Cyndal’s Road To Freedom

I have posted on Facebook a request for former Christians or religious folk to share (anonymously if they wish) their stories re. what impact Christianity had in their life and what led them to give up this path and find another.

Cyndal is a  real person.  I got to know her on Facebook.  Her husband David is a real person.  Nice normal people, who just happen to be in rock/live music culture.  These people live in a very small red-neck town in Tennessee, and going to church and hungering after the Lord wasn’t enough apparently for them to fit in.  Asking questions, wanting to understand, requesting that a pastor do his job…between that and daring to dress differently and wear their hair perhaps, differently…

Well, I have my own story, and it’s nothing so bad as this.  But mine also has something to do with what happens when mental illness and religion comes together.  So do I believe this happened to Cyndal?  You bet.   This is not the first time I have heard a story like this.

Small sidenote.  This is a real person’s story, unedited by myself, and I will not post any replies I get to this that are offensive to Cyndal in any way.

Cyndal’s hard road to become a PROUD Atheist

When I was a small child I went to church with my family every Sunday. It was very scary to me because I was so young I just saw a man up there yelling and other people crying. I was very confused because no one explained what was going on but I was comforted as long as my parents were there. Then when I was about 5 years old we just stopped going. I don’t know why. It was just not a routine any more.

We moved around a lot and never went to church anywhere we lived until we moved to this very small, very religious, red neck town. It’s so small it has a small Walmart and about 5 gas stations but a church every quarter of a mile. Unfortunately I still live here with my husband (David) , my two babies (2&4), and my 17year old brother I adopted due to terrible family situations.

When I was 13 my parents all of a sudden started demanding we go to church again. It was a very small, very laid back church where the preacher wore his pjs and cut church off early when his favorite football team was to play that Sunday! At 13 I thought that was awesome! I was very into church and learning everything I possibly could. At one point I even got to teach Sunday school to the smaller children when their teacher was not there! I love kids so I loved that! As I got older I started wanting more. The things I didn’t understand I would question. I just wanted help understanding what was being taught. After a couple of weeks of constant questioning things and begging the preacher for answers he would simply tell me ” i shouldn’t question because that was doubt and as a Christian I should just have faith!” that just wasn’t enough for me! I would TRY to ask more questions but I would be ignored and dodged by the preacher so he wouldn’t have to bother with me. I was 15 then and that’s when the wheels started turning in my head. About the preacher but I still continued being a Christian. I even got the “teen bible” to help me try to learn. At 16 the preacher talked with my parents and all of a sudden I was the “trouble child”. That turned into a lot of arguing with my parents, me pleading my case as why I’m bad, then mental and emotional abuse started to try to “control” me, to prove they were over me. That ultimately ended with me getting kicked out but my grandmother took me in. (for the record I didn’t do drugs, drink, curse, I did smoke cigarettes behind my parents back but that was the only thing I could figure out as to what made me bad) Believe it or not I continued to go to that church. Drive myself and all!

I have always had the punk/rock/goth look even though that made me stick out in this town which labeled me as a “freak”. I didn’t care though, and don’t care to this day. At 17 I met my now husband. He also is a “freak”. Long red hair, lots of black band shirts, big earrings… He was a Christian too then and started coming to church with me when he didn’t have to work. You could feel the tension in the air but we held our heads high and ignored it. It happened quick but about 6 months of dating (after I turned 18) I moved in with him. That’s when the shit started. They didn’t like that at all. I told them even though we were living together we had bible study on our couch some nights in our pjs and he was finally answering my questions! But they labeled him as a devil worshipper!

One Sunday he had to work so I went to church by myself. I was sick that Sunday so of course I was called up for prayer. Everyone came up, laid their hands on me and started pray out loud. As they were doing that the preacher put his hands on my cheeks and whispered into my ear ” you are living with the devil! He is brain washing you! If you don’t move out you will be damned to hell!” Prayer was done so he let go and smiled at me. I was shocked! that night when David got home I told him what happened. He was shocked and mad! We discussed it and decided it was probably our looks and the way he could answer the questions I had that the preacher couldn’t.

The next Sunday after service we confronted the preacher. I think he was really shocked we had the guts to actually bring that to him! You could tell he was nervous because he was stumbling over his words and quickly ended the conversation with “oh..church needs to start!” and ran off. I skipped the next Sunday because I was still hurt. Then I had planned on going the next service but I was really sick. That’s when we had a knock at the door. It was the preacher and my parents! I’m assuming the preacher talked with my parents and told them what had happened and that David was the devil. We talked with them at first but when it became an argument that made me cry, David said that’s enough and closed and locked the door. They became so mad they were beating on the door demanding to get out and they were saving me! We had to actually call the cops to get them off our property! That’s when the doubt on Christianity really started!

I stopped going for a few weeks until I got a call from my 10 year old brother saying our mother and her new boyfriend had whipped him with a belt and made marks! That infuriated me! It was mid day wednesday so I knew exactly where to find our mother! Church! So I drove down to the church parking lot and waited for them to pull in. No one was there yet and they got there first. I got out demanding my mother to get out and talk with me! She wouldn’t do anything but crack her window but her boyfriend got out and came to my car very angry! I got out not backing down! He was getting up in my face yelling, screaming and telling me I wasn’t nothing but shit for a daughter causing pain in my mothers heart. He pissed me off so bad I grabbed a tire iron out of my car and yelled back “do something…let’s go!” Then they jumped into their van and took off! So…I took off chasing them! I wasn’t done! I guess they called the preacher from their cell because after a minute of round and round they pulled over and the preacher and his wife blocked their car between mine and my mothers. They calmly told them to go back to the church, go in, and lock the doors. Then the attention was turned to me! Yelling and screaming! How dare I go on church grounds acting that way, it didn’t matter what the situation was! I could barely get any words out between their screaming! Well, it ended with the PREACHER, exact words, yelling ” You have been nothing but FUCKING trouble for the past 3 years! I have never been able to stand your ASS! You and the devil (David) are never to step foot in my GOD DAMN church ever again! FUCK YOU YOU LITTLE BITCH!!!” I had to drive by there to get home and as I passed by about 15 church members were outside all of them holding up their middle finger at me and someone yelled something but I couldn’t hear what! And did anyone notice that none of me getting kicked out of the church and why I did this had nothing to do with the whipping of my brother? That was what started it but that act I did was like the preachers perfect opportunity to get me and David out of his church…which was his plan all along!

Now, I know this sounds unbelievable but honest it all true!

That was the beginning of my search. If knew I definitely not a Christian but what was I? I went years just in a non existent daze, half the time not thinking about it until church was brought up then the wondering came back. Around 22 I had enough! I went started the googling, then I went to Books A Million. I sat in the floor for about an hour and came home with 5 books. Not all Atheist books. Agnostic, Atheist, even Wiccan! The Wiccan one was just because I had no clue what Wiccan was! I read and read. I thought and thought. I kept it all secret from everyone. Even David. (Oh I forgot to mention he’s my husband now for 6 years! ) After a while it hit me! I AM ATHEIST! I know I am! No doubt! And I felt free!

