When I get so sad that saying goodbye seems like the best option, I take a deep inventory of my spirituality. I become almost obsessed with death and what does or does not happen when a human being’s heart stops beating. I frantically search for a relationship with God and find that it’s like jumping into the ocean after dropping your wedding band into it–it might be somewhere, but it will probably take a very long time and a lot of help to find it–if it’s found at all.
To understand the spiritual emptiness I feel; here is the foundation:
Both of my parents were baptized and raised in Christian homes and in church.
I am not baptized, or raised in church. I had zero parental guidance in the religion department, but a great and constant curiosity. Most of my extended family strongly identifies with being Christian, I even have cousins who are Lutheran pastors. It has always confused me as to why I was never taught even the basics.
Age 4- I went to Vacation Bible School at a local church during the summer. This was my very first introduction to anything religious or spiritual. We took home a tape that I danced and sang to all summer. This is the first and last parent-led Christian thing I take part of.
Age 5-13- Nothing. I entered a church a handful of times – a marriage ceremony, a funeral, & a service where my grandfather sang.
Age 14-16- I would go with random friends to their youth groups but this was not regular. I felt awkward, but I also loved going. I didn’t look forward to the questions I’d get when I returned home from such functions. “Are you religious now?” Asked in an accusatory tone and followed with more questions that made me feel like I was doing something wrong.
Age 16- We moved, and I was devastated but the very first girls I made friends with invited me to come with them to their youth group. Every single person involved was welcoming, caring, and nice. I went and had so much fun. I remember thinking, ok, this is going to be alright. I went three times, and on the third time my dad made fun of me for going. I knew I wouldn’t ever go back. And I didn’t, and therefore did not continue to regularly hang with that great group of teens because 50% of their togetherness happened around church activities. I felt lost at this school. I never made any close friends. I struggled to fit in anywhere else and I felt lonely in those halls. I couldn’t concentrate and got a C in Honors English (a stark contrast to my other grades and a major red flag), a subject that always came easy to me but was suddenly causing me anxiety. I couldn’t comprehend the words on the pages of the books we were reading. Nothing made sense. I would pray to not be called on; I feared sounding stupid in a class with the top 30 GPAs in it.
Age 19- I live on my own and know that something is missing so I decide to randomly attend a Presbyterian church.
Age 20-21- I move to Colorado and neglect spirituality completely. I spiral into my eating disorder.
Age 21-23- I live in Vermont & then Washington DC with my fiance’s parents (without my fiance) and attend church with some regularity, with them. I have several 10-mile runs where I spend a lot of time talking to God. I am the most wholly healthy I have ever been. Mentally, physically, spiritually.
Age 23- We are married in a Lutheran Church, where my husband’s family attended while they lived in AZ. The original and founding pastor of that church flew from states away to marry us. This is a very special and perfect ceremony. I feel connected, I feel excited to grow, I am sure I will spend time fostering this with my husband and his family as guides.
Age 24-28- We live in Germany and my husband is deployed right away. I just try to survive and I attend church on base sometimes, but have so many personal conflicts with what is being said and no one to work them out with. I stop going and the second deployment I spiral hard and fast into my eating disorder. I read Eckhart Tolle’s The Power of Now, and watch a lot of documentaries and try to gain some semblance of what spirituality could mean to me without religion. But I have a hard time grasping those Buddhist type ideas in the midst of falling deeper into my eating disorder.
Age 28-29- we live in Virginia and then Colorado, I deliver my first born. We attend a Lutheran church very regularly with my aunt and uncle and 2 cousins. They become my daughter’s godparents. I feel so good about this decision. I know this relationship has a big purpose. We make a commitment to raise our children as Christians.
Age 30-32- We move back to AZ. We sometimes attend church with my husbands family. No one is satisfied with any churches and I lead the search to find our extended family’s church home even though I am the least qualified for this job. I just want to keep doing what we committed to, and I know I have to keep learning or I won’t be able to facilitate this family value. We have baby #2 and once I stop breastfeeding I take a nose dive back into my eating disorder. I lose all sense of spirituality. In fact, I lose all sense of self in every way possible. I begin recovery and somehow lead the way again in trying to keep this value of raising our kids in a christian church. I am disappointed that I am leading the charge on this. I need guidance. I have no idea what I’m doing.
I get us going most Sunday’s. I go on my own when my husband would rather sleep. I want to go, I look forward to going. I feel so good in that hour. But sometimes I feel hurt that I am the only parent really making the effort, when if anything it should be reversed.
I can’t answer most of my 3-year-old’s questions about God properly. The children’s bible I read to her is just as much for me as it is her– my anxious mind cannot comprehend the Bible without a lot of explanation, just like in 11th grade English class. I feel inadequate, unintelligent, and unworthy when it comes to God. But I have had this deep desire to understand and to know more and have continued to try, on my own, since becoming a teenager.
I guess my point with all of this is; as long as my spiritual cup is empty, recovery will be extra difficult. If maybe even impossible?
And this, on top of everything else, is confusing, practically impossible to navigate alone, and hard to be patient for.
When I think about ending things, I tell myself I have to wait until I can at least be confident one way or the other on what happens next.
Sunday night I wanted to disappear. No events led to this (other than hormones), but despite knowing it’s coming every month for almost a year now, I can’t help but feel blindsided when it happens. Dramatic. Needy. And truly uncertain if it will end. Yes, there is evidence it will pass. But during the thunderstorm, I cannot see out. I just hear thunder and wish lightening would strike so I wouldn’t have to. Sunday night I deleted most of my social media. I wrote a sorry letter. I regretted being vulnerable. Monday I arrived at therapy at odds with myself. Be honest, share the letter, share my real state of mind or ignore it. I walked in with the decision to ignore. I sat down and changed my mind. I shared my Sunday night. What’s the point of even coming if I can’t share that on the way there, tears flooded my eyes for my children. They deserve so much more. I feel so sick, and I want to and need to change. For them. I love them so much. Sometimes it’s just so dark in here.