Episode 139 – Child Bride – Growing Up In A Sufi Community


Michael Shemwell


Holdin my head again, makin my way through crowded thoughts, sometimes it’s hard to get out of it.

Broke my heart in the dark, I was just tryin to feel somethin fallin asleep to the sound of it.

Always used to let you clean up the messes down on my knees, thought I couldn’t stand up on my own. Turns out sometimes he’s strong.

Dr. Tamara MC: My name is Tamara and I’m 50 years old. I was a member of a Sufi community and I was shunned.

Michael Shemwell: All right, Tamara, so how did you come to be a member of this Sufi community in the first place?

Dr. Tamara MC: It all happened when I was five years old, my father was in a bookstore and he had actually already read books by the leader of this community and he happened to be in the bookstore, saw a book from the leader that we would eventually follow and he was reading it and at that exact moment, members of that community walked into the bookstore, so it was just a complete crazy happenstance.

And the leader was actually from England. So it was just really crazy that all of this happened in Arizona, how it happened. So, yeah. So at that point he began speaking with them and then before, like they talked for quite a while and then he was invited. To their, their community center for an event. They had just begun a community in Tucson, Arizona, where, where I was living at the time.

And that was how we became part of this community. My mother was traveling for the summer. She went to Europe for three months and was backpacking and left me alone with my father. So it was only the two of us this summer. So I was very intricately involved in this whole summer because. From the first time my father went to the community, I was with him.

So it was the two of us that, that pretty much began, um, attending all of the different meetings.

Michael Shemwell: And how old were you at that time? I was five years old, five years old. Wow. And you can see how your dad must’ve thought that this was some sort of, you know, divine introduction or something being, you know, reading.

The book being interested in the book and here come members and they’re starting a community there. That’s a, wow. That’s a lot of, um, happenstance.

Dr. Tamara MC: Yeah. It does kind of seem like divine intervention. I mean, it really does in terms of, I mean, from a religious perspective.

Michael Shemwell: Right, right. You know, and I’m sure that he was probably thinking, you know, you could see where he might have thought that way.

Um, with all of that happening at once, um, quite a coincidence. Um, did this group have other communities? You said that the leader was from England. Did, were there other communities around and this was just a new one being started in Tucson?

Dr. Tamara MC: So really in the United States, no, there was kind of a little bit of a satellite, um, community going on in like Berkeley, California at the time.

And so it was kind of Berkeley and Arizona at that time, but this was really the very beginnings and this was in 1977. So, um, so it was, so it was in the, in the later 1970s.

Michael Shemwell: Okay. Wow. Well, so it sounds like so your mom’s off backpacking and living her life and you were with your dad that summer. So, um, how did this kick off for you?

Um, was there a particular Like, did you, did you, were you all totally immersed in this community from the jump or, um, was it a slow introduction?

Dr. Tamara MC: I would never call anything within this community. Slow. Everything is jump, jumping head first. So, so no, we absolutely jumped right in and it became our entire life for that entire summer.

So we would arrive at the community center early in the morning and not leave until maybe 10 o’clock at night. So we were there like. It just, after we were introduced, it was just, we became part of it almost immediately.

Michael Shemwell: Um, did, was your dad able to work? Uh, were you able to go to school? I mean, you would have been just, you know, getting into school age.

I mean, it was a summer, so I guess school wouldn’t have mattered, but your dad, was he able to work through this or did it, did it encompass your, literally your entire life, you know, basically from sunup to sundown?

Dr. Tamara MC: So, no, I was not. I would have started first grade after the summer was over. So I was not in school during the summer.

My father was not working actually. So, uh, I think he might’ve been in school for his bachelor’s still. And he was like on his last credits that that’s it. And my mom, yes. And I think my mother had finished school and was working. So I think she was supporting the family and my dad was in school finishing up.

Oh, wow. University. So my father had all the time in the world because also it was summer.

Michael Shemwell: Right. Okay. So yeah, both of you. Okay. So, um, what was the worldview that this Sufi community gave you? What, how did it, um, you know, for those of us who are uninitiated, um, how did it make you see the world around you?

But, you know, what, can you give us some highlights of the beliefs to some degree for your particular community?

Dr. Tamara MC: Yeah, so I mean, going back to when I was five years old, I didn’t know any of this. So coming into the community, I was an only child and my father was also an only child and my mother was an only child.

So we had a really tiny family. And so I think what attracted myself and my father initially was the community. There were a group of people and it just felt full and vibrant and there was lots of activity. People ate together and. Um, we were praying as well. So we had like obligatory prayer. So we were, we had to pray throughout the day.

So that was definitely one of the beliefs. My father always says that he was very spiritual, but he hadn’t found his belief system yet. So he had always been reading and went through all the religions, Hindu, Buddhism, whatever it was, he was always. And so when he actually came upon this community and their teachings, he said that he felt within his soul that this is where he was supposed to be.

So it was very much like a soul decision for him, like a heart decision. And so at that point, I think it was just The idea of having so many different members and feeling very wanted, and I guess even loved immediately because there was lots of love bombing that happened, love bombing, not balming, love bombing that happened immediately.

Both myself and my father were renamed, like within the first week, we both had a completely new identity with a new name. And I was named by the leader. He put his hand on my head one day when he saw me in the courtyard and he said, you are the most beloved. You are the most beloved child of all. And so my name became the translation of most beloved.

So I initially, so immediately I came into this community where I had just been this only child of little five year old who really Didn’t know much about anything. I would say to suddenly feeling incredibly special. And I, I hadn’t felt that before. Like I just had my mom and my dad. And of course you feel special in that way, but to have somebody on the outside, like say that to you.

And so that was how I. That’s how I became like invested in this community.

Michael Shemwell: Wow. Yeah. As you were speaking, I was immediately thinking about love bombing. That is something that happens within the community. I came from Jehovah’s Witnesses and to, to hear, I mean, so Not only are you love bombed, but your identity is shifted immediately.

And so one that means most beloved. So that’s going to make you, it’s just another little layer of love bombing. Wow. That is very fast, uh, for all of that to happen. Um, did you, were you in, so you were enjoying all of this and your dad was too, I would assume. I mean, um, did, did it have. Any kind of requirements for you off the bat that maybe weren’t as, um, ideal or were you happy just to jump in because it was just all love?

Dr. Tamara MC: No, I immediately, I, I already had issues with it because I had only been with my, like my mother and my father. And from the beginning of the summer, like it was just me and my father. So I had already felt like, because my mother wasn’t there that I was so attached to my dad. And when we joined the community, almost immediately, they separated me from my father.

So I wasn’t even allowed to be around my father and there weren’t other children in the community at that point. I think I was probably the only one that I can actually recall because it was just the very, the earliest phases. And so. The men and women were separated, and so for prayers, for food, for everything, my dad sat at the men’s table, and as soon as, like, I would walk up with my dad into the courtyard, I’d be holding his hand, a woman would take my hand Pretty much ripped me away from my father’s hand and would then bring me with the women and I would have to eat with them and pray with them and do everything with them.

But all is I wanted to do was to be with my dad. And that’s the feeling that I have is that I just really wanted to be with my father. So that, so inside of me, it didn’t quite feel like, On the outside, like I was called most beloved and I kind of felt special, but on the inside, I also felt very lonely because I felt like I had lost my father, which I did lose my father at that point.

He would never, my father took on a new name. I wasn’t even allowed to call him daddy anymore. I had to call him like, The translation is like father of, so it’s not even father, but it’s like the father of somebody. And that’s, that was the translation of how I had to call him. And I had always called him daddy as a little girl.

So there was like that removal already. Like he wasn’t that close, intimate. Dad that is supposed to be for a young girl at five years old. So I definitely had lots of issues from the very beginning. And it was that very slow process of separation of separation of separating me from my dad.

Michael Shemwell: Uh, was there a, was there a, I guess, who parented you then at that point?

Meaning being separated from him was someone else. Now your father or, um, did the women of the group kind of take over a parental role, so to speak, since you were, I guess, separated in the community.

Dr. Tamara MC: So, no, there was no other father, um, from that moment forward, the women would be in charge of me for the rest of like my child, like every time I was with my father in the community, I would always be made in charge of by the women and.

So it would always be different women. It would be women that came in and out. There wasn’t like a particular woman that would like hold my hand and make sure I was okay. I would kind of fall in and out of different people’s responsibility. And by responsibility, it’s not as if they were actually watching me.

I was just with them doing what. They were doing, I was just an appendage. It wasn’t about me being a child. It was about me following them. And if they were cooking or if they were serving food, whatever it was, I was just with them alongside them.

Michael Shemwell: You were another little worker bee. So to speak,

Dr. Tamara MC: I wasn’t yet a worker bee because I was so young, but at that point, I was just a follower.

Like it wasn’t about. Oh, maybe there should, maybe we should keep Tamara busy with some toys, or maybe we should give her some, like, read her a story. There was nothing like, if somebody was in charge of children, what they would do with a child. There wasn’t that at all. I was just treated already like this mini adult that just wasn’t supposed to have any needs as a child.

Michael Shemwell: These are always some of my favorite episodes to do because I, it’s just fascinating to see the overlap and all of these groups, uh, like to refer to it at times as cult mad libs. It’s the same general structure. We’re changing the nouns, the verbs, the adverbs, the adjectives, such because, uh, it’s just. I mean, from the love bombing to the change in identity to being, basically, you’re being raised by the community itself, like, in ours, uh, Watchtower basically raised all of us kids, because our parents were instructed how to raise us, our parents didn’t raise us, it was really coming down from, uh, other channels, approved channels through you.

The Cult of Jehovah’s Witnesses, or in Scientology, kids are taken away from their parents when they go into the C org and then raised by the org, basically, while their parents are off doing other things. And it’s just, you see these same tactics at play, um, and this is how you control people. And it’s, um, it’s just, it’s fascinating, it’s just also sad that there’s so many variations of this thing that can end up hurting so many people.

Um. So for yourself, so now you’re a five year old kid in this community. Um, where do you go from there? How is there some sort of instruction that begins with you, uh, where you start learning the tenets and doctrines or the spiritual practice or anything?

Dr. Tamara MC: Um, well, yes, I mean, I was being taught how to pray at that point.

I was being taught certain vocabulary. Um, the indoctrination was in full force already and, um, you know, a whole different vocabulary that I never heard was being used, which was the religious vocabulary. Uh, so all of that was happening, but at that point I was still, you know, fairly, I was still fairly young and my mother three months later ended up returning and.

My father was so excited to see her and was like, you won’t believe what I found. And he was so excited. And my mother just listened and was basically like, hell no, I’m not joining that group. Like she was not at all interested in like my dad, like forced her to come. And she had, she was not enamored at all.

Like my father, like she saw straight through it and was like, no, this is not for me. And so. At that point, my father stayed a little bit more time. And then the community, which happened for all the years of the community, like in the middle of the night, well, not in the middle of the night, but. One day, the leader had a vision that the community had to move, that they no longer needed to be in Arizona, and so the, all the, all the adults then like packed up everything, which often happened, and they got into a car and drove for several days to the east coast where the community then moved.

And it was then that my father brought me into my bedroom and told me that he was leaving and that he didn’t know if he was coming back. And he left me with my mother and left on this nomadic trip with this community. And the leader, they had to go somewhere else because there was a calling that they had to be there to convert the new people of where they were then going.

And it’s really interesting because why the leader chose Tucson, Arizona. was because his goal was to convert Native Americans to this religion. So that’s how Tucson, Arizona was chosen, which already.

Michael Shemwell: A community he felt might be vulnerable to that.

Dr. Tamara MC: Yes. And thought like, yes. So already you can see how problematic this was.

Sure. The conversion tactics were to like convey, convert Native Americans. So then they were moving to the East coast. And then at that point, the goal was to convert. Um, to convert black americans to this religion and to the spirituality. So that’s why they changed places. They ended up going to Atlanta first and then, but I wasn’t there during that time because I was now with my mother as my father was traveling.

Michael Shemwell: Okay. Um, how many people were in this community, so to speak, that moved then from Tucson to the East coast?

Dr. Tamara MC: maybe 30 at the time.

Michael Shemwell: Okay. I was just trying to get some data on how big this, this, you know, movement was.

Dr. Tamara MC: It wasn’t very big at all.

Michael Shemwell: Okay. Okay. And so, um, so now you’re back with your mom, um, and just going back to school, living life.

Dr. Tamara MC: Kind of. Yeah. So I started first grade and Out of all of my grade years, I have almost no recollection of first grade or second grade.

I think I just had so much trauma over my dad leaving and everything that had happened that I really don’t recall very much. I don’t even recall my teacher’s name. Like I have to look it up in order to find, I still don’t remember, like, even though I’ve looked it up so many times, it still doesn’t like stick for some reason.

And every other teacher I remember. So. So it was shortly, maybe within a year or so, my father called for me, I guess he was settled and they had then moved to Texas. And that was kind of when my life with my father’s community really kind of, Took off, not necessarily in a positive way. Took off.

Michael Shemwell: Okay. So then things were about to change dramatically for you.

Dr. Tamara MC: Um, yes. So they were about to change very dramatically. I would. Fly to my dad’s for the first time alone to Texas. And I was maybe six or seven at that point. And I flew by myself. That was before airlines had rules about that. And I would stay with my dad all summers and, um, what were, what were then called Christmas holidays, which are.

Um, now not call Christmas holidays, but during that month in December and January, so four months of every year I would spend with my dad and, um, it was just my parents is like unofficial official custody agreement more or less.

Michael Shemwell: Okay, so then he had you in the times. And these were fairly long periods of time, really, where you were out of school.

And so. Um, so is it correct? Would it be correct to assume that? So your mom, you said, was not interested in this thing. So she just probably knew he was in some religion or whatever. He had found his thing. And but she probably had. Do you think she had any idea what it really was?

Dr. Tamara MC: No, she couldn’t have known the extent of it because she wasn’t part of it.

Yeah, that’s what I’m gonna say. I mean, they were before my dad, like Went into all of this, like both my mom and him were 1960s flower children, completely liberal and just, um, my, my mom’s from New York City. I mean, she’s super cool, like a cool cat, like everything about her. And so my mom also just, I mean, in the early, like in the seventies, it wasn’t as if.

I mean, my mom just had a lot more trust that like, she couldn’t have even imagined what was going on or what would happen with my dad. She just assumed, oh, it’s kind of this intentional community. It’s this commune, a commune of the seventies. And it was kind of like in line with them, but my mom didn’t want to be part of that, like she was starting her career and was just in a very different place.

Michael Shemwell: Yeah, she was living her life and, and, um, had no clue how deep. you know, your father had gotten into this. Um, you know, it’s like, honestly, with Jehovah’s Witnesses, people see just these well dressed Nice people who go door to door and they have no idea the depths, uh, uh, of the, that community and how culty it gets and, um, how controlling and some of the things that are honestly quite even dangerous inside of that organization.

They, and they just have no idea. Um, so yeah, I understand that. So you’re just. Going and spending time with him. What was it like to go back, go to, I guess, Texas for the first time to meet him?

Dr. Tamara MC: The community was changing spots a lot initially, and the first time I went to my dad’s was the only time that I kind of had my dad alone. And it was like, I think maybe it was a Christmas holiday, maybe when I was in, I don’t know if I was in first grade or second grade, I don’t quite remember, or maybe it was first grade this summer.

Anyhow, I had my father alone. Which I felt like I was still part of the women in the community and all of that. But the next time I would visit my father, when I got off the airplane, my father came with a woman and he introduced her as my stepmother. So he remarried, but didn’t tell me until I arrived and got off the airplane.

So. Every time I got off of airplane in Texas, there was something completely new, whether or not we were living somewhere new, there was somebody like, there was always something completely unexpected that I was not at all prepared for. So after the first time I went to my dad’s, I thought, okay, we’re living in this place.

It’s kind of nice. We live in this light little room, me and my dad, and it’s kind of nice. And then the second time I now have a stepmother. And then after we got back to the new place where they were living. I learned that I also had step siblings, which I hadn’t learned in the car. So I now suddenly had siblings surprise.

Yeah. So there was like two big surprises. And, uh, at that point, my stepmother had two of her kids living with her. She had four children though, already between two and seven years old, we were all about the same age. Uh, Two of my siblings were about my same age at that point. So there was two siblings, I was put in a room with them, and that was how my life would then, I would kind of be integrated into her little children’s world, and I would not have time alone with my dad really again.

Michael Shemwell: Yeah, that must have been really tough. Because, uh, I mean, you were losing him to her, to her kids, and to the community. So, you, you, it sounds like, no, wait a minute. But when you went down there this time, so were the men and women no longer separated?

Was he allowed to

Dr. Tamara MC: Well, I mean So now we were a family because before, like in Arizona, we were like going to community center. So me and my dad would come home and sleep together in the house. But now the living and everything, like we were living together, but we were in a community house. So there were many people in the house.

So it wasn’t just my dad and my step mom, they were in a room. I was in a room with kids and then there were other kids and other people. And actually that time that I went to visit. Which was, I believe in December, my dad decided to have his honeymoon. And so my dad and my step mom completely left us alone in this house with people.

So I didn’t actually see my dad almost like no time at all. They had actually left the country.

Michael Shemwell: Oh, wow. Um, and even deeper now, uh, meaning, you know, as far as being raised by the community, so to speak that that year, um, Can you tell us any about what you were learning or what the belief structure was or anything?

Dr. Tamara MC: So at that point, or it wasn’t, it wasn’t a belief at the time. Yeah. So find out later. So let me, let me just fast forward. So we ended up Traveling and living in multiple communities after that. And then when I was 11 years old, we moved to the commune where I would stay for pretty much the rest of my childhood until I was.

You know, I don’t know exactly how old, but, but until I was at least 16, we would remain on this commune, this commune was built, um, uh, it was built like pretty much like a big school. So they were all dormitory rooms. So there were no homes and there was like a communal kitchen, like one women’s communal bathroom, one men’s communal bathroom.

So at that point. My dad and step mom had a room and then me and my siblings had another room and that’s pretty much how it functioned, but it was after we were living there that kind of the beliefs and all of that really started. I mean before that very much so, but now they, but now there was very specific rules that were governing the way we would be acting on a, you know, on a daily basis.

Michael Shemwell: Okay, so it got it got more rigid. Would that be or more overwhelming? Um, as you got to that age? I mean, were you now being because what I was trying to find out is or get to is, you know, what are you as a little kid being taught? You know, because like I know for us as Jehovah’s Witnesses as little kids, we were being shown images of the end of the world and, you know, there was just this constant fear of doomsday of Armageddon and there was a lot of things being pumped into our young minds that were not very healthy.

And so I was just wondering what you as this little kid first being, because you were just a. nice little kid enjoying life probably until this happened. So I was trying to see if there was a switch somewhere there to a different type of messaging.

Dr. Tamara MC: Yeah. So I think that began immediately and the messaging was very similar.

There was hell and everything was about if I didn’t follow certain ways, I was going to hell that I had to. Always be, um, I always had to control my mind. So whenever it questioned anything, I had to stop it from questioning. And because we were taught that it’s not only our actions, but our intentions and intentions go back to everything that’s within us.

So. From a very young age, I had to monitor every thought. And even if I had a thought of questioning or a thought that something wasn’t right, I would have to, I would have to, um, basically have to shoot that down because I thought that if I had that, obviously. This all, seeing God who is inside of my body would know and then I would be punished.

And then punishment for us was an eternal hell that we could never get out of. So, so, absolutely. So, so from that very young age of five, it was controlling my body, controlling my prayers, controlling my food. Like every aspect of my life was being controlled. Uh, the difference was when we. Move to kind of this commune.

The first leader was no longer with us. We had a second leader and then we would have a third leader and the third leader would be like the most fanatical of all. So like the leadership became more and more rigid and strict that it got completely out of control. And at that point we weren’t part of society.

Where is earlier we were kind of in cities or whatever, but when we moved out to the cult, we were in the middle of the hill country of Texas on a 300 acre farm. Uh, the nearest town was like a 25 minute drive. There was, Nobody was allowed in, nobody was allowed out, nobody was schooled. Um, all of the children were homeschooled, which means that they weren’t schooled at all.

Just if one of the women decided that they wanted to have school that day, she would take out a workbook and start screaming at the children to like do their studies. So that was like the extent of the schooling. And so, so there was all, nobody worked outside. So like. My dad didn’t work outside. Nobody left.

So in that way, we were completely isolated. There was no media, no television, no newspaper, no books. Um, we weren’t allowed to read, uh, other than religious texts. So, so in that way, everything about our lives was completely controlled in that way. There was maybe one or two cars that came in and out just to do grocery shopping.

And so, yes, there was no way out.

Michael Shemwell: Wow. Okay. So, like most of these groups, there’s a lot of fear used at the beginning, and, um, you were obviously, I mean, the, you’re your own thought police, right? Um, at a point, because we have to internalize that as part of our survival in the group. Um, This commune, it sounds like that was a big turning point.

Um, just out of curiosity, you know, the leadership changes. Is that because someone has maybe passed away or is that because are there just Someone else usurps or, uh, was there a desire to change leadership every so often?

Dr. Tamara MC: So the first leader ended up going back to England and then he gave the leadership to another man.

And so he kind of gave it over to somebody else in America. Oh, okay. So that was how it happened. And then when the second leader ended up leaving America and moving abroad. A third leader came in who it’s been debated, was assigned or was not assigned according to which kind of community member you speak to.

So there were, he was, um, very controversial. So many people did not want to follow him and they didn’t feel that he was actually assigned the leadership in the correct way. So it just kind of depends. So in that way, but, but it ended with him. Okay. The community would eventually end with him.

Michael Shemwell: Okay. So, uh, once you moved to the commune, it sounds like things get so much more isolating, but were you still only in that commune during the summers and during the winter break?

Was, were you still, were you going to school at that point or no?

Dr. Tamara MC: Yes, I was going to school up until I was 16. When I was 16, I ended up living with the community full time until I was 20. So I was going back and forth, but going back and forth kind of sounds like it’s what I was doing physically. It’s not really what I was doing mentally.

When I would return to my mother, I wouldn’t speak to her about anything that happened. Like she would call me in the summer, how are things going? They’re fine. You know, I didn’t speak. I just kept everything within me. And so when I would go back and I’d go to school, I was like a shell of myself. Like in every single class, I didn’t even know what, I don’t even feel like I had an education.

Cause I couldn’t even hear the teachers. Like I was always in my own mind and I never wanted to be in school because at that point I had been so I’m going to use the word brainwashed because that’s what I feel I was for sure. But I was completely brainwashed into thinking that that was the only way I could live.

And that if I didn’t live like that, I was going to hell. And if that, and my father. And the whole community was really fighting for me to live with them full time. So there was a full on fight now with my mom to allow me to live with them full time, but my mom wouldn’t let me. So I was going through that teen tweenie angst where I thought my mom was wrong and that I really needed to live with my dad, which really wasn’t angst.

It was just everything like. That was being thrown at me. Yes. So I, I mean, I was scared for my life. Like if I didn’t do what my dad said, like I was going into this eternal fire that would never stop burning. So I thought I had to leave my mom. So I started really fighting with my mom. And so even when I was in school, I wasn’t in school.

I was like waiting for my moment to get back to Texas. And I was able to get back to Texas full time when I was 16, instead of 18. So like, I did that. Like I’ve, I got, I forced, I ended up, my mom was like, there is no way you’re going to live with your dad. Like you have to graduate high school. And I didn’t think high school meant anything because the kids in my, all my siblings weren’t being, I was the only one being schooled.

And so I felt very different and I just wanted to be like the other kids in the community. And so my mom said I had to graduate and somehow. In the 1980s, I found out a way to graduate high school when I was 16. So I graduated early. I was taking college classes my senior year and taking freshman comp and like, uh, I was taking freshman comp for senior English and like all this stuff.

So I took all of my senior classes my junior year and I was already young. So at 16, I graduated and I followed what my mom said. And then my mom couldn’t really force me to stay, even though she wanted to.

Michael Shemwell: Wow. Well, you were obviously a young, bright kid. And then you have this other side that is kind of going to hold you back in certain ways.

And, um.

Dr. Tamara MC: I would call myself very determined.

Michael Shemwell: Okay. Well, you still had to do it. Yeah. You must have brought something to the table.

Dr. Tamara MC: No. I mean, I have tenacity. Whatever it is, like, I’m tenacious. Whatever I kind of get my idea on, it’s like, I’m going to figure out a way to do it. So.

Michael Shemwell: Well. It’s just interesting to, because I was wondering, were you maybe having one life in the community and then a different life that you were actually into, um, when you were with your mom, but it sounds like.

When you were with your mom, you were really still mentally back in Texas in the community, um, because of the indoctrination. And, uh, I think that really just goes to show the power of it because you had opportunity and things around you. But yeah, you’re just so locked in to this thing that you’ve been taught.

Dr. Tamara MC: Right, right. I mean, I, I was dealing with so much guilt. So when I was at my mom, I was just treacherous. Like, Like I was, you know, we weren’t allowed to wear shorts or anything on the community. I lived in Arizona where it was like 120 degrees and I would wear like baggy pants. And my mom was always like, why don’t you just put on some shorts?

Like you’d be so much more comfortable, but I wouldn’t. So I was living within those same guidelines. And if I ever broke anything, I would be like. I would have this huge wave of guilt that just wouldn’t stop. So I had these thoughts that were always running through my mind. If I don’t do this, like if I ever did anything wrong, I couldn’t stop thinking about it.

It would just go over and over and over and over. So for me, it was easier to do the right thing than to not do the right thing. Because the opposite of that was I was going to make myself crazy thinking about it.

Michael Shemwell: Uh, beyond the rumination over those moments, uh, where you did wrong in quotes. Um, were there any in the group that the community that you were in, was there, um.

a confessional of some sort. Was there anywhere where if you did wrong, you had to face someone, tell someone, or there were punitive matters to be considered?

Dr. Tamara MC: So it was all internal. No, I mean, for me, it was internal. But there were formal interrogations of the children, which if anything went wrong in the community, the children would be interrogated until they confessed.

And so often children were confessing to things that they never did. There was very little food on the community. And so at one point, um. The boys who were in charge of the goats, they started eating the goat food because they were so hungry. And the adults found out that the goats weren’t eating and that the kids were eating the food.

And so it turned into like these huge interrogations. And so then there would be punishments and all of that. So yes, there was lots like whatever went wrong. It was usually about food missing because Everybody, the kids were just so hungry that they’d often steal food, steal food. I can’t believe it. But that’s what we were told.

Michael Shemwell: No, I understand what you mean by that. Yes. To them, the food was being stolen. Right. To the kids, they were surviving on goat food.

Dr. Tamara MC: Right. Or like, for instance, there was an outhouse and It would just get too dirty because the children were in charge of cleaning it and it wouldn’t be cleaned properly. So then the kids started going to the bathroom in the woods and then that was found out.

So that was like a huge deal where all the children were punished for not going to the bathroom in the outhouse and like going out in the open. So, so yeah, so there was lots of that, like things that would happen and then everybody would be sat down until. People confessed and there was lots of things that, that none of us did and would still have to admit to.