Now that I was 100% positive I was Atheist there was the next part….tell David and explain what made me decide this and why… I was soo nervous. He’s my husband. What would he think? What if he got mad? What if it cause arguments? Well, one night we pulled into our drive way. The babies were sound asleep so we took the chance to sit and enjoy a quiet moment talking. Some how religion was the topic that quiet moment. So I took this chance. Basically said ” hunny I have to tell you something about how I feel about religion and if you have any questions or …” then he stopped me. (I have a problem when I’m nervous to talk too much before I just get to the point) He gives me the “come on spit it out look” so I took a deep breathe.” ok well, remember I’ll explain everything…” he says “come on Cyndal” and I just blurt out “I’m atheist and I know that 100%and it feels so good! I have peace now, I feel free, I don’t have near as much anxiety about every move I make any more!” I cringed waiting for shock, questions, maybe even frustrating talking. But to my surprise he just grinned and started laughing! “umm ok…what’s going on ” is all I could say! He said ” stop talking and it’s ok..I’m not mad..I’m happy you found yourself by yourself and you are now happy and not secretly stressing!” He smiled, leaned over and hugged me tight, kissed me and said ” Cyndal I have been Atheist for over a year now, I just never told you so you could figure it out yourself! And even if it were different other than Atheist it would still be ok! I love you!” I can’t explain the relief that was lifted off of my chest! Then we sat there for quite a while talking about how and when he became Atheist and how. And the same for me! He kept telling me how proud he was of me for finding myself by myself! All me! No influences at all! And we talked about that a lot for days! Then he started showing me different things on the Internet to help me further research and his books he had and the wonderful “The Thinking Atheist” site and Seth’s pod casts. That is now one of our pass time things to do is pod casts and “hey look at this video..look at this joke..” I’ve also figured out how to (with his help) teach our children better as far as science and things. I truly feel like as both of us being Atheist has benefited me, benefited David, benefited our family life style…just a lot of things.

This is my story of all my struggles through life but in the end I finally feel my life is the best it’s ever been. And it continues to be better and better. Me and David are on the same page so that helps the whole family in many ways! I feel like my whole life until I became Atheist was a dark blur and now I feel it’s free and happy. Like I’ve finally seen the light! (not in a Christian way though…lol) All of this combined, my whole journey to become myself now, being able to speak out and tell my story has helped me to become out of my shell.

That is why I can honestly say ….

I AM A PROUD ATHEIST!!!

( I really from my heart hope that my story can help hundreds of the quiet Atheist out there that feel like they should stay quiet! Learn from my story that you can uplift yourself and be a free thinker and most of all …a PROUD Atheist!!!)

Two Kinds of Human???

I’m not going to bore people with long paragraphs copied and pasted from other websites written by people who actually know what they’re talking about.  For me it’s an interesting subject and so I’ve read up a little.  If you want facts rather than my just throwing out thoughts of things I’ve read, there’s this thing called GOOGLE.  You can Google the various words for one kind of human.  They range from psychopath, sociopath, antisocial personality disorder.  If you want the facts, and why the terms referring to the same personality type have changed over the years, you can read about it too, like I did.

So here are my thoughts about the two kinds of human that exist.   Most of us know there are two kinds.  We don’t need some psycho-babble label for it.   There are givers and takers.  I think we’d all agree on that–I’m sure every human being has met both.  So what makes a taker a taker and a giver a giver?  And what about users?  Are they just like takers, or…something else?

Not to say being a giver is always a good thing.  A lot of givers give in order to get, whether it be a thing, or a feeling, or attention, or love, or shelter or security, or children, or whatever.  A lot of people with low self esteems are givers–perhaps because they feel they have to compensate for not being enough.  I do that myself, and have done for years, making me a prime target for…that other kind of human.   But I digress.  Some people feel they have to give to fulfill their part of a contract or agreement.  For example. say I’m married to you so we have sex (or at least early on we do until I tire of it), even though I don’t like sex and could live the rest of my life without it.  Yes believe it or not, some people, men and women alike, don’t like sex.  But they want to be married, they want love, they want a family and all the joys that come from having a family and companionship, so…they put up with the sex.  They learn to enjoy things about it like…being close to the person they love.  But the act itself…they could take or leave.

That’s a giver giving because he or she believes it’s part of the arrangement.  Part of getting what they want means giving what the other person wants.  The bad thing about this kind of giving is eventually the giver gets tired–and then perhaps that happy situation starts falling apart.

There are also those really wonderful noble people who truly love to give purely for the joy of giving and not to get anything back or achieve any agenda.  This is a rare type of giver.  Most people who give, if they are going to be completely honest with themselves, are giving hoping for something, whether it be a closer friendship with someone, or to show someone they care, or to repay someone for a kindness given…something.  Most people give for some kind of reason, and some are very good reasons.  Giving to the poor or less fortunate.  In cases like this what do you get?  You get the happy feeling that comes from knowing you helped someone.  Same thing when you find a hurt animal and rush it to the vet.   You’re not going to get anything for the act of kindness…you might even have to pay a hefty vet bill for an animal that isn’t even yours.  But you get that feeling, and to some of us that feeling is a wonderful reward.

So what are takers?   I think the line between giver and taker is rather blurred.  A giver can also be a taker, if my above thoughts are correct.   Any time I give hoping to receive or achieve something, in that way I’m passively being a taker.  I think all of us are takers to some degree, just like I think all takers can also be givers.

So are there two kinds of human, or are we all capable of being both at any given time? Well, I do think we’re all capable, but I also think from what I’ve read, there are significant differences between the person with (most modern term for it) antisocial personality disorder, and well, the rest of us.

In the cetacean family there are two types of killer whale.  The Orca, which is the whale you see mostly along the Puget Sound here in Washington State, or at Sea World, unfortunately, where these massive creatures will hopefully teach our young to appreciate the beauty and value of other life forms.  But there is also the Sentient Killer Whale…and I’m hoping I have the term right.  It’s been a long time since I took that cetacean class at the UW.  Again I digress.   Sentient killer whales travel in pods that are more like wolf packs.  Or they might also hunt alone. They prey on larger baleen whales, and on seals or sea lions.  Red meat is part of their diet.  Whales of this sub-group of Killer Whale, again if my memory serves me, swim virtually silent in their pods, whereas the Orca pods like what you see in Free Willy communicate back and forth as they travel along.

Are there predatory people and people who unwittingly transmit signals they are easy prey?  I believe so.  From what I read of persons with antisocial personality disorder (and there are different levels to this from mild to extreme), they are either lacking in a conscience or are deaf to it.   When I say conscience I mean that little inner voice that tells us something is right or wrong, and makes us feel badly after we unwittingly or deliberately hurt or wrong someone.

An extreme example of someone without a conscience–Albert Fish the cannibal from the early 20’s who preyed on and ate little children.  He is what inspired the Hannibal Lector character in Silence of the Lambs.  Add to this list any person who goes around brutally killing or raping people…likely this is a person who sees weaker people as prey or mere objects to use or manipulate, or enjoys feeling power over another person.  This is the classic psychopathic personality people think of when they hear the word psychopath, and why the term has been changed because, probably 90% or more of people with antisocial personality disorder live next door, or work on your same floor, or ride in your carpool, or go with you on hunting trips, or drive your Taxi cab or style your hair or meet you at the bar to play pool.   Sociopaths, or the more recent term antisocial personality disorder, are users, as opposed to just takers.  We’re all takers, just as we’re all hopefully givers, even if sometimes for self serving reasons.  But users?  People who prey on the gullibility of others, take advantage of the desire to help that some of us have, or do good to prove our worth…these are the psychopaths who live among us every day.  They are con artists.  They are parasites who find lonely women (or men) to befriend and let care for them, buy for them, do for them.  They are people who marry the older wealthy widower or widow for the money and then somehow manage to walk away with their pockets full.

A great example of a lesser sociopath, and by lesser I mean one who isn’t a serial killer, read or watch “The Stoning of Soraya M.”  If you can stomach it, that is, and it’s a movie I watched that I will never watch again.  Soraya’s husband is a monster.  Literally.  If there is a word for the slime around the base of toilets, that would be him.

http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/The_Stoning_of_Soraya_M.

There are lots of examples of users.   The guy who gets a girl drunk (or visa versa) and then works for an hour to guilt trip him or her into having sex, or the person who convinces you to take him or her home and then you wake up in the morning and find your apartment’s cleaned out.   Users like what you have and want it, so they pretend to be your friend.  They let you assume what isn’t true, and let you come to trust what shouldn’t be trusted, and then they walk away laughing, leaving you feeling like a fool.

