exmormon, mormonism

God is My Oxygen…

I work with people who struggle with mental illness and addiction.  In one of my groups this week, one of my clients who has struggled with addiction for most of her life was talking about the difficulty of trying to stay sober everyday.  She has almost 30 days clean and she talked about how sometimes she will go into the place where they hold AA and NA meetings and she won’t leave all day long because if she walks out the door she will use. She has come a long way in the short time she’s been in our program and she said something that really stuck with me this week. She said, “My worst days sober are still so much better than my best days using”.  I think that I could relate to that because, although I have never been addicted to drugs, I have lived in a world where I had an addiction and I was filled with despair and hopelessness. My addiction was cutting, and the despair and hopelessness was fueled by the knowledge that I would never be good enough.

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I cut for the first time when I was in 6th grade.  I remember the day very clearly.  It was a Saturday, I had a friend who had spent the night on Friday night and sometime late Saturday morning she went home.  I had gotten in a fight with my mom, I don’t remember what we fought about but this wasn’t an uncommon thing.  I was stubborn (still am) and liked to do things my own way (still do).  After the fight with my mom, I called and talked on the phone with my friend about wanting to kill myself, she didn’t believe me.  I don’t think I believed me either.  I had to clean the kitchen that day, I was cleaning the kitchen and washing dishes, I took an kitchen knife and slid it across my wrist.  It hurt.  It was just a scratch.  I did it again, another scratch.  The cuts were very superficial, barely breaking the skin, but it was my secret, something I had control over.  When I went to school on Monday I showed my friends.  They were worried and scared. They showed me a lot of attention and told me how important I was to them.  I liked the attention. It fueled my desire to do it more.

It didn’t take long for this to be how I coped with everything.  My mom used a straight razor to cut my dad’s hair.  I conveniently would take 1 or 2 out of the box and keep them with me or hide them in my dresser drawers.  I had one with me at all times.  When something would go wrong in my life, no matter how small, it became an excuse to cut. Bad grade on a test, cut; fight with friends, cut; woke up in a bad mood, cut.  It wasn’t long before it became old with my friends and they weren’t giving me that attention I wanted, so I kept cutting and didn’t say anything.  It still felt like it gave me a sense of power and control in my life I didn’t have anywhere else.

At times when I felt like things were really bad, fights with my mom, fights with my friends, I couldn’t wait to get home and get out my razor blade and cut. I craved putting the razor to my skin.  I craved the sens of release that would come when the blood would start flowing.  I would have times I would black out and not remember cutting. I rarely cut in nice uniform rows, most often they were chaotic.  I would just run the razor blade over my skin over and over every which way, no order, not caring, it was a release of emotion.  And then, I would have an emotional crash, and I would sleep.

This was my life day in and day out.  The smallest things would push my buttons and I would have a reason to cut and I would find a reason or make a reason.  I would manipulate situations and people so I would have a reason to cut. I didn’t know any other way to cope and I didn’t understand the emotions I was feeling.  As I got older and into high school I became more and more hopeless.  The secret I was hiding about my cutting, ugly scars that were materializing all over my body, and the shame and guilt that was building within was fueled by daily seminary lessons on living a life of morality.  Weekly Sunday school lessons and young women’s teachings about integrity, faith, accountability, living by church standards, and dying inside because I really didn’t know how to do these things.  I wasn’t made to be this way.  I knew with every fiber of my being I would NEVER measure up to the standards that were set for me.

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I tired and tried every day to be the person I was “supposed” to be.  I tried so hard, I read the Book of Mormon, and tried to understand and feel something.  I didn’t, I thought “There must be something wrong with me.”  Every time I tried harder it would drive me deeper and deeper into depression.

I was so lost and alone.  I was so broken, I had no sense of who I was or where I belonged.  The harder I tried to draw near to this god that my religion taught me about the more broken and hurt I felt.  Who was I? Why would God want me?  I had no desire to be the person that the Mormon church taught me I should be. I remember being in high school and laying in my bed and truly feeling hopeless.  I remember thinking “I will never be enough.  I can never do enough, so why even try?”  I know that it is only by the grace of God that I made it to where I am today.  If God had not put Brian in my life in high school I’m not sure I would have made it.