I wasn’t part of that, like my sibling, like everybody else around me. But like I said, I just did the right, the right thing. Meaning I didn’t break rules because I didn’t want the consequences.

Michael Shemwell: Well, of course, of course. Um, now for us, the consequences, you know, what was always held over our heads was shunning.

Um, you know, even as a kid, if you were a baptized young witness, you could get shunned and, and no one would talk to you. And that’s, that’s a really. Heavy thing to hang over somebody’s head. The, the stripping of all relationships. Um, did you all have, I mean, were there, were there some sort of, was there something like that or an equivalence for you guys that was being held over your head or were they just, you know, your individual families punished you because you got out of line, just like parents in general.

Dr. Tamara MC: So, yes. So for the other kids on the community, there wasn’t necessarily that shunning yet because the way that they controlled us was by keeping us completely isolated and not allowing the children to be schooled, etc. I was the one, the only child on the outside. So that was always over my head because, um, Pretty much almost immediately.

My mother, I was taught that my mother was the enemy and she was going to hell because she didn’t convert and all of this. And then school was the enemy. The West was the enemy. America was the enemy. Friends were the enemy. Boyfriends were like all of that. So. While I was with my dad, I was so indoctrinated with how I had to behave when I went back, like my whole summer.

And at that point, summers were, I think like three and a half months, they were much longer that whole summer. Whereas the other kids weren’t getting this. I was being told the whole time, like, when you go to school, you can’t make friends with the other kids. You can’t have a boyfriend. You can’t study what the other kids are studying because it’s not like that’s not the real doctrine like, like, the only thing that’s right is what we teach you in our religious school, and the book and like basically, we know like in the community we weren’t allowed to read we know that you’re going to have to read in school, but.

Don’t, but you can’t accept anything that you read. And I also was not a reader at that point. Like I didn’t get other books as much as I wanted to read because I knew that it was wrong. And so in that way, shunning was always over me because I was told we were, I was told that after 30 days, you become like the people.

So no matter where you are after 30 days, you’re going to become like them. And my mother was an unbeliever. So I was. Within 30 days, I would become an unbeliever and being in like Western school, I was an unbelief, like all of this made me an unbeliever, but that I would have to fight it, fight it, fight it to make sure that I remained a believer.

And so that’s why I think I was at war all the time within myself. Like, I can’t have, like, if I do any of these things, I can’t come back to this community. They’re not going to accept me. And it wasn’t as if I had to tell them what I was doing because God knew what I was doing. Like it was internal, like God knew if I was telling the truth or I wasn’t telling the truth.

Michael Shemwell: Yeah, you know, when you were listing off all the things that were your enemy, you know, you were your enemy, your own thoughts, your own inclinations were your enemy. And, um, this shunning was really a, you were shunning who you really were, what you might’ve thought or been interested in because you’re so terrified of anything on the outside.

So you’re, you’re shunning the world around you, eschewing that so that you can go back. To the community. So I, that, that’s a tremendous amount of pressure, especially on a child, just a kid. Um, and it’s, it’s, there’s so much to carry. Um,

Dr. Tamara MC: and like in middle school, like I had something I. dreamt of that I really wanted to do that was very hidden, but I wanted to be a cheerleader.

And you can imagine being a cheerleader was the abs, that was the devil. But I so much wanted to be a cheerleader, but there’s no way I could have worn the short skirt. Like there’s no way I could have been bopping up and down. There’s no way I could have been chant like I couldn’t, but I was just really.

I felt very peppy within me. Like I felt very vibrant and I felt like being a cheerleader, I could like move my body and I could be like happy. And so it was like the opposite of how I was living that to be a cheerleader seemed like everything, like all of the girls who were cheerleaders had so much freedom.

Michael Shemwell: Wow. I could move my body and I could be happy. You know, that’s, you just wanted to be happy. Um, but that, that fear is so ingrained, isn’t it? Um, that makes us again, shun even our own, who we are, what we want, our own desires. We have to, we have to shove those aside and go do the right thing as we’re taught to do it.

Um, So yeah, cheerleading, probably not going to be, uh, in your future as a, as a member of this community. Um, so you, you mentioned a religious school internally in the community, because I was wondering, you know, we’ve talked a little bit about how things were when you were at school in the more traditional sense.

Um, you had this religious school. I was just wondering, you know, did you have, I’m getting a sense of the community, but was there, like, were there formal church services of some sort or temple services or whatever? Like, did you all have a place that you went and you did the thing that you all were to do, um, and were maybe instructed and taught as a group?

Dr. Tamara MC: Yes. Yes. So the, um, in the commune, there was a huge church like building that was built that was like in a dome shape and we would meet there and have all of our prayers and we would stay there. Many nights we wouldn’t be allowed to sleep and we’d have all night chanting sessions so the kids would have to sit up or stand up and never like even look that they were tired and just have these religious chanting sessions and in terms of religious teachings.

During the day, we were taught, through the religious texts, we were taught, um, you know, that, that’s pretty much what all of our teachings were, and so that would happen many hours a day, to where we would be studying the holy book, to where we would be studying, like, the traditions, like, how we’re supposed to act, um, So all of that was happening very, and we had to do lots of memorization, lots of rote memorization.

So we had to memorize the holy book. So much of our day was spent reciting until we would memorize certain, um, certain parts of the holy book.

Michael Shemwell: Okay. Wow. And that, that sounds intense. Uh, you know, a lot of times in these groups, again, that’s another way that we were all controlled was just through rote learning, repetition, continuing to, um, I mean, for you, it sounds like it was hours every day.

That’s pretty intense. Um, were there. And you all were more doing that. Did you all, did you have any participation? Um, other than the rote learning, um, did you all have a, any kind of formal outreach? Like at first it was to be, they were going after the Native Americans, then it was the Black community, like once in Texas and in the commune.

Did you all have any kind of a, maybe like a formal ministry or something where you all were to go out and do anything?

Dr. Tamara MC: No, not at that point at all. It was very, very insular. Oh, okay. Yes. There were people that had come from out of the country. We had many international people that were living with us at this point.

There was maybe kind of at the heyday, there was maybe 150 people, something like that. And so there were lots of international people that were living with us, but there was no. When we actually move to the site. Uh, to where the commune was built, there wasn’t any going out at that point, right? Before that we lived in another community in Texas and the whole point was to bring in that community to our religion, but that didn’t work out.

Like there was just so many failed attempts that I think at that point it was like, maybe we got the group. It’s not going to really get much bigger. Let’s just focus on what we have.

Michael Shemwell: Understood, understood. And it always, you know, it amuses me to some degree, you know, like as Jehovah’s Witnesses, there are 8 million of us, there’s 8 billion people on this planet.

And yet we thought, you know, we had, you know, I’m sorry Tamara, but you all couldn’t have had the truth because we had the truth. Okay, and it was our small band that had the one and only truth. And, uh, you know, everyone else was going to be destroyed who didn’t listen to us. But, you know, it’s funny just to think that, you know, there’s 150 people here or whatever.

Yeah, you all are the only people, you know, in the world that have it right. Um, it’s, it’s interesting how, how these groups do that and make us feel, make us feel special in that way.

Dr. Tamara MC: Exactly. I mean, I think of that so often. I mean, the group just kept dwindling and dwindling until like there was only a few families, like the steadfast ones, like my dad’s family or whatever.

But here we are, these three families, and like you said, how many billions of people on earth? But God only gave us the teachings. Like, God is like, guess what? Only you, 10, 20 people, you’re going to heaven, but the rest of everybody else, they’re going to hell. Like, how could that even be? Like, I just, it just doesn’t even make any sense to me whatsoever.

But to think the narcissism in that, to think that, That like I’m a chosen person and God only came down to me, but he didn’t come down to you and he didn’t come down to you. He came down to me like to think that I’m the center of God’s world. Yeah.

Michael Shemwell: Yeah. The narcissism is pretty evident there. I always thought about how, how, you know, for us it was Jehovah God.

And then there was Satan, the devil. And now, you know, those are the two opposing forces. Right. And so, um, Yeah, so maybe Jehovah, you’ve got 8 million people, but Satan has 8 billion people, so at the end of the day, who’s really winning here? Who can point at the scoreboard and say, look, look, people would rather follow me than you, you know, and so it’s just, it’s just really, um, it doesn’t make sense.

You know, God’s not attracting very many people to his side in, in, in that war and he’s not winning. Um, but yeah, we felt so special. Uh, it’s just, it’s just really odd and then there’s attachment from the outside world when you’re willing to watch it burn. Um, You know, for your own salvation, whatever that may look like.

Um, it’s just interesting how, you know, we can feel that way.

Dr. Tamara MC: Yeah, but just to even think, like, God actually needs to be at that war. Like, God is in competition with the devil. Yes. Why would a god have to be in competition?

Michael Shemwell: Well, he’s got to prove himself, proving his universal sovereignty, his right to rule.

That’s what we would talk about. Um, otherwise, it’s just might makes right, and you know, I have more power, so I’ll do what I want. But at that, you know, then you look at all the suffering in the world, and that’s kind of hard to circle that square, too. But anyway, it’s just, yeah, it’s, it’s just interesting that the different ways that these groups see it and just how, again, that’s special.

They make us feel even as a small little group. Um, just out of curiosity in your community, I mean, you talked about there not being a lot of food. I mean, if your dad wasn’t allowed to make a living, let’s say, if people weren’t make going outside and doing things, how did you all get money for food and things, how did you all survive?

How’d you eat? Were you all just, you know, maybe did you have like gardens or something? What was, how did you all make ends meet?

Dr. Tamara MC: So the second leader who built the community was a multi millionaire. So initially he was funding the community. But by funding, it means giving, I mean, very little to each family for food or even for food.

Then he ended up leaving the country. And so there was almost no money left for the community. So that’s when things got really difficult, but people weren’t allowed to work outside. And also at that point. The men, which I’m going to make this statement and stand by it, were incredibly lazy, like they were used to not working.

So there was no way that they wanted to work, like they had just been given money to kind of live and to be these spiritual beings. And so it’s like, now, how are you going to take these people who you’ve basically trained not to work to now say, hey, you got to get out into the world now? And you got to get a nine to five or whatever it is that just wasn’t going to happen.

So, uh, so yeah, so it was very, very difficult. And again, the community took so many different formations and it just kept getting smaller and smaller. And my dad, I think was, we were the last family standing pretty much with maybe one or two other families. So we like. Like we were there for the whole time.

Like my dad was ride or die, like he’s in it. And so the leader was given, my dad worked for him, you know, full time. He was an editor cause we had a publishing company and like all these different strands. So even when the leader was outside of America, he still had very much control. Uh, but at this point, the whole property wasn’t being upkept at all.

There was no money going into it. So it was just. deteriorating and falling apart like nothing. Like it was just gorgeous property. It had black mold. I mean, we had no air. We had no heating system or air conditioning as well, but it’s just everything just was I mean, we never had that from the beginning, but you can imagine in Texas in the rainy season and the whole roof was done badly.

So the rain would come in and then it wouldn’t get fixed. So it’s like, we were just sleeping in moldy rooms, like my entire childhood. That was just, you couldn’t escape it. We had fire ants. Um, which are very, very well known, which are, they sting so bad, but they had taken over our property. So there wasn’t a time like where they weren’t crawling up our skirts.

I mean, I had scars all up and down my legs. Like that I didn’t get rid of until maybe 10, 20 years later, like I had them for so long, they just wouldn’t go away. Um, so yeah, so, so the conditions just got harsher and harsher, but my dad was given like a minimal amount of money that just allowed him to go to the store and get brown rice.

And lentils and oatmeal. We would just eat oatmeal with nothing in it, just water. We weren’t allowed to have any sugar or anything like that. Um, we just have like oatmeal for breakfast and then like brown rice and lentils for like lunch. That was our beans, like a pinto bean. So pretty much like a rice and a bean and an oatmeal.

And that’s pretty much what we survived on. Uh, no fruit. Occasionally my dad would like buy an apple or a banana, but it was mostly for him and my step mom. And. Vegetables vary occasionally, but probably more root vegetables that were cheaper.

Michael Shemwell: Were there specific eating, um, restrictions as far as, I mean, the way you said no sugar made me think, were you all not allowed to have certain foods?

Dr. Tamara MC: Yes. We had very, very strict guidelines. But the goalpost was always changing. The rules were always changing. So just as you thought that like, okay, we got this diet down, then there would be like, sorry, there would be something new. So, um, we followed macrobiotics for many years and, and macrobiotic diet, like.

They, the evil foods are like tomatoes and eggplants, which are so hilarious. So definitely no tomatoes or eggplants.

Michael Shemwell: Well, I don’t like eggplants. I’m down with this diet.

Dr. Tamara MC: I mean, in macrobiotics, you couldn’t have any sugar. I mean, there were so many things, but the diet was always, but more, but for sure, there was no sugar allowed. And I think it was just to control the children because the children just wanted more than anything to eat some sugar once in a while. And also no joy, right?

Yeah. No joy. Just take away all. Yeah. So no, and, and not as if there would have ever been any candy, but we. There was no outside medical care. And so the women practiced homeopathy. And so we had homeopathic remedies, which are little sugar pills and what would often happen, not me, but a lot of the children would steal the homeopathy and just eat them as candy.

And again, again, that’s where like, there would be these big interrogations and who ate the. homeopathic remedy, you know, so, but that’s how starved for sugar. The kids were, they were just like, give me sugar.

Michael Shemwell: Well, yeah. So did you, you know, I mentioned joyous. I know. Was there anything, um, I don’t know if you had your family there, you had your, your dad, your step mom, your siblings.

Do you ever, would you ever play games, go out and play on the commune property? Was there fun in any way?