And they don’t feel guilt.  You can cry and try to make them see what it’s done to you, their actions, and they feel nothing.  They don’t understand, quite honestly, what the big fuss is, or why you’re upset.  Their conscience is clear–because they don’t have one.

So that’s my little thing about the two kinds of human.  I don’t know if really there are two kinds.  But I do know I read that something like one in every three men tend to have some degree of antisocial personality disorder and one in every five women.  So the people like myself with low self esteems wanting to please please please in order to have friendship, caring, love…really need to ask ourselves what signals we are putting out there.  Do we walk around with a big SCREW ME OVER neon sign on our foreheads?  How much using do we have to endure before we realize that it sucks to be someone’s prey and it’s better to be a little less trusting–a little more lonely.  Sometimes lonely is better than giving your trust to a sociopath.  Yes, really.

Bigotry–Being Uncomfortable About Someone Different.

Bigot   “One fanatically devoted to one’s own group, religion, race, or politics and intolerant of those who differ.”  Such is the definition of the word in my badly abused and taped together Webster’s II dictionary.

Pretty much we all know what a bigot is, or what bigotry looks like.  But I had a friend yesterday point out something to me–bigotry I am experiencing personally in my life, toward me.

When I think of a bigot I think of someone intolerant of someone of a different race, or religion or sexual preference.  People tend to shun, avoid, stereotype, etc., people who look or think or act differently.   Differences they don’t understand make people uncomfortable, and rather than feel uncomfortable which is often unpleasant, people try to avoid contact altogether with that person or persons, rather than try to understand, and in working to understand, learn tolerance or maybe even appreciation for what is different.

People who are depressed are different.  We don’t think the same, or react the same.  We behave irratically or are overly emotional sometimes.  We might blow things out of proportion, or just seem whiny or petulant or childish.  We might be high maintenance or act like drama queens.  We might be needy or fearful or paranoid or laugh at the wrong times, or cry at the wrong times.  Because depression is a chemical imbalance–it alters how efficiently our brain processes thoughts and feelings.

Meds do help.  Talking over our problems help.  But this is a physical illness, not a series of bad days or just not loving ourselves enough.   We can’t wave a magic wand and say ok I”m normal now.   Some people with depression have to battle it all their life.  For others it comes and goes–people have episodes.   Not everyone knows it when they have depression.  In fact sometimes the ill person is the very last to know.  All they might know is, it’s harder to get out of bed.  It’s harder to deal with social situations.  It’s harder to multi-task.  It’s harder to care about one’s appearance or eating healthy food, or going to the dentist twice a  year, or keeping the house clean.  It’s harder to smile.  It’s harder to look someone in the eye.  It’s harder to believe you are likable.  It’s harder to believe you have any worth.

Little things happen that add to this belief about self too, and the self esteem does, over time, slowly collapse.   The person perceives they are different–they perceive that others around them are being treated differently than they are.  They start to understand they are not someone people want to talk to, or be close to.  They are being avoided.  They are being shunned.  No one seems to like them.  What friends they did have, don’t want to deal with them anymore.  

All these things only add to the problem, create more unbearable hurt on a person already in pain.   This process of being avoided by others–being seen as different because your demeanor is not the same–isn’t this a form of bigotry?  The person with depression experiencing bigotry for making people uncomfortable because of being sick?

Bigotry hurts, in all it’s forms.  No one asks to be sick and everyone who is sick is trying very hard, every day, to feel better.  A society that shuns the ill because they make the healthy uncomfortable…all that does is make it harder to be ill, and harder to get better.   Depression is an illness and it’s one that’s unfortunately here to stay.  There are some really wonderful, loving people in the world that suffer from this illness.  People with good things to offer.  People with something to say and plenty of love to give.   By shunning anyone for being different, we are, as a society, not only making the hurt so much worse for the person or persons, we are cheating ourselves of the potential, the treasure that might be lurking just under the surface–if only we offered a hand instead of turning our backs.   In every garden a seed has the potential to grow or die–and that potential is up to the gardener.   Not all gardens are blessed with healthy soil.  Some seeds are sown in rocky soil, or sandy soil, where the ability to flourish is harder.  Do we give up on those gardens?  Pull those plants that have to struggle more to bloom, or let the weeds choke them to death?  Or do we give a little more work, a little more love–sprinkle on a little more fertilizer so that garden too might bloom and bring smiles to those who see it?

Our society is a garden.  We can help it grow or let it die.  Whatever we decide, starts with how we tend the flowers.

Depression & Addiction. Would Die To Make Them Stop.

Making it stop, making an end.  Every day that crosses my mind.    Being atheist removes the unnatural dread of death for me that religion creates.  i was hit on the head with ice-skates once and I remember how that was.  I fell, saw my older brother fall to try to avoid hitting me, his skate came up–darkness.  That was it.  I didn’t feel the cut of the blades across my forehead, leaving a -1 scar that would last for many years.   I don’t recall the throng of people who gathered around or my Aunt Eve placing my head in her lap.  What I do remember is waking with blood in my eyes and wondering where all the people had come from.

In that moment of black out, time stopped for me.  The time it took for those people to gather round, and for my Aunt who was an RN, to show up.   There was no pain from the blow, no fear or distress.  I was completely unaware.   And now I’m thinking, that is death.  Or that is how death is if in fact all the hopes in an afterlife we humans like to hold dear, are false.

Is that so bad?   One friend put it very well.   “I didn’t mind not existing all the millions of years before I was born, why should i mind not existing after I die?”  

Or if there’s an afterlife, and evidence doesn’t disprove it any more than it proves it, I really do think it’s a natural condition same as our physical life is a natural condition.  There are no hoops to jump through.  No holy rituals one must complete.  No giant man god in the sky who’s unending ego must be appeased.   It’s just something that comes after the darkness, after the body shuts down, when the energy leaves the body and who knows, perhaps takes with it a little echo of what we are.

Why do I sometimes wish to die?   Because I have depression, and because people with depression are subjected to a stigma.  Now if I had cancer, or heart disease or any other physical illness, I am quite sure my friends or the people who cared, would still be there for me.  But any form of mental illness, which, by the way, is just as much a physical illness people can’t help as cancer or heart disease or anything else, is not the same.   Having any sort of mental illness effects the way your brain works. It effects the way your thoughts come across in your head.   Mental illness distorts your thoughts, or makes your brain less efficient at processing them.   Little problems seem huge.   Or at least that’s how it is with depression and anxiety disorders.   The person with these illnesses, reacts differently than people without them.  And in doing so, drives friends away at the precise time encouragement, support, and kindess would help the most.

I used to love my life.  I used to laugh and look forward to new experiences.  I engaged in the world around me.   Since depression has cost me the few friends I have, and left me feeling outcast and unwanted at a time I could really use some support, I find myself with nothing to look forward to.  The friends i miss, do not miss me.  Because I was a burden to them.  I didn’t mean to be, but I was and people do get tired, even nice, well meaning people.   But unlike them I am unable to abandon myself, and so on I must plod mostly alone, understanding that my illness is punishing me by taking away my already small ability to have/keep friends. 

Or so it seems.    So every day I must fight to find reasons to get out of bed.  This is what depression is.   I find there are a lot of addictions in the world that hide behind labels calling them something else.  In addition to the known addictions like cigarette smoking and alcohol abuse, there is also addiction to anything else that we might use as a crutch to get through our day.  Many people are addicted to work, and the feeling of success and worth it brings.  Or people can be addicted to people, which I was.  I was addicted to how wonderful it made me feel being around people who treated me like I was okay too, like I was wanted and liked and cared for.  I loved how that felt.  I loved how it made me feel.  I didn’t want to lose that, and when I did it tore me apart; what little I had left of happiness fell to pieces, and why is that?  Because I had a dependency on other people to give me that warm fuzzy feeling I loved so much.   I went years hoping to have the company of people I respected who seemed to actually like me and accept me flaws and all, and having people like that, knowing people like that, gave me happiness I hadn’t felt for a very long time, if ever.

