Panic attacks at church

My husband went alone to his family’s church’s easter program last night.

I went last year, and we took the boys, and before they were acting up badly, I was having a panic attack. We left pretty early on in the program. I couldn’t handle being in a church, hearing the songs, it was all too much. This was when I was still trying to be a christian, albeit a liberal one.

That was one of the last times I have been in a church. I went once more to my inlaws’ church this summer, for family night of VBS. We had spent the day with my mother in law, and then went to church for the service and dinner. But the boys were acting up and we had to leave. I was kind of glad to go, honestly. It was very difficult watching all those indoctrinated children, lined up and spitting back out songs and lessons like they’d been brainwashed. Knowing that they were taught not to listen to their doubts, I was nauseated. This was after I became an agnostic.

The next to last time I’ve been in a church was to see Rachel Held Evans speak, right around a year ago, at a church I’d never been to in my hometown. This was during my brief stint as a ‘none’, but while I was still hoping to become a Christian again.
As if being in a church without Luke wasn’t stressful enough, i had forgotten my cell phone, and Luke had dropped me off. I wasn’t sure he would know when to pick me up, without me texting him to say it was over. Forgetting my cell phone made me feel trapped and lost. My panic mounted until Rachel got up to speak. She was a great speaker and distracted me from my panic. But then she was done. I stood there feeling sick as people mingled, until I finally got up the courage to ask a lady, if the church had a phone i could use. She kindly led me to it and walked away.

I tried dialing, but couldn’t get through. I remembered you probably had to dial a number before the call to get outside the church’s network of phones. At least that’s what my old church was like. I was trying to figure it out when another older church lady came up. She seemed offended that i was using the phone. She asked me what number I was dialing and i told her and she insisted it was a long distance number. I don’t know. She griped and fussed about it being a long distance number, instead of helping me figure out how to get the call to go through. I was so triggered by being griped at, i felt like i was suffocating, and i was about to have a total break down.

I mumbled something like ‘I’m sorry, i have to leave’, practically ran out of the building, and collapsed on the sidewalk sobbing and very embarrassed. Just then, Luke drove up to get me. I ran into the car. Because of my panic attack, I hadn’t even got to say hi to RHE.

And that was one of the last times I have ever been in a church. I’m not eager to go back. It seems I can’t be in a church building without feeling like i’m suffocating.

I know many people find comfort in church, in sermons and in songs, but it all just gives me nightmares.

Seriously, when we went to my husband’s family’s church, with their weekly invitationals after the sermons, I used to have recurring nightmares about the floor tilting really steeply, and I was sliding away from my seat towards the front, grabbing on to the legs of the pews for dear life, trying to catch hold of something. I felt like the earth was trying to open up and swallow me.

My difficulties being in church are not new to being an apostate. I used to get sick – now I recognize it as a symptom of depression and stress – every Sunday and Wednesday. We went to church faithfully anyways. I was unhappy there but learned to swallow it back and pretend like everything was fine. I think I’ve been unsettled in church for well over a decade, even through the years that I was totally on fire for God. I tried and tried to be happy at church, until the day I finally quit.

I can’t even go in a church now, without having a panic attack. I’m not sure I’ll ever be back.



a sad but excellently written post about emotional incest, abuse, and patriarchy.

Originally posted on onestepbehindonestepahead:

“It wasn’t just Dad.” I hear my realization of just over a year ago echoed in the voice of my younger sister today. The idea that our dad was abusive is long past established and worked through. The idea that he was one of many, and that his ideology is culturally embraced, not a broken deviation? That’s news. “Is it even possible to be a Christian, a Homeschooler, and not be an abuser?” And so the next miserable leg of the journey through brokenness begins for her as it did for me.

The news about Doug Phillips is everywhere this week. I’m used to this type of thing: my world is full of horrible stories about organizations I deeply love and respect being outed as nothing like I thought. The safe places in my childhood were the horror stories of people I now know and love. The pockets of past…

View original 1,137 more words

Five Reasons Conflating Mental Illness with Demon Possession Hurts People

Conflating demon possession with ‘madness’ hurts people.