Dr. Tamara MC: So when you say that I had my dad and step mom, I’m going to correct you because while they were on the commune, I did not have my dad and my step mom. My dad was always busy with the men. I rarely saw him.

My step mom was. I don’t know, in a room or busy with the women, the kids, the girls, the young girls did all of the cooking at that point. We were the workhorses, all of the cooking, all of the cleaning, all of the childcare. So the women would have babies and then hand them off to us who were then like the teen and tweens girls.

So we had so much work at that point. And. So in terms of joy, um, joy came, which is something I still very much miss today, but I would call it my girl gang. There were all girls my age and we were just together day and night. We were praying together, eating together, learning together, um, cooking together.

And the adults wanted nothing to do with us. So we were always alone. So it kind of, they were always like, Like looking over us and watching over us. But then like when we were in the kitchen, the adults didn’t want to be in the kitchen cause it meant work. So they would like leave us alone. So I think the greatest joy came from being in the kitchen with my girls.

Like we would be there and we would joke in the kitchen and maybe we. Throw flour at each other, or we’d eat the raw dough of the bread loaf we were baking, or we would like steal a nub of bread. And like, if there was a little bit of butter, like put it on and like put on the butter, like right when the bread loaf came out of the oven, which is like the best part ever.

So, so we used to make bread. That was like one of the things that we would do occasionally when. Like there was enough money for flour. And so it would depend, but there were just like those moments. And like with the bread dough, we learned how to make cinnamon rolls, just the girls, and we’d like sneak and make these cinnamon rolls and we didn’t have sugar or anything, but like we would have the cinnamon and like we roll them up and we’d pretend like we were eating cinnamon rolls and nobody knew that we were eating them, but we were like using the bread dough.

So in that way, there was lots of joy of just having these girl friendships. And that, that’s like what I miss most today. Like, those are friendships that you can’t recreate in life. Like, in terms of living within a community, on a commune, like in my regular day to day life after that, I’ve never been able to replicate a friendship like that.

Michael Shemwell: Allow me to break in here for a second. This channel is made possible by you, the listener. If you appreciate what we’re doing here, please consider supporting at patreon. com slash shunned, or leave a review on iTunes or other platforms, uh, like and subscribe, all those things help the channel. If you’re looking for merch, you can go get some shunned swag from the shunnedpodcast. com website. Reach out there to be on the show. If you’re looking for more ex Jehovah’s Witness content, I’ll recommend my first podcast called This JW Life. You can find that on podcast apps as well as YouTube. And if you’re feeling stuck in life, struggling to find happiness and community, maybe you’re haunted by the past, beating yourself up, unsure of who you are or what you even want out of life now that you’ve lost this one identity that was given to you by a cult, Reach out through my other sites like XJWHelp.

com, that’s E X J W Help. com, or StoryWorksCoaching. com, and let’s see about working together to help you find a life that fits you and who you are, maybe for the first time ever. And now, back to our guest.

Oh no, um, that’s, that’s often what You know, even in my coaching practice, I work with a lot of extra house witnesses and people are often trying to kind of recreate that and their friendships. And that’s just not easy. It’s, uh, especially as adults, most of us are very busy. We have our own busy lives and it’s very hard to spend that much time together.

It’s different when you’re kind of all, all each other has in a situation where you are together all the time. Um, we had that as well, just in a little different ways. And, um, it’s very difficult because you can’t, that is something that you, you’re just not really going to be able to find in most cases.

Um, still happy that you got to have it for that time that you had it. What were the women doing? So you say your dad would go off and do certain things. Like what was your, what, what did the women do that they were having kids and passing them off to you guys? What’d they do? Have responsibility. Oh, they gossiped

Dr. Tamara MC: Okay. They spent their whole day gossiping pretty much. Okay. Alright. And I mean, I know, I’m just like, that’s just sounding like, so like, um, I don’t, I can’t think of the word right now, but really that stereotype or something? No, not even stereotype, but just like, but that’s pretty much what it came down to.

Michael Shemwell: What else was there to do? It doesn’t sound like there’s much to do other than talking about other people. It’s not like you could have grand ideas of something that you wanted to go do. You can’t leave the commune and you’re not taking care of your own kids. It doesn’t sound like so much. So what else is there to do?

Dr. Tamara MC: And when I say gossip, I also mean like debating religious texts, like having religious debates, like going back and forth, like praying.

Maybe some of the women knit, maybe. Some of them sewed, like they were sewing clothes perhaps. Um, yeah, but really they weren’t doing a lot and the men weren’t really doing a lot like the men were off. But like I said, they weren’t actually, they were supposed to be keeping up this commune and like taking care of the building and taking care of the farm.

It sound like they were No, I mean, we were supposed to have animals and we didn’t end up having any animals. I think we had like. We were supposed to have chickens and all this. They couldn’t even care for anything in the end. Like the last goat got slaughtered. We had one horse, I don’t even know what happened to the horse, and then the chickens, like, were eaten, like, really fast, so, and then they would, like, try to keep up the vegetable garden, and they couldn’t do it because nobody was putting in the labor, it takes a lot of work to take care of a garden, so we didn’t actually have the, like, there were all these pipe dreams of all these things that were supposed to happen, so, yeah.

Yeah. But every single thing failed.

Michael Shemwell: Okay. Wow. Um, sound sounds like a mess. Um, it’s, uh, you, you see how they, you talked about the men kind of being lazy. Um, it sounds like really it was just the children that did a lot of the work, um, in the community. It sounds like it was.

Dr. Tamara MC: I’m going to specify the girl children.

Michael Shemwell: The girl children. So what the boy children do. Okay, so we. And I’m not surprised it’s the girl children and I’m sorry to hear that.

Dr. Tamara MC: Yes. So, we also had this publishing company. So that was also happening like. Like we had some of the women, like there was a woman who was a secretary and she was like a super fast typer, but kind of, as you see in different communities, the women become like the note takers and the recorders of what’s happening.

So there was a lot of that, like a lot of transcription of talks. And so it seemed like there was always this kind of like. Typing or writing or something like transcribing of lessons and rules. And we had a magazine that we would publish that would go out.

Michael Shemwell: What good culture community in that way doesn’t have a magazine.

We had a lot of those.

Dr. Tamara MC: Yes, I know.

Michael Shemwell: So what was yours or what was the, was it, was it, were your. Was your publishing just for internal use for the members or did it go out to the masses in some way?

Dr. Tamara MC: Well, it was really for the internal. The goal was to bring it to the outside people. Okay. But how many people are really going to subscribe to this magazine?

I mean.

It’s not like they had like this huge audience outside waiting for these words to come down to them, like. So, I mean, I guess in that way, it was kind of like trying to, so, so I think one of your questions were like, um, in terms of, I can’t think of the word that you used, but in terms of like attracting new people, I think one of the ways they thought they could was through our books and our magazines, which again, didn’t work.

Michael Shemwell: Gotcha. Okay. Uh, well, it can work if you get enough people to do it for long enough. Jehovah’s Witnesses are proof. Um,

Dr. Tamara MC: But I think I’m going to make a statement that could be very wrong. And it’s maybe a stereotype, but I feel like Jehovah’s Witnesses, like they work really hard at what they do. Oh, absolutely.

Yes. So I think like if our community has the same work ethic, then we may have like flown a little higher. Yes.

Michael Shemwell: Yes. Lots of hours spent doing that. Yes. Uh, lots and lots of hours. Um, so, so we’ve kind of got a, an idea of what was going on around you. So what about as, as far as you go? I mean, obviously you talked about like the friends that you had and such.

Um, You know, these other girls that you had around you, what was life like for you, um, as you know, you’re going into your teenage years and you know, then, you know, with the commune and everything, was there a story arc for you? What, what was going on there? What was tomorrow’s life like in the cult?

Dr. Tamara MC: So what was my life like?

Michael Shemwell: Were there any seminal moments? Was there anything that happened, uh, while you were in it that stands out?

Dr. Tamara MC: So, yes, there was something huge that happened. So, I mentioned that when I was 11 years old, I, we had now moved to this, um, to this actual site of the commune. And I mentioned almost every year something brand new changed.

So after I completed seventh grade, I went to my dad’s. Like I always did, and I thought I was going back to the site of the commune, and while I was in the car, my dad told me that the leader, now this is the second leader at this point, who’s the one who actually built the site, wanted me to live with him for the summer, and he did not live with the community, he lived an hour away, and he owned a big hill, and it was north of San Antonio, San Antonio.

And he lived there with his multiple wives and his many children and his mother was living there and, and maybe a couple of other family, very close family members. So my dad said that the leader wanted me to live with him. And again, like I was the special one, I was the chosen one. I was being chosen out of everybody in the community.

Like nobody was allowed on the Hill. My father was allowed on the Hill. Like he was kind of. I guess up in the hierarchy with the leader in that way. And no other child had been asked. And my dad just thought like it was the greatest opportunity. So he dropped me off at the, at the leader’s house and that was kind of.

Like the biggest changing point in my life at that point, that was where my whole life completely changed. I didn’t know why I was there, but I was there to work for the second wife. She had four children under five and a six month baby. And I was there, um, and I was brought there to look after all of our Children, but I had no idea.

And so I was working from 4 or 5 a. m. until 10 or 11 p. m. I was in a playroom. Which actually had no toys in it. It just had like a futon on the floor. And I was in charge of these four children and this baby that was crying and always wanted to be with its mother. And so that was my role that summer, uh, which was incredibly difficult.

So now at this point, I didn’t. Of course, my mother had no idea where I was. My dad just thought he dropped me off here, but I was alone in this house with, even though they weren’t strangers, they were strangers. Like I hadn’t lived with the leader before.

Michael Shemwell: Sure. And I mean, I don’t know how much did you even.

Ever see the leader before that. And, and, and, and, you know, knowing the whole family and the family structure and all of that, was that something that maybe you didn’t see a whole lot anyway?

Dr. Tamara MC: Right. Yeah. I couldn’t have even understood. Like I had, it was just 11, right? Yeah, I didn’t quite, I was 12 then when I went to go live with him.

Um, but I couldn’t have. I just couldn’t have imagined, like in the commune, we were working and doing everything, but I also had all of my girls around me. I had my sibling sister who was also my age, almost like we were a year apart. And so like, there was this community of us and we were doing all of the work and all of the childcare and all of that, but we were together, but now I was even more isolated because there was not another girl or another child at this place.

And I. All of these people were like these super adults. Like they were like the leader and the leader’s wives. Like I was just not at all part of their family, even though it was sold to my father, that I was going to be their daughter, like they were bringing me in as their daughter.

Michael Shemwell: Oh, wow. Did you feel, did you feel special in any way or, um, being chosen to do that as a or, um, did you always, did you just.

Not like any of it.

Dr. Tamara MC: Um, I did feel special. I did because I mean, whenever the leader would even come to our community, it’s like. Everybody would be like, you know, running around crazy, trying to get things straightened up and like on their best behavior and making the best food. And like we were, the children were all taught not to make any noise and not to speak.

So there was this huge hoopla anytime he was going to join, or like if he came to our religious center and was giving a teaching, like how quiet we had to sit, like, like all of that. It’s like, everything was so heightened that. And the leader didn’t talk to any, but like, he would just kind of was so stoic and would just kind of walk with his eyes forward.

Like he wouldn’t look at anybody, you know, and he just have like a few of his men that he would talk to that would sit behind him. So. So in that way, it’s like he was so high up that out of nowhere to be like, he wanted me, like little old me, like, why me?

Michael Shemwell: Was the leader, um, I’m trying to think of how to ask this, um, in some cults or communities, the leader is seen as God?

Um, and then at other times, the leader maybe speaks for God in some ways. Um, and maybe there’s other things as well. But what, what, what was the station, I guess, of the leader was. Was he a representative of God or was he himself to be seen as God in some way?

Dr. Tamara MC: So in our beliefs, the leader could never be considered God, like that would be blasphemy, like that wouldn’t, but we venerated him like he was God because he was a direct link to God and God downloaded all of the messages through him to us.

So when he spoke, it was God speaking. Yeah. He wasn’t officially God. And like, if anybody ever said, like, there’s no way we would ever call the leader God, but he acted in that way. And he knew everything because God gave him all of the knowledge of the world. And God gave him like, like he knew. Like our souls, like we were taught that he knew our souls, and so, like he could read us from within, so when I was chosen, it was because I was chosen because he read within my soul, and knew that I was pure, and I was innocent, and I was noble, and I was all things goodness, and so that’s why I was chosen, and the other kids weren’t chosen because they weren’t those things.


Michael Shemwell: Okay. . That, that’s a lot. Again, a lot of pressure on a kid, um, to, to, to be chosen and then told these types of things. Um, and then to be with the away to their home to watch it sounds like, basically raise very, very small children. Um, so what was life like for you at the leader’s home, uh, and how, I don’t know how long you were there or what.


Dr. Tamara MC: So I was there for three and a half months. I was there the whole summer, the whole summer. My dad like picked me up the day before my airplane was supposed to arrive back in Arizona. So I was there the whole summer. I don’t, maybe my dad came up to the Hill a few times to like work with the leader, but I don’t even remember having a conversation with him.

I don’t remember him checking in with me. I remember missing my siblings. Um, I felt very alone, very, very alone and very, very exhausted. The, I was working seven days a week without a break. I didn’t even have like a break in the afternoon. I was just in charge of all these children. I was bathing them. I was putting them to sleep.

I was feeding them. I was cooking. Uh, there was a cook that actually lived at the house. So she was doing the official cooking and, uh, but I would help her when I could, but I was so busy with the children that my main role was to be with the children and I would just. Be locked behind the store with all of these kids and, uh, that, and I wasn’t eating very much.

