Monday, September 22, 2014

Filters That Distort


This post is a very personal reflection on depression, spiritual abuse, and filters through which we process information and interactions with others. It is not a critique of how people engage online or in person, nor of anyone else's spiritual journey, theology, or behaviors. My experiences should not be universalized and should not be used in an attempt to silence or critique others.

I’ve been feeling really depressed lately.
Oh GREAT! Another blog post talking about depression. Another crybaby looking for sympathy. Another white dudebro complaining about how hard life is for him. BOO HOO. WANK WANK.
Be that as it may, if I can’t be honest and vulnerable about my own personal and spiritual journey, what’s the point writing and sharing anything at all?
You don’t get it though: your pain doesn’t matter. Jesus doesn’t love YOU; you are too privileged. He came to save those who are oppressed, not those who already have easy access to power. Sure, you may be gay, but let’s be honest. In terms of oppression, white gay men are the least oppressed of all oppressed groups. Hell, straight white women are more oppressed than gay white men. So fuck you and your "pain."
Why I do tell myself these things? Why do I filter every direct criticism—and every criticism toward anyone that looks like me—into a criticism of my worth as a human being? Why am I so threatened, personally, by even indirect criticism?
Because you are used to being coddled in society as a white male, and any threat to your power means that you will feel threatened. Embrace the discomfort, you asshole.
I actually think that is true. But I think there are two other reasons at play; for me, anyway.

The first reason is that I suffer from depression. I hate to admit it, because it sounds like an excuse. But it’s true. I’ve been taking medication for depression for over 20 years. I now take two separate pills for depression and another pill for anxiety. I’ve experimented with not taking the pills, and the results have been bad. Physically, it feels like a thick, heavy sludge of hopelessness.

Even when I take the medication daily, the heavy sludge comes and goes. When it comes, I don’t know how to get rid of it except to just wait it out. The sludge is sitting there right now.
OK fine, you’re depressed. So are people who have had to struggle against so much more than YOU. People who don’t have access to healthcare like you do. People who have no supportive family or friends to help them through. You don’t get a cookie for admitting your mental illness. Shut up about your own problems and get to work in the Kingdom of God, you piece of shit.
The second reason is that I’ve suffered years of subtle spiritual abuse. Now, to be clear, I have a loving family who never, ever abused me spiritually, physically, mentally, sexually, or otherwise. Spiritual abuse occured because of the systems in which I grew up—the Christian churches and schools and universities and workplaces. I heard the message loud and clear: you are not OK. I heard and internalized this message even before I knew I was gay.

To make things more complicated, I was both blessed and cursed with an especially keen sense of what other people wanted. This awareness became my coping mechanism. Using this awareness, I shaped my thoughts and actions to match up to what I thought was expected of me. I was a quick learner. The more I got the affirmation, the more I craved it. I was more “OK” when I received that affirmation, so I molded my thoughts and actions to match up to those who were willing to give the affirmation.

Coming out was the most subversive and courageous thing I’ve ever done in my life, because it went against every coping instinct I had. It opened the door to a journey of healing and wholeness. That journey is taking me to a place where being OK, despite criticism and non-affirmation, is possible. It’s allowing me to dive deeper and find my true self, instead of hiding behind the masks that I manufactured according to others’ specifications.

Unfortunately, I’m far from there. I’m still coping. I’m still manufacturing masks. I’m still threatened by criticism.
Of course you are. Another idiot male threatened by criticism. You’re just using these arguments to garner pity for yourself. But you know what? You don’t deserve pity. You don’t deserve being loved and affirmed. White men are loved and affirmed every day for merely existing. Just shut the hell up.
And I’m still haunted by voices. Today, though, as I try to make sense of and integrate a Christianity that is focused on social justice, the voices use different words. They have different priorities and expectations. Unfortunately, the voices still sound the same—and the thick, heavy sludge is still there.

I know these aren’t the real voices. The voices I hear and the things I read are filtered through my experience, my pain, and—yes—my mental illness. I understand this from a cognitive distance. It doesn’t help the way I feel. And at this point, I don’t know what to do about it.

No comments: