It’s funny how when you look back in time it seems as though all that has happened has happened in the blink of an eye. It was just 5 or 6 years ago when I officially escaped the high control religion that I was born into. My life was totally different then. I thought I would take a moment to night to reflect on where I have come from and where I am going.
A few short years ago I was still one of Jehovah’s Witnesses. I was a pioneer and ministerial servant in a spanish language congregation. I was terribly sad and I felt extremely empty and unfulfilled. I was only ever encouraged to do more for the religion and read more bible and more of their religious literature. When I did not find that to be fulfilling or happy I was attacked, gaslit, and shunned by people who I considered to be my friends in the religion. It felt like my life was over. I didn’t know who I was or what I believed. This was in 2014. For a good year or so I believe that the religions teachings were true but it was just that the congregation was filled with corrupt and evil people.
However after a solid year of living in confusion I had a thought that helped me wake up. I thought if God had given me a brain and intellectual ability that is greater than other species then why would he forbid me from using it? It would not make sense that a God who loves truth and justice would not want an individual to stand up for truth and justice. Then in late 2015 I realized the cold hard truth. Jehovah’s Witnesses are a cult.
When I realized this it was like all the confusion I felt throughout my life made sense. It was like I had been collecting puzzle pieces throughout my life and trying to piece them together but I was missing the big picture. Then as if in an instant all the pieces came together. It all made sense when I considered that the beliefs and practices of Jehovah’s Witnesses were manipulative and toxic.
After I came to that realization I began to heal. Leaving the Jehovah’s Witnesses is extremely difficult. Members are discouraged from pursuing education, a career, having friends outside the congregation, and even from having passions and hobbies outside of the church. In the religion you as an individual don’t exist. You only exist as part of a religious collective.
As I was saying, a result of these things it is extremely difficult to leave. I had so many questions and unknowns. Who was I? What did I like? What did I want from life? It might sound strange but I simply didn’t know. Reconnecting with myself was arduous work.
Eventually during I started to remember or realize my love of psychology and biology. My love for these things combined with my desire to help others like myself motivated me to return to school. Initially I was going to school to become a licensed therapist and then my focus changed to becoming a school psychologist.
I still had doubts about whether or not that was what I wanted. So I took some classes on teaching in elementary school. The class was fine but it didn’t excite me. At the same time I was also in a neuroscience class and I noticed that the topics not only interested me but I felt energized thinking about them. So I reached out to that professor to discuss career opportunities and my education goals.
After explaining my interests I was told that my interests were in the field of “cognitive behavioral neuroscience” and that was at that time that I had heard that phrase. Long story short, I wound up becoming an Honors Psychology Student, conducting undergraduate research in behavioral neuroscience, writing a thesis paper, and setting the goal of getting into a PhD program. I then found myself searching for graduate schools, writing emails, taking the GREs, and applying. In the end I only ended up applying for one program and I was accepted.
Seemingly at breakneck speed I am now here at my new University as a Phd Student and Graduate Assistant. Looking back it’s been a real journey getting here. I’ve only been in my new town at my new university for about 1 week and half but honestly it feels like I am where I need to be. Classes have not officially started yet but things feel good. As one of Jehovah’s Witnesses I never felt fulfillment. I never felt like I belong.
I’m starting to feel those things now.