I don’t think I have thought about this so many times, but I don’t remember once washing my clothes. I don’t even think there was there. I knew there was a washing machine in the house because like these people were really rich and they were beautiful. Like Laura Ashley clothes from England and all these designers.

I don’t. I don’t recall washing my clothes once. So I, I don’t know what I looked like.

Michael Shemwell: Sure. Oh yeah. I’m sure. I’m sure it was a, it was tough sledding, so to speak. I mean, my goodness, what are you going to, there’s no time for self care, right? They’ve got you so busy. When can Tamara take care of Tamara? It doesn’t sound like there’s any room for that.

You were. Slaving for the family, so to speak.

Dr. Tamara MC: Yeah. And I mean, that was the, one of the biggest beliefs of our community. Is, um, is to let go of ourself, we were taught not to have a cell and our point, my point as a young girl was to serve and how I was going to get to heaven was through serving. So I was taught to.

To not think about myself, to not think about my needs, uh, to let all of that go. And if I ever felt hungry or I felt tired, then that was a weakness within me that I had to abolish and that I had to work on that. That was something that I, if, if I ever felt that there was something wrong with me because I should never feel tired.

I should never feel hungry. I should never feel thirsty. And so if I did feel those things. I was weak and that weakness meant that I wasn’t overcoming, like, I wasn’t, I wasn’t moving my way towards my path towards God, because if, if I’m moving towards God, I’m able to withhold all of those needs and desires.

Michael Shemwell: It’s, it’s incredible, you know, at the core of what all of these groups do to us is, is that exactly what you were just describing, this separation from ourselves, this, um, We are here to serve everyone else and we are not to take care of ourselves. And it’s, uh, it’s one of the things that one of the most important parts of healing is to learn to love ourselves and, and, and to truly feel that.

And it’s the exact opposite. You know, you think about, I don’t, I don’t know, do you have any kids?

Dr. Tamara MC: Yes, I have two. I have two girls.

Michael Shemwell: Okay. Um, just, you know, I don’t have kids, but I can’t imagine. Having a child and wanting that child to feel any less than like in love with themselves and feel good about themselves.

Obviously serving others, helping can be an outcropping of, but it’s got to start with loving yourself and feeling good about who you are and being a complete person yourself. It can’t just be, just give everything of yourself to others so that there’s never ever anything left for you. Uh, you can’t serve from an empty cup.

And our cups were completely empty. I mean, they, you mentioned that being in a shell of a person, uh, at one point already, this is really hard. You can’t, you can’t do that. They, they want everything of you, every part of you.

Dr. Tamara MC: Yes. Every last, like every last inch of my body was taken over every thought and.

The leader would know, which it didn’t happen, but it happened to other people, um, in the community, but even if your energy switched in a little way, like the leader would know and they would like blast you for like, they would know when your energy changed, but it would be that moment where within yourself, like you were starting to question something, or you were like rebelling in a little way.

And I never understood how did they know that? But now I know it exactly. Like, you know, when somebody is like, when somebody’s starting to shift. And so that was their manipulation practice, like to make sure, and they would do it publicly to publicly humiliate, because that would then set an example for everybody else that don’t you dare, don’t you dare think for a minute that you’re going to like, like.

Do you think you can really get one over on us? Like, do you think that like, no, we know what’s inside of you. So don’t ever do this again. And so, so like. I was terrified of my energy shifting in any way. So while I was working, like I whistled while I worked, for instance, like I was like this happy little worker bee who, if you looked at me from the outside, you just saw a happy little girl that just looked so content, like, and I really felt that because you have to genuinely feel it, but that’s what like the group does is it forces you to.

Feel these things like that’s what’s really messed up is like like within myself. I thought that that like I’m happy because I’m taking care of all of these people and that’s what I’m supposed to do and this is going to get me to heaven. And the more I do this God is going to like as if God is giving me like gold coins for each one like my gold coins are building up that it’s like there’s no way that like if I’m put like.

Like if I’m put on, like, if it’s weighted, like I’m going to heaven because my good deeds far outweigh any of my bad deeds.

Michael Shemwell: Well, there’s your punishment. You know, I was talking earlier about confession and, uh, potential punishments, just your energy shifting can get you called out publicly. And, uh, I’m sure that some of the ways they could notice your energy shifting would be just all the tight rules that they had.

And so like, uh, Jehovah’s witnesses, uh, don’t allow facial hair, uh, other than a mustache and, um. So that was just always a thing. I remember even as a young young man, just if I wanted to grow a little facial hair, I just knew like they would throw so much shade on that. And it was a sign of rebellion. And so you were to be clean shaven or whatever the case may be.

And so, you know, they set up little things there through their control so that they can, Oh, look, he’s starting to rebel in some tiny way. Because he’s going against this ridiculous, insane rule we’ve made up. And so, therefore, we know that his energy is shifting, so to speak. And I’m sure it was somewhat the same with you guys, just in that, with all these rules and all these regulations and everything that was expected of you, if you weren’t performing, or weren’t performing quite the same, that was probably a way they could tell that, um, Your energy had shifted,

Dr. Tamara MC: right?

And like in our community, it was the opposite of what you just said. The men were supposed to have facial hair. They were supposed to have beers. And so if, if somebody shaved, then that was shown as a rebel. It was like the same thing, but just the opposite.

Michael Shemwell: So then. You know, at this point, like we were talking about, you were at the leader’s home and you were working a lot for the leader.

So, uh, now you had just mentioned this as being one summer, uh, working in, in the home. Um, so did, I don’t know, did things progress after that? Did, you know, like the next summer, did you get called back to the home or, um, what was, what transpired as you went forward?

Dr. Tamara MC: Right. So. That summer was the most pivotal summer of my life, and it would argue, arguably be anybody’s most pivotal summer of their lives.

Um, so, Very soon after I arrived, within few days, within a few days, I lived in a room right off of the playroom. So like the house was like a mansion and then there was like a converted like little patio and that was where I slept. And there was a mattress on the floor and there was a glass door that was not locked that I guess that they just added to this little addition.

It was, it was actually called like the servant quarters, and that that’s where I was living, was in the servant quarters. And, um, within a, I don’t even know, a couple of nights or whatever, uh, the adopt, the son of the, the adopted son of the leader began coming into my room. And this would be after I did all of the work with the children.

So this was be like at 11 or midnight when I was supposed to be sleeping and he started sneaking in and it was at that point he started molesting me. And. Of course, nobody knew this was like the end of the day when nobody knew what was happening and I was completely isolated, even within the house, because I was like on the wing like where nobody was so it’s not as if anybody could have heard anything.

And then, within probably the first week or so. Because in our community, we were a purity culture, so we weren’t allowed to have boyfriends, we weren’t allowed to have sexual relations or intimacy in any way, that this person, he was several years older than me, realized that he was, like, not behaving in the way that he was taught, and so he married me, and when I 12 years old in a dark room after my sleeves were soaking wet from washing dishes, probably at midnight.

And I was wearing my rags of clothes because I didn’t actually have clothes when I’d come to the community. Cause my mother would like pack me shorts. I mean, she, I didn’t have shorts, but she would just always like. Pack me even short sleeve shirts or whatever. So I was wearing the second wife’s clothes and she was like, I think 5’10 And I don’t know how many pounds, but she’d already had four children.

And I was like, 12 years old. I’m still not even five feet. I’m 4’11 So I don’t know how tall I was. I was probably 4’9 4’10 and probably 80 pounds. And I was like wearing this. Huge woman’s clothes. And so in the dark of night, he basically told me, this person told me that he had to marry me, um, because he was fearing that he was going to go to hell if he didn’t marry me.

So in the dark room, he made me repeat after him in a different language that I was married to him. I did not understand the words that I was saying. And so within the first week of arriving, when I was 12 years old, I was now a child bride. So that’s where my story. Takes a big, big turn.

Michael Shemwell: Well, yeah, I mean, first of all, I’m so sorry that that happened.

I mean, again, these groups are rife with opportunity for these types of things to happen. Um, and I’m sorry that that impacted you. Um, this was the adopted son of the leader. Um, so like, how old are we talking here? Was he a child too?

Dr. Tamara MC: He was probably 15 ish at that time. Um, but he was much, much older than me in terms of he had been living with the leader, his whole life or most of his life.

He had lived on three different continents already. He spoke many languages, um, And he knew this community. He knew this place. He knew everything. Like I was completely a fish out of water. Like I just was in this brand new, like I, like he knew the lay of the land. He knew where all the houses were. Like he knew the religion, like he lived full time and he was like considered like very up there in terms of religion because he’d been with the leader his whole life and like knew all the rules and so on.

So, um, and he was like, At least six feet tall. And I remember, I think he had a size 13 shoes. So he was, he was huge compared to me, like, regardless of how many years the age difference was, like there was nothing similar about us. Like I had never had a boyfriend. I’d never thought about a boyfriend. Never.

Held hands, kissed a boy, like, I was so innocent. The reason I was chosen, I think. And now I’m like with this person who was very, very worldly. Very worldly.

Michael Shemwell: Well, yeah, very worldly, very abusive, uh, from the jump. Um, and also, I mean, getting married in that situation? Like, is that something that like, does, does the rest of the group know that you are married or is this just a between us type of, we are married?

Like, I mean, he just had you utter some words in the dark. So, you know, is this something that was made known?

Dr. Tamara MC: So this was considered a spiritual marriage, but all of the marriages in the community were spiritual marriages, even my dad and stepmom didn’t have a legal marriage. I mean, nobody within the community was going to courthouses to get married, like we were being religiously married.

Uh, so. In that way, but this was a very particular marriage that was even different than the other marriages in the community. It was called a temporary marriage, which means that a man can marry a girl slash woman for a specified time period. So a man could marry a woman, for instance, for an hour. And then have sexual intercourse with her and then not be married to her within an hour.

But that solves all the problems because within God’s eyes. The man did the right thing because they, they were religiously married. And so they’re not going to go to hell. And of course, I’m saying this all very sarcastically for anybody who’s not picking up on that.

Michael Shemwell: Yeah. Yeah. Wow. That is quite a loophole.

Dr. Tamara MC: Yes, that is a loophole. Yes. Whoa. Yeah. Um, so, so going back to my marriage. In this particular type of marriage, no witnesses are needed, whereas with the other marriage, witnesses are needed. So that makes it allowable that in a dark room with a young girl like myself, a man can marry himself to me. And it’s legally binding within God’s eyes.

But that all of this can happen completely in the dark, hidden from everybody. There weren’t many of these marriages that happened within my community. I was one of the only people that had this particular marriage. So I can’t, and this marriage is so rare that it was rarely even used then. And it’s only in a particular sect of this religion.

So it’s. It’s so rare. And now it’s kind of had a resurgence kind of in recent years that it’s kind of come into like this trendy thing of like how people are able to get married or how people are able to have boyfriends and girl like boyfriends, girlfriends, and be able to be sexual with them through this marriage.

So it is this big loophole. So now it’s kind of trending in a way with young people. So it’s not so much as a guy is like, you need to marry me. It’s like two people who maybe like each other and want to have a relationship. And they’re like. Let’s get married. So, yeah. So, I mean, there’s so many different ways that this can, that this can be, and there are so many women and villages that this does happen to, that they are absolutely afraid of violence.

And so it can, it can take all different shapes and shades.

Michael Shemwell: So what then, so then now you’re married to this person and, um, how do you move forward?

Dr. Tamara MC: So that summer I was basically working as many hours a day as I was with the children and then this person would sneak into my room and then wouldn’t leave until sunrise, until I worked again.

So I was completely sleep deprived on top of everything. So at the end of the three and a half months, my dad picked me up. I didn’t say anything. I returned to Arizona. I didn’t say anything. And I just lived with this horrible secret. And I would. Was in middle school in eighth grade. And I was just, I felt like a mummy.

I just, I, I just was living with all of this. Like I’m supposed to be in school, like learning, I don’t know, eighth grade English or whatever. And all is I’m thinking about is what happened to me over the summer and how I, how I can’t tell anybody. I was so, so alone at that point. And, uh, my husband ended up Having to leave the country, the leader sent him away, which is what always happens at like, there was so much back and forth international and back and forth national, you know, all over the place.

And so he was sent away and the, that leader eventually also left the country. And so then I started living on the commune with my dad and that family full time. The third leader then moved in with his group of people. And. My marriage at this point. Was pretty much in the open, but it’s really debatable.

Cause it’s not like there was this conversation about it, but everybody knew I was in this situation on my, on the, on the commune side. Um, but at that point it didn’t really matter because the third leader that came in, um, his big thing was marrying off all the young girls. So most of the girls were then being married off by 14 years old.

So my story was almost like. Just one of many stories at that point. So it wasn’t like the standout thing. So I was probably the first that this happened to, but then. It would happen to almost all the girls.

Michael Shemwell: And were they being married off then to, um, adult men who maybe, and I don’t know if you just mentioned the leader number two, I guess having multiple wives.

Was that a thing?

Dr. Tamara MC: Right. So, um, most of the girls were married off to men like 20 years older than them, much, much, much older, a little bit different situation than mine. They were also married off in more traditional marriages. You know, they weren’t in this temporary marriage like I was in. And they were almost all married into polygamous marriages because the men already had wives and the wives were the same age as them.

So they were like, if. The guy was 10 or 15. Like if the guy was like 25, 30, 35, the first wife would usually be the same age, like 35. And then these young girls would be joining this family, this already established family.

Michael Shemwell: Understood. Understood. So you being temporarily married, that’s intercede as far as you then being free to marry when leader number three came.

Dr. Tamara MC: No. And that way I think I was protected because I was already married.

Michael Shemwell: Okay. That’s what I was saying. Okay. So that was the protect.

Dr. Tamara MC: Okay. Yeah. So I wasn’t married off to any of these older men because I was already taken.