This was a nice thing for me at the time, but it had a negative side.  Without knowing it, I became addicted to that.  I never developed any ability to make my happiness on my own.  I needed something on the outside to make it for me, other people to make it for me.   And people get tired of making happiness for someone else.  It’s hard enough learning how to make happiness just for yourself–but to have someone else dependent on you for their happiness–that gets very tiresome after awhile.

So that was my addiction, and it helped ease my depression having those people, and then when I lost the support of those people, I fell to pieces, just as much as any heroin addict or alcoholic would fall to pieces cut off from his/her drug.

Another addiction of course, is religion.   That crutch that people need to feel good about themselves.   Doesn’t matter if no one else likes me, Jesus is always there–he will never forsake me.   Or…I wouldn’t be such a loving person as I am if I didn’t have Jesus.  Because of Jesus I am saved, because of Jesus I am not an abomination in god’s eyes anymore–a sinner.  I am a new being, born again.  I am saved.

See, I had that addiction too, but losing the people in my life I thought cared for me because I developed this illness, made me realize or become aware that people are not reliable or dependable.  Sometimes they’re not even what they seem to be.  And learning this about people I had grown to care for very much, made me want to remove any other falsehoods I didn’t realize existed, from my life.   Any crutch I might turn to like so many alcoholics turn from one addiction–alcohol–to another–religion. 

But I am not writing about religion.  I am writing about dependency and how easy it is to fall to addiction and dependency when you have depression, because with depression you will do and try anything to feel good.  To have a reason to get out of bed.  To not step in front of a train once you discover how to get on the tracks.   To not OD or jump off bridges or in front of Metro buses. 

People think it’s selfish and cowardice to comit suicide.  I submit that no one does so lightly.   The people who kill themselves have very likely gotten tired of trying and failing all the time, tired of succeeding and having no one notice.  Because really, it’s only the failures people notice who want to find fault with you–see only the disappointments in us to justify their actions in turning their backs when we needed them most.   And it’s the aloneness people can’t bear.  The feeling like nothing they do will ever be enough or help enough.  Death is scary–thanks to threats of hellfire or the fear of not existing anymore or…whatever, and many religions even threaten mentally ill people who die because of their mental illness are going straight to hell, so….it takes a lot of desperation to make someone, esp. a religious someone, suicidal.  It’s only when life is scarier and the pain becomes so unbearable that people want to kill themselves–just to make it stop, nevermind whatever fears they have.

It is hard work to love and care for a depressed person.  But it’s even harder work being in our shoes.  Because depression isn’t like a lot of other illnesses.  Many people don’t understand they have it.  Many people who do, don’t know how to regain control of their thoughts they can’t seem to manage anymore.  Everything seems huge.  Overwhelming.  You walk around feeling like a shattered vase just barely holding itself together–and if a strong wind comes you’ll fly to pieces across the road.  That’s depression.  When you want and need a loving heart to hold you, help you glue the cracks so you don’t fall apart, so you can at least function again even if you’ll never again look brand new.

But it’s work to care for someone with depression, or any mental illness.  It’s work.  Because just like AIDS or Hepatitis C or cancer or heart disease, depression isn’t fun, and it isn’t pretty, and it isn’t easy.  It hurts, and it kills just as readily as these other illnesses, and the person inflicted is just as wanting to be cured, to feel well again, as any other sick person.  But they have to go every day completely alone, feeling completely like they will never measure up or be loved or wanted or accepted or cared for–that they’ll never be whole enough again for such things.

Sometimes death seems better.  Sometimes I wish for the black oblivion I felt when those ice skates hit my face.  Even non-existence would be a gentle peace and an ending to a hurt I often find unbearable.  

And I could deny it that I think of death.  I could deny it to keep my friends from having to worry.  But that would be a falsehood too.  So instead I say every day I have to struggle to get out of bed, find a reason.  My reasons are my animals.  I have little animals who need me to go to work so I can feed and shelter and care for them.  These are my reasons, and really my only reasons.  Because my animals love me even when I’m struggling.  Even when I’m in pain.  Even when I’m damaged and I don’t know yet how to make me better.  My animals do not turn their back or judge me, and they are always there.  I can’t disappoint them.  I can’t let them down.  And they, in turn, are honest with me.  They never give me false hopes, or false caring.  They simply are what they are, and they love me.

This is my reason–because of my little animals.  I do not put my hopes in some world yet to come.  I don’t believe there is such a place.  And I do not turn to Jesus to make me happy, because that’s just one more crutch, one more addiction, one more hoping for something outside myself to make my world right for me.

Happiness, real happiness, doesn’t depend on things, or imaginary friends, or other people, or such and such working out just right.  Happiness is a decision.  A choice we must learn to make.  Those thoughts that seem so big and terrible, that the depressed or anxious person must battle every single day just to get through from dawn to dusk–only we can decide which ones to believe and which ones to reject, which ones we want to attach to and let them control our mood, our emotions, our life, and which ones we decide aren’t worthy of us.

Everyone hates me.  No one loves me.  All my friends were fake.  I’m not worth anyone standing up for and supporting me.   These are the thoughts I get every day that make me want to shrivel up and die.  Every single day.  These are the foes I battle.  And don’t talk religion with me.  It’s because of religion I have many of these thoughts now.  This programming I can’t be whole and healthy and good without the help of some god.  See, that’s not true.  I was born beautiful, and good, and perfect, and exactly what nature meant me to be.  I am a happy and wonderful, loving and good person.  All I have to do is believe it about myself.  Really believe it.  And not look outside myself for other things to make my happiness for me.

That is the key to survival for me.  The key to finding reasons to get through each day.  The reasons must come from within, from myself.  Not from drugs.  Not from therapy.  Not from self help books.  But from me.  Every day I need to make the decision which forces inside I want to control me–which thoughts I want to take seriously and which ones I want to recognize are just the bullshit religion I was fed or the negative  messages I let myself believe all my life from my mother or the people I liked who couldn’t like me.

Questioning the Truth of It

It might seem odd to someone who doesn’t know me as a person, why my blog seems to be this odd mix of my celebrating my new-found atheism and….personal issues like depression, aging, stuff like that.   I’m sure there will be more than just these two themes as I go, but these two are currently very much what I’m juggling in my life.

First I learned some really hard things about what had been my reality.   When you start to mistrust the very ground you used to always take for granted would be solid, you start mistrusting everything, and searching for new solid ground.  That’s where I am now.

I didn’t learn until about 6 years ago that the one parent who raised me had done so mentally ill.   She was the one i was always scrambling to win points with.  My brother was her golden boy .  He could do no wrong.  I, on the other hand, from the day I stood at the cemetery at my first and last visit to my daddy’s grave and as a six-year-old asked my mom if my daddy was really under ground and got slapped for it, until this very day, my mom has viewed me with suspicion.  At that point or shortly after she suffered her first break, though I didn’t know it, and neither did my brother.  Our house became haunted.  I believed it because my mother did, and she took us kids away for a week fleeing these dark entities that chased us from hotel to hotel.

Anyway, it’s a very long story.  She’s always known about the voices in her head, but never told anyone until six years ago when she really started unraveling after chemotherapy.   I always wondered why she didn’t like me telling other kids about our haunted house.  I think we moved out here from Wisconsin because my mom was afraid of losing us kids.  My Uncle had the police out looking for us that week we were fleeing those demons my mother saw.   I believe she feared he questioned her ability to raise two little kids.

