Finding My Way

I was raised a Catholic. Totally unremarkable. Not a devoted Catholic by any stretch of the imagination. Church made me feel guilty…a sinner who had to repent. I hadn’t even sinned as far as I knew…but I, along with everyone else, was born with a black mark on my soul. How very depressing.
I always considered myself Spiritual but completely opposed to all organized religions…none of them made sense to me. They were all founded by men who needed answers to everything…who were frightened at the thought of the unknown. So they made up convenient answers to squelch their fears. They saw things that weren’t there…they heard voices that they wanted to hear…and they made declarations that supported unfounded beliefs. Huh. How pathetic. The only thing more pathetic were the losers who blindly followed them.

Having nothing to call myself besides Spiritual, I felt lonely and disconnected from any community of believers…wandering like a lost soul…without any faith that I would find answers to all of my questions. It was a frustrating place to be…knowing there was a higher power but not understanding my purpose…what it was all about. I was so turned off by the Catholic church that I didn’t even trust that I should call Him “God”. That’s the name the Catholic church gave Him, I thought. I wasn’t even convinced He was a “he” at all. He might be a “she”…or more likely something completely different altogether. All I knew for certain was that there was a Higher Power…one that created the miracles that I call my children.

When I was as low as I had ever been…struggling to come to terms with the severity of my mental illness, and all the tragedy that had come from it…from me…I needed something…anything that would lift my spirits…make me feel good again…heal me.

I started to pray, which I realized I only did when I was desperate, in trouble, or both. How selfish of me. But I knew He would understand…that I was lost and broken…and in need of salvation. I started using words like “salvation”, “redemption” and “savior”. These were words of religious zealots and freaks. These were words that came from the mouthes of so-called prophets and born-again Christians…all people who wanted to push their beliefs on others. How odd for me to be whispering these words to the heavens. Either I was going crazier still, or I was finding in something greater than me that I could trust to rise me out of the depths of despair.

I had nothing to lose in Believing…I would die otherwise. I wanted to die. I wasn’t sure God would accept me..I was denying all that He had given me…I couldn’t see or appreciate all that He had bestowed on me. I wanted to end it all. How ungrateful. What an insult to Him. I knew this all, but I was powerless to change. I couldn’t change my thoughts or my behavior. I was literally a “lost soul”.

My friend kept telling me about a Reformed church. Its’ website says “For people who have given up on church, but not in God”. Wow! Hallelujah! That sounded like me! Were there really other people out there who were searching for answers but couldn’t find them in a traditional church? The closest I had to finding a true religion I believed in was Buddhism. I love their philosophy…so holistic…so wise. What turned me off was the whole Christianity piece to all organized religions. I was fairly convinced that Jesus was not the son of God. Sounds like blasphemy…I know. But, like my theory of a bunch of know-it-all men writing the Bible, I was convinced that Jesus was a very smart, prophetic man…but never-the-less…a man. I believe he believed he was the son of God..I believe he understood more than most ever will…I believe he was a great teacher and exhibited all the characteristics that we all strive for and recognize as excellence in man: humility, patience, loyalty, and citizenship. He was a true humanitarian…the first of his kind. But the Son of God? Lord of Lords? Um…I don’t think so. I haven’t been struck by lightening…yet. But my God doesn’t strike people with lightening…literally or figuratively. He guides and enlightens…He doesn’t punish or chastise.

Despite my dubious views on Jesus, I found practically every religion to be a Christian one. Except for Shirley Maclaine’s “religion”. Now that was something I could believe in…Karma…reincarnation…positive light…check check check.