That may sound harsh, but this is a real problem. I have been hurt by this in the past, and in the present, and others have too. When people talk about an (apparently) mentally ill person and say ‘He was definitely demon possessed’ that hurts me as a person with a mental illness. When people tell the Bible story about the ‘madman’ with demons, when they use that word ‘mad’, they are saying that the mentally ill person has demons. I have never heard this Bible story told with a caveat that mental illness often has a biological cause. I have, however, heard it told to prove that mental illness is caused by demons.

Here are five reasons you shouldn’t use the word ‘madness’ when talking about demon possession, or imply or say that mental illness is caused by demon possession.

Reason 1) It keeps people from getting help. Who, especially a Christian, would seek help for mental issues if they know it will be attributed to demons? I was in denial about my depression for years because of the teaching that mental illness is caused by demons. Further, I didn’t get help for my panic attacks because I believed they were caused by demonic presence and would go away if I prayed enough.

Reason 2) It ‘others’ and dehumanizes mentally ill people, by making them out to be possessed by absolute evil, instead of treating them as regular humans who happen to have a sickness.

Reason 3) It ignores the physical reasons for mental illness, and the social reasons, such as past trauma or abuse.

Reason 4) It takes stigma to a whole new level. Again, we’re confusing a chemical imbalance in the brain, or a misfiring of neural pathways, with the person being possessed by entirely evil beings. Anything bad you can say about stigmatizing mental illness, you can say about this concept.

Reason 5) It prevents us from trying to understand the person. It’s a conversation ender that keeps us from looking further into the person and why they think and act the way they do.

I want people to stop using words that mean mental illness to mean demon possession. I want people to stop assuming demon possession when the far likelier explanation is mental illness. I want people to be more careful how they talk about mental illness. I want people to be aware that 1/5 americans suffer from mental illness, and 1 in 20 of americans suffer so much that it adversely affects their lives at work, at school, and at home. I want people to realize that they NEED to be careful how they talk about it, because chances are good that a mentally ill person is listening. In a room with 100 people, it is statistically likely that 20 of those are dealing with some form of mental illness, and that 5 people have a severe case of it. Those people need to feel safe and like they will be treated as humans, they need to be listened to, they need to be loved, they need to feel safe enough to seek treatment. They do not need to be made to feel as though they are infected with utter evil.



“Doubts are the Devil whispering in your ear,” she told him, when he wanted to know how he could be sure that the Gospel was true. “I have doubts too, you just have to tell the devil to go away.”

He was just a little boy. I wasn’t there, I only heard about it after, when she bragged about it online – just doing the Lord’s work. And sometimes it seems that the Lord does want you to believe blindly – Jesus chastized Thomas for wanting to put his fingers in the nail holes in his hands before he’d believe. Jesus seemed upset that Thomas ‘only’ believed after seeing. But why should he have believed what was highly improbable, without evidence? I’m sure he wanted it to be true, but he knew that didn’t make it true.

Elsewhere in the Bible, however, such as in the story of the paralyzed man who was lowered into a building through the roof, Jesus DID offer evidence to believe in him. He healed the man to prove that he had power to forgive sins. So even Jesus doesn’t expect everyone to believe in him without reason all the time. I think we owe it to ourselves to know why we believe what we believe.

I wish I could tell the little boy, doubts mean your brain is working. Doubts mean you are thinking critically. Doubts mean you are less likely to be taken in by lies and ‘vain philosophies’.
Always listen to your doubts. Investigate them. To listen without doubting is to risk wasting your life on something that isn’t true.

To push away doubts un-investigated is to be willfully blind. If something is true, won’t it stand up to scrutiny?

Treasure your doubts, treasure your ability to reason things out for yourself.

Doubt away little boy – figure out the truth for yourself. Don’t believe something just because a grown up tells it to you.
Read a lot of books, look at a lot of evidence, and never ever stop asking questions.

The Greatest Story Ever Told?

“Has it got any sports in it?”

“Are you kidding? Fencing. Fighting. Torture. Revenge. Giants. Monsters. Chases. Escapes. True love. Miracles.”

