I grew up in the church, for my family it was everything. We were at church 3 times a week at minimum and sometimes even more often because of how involved my family was. My mom served on committees (we were baptists, they are more bureaucratic than the U.S. government) and my dad was a deacon at one point. My friends went to church with me, we went to church camp and VBS together. Religion and church were so intertwined with my life that it is nearly impossible to tell any major story from my earlier life without talking about the church at some point.
I hope it makes sense when I say what an issue I have with dealing with organized religion once I've given that disclaimer. When I de-converted it was one of the most harrowing times of my life. There are stages of grief that people go through when they know a loved one is going to die and I (as well as many other ex-christians) went through those exact same stages when leaving the fold.
My deconversion was further complicated by the issue of my sexual orientation, which is not entirely unique to my story. When talking to friends about my sexuality I have a habit of trivializing the impact it had on my emotional state at the time. I didn't deny the fact that I was bi-sexual or possibly a lesbian, however it did complicate issues to an even further degree. It left me at a loss as to what to do with my life and for various reasons made life more difficult for me to live, especially since I lived in Arkansas, in the "Bible Belt" of the U.S. during this period of my life.
One of the most depressing episodes of my life was 6 months before I moved to Arizona. I had just moved to a smaller town, left my friends (who consequently operated on a"Out of sight, out of mind" principle and hardly spoke to me again) and started at a new High School. Alma, Arkansas is famous for being the Spinach capitol of the world and has more churches than necessary. I could literally walk from one side of the town to the other and hardly be tired. I had no friends, I had nothing to do with my time and no one who cared. I tried to make friends, which was my first mistake.
I struck up conversation one day after a feild trip. She seemed pretty cool and we talked about religion, she was a pretty liberal methodist and wasn't really interested in religion so I told her I was an Atheist. She didn't care, just asked me about my positions on a few religious ideas. She mentioned her mom was unhappy with her cousin who had just come out as gay. The girl had no problem with it at all. Since I'd moved I'd hidden my sexuality and it was hurting me, so I told her I was Bi. She outright told me our conversation was confidential.
By the next week everyone knew and I mean EVERYONE. The teachers were pretty much the only exception or if they knew they never said anything. Luckily nothing ever got to my parents.
After that I stopped trying to make friends. The girls I had been eating lunch with were constantly trying to get me to go to church with them, so I stopped eating in the lunch room. I would grab a candy bar and go to the bathroom or library to eat. I was harrassed in my classes and in the halls by people who wanted to "help" me and consequently many of my grades dropped. Teachers did nothing, said nothing, they never said a word when kids interrupted my classwork to proselytize.
Before this I had been getting on alright. I had gotten past the stages of grief and was no longer very depressed. During these months though I steadily got more and more depressed. I began cutting, carrying a razor and bandages in my purse as well as make-up. During my lunch time I would go into one of the mostly un-used bathrooms and cut and cry. Then when the first bell rang I would bandage up my arm carefully, wash my face and then put on make-up to hide the evidence of crying. I would head to my next class, give the right answers, crack the right jokes and no one ever looked any deeper.
The cutting wasn't a cry for help and I wasn't suicidal. I never wanted anyone to find out and no one ever cared enough to notice. It's hard to explain the reasons behind cutting to someone who has never done it. For me it was a release. I had no control over the way I was treated by students, but I had control over that one little thing. I had control over how much pain I was feeling and that helped me a lot.
Suicide was not something I often considered, but it did happen. The one and only time it got further than a mental idea was about 2 months before my parent's announced our move. One day while my family was out and I was at such a point that nothing seemed to matter. My parent's were mad at my lack of religion, didn't trust me at all. My job was stressing me to a huge degree and kids at school were worse than usual. I went to the bathroom and swallowed around half of what was in a bottle of ibuprofen in my bathroom. Luckily my stomach was smarter than I was and it revolted and I spent about half an hour puking out the contents of my stomach.
The news of the move out to Arizona was what saved me. If we hadn't moved I wouldn't have survived another year at that school and I know that for a fact.
