Dear Duggar Family Children.
This is for Jana Maria, John-David, Jill Michelle, Jessa Lauren, Jinger, Joseph, Josiah, Joy-Anna, Jedidiah, Jeremiah, Jason, James, Justin, Jackson, Johannah, Jennifer, Jordyn-Grace, and Josie. Even you, Josh. This is for you when you finally leave your home, in thought and in deed.
I want to welcome you to a world that is far brighter than you’ve led to believe it is. I want to welcome you to a chance to truly experience all of God’s creation, as something more than sex objects, as something more than husbands, wives, fathers, mothers, brothers, sisters, baby-sitters, and anything else that you were told you could only be. No doubt, you are going to be afraid.
Then you are going to be mad at your parents, at yourselves, at each other, and finally at God. As someone who has escaped a cult, let me tell you now: you are absolutely right to feel every bad thought you are feeling right now. The pain is real. Even if no one can see it, it is real and maybe even more real than if you had just been torn asunder. Your entire world is breaking down and you simply have no one left to turn to you give you the firm assurance you once had. If someone promises to restore to you a black and white world, don’t believe them. Find someone though, whether it is a real counselor, a priest, a pastor, a friend — find someone who will listen.
If you are reading this, you are now “free” of Quiverfull and a host of other systems imprisoning you. In truth, as I have learned, you will never be truly free of things that have happened to you or that you have done to others. Don’t worry. I understand that. Do not let anyone judge you for this, especially yourself. You can be your own worst critic. And you should be, but don’t believe everything you tell yourself. To be honest, it wasn’t your fault. You were trained to think and believe and act a certain way. You couldn’t have left if you tried. You are only now leaving because your psyche cannot handle any more walls and mental gymnastics between what you know and what you see. It is exhausting to continue to build those walls up. At one time, you had help. Your parents and church elders helped to reinforce those walls. But they are gone. They may return, but they will never return to a place that allows you to go back from whence you came.
You are going to be mad at God. You may reject Christianity. I don’t blame you. I did myself, really. What you are told is Christianity is not Christianity, I assure you, but you will have to decide that for yourself. Right now, don’t give up on believing in God. Just because the God of Quiverfull and your parents may not be in the box you were given, don’t mean God does not exist. In fact, I found out — like many before me — that God can never fit into a box. If you find someone who tells you they have God all figured out, don’t believe them. There is no answer, proof, or concept of God that is healthy to have for too long. If, in the end, you reject Christianity altogether, and even the concept of a deity, I don’t blame you. No one can because everything done to you was done in the name of the Christian God.
For me, I choose to believe in God because I cannot believe in a world of this much evil without a deity as the redeemer. I have to believe that life matters because I have seen real beauty. I believe in orthodox Christianity because theology is a theory and as a theory, I find orthodox Christianity the best of all worlds, one where God became human so that we could become divine. Only orthodox Christianity provides for me the love of a God that I believe this world needs… that I need.
But, as a friendly piece of advice from someone who grew up with a god much like you did, God is far better and more real than what you have been given in that box of yours.
You aren’t going to be fine. You are going to be different. You are going to be a different person because there is simply no other way you can exist as the person you were before. You will have the same name, experiences, friends and family (if you choose to have the last two, that is). Yet, you will see them differently. You will see them almost like they exist in a movie. But, they will be real to you. The foods won’t taste the same. The clothes won’t feel the same. You will get squeamish when people pray, joke, or attempt to understand what you are going through. This is part of the new life you have now. It is not easy, but it is worth it.
A couple of words of advice.
- Get into a real counseling program. Whatever state you land in, find a licensed counselor through that State. Go. Go as often as you want. Be honest with your counselor about everything you are feeling.
- Breathe. You are exhausted. You will remain exhausted for a long time. You will be depressed. Find a real way to handle this.
- Don’t rush. You can’t rush this. If you do, you will find that you have established more walls, but that this time they block out other stuff, like getting the help you need.
- Take the ruin and the ashes around you and salvage the good, discard the bad, and rebuild.
- Never think this is easy. You have come from a cult. Many of you were physically harmed, some sexually harmed, and all of you emotionally, intellectually, and spiritually harmed in this. Some of you are in a part of your lifespan where maturity has set in. That means you have learned certain things that you will have to first fight to unlearn and then attempt to learn a better way. This is just not going to be easy, but if you decide it is worth it, you will make it.
- Don’t be afraid to be by yourself. But, try to be near to people who love you — they usually won’t understand you — and will care for you. You need more than bodily care; you need soul care.
Whatever brought you to this point, you are here now. You will not return. Stay with us and let us help you. Many of us have been where you are right now, coming from a cult and into a world that we are not ready for — a world we do not want. Yet, we have made it. You will too.