~ The Princess Bride

Growing up, I always thought the Gospel was the greatest story ever told, that it had all the elements of a brilliant, epic hero tale. That it was THE hero story, and THE romance story.

God makes people, God loves people, people turn away, God (or God’s son) becomes a man to save the people, he dies for the people, the people become the Bride of Christ, and in the end Christ would return with a sword and conquer evil and bring the Bride home to Heaven.  Everyone, everyone who mattered anyways, would live happily ever after.

When I left the faith, I genuinely wanted to keep believing that the Gospel was a great story. That  even though it wasn’t true, it was up there among the great stories of the world. Maybe I thought that would help redeem some of my childhood. Maybe I wanted the common ground with Christians. However, last Easter, while a very new agnostic, I watched part of the easter program (it was too triggering and my kids were too poorly behaved for me to watch the whole thing), and realized I couldn’t honestly call the story of Jesus a great story. I don’t find the gospel story beautiful – i find it highly problematic. It’s a story of damnation as much as much as of salvation.

The reason the human race needs saved is because sin was passed down from Adam. Here is hypocrisy, because the Law (Dueteronomy 24:16) clearly states that children should not be put to death for the sins of the father, and yet all of mankind is doomed to die – an eternal death if mainstream evangelicalism is to be believed – because of the sin of one man.

And what was the sin? Eating the fruit of the Tree of Knowledge of Good and Evil. God wanted man to be kept ignorant, and the serpent persuaded them to eat the fruit.

“The mind of the discerning acquires knowledge, and the ear of the wise seeks it.” Proverbs 18:15
I’ve never quite understood how Eve’s quest for knowledge was a bad thing.

But at any rate, she and Adam ate the fruit, thereby dooming all their offspring for eternity – except if they can be saved.

And of course, Jesus comes to be the savior. But only for those who truly believe. And the way is narrow, and few shall find it. So this happy ending encompasses very little of humanity. Most of humanity is going to burn in hell and be eaten by worms forever. And we’re supposed to rejoice? This is the best happy ending God could come up with?

I know Christians have answers as to why people deserve hell for refusing the gift, but frankly those answers fall flat. NO ONE deserves eternal torture for disobedience. No one.

Then comes the salvation plan itself – God actually sacrifices his son. God OWNS the son and can sacrifice him. Children are property in that world. He doesn’t even have the decency to keep watch over his son, as he lets his son take on the sin of the world. No, he turns his face away because God can’t look on sin.

At church, I have often heard people marvel at God’s goodness in sacrificing his son. “I couldn’t do it” they would say in awe, as though if they were really loving, they would kill their child to save the world. This frightens me. I have a hard time honoring anyone who (hypocritically, I might add) practices child sacrifice. How is God the hero in this story?

So in the end, the Hero comes on a faulty premise and (again, if mainstream evangelicals are to be believed) saves only a fraction of who he comes to save, and the orchestrator of the whole thing sacrifices his child’s life to himself.

I can’t like that story. I don’t even want to like that story anymore. I watched and read the story with a foreigner’s eyes last year, and it was not beautiful to me.
I appreciate the contribution that the Bible has made to literature, and I think it’s worth reading just because it’s such a major part of our culture.  But I don’t think it stands above all the other stories of its time. And more importantly, I believe people have used it to do a great deal of damage. They use it to bash homosexuals, they use it to teach children that they are dirt and inherently broken and evil, they’ve used it to condone slavery, they’ve used it to slaughter jewish people, they’ve used it to take over countries, they’ve used it to damage relationships and tear down people and abuse children. And none of this is okay.

I usually try to be charitable towards Christianity. I know many Christians who are liberal minded people. I love many Christians who are kind hearted. But right now all I can feel is anger at how this story has destroyed so many lives, and at how it’s affected my own life. There is good in Christianity, but there is also the ugly, and people need to acknowledge that.

This Easter, which used to be a spring festival and has been co opted by this bloody holiday, I will celebrate by acknowledging the harm done in my life in the name of the Gospel, and I will leave it behind again and again, until I can see myself as beautiful, and not inherently broken. This is my spring festival – a new life for myself.

