EDD Hatred Level Escalates; Awesome Book; Religious Past

Today was a day that was mainly frustrating and exhausting, for personal reasons.

In addition, yesterday I gasped with joy as I opened my P.O. box.  A beaming, glowing ray of light fell upon the envelope from California EDD.  The angelic chorus sounded.  For a brief moment, the world was so very lovely.  Finally, finally after hours of fruitless phone calls trying to get through, several e-mails begging for a response, with only maddeningly robotic (and clearly deceptive) “we will get back to you within 48 hours” automatons to appease me…  FINALLY!!!!!!!  My claim forms for my extended benefits had arrived (in case you haven’t yet read my previous post on this subject, I am now owed several months’ worth of retroactive extended unemployment benefits, prior to my getting a job.  Sat down recently and tallied up the amount owed from the day that I filed.  Turns out I’m owed in the vicinity of a little over $5K at this point, which would take me 1/4 of the way towards accummulating the $20K I recently found out I need to pull out of my bum to get this house so that I can then start the whole fun part of seeing what’s involved to use it for transitional housing purposes to take in other homeless women/children (that’s a story for another post, but soon, I promise).

Ripped open the envelope to find… a (second) “approval” notice letting me know that yes, I am eligible for extended unemployment benefits (well, duh, same exact notice I already received waaaaaaaay back when this crap saga started)…

There were no claims forms included.

None.

Zilch.

Aaaaaaaaaand………… yeah.

Seriously.  I know they’re backed up because CA is now like the poster child mascot of insanely skyrocketing unemployment rate states (OK, besides Michigan), but what the eff?!?!?!?!?!

WHERE are my UI benefits?  With those I could at least start the process, combine those with the money I have on me now and I’d be $6K down, only $14K to go.

* * * * *

In other news, stumbled upon this book called I’m Perfect, You’re Doomed, by Kyria Abrahams.  She was raised in the same religion/cult/whateveryouwannacallit as I was (won’t reference it here, you’re welcome to look it up if you like, but if you’re a reader and a devoted member of this religion, I’d really appreciate you skipping the part where you leave me comments telling me how wrong I am about the organization, wrong for leaving, assuming you know everything about me, assuming you know everything about your own religion/cult/whatever, assuming you know everything period, etc.)

I read the first couple of pages and identified so strongly with it (plus it’s hysterically funny – the chick has mad sarcasm skills, which is kind of my M.O. too, so I liked her right off the bat) that I had to stay up all night reading it.

It really brought back waves of memories for me – I left the organization at 18 when I moved out of my parents’ house, although while staying with them they insisted on dragging me back, which I put up with to the best of my ability… zoning out, which I’ve perfected the art of.

Kyria really got the language and syntax and feel of what it’s like growing up as a member spot on.  Many of our experiences were alike – particularly the one where she swallowed a bottle full of pills in a failed suicide attempt and her parents ignored it, didn’t drive her to the hospital, nothing.  Left her to either get over it or else face the consequences of her actions and die.  That struck me so because I had such an eerily similar experience – at 14, in a fit of hopelessness, I impulsively swallowed a jumbo bottle of Tylenol (yeah, go ahead and laugh – but ODing on Tylenol causes liver failure, it turns out!)  My family’s tenant found me in the bathroom and called my mother, who blithely told him “have her stick her finger down her throat”, hung up and drove to Palm Springs with my sister for the week, leaving me to be sick and/or die while said tenant, also a member of this religion, shrugged his shoulders and went back to bed (turned out I was just in agony all night and the next morning.  Nothing major.  I was lucky.)

Now, clearly I got over the whole idea of death after that… agony like that made me decide it really wasn’t in the cards for me.  Nope, never trying that again *shudder*.  But still, it was scary.  And finding out that there was someone with a childhood so similar to mine – let alone her writing a book that is breaking into mainstream literature! – was kind of an eye-opener for me.