Michael Shemwell: Yeah. I was wondering, I mean, if your temporary husband moves overseas, right. That mean that you were protected or does that mean that you were open because it was.

Temporary marriage to someone who’s moved away. And I don’t, yeah. Okay.

Dr. Tamara MC: And I mean, like discussing this, it’s like, feels super uncomfortable cause it is like being in the twilight zone, like trying to make sense of something that just makes no sense. Like to think like I have this. temporary husband, just that word even coming out sounds, I mean, at the time it was like, again, part of the vocabulary of the cult.

So it’s like, it was something that was always used. So it seemed like, Oh yeah, everybody has temporary marriages. But then when I come to the outside world and I speak to people that don’t know what I’m talking about, it’s like, alien, like, and like, was I put like, and it just like your husband was living there, but you were living here and he would like, it just, it doesn’t make sense.

So, so to try like for anybody to try to make sense of it. If you’re, if you don’t understand it, that’s fine. You shouldn’t understand.

Michael Shemwell: Well, I have to be honest. I mean, it makes sense to me because of where I come from. Right. And you know, we had, you know, can you could be divorced, but not scripturally free to remarry.

So if you have the only way you were scripturally free is if one partner moved on sexually. And so you can have two people who are divorced, but neither of them can ever have another relationship. Unless one of them moves on sexually and is open and honest enough to grant the other person their freedom.

So yeah, these are, these are just the things that are parts of these communities that are so, uh, yeah, they’re just so abnormal for the world around us. And it does sound alien or foreign or whatever. It is something that sounds out of this world in a way, but it’s very real, isn’t it?

Dr. Tamara MC: Yes. And I mean, So for me, the woman can’t have any other partners.

So I had to be with my husband like in that way, but he was able to have many more temporary marriages, many more forever marriages. So on his side, he was free to marry. to his heart’s delight. So me as the girl, that wasn’t the case. It’s never the case for the women. I mean, we were a polygamist in terms of only the men could have multiple wives, but women could only have one husband.

Michael Shemwell: Understood. So where, so, um, where do you go? I mean, at this point, I guess the third leader has now come in or is there other. Uh, things that you need to address in your story.

Dr. Tamara MC: Yeah. So the third leader came in, um, conditions got worse and worse. Food was less beatings of children got worse than worse. Um, just every aspect for the girls lives.

I mean, you can just imagine when you start marrying off all these girls, there were divorces, pregnancies. Um, I mean, a girl’s just kind of became these little hot potatoes that were just thrown at, like, one guy would divorce her and then she’d have to get married. Like the whole thing was that a girl couldn’t be unmarried because they were like, like that could disrupt the whole society because an unwed girl meant that she was provoking all of the men in the community with her sexuality.

So unless she was married. The community wasn’t safe, so all girls had to be married at all times to protect the chastity of the community and Again, I’m saying that very sarcastically. No, yeah, no, I understand. Doesn’t make up on that on the outside.

Michael Shemwell: Oh, yeah, I mean, the women in Jehovah’s Witnesses are often, you know, they’re the temptresses, right?

They’re the ones responsible for everything. And it’s just, again, inside the organization, that’s how they see things. That’s not what is reality. But, um. Yeah, that’s, it’s very sad. And, um, um, so, um,

Dr. Tamara MC: I mean, it’s, it’s completely, yeah, it’s completely sick to think that like a girl, like my age, 12, 14 years old is trying to be the temptress for like a 35 year old man, the last thing we were thinking about was men, we were trying to run from being like.

And so, and I mean, and the other women were worried about us, like the other women wanted us married. It’s like, it was so, you know, baked into the whole community, all of these beliefs that the women thought that these girls have to get married because they’re our competition. So until we get them married, they’re competing with us.

So it’s, it was just so messed up the whole system.

Michael Shemwell: Yeah. I interviewed someone from the FLDS early on in the podcast and. Um, they practice polygamy and a lot of similar things as to what you’re being, you’re talking about here. That’s just sadly how that dysfunctional system works. Um, an abusive system.

Um, so where, so, um, I guess. So you then continue to be married to your husband and just lived on in the commune, uh, under leader, number three, doing your thing or did anything change?

Dr. Tamara MC: Yeah. So things were always changing. Like I said, there was always a goal post that was like, you never knew where it was going to be.

Uh, as I mentioned in the very beginning, I graduated early when I was 16. A lot of that reason was so that I could be with my husband full time, because by then my husband was my way to heaven. He was my everything. And so I thought that I really had, I went from never thinking about marriage as a 12 year old to being obsessed with marriage because I wanted a forever marriage, like my girlfriends, like I saw them and as much as they were suffering, they were like in these forever marriages.

But I was in this. Weird marriage where he was in and out, like he was coming back and I’d see him, but our schedule was so mixed up and there was no certainty. And so I was just holding out for this forever marriage because by that point I had thought that I was in love with him. I mean, of course I thought I was in love with him.

Like, I mean, not of course, but But in all like, like he was in my head, like he then took like, not only did I have my father telling me how to behave, what to do, not only did I have the other men in the community, not only did I have the leader who I had a direct link to, cause I was like the special child, but now I had this other layer, this husband now, who’s like telling me when you go back to Arizona, don’t you dare have a boyfriend?

Don’t you dare wear any revealing clothes. And so. From eighth grade on until I graduated from high school, you know, for four years, I was just terrified of living when I was in Arizona. I was just, when he wasn’t with me, he was writing me letters and he’d always yell at me and, you know, accuse me, do you have a boyfriend?

Did you get a boyfriend? You know, like, so I could not live like a normal teenager at all. I was just in a prison. I was in a complete prison and it was a secret that I didn’t share with anybody because I wasn’t supposed to have friends. And so it was just the secret that I lived within and, um, very, very confusing time.

And so with the third leader, so, so like I said, things got worse. And then as what happened is just kind of speed up the story is that I ended up going. To live with the second leader full time in England, he had moved to England then, and so I left when I was 17 to go live with him full time in England.

And because again, I thought like, he’s my spiritual teacher, I need to be with him, I need to be serving him.

Michael Shemwell: And that’s where your husband was, right?

Dr. Tamara MC: Not then, because everybody was moving. Okay. Okay. There’s lots of moving parts. People are all over the world. So again, it doesn’t make sense. Yes, it doesn’t make sense.

Michael Shemwell: So that’s fine. So then you moved to England to be with the second leader.

Dr. Tamara MC: Yeah. And I was living with, I was living in the house. I was now carrying the second wife had two more children. There was 10 children, um, eight younger children. So I spent two years in the house and working again, a slave labor.

And by that point I was doing all of the cooking and the cleaning as well. And it was the most difficult time of my life. And at that point, my husband was living in a different country. And then the leader told me one day out of the years, he’s like, he needs to come live with us. Now he needs to return to England immediately.

And he says, and I need you to make the phone call. So I made the phone call and I said, you need to come to England. You need to stop whatever you’re doing and come to England. And at that point, he had always been working for the leader and had been following him. But right then he had. He was living in Chicago and had just got into Columbia College and he was going to start university.

He, he, he had already started. He was like in his first semester. And so it was like the first time that he was doing something for himself and then the leader told him to leave. So he left college completely behind and he would never go back. That was like the end of it. And. So he came to England during that time when we were separated.

He was always the main letter writer, but I became the main letter writer, but he was rarely returning my, my, um, my, my letters. And so I would constantly ask him, what’s wrong? Is everything okay? What’s happening? He wouldn’t respond. So after he arrived in England, when we were finally together in the flesh, I was like, please tell me what’s wrong.

Did I do something wrong? What’s wrong? Like, you know, and that was when he told me the news that. Broke my heart into all sorts of pieces, um, which was that he had married another woman. And so, uh, I was now in a polygamous marriage, which is something I knew I never, ever, ever, ever wanted. And I was begging him to leave her and he refused and said that he loved us both and that he was never going to leave her.

And so it just. Became months of me trying to beg him to leave her. She lived in America, so she wasn’t with us in England. Uh, but he, he wouldn’t listen to me and that, and that was, that was the hardest time of my life because that was after eight years of being with this person who he actually, like we had both witnessed polygamy in the community so much, and we saw how horrible it was to women and children that.

We had a pact. I thought that we weren’t going to live like that. Like that was like our little thing. Like, we’re not going to be like the rest of them. Like if we want our marriage to succeed, we can’t live like that. And so, so that was just. soul crushing. I was just completely crushed. I didn’t know what to do.

I had given up everything. I’d given up my schooling. I’d given up my mom. I’d given up my dad. I was working with this leader. Like I was trying everything in my life was working towards this marriage with this person who at 12 years old molested me, who I felt I had to make right with God. Like I had to have this marriage because I couldn’t be with another man.

Like I was broken. Like I was, you know, I was no long, like, you know, I was no longer a virgin. Like there’s no way that, that any man would ever want me. Like I was, yeah, I was just dirty, I thought. So, so I didn’t think I had another choice. So that was pretty much what happened when I was 20 years old.

Michael Shemwell: Wow.

So, um, so he, so then where do you, where do you go from there? You, you obviously don’t want to be part of this polygous, polygamous marriage. It doesn’t sound like, um, is there a way out of that for you? Um, doesn’t sound, you have a lot of power there.

Dr. Tamara MC: Well, Right about that time, my grandmother who lived in Arizona, her boyfriend who she called her husband died, and I was really worried about her because she was alone, and so I wanted to return back to Arizona to be with her, but I also used it as an excuse, like I told the leader and everybody, like, My grandfather just died.

I need to go back to Arizona and so I used that as an excuse and everybody bought it and really within myself. I thought I was going to return. I, I had told my husband that I couldn’t do it and that I was leaving. So that was the hardest decision I made leaving. Like leaving, that was when I was leaving, like I was leaving him.

And so I told him that I was leaving, that I couldn’t do it. So I was going to return to England and to work for the leader, but I wasn’t going to be married to him anymore because I knew I couldn’t do it. So I got on a plane and I left and I didn’t return, even though everything within me was like, I mean, part of me was like, maybe I won’t return, but a big part of me was like, I have to return.

This is my life. Like, how do I get to heaven? If I’m not living with the leader and serving him, like how this is my only way.

Michael Shemwell: So this trip back to Arizona was your way out of the marriage. It sounds like, but. And so I see that and I see where that could have helped you make that transition. But how did you, how did you make that trip and then just never, so you’re saying you just never went back to the community again.

How did you, was there something that happened that helped you to break down what you were involved in or to see that maybe it wasn’t as true as you thought? Or what was it that helped you to stay away from it? Because. If you believed it was true and there was this fear of hell and everything, what made you stay away?

Dr. Tamara MC: So it wasn’t at all planned. It just one circumstance led to another. I came back and I needed money. So I started waitressing and Waitressing just hurt my heart. I felt like I was serving again. It was the absolute worst thing for a domestic servant to go into is to become a waitress. Like it was like, I hadn’t left and it was just painful.

Like every time I’d put a cup of coffee down on the table, I just. I was angry. I began to get angry. Like, why am I putting this cup of coffee down? Like, they’re going to give me a 1. 50 tip at the end of this because tips were so low then. You know, or whatever. But, and then it just was, I’ll call it a miracle, whatever you want to call it.

But I just learned that the university had a class. I was interested in taking, and I don’t even know how I learned about it because I had never considered going to college. It wasn’t something that was on my radar. Like my mom, my whole life growing up was like, you’re going to go to college, you know? And, but as soon as my dad joined this community, it was very anti Western education.

I was like, there’s no way I’m ever going to college. Like I’m going to just be a wife and a mother and that’s it. I don’t need to go to college. Like that’s useless information. But I found out that the university was teaching something I was interested in and it had to do with my religion. So I ended up enrolling in the class and it was a five credit class and I had to take six credits to be part time.

So I took a one credit aerobics class and it was like my first dance class. Cause I think I told you, I always wanted to be a cheerleader. Yeah.

So, and I still like war, like the other girls, like it was. Uh, what was it like the nineties they were wearing like leotards and all of that and tights and stuff. And I was still like in these huge sweat pants and it wasn’t like I was showing my body in any way. And I was in a room filled with girls, which is actually okay.

Like you can dance like in our community. You could have danced as long as it was the same gender, but you couldn’t dance. Like with the opposite gender. So in that way, I still was protected in a way, but then the next semester, I loved it so much that I took the second semester of that course. Cause it was a language class.

And then I took like full time, I took a full time course load and then the following semester. And before I knew it, I ended up graduating from college in a record three years. I was taking between 27 to 33 credit hours. A semester and I got done like within three years because I was so curious and I was taking all classes in history and political science and I was really trying to unravel everything that I had learned in my community.

And I was trans, I was able, I became like fluent in the language. I was able to translate the Holy text myself without translations. And I was able to look at women within. And so my whole point was, how do I learn all of this for myself? Like without all these other voices telling me what this religion is, what this belief system is, how do I unpack this for myself?

So in that way, I don’t think I went back. Because I took on the religion and the belief system for myself, like I empowered myself with it. So I no longer needed this leader or my dad or anybody to tell me because I now had access to history. I now had access to like, I could go back to the eight, whatever, hundreds and be like, wait, this is how it began, you know?

And so I could like unravel everything on my own. And that just grew and grew. I went on to get a master’s degree after that. And I even went on to get a PhD. So my education became my savior. That was how I got myself out. And because of that, I was able to. Understand things by myself without any outside voices, which of course, whenever you read books, do you like you’re reading somebody else’s voice, but there wasn’t one particular voice that was telling me how or what to believe or the reasons of why I believed what I believed.

