My Own Worst Critic

I recently read a post by Godless in Dixie entitled “What Leaving My Religion Did For Me” and it really got me thinking about that particular question. What had leaving religion done for me?

This is a particularly difficult question to answer as I have only truly been free from christianity for a few months. I don’t think that explicitly means that I haven’t been benefited in any way yet, nor am I incapable of exploring those benefits. I am sure that I could come up with a huge number of things I have gained. I even touched on one such thing in a previous post, “Absolute Darkness.” Though to be fair, I had largely given up that way of thinking, even before my deconversion. At this stage in my journey, I would suggest that there is one primary thing that I have gained: confidence. Particularly confidence in myself.

I have mentioned before that I suffer from depression. It is a topic that I do not much talk about, but which shapes and poisons my entire life. People are often surprised at this revelation, as I have become quite adept at putting forward the “fun, sarcastic, outgoing guy” persona. In reality, I am about as introverted as they come, insecure to the core, deeply cynical and depressed. The depression feeds the negative aspects of my personality and my introversion gives me an excuse to give in. (Let me be clear though, I am not saying introversion is a bad thing, I am just pointing out how my introversion often enables my depression.)

Dealing with depression as a christian is hard. Like REALLY hard. Mental illness is not a subject that is spoken about much in church or christian circles. Perhaps because christians too often wish to put on a mask of perfection and mental illness smudges that mask. Perhaps because they believe that demons are real and mental illness is simply demonic influence. Perhaps because mental illness is simply seen as a sign of weakness, lack of faith or a poor relationship with god. Perhaps most christians see mental illness the same way Christian Scientists see any other disease or illness, as a test of faith that must be prayed away. Perhaps thinking too much about mental illness begins to shed some light on the delusions that christians often hold. Any or all of these could be an explanation for why christians don’t talk about it very much, but in reality, it doesn’t much matter. Either way, they don’t.

Thus, as one suffering from mental illness, I felt as though something was wrong with me, as though I had done something bad or was letting some sin form a “stronghold” in my life. I saw my inability to conquer my illness as a failing of my faith, and that only added to the depression. Furthermore, I was never granted any solace or comfort from god. No matter how hard I prayed; how fervently I sought for his favor, I found nothing. I felt like the rich man in Hades from Jesus’ parable in Luke 16:

“23 In Hades, where he (the rich man) was in torment, he looked up and saw Abraham far away, with Lazarus by his side. 24 So he called to him, ‘Father Abraham, have pity on me and send Lazarus to dip the tip of his finger in water and cool my tongue, because I am in agony in this fire.’ 25 “But Abraham replied, ‘Son, remember that in your lifetime you received your good things, while Lazarus received bad things, but now he is comforted here and you are in agony. 26 And besides all this, between us and you a great chasm has been set in place, so that those who want to go from here to you cannot, nor can anyone cross over from there to us.’”

As far as I could tell, between myself and god “a great chasm had been set in place.” Even a soothing drop of water on my tongue was denied. This verse continually came to mind and all I could reason out was that god had turned his back on me; that I wasn’t worth his time, effort or comfort. I got to the point where I would fall asleep every night begging god to end my life and let me come “home.”

Very little can so utterly demolish one’s self-confidence as complete rejection from one to whom your entire life, identity, purpose and future has been dedicated. I was already fragile enough as it was, and this rejection broke me. If any prayer must be answered by god, you would think it would be that one. Promise after promise is made in the bible about giving good gifts, providing everything one needs and giving of things when sincerely and humbly asked.

These were the things that broke me, but they were also the things that gave me more purpose and confidence than anything previously. No amount of lying to myself about being a “child of god” ever filled me with the comfort and purpose that knowing I am the commander of my own destiny had. To take my life into my own hands, mistakes and accomplishments, meant I could honestly take credit for the things I had done. Sure, I had to forego pawning off my mistakes onto god, but the freedom to say “I did that on my own power and by my own will” was greater than anything I had ever felt.

I still deal with depression. I am under no illusions that part of my life will ever go away. The difference is: I can control it. I decide if I let it control me or not. I don’t need to wait on god to take it away, or see it as a test or punishment. It is a biochemical imbalance in my brain that, while difficult to understand and control, can be. I am on some great meds, which do wonders for me, and have gotten to the point where I don’t have to take them every day.

