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The next morning was back to business as usual in our home. There would be no mention of my suicide attempt until I would bring it up, nearly ten years later. I knew waking that morning that Christ himself had pulled me through last night, even at fourteen. I didn’t know though, how I would get through the days and years ahead of me, that I had yet to live.
Emotionally I was spent. Going through puberty was difficult enough, and even more difficult because that also was a topic off limits to discuss. Sexual “things” were just not dealt with in our home, and like everything else that my mom and dad wanted to hide from, was swept under the rug. I had been on an emotional roller coaster in the last several months, ranging in emotions from being openly rejected to wishful hoping that somehow this scandal could be reversed: and I would once again be welcomed into loving arms by the only community that I knew.
Once everyone’s positions and the issues had been exposed, I was left alone. Alone. I hate that word…what I had remaining in my life were three things: my journal, my Bible, and my cat. I sank into a deep, deep depression.
Oh, I covered it well. I had to. But deep down there was a daily nagging, a restless wondering of, I have no one. I have no friends and no one to confide in. No one to talk to. Nightly for years, I would cry myself to sleep on my pillow, silently praying out to God “to just give me one friend, any friend, someone that I can talk to.” Those are still painful moments for me to remember and recall.
I felt like such an outcast and every social interaction that I had painfully reminded me of what I lacked: companionship. I was incessant in expressing my need for friends to my mother to which came her cold, calculating and abusive advise.
“Well, Chandra, we just need to pray that God would give you friends. And if you were just a little less loud…laughed less…talked less…and asked God to give you a the quiet and gentle spirit of a godly young girl then I know He would bless you with one.”
That usually made me cry, and I would tell her how hard I was trying to please her and everyone else.
Her way of comforting me on this sore topic of friendship was to misquote and abuse this scripture from Jeremiah: “ I will restore the years that the locust have eaten.” I just wished that she understood that she was the locust who had been eating away at me for all those years! She felt like God would restore to me the years that had been eaten away by my lack of compliance with the Bible or what others had done to me. She took no responsibility whatsoever in the mess that she had put me in. The phrase that states, “You can’t ask God to bless your crop without a hoe in your hand,” is aptly fitting here.
She never helped me find friends. Rather, every time we would try a new homeschool social circle, Candi would come along and discourage my mother from allowing me to take part in them because I was a bad influence on the other young girls. And every time, my mother listened. The same thing happened in our local church, a refusal to let me participate in youth group or Sunday school or any other church related youth activity. While this subject is a whole other blog post, the main reason was that my mom was fearful. Fearful that I would learn things that would make me even more rebellious, that would encourage me in worldliness, or that I would become “influenced” by these “worldly” kids. So this left me feeling like there was some terrible flaw in me, something like a cancer that I just could not cure. The reason, I concluded, why I could not make friends, was because there was something deeply and irrevocably wrong with me. When in reality, there was something deeply and irrevocably wrong with my parents.
I don’t know how I made it through the next two years. I really don’t…They were terribly depressing years for me, going through high school without one single friend and going through a series of what felt like constant social rejection. I cried daily, multiple times during the day. I hated my birthdays. They were nothing more than a painful reminder of how I just wasn’t wanted or loved by anyone in my life.
I found two neighbor families whom I could baby-sit right next door. It was heaven, just to have little people love you and accept you and shower you with hugs and kisses. One family in particular, had me over for dinner every Friday night and slowly, my heart began to warm and thaw due to the sunshine that radiated there, eating pepperoni pizza from Pizza-Hut (a reason why pepperoni is still my favorite topping). Looking back on it, this mother knew that my home life was incredibly restricting for a young teenage girl based on the types of questions that she would pose to me. Eventually my relationship with this family, turned into a job where I could come over to their home every Friday and clean house for them. I would stay over there as long as I could, sometimes nearly all day, escaping the toxic environment of my own home life. It felt good to be away from my mom’s constant phone conversations to promote The Movement and away from her abusive tongue.
My schooling was terribly shot due to my depression. I had little motivation to complete my studies, as now I was a “self-taught” learner. Though I was concerned about my terribly deficient math and science skills, it was hard to teach oneself those things. My math I would ask for help from my mom on, but she was usually too busy with homeschool support group responsibilities to offer me any real help; unless you count once a week for an hour “help”.
It wouldn’t have mattered anyway. Because of my chronic depression, I had lost all interest in reading, schooling, or even my beloved music and art. I requested to stop taking flute and piano lessons, my only real outlet, because I was hurting and dealing with a sense of deep, deep betrayal and bitterness. Betrayal by my parents, and betrayal by John and Candi; and bitterness over the way that I had been treated. Whenever my bitterness would manifest itself, my dad would say in his pompous, sneering way, “You just need to forgive and move on, Chandra.”
So I learned the art of stuffing what I was feeling in order just to survive. Every day was a feat of survival and every day brought me closer and closer to the goal: Freedom from this tyrannical family and freedom from the abuse of it. I knew that happiness had to lie on the other side of the sewage tunnel that I was in. And I had one thing beating in my heart: the eternal optimism of youth that told me that there was someone out there would be a friend to me, and I to them, if we could just…meet.
Spiritual Abuse Survivor Blogs Network member, Chandra blogs at Dispelled: One Girl’s Journey in a Homeschool Cult
Chandra Hawkins-Bernat, was homeschooled K-12 (1986-1999), and is currently enrolled to get her Bachelor’s Degrees in Secondary and Art Education. She is also authoring her autobiography, Dispelled: One Girl’s Journey in a Home School Cult and is seeking to have it published in the near future. She is happily married to her best friend and is also the proud mother of three sons, two of which have been diagnosed with Asperger’s Syndrome.