You Oughta Know

Strangely, my last post has been getting a lot of traffic–since published, 4300 people have viewed it (with and additional 1200 views of other blog posts). I told you that my dad’s church was big! This has been quite unexpected. My usual readership per post is anywhere between 10-100 people. When I started the blog, one day I had 400 people visit, and that was by far my absolute high mark before this post. It has been weird. My blog is, well, confessional, and that’s a lot of people listening to me confess. This wasn’t really the audience I was expecting, and not really the one I had in mind when I wrote. It’s not a problem–at all–just unexpected. It makes me go back and obsessively read it looking not for grammatical mistakes but instead for anywhere I “show too much leg” so to speak. Did I confess something to you, my faithful readers and fellow survivors, that I didn’t intend to broadcast on conservative evangelical radio? Oh well. I posted it, it’s there for everyone to read, and ultimately, I am grateful for the exposure. If one struggling, mentally ill person found my blog because of that post and finds hope or healing, which is always my goal, then my original, simple intention of just sharing my love for my dad with a few readers is moot.

I have a lot of love for my parents and sister. We have always been a strong family unit. I grew up in a really good family. It makes me feel protective of them. I escaped my hometown. Nobody up here knows me or gives a shit who my dad is. It’s pretty awesome for a free-spirit like me. As an adult, I really like being in complete control of my persona. When I lived at home, too many people seemed to have assumptions about me because of who my dad was. I felt compelled to try and be the person others assumed I was. Be happy when you’re supposed to be happy. Be prayerful when you’re supposed to be prayerful. Participate in every church thing. Know the rules and obediently play by them. It wasn’t anything my parents said. It was the unspoken pressure of the crowd, the masses. It was the message I indirectly received. It’s what I thought I had to do to protect and honor my parents. I had to protect this family image that my family seemingly never agreed we’d have.

I don’t do that much anymore. I hate pretending to be something I’m not. The facade I wore as a conservative evangelical youth almost killed me because it made me believe I had to keep my depression and suicidal thoughts a secret. Deep despair and self-loathing didn’t fit the image. So I tried hard to hide it. But I didn’t ignore it. I secretly indulged it. I drew a deep line in the sand between the real, depressed me and the fake, churchy me. I clung closer to my depression as I began to hate the facade I felt forced to wear. Hate it so much. I began to hate every single person who I thought was either responsible for or complicit in my facade. I hated myself because I wore it anyway. I felt like a coward. I also began to hate myself more as the facade became harder to maintain and seemed farther and farther away from the truth.

Everything I said in my post about my dad was honest. But please don’t confuse my deep love and admiration for my genuinely wonderful parent with a full-hearted endorsement of the conservative evangelical community as a whole. If you know me, then you know that that is laughable. I am a political liberal with progressive social and economic values. I believe in love and inclusivity. I believe in equality. There is very little I can imagine that would make me vote for Donald Trump. I will always be an LGBT ally. I believe black lives matter. I am a feminist and totally unashamed to use that word to describe myself. I know it matters very little now, but I am a Bernie Sanders supporter and a democratic socialist.

But I don’t think I have to agree with someone on everything to love him or her deeply. One thing my family has learned through my depression is that God really made us all differently. To me, this shows how multi-faceted God is. If we are all made in his image, then how much understanding must God have–so much more than any one of us. I am NOT into arguing doctrine, and it is not my mission, purpose, or goal to persuade anyone about philosophical right and wrong. If we’re hanging out over a beer and start talking theology or politics, I’m in, but my blog is about acceptance. Acceptance of absolutely everyone who is struggling somehow with mental illness. Having personally felt trapped in a mold and unable to be myself during a difficult time in my life, I want you to know that here you will be loved and accepted for who you are, although I will not tolerate hatefulness toward others here with the same diligence with which I repeatedly beg each of you to treat yourself with love rather than hate.

None of this is news to some of you. But for my new readers, the ones who are here because of my dad, I want you to know what you’re in for if you stick around. To start, you are in for a lot about me–more than you probably want to know. Secondly, you won’t learn that much about my parents or sister here other than good things they have done for me. Like I said earlier, I feel protective of them and want to respect their privacy as much as I can while still being truthful and confessional. Everyone makes mistakes, but, from me concerning my family, you will hear about what I choose to remember and cherish–the good, the sacrifice, the love. Finally, here you will find honesty and sometimes ugliness. Mental illness is messy but you are beautiful. No matter who you are, what you believe, who you vote for, I will be here to support you if you are struggling with depression or caring for a depressed loved one. I will honestly tell you what I have experienced, how I have survived, and how I keep going despite my illness. So many people–my parents first among them–have helped me. The least I can do is share my story so that someone knows that he or she is not alone. You are not the only one who feels empty. You are not the only one weeping. You are not the only one desperate for a way out. I am one of many. I am a fighter, a survivor. You can be, too. I hope you stay and keep reading. I hope you find something useful here. I hope you know, if nothing else, that you are a unique being worthy of love and self-acceptance. Much love, happiness, and health to all of you.

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