i'm about to make a bold admission. besides the fact that i keep trying to wear a size 0 but am actually a size 4 now, i have to express something that has been eating up my insides for years.
there is a five-day period of my life that i have refused to acknowledge happened. however experiencing these five days changed my view of life, religion and love forever. let me rewind and say that over the last few years i have gradually came to the realization that:
1) God loves you unconditionally, despite who you love and if you drink coffee.
2) Happiness does not come from church.
3) You don't have to be nice to other people because of eternal incentives: it's called being a good person.
now how did Marcie come to these conclusions? where did her testimony go wrong? i'm already expecting the "she didn't pray hard enough" or "she didn't study the Book of Mormon like she should have" or "definitely because the lack of temple, church, and activity attendance" accusations. but in fact, these things among countless negative experiences with church were what led me to these conclusions. it seems impossible that going to church every Sunday, fulfilling a calling and doing family prayer every night could possibly lead to these realizations. i am probably the only exception among millions of church members.
i never quite felt "good enough" to be a member of the church. i have and continue to always feel guilty about something i did or didn't do. this guilt mixed with low self-worth were a recipe for the big D. no, not that one. DEPRESSION. yes, i said that buzzword. the word that denotes a sense of laziness for some people. why don't you just try harder to be happy? why don't you just snap out of it? the word that is so casually thrown around when you are sad: "Chick-fil-a was closed. I'm so depressed!" the thing that many people experience but don't actually admit to if they are really in the depths of its hell hole.
i was depressed. so depressed because i constantly compared myself to how i thought i should be doing in the church to who i really was. when i tried to attend church, i felt like crawling out of my skin and that made me feel even worse. why don't i want to be here? i keep messing up in life, watching a rated R movie, going out to eat on Sunday, not going to the temple every week or saying a swear word (or 2, or 3). i continued to feel guilty every day that i did something else wrong. i started to feel guilty for things in the past. i cried, prayed, repented and repeated. lather, rinse, repeat became the daily cycle. why won't this depression go away? why doesn't God show me he loves me? that's when i realized that maybe He did love me. but the church, did the church actually love me or care about me if i wasn't checking off all the commandments, one by one, day by day?
i constantly hear that the church isn't meant for perfect people. that people go to church to be perfected and you can't judge a church by its members. but what is a church without its members? it is merely a building with gospel principles and no one to partake. it is...similar to a picnic filled with yummy fruit, cheese and salami with no one to eat it. but of course, you have to wash your hands first and wear a sweater over that tank top or else you can't enjoy it.
eventually i sunk into a depression so deep that my entire body and soul ached every morning that i had to get up and face reality. the pain became so debilitating that the thoughts began to creep in. there's a train track nearby. what's in our medicine cabinet right now? co might be the least painful way to go.
i attempted several times. sometimes i stopped myself. sometimes it was someone else. most times, i just didn't know how to do it. each time that i was about to seriously injure myself, i thought about what triggered me...and each time those experiences were related to church. my interactions with church and its members...the members who were supposed to be disciples of Christ, spreading his gospel and love on the earth. the people who i thought i could trust to really love me as a human being instead of as a tithe payer. someone who could really listen to me instead of only seeing what i was doing wrong in life to deserve these trials. i wasn't blaming the church or its members for my depression, but instead i was realizing that it was the source of my unhappiness. i felt like i had been forcing myself to be a certain person that i knew wasn't me. the last time i attempted suicide, i got sent to a psychiatric hospital for five days.
i supposedly checked in of my own free will. five days isn't really that bad in a hospital, right? they tell you at the ER that the University Neuropsychiatric Institute (or mental hospital) is a safe place where you will receive care from the best doctors and social workers. they don't mention that you are basically put in a prison with much nicer furniture and 'wardens' who look like Costco employees. overall, the experience was dehumanizing. i was well aware of the reason why i was there. i knew that i had to be under surveillance because of my attempts and i knew that it was the only way to get better.
