Thursday, October 31, 2013

Carrying around a big story

My neighbors are super friendly. Most people would consider that a plus, but it's a little scary for me. Getting to know new people still seems dangerous, except in certain safe contexts. I'm always ready for the rejection, for my difference to be too great, so I preemptively stay in the polite acquaintance zone. 

Tonight I tried to hang out and engage in spite of my fears.

"How did your family celebrate Halloween?"

A totally natural question, but I didn't quite see it coming, didn't have the quickness to laugh and just deflect it.  

The too long pause, the awkward laugh. Feeling like I gave away my big story.

"We didn't really do Halloween."

And they are kind people and so they politely moved the conversation along and pretended to take no notice.

Sometime I would like to take a break from wearing that big story. It is heavy.

Tuesday, October 29, 2013

Things that help

I have been listening in to the stories at Homeschoolers Anonymous and other blogs of former students of homeschooling and children of fundamentalism. It seems like a lot of us have had to struggle through processing painful memories and experiences alone, at least for part of our stories.

The things that are helping me the most are safe relationships and therapy. But I know that those resources aren't always the most accessible thing for everyone. Just in case it helps, here are some other resources or tools that I found useful:

1.  Legacy of the Heart: The Spiritual Advantages of a Painful Childhood by Wayne Muller

I would translate the author's use of "spiritual" here to mean something like personal strength - there's some inspiration here from many religious traditions without dogma. This reads like a hug. It was the right thing for me when I was feeling overwhelmed by grief about my experiences. It also has some guided meditation practices that you can try or just skip over.

2.  Lovingkindness meditation

Fill up your days with more thoughts of kindness to yourself and people you love. I found this to be true:

 "Expressing gratitude to our benefactors is a natural form of love. In fact, some people find lovingkindness for themselves so hard, they begin their practice with a benefactor. This too is fine. The rule in lovingkindness practice is to follow the way that most easily opens your heart."

3. Exercise

Reaching fitness goals and feeling physically stronger for the first time had a surprising impact when I first started on my journey, and still makes a big difference. Partly because it can help lift my anxiety and depression, but also because I am focusing on what my body is able to do in the world instead of how well I appear to be filling a feminine role. Training for my first race was also probably the first time that I changed my fundamental idea of myself. I went from non-athlete to athletic like magic. (Ok, there were some very non-magical moments along the way, but you get my idea.) In a very concrete way it increased my sense of agency and opened the door for other efforts at attempting new things and trying on new identities.

Running is free, and there are also some free yoga resources - this site has a free full length weekly yoga video, or Tara Stiles yoga stuff is also good.

Your turn - what helps you?

Saturday, October 26, 2013

Progress is showing up to the page

Silence used to control me. It's hard to explain how much, but imagine that every word and action was monitored for years, until I didn't need to be monitored anymore - until I was the monitor.

You lose your voice and personality.  

I agreed with the community that rejected my experiences, from the smallest emotions to the largest questions. I remained silent, because I agreed that my story was not allowed. I was afraid of rejection. I was afraid of hurting vulnerable people.

I am still afraid. I feel weak for not being able to speak under my own name. But I am clearing my throat, I am beginning to speak. For now, progress is showing up to the page.

What feels true today:

The first ones to tell the story take a bigger risk, and deserve our gratitude.

The threat of rejection means that your story is powerful. 

There can be a strong bond between you and the few people that you trust with all of your story, and I am grateful for that.

There will always be uncertainty when you tell the story for the first time to a new audience, when you are waiting for a voice to answer back.

Saturday, October 12, 2013

Homeschooling and Mental Illness

Isolation was the constant experience of my ten years of homeschooling. A lot of this had to do with the fact that the adult presence in my daily life, my mom, was unpredictably angry, sad, or completely unavailable, and as time went on she increasingly avoided social situations.

It didn’t help that no one was good enough to be our friends.

After being pulled out of the fourth grade for a job change and move, my dad decided that my mom should homeschool us against her will. We suddenly spent most of our time at home and basically left the house once a week to go to church. A little non-denominational church that confirmed my parents in their belief that people outside of their own flavor of church weren’t really christians, including anyone who used the public school.

Post Flammas Germino

Post Flammas Germino - After the flames, I come to life.

I was a child of fundamentalist parents who home-schooled me and my sibilings. This blog is a platform for me to interact anonymously with anyone who wants to understand my story.

I'm taking my theme from the fire pines that respond to forest fires by releasing their seeds. Serotinous pinecones have adapted to survive fires, and when the time is right they are ready for growth and life. They are sementifera - they are carrying seeds that will grow in spite of their destructive environment.

I'm still finding my voice, and I plan to discuss difficult relationships with people I care about. So, I'm using an alias to help me control the timing of my self-disclosure. I'm a real person and I'd love to chat with you.

Feel free to send me email at

Sara Tinous