Sunday, February 14, 2016

Kelsie Chis Discovers Her True Self

I was born to parents, who were members of the Watchtower Society of Jehovah's Witnesses organization.  As a child, I was different from other kids due to the fact that I didn't celebrate holidays or stand up for O' Canada.  However, I grew up in a small community, and don't recall being bullied as a child for being different.  In fact, if we had a substitute teacher who didn't already know I didn't stand for the anthem, and when they would motion for me to stand, other kids would stick up for me before I had the chance to say anything. They would say things like, “She doesn't stand up.  It's her religion.” The teacher would usually look quite embarrassed, and apologize profusely to me afterwards.

I didn't feel like I was missing out on things as a child; my parents bought me presents and made me feel important as a person.  Also, I was the youngest of 4 kids, so since I was “the baby” I probably got spoiled for that.

Once I hit high school, things started to change a bit.  It was a bigger school, so I had to re-explain my beliefs to kids and teachers who didn't know me.  Since I was older, I started to feel like “it's because of my religion” wasn't a good enough excuse anymore, that more explanation was needed.  When I started to think more seriously about my beliefs, I wasn't really sure anymore if they were my beliefs, or someone else's.  I had grown up with this religion and I didn't know anything else.  I had considered leaving before I was baptized, but couldn't handle the thought of being under my parents roof and going against their wishes.  I never wanted to disappoint them; I loved my parents, and still do.  The last thing I wanted was for me to be the reason for their sadness.  My brother had been disfellowshipped when I was around 10 years old, and even though I didn't fully understand the situation, I did see the sadness from those in my family.  I didn't want to make them sad.  So I stayed.
Eventually, I got baptized. I was 16 years old.  Looking back, I know I was playing the part I was given.  I was expected to get baptized, that's what a “good Christian” would do, wanting to give their life in service to God.  Hey, everyone else my age was already baptized, why wasn't I?  Many had conversations with me about it, from elders to pioneer sisters to my parents.  I felt pressured to please everyone.  Since they believe “the end is coming soon” and you couldn't be “sitting on the fence”, I picked what I felt was the safe choice. I wasn't sure on my beliefs, but I knew nothing else.

There were a lot of ups and downs in life during my last couple years of high school.  My father was going through a bad bout of depression, along with a couple different cancers.  Alcohol seemed to be his crutch.  Life was difficult.  I felt as if I were walking on eggshells everyday, because I didn't know which version of my Dad I would encounter that day.  My Mum was a rock, but I don't know how she stayed so stable.  I was also dealing with my own depression, for which I didn't receive professional help, since we all thought it was just a “teenager phase.”  I didn't feel like I had a lot of places to turn.  The stuff that made me feel better also made me feel the most guilty.  For example, I found music to be very helpful, but I enjoyed hard rock and metal, things which were not necessarily “approved of” in our congregation. So whenever I listened to it, it would both ease my emotional pain, and add to it.  I also had a few long distance friends, which I relied upon – all male.  When I asked them for emotional help, they usually expected something physical in return.  This usually escalated into sexting, webcam chats, etc.  I would feel used and dirty afterwards, like my physicality was all I had to offer.  I also felt like I was being a bad Christian, and that God would be looking down on me disdainfully.  Surely I would be punished for this.  But hey, these guys were “brothers” in the congregation, not worldly.  Must be okay, right?

The next few years involved a lot of moving from place to place.  As soon as I was finished high school, I moved out of my parents house.  Over the next three years, I moved 7 times.  I was a member of 4 different congregations and I had 5 different roommates.  I was asked by a lot of different people why I moved so much.  I remember my father asking me once, “What are you running from?”  At the time, I didn't know the answer. Looking back, I can see that I was trying to run from myself.  

I knew that I did not want to be a Jehovah's Witness, but I knew that during those years, I was not yet strong enough to accept the alternative.  I had turned to many things to try to ease the pain; alcohol, masturbation and self-harm.  I even tried throwing myself further into the organization.  I thought to myself, maybe I'm just not doing enough. They are always preaching from the platform that you have to constantly be checking to see if you are doing your best.  I already had enough punishment about myself in my own head, so I didn't need anyone else telling me I wasn't doing a good enough job.  