Why I Don’t Like Everything My Husband Likes

Luke likes this British TV show called Spaced. Don’t ask me how he even finds some of the stuff he watches ;)

So he excitedly had me watch an episode of Spaced. I like to enjoy the things that he enjoys.

But I really did not enjoy this show. I thought it was weird, and it stressed me out for some weird reason. I’m really sensitive to media and careful about what I take in.

Once upon a time, i would have felt really bad and tried really hard to like it. But I don’t feel that way any more.

Luke is his own person, and I am my own person. Even though we are married to each other, we retain our own likes, dislikes, hobbies, and personalities.

I used to feel like being married meant my entire personality was subject to Luke’s likes and dislikes. I thought I could only have hobbies that benefited the family, that I could only enjoy things if they were enjoyed with Luke, that as my ‘lord’, he was supposed to absorb my entire being.

I went to church even though it made me physically ill, I ran errands for his role in a play that I didn’t want him to take, I dreamed of one day starting a home business with him, so I could help him with it. I did my best to be a perfect helpmeet. And I was happy. Sort of.

I was still me, and Luke wanted me to be myself, but there was a very real part of me that I lost in him. I had zero boundaries.

Then Luke lost his job as a magazine editor (and i lost my very part time job helping him edit once a month), and got a relatively normal desk job.

And he really liked it, and didn’t forsee quitting to start his own business any time soon. And I felt so lost. How could I be the perfect help meet if he had a desk job that I could barely understand and couldn’t help with at all?

He had, at that time, no hobbies for me to help with, no friends for me to encourage him to go out with… I felt purposeless.

And so I have slowly had to get myself back, to learn that absolute submission does not allow for healthy boundaries, and to learn how to be a person in a marriage while still being myself.

And that is why I said ‘no thank-you, I don’t think I will watch any more Spaced’. So he watches Spaced and British horror movies on his own, and I watch Dance Academy on my own, and I write my blog and he writes what he wants, and together we talk over things and watch Doctor Who. I listen to music he finds but if I don’t like it, I tell him so.
He works and I go to college and keep the kids during the day, and I read books just to learn, to become a smarter and more self-actualized version of myself.

Our marriage is no less healthy for me being a person with boundaries, in fact I think it’s only getting better.

God’s Not Dead – a roundup of posts

I have not yet seen God’s Not Dead, but I have read many posts about it, and wanted to pass some of them on.

How ‘God’s Not Dead’ Gets Nietzsche Wrong - by Justin Hanvey. an explanation of what Nietzsche actually meant when he wrote ‘God is Dead’. As many people have been posting ‘God’s Not Dead’ on facebook lately, I have been greatly annoyed that none of them seem to understand the quote they’re playing off of.

A review by Christopher Hutton – God’s Not Dead (but this film may be close to it) - there are spoilers aplenty in this detailed review of the movie.

And finally, Dan Fincke at Camels with Hammers wrote one post about the movie based on the trailer, and 3 more after it came out. I love his thoughts on the movie because he is a deconverted christian and a real life atheist philosophy professor.

The Atheist Philosophy Professor Strikes Back! (Or, “You’re Right, God’s Not Dead, But He Will Be When I’m Done With Him!”) - in which Dan surmises the plot of the movie from the trailer, and criticizes the old trope of the brave student speaking against the evil atheist philosophy professor.

How “God’s Not Dead” Makes Christians Look Even Worse Than It Makes Atheists Look in which Dan writes his first thoughts on the movie, and on how inhuman it makes some christians look.

A Philosophy Professor Analyzes God’s Not Dead’s Case For God - this is the one I wish I could share with all the christians who liked this movie. in this post, Dan does so much more than analyzes the case for God, he analyzes most of the movie, including it’s portrayal of all non-christians, and he makes the case that the filmmakers have some massive logs in their eyes. This is very long but worth a read.

Final Thoughts Inspired by “God’s Not Dead”: What Makes Some Evangelicals So Intolerable - and in his final post inspired by the movie, Dan delivers a hard hitting demand that Christians have good reasons for their beliefs, and not depend on sincerity to be enough to save them from criticism.

Have you seen other informative or thoughtful posts about God’s Not dead? have you written about it? If so, please share in the comments below