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Just after Brian and I started attending a Christian church, God began to do a lot of healing in our lives.  We became pregnant with child 3.  This was one of the points that was leading us to divorce.  Brian didn’t want any more kids.  I did.  It was a topic that wasn’t even up for discussion, and although I became pregnant earlier than we had planed, we were excited.  When I was 7 months pregnant I tore my meniscus. In high school I had torn my ACL and never had it repaired.  So at 8 months pregnant, I had knee surgery.  Before Christ this would have caused me to have a mental break down and sent me into a tail spin. I would have felt worthless and hopeless and that I couldn’t do anything right.  Kassidy was 3 1/2 weeks early but completely healthy.  My knee surgery went well. I didn’t cut.  When Kassidy was about a year old we found out we were pregnant again. I did go into a bit of a tail spin with that.  We didn’t plan to have any more children.  Being pregnant with Kassidy was hard on my body and I had toxemia.  But Brian was my rock and reminded me that God was in control and we just needed to trust Him.  I became very sick, my blood pressure was so high they had to deliver Aspen 2 months early.  I didn’t blame myself or have a break down.  I handled this time in my life well.  Especially for being someone who struggled with depression and coped with life by cutting.

Within the next 4 years there were many more struggles and major life changes that in the past would send me into a compete mental break down.  It is only by the true grace of God that I am alive today.  Things sill go wrong.  I still have struggles.  Sometimes it is the smallest things that I struggle with but I always remember that God is in control, I am already forgiven, and I am enough.  If I keep my focus on Christ then no matter what is thrown my way I can manage.  John 10:10 NLT says “The thief’s purpose is to steal, kill, and destroy. My purpose is to give them a rich and satisfying life.”  It is Satan that fuels my fire when I am having struggles.   When I trust in God and remember He is in control it doesn’t make the hard times go away but it makes them a lot easier to manage.

Every time I think back to where I came from and where I am today, I am truly in awe.  God’s hand print is on my life.  There is no way I would be here if it weren’t for God wanting me here. I still get overwhelmed with life sometimes.  This week the littlest of things have been my struggle.  I dropped my phone in the toilet.  I have lost my wallet. I have some things at work I’m struggling with and some things in my personal life I’m working through.  And this week God took my Love, My rock the thing that is tangible away from me and I had to stop and really pause and rely on God.  Brian had training out of town this week and although I talked to him on the phone, it was hard.  Remember, I threw my phone in the toilet, my communication with Brian was limited because I didn’t have MY phone.  We couldn’t text or talk like we normally do.  What amazes me is the same thing 15 years ago would have caused me to have a complete break down.  I would have cut, binged and purged, and made him feel guilty about being out of town for his job and having a good time. I am so grateful that God has brought me to place where HE is my rock, my sanctuary, my refuge.  God is my safe place.

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I’m just a small town girl… Living in the world.  My hardest days with Christ are far better than my best days with out Him!

LDS, mormonism

An Empty Frame is Also Worth 1,000 Words…

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=JGYjKR69M6U

I gave my blog a new look this week!  I’m pretty excited about the look because I feel like it’s more me.  You can now find me by googling justasmalltowngirldotdotdot.com.  I also made some changes, you no longer need to login or have an account on WordPress to leave a comment or like my blog.  I also made it so it can also be anonymous. You can leave a comment without leaving a name or email.  I’d love to hear from you.

This week I want to give a shout out to my Journey Family!!  I couldn’t do this without your love and support.  I also want to give a shout out to the friends I have in the community who support me despite our differences.  Your love and support mean more than you’ll ever know!

Since walking away from Mormonism, I have talked to many people, some from childhood and some I’ve met along my journey who have thanked me for speaking out, for having the courage to do what they didn’t.  I have also spoken to many who don’t really believe in Mormonism but it’s easier to stay and live a lie than to walk away and live with the shame and disappointment from family and friends. To most,happiness doesn’t matter.  I’ve had many people tell me, “You must’ve just had some bad experiences”.  And while that may be true, those bad experiences set me on a path to find truth, which lead me to true happiness and contentment I would have never found in the Mormon church.

Living in a small town where 99.8% of the kids in school are LDS, where 95% of the people you work with are LDS, where in every aspect of your world you are surrounded by Mormon people, and in order to feel like you are a part of the community, you conform. And on top of it all your family is Mormon.  You do what everyone else is doing because it is easier, and Mormon’s aren’t bad people, they have good morals, and do a lot of good things. I have heard this many times.  It is a more common theme than you would ever realize. It’s so easy to justify.

To me it is so sad that people who don’t believe in Mormonism choose to stay.  They are willing to sacrifice themselves to fit in, to not be judged.  I completely understand this.  When Brian and I walked away, we weren’t broadcasting our new found beliefs.  I often struggled.  I would look around the church we were attending at the time and see families.  I would see Mom’s with their grown daughters and sisters worshiping God together.  It was so sad to me because I felt this would never happen for me. But I knew that I was happier, life was better, and I was doing what God wanted me to do.  At some point I felt God told me I would have a family that would worship with me.  He has delivered on his promise and I enjoy worshiping with my family and knowing my children walk in truth.