I joined a foreign language group.  I enjoyed learning the language, but the message was still the same.  At another time, I was in a relationship with a brother in the congregation.  We eventually turned our “chaste courtship” into a sexual relationship.  He was my first, and I was his.  I felt like it was normal, natural, beautiful.  I loved him and of course, I wanted to share this experience with him.  But he felt guilty after every time.  Again this just made me feel dirty and worthless.  Why couldn't something like this be shared between two people who love each other?

At one point I got a new job and made friends at work and – gasp! - hung out with them outside of work.  By this time, I was no longer interested in being one of Jehovah's Witnesses, but I was too scared to leave because the repercussions of doing so were extremely terrifying.  It would mean losing my family, my friends I had known all my life, my roommate, my support system.  I felt so trapped. 
I started having a relationship with a guy from work – sex, drugs, alcohol.  I was a mess.  I didn't know who I was anymore, so I morphed into whoever I had to be depending on who I was around; a party animal when I went out, a good girl when I was at the meetings.
Eventually, I couldn't handle being a hypocrite anymore.  I was going out in service to tell people how to live their lives, the way I was supposedly living mine, but I was living a lie.  I was also starting to doubt a lot of things I was taught as a witness.  Topics like homosexuality, creation, and organized religion in general used to be something I just accepted.  When I started really thinking about it, I wasn't so sure I did anymore.  At this time in my life, I was confused, afraid, and felt utterly alone.
Eventually, I opened up about how I felt; first to my family, then to my friends.  I was talking about writing a letter to disassociate myself as a witness.  The elders wanted to have a meeting with me before I did that.  I met with a couple of them once or twice.  I told them about my doubts.  I said I was re-evaluating everything I was taught and seeing what I really felt and believed.  I said that I felt like I needed to take a step back from everything to really be able to have a clear and unbiased picture in my head.  What I got in return was scriptures read to me, when I had said that I wasn't sure I believed in the Bible or even God.  Why are scriptures being read to me to prove they themselves are true?

I was told after a week or two, after I had already been drafting a letter in my head, that they wanted to have a judicial meeting with me. I didn't understand at the time, since I was already deciding myself that I was leaving. Somehow information got to them about me and my previous Jehovah's Witness boyfriend.  He had been reproved just a few days earlier for it.  I went back and forth about whether I would meet with them or not.  In the end, I agreed.
Looking back, I think the reason I said yes was because my "worldly" boyfriend broke things off with me.  I had no one else to turn to, so I went back to the witnesses I had known all my life.  It was, honestly, the most embarrassing thing I have ever had to go through in my entire life.  Questions about when, where, why.  I was asked how I felt about him while the “intercourse” was happening.  I was asked about other sexual partners, about whether I had watched pornography, and what kind.  I honestly felt humiliated.  I was crying, something I hadn't done in months.  After it was over, they sent me out of the room while they “prayed to God for direction on how to discipline me”.  I waited for over an hour in a room by myself while they deliberated my fate, which was disfellowshipping.  Even though I was technically disfellowshipped and not disassociated, I still view it as my decision.  My heart might have been on the fence, but my mind was made up long before that meeting ever occurred.
The aftermath is, of course, bittersweet.  I miss the family that won't talk to me.  The family that will talk to me, the contact is limited.  Having been on the other side though, I do appreciate what contact I do receive.  I have been able to reconnect with my brother, which has been absolutely amazing.  I have also started a relationship with someone I have known since Grade 1.  He has known my ups and downs of my life since they started as a teenager.  I couldn't have a more perfect match for me.  Had I remained as a Jehovah's Witness, I would have missed out on the true love of my life.
There are so, so, SO many other factors about my life as a Witness than what I mentioned here, but really, how could I write about them all without it being a full novel, a memoir?  I'm keeping it short (ish) and sweet (ish) for now, maybe someday this will turn into more.  Bottom line, I hate no one, and I blame no one.  I am who I am because of my upbringing, my surroundings, and my genetics.  I don't believe that anger or regret will solve any pain I may deal with.  I believe in truly feeling emotions, but not allowing yourself to get swallowed by them.  I believe in love and trust.  These are two things I now use to guide my life.  I may not have it all figured out.  I may not know exactly what I do believe.  I may never be sure.  The one thing I am sure of, is that despite everything that has happened and what I have gone through, I know I will be okay. 