Michael Shemwell: Yeah, that’s the difference, right? You can, you can listen to many different voices and, and figure out for yourself what, what rings true to you and what is factual and what is not. Um, so you just walk away from this thing? Did, was, was anyone Pursuing you in any way because you had left, was there a lot of pressure or were people reaching out trying to get you or maybe even shame you into coming back for, in some way?

Dr. Tamara MC: Not the leader and not my husband. My dad was still very much part of the community and my siblings. And like we had a smaller community in America and it’s not as if I had left the religion or the community still, like it’s not as if I had Like I had left some of the very rigid practices, but I was still like practicing it in my own way and call my sophomore year.

I met my husband who would then become my second husband. We were married for 18 years. So I met him in college. And then right after I graduated with my bachelor’s, I was pregnant with my first son. And then with. Then less than two years later, I was pre pregnant with my second son. So my life really became very busy with my whole new family.

So I now, and my husband was of the same religion that I grew up as with my dad. So it’s not like I had left because he, like a woman still has to marry within the religion. So I still had married within my religion, but. My second husband didn’t grow up like me, like in a cult, like he grew up in a normal, like he didn’t grow up in the US, but he grew up in a normal society where all of my practices, he couldn’t believe I grew up like, but we were, but we like shared like the same religion.

So he was. So much less fundamental, so much less conservative, much more liberal. And so in marrying him, I saw a whole other side to the religion, like how his parents practice, like how, which was completely different than how my dad practiced. So in that way, I didn’t necessarily leave. Like nobody saw me as leaving exactly in that way.

Michael Shemwell: Okay, so then the people in your specific community had a measure of respect then for the greater community of the religion. Um, in other words, like Jehovah’s Witnesses do not respect any other Christians. At all. Like you’re a Jehovah’s witness. That’s the truth. Nothing else. Uh, you cannot go be anything else, any other, let’s say Christian religion and be okay.

So you’re saying though, that your group, they still at least had some measure of respect for people who practiced a similar religion without the same narrow community values.

Dr. Tamara MC: Yes, yes. I mean, they did. I mean, like, it was legal that I couldn’t marry him. Like, had I married Somebody who is not of the same religion, that would have been, I would have been completely ostracized right then.

But in that way, they still didn’t agree with how his family practiced, like they were way too lenient. So there was like lots of issues, but it was like, okay, she did like, and before I married him, I. Actually, I went to my dad for his permission and my dad actually married me. So we had a religious ceremony.

So it’s like, I was only able to get married to him with my dad’s permission. And then my dad is like the, the person who married us. So I guess because of that, I was accepted. Like had I just married him in a Western marriage or some, that would have been totally different.

Michael Shemwell: Okay. All right. So then, so you then.

You left the community, um, and your dad stayed in it. And did that, um, I don’t know, did that change your relationship in any way? Did you, you know, how did you, how did things change as you went through the rest of your life, you know, cause I don’t know how long you’ve been out at this point, but it’s been some time.

So. Did things change with your relationship? Have you, um, been seen in a different light?

Dr. Tamara MC: Yeah. So I think it’s just a really, really slow progression. I think, I mean, even when I went to go live with the leader full time, when I was 12 years old, like my relationship with my dad changed, like it was always changing.

When I lived in England, it changed. Uh, when I moved back to America, it changed. And then as I got married and had children, it was always like. It was, you know, it was just progressively, I won’t call it getting worse, but the more that I became my own person, the more my dad would like, um, would separate himself from me because, like, the more that I began having thoughts that didn’t agree with him, the more that I would, like, stand up for something that I believe strongly in.

then he wouldn’t talk to me. So it was always, everything about our relationship was very conditional. So as long as I agreed with him and I supported him and I supported his belief system and I followed the way of life that he gave me, things could remain relatively calm. But whenever I stood up for something outside of that, things would get rocky.

And I think our relationship has, you know, we’ve been in and out so many different times, you know, but I’m also a very quiet person, which maybe you don’t know that now, cause I’m on a podcast, like talking nonstop, but, but I am, I am a very quiet person and I don’t express myself. So kind of all of my learnings.

We’re happening within myself. It wasn’t like, I’m like learning all this stuff and like, I’m going to my dad and saying, Oh, guess what I learned. And this is how I believe now. And I didn’t live in the same state as him. So I would go visit him maybe once a year with the kids or whatever. So it’s not like we were on top of each other, like.

In that way, but, but yeah, it was just a slow progression of us separating and separating. I was married for 18 years and then I got divorced about 12 years ago. So now I’ve been divorced 12 years and I really think that, I mean, Each phase is such a huge thing. And like leaving, like leaving happens in these, like, I mean, making the decision to leave seems like the hardest decision, but after the, after the leaving is where all the work comes in.

Like that’s just. The intense work that doesn’t take six months, a year, 5, 10, 50. I mean, it takes 30, 40 years. I mean, I, I mean, I’m not trying to be discouraging to anybody, but each step is so important, but it’s not like one day you’re going to leave, or at least not in my case. I didn’t just leave and then suddenly my life was different and change because I had been brought up in this way that everything was ingrained within me that it’s very different.

Had I joined when I was like 20 30, but being brought up as a child, all of this belief system was instilled in me, like at the most critical times when children are learning. So to undo all of that. Is like undoing your entire personality and your belief system. So that’s a lifelong, I’ll say struggle.

I’ll say challenge. I’ll say whatever you want, but, but it’s a life, but I mean, that’s what living is. I mean, we’re here to like

Michael Shemwell: about growth, right. And, um, I’m just, I appreciate you saying that because I, I see a lot of people who stop going to the meetings of Jehovah’s Witnesses or maybe they’re disfellowshipped and shunned or whatever the case may be.

And they’re like, well, I’m just done with it. It doesn’t impact me. I’m going to move on. No, it still impacts you just because you’re not. day to day involved in the group anymore does not mean it just suddenly goes away. There’s a psychological impact to that that has to be worked on and that work is a process, not an event.

You don’t, you don’t go to therapy or work with me in my coaching practice. For one hour and erase decades of programming, um, you have to be invested and willing to work on yourself and to, to, to heal. And that does take time and that’s okay. It’s okay. Um, it’s everybody. It’s not like we’re the only people that have things that we have from our past or our childhoods or whatever to work on in our lives.

It’s just a, it’s a part of life.

Dr. Tamara MC: Exactly. So after I got divorced from my second husband, I feel like that’s when I really began to dive into who was I. Before that, I was still kind of within the, you know, kind of within the cultural parameters. I still had my husband’s family, who’s still very culturally this religion.

I had still so many rules and so many things governing my life that were outside that were outside of me. And For a year, you know, after I got divorced, I still had teenagers. So I had to get them through high school. I, I had, you know, just after a divorce, that’s like so many years of healing in itself.

So that was a good, you know, at least minimum of five years of trust. Trying to end a divorce and to start a new life and all of that. And then I got into another relationship, a long term relationship. And that was also, you know, abusive in its own way, not in the same ways. And I have now been out of that relationship for more than three years.

And I. Recently bought my own place, uh, for the first time and I’m living alone. My two sons are, you know, I’m an empty nester. My two sons are doing wonderfully. They’re in their mid to late twenties at this point. And I feel like in the past three years is the first time I have been able to find out who am I separate from this community, separate from this belief system, separate from being a daughter, a wife, a mother.

All of these identities that are, that are put on us or that we willingly take on such as motherhood, for example, um, for some of us, but this has been, I think, where my like true healing of separating myself completely has come and not to say that it’s complete because I don’t believe in it being complete.

It’s this ongoing process. Like you said, it’s not this event, but there are these very distinct moments like. When my first husband took a second wife, I left, that was a distinct moment. There was the distinct moment in my divorce that was distinct. There was a distinct moment, like when my long term relationship ended, you know, so all of those are there, but then it’s all these gradual steps.

And so now here I am at this brand new place in life, and this is. The most empowered I’ve ever felt. And the first time I’ve been publicly sharing my story, like I, I’ve been living in a secret most of these years. Like people just thought like, Oh, that’s just Tamara. You know, she’s, you know, she, whatever.

Like I’m an academic, I’m a PhD, like I’m all these things, but nobody really knows kind of this hidden world of Tamara that happened, that’s like something else.

Michael Shemwell: Well, sure. I’m so glad that you’re sharing it because it is a big moment when you start to own your story because that’s you too. That’s been a part of you and to be able to own that and integrate that even into a part of who you are and and where you come from.

It doesn’t define you, but it’s part of you. And what a wonderful thing that you’ve been able, like you said, over these past three years to really start to find yourself. Despite that story, and I’m glad that you’ve been able to do so. Is there anything in particular that has helped you along the way finding yourself?

Dr. Tamara MC: I said that I hadn’t returned, I actually returned to the community when I was 45 years old, I returned to a leader and to my husband at that or my first husband, they were at the same place I left the country and I went to stay with them for a while. And it was like after my divorce and stuff. It was more than five years, maybe eight or nine years ago.

It’s been a while, I guess, but it was at that point that I was able to see with my adult eyes, like I was able to see them in a completely different light. And I was able to see the way that they looked at me. And it was at one of our communal meetings for the first time, the leader saw my energy change and like blasted me in front of the community.

So I had saved myself all those years, but he knew I was different. And. He knew, and I, so I went back and I kind of got back into, I, I almost became that little girl I was, but then they found out that I was a writer, they found out all these things, and they wanted nothing to do with me, and so they kind of threw me out of the house, and so that was like my first like shunning of like these people, because I considered him my second father, I considered the wife my mother, like I hadn’t, you At that point, I still thought that these people loved me.

I didn’t realize what had really happened to me, but when they kind of kicked me out after they realized, and I didn’t know why I was like, what does it matter? Like I was always a writer. I always told them I was going to tell this story, but it was a very different story that I was going to tell. But in them kicking me out, it took me several years to think like.

Why did they kick me out? What are they worried about? I’m a writer. And only now I see this story like after so many years. And I’ve, I’ve, I then went on from my PhD, I went on to Columbia University for an MFA in creative writing. And so I’ve studied how to write at this point. And I spent a year putting my entire story into words.

And it came out to 400, 000 words, which is the equivalent of four novels. So it’s a huge story that I need to now reduce down, but it was in that, that when it was put down on paper or on my screen, my computer screen, I was able to look back and say, this is what happened. Like there’s no denying that these things happen.

And that’s when I began to be like, wait a sec, like I need to really begin to research child marriage. I need to research human trafficking, labor and sex trafficking. I need to look at child domestic servitude. Like these are words like, When I was in university, like, I was studying religion, history, politics, and then I was studying, like, I was in social science, I then was studying cults and communes and intentional communities, but I hadn’t progressed to the point of, like, wait, I gotta get into this, like, what is, like, wait, I was in a child marriage, like, that’s hard, like, to accept, I mean, I mean, for me, it’s like, Like when I say that it like still, it makes me feel yucky inside.

Like, I don’t want that to be who I am. And that’s why for so many years, that is a story that I’ve kept hidden because I just want somebody to see me separate from that. That is my history. And that has absolutely shaped who I am. But I never want to be seen as weak or like I was a victim, which I was a victim.

But I guess for me, I just always want to be seen as strong.

Michael Shemwell: And so I feel like a lot of strength to admit to speak publicly about these kind of things. And to say that was a part of my life. That’s not a weakness. That is strength.

Dr. Tamara MC: Yes, I guess it’s just like. Like that just is now like a label. It’s not a label that I think any person wants, you know?

Michael Shemwell: Well, it’s like when people, uh, the, the hardest thing for a lot of people to say when they leave Jehovah’s witnesses is I was in a cult. It’s a really hard thing for people to say because, uh, they’re afraid of the perception that they would be weak. Um, but no people, a lot of us were born in or whatever the case may be.

There were dynamics at play and it doesn’t make anybody. In fact, owning that story, being able to say I was in a cult and, you know, here I am today and that I got out of it, that takes tremendous strength and courage. And so I, and anyone that I’ve ever told my story to has seen that. Um. Well, maybe I shouldn’t say anyone.

There’s always, there are always outliers, right? But, um, you know, 99. 5 or 99. 9 percent of the people I’ve told it to have been like, wow, you know, it takes a lot of strength to do that, uh, to, to have left that. It’s not like you chose it. You were a kid.

Dr. Tamara MC: No, of course not. And I know all of that, like intellectually.

But I think any person working through the shame of it, yeah, like any person who has experienced sexual abuse or abuse in any way, it’s like it’s shameful. It’s not like you want the world to know about these things because it’s. I mean, why do you think so much what like sexual abuse happens because it is this hidden hidden epidemic that happens in a closed door that’s supposed to be dark.

That’s supposed to be shaped like the whole thing is around shame like I was married in the dark in a secret so of course that’s going to carry out no matter how much healing I do, it’s still gonna be like, I don’t really like that part of my

Michael Shemwell: shame exists in the dark. And when you can shine a light on it, shame dissipates and by telling your story and putting it out there, I hope that you find that that helps some of your shame to dissipate, you know, like an AA, they talk about you’re only as sick as your secrets, right?

You know, we, we have these things once we just own them and we put them out there. We can start to, again, own your story instead of your story owning you. And I’m so glad that you’re doing that because it’s not just for you. I have people come on this podcast all the time who have been, uh, sexually abused and, and, you know, in similar situations at times and, um, nothing but respect for anybody who’s ever shared that.

Um, and I have a lot of respect for you for doing the same.

Dr. Tamara MC: Yes, thank you. And I really did like, I waited until I was just turning 50 years old. Like, this is very methodical, like everything I’ve done, like, even though it kind of seems like I happened into my degrees, but I knew I had to like accomplish so much before I could tell my story.

I wanted to get a PhD. I wanted to be a doctor. I wanted to be an expert so that nobody could question at least that part of my expertise. And, I wanted to really get down the craft of writing so I could be able to tell my story. I wanted to wait until both of my children were over 25 years old. So most of their frontal cortexes were formed because I didn’t even feel at 18.

