I’ve written about my Mormonism here before, and, while I’ve touched on some of the hard parts, I’ve never before blogged about the very worst of it. That changes now.
As a lifelong member of the LDS church, I KNOW HOW HARD IT CAN BE.
Throughout most of last year, I left church every Sunday feeling frustrated, often in tears, and then went on to spend the rest of the day venting and complaining to my husband. Part of every Sunday afternoon was spent anxiously asking my kids what they learned at church, who taught them what, and how they felt about it. All week, I’d vacillate between dread and hope, wishing to feel the peace I once did at church while simultaneously expecting the next Sunday to bring more heartache instead.
I was desperate to make sure my kids were getting the truth – the whole truth – about our religion, its history, and its beauty. I was so worried they’d grow up following a bunch of rules without ever learning how to be truly compassionate, thoughtful, and Christlike people.
I had also started to worry my children may not fit the Mormon mold, that all the things they were being taught in Primary would create shame about who they are. What if their sexual orientation or gender identity or core attributes don’t align with what the church expects and promotes? I worried the dissonance I felt would manifest in my children as well, and they would develop depression as I had. What if they experience mental illness or social challenges that the church ignores or shames?
My despair grew so deep and so pervasive, and I sat so uncomfortably on the fence for so long, that I began experiencing severe suicidality for the first time in my life. I felt like not only was my heart irrevocably broken, but that part of me was truly dying. It was a brutally difficult time.
When I think back to those months, there isn’t much clarity. I remember heaviness. I remember darkness. I remember blurry lines and foggy vision. I remember feeling out of touch with my body, feeling unable to articulate myself, feeling on the verge of tears constantly.
So when I say I get it, believe me, I GET IT. The dissonance between my religious beliefs and my mental health became astoundingly painful. I never expected to be on the fence, and I never expected the fence to be so brutally uncomfortable.
This story isn’t over, but things have changed for me since then. I started therapy again, changed my medication, and set some boundaries. Essentially, I made the fence comfortable for myself. Instead of tolerating and adjusting to oppressive discomfort, I built a bigger, wider, more substantial fence. One that has plenty of room for me, my body, my spirit, and a whole lot of symbolic pillows and blankets. I’m not getting stabbed in the back by fence posts anymore. I’m no longer going numb from contorting myself to fit into a tiny, dangerous space. My body parts aren’t falling asleep from stagnancy and fear-based stillness. My limbs and my mind and my spirit are AWAKE, my eyes are open, my arms are spread, my head is turned upward, I am looking up and seeing what I haven’t seen for an achingly long time: clear skies.
The way is clear. My path is clear. My fence is comfortable. And there’s plenty of space for you up here with me. I’ll scooch over. You’re more than welcome.
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