Even more than that, losing the Calvinist idea of total depravity, which I am quite sure most christians believe in some respect, has allowed me to not think of myself as a worthless, despicable worm unable to do anything right or good no matter how hard I try. Sure, they try to throw grace in there, but it always comes across as an after thought. I don’t need people telling me that at the core of my being, I am flawed and doomed to failure because that little, sinister voice that fills my head already tells me that. I need to hear that I am worth it and can do things correct and do them well.

Atheism tells me that and atheism is right.

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8 thoughts on “My Own Worst Critic

  1. Two words: Great. Post.

    I can’t leave it at two words, though. Talking about how leaving your faith has helped you cope with depression is a very important thing. Not many people do it, and some people just refer to it in passing. I don’t know if you’ve caught this on other blogs, but sometimes there’s an allusion to it without expressly saying that faith helps promote some really messed up things in people.

    It’s not always comfortable to do such a thing, but for everyone out there who needs to divorce an abusive faith from ill mental health, posts like this do matter.

    Liked by 2 people

    1. Thank you! This is a post that I have been meaning to write since I started this blog, as it strikes to the core of who I am and how my journey has developed, but I admit that I struggled to put my thoughts to words in a meaningful way.

      As always, I hope that what I write enlightens, helps or motivates others.

      Thank you for your kind words! It means A LOT to me.

      Liked by 2 people

  2. Great post. You are right about Christians and depression. It extends to anything having to do with the brain, even. It took my in-laws a long time to acknowledge my daughter’s autism, and it is quite obvious to everyone. I remember them trying to talk us out of believing the diagnosis when she was three. She couldn’t talk and had zero social skills. I mean zero. She still couldn’t play with toys. And they kept telling us it was normal. They truly believed autism was a made up thing caused by parents who didn’t spank their children. She is seven and still cannot have a conversation so they are finally believers. Funny how personal experience can change someone’s perspective….

    Now, with my husband’s epilepsy the seizures were proof. No issues there. But he had surgery for it in 2007 and they removed quite a bit of his brain. It was a success, except that he has dealt with depression ever since. It took years for me to get him to confront it, but he would never tell his parents. Ever. He already knows they would tell him it had something to do with his faith. I figured maybe the fact that it happened after the surgery might make a compelling case- but, really? Probably not. It makes no sense. I’m glad you are talking about it, because people are starting to change their minds and finally understand. It affects too many people for us to not talk about it.

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Honestly, it took me years to acknowledge it as well. As far as I can remember, I have suffered from it, at the very least, since high school.

      I agree that this is a conversation that ABSOLUTELY needs to happen.

      As always, thanks for your perspective! It is always appreciated!

      Liked by 1 person

  3. What they said. Great post.

    That verse, and the feeling that God must have given up on you. Wow. That’s one of the things I hate most about Christianity, or the behavior of many Christians, really. They act like it’s so clear that God is there and answers prayers, but when you dig deeper everyone has doubts. But because everyone is acting like it’s so real, when you realize it’s not you blame yourself. I’ve been through that. Deconversion has been very freeing in that regard.

    As for depression, that’s awesome that you’ve been able to get over the stigma and get help, and that the meds are working for you. That was the biggest step for me… admitting I needed help and getting it.

    Liked by 1 person

  4. Great post and I relate a lot. I’ve probably had some kind of depression since I was a teen, and at my worst point I seriously thought God was “adjusting” and “cleansing” me for my “future mission” and it had to hurt. I waited for the day I’d be “ready” and the pain would be over and I’d walk with my every step guided, dead to my old failure of a self.

    Like you, I am now an Ex-C, on meds that help a whole lot as long as I remember to take them, and I function much better now that I know my success is MY success and not a gift I don’t deserve, and my failure is MY failure and not an attack on me or a test of faith. I’m also learning that I’m not so horrible inside after all, I’m an okay person who can reach success with hard work, just like anyone else.

    This does need to be talked about, and I’m glad you wrote this. I’m usually a lousy commenter (sorry about that) but this subject was too big for me to not say a thing.

    Keep writing, you do it well.

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Thanks, Yunea! I am so glad you, like me, were not only able to find help, but find some sort of closure in the form of leaving the toxic environment that fed your struggles!

      Every time I hear stories like ours, I am reminded why I started this blog and why it matters. I only hope I can continue to do it justice!

      Thanks for reading and commenting! I hugely appreciate the support I have gotten from every angle!

      Like

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