No Longer Religious

I’m on a quest to improve myself.

For about 6 months now, I’ve been struggling with my connection to my past.  I was dating a girl, whom I am no longer seeing, and the nature of our relationship was forcing me to address many things about my religion that I’ve sealed off in a box in the corner of my mind.  There were some painful memories hidden in that box for obvious reason, but plenty of happy ones were stored there as well. 

Skip to the present, and I’m finding it much harder to deal with the issues of my past than I had expected.  I’ve found that in the last 5 years or so, I’ve begun to disassociate from my religious upbringing, and for the longest time, I just assumed it was a phase.  Now I’m beginning to understand that I no longer wish to live the life I was taught to live.  This has brought me to try to understand my life, and I’ve found some marvelous tools to help me with this. 

The first is that I’m seeing a therapist.  I’ve only just begun, so it doesn’t seem like I’ve really been progressing with her, but I’m being patient and completely believe in the process. 

The second, the most recent, and the most influential, is a book called “Leaving the Fold,” by Marlene Winell, Ph.D.  Its a “Guide for Former Fundamentalists and Others Leaving Their Religion,” and I’ve found it invaluable.  I hadn’t really defined my upbringing as “fundamentalist” before reading this book, always finding a way to separate my religiosity from “those other crazy Jews,” you know, the Charedi.  Turns out, I was exposed to a lot of that as a child, and especially during my year in Israel, when I was 18.

The third is that I have an older brother who is on a similar path, although definitely different, and he and I have been able to talk about these kinds of issues on a deep level for some time now. We usually tend to talk about how we’re upsetting our parents with every step we take on this journey.  Its very helpful having each other’s support, where we don’t have our parents’.

I’ve discovered that I was taught to believe many dysfunctional things about myself that to this day I struggle with, and as I’m only near the beginning of this process, I’m learning that there are many more that I’m unaware of. 

I have a low trust in myself, my emotions, my thoughts.  I’m constantly worried that I don’t have what it takes to thrive in this world, though I will admit that I have a good sense that I can at least survive.  I don’t like letting people into my life, and though I have some close friends, I’d say that we all share that same aversion to deep emotion, and we’re united in that front. 

In this time of self-discovery, I’ve learned that some of these beliefs I have about myself were enforced by my religion, some by my family, some by my community, some by my friends, and most of them by a combination of all of these. While I did go though a period of blame, mostly at my parents, I am now in a place where I’m ready to destroy those unhelpful beliefs, and replace them with positive beliefs. 

Dr. Winell has done a fantastic job in her book of expressing that it can be done and how.  I have not yet finished the book, but I’m working through it on my own time.  And by “on my own time” I mean that I’m pretty frantically trying to figure out “all the answers” to my life’s questions as quickly as possible.

I’ve also recently self-diagnosed myself with mild depression.  I found myself reading books (“Let’s Pretend This Never Happened” by Jenny Lawson), watching movies (Demolition), and listening to podcasts (The Hilarious World of Depression) and being able to relate to characters with depression, and that is what got me started questioning whether I was depressed or not.  I took an online quiz and scored a 10 out of 27.  Meaning, its possible I have depression, but maybe not. I also did the same thing to see if I had an eating disorder, and I pretty much got the same response. I clearly have dysfunctional eating habits, and it could be a disorder, but also it might not be. 

This has been a pattern with me, and I’m finding being in the middle a very difficult place to be.  Its the same thing with my fundamentalist upbringing: My Rabbi was fundamentalist, and his teachings were fundamentalist, but his congregation was not.  My parents started out not fundamentalist, and became more and more fundamentalist as I was growing up, so I was only partially growing up with it.  And even then, they weren’t completely fundamentalist, just in some things.  And in Dr. Winell’s book, she addresses Christian fundamentalism, and doesn’t even mention Jewish fundamentalism, so I’m having to adapt certain concepts, and see if they apply to me.  And some do, and some don’t, and most fall in between.