The last part of the book is the darkest.  This is where our life experiences varied more (and Kyria admits she has some medical/mental issues such as OCD, etc. that didn’t help with some of the more naive/destructive choices she made in her desperation).  She married super-young to someone she had nothing in common with, as children with our upbringing are wont to do (no premarital sex, and no secular “dating”.  “Dating” = “Marriage”).  She was, unsurprisingly, miserable, and started cutting, using drugs, and sleeping around to escape her marriage (adultery is the only valid and accepted reason to divorce, in this religion).

OK, slightly different from me – I never dated boys from my congregation.  I didn’t want to.  Was never interested.  There were, as she points out in the book, very few prospects, and I never felt like settling for a pale shadow of the real thing, just so that I could have sex or play house.  I knew even then that I wasn’t wholly and completely invested in my religion.  I think to some degree, I was always looking for the time when I could bolt.  I was attracted to men and dating and life outside of my super-narrow, controlled little world.  I saw hypocrisy and abuse everywhere I turned; not only in my own family, but in others in the congregation.  To have admitted so would certainly have meant trouble for me – even complete shunning from all I knew, including my own family.  So, when I turned 18, I simply disappeared.  I didn’t take any of the complicated channels that the heads of the congregation, or “elders” pretend are mandatory.  I refused to be labeled, refused to be shunned, I simply up and left and nobody ever questioned it.  Nobody ever really wondered where I’d gone or why, or what I was doing.  Nobody cared to investigate, they just made their assumptions and moved on with their lives, zealously preaching to anybody who would listen.  One more fallen angel.  Oh, well.

On the few occasions my family dragged me back this year, I was generally regarded with unease and suspicion, which amused me more than anything else.  You could tell it was in everybody’s mind that I must have turned into some little Satanic whore (paranoia and fear are big there).  Nobody knew anything for sure, and I didn’t volunteer any information on that score, neither confirmation nor denial, even when prodded, but some form of “sexual misconduct” was widely assumed, it was quite obvious.  After spending several years away, I had come more to grips with the knowledge that these people didn’t truly have any claim to me or sway over my life (in stark contrast to the certainty I had held in my childhood, that they could ruin me – or rather, that they could have God ruin me).  Now, to a degree, I enjoyed being the boogeyman, responding cheerfully yet bluntly when I spoke at all and seeing the awkward shifting and furtive glances at my outspokenness, my complete and utter lack of “spiritual” thoughts and goals, at least as far as they define such.  I had always been something of an oddball, even when a child.  I was disarmingly perceptive and never quite took things at face value as much as I “should” have.  I had opinions and ideas of my own, questions even about things in the Bible that made me uncomfortable or curious.  I was mildly bothered by the idea of “proving” a scripture by reading another scripture.  To some degree, I wanted to look at and hear all points of view before coming to my own conclusions.  This was highly frowned upon in the organization – looking at outside points of view was considered falling prey to Satan.  We were only to accept what we were told at face value by the heads of the organization, all mere men who were supposedly being “inspired” by God.  Chastised often for this moral failing, I did what I could to sublimate it, bury it, bend my will and conform.  It was embarrassing to be scrutinized and looked down upon.  It was embarrassing to be different within the organization, and also to be different outside of it – in school, and at work.  But, when it comes down to it, I was never the conforming type.  Now, I can find humor in my role as fallen, sinful, devious skank-ho; even relish it a little.

It wasn’t always like this.  It took a lot of struggling and therapy.  And reading Kyria’s book brought a lot of it back in a flood; despite the barbed humor which had me laughing my arse off, the feelings and pain beneath it were refreshed.  I don’t think anybody who breaks free from that kind of past ever fully gets over it.

