I’m Writing a New Book! Diary of a Brainwashed Fundamentalist Teenager

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For years now, I have considered writing a book about my teen years, when I got swept up in a fundamentalist, almost cult-like religious environment for several years. Boy, was I a mixed up kid back then! I’m using my actual diary entries from that time to illustrate what I went through psychologically trying to be this perfect “Christian” that the church I was going to at the time said I had to be. Here is a sneak peak at the introduction to the book:

“This book is one I’ve thought about writing for a while now and finally decided to just do it. As the title suggests, this is indeed one of my own diaries from when I was a teenager and was being influenced by a fundamentalist Christian mentality that sought to isolate me from everyone around me, put fear and anxiety into my heart concerning every choice I had to make, and weighed down my conscience with constant guilt over every little real or imagined transgression.

I am using the first journal I happen to have, started when I was 14 and about to enter high school. The journal covers the time I was most influenced by fundamentalist, almost cult-like ideas.

This religion told me it was wrong to wear pants as a woman. They told me it was wrong to cut my hair or wear jewelry and makeup. They told me it was wrong to listen to secular music, go to the movies, or watch tv. The internet was evil as well. They told me it was wrong to have friends that weren’t “holy” believers. They tried to make me feel like women were simply made to be complements to men, not to have dreams, goals, or lives of their own.

This religion had me constantly fearing the presence and “possession” of demons and thinking that my future didn’t matter because Jesus was coming back soon anyway, so I wouldn’t live long enough to have much of an earthly life. They even discouraged use of “man-made” medicine because it supposedly showed a lack of faith in God’s healing powers.

I have lightly edited the journal entries to make them easier to read, but have otherwise left the content as is. I have inserted italic comments in parentheses when I felt I needed to clarify something. I did leave out parts I felt were uninteresting or just don’t matter overall. I hope you enjoy reading it and can see how fundamentalist religious environments can be extremely damaging to children and teens.”

My Story in 59 Words

Art By Maranda Russell

My Story in 59 Words
Written By: Maranda Russell

I am a product of the heartland,
and many years of dedication.

I am a survivor of abuse,
and the proud parent of creation.

I am separate from my family,
but still trust their education.

I hear earth’s voices unite in song,
and join their recitation.

No doubt my life will face its trials,
yet I strive for graduation.

Brutally Honest Writings from a Depressive State

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Today I thought I’d share a few excerpts and snippets from journal entries written while I was in a deeply depressive state. Often, writing these thoughts and feelings out has been healing and maybe even life saving, as it gives me a way to focus the negativity without harming myself. I hope that by sharing these very personal thoughts, that it might help others who struggle with depression to feel less alone, and give those who don’t quite understand true depression a feel for the mental suffering endured by the clinically depressed:

“I’m so anxious today. I feel that there is little hope of my brain ever letting me live in peace. I’m so exhausted by the pain, fear, and despair of existence. I wish there was a simple ‘check out’ button when you can’t deal with life. I don’t want to harm myself but I don’t want to live this way anymore either.”

“I think way too much about death – always have. Death to me always represented freedom, a way out of unbearable life circumstances.”

“I often feel (and sometimes am certain I KNOW) that I am far more mentally ill than anyone else notices. I believe I hide it well, but often feel on the edge of snapping.”

“Only my pride and fear of complete loss of control restrain me from self-annihilation in the worst of my moments.”

“I don’t want to be hospitalized, I don’t want to cross that line, but I wonder sometimes if that is what I need.”

“I am so tired of fighting these self-destructive impulses and wondering what in the hell is wrong with me that I have them in the first place.”

“Why am I tempted while riding in the car to grab the steering wheel and spin us into oncoming traffic? I cross my arms tightly just to make sure I don’t act the thought out.”

“Why do I feel such a depth of emptiness and despair that I lay in bed wanting to sink my teeth into my skin until the pain finally ebbs away?”

“Why do I fear physical pain more than anything in life, yet feel the urge to inflict it on myself?”

“There are no good options. All this rage, anger, and pain. If I inflict it on others…I hate myself. If I inflict it on myself…I hate myself. There are no good options.”

(If you like this post and would like to see more, please comment and let me know! I was thinking of maybe sharing more of these in the future if anyone finds them helpful.)

Depression & Suicidal Thoughts

I’ve been dealing with depression a lot lately, mostly due to unresolved childhood trauma I believe. Today I finally felt at least well enough to make a video talking about some of the things I am going through and wanted to share that in case it might help anyone else struggling. I am also going to share the written version of the poem I read in the video here:

Suicidal Ideations
Written by: Maranda Russell

If I only had a dollar
for every time
I have looked down
from a great height,
shook a full bottle of pills,
held my breath under water,
or inhaled exhaust fumes
while thinking

I could actually do it,
I could end it all –

I would have more
than enough
to pay for all the
therapy sessions
I obviously need.