Nikkie Stars Shares Jehovah's Witnesses' Ungodly Ways

I was born into the Watchtower Society (WTS) of Jehovah's Witnesses (JWs), in Denver, Colorado.  Before I was born, my parents met at the Kingdom Hall, when my mother was studying with the witnesses.  I guess my father had his eye on her and studied around the same time.  My father was exposed to JWs, because his mother was a JW.  Both of my parents were baptized and later, they married at the Kingdom Hall (KH).  I've heard that some JWs, including my older sister, did not like my father, nor his mother.  They begged my mother not to marry him, but she did anyway.  My father has six other boys from previous marriages, but I never knew exactly why the JWs did not want my mother to marry him.

Right after my brother was born, when I was age one year, we moved to California, along with my grandmother.  Everyone in California loved my grandmother.  She bragged about me, because I was her only granddaughter.  After  we moved to California I guess my dad simply just stopped going to the meetings.  After all, he got the lady (my mother) he wanted to marry.  He mentioned from time to time that the religion was a "cult," but I didn't know what that meant.

I was always that good little "Shirley Temple" girl, until I reached my pre-teenage years.  I couldn't fit in with the other girls, because I always had questions and more often did whatever I wanted outside of "church."  When I turned thirteen years of age, I met a girl, with whom I finally made friends.  I had a huge crush on her brother, too, but I never told them everything or my full story or my full opinions.  

That's when some other girls came along.  We were still little outcasts from the elders' daughters, as if we were not good enough.  I did not care.  We had fun.  We had code names for boys, so we could pass notes to each other during the meetings.  By this time, I had already made friends with a JW girl.  She was my best friend, who hurt my feelings.  Afterward, my mother and her mother suddenly stopped talking and so did my best friend and I.  I didn't know why.....yet.

There I was with new friends, who, like me, were living "double lives."  I still had non-JW friends, too.  As my JW friends were getting baptized and becoming publishers (ministers, door-to-door), I finally began to get involved in the Thursday night ministry school (Escuela ministerial).  We were in the Spanish congregation and I was not as fluent in Spanish as I am now.  When I became a publisher, I could then speak, when going door-to-door in the field ministry.  I was so nervous and secretly wished NOT to ever bump into my friends from school.

I met a boy and we began dating secretly.  His parents were studying to become JWs at this time and I believe his mother was recently baptized.  I ended up, after making him wait, losing my virginity to him at age sixteen years.  Later, I discovered that one of my good friends, who was the daughter of an elder had been involved with my boyfriend, too!  She used to tell me that she was studying the bible with him over the phone, because sometimes I was there to hear them.  Of course, that was an act, when I was around.  She was twenty-one years old and would hang out with the sixteen- and seventeen-year-olds, as she had trouble fitting in, despite being an elder's daughter.  I stopped talking to her and I was so heart-broken.  She could not have cared less.

One day, an elder cornered me and asked to speak with me in the other room with another elder present.  I knew right away the reason he wanted to talk to me.  I stopped him and said, "I have not even told my mother and father and before I speak to you, I would like to tell them first."  He agreed and let me go.  That day, I told my sister, who is eighteen years older than me and a non-JW.  She did not get mad at all.  I told my father, who was disappointed, but also did not yell at me or ground me.  I just could not tell my mother.  I was afraid she would never talk to me again.  

I began going separately to the meetings and my sister would drive me.  We planned it so that I would arrive late and leave early, all to avoid the elders.  At first, I wanted to do things right.  I wanted to tell my mother, tell the elders that I was repentant and pay the consequences of losing my "privileges," including being labeled as a "bad influence."  But when that elder came to talk to me, I had looked at him with his smiling face and judgmental eyes cornering me, not as a loving "brother," an elder trying to help, but as a man, a creepy man, who I knew was going to ask me details about my sexual sin.  Then I remembered another elder, who had just been disfellowshipped for cheating on his wife, and I became disgusted, confused about what I really wanted to do.

