why i walked

My family formally left the church I grew up in a few weeks ago, after 23 years, for reasons that had nothing to do with me.

It’s weird, that. I’ve always been the vocal one, the too-opinionated rebellious oldest child who lives to cause problems. I’ve always been the one who’s posted stuff on social media that, though harmless by a normal person’s standards, has resulted in my mother getting panicked emails asking her if I was “dabbling in the occult” (that’s an actual quote from that email, and I was twenty years old and had read a harmless YA-level retold version of Cinderella and was more than old enough to take responsibility for my own behavior by normal standards, but apparently not by theirs). I’ve always been the human disaster, open about my almost-assault and my depression and my bisexuality and everything else that Good Bubble Girls never experience let alone talk about. And yet, somehow, it was not my fault.

In the game of nature vs. nurture, something I play constantly as an adoptee, nurture definitely gets the trait of “cannot keep fingers off keyboard when presented with the opportunity to cause shit on Facebook”. For the first time in my life, I am genuinely proud of my mother.

So, anyways, the walk had nothing to do with me and everything to do with certain situations beyond rational control. But all of that said, I’ve got my own reasons for walking. My walk, unlike my parents’, happened quietly and slowly over the past year or two. My walk got hidden under the excuse of my work schedule. My walk made everyone else’s lives easier, so no one badgered me for “reconciliation” or whatever cute word they would’ve used as a cover for making my soul bleed. But my walk, just like my parents’, was intentional.

Just like my parents, I walked for a number of reasons.

I walked because last year I fell in love with a girl and, though it ended just as badly as any of my crushes on boys, it confirmed to me that I was variant.

I walked because I spent the weekend of the Flying Pig Marathon in the worst psych ward in the tri-state (yay government-employee health insurance!) because I wanted to take a permanent nap in my bathtub, and we had to lie about what happened to me because people would’ve talked if they’d found out at the time.

I walked because well before the psych ward incident, I’d lost track of the number of times people said that mental illness didn’t exist or that prayer was the only solution. (Praying never did anything about the demons in my head. It just made them a slightly different kind of vocal.)

I walked because one of my friends dated a trans girl for a while and, though I was not fond of her as a person, she was just as human and good as anyone else I’d ever met.

I walked because everyone idolized the kids who didn’t even kiss until their wedding day.

I walked because a former friend always had to tell people that no, I didn’t actually grow up in a cult, I just had a very odd childhood.

I walked because I spent an entire holiday season driving past the Creation Museum’s gigantic light-up dinosaur decorations twice a day and I realized, as I contemplated exactly how big that lime-green stegosaurus was as compared to my car, that evangelicalism creates victim complexes.

I walked because I was never like the other girls of my era and they made it clear that I would never be a part of their world, that nothing I could ever do could make me as good as them.

I walked because I fell in love with the ideal Bubble boy when I was seventeen, and then it ended badly, and then I almost tried to kill myself because I’d been taught that no one good would ever be capable of wanting me if I’d so much as seriously crushed on someone before.

I walked because I almost threw up hearing my former neighbor get idealized by the other girls of my era while I knew damn well what was really going on.

I walked because I was shamed, as a teenage girl, for not wanting to marry or have children. (The fact that I have since changed my mind is irrelevant; trauma’s a weird thing to work through.)

I walked because I learned that everything I’d been taught was wrong.

I walked, finally, because I fell apart in a deserted parking lot in the arms of a good man who’s never really believed in anything at all and, instead of anything I’d been taught to expect, he just pulled me a little closer and told me I was gonna be okay.

I walked, and I regret nothing apart from how long it took me to be this brave.

the walking wounded

I’m not sure exactly when I got disillusioned with organized religion. It’s one of those things that obviously happened at some point, but out of all the things that caused this particular cluster of jadedness, one catalyst stands out – in a culture that values martyrdom, wanting to die and wanting to feel pain for your own reasons doesn’t go over so well.

The church I grew up in (which my family has recently left, freaking finally) did not handle mental illness very well. Or at all. Ever. If anything, my community of origin tended to follow the approach of “if we don’t talk about it, it won’t happen to our kids”. This got applied to everything, and the results were predictably awful. Premarital sex? No way to confirm numbers on that one (yet), but I’d bet money that not all of my peers were as innocent as we thought. The entire concept of different sexual orientations? I still turned out bi. Mental illness? Ooooooh boy, that one got blown to hell and then some.

I’m not actually sure when I developed depression either beyond “some indefinite point in high school”. I had a nice little self-harm phase when I was 12, and I’ve got some tiny little scars on my thighs to prove it (life tip – safety razors are appropriately named, but I still did a little damage), but somehow that one hasn’t recurred. I’ve probably had anxiety since I was a little bug, but that only got confirmed and medicated a few months ago. I have recurrent suicidal thoughts, and every time I think those are gone, lol no. I’m not ashamed of any of this.

According to the culture that created me, however, I ought to be. Assuming it’s even real, and a lot of ’em don’t think it is.

I grew up thinking that the church was supposed to be a place of healing. For me, as a woman with multiple mental illnesses, it was anything but. Instead of hope, I found victim-blaming and denial, and I’m not that kind of a martyr. I can’t survive that thought process anymore.

Suffering is all well and good, they said – beautiful, even. I call bullshit. I am the walking wounded and I know better.