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!!!)

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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.