So fast forwarding…   I married the first guy who said he loved me back.   There were lots of signs during my marriage that I chose to ignore, but in the end I was made to realize my husband didn’t love me and according to him he possibly never did.  That was after 16 years of marriage and the last six of them with me trying to save my marriage because I still loved him very much, but he didn’t love me, nor did I feel any love from him those six years we didn’t touch, and he couldn’t even tell me if he loved me, he just said “I don’t know.”

The only way I could get away from that marriage was switch my focus, and I did.  I found another person who was in pain as much as me, and I focused on cheering him up and along the way I fell in love with him.   He found out and then proceeded to stay at my apartment and then my condo with me letting me care for him because he developed a life-threatening illness and none of his other friends were stepping up to the plate.

Long story short again, three years later after he got better he said “thanks, but I don’t need you anymore” and then proceeded to convince his friends whom I also had grown to like very much, that I had smothered him, when in fact his illness had prevented him from leaving a situation that apparently had grown wearisome to him–and yet it was nice for him not having to pay rent or contribute very little and have everything pretty much paid for him, including transportation.

So I turned to other friends for solace, and one of them was a head bartender at a popular restaurant all my theatre cohorts loved to go, and that bartender let me believe we were friends like he was friends with these other guys I had gotten to know.  Long story short again, he too was pretending all so he could win my trust.  And in the meantime he learned how lonely I was, how unloved and unlovable I felt–he took advantage of me.  Then after that there were several years of head games from him–with me trying to believe he was my friend when in fact I guess or at least I have been told by another friend, I was just a big joke to him all along.

You have three men pretend with you, three men seem like they’re one thing and then they turn out to be something else altogether, you start having doubts about everything you thought was real about the world.  Between that and the fact I learned my mother was a schizophrenic–suddenly I had to reevaluate everything I grew up to believe about myself, and all the things I just assumed were true.

I became very earnest about protecting myself from further hurt.  I had always questioned the parts about my faith that I questioned and tried to ignore or shrug off.  If I asked any pastor about them, I was given pat answers too, that never satisfied me.  I’m sorry but “God works in mysterious ways” is not an answer.

Religion had taught me that I was a bad person.  It reinforced everything my mother drummed into me.   I could never be good enough.  Oh, I was a Christian, yes.  But I was always a very bad Christian because I didn’t go to church, or read my bible enough, or walk the walk enough, or whatever.   It was never enough. I was never enough.   A few times I would try to get back into going to church…

One time I started regularly attending the Westgate Chapel in Edmonds WA.  They had a fabulous  music program and I loved to sing, so it was enjoyable there for me.  But I was also an amateur paleontologist volunteering for the Burke Museum in the U-District.  Every year we had our little Dino-Days at the Burke, and I and my husband (I was still married then) would volunteer).   I loved digging for fossils, cracking open rocks and seeing evidence of live no human eyes had ever seen.  It fascinated me.  It awed me.  It put things into perspective re. how very OLD the planet is and how fleeting our little moment on this world is.

Then one Sunday service at Westgate the head minister stood up and told about taking his children to Dino-Days at the Burke.  He ridiculed us, those of us who ran the event, as acting so sure about our belief that the planet was old, and the age of the fossils, and evolution itself.  He made it sound like paleontology itself was the devil’s work.

After the service I approached this pastor because his words had me rather upset.   I was in disbelief because the man had implied my favorite thing was against God.  So I asked him, straight out, if it was wrong of me to dig for fossils.  I told him I worked at the Burke and contributed like the rest of my group, NW Paleontologists, to the Burke.  He looked at me and said “Do you think it glorifies God?”   I looked him straight in the eye and said “yes, I do.”   He gave me a look, and turned to talk to someone else and I felt completely snubbed.

So.  I am put on this earth to glorify God.  Writing this note, if it doesn’t glorify God, I guess I shouldn’t do it.  Raising Canaries–if it doesn’t glorify God, I shouldn’t do it.   This was the beginning of the end of my faith for me.  That one day even before the ending of my marriage I walked away with a very sour taste in my mouth, and I was angry.   I was angry that this man would judge me the way he did.  Yes, I think science would glorify God, if a god existed.  But I don’t believe one does because as far back as recorded history, religion has feared science, or has discouraged against it, or even called it a sin.   Once upon a time people were afraid to look at the stars because “star-gazing” was banned by the church–it was devil’s work.   We once knew as a species the world was round–our ancient forbears had compasses and knew how to navigate on the sea.   Then along came religion to warn about there being an edge where boats just fall off and horrible monsters beneath the waves, inciting fear in people’s hearts.  Fear to explore.  Fear to discover.  Fear to learn and fear to question.   We were dumbed down as a species, and it was all so we could believe in fantastical explanations and live and exist the way the church wanted us to.

If there really is a God, science would not be a threat to any true religion that followed him.  Science would be uncovering more and proofs for his existence, and would be welcomed, rather than feared.

I have always just wanted my life to be true, and what I am led to believe about the world, to be true.  Most of my life has been one false belief after another.  First belief in my mother.  Then my husband.  Then this man I thought was my friend who let me care for him thinking he was.  Then the bartender who I confided all my insecurities to, who then used that knowledge to exploit and then slander me.  And religion–that was one of the last dominos to fall, and the biggest.   But have I regretted for a moment the loss of the delusion?  No.  No more than I regretted not getting to believe in Santa anymore.   Do I want to live thinking everything I do has to glorify god?  Like growing up, everything I did had to be about pleasing my mother, and during my marriage everything I did had to be about getting my husband to love me again, and then that friendship where I cared for that man who I thought was my friend and I thought if I did enough good and supportive things for him he’d appreciate me as the good friend I was…

No.  This is the pattern in my life that has only caused me harm.  I am living to glorify myself  and I am living for myself and to find myself, who I am, and to live for me.

We Should Love Ourselves???

Funny how it always seems when I’m beating myself up the most, down in the dumps the most, letting other people’s opinions cut me up the most, that’s when a friend or friends will surely tell me that I need to try to love myself.  Other’s cannot love me until I love myself. That sort of thing.

And it makes sense.  Trouble is, for most of my life I have heard the opposite message preached at me by the Christian religion.  We need to loath ourselves with our from-the-womb sinful natures.  We need to put living for ourselves, our needs, our dreams, our hopes, on the back burner and live for God.  We are nothing more than his instruments.  Pawns at his disposal.  We should gladly and with much praising sacrifice ourself to this greater being who made us, do his work, live for him, dedicate our every waking moment to that which glorifies him.

When I was still living with my mom, I’d be in serious pain over something going badly in my life.  I’d turn to her for help, support, advice, solace, and what would she say to me again and again, “you’re not praying enough,” or “you need to take it to God.”   And you know what, I actually did take it to God because she was never there for me.  I prayed and poured my heart out to the empty room and the silent walls.  Sometimes I’d even talk out loud, work my problems through verbally, and the sometimes surprisingly clear responses I’d hear myself say back, I convinced myself that was God.  God, speaking with my voice.

The thing is, after awhile people get tired of hearing their own voice coming back.  After awhile there’s this very human need for more tangible love, tangible support.   I was getting mixed messages from the world vrs. from the church.   I must die in the flesh to live in the spirit.  I must be born a new creature in him, because my old nature was corrupt, sinful, ugly, bad, something like an abomination to God not fit to stand before him.

And yet…he made me.  He was my creator, and I’m not fit?  I’m corrupt and flawed from birth?  I need to jump through this hoop to be good in his eyes, to be beautiful?   Or else what?  I’m garbage to cast into the fires of hell?

Does God make garbage?  Why did he make me flawed?  If he forgives sin, then why was I born inheriting sin?  How can I love myself when my mother was passing the buck all the time telling me I needed to take it to God, pray about it?   How can I love myself when the being I did take it to, time and time again, only responded with my voice, with my thoughts, from my own head and my own heart?   All I was worth was my own self-counsel, and that’s what I gave myself growing up.  I had no adults I could go to.  I had no one except this higher power that never did anything.   Take it to God, people said.  Oh, and love yourself. 

