I have been really holding back on writing anything really extensive on my spirituality. Well, or lack there of. I feel so compelled to write about it, because the past three years have drastically changed the way I see things. Religion used to be like this undertone in my life. Like it was embedded, it was like a heavenly elephant in the room. For the longest time, I identified as Christian, and I was expected to. Even at 26 years old, I’m expected to be Christian.
Let me be clear: I’m not. The best way to describe me is agnostic, on a good day. If you are Christian, I don’t mean to offend. But this is my life, and my blog. I’m calling it like I see it here. This is my experience, and one may ask what my experience has to do with mental health?
It has everything to do with mental health.
Growing up, I went to church most Sundays. I couldn’t choose to opt out; I had to go to church. Even at an early age, I remember questioning what exactly Christianity was. I was part of a Pentecostal church. If you google that, one of the first images is someone handling a snake. We were a step down from that, but yes, those churches exist in Kentucky.
What a shock.
It was a ‘holy-roller’ church: people would scream, shake, run, throw themselves on the floor, etc. At the least, church was exciting for 5 year old Amber. I was terrified and curious at the same time. My loved ones were screaming and ‘speaking’ in tongues, and when I say speaking I mean speaking complete nonsense.
Seriously. I had a family member who would ‘speak’ every Sunday, and it was the same nonsensical words every time. The pastor would interpret the words and each time they would mean something different. I say this is nonsense, because I have ‘spoken’ in tongues before. I was absolutely convinced and pressured to do so when I was 7 years old.
I was at church camp, and people started to tell their testimonies, then someone started really getting the ‘holy spirit’. When I say ‘holy spirit’ I mean they look like they are having a seizure on the floor, and screaming. Lots of screaming.
They started ‘speaking’, then someone else felt compelled to do the same, and so on. I was one of the last ones to do it, and it was because I thought I wasn’t chosen. So, I faked it. I stuttered whatever nonsense I could think of. When I say I thought I wasn’t chosen, I mean I didn’t feel this over whelming joy I was supposed to feel. I was expecting God to actually speak to me, I was expecting, you know, a hint. This didn’t shake my faith, I just thought I was a bad person.
Looking back, I realize that it was me just being logical. I was a very logically thinking kid, and rationalizing something that can’t be proven was beyond me. As an adult, I still think the same way, and that’s why I gave up on the Christian faith. It took me a long time to reach this because it was embedded in my head that I was going to burn in hell for all eternity if I breathed wrong. I didn’t realize how ridiculous this way of life was until I moved. This isn’t when I made my decision to change my views, but this helped put me at peace. This was because I realized I’m not alone.
If I was to say I was agnostic back home, I would be shunned in some way. At the very least, I would be told I would be going to hell. To be more specific, that the devil was working in my life. This is the part that has to do with mental health.
I have been told my entire life that whatever problem I have is the devil. The devil was blamed on health problems, losing a job, friendships dissolving, etc. So my depression is this invisible creature trying to claw its way into my mind, and make me feel like shit. I used to believe this. I used to think I was unworthy of God, and that the devil had taken over my life.
This is the danger religion spreads. Yes, it can do good, but it does more harm than anything. My mental illness is a problem, but it is because of a chemical imbalance in my brain. It’s not because my spirit is flawed, or because I’m not a Christian. It’s because I have a physical problem. I think it’s important for me to show what I went through, because there are people who live in this type of environment who have no way out. They probably feel like I did: alone, unwanted, scared. I want anyone who has lived through this kind of religious nonsense to know that there is nothing wrong with you. Be strong.
If you are dealing with mental illness, please go to a doctor. There is professional, medical help that will work. Thoughts and prayers are nice, but they don’t cure anything.