Alternate Title: Making Life-Changing Decisions at 12 = Not Cool.
As a pre-teen and teenager, I decided I was going to be an atheist. As I think back on it, years later, I realized that this wasn’t actually because I didn’t have a connection with the Christian church I was associated with. I had always had a hard time connecting with people, places, things after my father’s death and it was his church, so I pulled myself away from people so as not to get too close. (Would anyone care to take a gander at that particular nugget of psychology?) But, while I can’t actually think of a moment when attending that church that I felt much more than “boredom” and “boredom,” I’ve always assumed that my atheism was due to a lack of connection. This isn’t actually the case. The reality of it stems more from a kind of sick and twisted teenage rebellion. My mother did believe in God and while she wasn’t raised a Methodist, she went to church every Sunday. (She stopped when my little brother and I stopped and as far as I know, hasn’t gone back.) While there are other psychological nuggets as to why I decided “atheism was cool,” I realized today that a lot of it actually had to do with a rebellion of sorts against my mother.
At the time, I was trying to break free of molds and discover who the fuck I was. I thought atheism, and thereby ignoring my mother’s beliefs, was a good way to go about it. What I’ve actually discovered is that this was actually the worst fucking decision of my life, to date. (Yes, it beats out an abusive ex-husband.) What got this started was that somebody asked about whether or not we’re happier people via our religious paths in The Island of Misfit Pagans today. And I just flew off the cuff with my response, which opened up entire avenues of thoughts about my atheism and I realized something…
…my atheism just fed right into my misery.
I was so fucking miserable after the death of my father, but I don’t think I really let it out in any way. Once you hit puberty, depression kind of enters the picture for most teenagers. It was doubly so in my life because I’m not only a human being who went through puberty, but also because the females of my mother’s line are always affected by depression in some form or another. In this generation, it hit in our teenage years. My depression was compounded by the fact that I had already been depressed because of my overwhelming grief and anger at the loss of my father. For whatever reason, I never actually worked through the five stages of grief. I think I had pretty much stalled out at level one, which is denial. So, I’m already pretty much living my life and ignoring my grief in any way (and I think I didn’t deal with it because I was (A) too young to figure out how to do that even with a child therapists’ help and (B) it was much too fucking painful after the fact) when I stumble into the “awesome” idea that atheism is my best bet. I pretty much decided that if there was a God? Well, he wouldn’t have taken my father away and so, I’ll show Him by not believing in Him!
So, not only was I busy punishing my mother for being my mother and trying to teach me the values she had picked up believing in God and Christianity, but I was also punishing a faceless deity that I didn’t understand. And to compound all of it, I was very busy punishing myself because what is there when you’re atheist? There’s a metric shit-fuck-ton of nothing. I was denying myself the ability to communicate with my dead father on a regular basis or thinking about seeing him in the next life or in Heaven or the Field of Reeds or wherever. I was hurting myself more than anybody else because, let’s face it. A child’s object in life, especially as a depressed teenager, is to make their parents’ lives miserable. And if there was some Christian God out there, what the fuck did He care if I believed in Him or not when there were, you know, thousands upon millions of others who did?
The thing that I realized was just how Miserable (capital M, yes) I was when I was an atheist. I can’t possibly get into the psychology of that particular matter since I’m sure it is also associated with my dead father in some way, but what I can say is that I was so fucking irritatingly angry. I’m surprised my mom didn’t choke me in my sleep. I was such a miserable, angry, bitter, bitchy, snotty brat all of the fucking time. It was like by being an atheist, it meant that I could not only act however I want and get away with it but it also just led to me acting more and more like a miserable snot-nosed bitch. It was like the realization that I was an atheist led to the ability to be a bitch, but it also fed into my misery because I was denying myself the ability to see/speak/feel my father again, in any context. It had a dual purpose in fucking shit up. Hell, there may even be aspects to my being an atheist and it fucking shit up that I’m not seeing because I’m not able to be that remote and clinical about it yet.
The thing is that I honestly have to wonder how much of the fucked up shit I did and that was done to me would have happened if I had found paganism earlier.
Okay, okay. Let’s back up and let me say this.
With my misery, I pretty much just assumed that misery would only be added to my shoulders. I legitimately, honestly, completely felt that I wasn’t able to be happy in any context. Hell, if that was the case, would my father be dead? It always came back to that. If I was allowed to have a good birthday or a good month or a good relationship or what have you, then it was going to be taken away. I felt like I was being given these little bitty tastes of happiness and good times to be reminded that I wasn’t allowed to have any of it… and worse shit would come. It got to the point where since only horror could follow my life, then my life became a horror novel. I can remember long bouts of crying jags just because of how horrifying my life felt and had become. I can remember sitting down and thinking about how horrible everything was, had always been, and would always be and just wondering what the fuck was the point any longer? But, I kept on trucking. I kept on moving through the horror and misery. And let me tell you, being a teenager is horrifying and awful all of its own accord, but it’s twenty to fifty times worse when all you look for is the miserable because that’s what you think you’re only going to get in life. And let me tell you, when you look for it, it comes.
(TW) I seriously have to wonder how much of the super fucked up shit that happened to me happened because I was so focused on being miserable that I didn’t do anything to stop those things from happening. I’ll be honest here: I have moments where I’m pretty sure my rape and subsequently being molested by a friend has to do with my self-fulfilling prophecy regarding my negative attitude. I think I sought out miserable situations to let more misery heap down on my shoulders. In effect, I was barely a person. I was barely alive. And I was barely functioning.
Do I blame my choice of atheism entirely on this? No. I know the psychology (or the bare bones of it) behind my decision and I blame my psychological fuck ups for some of the shit that has happened to me and the misery I felt. But, be that as it may, I honestly have to wonder what things would have been like if I hadn’t decided atheism, and denying myself the ability to be happy.
Now, I know that it’s possible an atheist or six might stumble upon this blog entry. And if they read it without jumping down to leave some flaming comment below, they’re thinking something akin to, “But, my atheism doesn’t make me miserable?” So, let me just say that I’m not saying that it was the choice of atheism that made me miserable. I was already miserable and in so continuing with that particular phase in my life, I chose atheism to further it. I was punishing myself for being a freak whose father had died and being depressed and angry about it by deciding that I wouldn’t believe in anything, which meant that I wouldn’t believe in an after life. (FUNNY. Because Daddy’s ghost followed us to the new house after we moved out of the apartment he died in. FUNNY RIGHT. I never said I made full sense.) So, all my choice of being an atheist was doing was just furthering my ability to be miserable.
And it did a really fucking awesome job because I was miserable for well over a decade of my life. I’m not saying that things are any better now, but I’m more likely to look for the good shit in life. I lapse; that’s something that happens to people. I go through deep bouts of depression that can be so mind-blowing awful that it’s amazing I don’t actually have suicidal ideation. (I don’t and haven’t for years and I’ll tell you why: I would never willingly leave my son, ever.) But, all that being said, I am not likely to go through and have self-fulfilling misery-filled prophecies anymore. I’m likely to look up and go, “Wow, I’m happy right this second,” and marvel at the truth of the statement. (Yes, I do have moments like this. I don’t blog about them or FB post about them often, but they do happen.) As a teen and even into my early twenties, I didn’t have moments like that. But, I do now and I’m grateful for those moments. I’m also grateful that I found paganism in the first place because, to be perfectly frank, if I had stuck out with my atheism shtick, I probably would be dead by now.