The below is taken from an article I thought worth sharing.   It was written intended for men, but I found it helped me, reading it:

http://confidentman.net/self-esteem/recover-christian-upbringing

How to Recover from a Christian Upbringing

I grew up in a conservative Christian church-going family. During years of Sunday school, church services and various fellowship groups, I was fed a diet of deception which helped undermine my fragile self-esteem. My sensitivity and having emotionally disconnected parents who were in constant conflict didn’t help, and it’s difficult to judge exactly how much of the damage was due to religious indoctrination, and how much was simply due to the environment I grew up in. My parents could return from a church service where the minister preached on the theme of “Love”, and have a blazingly abusive argument. Throw in this level of hypocrisy, and you get a boy who grows up into one seriously confused adult.

Childhood religious teaching has a pervasive effect. For many years into adulthood I continued attending church before I wised up, and even became involved in the church leadership. At the time I believed I was doing the right thing; but looking back I can see how appallingly narrow-minded and naïve I was.

Realising that I had been misled was painful, and didn’t suddenly undo overnight the damage that had been done to my psyche over many years. So here are some tips on what I learned in my attempts to recover from a Christian upbringing:

Learn to Forgive Yourself

At the core of Christianity is the doctrine of salvation: we need a saviour because we are all inherently sinful. This resonates with us because of course we all make mistakes which hurt other people and feel guilty from time to time. We’re taught that we’re sinful and need Jesus’s death to atone for us, loading us up with a truckload of unnecessary guilt in the process. Little old me caused God’s only son to die, when I wasn’t even born. And if I don’t get “saved”, most brands of Christianity teach that we will burn for all eternity in hell.

What a load of baloney.

You are not a bad person. You are capable of forgiving yourself, apologising and making amends when you hurt other people. Let go of perfectionist guilt that triggers whenever you get anything wrong. You do not need to be perfect. Start acknowledging your mistakes, especially with the people who have been effected. Tell them that you’re sorry, and mean it. If you’re not, do some emotional healing work to enable yourself to feel more empathy for other people. Make amends when you feel guilty, and recognise when your guilt is out-of-proportion with you have actually done; that’s probably the old religious thing rearing its ugly head again. Deal with any remaining guilt and shame by telling a friend you trust.

Heal Your Shame

Shame is probably the most long-lasting after-effect of a religious upbringing. Taking on some level of shame while growing up is probably inevitable, but religious teaching broadens the scope and drives it much deeper. When you’re taught that there’s a God watching over your every move, you get to feel self-conscious even when you’re by yourself. Here are some perfectly normal masculine traits that I learned to be ashamed of:

  • Thinking for myself
  • Sexuality and wanting to have sex
  • Interest in Women
  • Being interested in and attracted to attractive women, rather than just plain ones
  • Masculine power
  • A thirst for wisdom and knowledge
  • Knowing the truth

The way to heal shame is by exposing the things you are ashamed of to other people who are willing to offer you love and acceptance in return. Start seeking out men and women in your life with whom you can be really honest about the things you have been shamed about that still control or restrict you from being your true self.

Shame is the biggest and most insidious insecurity we have, so this is the most powerful thing you can do to boost your self-confidence. For more on healing shame, see Step 13: Heal Your Shame in Confident Man.

Get Angry

You have every right to be angry with the people, possibly including your parents, who taught you to believe things that weren’t true before you were old enough and wise enough to discern the difference for yourself. The people who taught you these things were old enough to know better, and the fact that they operated out of fear and ignorance is no excuse.

The God of the Bible is a personification of human qualities projected by primitive people desperate for someone to be in control of the often hostile universe they found themselves living in. But you weren’t to know that when you were just a kid. You were probably taught that getting angry was bad and inappropriate, right about the same time that you were taught about this jealous, angry God of the Old Testament who got away with anything he liked.

You may still have trouble getting angry about this, and other things, because Christianity taught you to be subservient instead. If this is the case for you, see Step 16: Get In Touch With Your Anger in Confident Man.

Learn to Trust Yourself

If you were anything like me, you probably noticed that the God that you were being taught about when you were a kid never actually showed up. But some adult you trusted told you he was real, so you went along with it anyway. At times perhaps you had some unexpected emotional reaction that people encouraged you to interpret in spiritual terms, because they were unaware of how human emotions work and keen to find any evidence to validate their flaky beliefs.

In doing all this, you learned to stop trusting your own intuition that told you that the God they spoke of was every bit as real as Santa Claus and the Easter Bunny. After years of this kind of self-delusion, you may find it difficult to trust your intuition now. The way to restore your intuition is to assess people and events based on gut instinct, and refine your opinion each time you get information that confirms or denies your original opinion. Stop being neutral about things to avoid conflict, and start having an opinion.

You’re likely to be pretty bad at this to start with, but the more practise you get, the better your intuition will develop. It helps to have a supportive environment to do this, so that people don’t just come down on you like a ton of bricks when you get it wrong, which inevitably you will at first.

Experience Love From Non-Christians

The Bible teaches that love comes from God, but that’s just another example of Christian arrogance and self-righteousness. Love is a normal human emotion with an evolutionary basis just like our other emotions. Its purpose is to bond people together, which enhanced our ancestor’s survival. In modern western society, physical survival is for the most part no longer at stake due to lack of love, but mental and emotional health sure are.

Seek out non-Christians who have the capacity to show love to you, and give them every reason to do so. In other words, show them some love first. This will help you to reprogram two flawed beliefs: firstly, that non-Christians are somehow bad people for not accepting Jesus as lord and saviour, and secondly that only Christians are capable of genuine love. Once I began to experience the inclusive love of open-minded non-Christians, I was able to see how shallow, restrictive, judgemental and controlling the love that many Christians offer is.

Christians are also capable of showing genuine love; it is, after all, a basic human trait not restricted to any particular ideology. But when it comes packaged with a flawed belief system that they want you to adopt, it gets messy to separate the two.

Find A New Community

One of the compelling things about religion is the sense of community that all religions offer. People need community and religious people tend to report higher levels of happiness than non-religious people as a result. The sense of community and the ability to discriminate “us” from “them” addresses a basic human need.

Find yourself a community of like-minded people to hang around in. Seek out other men who had a Christian upbringing and have managed to break away and recover from it. Commit yourself to living the most inspired, conscious, loving life possible and don’t let baggage from your past get in your way of doing it. Learn from other men ahead of you on the road, and let them be your inspiration.

Choose any community which participates in regular activities that you can enjoy. Many people find community by joining a sporting team. That way you’ll get your social and exercise needs met all in the one hit, keeping you fit psychologically and physically; both of which are great for your confidence.

Learn to Trust Other People

Having been misled by misguided people about something so fundamental as the meaning and purpose of life and where we all came from, it’s natural that you might be a little hesitant to trust other people again. Learning to think for yourself and doing the other things recommended in this article should help give you a stable basis for discerning when people are telling you the truth, and when they’re feeding you self-serving dogma.

Ultimately you need to be comfortable taking risks when it comes to trusting other people. Some will be trustworthy, some will not. Developing your intuition will help you in discerning between the two. You also need to drop your perfectionism that makes it hard for you to forgive yourself when you get it wrong. As you get better at discerning who’s trustworthy, you’ll be more comfortable putting increasing amounts of trust in them without fear that you’ll just be fooled again.

Speak The Truth

Start speaking the truth at every opportunity. Don’t hold back just because you’re worried about what other people will think. There are other men out there waiting for your leadership to help free them from the tyranny of religious indoctrination. They need your inspiration but they won’t even hear from you if you don’t speak up.

