Tuesday, July 30, 2013

The power & the glory of hope, WITHOUT a God

I was suicidal twice in my life.

The first was when I was 10 years old or so, and had realized just how screwed up my family was:  an alcoholic, emotionally-abusive, narcissist, paranoid, cheating Dad who couldn't hold a job and lost money hand-over-fist, and a mother who silently tolerated - and, therefore, approved - all of it. I saw no future for myself. I had no idea how a person really became an astronaut or a writer or an actress, I thought I was doomed to have to work in my Dad's business du jour (he talked about me doing so), and I knew I wasn't pretty. Life had no hope, no possibilities for happiness. What stopped me? My sister. I had a plan for how to off myself all set, but when I really thought about the consequences for of her, of how it might affect her later in life, I couldn't do it. The idea of harming her with my own action repulsed me on every level - isn't that what my parents had done to me? I decided, instead, I'd move away some day and just disappear, as far as they were concerned. Which, indeed, is kind of what happened... day-to-day, it was books and this new-fangled "cable TV" thing showing old movies and TV shows I'd never heard of but delighted every part of me that got me through it.

The second time was when I was away at university. I was 19, with the same family situation at home, but now, I had committed some colossal mistakes that I don't want to detail here, and the pain was overwhelming. I lost a lot of friends over my situation - nothing cleans out the play pen like someone being seen as a "loser" or a "downer." I was desperate for the pain to stop. What stopped me from offing myself that second time? I was in a play at the time, and felt that I needed to finish it - I'd seen what happened when someone dropped out of a play a week before opening, and there was no way I was going to do that to my fellow actors. The idea of them hating me mortified me. Once the play was over, I was in a different place emotionally - things were still painful, but some great friends I didn't realize I had in my life, along with some new friends, got me through it.

Religion played no role in helping me in either of those occasions. None. God was no where to be found. I looked for him when I was a child and facing those demons: I prayed, I begged, I pleaded, I went to church and Vacation Bible School and even got baptized, hoping to get some help. None came. Instead, it was reasoning and thinking and considering the consequences of my acts that got me through that pain. By the second time, I had embraced the term agnostic, and though I would have been totally open to the idea of some kind of divine intervention to help me, none came; my resiliency came from hard work on my part, and those friends I hadn't realized were so wonderful until my time of need.

I haven't been suicidal since. Even when I was diagnosed with clinical depression in my early 30s, following the suicide of my father and getting dumped and betrayed by a person I had thought I would marry, I wasn't suicidal. I was down - oh, how I was down! But I never thought about suicide as a good or desired option. What changed? Part of it is that I have worked very hard to design and sustain a life for myself where exposure to toxic people is kept to a minimum. Instead, life has lots of healthy moments that I work regularly to create - I always have a dream to pursue, large or small. I celebrate good times, even just really happy moments. If a relationship isn't going well, I think about it, I analyze why it is, I think about what I can and can't do about the situation, I think about what I want to change, and sometimes I have to change, and sometimes, I have to walk away.

I listen to music I love, go to see movies when I want, read voraciously, sing in my house, in my car, in my yard, always have a dog in the household, have catnip on the back porch to attract neighborhood cats, work in my garden, ride a motorcycle, travel, and laugh and laugh with my husband. I make time to do all that. I create strategies so that I can guarantee those things happen. I don't wait for things to change magically, I don't hope for divine intervention, and therefore, I'm never, ever disappointed that Jesus has decided yet again not to help out - because I left that desire to believe back in my early teen years. There's a freedom and a comfort and a universe of possibilities and hope that I never, ever had when I was trying to believe in God.

In short, I taught myself to hope and to look for opportunities and choices to help make things better. I mourn what I lose, but also consider the new options a clean slate or an empty page brings me. I experience pain, but I also know that I have means to lesson that pain. I have power and hope I never had when I was trying to believe in God.

If you are hurting, get help: start by talking with your doctor. If you don't have health insurance coverage, contact your county's mental health department, or even just the health department, and ask what mental health services are available for someone experiencing whatever it is you are experiencing: depression, drug or alcohol abuse, addiction, compulsive behavior, etc. Look online for support groups in your area addressing your circumstances. If part of the reason you are hurting is your financial situation, look online for nonprofit financial counseling in your area (your credit union may have classes). Go to the library and read books that address your situation as well. Walk, every day.

You do have options. You can teach yourself to hope.

No comments:

Post a Comment