Throughout those years, I had become a Jehovah's Witness to please my grandmother, a Witness for fifty years, a cute little old lady, whom everyone loved, the one with the cute, curly-haired, dimpled Shirley Temple granddaughter and to please and obey my mother.  Deep down though, I always knew I did not agree.  I hated not getting to celebrate anything, but at the same time, I never knew what it felt like, so I was rather blind and naive to it all.  To this day, I could not care less about Christmas, because I have been so disconnected from a normal life.  I did know that I never felt comfortable or loving for Jehovah.  I also had been going to the Spanish congregation all my life and English was my first language.  I learned to read Spanish at the meetings, but the translation was never very clear to me.  When I grew older and heard a talk at a meeting at the English congregation, then It was "all Greek" to me!  It sounded so fanatic and it was so creepy.  

As I was leaving early one day, a sister ran out of the hall behind me and begged me to please not stop coming to the meetings.  Apparently, she was the one who betrayed me to the brothers.  One day my mother called me at my sister's house.  The elders had told her about what I had done and she was very upset, crying, and yelling at me.  I felt as if I were the scum of the earth.  Afterwards, we never spoke about it, and following that,
 I simply stopped attending meetings.  For a year or two, I only went to the memorials and still carried my "no blood" card. 
After I turned eighteen years of age, my mother had several strokes and eventually became paralyzed and brain damaged.  She was diagnosed with Central Nervous System Vasculitis.  At first only a handful of sisters came to see her.  No brothers ever, no elders.  We never got calls for her, either.  They knew my father, sister, brother (who was in juvenile hall) and I were not witnesses.  My grandmother had passed away when I was sixteen years old and missed the whole debacle of her lovely granddaughter committing a sexual sin with a boy.  Whew, for that, huh!  

My best friend, the one I had finally found back when I was age thirteen years, was still my best friend and long story short, she rented an apartment with me and my mother, as I took my mother away from my father, who was having an affair for years already and not helping me with my mother.  We moved and he never saw us again.  When the few Jehovah's Witnesses who did come to see her about five times in two years, they would make my mother cry, telling her that Jehovah was going to make things right and talking about paradise.   My sister became angry and scolded them, telling them to just visit and not to make her cry by telling her those things.  They stopped coming and began spreading the word of the evil older daughter.  Remember my mother was brain damaged and was mentally like a child.  

I did take my mother to the meetings a few times, but it was always so difficult.  My sister would drive us, but I would stay with her for the meetings.  People would stare and did not understand why I had to hush my mother for talking out loud like a child would.  One sister came to me and asked if she could help me.  At this point, I was about twenty years old, working full time, supporting my mother and her medical needs and my sister was, as well, but my mother lived with me.  I had to grow up quickly.  The sister helped at first, taking my mother to the meetings which was great.  My mother could go to her Kingdom Hall and I didn't have to.  Then that sister began helping me every other weekend, so I could have some breaks and get errands done, groceries etc.  Then she offered to have her during the week while I was working a stressful mortgage company job.  My mother, by this time, was staying at this sister's home for about a month.  I still saw my mother every day.  

One day, I was late picking her up and the "sister" brought my mother to me, instead.  She scolded me and yelled at me and actually searched my house.  I am sure she did that to see if I had any men at my house, causing me to be late picking up my mother.  After that, I told her I did not need her help anymore.  A few days later, Adult Protective Services came to my house.  I was livid!  No one could lift, change and take better care of my mother than me!  Later, my mother's illness grew much worse and eventually, we had to put her in a nursing home for 24-hour care.  She passed away in 2005.  

