone who asks "How you doing today?" with "it's a bad day. I've been having flashbacks" and them not be like, "Oh. :( " and drop of and try to disappear into the background.

This is why I will always tell friends to come over.
86: or to text me. Or color a picture with me and share it. Or come out for a coffee.

I might not be able to do that for myself, but I can do it for you. My brain somehow says I am not worth it, but you are.
87: My door will literally always be open. Online, in person, in my car. If you see me, and you say "damn, it's been a BAD WEEK!" I won't ghost. I will say "It really has, hasn't it?" and ask if you need a hug, or to go sit somewhere, do you want a drink?
88: I may be really bad with dates and never remember a birthday or anniversary without my facebook screaming at me to remember (and even then, might not see the notification) -- but I will be there.

I may reach out even over something weird like, "OMG I LOVE THAT TOO!"
89: Because depression sucks and says that reaching out is like begging someone for attention. Folx, it's not, brains lie. They're horrible little goblins who lie and are cruel. It's going to take my whole life to bounce back from everything that happened to culminate in this.
90: Some of us can reach out. Some of us can't. Physically, I might not be able to go somewhere. But I can invite you over. I can chat or text.

Someone might not have found #alwayskeepfighting helpful. However, the #SPNFamily has always been there or me and my sisters.
91: They are one of our many fandoms where people who are on the show have actually come out and admitted their struggles and worked hard to raise awareness and even be there for their fans. I might not always agree with other things they do, but they have shown up for us.
92: End of story time.

Lessons learned: Shit happens, it's hard to get help, friends who love you will show up. Brains lie. Even if no one else loves you, if you're my friend, I do love you. Friends are my family.

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