When you live with depression and anxiety it can be easy to think religion is just another crutch.
For all intents and purposes ‘religion’ has one of the most tarnished of all multinational brands. With obvious exceptions among the environmentally challenged such as Exxon and BP, ‘religion’ is responsible for some of the world’s most infamous armed conflict, genocide and human abuse.
It’s true that you don’t have to be diagnosed with depression, anxiety or other emotional health issue to feel at times, that life sucks. After all, we all make bad decisions. But what is it that has people turning to religion, with it’s questionable reputation, when bad stuff happens?
In my description of Post Traumatic Stress Disorder (“PTSD”) I raised the possibility that PTSD is triggered by the physiological changes that occur when our self-awareness meets a traumatic experience. As I began to contemplate this further I wondered how our self-awareness impacts other areas of our lives and how we perceive ourselves within our family, community and wider society.
In that, I wondered about the role religion played in helping people find meaning. Or perhaps, it’s how I find meaning?
In order to put some perspective around this I probably need to tell you that I identify with Christianity and routinely attend church. However, in this context I’m lumping all expressions of spirituality and faith together including Christianity. So if you’re a “Worm Worshiping New Age Old Fashioned Church of Bitumen” member that’s okay, I’m including your faith too.
In my westernised experience, our desire for independence and self-sufficiency seems to supersede our desire for familial relationship. We seem to be shaking off our ancestral linage in the belief that we are held back by our genetics. So I wondered if, our misguided acceptance that we can be anything we want (if we just put our mind to it) could be responsible for the growing tendency toward narcissism and as a consequence, debilitating dissatisfaction.
It seems our inability to fulfil our self-belief of ‘being anything’, can only be assuaged by replacing it with something else. Not the material ‘something else’ that’s often used unwittingly as a placebo, but an inner peace and self-fulfilment. If you like, contentment.
If you’ve never been told, or told someone else, to “be yourself”, it’s just possible you’ve been living under a rock! It seems to me that our desire is to be accepted for who we are, however it appears that we believe we can be something we are, errr…, umm…, not!
Did you get that?
You can be anything you want, or desire, or need. However, you should only be who you are. Hmmm?!!
I’m not sure if it’s because I live with depression and anxiety that I tend toward skepticism or because I have the ‘skeptical’ gene. (If you think I’m a skeptic, you should meet my family!!) Or, if it’s something I may have learned through experience (again, you should meet my family!!)
Regardless, I’m skeptical that we (humanity) understand ourselves, let alone the scientific and philosophical concepts behind our existence. And, I’m skeptical because we (humanity) have a tendency to self-interest and as a consequence, fact and fiction have a tendency to morph into ‘faction’ making the truth in matters of existence difficult to discern.
So I go to church not because of it’s reputable brand image but because my value is less likely to be measured by my physical, financial or intellectual ability. (If you attend a church where you are valued for those things – GET OUT NOW!)
(Also, if you attend a church where your sexuality, race, culture, piercings, hairstyle, career, parentage, tattoos or any other lifestyle choice are not respected – GET OUT NOW.)
To put it simply I didn’t turn to ‘religion’ or to the ‘church’ when my life rolled off a cliff. I turned toward the best explanation for why I exist and how, in the face of overwhelming adversity, I would find the strength to avoid suicide.
For me, the Christian Church although flawed, is the best expression of God that I could find. And through it, I can begin to understand being accepted for who I am rather than, for who I’m trying to be.
I simply don’t have enough faith to believe that I exist because I errr… do. And I go to church because I’m committed to (one day) being myself, whoever that is!
Today from Tony Robbins: It is not what we get. But who we become, what we contribute… that gives meaning to our lives.
Deb Shugg is an awarded business woman, wife & mother, author and a sufferer of depression and anxiety..
If you need help to deal with your symptoms see your doctor. If you need to talk to someone NOW call Lifeline on 13 11 14.
(Abuse of another person is NEVER okay. If you are being abused or, if you are an abuser please seek help.)