After we moved the wounds healed, literally and figuratively. The scars nearly vanished and my emotional health was at a high. In all honestly I have never been happier than I have been in these past 3 years. It's all roses, of course roses have thorns, but everyone has rough patches.
Up till last week I though my issues with organized religion were pretty much over. My parent's don't argue with me about it, they have pretty much reached the conclusion that, Christian or not, I am a pretty trustworthy and smart kid and I'm not about to do anything truly stupid. They don't try to get me to go to church and I don't make a big deal out of them going. I am usually able to stand up for myself around religious zealots and can be a complete bitch to some when necessary.
However when looking over the past 3 years I can see really what helped me gain my equilibrium back. I became an introver, more than I had been before. I kept my emotions to myself and never fully invested myself in friendships, never talked about my past or issues with anyone. I tried not to involve myself in drama and I stayed away from large groups of friends where drama was inevitable. I kept all my emotional strength for myself and it helped.
My problem now? I have friends and no that doesn't seem like an end of the world problem and I wouldn't give up the friendships for anything. However, now I have demands on my emotions. Big demands. I have to dish out my emotional reserves for friends when they have a crisis. and suddenly I find that I don't have enough for them and me at the same time.
My issues with religion are coming back, plus other issues. Last week we told our "coming out" stories in the Compass meeting. As I said before, all stories from my life are intertwined with religion, but especially that one. I was coming out as Bi-sexual the same moment as I was coming out as an Atheist. As a result my story involved both situations, though I didn't go in-depth like I did here it was enough. I was emotionally unstable afterward, but I was with my girlfriend and friends and things were okay. We were talking about inconsequential things and there was no drain on my reserves so I could re-build.
Those of you who know me well, know that Murphy's law rules my life on occasion. Also many of you know that religious types have the worst timing in all the universe. While at the park me and my friends were accosted by religious types. They were telling us the "good news" of christ and they don't understand subtle suggestions that we didn't give a fuck about their "good news". I sat there not talking and not getting involved. I held onto my girlfriend and tried not to listen, but eventually it was too much and I lashed out and stormed off. My girlfriend came after me, for which I am eternally greatful. I don't like breaking down, but doing so alone in a park is even worse.
Since this occurence I've been bitchy and irritable when it comes to anything to do with religion. Which is a bit difficult when 2 of my classes are History 101, which is all about religion, and Anthropology of Religion. I have to bite my tongue a lot in these classes. It isn't the fault of these teachers that they are tripping a switch in my head that says to go into a tirade about the bigotry and utter ridiculousness of organized religion.
I won't be attending Compass next week for this same reason. For one thing I think I need some "me" time to get my equilibrium back and our topic next week is Religion and I think my friends have enough issues with my bitchiness and violent comments that they would probably cease to speak to me if I came to the discussion.
To any of my friends that read this I just want to make one thing clear. I love all of you and I want to be there to help you when you have a problem. It's actually good for me to get out of my issues and help you. And when it comes to certain people I will always be there for you no matter how bad my day is and how tired I am. However!, I am a wimp. I'm emotionally stunted and weak and there is only so much he-said-she-said that I can listen to before you exhaust me completely. I'm emotionally tired and very bad at dealing with teasing and rough housing. I know you guys don't mean it, you all have the kinds of energetic personalities that make stealing objects, locking me out of rooms and taunting my violent comments and teasing me seem like the kind of thing you should do and it's funny I admit. However, I'm bad at reading people and seeing as you never seem to do this stuff to anyone else it logically leads me to believe eventually that I'm not wanted around at all. After a while I can't bring myself to rise to the bait anymore and sometimes I'm just gonna take off. I like spending time with you guys, but if I disappear after teasing goes on to long, just know I'm doing it for me and you. If I hang around when my emotions are frayed, I'll inevitably end up yelling or bitching you out which will lead to me being bitched out and that always leads to me breaking down somewhere by myself.
I know I'm a wimp and I know I'm too fragile for my own good and it can be annoying for me and you. I don't know how to solve that problem, realistically it will just take time. I don't know how long people can put up with my issues for though.