Forget about converting the rest of your family though. They’ve got to learn to grow up in their own time. There’s too much emotional baggage within a family for anyone to be objective about anything; much less such an all-consuming topic as religion. There’s no point harping on at your mother/sister/brother/father that their belief system is made-up when they invite you to the Christmas Day church service. Just decline politely, move on, and prove the point that Christianity is an oppressive religion by taking your personal growth beyond what was possible within its narrow constraints. Commit to becoming a positive example by having the most powerfully loving life you possibly can now that you’re liberated from it.

Find Your Mission In Life

If your mission in life up until now has been to “preach the gospel”, to “serve God” or anything else based on your old religious beliefs, you need to find a new mission in life, and possibly some new passions. Your mission should be something sufficiently engrossing for you that nothing would stand in your way of working towards it. This is important to keep you motivated when life throws obstacles in your way. Without a mission, you’re likely to wander a little aimlessly, feel restless and think that life has no meaning.

Keep in mind that you’re biologically wired to want to connect with other people, so this is likely to factor in your mission somewhere. It has taken me some time to determine my new mission in life, and to begin working towards it in a focused way. It’s still a work in progress. Remember that life is all about the journey, not the destination. This may seem counter-intuitive if you grew up with the Christian notion that heaven and the after-life is when you reap the rewards of what you sow in this life. It’s not: this life is where you both sow and reap, and having a mission to guide you in the journey helps you stay focused and avoid taking detours.

Work towards aligning your mission, the things you are passionate about, your relationships and your career, and you’re headed for the good life.

Be Patient With Yourself

I was involved in Christianity for at least 32 years; about 20 of those professing it as my own. The damage this did was spread over many years. You don’t just undo 30+ years of mental programming over night. It takes time. So be patient with yourself. On the days when the shame seems overwhelming or you just feel like you hate yourself, remember that you were taught to feel these things when you were very young. Don’t beat yourself up for taking a long time to get over it. Stick at it, get support from other guys who have been there before, and you will get there.

Depression Isolates Us

I sometimes think, now that I’m becoming aware just how many people out there feel like I do, feel all the same feelings…that we’re more like a subgroup of society.  We start out, probably many of us, outcasts as children.  Either outcast by our families, or outcast by our peers, or both.  We grow up lacking confidence other kids take for granted.  We are always trying. But there’s always some reason we don’t fit in.  We’re not good looking enough, so people of the opposite gender look at us and think “I can do better,” like having outward beauty or our programmed notions of what beauty is–makes some people “better” than others?

Regardless, we grow up, those of us who didn’t quite fit in, or came from homes that didn’t really want us, and as adults we still try.  But the long nights of crying ourselves to sleep, losing sleep, or just huddling in fear of some real or imagined terror…now there’s something stuck in our heads.  Something wrong.  We are either mentally ill, or our brains are wired wrong or we have a chemical imbalance or a combination of the above.   Because we grew up trying harder than other kids, the popular “better” kids.  And now what are we?  We’re that sub-group of society that end up alone.  Our friends aren’t there, despite how we try to be there for them.  Our families…sometimes it’s not good being around the people that caused the harm in the first place or trigger memories of the harm that was done.

So we’re alone.  And here we still are, trying.  Trying to fit in to that other part of society we too have been programmed to believe is normal.  Thinking if we do this or this or THIS we might be accepted and loved and wanted like other people.

And when we can’t fight our illness hard enough, we are forced to endure more loneliness.  When we do have our little triumphs, there’s nobody around anymore to see.

I hate depression.  I hate this illness nobody understands or wants to make any effort to understand.  I have been locked in closets all my life and I still am.   All because of this belief we carry around, that we grew up with, that to be like one of the crowd is better, our ultimate goal that’s always just out of reach…to fit in…that’s what gives us worth–that’s the key to being wanted, being successful, being SOMETHING.   And until we have it, until we get over this illness we’re being punished for having, we must be shunned.  We must be outsiders.  We must be looked right through like we’re not even there.

This is what I say to that.  Bullshit.  What kind of society does this?  Banishes its ill from the mainstream?  They did that to lepers once; you would think in 2000 years our society would be a little more aware, a little more educated, a little more understanding.   But no.  We have not evolved very much at all, have we?

So how do we break from this box they’ve put us in?  We say bullshit.  We are not less than anyone.   People look at us and say they can do better?  Excuse me–we might be ill but we’re still whole people, and worth it.   If you know us you’ll get to know the beauty we still carry around  inside.  All of us, like any other people.  Like you we are unique, full of dreams and hopes and love and caring.   Shame on anyone who dares to look down their nose and outcast us for having too many bad days when here we’ve put up with other people having many bad days too.  Why is the playing field so one-sided?

Who decides worth of a person?  How is it measured?  Is it measured by looks?  Popularity?  Is it measured by how much money someone has or what kind of car they drive or what neighborhood they live in?  Or is it measured by the kindness and caring a person has in their heart?

I see a lot of value in us.   This little sub-group that finds ourselves struggling with our depression or anxiety all alone…punished for being ill, rejected by friends for being ill, despite how tired we are from always trying, despite how lost and despairing and scared and hurt we sometimes feel. 

You know who I think has worth in our society?  You know who I think are really great people–the kind of people I wish I could be?  People who can still give of themselves when they themselves have nothing, and care and encourage, when they themselves feel their world is crashing down.

I am most thankful for the kind of people who can still care for others, even despite the hurts they feel themselves.   If we have to be separated and made some kind of subgroup, I’d rather be counted as someone like this.

Self-Induced Depression

So we’re sad, those of us battling depression. Lonely. Feeling unloved. Feeling like failures. Whatever it is. Ever imagine what we must look like to the casual observer? The expression on our faces or the set of our shoulders or how we walk?

Do you ever find yourself drawn to other sad, unhappy-looking people? Do they make you smile and feel good or is your first inclination to oh-oh, better stay away!

The problem with depression is…we show this black mood on our faces and on our demeanor. We’re sad, and people can see it. We hate or excessively find fault in ourselves, and people see that too. Trouble for us is, most people seem as a rule to seek out happiness and fun.

I know I do. I long to be among people who make me happy or help me be happy. Trouble is those people are also searching for happy people to give themselves a lift. Are they going to notice me looking sadly at them hoping they’ll include me? If they do, probably I’ll be the last one they’ll want to connect with or talk to, because my demeanor shouts to them all the doom and gloom I’m feeling inside.  They can see at a glance they’d be doing all the work to make me happy,while ignoring their own desire to stay that way.

What does this do? I am left isolated even when I do dredge up the energy to go out and try to be among people. Because I transmit sadness, and most people don’t want me bringing them down. So I sit isolated, watching other people get the companionship I am yearning for, and then I feel even more isolated, unwanted, unloved, unaccepted, etc. etc., which of course makes me even more miserable inside. It’s a vicious cycle. Unwittingly, I cause myself to be alone.

This all goes back to the whole belief that we need other people to be happy. And that’s the other thing. How many people go out on the town thinking “tonight I’m going to find a sad person to talk to…tonight I’m going to expend all my energy helping a depressed person be happy…even if it destroys my chance to have fun?”

Not bloody likely. And yet here I am sitting at some bar or wherever, hoping to connect with someone fun and entertaining to brighten my mood.  And of course when no one steps up to the plate, I bow my head, I stare at my hands, I blink back tears and transmit even more misery to the people around me trying to have fun, and not only do they then not want to deal with me–they silently resent me for being such a black cloud on their otherwise good time and are wishing I’d just go away.

Depression is self perpetuating.  It generates more depression because of how we respond to it.  It’s so easy to hope the external world will distract us–give us those little happy moments we crave and hope they’ll last when of course they never do. The external world lets us down and we feel sad all over again. Dependency upon other people to make us feel better or happy…this is a huge contributor to making ourselves feel worse. No dependency is a good thing–addiction to that happy feeling we get being around happy people–is like any other addiction. The feeling accepted and happy doesn’t last–we end up back on the street again searching–or huddled alone in tears suffering withdrawal.