Anyway, it was just kind of crazy and surreal seeing that there was someone else like me; someone who fought back (although sometimes in different ways) and got up the courage to leave.  We both had to learn to live in the real world – you’re not prepared for it at all when you come from that background.  You’re taught to fear the world, flee from it, dangers lurk everywhere ready to pounce on you.  In an interview, Kyria made a point that struck me as all too true – you are told by your family, your friends, your fellow congregation members that life isn’t worth living outside the organization.  That if you leave, everything will go horribly for you because you’re defying God, slapping him in the face, and being punished for it.  The irony, of course, is that initially that does often happen, your life does go sort of wonky – but not for those reasons.  It’s not difficult so much because the real world makes it difficult and you are being punished.  It is difficult because, never having lived in the real world, you have no idea to go about it, and have to start from scratch, teaching yourself and painstakingly learning through trial and error.

Six years later, and I’m still nowhere near done learning to adjust.  I don’t think I completely ever will be.  But… it’s a start.

Comments

  1. Barb says:

    Wow. I can’t even imagine living like that. I have a friend who was raised, married and had a number of children in such a sect and you are right, she had no idea where to start when she left it and was very poorly treated by friends (I met her long after) and family for her decision to leave. I always suspect anyone or anything that is determined to control people to such a degree. If there is a God, he or she is not about fear or chastity– those are man made ideas. Mankind, humanity, whatever you want to call it, is not infallible.

  2. Marilyn says:

    Another strayer from the fold here. The fold in my case being a fundamentalist christian upbringing (religion: Southern Pentacostal) (lived: in Ohio). Speaking in tongues and “spare the rod, spoil the child” were some basic tenets which resulted in much physical & emotional abuse in our families (and to children as young as 9 mos. old because of its extreme militaristic attitudes, esp. toward children and women, who “should be seen and not heard.” It seemed that, when my parents were not mentally and physically abusing me, they were completely neglecting/ignoring me. One of the ‘rules for living’ was that it was BLASPHEMOUS (death, ultimately) to question anything ANY THING. you see before you; what is in the bible is WHAT IS and everything else is evil, don’t look at it. “You are a SINNER. You are EVIL. You are LEADING YOUR 2 YOUNGER SISTERS INTO SIN.” All of these things are written in the Bible which was to be followed “word upon word, line upon line.” It was a book. And real life nor real people had no chance to compete with what it said.

    I too developed OCD at a young age and, at about age 6, I developed kleptomania (kind of funny: I began taking library books, collecting them in a huge box; of course, eventually the school found out and wanted to talk to me, but of course nothing ever was able to get through to them). I tried running away. I always felt like going away, getting out, this was how my childhood was spent. I identify with “Girls Guide to Homelessness” saying she’d perfected the art of zoning out. In the meantime, I did cry for help at every turn at school but, like Kyria, I grew up in the 80′s, and principals, teachers, State Children Services ignored every plea because it was my parents’ business to raise their kids however they wanted, and no one would interfere or even really listen?. I was not allowed to wear PANTS (nothing besides skirts & dresses) nor was I allowed to cut my hair, wear makeup, or yes…be WORLDLY, in any way. I was treated horribly by other children in school when I would continue to turn up in GYM class in SKIRT with every normal person changed into gym shorts. Anywho, just wanted to speak up and say how much I loved reading this book…what I brought back for me…what it showed me…what it helped me to understand. I could go on and on but the people who are here already pretty much know what I’d say because their stories have been so very similar. As “The Girls Guide to Homelessness” expresses, it truly is amazing to see a story like Kyria Abrahams’ making mainstream media…it’s a joyful occasion for me…now that I see it, I’m actually amazed at how few people actually have spoken up here in America about how their religions have hurt them. I believe and hope Kyria has opened up an important dialogue here by telling her story. Sorry for the long post, it’s just that I can’t describe how much this destruction this religion has caused to myself and to every single person whom I know and love. I wish the best to everyone here.

  3. ~B~ says:

    Hi Barb and Marilyn,

    Thank you so much for sharing your experiences. Hey, Marilyn! We weren’t allowed to wear pants either, except in our secular time. At the meetings and going door-to-door, women always needed to be in modest skirts or dresses (the organization was big on keeping women “in their proper Christian place”. I also relate to you about State Services turning a blind eye. A teacher in elementary school called Social Services when I showed up to class bleeding through my pants and with bruises on my face. The social worker made two visits and then dismissed the case as an “isolated incident”, just some mom getting frustrated with her 9-year-old for not understanding her long division homework, and beating her up. Whoops. Could happen to anyone, really.

