I was born in Johannesburg 1982 at the South Rand hospital; due to being premature I was air-lifted to a better equipped hospital in order for my life to be saved. I was in an incubator for a full month and then discharged to my mother, she was only able to squeeze my finger through the little porthole in the incubator and hold me for the first time when I was discharged.
So begins a very long a torturous journey for my mother and I. Though she is gone, she will always be with me. Now that I have the benefit of hindsight and some life experience I can remember her with kindness. The past injustices between us are forgiven. Her story is integrally entwined in mine. She was brought up a Witness, a second generation JW. She married a brother at 19 years old and had 7 happy years with him. When he asked for a divorce she was devastated and I think never truly recovered from it. It started a chain of events that influenced her life and mine up until the very end. Soon after her divorce she was disfellowshipped and her life continued to spiral out of control, she met a man (my father) who I assume gave her the attention she needed and since he loved to drink and my mother had discovered she loved to drink too, they got on extremely well and soon she was pregnant. I believe she pressured him to marry her because of her upbringing. They were married in October, and in December of that same year I was born.
After my birth things changed dramatically for my mother, instead of drinking/partying the way she had been with my father she was forced to take responsibility and get a job to support us. I remember coming into the lounge as a toddler and asking when I could have dinner, they had been partying all day and each time she said ‘later’. To my mind, ‘later’ had become interminable hours, and so I’d come again to ask. She got up to make me something to eat and remember the relief that she would finally make me something.
I will not elaborate about my childhood. I lived with an alcoholic abusive father who regularly would slam my mother into the walls. I would often get ‘spanked’ for minor things but I think the emotional and verbal abuse was comparably worse than been bent over the bath my bare bum exposed to my father’s flat hand. My memories of that time have not faded in their intensity. The level of fear and horror during those ‘fights’ will remain scorched forever in my mind. My mother and I were like cornered animals just trying to survive. I was her friend, her confidant and advice giver. Not healthy for a mother child relationship! During those years she attempted to divorce him at least 4 times. Each time she caved, once again because she was taught her divorce would be unscriptural. Even with the abuse the elders would not give her that permission she craved to divorce him.
When I was 9 years old my mother was pushed into me having a Bible Study with a regular pioneer sister. I studied with her up until I reached the point where I should get baptised, but I just couldn’t do it. I withdrew from the congregation and lost my unbaptised publisher status.
Fast forward to my 16th year. Once again divorce was in the air, she had been given some kind of permission from the elders as long as she didn’t marry again, she could divorce my father. Even with that, she once again caved – and I gave up. I told her that as soon as I turned 18 I would leave home and make my own life. I could no longer live in that warzone any longer. It scared her and she went through with the divorce. On a side note, she blamed me for divorcing him. Something I take with a pinch of salt now. Once my father was out of our lives becoming ‘good Witnesses’ was high on the agenda.
In my 17th year I decided that I had to go back to the congregation and the one thing that scared me the most was field service. I had always been an extremely shy child. Painfully quiet. I had to force myself to talk to people at the doors. Growing up with my disfellowshipped mother was very difficult; her shame was a permanent presence when doing ‘theocratic’ things. I came to the conclusion that going against Jehovah is what had caused all the pain and sorrow and to have a happy life I had to become a good witness. I threw myself into it and soon regained my publisher status, and then got baptised when I was 18.
I auxiliary pioneered the first two month of 2001, straight out of high school. In March my mother was diagnosed with MS (Multiple Sclerosis). She lost her job the next month, and I got my first job in May of 2001. I will be leaving that same company at the end of April this year to go to the UK.
The years of 2001 – 2008 were my ‘caregiving years’. As my mother slowly deteriorated, I had to do more and more for her. As the pressure of taking care of her grew so my resources dwindled. I didn’t reach out for outside support. I finally got support from an online caregiver’s forum. Those women saved my sanity when I was going through my darkest times.
I kept trying to hold on and maintain the status quo until Armageddon (I know, really?) I didn’t want to put my mother into a home. My depression grew deeper, I don’t really know when it began, it was just there. The end of my tether came. I was so burnt out I could barely think straight. I was working full-time, getting up very early to take two busses to work, then getting home, cooking dinner, cleaning up, washing my mother, helping her into bed. The frequent hospital stays, the doctors visits, the emergency errands to the pharmacy, the responsibility on my shoulders was close to breaking them. At my lowest I went to the elders and begged for help. Their answer “you’ll have to put your mother into a home. I couldn’t expect such help of the congregation as they were all just trying to support their own families.” My heart broke, and I know my mother’s did too. I stood with the decision as it was the best for my mother; if there would be no help from congregation I had no choice. I couldn’t lift her anymore. She was getting bedsores; I couldn’t get her onto a toilet and back into her wheelchair again. The strength I had to lift her was gone. I had back problems which I still suffer with today.