The next day, my best friend's mother, a Jehovah's Witness, called me and asked if an elder could call me and I said, "Yes."  The elder called and bombarded me with questions.  I was still in tears and devastated!  My friend's mother called me again and told me they would have a memorial service for my mother that Sunday and asked if I was planning to go.  At that moment, I was so overwhelmed, I said, "Maybe."  I would have absolutely gone, because it was the least I could do, I thought.  I had no money to have a formal service for her, so I just had a simple get-together at my apartment, where only our non-Jehovah's Witness friends attended.  She then called me again and told me they were not going to go through with her service since I was not going to be there.  I was so angry and hung up on her.  They had NO service for her.  Nothing. 
My mother was always there for these people.  She was always so kind and never had any problems with anyone.  It only ocurred to me recently, in this last month, that people must have not associated with my mother very much, because she was the only Jehovah's Witness in the family.  

As a child, when I was bad, my mother would threaten me that she was going to tell the elders, and I would beg, "Nooo!  Please, nooooo!"  My mother never mistreated me, though, and she kindly gave me my freedom to go or not, after the boyfriend incident.  She was the best!  Even though she did not agree with me, she did not shun me or pressure me to go back.  

It took me a long time to rid my thinking of the habits, daily living rituals, and brain-washed thoughts of the Watchtower Society.  A few years ago, I finally trashed my "no blood " card and made myself an organ donor on my drivers license. I am twenty-nine years old and I still catch myself thinking, 'I must have something materialistically bad in my home,' when I get scared or have bad dreams or hear creaking sounds at home.  

I also feel that because of all the brain-washing I feel a disconnection to religion and God in general.  I cannot fathom "falling in love with God or christ," because I simply do not believe in God or have an agnostic point of view.  It feels fake to me.  I consider myself agnostic/ buddhist/ and a little bit of an atheist sometimes.  I believe in compassion, in kindness and love. None of which I felt from being a Jehovah's Witness.  

I have been asked questions like, "Don't you want to see your mother again?"  And "What will I tell your mother, when we see you did not make it to paradise?"  I've always just nodded, but now I feel ready to answer back.  They desensitize the grief one goes through, when a loved one passes away.  I resent it and I resent them.  I believe that my mother is with me, that her soul somehow watches over me.  I do not believe in paradise anymore.
I look back and remember the clique-ish girls, the "double lives" almost everyone had, the sister getting involved with her son's fourteen-year-old best friend, which I did not realize was happening back then!  The divorces and remarrying within months! The shunning of "brothers" and "sisters" and me wondering why was I giving them bad looks.  I did not even know why I was doing it.  I was a sheep, but a black sheep, and they knew it.  I could not accept their answers to my questions, because there was always something missing.  It didn't make sense to me.  Why did they not celebrate birthdays, but baby showers were okay? And the mother of my friend, to whom my mother stopped talking? Well, as it turns out, my mother overheard a telephone call between that "sister" and my father flirting and talking badly about my mother.  I have come to realize their hypocrisy and see the brainwashed, selfish, fanatical people behind this religion.  There is nothing "Godly" about them.
The one thing that still haunts me to this day is my mother not getting a funeral service by her alleged spiritual "family," her "friends," the people and religion and God she was so loyal to.  Not for me, but for my mother.  It hurts me.  I feel as if I did not give her what she deserved and it is my fault.  I should have called back and said, "Yes, I'll go!"  My little remembrance for my mother at my house was all I could manage and it wasn't enough.  For such a lovely person, she deserved more.  More in life, love and friendship and more for her own funeral.  To this day, it brings me to tears just thinking about it.  
Then there's my friend.  I am still friends with her, but we have grown apart and I feel as if my resentment towards her mother, who told the elders to cancel my mother's service, the same one who makes these comments to me about seeing my mother again, and the whole experience growing up with my friend continuing to go back and forth to the religion, has put a strain on our friendship.  I will always love her, but I will never go back.  I also have had better amazing friendships outside of this religion than within it.  Literally, in this past month, it has hit me that I was raised in a CULT.  I'm mindblown.  That's how I ended up here in the Ex-Jehovah's Witness groups and for the first time, finding that there are others like me!  Like us!  There is happiness after the Jehovah's Witness cult!  Thanks for reading.