I feel guilty for complaining that I don’t have it as bad as others, that I don’t have clean labels, but it does make it more difficult to express myself.  I feel responsible for making sure I’m not just looking for pity, because if my issues aren’t full blown disorders, that could mean that I might be able to take care of my issues by myself, or maybe just with limited help.  But, I don’t want to just “shake it off” and realize years later that I actually broke my finger, and if I had gotten it taken care of sooner, it would have healed in a healthy way (true story).

Also, my brother has just started reading the book.  We’re meeting for coffee today, and I can only guess at what we’ll talk about. 🙂

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4 thoughts on “No Longer Religious

  1. Pingback: Grief after Losing Religion | Quest To Improve

  2. Welcome to the world of blogging. Sounds like you have many things you are trying to straighten out, or figure out, just like the rest of us here. I go to therapy twice a week. I go every Monday to one therapist and every Friday to another therapist. I believe if everyone went to therapy, this would be a much better world. I have a very long list of chronic physical illnesses and Generalized anxiety, Major depressive disorder, ADHD, and PTSD. So, it takes 2 to handle me and all my crap. I was raised Catholic, but I veered away from that religion. I still believe the basics, that most religions believe or similar, but I don’t feel I need to sit in a church to do what I need to do. We found a non denominational church that we like, but I don’t feel the need to go there every week. At least when we do, we actually enjoy it. I’m more of a spiritual person these days. I find meditation helps me a lot with everything. I meditate at least twice a day and sometimes up to even 10 times or more… I’ve been blogging for almost 4 years, next month. I find it to be very therapeutic. It’s a place where I can get whatever it is, out of my head and there’s always, always someone here to listen and not judge. You’ll find encouragement here. You’ll find inspiration here. You’ll find many people that are going through the same things as you. Then there are those blogs purely for entertainment, of which I enjoy, as well. I look forward to following your blog. Take care. Peace out! 🙂

    Liked by 1 person

    • Thanks for taking the time to comment! I spent some time on your blog, and it’s very brave of you to be so honest about your struggles. I’m sad to hear about all the deaths and illnesses in your life, but it sounds like you’re finding a way to cope. I’m really not a poetry kind of person, as it seems to me you really have to be in touch with your emotions to be able to read or write it, but I’ve always been envious of people who could. I’m working on understanding my emotions though, so maybe some time in the near future I’ll be able to write some poetry I’m proud of.
      Thanks for showing your solidarity!

      Liked by 1 person

      • Thank you for your kind words. When I started this blog I didn’t even enjoy writing, let alone know how to write. I didn’t start out with poetry, but one day I wrote a poem and seemed to enjoy it. I do mostly write poems now, but not always.
        Just stick with it and keep writing. This is what I do…I have a stack of spiral notebooks. Every time I have a good line cross my mind or an idea about something, I jot it down. I even sleep with my notebook and a pencil or pen because it seems my best rights and ideas are running around in my head at night when I’m supposed to be sleeping . So, I’m always grabbing my paper and jotting it down. I do this always…Then eventually I have enough to go on to start writing a post and I find that once I get started, it just flows freely…..So, don’t give up…..if I can do it, trust me, anyone can do it….You can do anything you set your mind to…..ANYTHING…….I always hated writing, seriously……but a therapist suggested I give it a try…..I ignored her for awhile, but she kept bringing it up, so I have in and tried it, knowing I would be a failure. Knowing I would make a fool out of myself, but for some reason, people claimed they liked what I was writing about…They were probably just trying to be kind….but hey, I fell for it and kept at it. I do believe I’ve improved greatly. I wouldn’t consider myself any kind of great writer or anything like that, but I now enjoy it and that’s the only reason I keep doing it, and because of all the amazing people I’ve met all across the globe…that’s actually the best part if it….It’s not a contest. So, I hope to see you around and be reading what you’re writing. Keep swimming….:) take care and PEACE OUT!!:)

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