New YouTube Video – “Behind the Scenes of My Foster Care Book”

This week’s video is a “behind the scenes” look into my popular book about foster care entitled “From Both Sides”. In this vlog I discuss the inspiration behind the book and share a few short excerpts.

I hope you will check it out! Feel free to comment and let me know what you think. You can also suggest future topics if there is something you would like to see me talk about.

New YouTube video – how I got my Asperger’s Diagnosis (and how it made me feel)

From the feedback I have gotten from those who watch my YouTube videos, it seems that people are most interested in hearing more about my experiences with Asperger’s Syndrome/high-functioning autism, so I am going to try to focus on that some. I figured the logical first step would be a video talking about how I got my diagnosis of Asperger’s Syndrome and how that affected me. So here you go…

The most memorable books I read during October 2014

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Starting this month, I am starting a new series of posts where I will list the most memorable books I have read in the past month and why they made such an impact on me. These aren’t necessarily “the best” books, but instead are the ones that really stuck with me for one reason or another. This list may include books for any age group or genre. I read a broad range of books, both fiction and non-fiction, so you never know what you may find in my monthly list! To get us started, here is my list of the five most memorable books I have read in October 2014!

1. The Flat Rabbit by Barour Oskarsson. This had to be one of the weirdest, least politically correct picture books I have ever read! It had me, my mom and my husband laughing out loud though. It is morbidly hilarious to see a rabbit flattened, then to see his neighbors scrape him off the road, attach him to a kite and fly him in the air. Not sure this is really a great book for kids, but it is hilarious for adults.

2. Breaking Stalin’s Nose by Eugene Yelchin. This middle grade historical novel stuck with me because it is the story of a child who grew up thinking Stalin and communism are the best things in the world, only to see how flawed the system truly is and how he has been led to believe things that aren’t true at all. To me, this idea that it is possible to fight for something you believe is right and then find out later that it is actually wrong is a profound lesson to learn.

3. History of a Suicide: My Sister’s Unfinished Life by Jill Bialosky. This adult memoir struck a little too close to home, but then again, that is why I picked it up in the first place. Since I have also had a sister commit suicide, I could easily and sometimes painfully relate to much of what this writer had to say. The circumstances and details might be different from case to case, but anyone who has lost a loved one to suicide would likely see much of their own suffering and search for healing reflected in this memoir.

4. I Never Saw Another Butterfly: Children’s Drawings & Poems from Terezin Concentration Camp, 1942-44 by various authors. As the title states, this nonfiction book is a collection of poems and drawings that were created by children imprisoned in a WWII concentration camp. Some of the book is funny and cute, some of it is sad and depressing, but it all shows the innocence and strength of the children who were mistreated during this horrible time. It also shows the loss of life and joy this world suffered due to ignorance and hatred.

5. The Night Fairy by Laura Amy Schlitz. This middle grade fantasy novel was a fun and enjoyable read. By the time I finished it, I was wishing to be a night fairy myself. I’ve always been a night owl anyways, so why not? Although the story starts out rather sad (with the fairy losing her wings in a terrible accident), things quickly start to look up and by the end of the novel, the little fairy is better off for the experiences she has had – both good and bad.

Burning bridges and moving on

"Burning Bridges" acrylic on paper, 9" x 12".
“Burning Bridges” acrylic on paper, 9″ x 12″.

Lately I have been on a “burning bridges” kick. I have decided to let go of some situations and relationships that were unhealthy and quite frankly, were draining the life from me in some ways. For quite a while I debated with myself about whether to give up and move on from these things or not. Part of me didn’t want to give up on people I once cared about and move on. I wanted to hold onto the hope that things would change and magically it would all become better. I don’t think this hope is bad, but sometimes if you cling too tightly to that which isn’t good for you, instead of things becoming better, they actually deteriorate more.

When I realized that even thinking about these people and situations was severely depressing me, I figured it was time to release the attachment and move on the best I can. I wish them all the best, but I realize now that they are not the best thing for me at this time. Perhaps we were only meant to be in each other’s lives for a certain period of time, or maybe we do have a future together but need some time apart to grow and change. I have always prided myself on my loyalty to those I love and care about, but I am now realizing that relationships can’t just be one-sided. I cannot make anyone like or respect me, but I can choose to spend my time with those who do. Hopefully as I move on, I will enter a future full of new experiences and meaningful relationships.

Here are a few quotes about burning bridges I have especially enjoyed lately (sources unknown):

“May the bridges I burn light the way.”

“Sometimes you need to burn bridges to stop yourself from crossing them again.”

“The hardest lesson in life is figuring out which bridges to cross and which to burn.”

“Burning bridges takes too long. I prefer explosives.”