each day i met with a social worker, a counselor, or a doctor. sometimes all three. but each day, i was forced to relive the reason why i was there. each day i had to relate to these complete strangers why i was depressed. it became mundane but then one night, while laying in bed (with a tiny blanket, they don't want you hanging yourself) i realized that i knew why i was so unhappy. i couldn't say it though. if i say it out loud, if i say those words then my world will fall apart. so i never said those words. i made up completely different reasons for why i was so depressed. work. family relationships. friendships. all a bunch of bull crap of course.
my roommate hated life. she hated life so much she tore our drapes down one day. there were broken metal curtain clasps all over my bed one afternoon. she had been forced to stay at UNI over her birthday. even after the employees brought her a chocolate cake and threw her a birthday party, she literally tore the crap out of our room. in a sense, i was jealous of her. i was jealous that she was capable of expressing that much emotion without restraint. when was the last time i did that? have i ever done that? when she was granted her clothing privileges (we all had to wait a couple days before we were allowed to wear normal street clothes) she constantly wore tie dye leggings. during smoke breaks i saw her pacing back and forth, the tie dye was really the only color in the yard in the middle of the haze. i wasn't smoking of course. but the only way to go outside was to take the break with everyone else. that took me two days to get privileges for. when i finally did, an elderly patient pulled the fire alarm and had to be sedated immediately. i knew i was going to like these smoke breaks.
we had television. i could never watch it though. whenever i attempted to change the channel some middle aged woman (another patient) stormed in and yelled at me. she literally watched baseball all day in that room. it was the best room on the entire floor, too. plenty of sunlight. a view of the beautiful mountains. she wouldn't even let me have that space to feel a sense of normalcy.
i felt like i was torn. i couldn't really express my emotions like my roommate could. i couldn't tear down the walls around me and show everyone what i really thought about my life. i couldn't tell them that the church and my religion were slowly killing me inside because it did not make me into the person i wanted to be. on the other hand, i knew i couldn't accept the status quo. i couldn't sit in that comfortable seat, quietly next to the window with the view of the mountains because there would always be that nagging feeling that something wasn't right. i would feel like a stranger to myself if i tried to make that work. after the five days were over, i felt like life was clearer. i felt more focused (yeah, props to the meds) and more capable of doing whatever i wanted with my life. i felt like i was loved beyond measure by my family (especially Graydon) and i knew that i couldn't and wouldn't attribute any of that to the church. Yes, to God. But not the church, which i stopped attending soon after leaving UNI.
i'm not denouncing the LDS church or any religion for that matter. all i know is that the church for me, doesn't work. it works for many people, but i kept trying to force myself into this puzzle but i am not the right piece for it. i do not fit just right. i don't even think i want to fit just right either. i like who i am. i know who i am besides being a member of the LDS faith. i am asian american. i'm a perfectionist. i can read novels upon novels and write pages of research on Hamlet. then i can turn around and ace Organic Chemistry. i really am damn good at O chem. i can dance. i can sing. i can learn instruments. i'm pretty funny if you get to know me. i like good movies and tv shows. i like good music. i care about people. i really will do anything for my family and best fiends.
i think i will continue to attend church but not in the same way i did before. i want my son to be surrounded by good influences and to have interactions with other kids his age but mostly, i want him to decide for himself whether he will want this for his life. i won't whisper a testimony in his ear as he stands up in testimony meeting. i won't force him to attend seminary. i won't even make him go on a mission. i will tell him everything that i love about God, the teachings of Jesus Christ and the amazing things that the church does for the world. But honestly beyond that, i want him to learn for himself if he has a testimony. i am not going to keep him from church and deny him the opportunity to learn more about it. i just want him to know that he doesn't have to quietly suffer like i have most of my life. i don't want him to be someone he is not. i want him to be a good person who serves other people and does the right thing on a daily basis because he knows that there is a God, not because i told him there is one. most of all, i want him to be happy.
i hope this post doesn't shock anyone and make you all think less of me. i hope this doesn't hurt anyone's feelings or cause you to point out all my flaws with my reasoning. honestly i am posting this to heal my soul. i am a broken person and i have been able to slowly put myself back together with each new discovery i've made about who i am. i am a good person and i know that i am capable of great things. please remember that before making any judgments.