I decided to try this new Church, that welcomed people of all faiths, backgrounds and beliefs. I liked it the moment I stepped in…it was full of light and happiness…people laughed, wore jeans, and hung out at the coffee bar. The Chapel was large and welcoming…there were large colored banners swept across the scaffolding. The Chapel was housed in an industrial park…very odd for such a holy place. Basically, it was a transformed warehouse…it was absolutely beautiful. There was a “stage”..not a pulpit. There was a rock band where an organ would be. There was a pastor who was as funny as any comedian I know. But more importantly, he spoke the truth. I felt like he was talking to me. Not just the first time I went…but each time I went. I brimmed with tears each time…wished I was alone so I could just bawl my eyes out. I had so much pain in me…I was terrified to let it out…like opening the floodgates, my emotions would pour out, leaving me a blithering mess. I had to stay strong and vigilant..I couldn’t allow myself to be that vulnerable. Always stoic…always reserved and resolute in my conviction to keep emotions at bay.
I was shocked to discover this was a Christian community. I thought this was a Reformed Church! How very old fashioned of them! I’d been duped! But I believed in the message of Jesus…it was true and good. I believed in the symbolism of it…and the healing power of the words. And then slowly…over time…I began to come around to the thought that maybe..just maybe…this guy was the Son of God. I am still not convinced…but I’m not totally opposed to the idea. I believe God spoke to Him…but I believe he speaks to many people..every day…you just need to listen. I’m not sure why we only hold Jesus on a pedestal, and not the many other people who speak the Truth. In present day, many people claim to be messengers from God. Now, many are kooks, but…many may be as credible as Jesus.
So I embrace this Church, that is actually a chapel. Their motto is Real Life. Real Answers. They strive to connect the real world with church, rather than living life here..and then going to church to be with God over there. Makes sense to me. We should see God everywhere…pray everywhere…bear witness everywhere…listen everywhere. I had started to do what the sermon had asked us to do: Make space for God. I would find a quiet moment and take the time to talk to God. To check in. I wasn’t in crisis when I spoke with Him at these times…just two friends chatting.

In time, I found many moments when I was struck by how much there was to be grateful for…how awesome this world and life are. I now thank God regularly for the birds and the ocean…for a roof over my head and my health…all those things I took for granted. I begrudgingly thank Him for my health…I tag-line my thanks with a “well, for my physical health…” because I am so mad that I am cursed with a sick brain. I know I could be worse..but I am still mad. I still cry Why Me?! in my head…despite all I have to be grateful for…I am only human after all. I think God will be patient with me on my journey. And still sometimes, the reality that there is so much wonder in this world and so much to be grateful for…makes me sad and bitter. I don’t understand why I can recognize all that I should be grateful for and that I give thanks for, and yet I am usually unable to enjoy it. Why am I so miserable most of the time? It is yet another cruel irony of mental illness that along the road to recovery, when you are at last at the point when you know there is much to be grateful for…you are still unable to enjoy it.

That’s what hurts the most about the journey to recovery. It’s not as bad as the depths of depression when there is no hope at all and you just want to die…but it’s painful none-the-less. Ignorance isn’t bliss, but it numbs.

I put my faith in God…that He knows the answers and more importantly, that I don’t have to. I’ve given up that control. It is freeing. The answers will come when it’s time…or they won’t. Either way, I know I may not be on the path I think I should be, but I am on the right path…the one God intended. During one sermon, the pastor asked if we were being who God intended us to be. Hmm…I really pondered that…Was I being who God intended me to be? I had never thought of that before. When I did, and I was really honest with myself, the answer was no. A big resounding NO. I felt bad for myself…how pitiful that I was destined to be so much more and I was letting God down. I had a lot of catching up to do…I was way off track. It frightened me to think of how off track I was…and even scarier still that I hadn’t realized it. I had always assumed I was created to be sad and suffering…that was the very essence of me. I had never considered that was not at all who I was intended to be. God intended so much more…had greater things in mind for me. The road to get there would be long and hard…I’m not sure I have the strength to make it…but God knows I do…so I keep the faith…and I carry on.


~ by imasurvivor2013 on April 14, 2013.

3 Responses to “Finding My Way”

  1. I believed I was born to be miserable too, I think. In the past 7 years, I think it’s been more like born to endure. God made us to be more than that, but I’m only starting to see the light at the end of the tunnel.

    • So weird you say that because it has been the last 7 years that I have most struggled…I didn’t know what was wrong and why I was progressively getting worse…finally got the right diagnosis and right meds. Then I felt better (stabilized mood) but so sad and full of regret. My doc said the meds slowed my brain down enough to reflect…which can be upsetting as you work through it.

      Kelli Fallon Collaborative for Educational Services DPH Coordinator Massachusetts Hospital School

  2. I’ve finally found the right meds too, although I’m never quite sure. And the right diagnoses. I’m trying to work through my life to and figure out what’s really been going on. My worst struggle was between 2000 and 2005. The last 7 years have been a time to endure. I feel its about time for things to get somewhat better and more normal.

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