    I agree with you, Barb, man is not infallible. At present, I am not sure whether there is a God or not, but I would hope that if he exists, he’s slightly more secure in himself than to jealously crave every individual’s fear, slavish devotion, and enslavement to thousands of petty little rules written down by men back when they were still stoning kids for talking back to their parents (an argument my mother used to use against me as she beat me to a bruised and bloody pulp, broke umbrellas over my head, etc… it could always be worse, she could be stoning me).

    In any case, I think that if there is a God, his purpose must be pretty high-functioning, and far beyond our scope. I mean, he has an entire expanse of universe to look after. It seems awfully human-like to anthropomorphize him in that way… distilling him down to just some cosmic referee between good and evil on one tiny, insignificant little rock in the middle of the entire universe… is that really so different than the ancient Greeks, giving their gods human emotions and failings and lusts and desires?

  4. chris says:

    I can relate to the EDD issue also. I haven’t received a check from them for a month now and my rent is due in less than 2 weeks. I am on a 1st extension. My previous employer (Disneyland) is denying my unemployment, lying and saying that I “walked off the job”. i was laid off, I didn’t quit. I had my determination phone interview over a week ago, and “no decision has been made.” They still have not processed a check for me, and i actually got thru to someone on the 800 number yesterday, who said that it’s probably all cleared up, since I faxed the interviewer the termination letter from EDD. I do have another part time job, but it doesn’t pay my rent.
    i can relate to your post about EDD. Whenever I open my mailbox now, I can feel my stomach starting to fall out. I hate EDD also. There are 2 other women on unemployment who also live in my apartment complex, on this side of the building. i bet there are quite a few more unemployed here.

  5. ~B~ says:

    Hi Chris,

    Thanks for commenting! Urgh, it sucks, doesn’t it? My stomach turns over every time I unlock my P.O. box too, now. EDD finally replied to my jillionth e-mail a couple of weeks ago, saying that they had changed my address info and re-sent my claim forms, but still nothing has arrived. It boggles the mind.

  6. Karole says:

    I am just reading this blog, by the way it’s awesome. But I have a EDD tip (California only), because you could lose your mind trying to contact them. If you call their 800 number and are lucky to get the prompt that doesn’t automatically hang up on you, quickly dial 1-3-0, this will take you to the operator. If the prompt hangs up on you call back right away, 9 times out of 10 you can get through. This works, the folks at EDD gave me this tip and I have gotten through 90% of the time. Good Luck!

  7. Joan Marie says:

    You bring back memories of my own escape from a popular cult: the summer of my 18th year, typing the New Testament, Ecclesiastes, and Proverbs on a manual typewriter, slowing down the whole thing long enough for me to “see” if it all really was the truth or not. Result? Mini breakdown and a frustrated prayer thrown skyward “I know you’re there damnit, here’s my mind for what it’s worth!” and then it became so much easier to put one foot in front of the other. That all was 35 years ago.

    Freedom rocks!

  8. Hi Brianna,

    Just found your blog after seeing a mention on CNN.com. Your courage and tenacity in the face of the adversity you’ve faced this year are awe inspiring. I’m so happy that you are receiving some recognition and hopefully some good opportunities.

    I’m leaving a comment on this specific post because I was astounded to discover, as I’ve been catching up on old posts, about your past with the religious group. I belonged to a spiritual cult for 10 years in the 1990s and have spent the ensuing ten years healing from that experience. So even though I don’t know much about the specific religion that you were raised in, I know A LOT about crazy behaviour done “in God’s name”. Especially the belief that if you leave the group you leave God.

    So anyway, just had to say hi and well done and good for you. You’ve certainly had your share of challenges and I’m so impressed by your strength.

    Love to you and Matt and Fezz!

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