Sunday, September 5, 2010

Leaving the church can only lead to sorrow.

I struggle with this one because I struggle with depression.  I think that most ex-mormons I've encountered will freely claim that they are happier out of the church than they ever were in it.  I too make that claim, even when I am in the midst of a deep depression.  But, I would imagine that it sounds disingenuous to my friends and family who see that I've been prone to bouts of depression since I left the church.  I fear that my depression may serve to strengthen the testimonies of LDS friends and family who think that this teaching about leaving the church bringing certain grief is confirmed by my experience.  Add to this the tendency of members to hide all things imperfect, to deny doubt and unhappiness and portray the picture of harmony and peace and joy.  So, the member perspective is that everyone in the church is happy and every family is loving and everyone who leaves is miserable and I am the misery poster child.

But, let us step back a bit.  I started struggling with chronic clinical depression late in my teens/early twenties.  I also left the church in my early twenties.  But, correlation does not equal causation.   Late teens and twenties are a very common age-of-onset for such depression.  Many people who had happy, healthy childhoods struggle with depression later when they are in these challenging phases in life, figuring out who they are, what they believe, what they want and trying to build the lives and futures that suit them.  It's not easy being a young adult.  Doubly so when you are coming to the realization that you've lost your faith, or as in my case, finally just accepting that you never had it to begin with, and now you have to completely rebuild your conception of the world and how you are going to move through it.  Mormonism is all-consuming with rules about everything from how you dress, how you eat, how you wear your hair, how you dance, entertainment you should and shouldn't enjoy, how you get married, and how/when to have sex and children. Just when all of the things I was told my whole life to shoot for (my prescribed goals: temple marriage, motherhood, selfless service to family and church and utter religious devotion) were meant to be happening for me, they suddenly become part of a big lie.  One that I could no longer tolerate.  I had to accept that the prescribed life I had struggled to accept was never going to make me happy.  So, yeah, that all added to my anxiety and depression.

I also wonder if intellect is a contributing factor.  I'm a firm believer in the old addage "ignorance is bliss".  It requires a significant amount of intellectual fortitude to question everything you've ever been taught (kudos to all of us).  So, I wonder if many of us who leave come to do so only because we are "burdened" with enough intellect and natural skepticism to question, read beyond the sanctioned materials, and consider evidence and other hypotheses with truly open minds.  Those eternal optimists who accept everything they are told are destined (pardon the term) to be happier, right? The people who stay are the happy, unquestioning ones and the ones who leave are the skeptics and cynics?

Please understand me.  I struggle with depression.  I believe that in my case, my depression is tightly linked with my intellectual, inquisitive, introverted nature.  I THINK constantly.  I struggle every moment to make sense of the world around me.  And it is a STRUGGLE.  It would be much easier to accept what I'm spoon fed and move on.  But, I couldn't even if I wanted to because my brain simply won't allow it.  It is mentally and emotionally exhausting to question everything.  But, I don't have a choice in the matter.  I can't control the questions and they won't be ignored.  I am also a firm believer in the phrase "nagging doubt".  The same intellectual, inquisitive, introverted, contemplative nature that makes me prone to depression led me out of the "bondage" (I believe that, too) of a prescribed Mormon life.  I couldn't be happier for that and I wouldn't change for anything.  Leaving the church was the greatest gift I have ever given to myself.  It was the freedom to be who I am, rather than accept what I was told about myself, the freedom to accept and embrace my shortcomings and flaws, and the permission to pursue my own path. That is true happiness, even if it does lead me through occasional periods of "darkness", for I always emerge stronger and with a better understanding of myself, what I want, and where I am going.


  1. Hang in there sugar. I know JUST what you mean and I, for one, will gladly take the depression from time to time over the ignorant bliss. I will also take the Wellbutrin, but that's neither here nor there. :)


  2. I too have a testimony of Wellbutrin. And Ambien and Lorazepam. And cake.

  3. Let's not forget chocolate! And Amaretto!

    It's pretty common for highly intelligent people to suffer from depression (or bipolar disorder, even). I've seen plenty of depression among TBM's; they just try hard to hide it from the public (read: "Ward family"), because the response from fellow hive members would be that he or she must be doing something "wrong" or not studying scripture enough, or not SERVING enough. That was always a big one: you won't notice your depression/sadness/anger/disconent, etc. if you "lose" yourself in service. Barf!

    I agree, though: those who can unquestioningly conform to the hive and live in "ignorant bliss" seem, and may be, less prone to depression. But we can't *really* know, because again, so many of them hide it. Case in point: an old ward friend of mine JUST found out that her own MOTHER has been suffering from depression and anxiety for the past 35 years! Talk about hiding it...her own family couldn't even see it. Mind blowing.

  4. Yeah, but, I "gotta stop mixing alcohol with pharmaceuticals." :-)

  5. Oh, damn. I think that's why i refuse to take pharmaceuticals.