Our relationship exploded like a volcano meeting an avalanche. She hated me, and she made sure I knew it. Her attacks were like knives, they found their mark but at least now I have forgiven her and myself. She felt I had left her at the frail care facility to rot and die. As expected the congregation didn’t visit as much as promised, ‘out of sight, out of mind’ seems apt. I too stayed away, her judgement of me made me physically ill. My depression had bloomed into an added element of severe anxiety. Just being in the same room with my mother would make me shake with emotion. Still I would go as the thought of not going was just too much to bear. Thankfully she had a nephew and niece that were far more regular in visiting her. In 2011 she was in hospital for over a month, she was suffering from brain damage. Parts of her brain had died. Those visits while she didn’t know who I was still make me cry. After she was discharged she still wasn’t completely alright, she got pneumonia and then she was gone. Only the nurses were at her side when she breathed her last. They had tried to warn me to get there, but it was too late. I was told on the phone she was gone. It had been 3 years.
I met Craig on the bus in 2008. I fell for him completely and in so got in major trouble. As he wasn’t a Witness I had no business making friends with him in the first place. I was ordered to stay away, and I did. I felt like my heart was being broken over and over again, I cried so damn much I’m surprised I didn’t dehydrate. I explained as best I could why we couldn’t continue our friendship and walked away with very heavy feet. He decided to investigate the Witnesses and then suddenly surprised me with wanting to study. I got him into contact with the congregation nearest to him and then tried very hard to just crawl into a hole and disappear. News had got around; the shame on me was heavy. I kept my head down and just did what I was supposed to. I lived like a shadow of a person, desperately depressed but unable to show to anyone just how bad I really felt, as I would probably be told I had brought it on myself.
After his baptism he asked if he could ask me out, I was flabbergasted when we he was given the go ahead. Though it was frowned upon I said yes, and we happily began courting. Not too long later we got married and I thought the shame of the past was finally over and now we could move on.
We started butting heads badly on our ‘theocratic life’. I desperately wanted him to be ‘good brother’ but even if he couldn’t do that, not once did I think of leaving him. He had taught me what real love really was, this unconditional kind that I had never encountered before. I said some really hurtful things to him and he still loved me. It was astonishing to me. Removing the Witness issue we were happy, we only argued about that.
With the birth of our son, I can say my waking up accelerated. All my hurt and pain with my own messed up childhood just spilled out and I knew that I could never let my baby go through that. I loved my son with every fibre of my being, I could not imagine for a moment having to shun him because of him contravening Watchtowers rules. I knew right then and there I would not shun him, no matter what.
My baby boy completed my education about love. I had been raised with the idea that you earned love. You had to be good, to be loved. Looking at my smiling little boy, I loved him just because he existed, he didn’t have to do ANYTHING in order for me to love him, and so the last hold on my heart released and a new strength was born. The way the Witnesses ‘love’ is wrong, and then I just needed hard facts to back up my new thinking. I researched every free moment I had. I dragged everything out and examined it, discussing it at length with Craig until I had moved long held beliefs and I was convinced of the rightness of my new thinking.
The night I came to the ultimate realisation, I was sitting cross legged on the bed with Craig, with just the one lamp on, we had been talking about the Governing Body for hours and I said “That means, they’re not speaking from Jehovah.” Craig just nodded, and said “And now you’re free”
It just days after this that I typed out my disassociation letter and sent it to Craig to have a look at, he then typed up his own and we both printed them out, put them in envelopes and addressed them to our congregation elders. It was the Tuesday night meeting and an elder nearby would be driving by us to get to the Kingdom Hall, so Craig called him to pick up some letters. So in effect our letters were hand delivered, it took about a week or so before the announcement was made and the news started spreading that we had ‘left Jehovah’. I’m telling you right now, it was the BEST decision I have ever made.
Feel free to contact me at speaktoasiza at gmail.com or look me up on Facebook.