Comments About Life After Leaving
Watchtower presents itself as a fortress to protect those within it's figurative walls. For many, it is a jail that seems impossible to leave. How does one leave, and what awaits on the other side?
The artist of this sketch writes:
I drew this two years ago. I felt like a defenceless child confronting the wall and shut door of the Watchtower. This was before I had read any apostate material. Before I knew exjw Reddit existed. Not lonely nor defenceless anymore.
The toll of leaving Watchtower is significant, as the lose of family, friends, and belief system unavoidably leads to a range of emotions; including stress, fear, anger and depression. Whilst very few that leave would say it was easy, I have received countless emails, spoken to former Jehovah's Witnesses and read experiences that invariably say that leaving was worth the pain and in the end they were happier as a result. I am sharing some of these to provide encouragement for any that are struggling with the decision to leave, or have left and wonder if they will ever recover from the trauma of being a member of a high control religious organisation.
I struggled with emotional and mental health issues in the congregation myself. When I realized it was all made up, surprisingly my issues seem to melt away too, my physical health improved significantly as well.
It was probably the bravest thing I've ever done, and perhaps will ever do. But I'm so thankful and relieved I did. My life and happiness improved immensely afterwards, although it took a few years of struggle due to the damage done.
My main joy at escaping has been that for years I was in almost constant and difficult to bear physical pain which I now believe was brought on by my intellectual struggle with cognitive dissonance ... the pain has all but evaporated.
When I go through my meeting notebooks from recent four years, you would think they were owned by someone suffering from paranoid schizophrenia (sculls, sad faces, stern people with glassy stares). Quitting meetings, I’ve stopped making such drawing and are off SSRI for one year. Although I am sometimes overcome by grief from my experiences and personal loss, I feel a mental calm I never experienced as a JW.
As JWs we have to sit through hours of talks that make us feel guilty, make us hate the world around us, make us view success as a bad thing and make us think we aren’t doing enough. And when the talks end, we interact with other JWs who will not hesitate to “counsel” us if we say, do, or dress in a way that they view doesn’t meet up to JW standards.
As a JW I felt horrible all the time. I was very depressed and the ironic thing is that the indoctrination process is so gradual that I didn’t even realize how depressed I was. But 1 year after fading, I can finally say I am happy. Sure, I have bad days from time to time but in general, my default mood is happy…. Something that wasn’t possible for me as a JW.
It got so bad at one point that I was suicidal. I had to go to the hospital for almost a week so I could "recover". My parents were convinced that my unhappiness was because my medications were not working correctly, and that the hospital could adjust them for me. I later found out that my psychiatric evaluation proved that I was completely normal, just under a lot of stress.
Finally the day came to leave, so I snuck my things out to my car, where I told my family I was just going to a doctor's appointment. From there I printed out my plane ticket and drove right to the airport. ...
After I got to Singapore, things changed for the better, but I still felt anxiety over a lot of things, such as the thought of being destroyed in Armageddon. Finally I went back home to meet with the elders, under my dad's suggestion and was disfellowshipped. I no longer have any contact with my family. I did a lot of research since being disfellowshipped and I am happy to say I'm mentally free of the cult. Leaving has been the best decision of my life. I'm now remarried to the sweetest man. I was able to move back to Singapore to be with my husband, travel, and meet amazing people in the past year. I'm now back in the states and working on my bachelor's degree in education. I just hope that everyone can find the same happiness and peace of mind after leaving the organization.
"I was burned out. For years I've been reaching out, reaching out, reaching out, ministry every day, studying every day, answering up in the Kingdom Hall. I literally couldn't do any more but they kept asking for more. In the end i had a breakdown. ...
A week after the hospital I decided to kill myself. But I had a change of heart and saw my doctor instead. I told him about what lead me here and how I'm doing all I can for my god but it's never enough and I can't stand the thought of being alive anymore. The doctor suggested I take a holiday from it. Either literally go away for a week or just spend a week doing what I want to do. I did. A week became two weeks. Two weeks became a month. A month became two months and with every passing week I noticed I was getting happier. I haven't read a Watchtower in months and I feel so much "lighter". I work out, I watch comedies on TV that cheer me up, I go out and talk to people in cafes and libraries. And now i go busking with my violin. I have a license off the council and everything. I made £30 only yesterday. People came up to me and said my music is beautiful. I still believe in God, but I don't want to be in that religion anymore. I'm just going to live my life now and be happy."
7 months ago I married this wonderful human being. We are both exJWs who met here seeking support. If we are both "mentally diseased" then I hope it's incurable because we are happier then we have ever been before.
"I have been out of that religion now for over 25 years. Since I left I went back to college and got my degree, have a successful career, married, and raised two beautiful kids. The day I was DF'd I thought my life was over - little did I know that I had been set free and my life had just begun.
I never felt such relief as when I found out the truth about the cult. I am so happy not to have to raise my kids the way someone else sees fit. We have given them such a wide variety of experiences and values they never could have had in the religion. ... Unfortunately it does come with the loss of all of our families who even though we've faded want nothing to do with us. ... Their choice.
I'm quite happy in my new life, definitely the happiest I've ever been, putting aside the issues with family and former friends. But I can still remember the misery I faced everyday when I was a part of that religion. Like I said, I'm only young, and the memories are still quite raw. I'm angry about so many things that they have done and continue to do to this day, only to new and innocent victims. My brother believes there's nothing to be done about it except to forget and move on, but I have a hard time accepting that."
I like so many others here, was hesitant and not ready to lose everything I had....to lose the only world I had ever known. My wife, friends and family and even my two children. In my heart I felt my children would make the break too back then, but there was no guarantees for sure and it could have gone either way.
This is an old story that has been played out many times. Half the kids stay in the "Borg" while the other half leave and make their break to freedom.
When the break came, when the spinning plates came crashing down I did lose all those things, a 27 marriage, all my "friends" and most my family. No regrets... It was the best move of my life.
Paul Grundy 2005 - 2021