They were at all ready for their mother to go public with a story like this. And so this is a very deliberate way of me saying, Now this is my time. Like I was silent for the first half of my life and there’s no way on earth you’re going to silence me for the second half of my life.

Michael Shemwell: Good, good. That’s taking your power back.

I mean, um, I’m sorry again for the trauma of what has happened in the past, but, um, I’m really happy to hear you being ready to take some of this power back and to use your story for good, to help other people who have been through certain things to see that they’re not alone. And, um, by you doing what you’ve done today, you’re helping not only people who may have been in a very similar community to that specific one, but, uh, other people to, you know, who hear this, who will be inspired by the fact that, I mean, You made it out.

Here you are. And, and there’s so many things that you can see about yourself all along. Like it or not, you probably are an intelligent person who, you know, not only had determination, but I mean, you’ve, you’ve got these degrees, not through sheer will, but you’re, you obviously bring things to the table.

That’s part of who you are too. And I’m just glad that you get to share that with people. It’s, it’s nice to be able to be free to share who we are.

Dr. Tamara MC: Yes. And I think like, I think intelligence is so subjective, and I think all of us have unique intelligences that are unique to us. We should all celebrate it.

Right, and I think for me, like going back to like, I think more than being intelligence, like what has always moved me forward is curiosity. And I think that that’s. Much more important than any sort of measure of intelligence, but how curious are we because curiosity forces us to ask questions of everything.

And when we’re asking questions, we begin to get answers that move us forward and forward and forward. And then that becomes the force in getting out of whatever it is that we feel stuck in. Because when we ask the questions. We’re going to not be able to turn our back on the answers when they come to us in a certain way, like when somebody tells us something like the whole thing within my community was to break down any sort of gut feelings that we were having anything that was happening within us.

We were taught. Not to believe it. We were taught to believe them because they had all the right answers, but through curiosity, we can then judge our body as does our body believe this? Like, is this the right answer to whatever it is we’re researching? And we can come up with our own conclusions. And within that, we’re able to form our own identities that are separate from the group that are separate from the leader that are only ours and that makes us uniquely whoever we are.

Michael Shemwell: That curiosity has built great intelligence.

You obviously have, you know, you’ve been able to assimilate the, take the curiosity and to assimilate information and to put it forth in your life. And, and it’s, and it’s playing out. And we all, we all, I’m glad that you maintained your curiosity. It’s sad when we no longer have that curiosity. Um, uh, one of the.

Things like Jehovah’s Witnesses. We always called our religion the truth. That was the, the name for it. We, we had the truth. And, uh, I remember there was a quote that really struck me when I was waking up, which, uh, as I said, run with those who search for truth and run far away from those who say that they found it.

And, uh, Being curious, searching for truth, being willing to be open, having an open mind and a heart, trying to learn new things and assimilate that knowledge into our own lives. That’s, that’s a way that we grow as human beings, right?

Dr. Tamara MC: Yes. And like going back to the truth, you know, we were also taught the exact same thing.

And I remember early on, and you know, when I was in school, I took, I took my first anthropology class. And the professor wrote me back and she wrote this whole like thing on my essay and it was all about there being capital T truth, which doesn’t exist, and then truths with lowercase. And she was telling me about the power of truths and.

Like, for instance, that was just like this poof, like, yeah, that’s what I always knew. There are multiple truths, but I was taught there’s one truth. And it’s like, she read it in my paper. Like, you know, cause somehow it was, you know, embedded into my paper that I was like talking about a truth because.

That’s what I had been taught, but that broke me of that. And so that’s why I think education, however it is, cause so many of us aren’t able to go to university and really, we don’t need university. Now we have the, like, we can find anything we want, but just like really reading so many different books, so many different philosophers, so many different thinkers going into so many different subject matters through science, humanity, social sciences, and really looking at these Because, like, something like that changed, like, it changed my life, learning that there were truths.

Mm hmm.

Michael Shemwell: Oh, yeah. Absolutely. Um, we used to make fun of people who believed that there could be more than one truth. You know, because that’s, that’s how we were brought up, right? Um, so I guess, what are the truths in your life today? And I don’t mean that from a belief system point of view, but I’m just saying, what’s good about, uh, tomorrow’s life today?

Well, what do you enjoy about your life and, and where you’ve ended up? And also, I don’t know, do you have any relationship with your dad?

Dr. Tamara MC: So right now, my relationship with my dad is on hiatus. I haven’t spoken with him in a couple of years. This is actually the first time that we haven’t spoken throughout all these years, we’ve maintained something, but I.

One time got on the phone with him and it wasn’t even like it wasn’t a problematic conversation. I just remember saying something that I believed in that was against him. And he basically said he had to get off the phone and that he loved me and that, um. And that he wished me the best. And he was basically telling me that he wasn’t going to talk to me for the rest of his life.

That’s how he left it, but it was over, you know, so that happened a couple of years ago. And it was, it was horrible. It is horrible, but it has been like, again, like one of those crucial times where it’s just been like this immense amount of like awareness because now I’ve can step back even from my dad and be like.

Wow, I can now, because I think we need distance from people and like only with distance can we look back and really see what happened. So I wasn’t able to see my dad until I really had this distance. And so now I’m able to see him in a whole new way. And I’m able to see like how so much of what he taught throughout my life has been very destructive and like it’s very against my values and my belief system.

And. I, I’m sure I’m going to be in touch with my dad again in my life because I don’t hold on and I’m not, it’s not as if I’m even holding on to a grudge in any way. I’m just like, this is time that I really need just to be alone and to figure these things out.

Michael Shemwell: Well, that wasn’t your decision necessarily to cut it off.

That was his.

Dr. Tamara MC: No. And normally I’d always like jump right back. Cause he threatens me all like throughout my life, there’s always been this threat. So it’s not as if he’s, it’s not as if he did this out of the blue, but it’s like, I’m always like holding on and like, Oh no, no, you know, I didn’t mean that, you know, whatever, but I always jumped back in.

And so if I jumped back in and just go back to normal times and kind of make it out that I kind of believe what he said or whatever, then things will be great with us, but, but I can’t do that. So. I’m not going to do that and it’s not healthy to do that. So I’m making the choice right now just to stand back and I love him and I miss him and I want a wonderful life for him and for all of my siblings and all of my family.

I just need to now take care of myself like that. Like that’s the priority in my life right now.

Michael Shemwell: Good. Um, can I ask, is your, um, do you have any relationship with your mom today? She around you?

Dr. Tamara MC: Yes, I’m very close with my mom.

Michael Shemwell: Cool. Yeah. Cool. Glad to hear it. Um, and then, so you’ve got your kids as well. Uh, what do you like about your life today?

Anything that you’re involved in that you are particularly enjoying today?

What’s good? You got your new house, right? Or your new place where, where you live, right?

Dr. Tamara MC: Yeah, I love, um, I love so much about my life, but I’ve always, no matter what, I’ve always had like a really joyful spirit and I’ve always loved things, so I don’t think that that’s new. I just think in each phase, it’s a little bit different.

Like now. It was really hard to like not have children in the home, but now I’ve adjusted and I love my time. Like, I think that’s like what I’m just like, I like hoard my time. I don’t even want to give it to anybody. I feel like I spend so much time giving my time to other people and other relationships.

that I just love waking up, drinking my coffee. I love coffee. So that’s, that’s a big joy of mine. Good coffee. Um, and I wake up every morning, I get up by four or five and sometimes three and I write and I write for several hours and that’s my sacred time. Like to me, that’s beyond prayer. That’s beyond meditation.

That’s like when I write, I’m able to get into the deepest place of me. That That could never be, like, that was, that can, that was never experienced in any other way. So I think writing opens that up in such a beautiful way. So for anybody who has had an interest in writing, but has been afraid to write, like.

Just begin, like you don’t need to know where you’re beginning. You don’t even know, you don’t have to have instruction, how to write. I didn’t know how to write at all. Just start writing and you will just see things in your life transform. Because for me, I don’t really need relationships anymore in my life.

And I don’t just mean intimate, but I feel so self sufficient, but I feel that I’m able to be at that place because writing is my best friend. Like every day I come to the page and. I’m able to put all of my energy, all of my thoughts, everything I’m thinking straight into my, like straight into the computer.

And then afterwards I just feel like free. Like, I feel like in my life there was so much weight and now I feel like that’s a way to open up and be free. And it’s not about showing your pages to anybody. It’s just you and your relationship with yourself. And I think that that’s what writing does. Um, So aside from like my coffee and my writing, I’d love to stay active.

I love to move. I pretty much go on a bicycle ride almost every day, at least six days a week for long miles. And it’s very important to me. And I’ve realized that, that like, I have like, um, I can do like merit, like I can run marathons. Like I can do anything that like is hours because for some reason I just have that sort of, what’s it called again?

I can’t think of the word, not when you’re fast, but you’re. You have, I have endurance. Oh, endurance. Yes. Yes. Yeah. I’m not fast in anything. I won’t win a race, but I’m going to complete a race.

Michael Shemwell: Only one person wins anyway. So, uh, you know, I think it’s, it’s being able to complete it. That matters. That’s really cool.

Dr. Tamara MC: Yeah. So I’m very slow, but I’m very steady and that’s how I’ve always been in my life. And so I love to do aerobic activity, whether it’s walking, running, cycling. I, I love to weight train and just. I just get into the zone and it just helps me get out of myself, um, in that way. I, my life is so simple now.

It’s so simple. I, I love that. I’m not cooking for anybody. I cook for myself, which means I basically do nothing except for prep something, which is like heaven for me. I can go to Trader Joe’s and just like pick up something and like, it’s done. Like, I don’t want to. I don’t want to spend time on preparing food.

I don’t want to spend time on cleaning. Like, I’ve done that my whole life. My house is always clean. It’s always organized. Like, before I go to bed, I do all my dishes. I vacuum. So, it’s like, everything’s perfect. So, when I wake up, it’s like, I’m fresh. And I’m like, I’m ready, you know? Uh, so, it’s very simple.

I have my children. I have my mom. I have, you know, some friendships. And that’s it.

Michael Shemwell: Good. Sounds like a beautiful life. It is. I’m glad I’m glad that you get to have that and experience it today and enjoy it. And, uh, and I appreciate you sharing the life that you formerly had with us as well. Um, that part of your life, because again, like I said, it always helps other people to feel like they’re not alone.

Um, and there’s just so many things, no matter what. whether you’re an extra as witness or wherever we come from, you know, that we can relate to and your story as well. And you likewise, I’m sure listening to some of the stories of other people and what they’ve gone through. And, uh, you know, we’re, we’re definitely not alone.

There’s a lot we can learn from each other. So I appreciate you sharing.

Dr. Tamara MC: Thank you. And I think like now is the golden age for like, you know, when I was going through this, there weren’t podcasts like yours, like there weren’t YouTube videos, like there was almost nothing to like help me, like there wasn’t a way I could have.

So now I feel like my recovery took so long, but I don’t think anybody else’s recovery needs to take nearly as long because there are so many resources and there’s so much support and there’s a sharing of. and people are coming out of their dark holes like myself and like sharing what happened to them.

So that way. So many people out there, like you don’t have to live with these secrets anymore. Like me living with a secret for 25 plus years, like you don’t have to do that. Like, I mean, do whatever feels comfortable for you. Like never share before you’re ready, but hopefully it can be like accelerated sort of the way that you’re able to get out of this because of all of these incredible resources and docu series and documentaries and whatever, there’s just so much.

Michael Shemwell: Oh, and you said that you have, uh, you’re working on a book. Is there anything like if someone is interested, is there anywhere anyone can follow you? Do you have a website and Instagram? Uh, I don’t know, or whatever it is that people can follow, uh, for you if, if they want.

Dr. Tamara MC: Yeah, sure. So I’m working on my book called child bride, which is about my child marriage and it follows my life from I’m 12 until when I leave when I’m 20.

And I don’t yet, I’m still revising it. So that’s the working title. I am going to be sending it out soon to an agent. So any agents that are listening and interested in my story, I’m still looking for, um, for representation. And I’m looking for absolutely the right representation, somebody that’s able to really to represent me.

To take on this story and to, to help me bring it forth into the world. And I, to find me, I write lots of essays. Now it’s become my new, like my new obsession is writing small pieces for different publications, uh, such as New York magazine salon, the independent I’m writing all over the place right now.

So you can find me under Tamara M C T a M a R a. And my last name is just two letters. Capital M capital C M C. And on all of my social media, I’m on Tamara MC PhD, and I also have a website, tamaramc. com. So it’s all very easy and feel free to send me a message on Twitter. I have my messages open or, or, or through my website as well.

If you’d like to be in contact, if you’d like to collaborate in any ways, I’m always open and I’m here for survivors in any way that I can, depending on my time and my energy. Sure. Well,

Michael Shemwell: I appreciate you putting yourself out there and I’ll, uh, I’ll link to your website in the show notes, um, for anybody who is interested and, uh, yeah, together, you know, you’ve now added your story to this rich tapestry of stories that, that we have here.

And, um, it’s wonderful to have all of these again, resources to be able to support

Dr. Tamara MC: one another. Well, thank you so much for having me.

Michael Shemwell: As always, I want to thank today’s guests for being vulnerable and sharing what they went through as they remember it. It takes a lot of courage to speak up and I hope that it helps others to know that you aren’t alone as well.

You can find us on Twitter, Instagram, and YouTube at Shun Podcast. You can also join our Facebook support group called Shun Podcast. The theme song for the podcast is Save Myself by Jane and The Boy, and as I end all of my episodes, love yourself and others, do no harm and go be happy.

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