A Personal Plea, Part 7
CC image courtesy of Flickr, duffyemma92
Edited by Wende Benner, HA Editorial Staff
Editorial note: The following is reprinted with permission from Kit’s blog, Dauntless in Denver. Kit is a homeschool and ATI survivor. It was originally published on November 21, 2016. Not every part of the series explicitly mentions homeschool, but each part ties to her homeschool experience.
The next few years continued with much of the same. More ATI events, more ATI church, more ATI at home. Not a lot of other stuff going on. As I was finishing high school, it wasn’t so horrific. I mean, looking back, it was. But I wasn’t developing those feelings of desperation that finally drove me to get out.
I graduated from high school in 2001, just before my 18th birthday. Most people go to college or get jobs after graduating from high school, but I did neither. I was allowed to do neither. I taught a few piano lessons, but wasn’t allowed to have many students. Most of the girls in ATI or the fundamentalist homeschooling world either got jobs (if allowed), or they helped raise their multiple younger siblings and homeschool them. There was enough to keep them busy. But when you’re the only kid left at home and both of your parents are retired, there’s really not that much to do. So I filled a lot of my time by practicing the piano 4 hours a day. I wasn’t allowed to have just straight leisure time. I had to fill literally every hour from my mandatory wakeup at 6am until my mandatory lights out at 10pm. I was allowed one hour each afternoon to do what I wanted, and that was it. The rest of my time had to be filled with housekeeping, Bible study, or piano practice.
Of course at this time, I was starting to get really sick from my undiagnosed Celiac Disease. I was constantly in pain, I was exhausted, and I was quickly accumulating new symptoms. All I wanted to do was take my one hour of free time to take a nap. But that wasn’t allowed. It was lazy. I remember being told that my 61 year old father could make it through a day without a nap, so 18 year old me should be able to as well. Add to the constant pain and exhaustion undiagnosed Autism, and it got even worse.
Being home all the time with my parents, with little to do that stimulated me, was more or less a recipe for disaster.
My mom and I began to have more and more conflicts. Mom would give me verbal instructions, and expect me to remember them and carry them out. I knew I wouldn’t be able to remember them, because I’ve never been good with oral instructions. I would ask to write them down, but she wouldn’t let me. “Kathleen, just listen. If you have a submissive heart and want to obey, and listen, you’ll remember what I say.” At first, I would just be nervous. But later, after getting in trouble multiple times, being spanked with a switch, and being told, “Kathleen, you’re either rebellious or stupid, and I know you’re not stupid,” I started having what I recognize now, as panic attacks when Mom wanted me to do something. Mom would start to give me instructions, and I would ask if I could get a pen and paper so I could write them down. Mom would again give me the “listen” speech, except, I would start to plead and cry, and get very worked up. She would look at me and tell me to stop crying and listen. She said I was far too old for tantrums. It wasn’t a tantrum.
It was an Autistic meltdown, based on the fact that I knew I couldn’t remember her instructions, which would therefore lead to condemnation, reminders that I was stupid (sure, Mom thought I wasn’t, but I knew I wasn’t rebellious, so what was left?), a spanking, and time in my room to get my heart right with God.
Though, those times were spent with me pleading with God to find me a way out of all this. And I got…nothing.
What my parents didn’t realize at the time, is that I have what is known as Auditory Processing Disorder. It’s often a co-morbid condition with Autism. The way my neuropathways are constructed, I actually can’t remember more than about two verbal instructions in a row. Writing things down is my guaranteed way of remembering them. Because they didn’t realize I was Autistic, they treated me like a neurotypical child. And that slowly drove me to the point of desperation. Mom finally stopped spanking me in the summer of 2003, just before my 20th birthday. Why? Well she and my dad finally realized that my “learning disabilities” must have extended to more than my inability to do middle school math. It was a relief not to worry about being spanked anymore. The level of shame it induced to know that I was a legal adult, and still getting spanked, is indescribable. I often wondered what my friends would think if they knew. But I never told them. I couldn’t.
Life continued. Mom and Dad decided it would be good for me to take a few music courses at Cincinnati Bible College (now Cincinnati Christian University), but only part time. When I auditioned, I got a call back from the department chair, telling me they wanted to give me their biggest music scholarship, but I would have to go full time. Of course, I wanted to take it! What an offer! But Mom and Dad said no. They didn’t want me to go full time, or get a degree. They wanted me to just take a few classes. I was disappointed, but I thrived in school. I loved my classes. I loved them so much, that when the end of the semester came around, I wanted to take more. But Mom and Dad had decided to spend the spring in El Paso, assisting some missionaries our church supported. Going was pretty much the last thing I wanted. I made that clear. I wanted to stay home, go to school, and keep teaching my students. Mom made it clear, that wasn’t an option. This was a family ministry, we were a family unit, we do it as a family.
I won’t go into much regarding our time in El Paso, except to say this: We attended a small bilingual church during our time there, and the people kept telling my parents how remarkable it was that I came, even though I was 20. Mom would always say to them, “Yes, she wanted to come and serve with us. That was her decision.” Yes, she did. One evening, while in our borrowed apartment, I lost it. I finally told my mom that I hated it when she would tell people I wanted to come, because this was the last place I wanted to be.
But I had no choice.
It still amazes me that my mom came back with, “But if you didn’t want to be here, you wouldn’t be.” With a voice raised by desperation, I said, “No! That’s not true! You told me I could either come or find a new place to live! You didn’t give me a choice!” I’ll never forget the way she looked at me when she said, “So you wanted to come more than you wanted to find a new place to live.”
I don’t remember what happened after that. I do remember feeling desperation. That if I didn’t get out of there, I would explode. But what was I going to do? I had poor health, I had no job, no money, and no car. I knew any number of relatives would take me in, but I didn’t want to turn anyone against my parents, so I just continued in my misery. I’m not going to get all into why or how I finally got out, but I did. My parents declared me to be in rebellion, and continued to remind me that I was out from under my father’s umbrella of protection. At 22. Leaving was traumatic in and of itself, and sparked years of dealing with undiagnosed PTSD, which had been misdiagnosed as Bi-Polar disorder, thanks to a long family history on my dad’s side.
The last few parts will include some of my own personal studies and knowledge, before I begin to tie all of this together, to actually get to my “personal plea.” Please, bear with me through these last few posts. This is the best way I know to try and make myself understood.