Growing up, I was always the “perfect” Mormon girl; Molly if you will. I never swore, never broke commandments, and certainly never thought the church could ever make mistakes. EVER. From the moment I raised my hand in primary when our teach asked, “who wants to go on a mission?” I knew I would serve those 18 months. My 19th birthday rolled around, and off I went.
As I was out serving this mission for the church, my oldest brother (from whom I got my testimony from) fell farther and farther away from the church. In fact, he no longer had anything to do with it and considered himself an Atheist. I was so shocked, so raged at him and what he had decided he didn’t believe anymore, it blinded me into thinking he was the enemy. I went throughout my mission hardly writing him back, using him as a bad example, and never trying to see his side of things.
Upon returning home from my mission, I began to inquire what could have possibly happened to have my brother leave something that he and my entire family held so dear. I had a nice, non-judgmental (on his side) conversation with him about his story. He didn’t go into any detail on the specific things he read or found online that made him question, he just told me the feelings he had that led him to read and see the church from a different angle
A couple months after I was home, I was up at college, fulfilling all of my church duties and being as active as ever. I started to feel out of place and very alone, but I couldn’t figure out why. I spent the entire summer trying to figure out what it was that was making me so miserable. I was reading, praying, going to the temple, but I still didn’t feel good enough. I wasn’t the perfect “RM” that I was supposed to be and that shame and guilt ate at me for months. I was so depressed that I wouldn’t leave my house for weeks on end and found myself sleeping almost 15 hours a day. With the help of really good friends, I was able to start seeing a therapist that helped me to figure out what it was I was feeling. It was obvious that I had depression and anxiety, but to me, it wasn’t obvious where that was stemming from.
As the months continued, I began to realize that this self-loathing, these thoughts of killing myself were all coming from the fact that I was questioning the church. I didn’t feel that I was temple-worthy and that thought was eating me from the inside out. I hadn’t done anything wrong, but I felt that I wasn’t doing anything right.
Around this time, I was called into the stake president’s office to be interviewed. On the phone, the man said that it was for a “check-in” since I had been home from my mission for a while, and also for me to be given a calling. The interview was awkward because I wanted to say that I was questioning the teachings of the church, but I didn’t feel that I could. I felt judged just for saying that I hadn’t been to the temple in a few weeks. I never ended up getting a calling. I must not have been perfect enough.
I hadn’t ever felt so alone. For the first time, I realized that there were a lot of things in the church that I couldn’t agree with and didn’t believe. I felt disgusting for even thinking those thoughts and it turned to hatred for myself. It was a deep kind of hate, a “I hope I never wake up” kind of hate. These led me to self-injurious behaviors just to get out some of the emotion that I felt. It never went away and only got worse until I found myself moments away from killing myself. I would have, too, if it weren’t for concerned friends.
I was able to get on medication for my depression and anxiety and it helped to keep me well enough to stay out of dangerous situations. I would still self-harm just to keep the suicidal thoughts under control, but I was able to function. This lasted for a few months as I was attending therapy and trying to figure out myself.
Fast forward about a half a year, I find myself falling back into those same depressed, scary thoughts. I felt that I wasn’t worthy of God’s love because I didn’t believe in the “one true church.” I couldn’t handle the guilt of the “bad” things I had done, I couldn’t face any of my loved ones because of my shame, and I knew ( well, believed) that the best thing for everyone would be to end it all. I had a plan, I had a time-frame, and I knew I was going to do it. I just had to wait until after work.
The rest of that night seemed like a blur to me. My friends had intervened yet again, but they knew that I would try to do anything and everything to hurt myself. I wasn’t safe. They knew it, but I didn’t. Reluctantly, I found myself at the hospital, being checked in as a patient to the psych ward. I was there for 10 days because I wasn’t well or safe enough to be on my own.
I finally got released after what felt like an eternity. I felt better, but I knew that I had a loooonnng journey ahead. Fast forward 2 months and I’m sitting in this chair writing my story. It feels unreal, but here I am. I made it out of round 2, but I still have to fight.
Leaving the church is never easy; it’s like leaving everything you know behind at points, but that shame and guilt, that self-loathing that you feel will all be made right. You just have to find out who YOU are and what YOU believe. Don’t let anyone tell you how to live your life. If being a member makes you happy, I’m happy for you, but don’t put on that face and pretend to have “pure joy.” That kind of joy is everywhere, not just in the church.
That was a novel and a half, so I’m sorry, but I needed to share this story to help me to understand what it is that I’m feeling, because a lot of the times I still don’t know.
Keep on going and try to make yourself MAKE IT GOOD.