When we were children it was easy to appreciate just playing by yourself. You could imagine whatever you wanted, become whatever you wanted, do whatever you wanted. There were no rules. No one bossing you. No expectations.  Why is it as adults we find it so hard to be like that and just have fun & be content by ourselves? Why do we need other people to affirm our worth for us, to help us succeed at being happy? Who says we can’t go out and do whatever we want to, for ourselves, just to make our own fun?

The term “making friends” is an interesting one. “Making” implies something you have to work at to have happen, or pursue, or seek out. Like it’s a task that needs doing. Why not just stop caring so much about having friends? Enjoy your own thoughts, be your own company, whatever the activity is you like to do. Don’t go do something with the point being making new friends.  Go do something for the sheer fun of it, and the friends will just…happen.   Don’t try so hard.  Don’t care so much.  Don’t be something you’re not to earn someone’s caring or appreciation. Be yourself. Do your thing, walk the path of your journey. Relax.. Find little things to smile about.

Don’t look to other people to find happinesses for you. Enjoy what is (recommend the book “Loving What Is” by Byron Katie), rather than fret about what is not. Your demeanor will change. You will have a lighter step and the stress or pain will leave your face. You will smile more, breath deeply and relax, see more of the good in people and situations and less of the bad. People will sense that about you and then it will be YOU they’re drawn to, YOU who is the happy one they’ll hope will lift them up.

Why compare yourself to someone else?  You are not them and they’re not you. And really, does it matter what other people think? It’s really only your opinion that matters–you’re the one who has to live with you–and if you’re doing what feels good–feels right for you, isn’t that all that should count? There will be no dependency on others–no pressure put on other people. Your happiness will be real–natural.  Because it comes from within you, not from without.

Depression / Partially the Result of Social Programming

Well, when you really think about it, aren’t we?  Not just we who suffer from depression, but all of us.

Programmed by our culture, our music, our media, our society. To be happy we need the following:

Others must like us.

We must have acceptance, love, approval.

Friends. Gotta have those!

Beauty. We need to be beautiful in order to have value. We need to also, have youth in order to have value. We need to wear the right clothes, drive the right cars, have the right friends, speak the right language, like the right music, have the right accent, live in the right neighborhood.

Attention. People need to notice us and if they don’t it means we’re somehow less than that loud pretender busily attracting the crowd.

Help. We need help. We can’t help ourselves all on our own, we must depend on others to help us.

Happiness. We have to wait for other people to help make us happy, we can’t possibly make it for ourselves.

Other people. We need other people around because being alone means we’re forgotten or not wanted, we’ve been abandoned, rejected, we’re not loved, nobody cares.
(Of course it follows the holidays are miserable for us if we don’t have these other people helping us to be happy.)

Love. Loving ourselves is not enough. We need others to love us. Even if it means pretending to be someone we’re not or manipulating others or events in order to get it. Even the illusion of love, even if what they love isn’t really us, that’s fine so long as we get to have love, even just the delusion of it.

Rules. There are all these rules, and if we don’t follow the rules…if we dare try to live outside of the rules and not give a flying F– anymore about being the puppet of these stupid ass rules…then what?  Then comes the threat of not being accepted, of not belonging anymore.

Imagine it. Living outside of the rules.

What makes other people’s opinions of us and what is good or right or worthy, more valid than our own? Who decided these rules we scramble to live by?

We’re not happy. We’re depressed.  Why?

Because we can’t fly in formation. For whatever reason. Our wings are clipped because of our past experiences or lack of experiences. Because we’ve been hurt, wounded, damaged…whatever…and so we’ve had to find our own way, come up with our own definition, an alternative route trying to ultimately get to the same destination where we are loved too, and accepted, and find friendship.

Except…along the way we never mastered those rules. Or we’ve had to recognize the stupidity of following them and so we’ve come up with different rules completely. Rules that say I love who I am even if I’m not skinny. I love who I am wearing these clothes from Value Village. I love who I am even though I can’t be happy all the time or pretend I am along with you. I love who I am even though I’m honest to a fault, and can’t play the mind games you play. I love who I am even though you don’t understand me, even though you reject me and I can’t seem to compensate enough…

So we don’t fit it–and our world tells us it’s we who are wrong, unacceptable, worthy of being outcast. Go away now–come back when you can be like all the rest of us and play the game right..

Except maybe we don’t WANT to.

I will never be what society thinks is beautiful. I will never be what is whole and “normal” and right and easy to know. I am me, and my rules are different because my life has forced me to walk a different path–a backroad, rather than the super highway the majority walk on.

Love me or not.  I don’t need friends to be happy. I don’t need acceptance or approval. I don’t need other people to enjoy the holidays. I just need clear sight, and the realization I’m good, and I’m ok, just where I am, just being me.

The Damage of Depression. It Starts Out Small.

You don’t even know it’s happening to you. It begins when you’re little, and you find yourself forgotten a lot. Standing in a corner, or sitting by yourself, during family gatherings, surrounded by people who supposedly love you but ignore you like you’re not even there. It picks up momentum at school when you’re the odd man out, the one last chosen by a team, the one forced to play alone, or when some other sibling is favored, or you without knowing it, are being raised by someone mentally ill.

You know it so well, that feeling you get when you’re being ignored. It becomes familiar to you, so familiar you expect it, and in time you make it happen yourself, so you don’t have to feel that bite of rejection. You try to make it your own choice, your decision. You retreat into yourself, convince yourself this is what you really want, tell yourself you don’t need love, or family or friends–people.

Then one day you realize how very sad you are. You haven’t protected yourself at all, by self-isolation, and in fact it’s only allowed the roots of the seed to entwine like constrictors around your heart. Feelings of worthlessness are now a part of you. You no longer believe you deserve those things you once hoped for. Every situation, every room you enter, every person you meet, becomes a new hope and a new failure. You go in hoping this time they will see past your walls, see the love in you, the compassion, the caring and good qualities. But the worthless feeling keeps you from looking in their eyes enough, or looking in their eyes too much, or laughing nervously at all the wrong things, or saying something stupid, or trying too hard, pretending to be what you’re not, anything, everything, just so that for once, finally, it can be you who is wanted, loved, appreciated, SEEN.

It never happens, and every time it never happens the grip of darkness weaves itself tighter. It is familiar, like a favorite shirt, or an old teddy bear. You feel like it’s a friend, the one thing you have in this whole world…that feeling of utter hopelessness, so strong it makes your heart hurt, your joints ache, your eyes burn, and sleep becomes impossible, or you can’t seem to ever wake up and all you want is to sink forever deeper into your mattress until no one can find you.

Depression. You walk with it. You see through it, it covers you, it drags at you. You want to know what it’s like without it, but you don’t know and can’t remember. All you know is this, and deep down you’re convinced it’s all you deserve. So you carry it, and you hold it like a sign to the world saying this is me, you don’t want me, I don’t deserve you, I’m nothing worth loving, I have no worth.

Until it kills you finally, either in spirit or in body–and you fade out alone, starved to death of all the basic things your heart has craved and has been denied for lack of skill at finding, like Chris Candeless in the wilderness, crying out in pain how very alone and hungry you are, and there’s no one listening, no one caring–everyone agrees it’s something you don’t deserve.

Don’t tell me depression isn’t real. Don’t tell me it doesn’t take lives. It’s the only illness that takes your life before you’re dead, takes away everything you ever loved, until you reach the point there’s nothing left, and to die is not such a terrible loss after all.

Those of us who refuse to surrender, those of us who fight it every day. I hear it over and over, you have to LOVE yourself before you can love others. As if I don’t! Why am I here still in this world? Why am I getting out of bed every day and facing the same old pain, the same old battle? Because I DO love myself, and have always deep down, believed this is not what I deserve. I deserve better, and I am the only one at the front of the line, taking the blows, fighting the battle for me.