I can remember the exact moment at which I “lost” my faith.
Several weeks after Finn was born, I was in the throws of a very brutal postpartum depression. My husband got home from work and took the baby, without a word I mechanically dragged myself off to the bathroom. The tears were already flowing; I can’t remember if there was a reason other than the never ending pain. After turning on the shower I undressed. Our bathroom has a very long closet lined with three huge, full length mirrors.
I stared at my reflection in the dim light, and a stranger was looking back at me. Grey, drained of life, she looked like a zombie. She didn’t have my laugh lines, she didn’t have my warm chocolate eyes.
She was empty.
I stepped into the stream of water, not bothering to check the temperature first. After a moment, my body registered that the water was uncomfortably cold. Reaching out, I knocked the nob to the hottest setting. Scalding water burnt my skin, but I didn’t move. I wanted to feel something, anything, other than the nagging pain.
Something was making an unpleasant sound. At first I thought it was one of the cats being annoying, as cats often are. With an irrational sense of annoyance, I realized that the sound was me. I was sobbing, wailing really.Crying again.
I’d gone to seek help. I had my placenta encapsulated. I tried herbs. I drank teas. I took tinctures. I went on walks. I spent time in the sun. I got exercise. It didn’t help.
In our LDS faith, and I’m sure it’s the same with many other Christian faiths, we are taught a specific way to pray. You do not ask for God to take away your burden, your trial, your pain, or whatever it is pulling you down. Instead, you pray for the strength to endure, to survive, to grow and learn from the experience.
Never mind I had already lived through postpartum depression twice before, never mind I’ve been battling bipolar disorder for years and years, never mind I’ve survived crippling depression countless times… Apparently I hadn’t learned the right lesson yet.
I slumped against the side of the shower and fell to the floor. Curled up in a ball, I found myself calling out to a higher power. “Please, please help me. Don’t make it stop, don’t take it away, but help me. Make me stronger. Let it fade for just a while. Let me come up to breathe. I AM DROWNING! I need just a minute. HELP. ME.”
Countless times I’ve listened to people recall times when they had felt the Lord’s loving embrace. Times when they were pulled down and felt that they couldn’t go any further, they prayed and a sudden peace came over them. They could feelarms around them, comforting them, loving them. They somehow KNEW that everything would be fine, that they would make it.I desperately wanted that, I needed that. I needed any form of hope. Ten, twenty, thirty minutes… I’m not entirely sure how long I sat there, rocking back and forth, begging for some sense of peace.
I. Got. Nothing.
Eventually I gave up, probably because the water had turned ice cold again. Somehow I found the strength to drag myself up and crawl my way out of the shower. I grabbed a towel, wrapped it around myself, and faced the reflection of my stranger. I knew it would be months before I would see myself again, if I saw myself again. I knew every time I tried to claw my way out of this dark hole, she would be there to drag me back down. I hated her.
And that my friends, is the moment that I lost the last bit of my faith. The faith that I had clung on to so tightly. It was ripped from my exhausted fingertips as I begged for help.
I tried for months to get it back. I’ve never been one of those people who “knew” that our church was “the one true church.” I simply hoped. With every fiber of my being, I hoped. It wasn’t enough.
I continued to attend church, mostly for my daughter. Sophie loves seeing her friends and teachers each week. I have nothing against the church, so I saw no reason to keep her from it. If she wants to go, I will take her. Then I was called to teach a handful of beautiful and wild little 4 year olds.
THIS IS IT, I thought, THIS WILL BRING BACK MY FAITH.
While I adore those kids, and I agree with teaching them all of the goodness in the world, I still feel nothing. I’ve always struggled with my faith, it is just how I am. I question everything, I constantly want to learn the how and why of each and every thing. I am a sponge of knowledge. My husband has watched me struggle to accept church teachings for years.
Several years back, I gave up going to church. It was beyond stressful and I ended up in tears every week. My husband suggested we instead spend time doing things as a family on Sundays. PERFECT. We took up hiking every Sunday, and we loved it. Exploring the mountain trails was exactly what we needed.
I struggle with the thought that there is only one right religion.
One right way to worship.
One right way to pray.
One size fits all.
You WILL fit into this little box, or you will have to chop off limbs to make yourself fit.
Extreme, I know, but I’m trying to paint a picture here.
With the support of my husband, as always, I am throwing myself into researching religions. I am trying to find my place in the world, somewhere where I feel comfortable, and at peace.
Paganism, Islam, Buddhism, I will absorb it ALL.
I want to make one thing perfectly clear:
I have no beef with the LDS church. I will not “lead others astray.” I will gladly continue to teach my little 4 year olds each week. I love the people at our church.
Yet at the same time, I don’t think I have ever felt true joy as a member. I grew up in a world of “you don’t do this because God says it’s wrong.” No other explanations were ever given. It was like an extreme game of Simon Says.
God says no alcohol. (ok, that stuff kills your liver)
God says no drugs. (ok, that stuff jacks you up)
God says no piercings or tattoos. (your body is a temple)
God says no caffeine. (not true)
Got says no short shorts. You are immodest and your body distract boys. (rape culture)
God says this.
God says that.
Around every turn, I was made to feel that I was somehow never enough. No matter how hard I strive to fit into the box of perfection, I would never be able to. I know a LOT of this simply has to do with the culture in Utah (the state with the highest depression and suicide rate). How could I not feel discouraged?
I refuse to raise my children that way.
I refuse to shame them into obeying.
I refuse to make them EVER feel like they are less than anyone else.
And so, I am opening the other doors around me.
I am simply exploring my options.
I am finding what works for me.