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Unlocked Cage

By Lily D ~

My siblings and I were raised by a father who was brought up as a strict Plymouth Brethren, as well as being paranoid, bipolar in his depression and rage, insulting and verbally abusive, and using the threat of a terrifying God to control and frighten us. My mother was quiet and scared of him and usually seemed to melt into the background.

We attended Baptist, Presbyterian, informal gatherings, Covenant, etc. We switched churches quite a few times due to my father having a "falling out" with people there. The churches were not really all gloom and doom themselves, there was the sense of a loving God, the people were friendly. My dad actually did a pretty good job appearing to fit in as a nice, down to earth, jovial guy. They didn't know how insane and cruel and confusing he could be at home. One minute we were great kids, the next we were so wicked he couldn't look at us. The rants and blaming and yelling could be triggered by any little thing and could last for hours. The image of God I had come to feel inside was very much shaped by his personality. By the time I was a teenager, there was the official sort of Father and Son that was learned in church, but also deep in the psyche there was the version I had shaped from homelife, I stayed out of trouble, didn't smoke, drink, drug, sex, etc., so God felt neutral about me, he wasn't actively furious with me. And I went to church. I wasn't necessarily loved as far as I could tell, but was "safe" enough.

Then at the very end of high school I made a blunder, not very earth-shattering for many (let a boyfriend get more intimate with me than I planned), part of the territory for most teens. But for me it had a terrifying psychological effect. I had fallen out of the "safe" zone in my head. I don't think I even realized until then what a profound effect my indoctrination had on me to my very core. Suddenly I was devastated, I couldn't look at myself the same way any longer, I felt the hate and condemnation of God pressing down on me. Terror, a sense of unforgivability, vivid dreams of frightening spirits surrounding me. By this time I was out of school and working, and all I would want to do is come home from work and sleep to escape the disgusting feeling of dread.

I don't think my mind was able to take much more of this feeling. I still had to go to church with my family and came across a few Christians who were of the very loving, forgiving type, very sweet people. They had a drastically different view of God and Jesus. Not scary, full of compassion. I think this new view, combined with my mind being at some sort of bursting point with all the fear and doom, caused me to manufacture a sort of born again experience, which was absolutely wonderful. It may have been a sort of mania in how intense it was. Every loving, wise, merciful, good, magnificent image of God coming together, magnified by 1000 and personified. I was filled to bursting with such self-generated relief, gratefulness, love. My fear and doom had evaporated. I loved every person I saw. At the time I truly believed God had done this for me. All of the feelings were extremely real, but the source of them? Whatever brain chemistry gone awry that causes people to have hallucinations, euphoria, etc.

But not realizing that, and believing that I was held in the hand of a God that would love me forever, when my body began to come down from this high and plunge the other way into depression, to me it felt as if God's amazing love for me had begun to slowly cool, turn to indifference, and slowly sink back into a condemnation that was worse than where I began. As my feelings had been cooling back down, my doubts as to God's goodness and the reality of my experience began to form, and my depression seemed to make those doubts very dangerous sins. And then in my confusion and vulnerability I let myself get taken in by a very persistent guy I knew was bad news(my now ex), that sealed it, in my head that had been a fatal move, my mind echoed with the certainty that I was now unforgivable.

This is the enormous danger of faith in the invisible, the unprovable. I had no proof that this was true. But neither did I have proof or assurance that it wasn't. All I had were my experience and overwhelming feelings. No person could quell my fears, explain them away. Once a belief is somehow formed and cemented, it can be extremely difficult to change or let go of.

This is the enormous danger of faith in the invisible, the unprovable. I had no proof that this was true. But neither did I have proof or assurance that it wasn't. Eventually when I began looking for other explanations, even finding a checklist of the symptoms of mania, and seeing how many of my experiences and behaviors fit into it, my logical mind could see a connection, but my emotions and this intangible belief would not let go and allow me to consider it, much less accept it. Ideas and beliefs that are fed to you from the very beginning-- it's almost as if they're mixed into the cement that is then poured as the foundation of your mind. You can't just toss them aside, your whole house will begin to shake.

It took me a very long time to get to the point where I can write this. I went back and forth for years. And even in studying the Bible and seeing all the contradictions and knowing with my head that it simply couldn't be "infallible", this belief in my own doom had a grip on me that nothing seemingly could loosen. All the logic I could throw at it I did, yet it held on, even to the point that I was sure it had won, and that I'd never be free of it. This time last year I was a very different person than I am now.

In the end , it wasn't logic that beat it (as I'd hoped), but chemistry. These out of control beliefs were eating up so much of my attention and brainpower that it was getting very difficult to be present in the "real world". The reality in my head seemed more vivid to me much of the time. ADD medications are known more for helping people concentrate than casting out invisible demons and helping to topple mental prisons constructed by twisted religion. But somehow, (I have no idea how, but am so glad it did), taking this stuff to help me focus had the amazing effect of making the horrible sense of doom vanish. 16 years of suffering, and suddenly all the voices of certain destruction and guilt and hopelessness that had encircled my head seemed to quiet down, float away from me, and evaporate into thin air. And suddenly I was much more aware of my physical surroundings and all of the overwhelming mental distractions... just gone. And taking a pill, then seeing all those powerful feelings lose their grip and disappear, it broke the spell for me. How could any of it have been real and true if a little capsule made it vanish?

This past year has been so different from any other year in my adult life. I'm still not sure about a lot of things, it'll probably take me awhile to figure out some new set of beliefs. I think I still hold the image of the wonderfully loving and compassionate God I experienced during my high time, and I wish somehow that was the truth. But if it were, it really couldn't be the Biblical God. There wasn't a trace of jealousy, anger, war-mongering in the spirit of that deity. Nothing but love, mercy, goodness... if such a god did truly exist in reality and not just in imagination, I believe he/she/it would be worth worshipping. But i don't think this deity has a book, at least not one I've read.