 

When you grow up in a Mormon family and live in a Mormon community, it’s hard to know that there is anything else out there.  Growing up I thought there were basically 2 religions, Mormon because that was the world I lived in, and Catholic because that’s what I saw on TV.  I have a lot of frustration toward my parents at times because I had the amazing blessing of growing up within 1 mile of both sets of my grandparents.  I had one set of grandparents who were LDS and one set who weren’t.  We spent a lot of time at my Mormon grandparents home and with that side of the family.  I remember thinking that my other set of grandparents must not be very good people because, “they drink coffee.”  I struggle with this because it wasn’t until a few years after we left Mormonism that we ran into them at the grocery store one Sunday and we told them we had left the Mormon church.  My grandma told me they had been praying for all of us our whole lives and they were grateful that we had found the truth.  It wasn’t until then that I realized that they were Christian.  I spent all of my childhood not knowing my grandparents who lived less than a mile from my home, mostly because they had a different belief system.   Shortly after we became believers in the true Christ, my grandparents sold their home and began traveling the country.  My grandpa became one of my biggest supporters, biggest prayer warriors and I knew I could count on him to support me when it came to the struggles I had with my family.  My grandpa passed away in 2012, but during the time that he was alive I truly learned what a man of God was by his example.  It’s hard to think that I thought he might be a bad person because he drank coffee (I now love coffee).

But I think the biggest kicker is, Mormon’s believe in family.  It is one of their best promises.  They teach that families can be “together forever”.  This is one of the hardest things I struggled with.  Growing up I was taught that family is important.  I spent a lot of time with cousins, aunts & uncles, and my LDS grandparents.  We celebrated every event and occasion.  I am grateful for those memories and the traditions that came along with those experiences.  I have tried to carry on the importance of family with my own children.  When my kids were little it was important to me that they were able to spend time with their grandparents and family on both sides.  My side of the family continues the tradition of finding a reason to celebrate anything and everything. But the idea of a “forever family” is a facade.  In my parents home hangs a picture of the local temple and surrounding the temple are family pictures of all of my siblings.  There is an empty picture frame on the wall for my family. That is by my choice.  When my sister asked me for a family picture, she didn’t tell me what it was for.  When I saw what she wanted my picture for I told her I wasn’t comfortable with that because it was portraying a picture that wasn’t real.  So, the picture fame still sits on the wall, empty.  I feel like this is very representative of my relationship with my family and the LDS church.

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Because Brain and I have walked away from the LDS church, and we have raised our children up as Christians, there is a disconnect with my family.  It took many years before I was comfortable to even talk about that I believed something different, and when they would ask me about it, I would get upset and defensive.  I believe that’s because I was still a new Christian and didn’t know how to express or defend my beliefs.  My kids have always enjoyed spending time with their cousins and have never felt “less than” around them and I appreciate that.  But it’s a struggle for me to spend time with my family.  We can’t have a conversation about God.  I see them struggle with things and my heart breaks because I know if they would just accept the gift of grace. as it is with no strings attached, it would be life changing.  And yet, I continue to watch them struggle and hurt.

I have lost a lot over the years because I walked away from the core belief system of my childhood.  But I have gained so much more.  Back when I was a new Christian and I struggled watching families worship together, God told me I would have a family that worships with me. I have seen that.  I have an amazing husband and 4 amazing kids who know and believe in God and know the true message of the Gospel of Christ.  They don’t live a life where they believe they have to do enough or be good enough for me or for God.  They understand they are already there.  The biggest thing I have gained is GRACE,  I have done so many things wrong in my life.  I continue to have days when I struggle, or am not the person God wants me to be.  But at the end of the day, when I talk with my Creator, with God, My Father, I know that I am already forgiven.  I don’t have to do anything, except try again tomorrow.  The gift of grace has lead to so many other things, joy, peace, and contentment.  I have a church family that I wouldn’t be able to survive without.  It is a true blessing to call them family.  I have a marriage that has been healed and restored.  And I have me.  The true, raw, 100% version of me that God created.  I don’t have to pretend.  I don’t have to put on a mask or be fake.  I get to be real.  And I know no matter what God loves me and accepts me just the way He created me.

Why do people stay in Mormonism even when they don’t believe it?  They stay because they want to belong, and they don’t, the Mormon church does a great job at making you feel like you can’t belong with out them.  Recently, one of the leaders of the LDS asked, “If you leave the church where will you go?”  The answer is simple.  Jesus!! Jesus offers everything you need and He is enough. You don’t have to believe the lie that no one will accept you, you won’t be happy, or that there isn’t a God.

I walked away from Mormonism and I did receive backlash from former friends and family at times.  Walking away has created a strain on family relationships, friendships, and at times made things difficult for my kids.  But I wouldn’t trade any of it for my relationship with Jesus.  A picture may be worth 1,000 words but so is an empty picture frame.  I’m just a small town girl…living in a Mormon world.

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