Hi everyone, I just got my account approved so I guess I should introduce myself. I've been an atheist for the last 6 or 7 years, and boy it's been fun. *sarcasm*
I was raised by christian parents who were raised in the Catholic church. Before they met and married, a process that took all of 3 months, they both had a period of "falling away" before coming to the Penticostal flavor of crazy. To be specific, the Penticostal Assemblies of Canada.
I remember going to church as early as 3 years old. In the summer of my 3rd year, my older sister of 2 years told me I needed to pray to Jesus to get saved, because I would go to hell. She said that she had prayed in the dirt in the garden because she was filthy before God and needed Jesus to save her. None of that felt right to me, and I told her "No." I guess she told my parents because for months they were very interested in whether I would accept Jesus. So were the pastors at church, and the deacons, and the elders, and the Sunday school teachers, and the little old ladies that pinch your cheeks. It was too much for me, so Christmas morning, a month before my 3rd birthday, I gave the sinners prayer through gritted teeth, angst and bitterness. I just wanted it to be over and have them leave me alone. They were so happy for me, and over time, I became so immersed that I had forgot that I didn't believe.
Fast forward to Christmas eve 2010, and I was praying to god to give me some direction in my life. I was completely lost and feeling hopeless. Alone, tired, and depressed. As I was praying, the memory of that Christmas morning all those years ago came back like it was yesterday. I knew in that moment I was an atheist. It was hard to face, and I hid it from my family for a couple of years. I finally told my parents, and attempted to explain what it was like for me at 3. I felt like I had betrayed my own integrity and lived a lie, and I broke down crying in front of them. My mom was very supportive, my dad, silent. I got an email from my dad the next day saying he didn't appreciate me blaming them for choices I made when I was 3. The relationship went downhill from there.
There are other problems. My parents covered up my sexual abuse at the hands of a baby sitter, at about the same age, between 3 and 4. They prayed to god and he told them to forgive her and let it go, and he would take care of everything. And when I was 17, my dad had left his job as a police officer due to PTSD, depression, and anxiety. He and I fought a lot, and my mom knew he was treating me unfairly. She often tried to step in and reason with him, and that enraged him. After one fight, he got in the car and drove away. No word on where, when, and if he'd be back. He was planning to not come back, but he prayed, and god told him to get my mom in line, as he was the head of the house and she was to submit to his rule. And I was to fall in line too.
So he went home, took her aside in their room, and told her just that. Then they came out and talked with me. My mom looked terrified, and I could hear it in her voice. They told me that I was being selfish and manipulative, and was turning them against each other to get my own selfish way. My mom told me she would no longer stand up for me, and she would stand my my dad's decisions. I felt like I was falling into an abyss, like a black hole opened in my chest and consumed me entirely. I gave up on pursuing girls, career, hobbies and interests, ambition, all of it dissappered. I pondered running away, but decided to stay and finish school.
I left home and largely wandered aimlessly in life, wanting god to show me the way. I found a career I am passionate about, and that I was very interested in back in high school. I had teachers and friends telling me to go be an architect, but I didn't believe in myself. I just wanted to get out of everyone's way and be left alone.
It took me 10 years to find my career after that. Another 10 after that to recognize I was carrying guilt for what was actually my parent's marriage problems that had nothing to do with me. To recognize how angry I was with both my parents, but especially my mom. And hurt, and grieved. And that I've been projecting these feelings onto potential lovers for a long time.
And I've only recently begun to recognize the damage of the sexual abuse and how worse it was because of the cover up. I recently spoke with my little sister about it, and explained why I no longer speak with my parents. She was supportive and understanding. I will soon speak with my older sister about it too. She saw it happen but was powerless to intervene. We have never discussed it after 30+ years. We spoke briefly about it, and she has been so sad for me, and wanting to open the dialogue but not knowing how. I realized after talking with her how much of a false closure my parents had placed over it.
Back when I was 14, my sister had come out about being repeatedly raped by the neighbor/babysitter 5 or 6 years prior. My parents rushed her to the police to press charges and give testimony. I had to give testimony too because he had exposed himself to us. And they took her to doctors and to therapy. In the middle of all this, I came to remember what had happened to me, and asked my parents about it. They treated it as a minor issue, and said if I wanted therapy they would take me, and left it at that. Over the years we have discussed it more, and I've learned more about how they mishandled it. But they never seemed interested in how I was doing or helping me face the trauma.
A couple of years ago I wrote them a detailed letter about the abuse, the after affects, my feelings of anger towards them about how they mishandled it, and said that our relationship was broken. I would only be willing to meet with them at a therapists office to begin to work through all the issues. Their response was brief: "We talked about it at length, we are very sorry, and we love you." I have yet to respond to that.
I am very busy with my work right now, as a building designer and business owner of 10 years. I can afford to pay for my own therapy, and am going in every 2-3 weeks for the past 6 months. I am recovering my identity and my health; I've recently paid almost $2k at the dentist for fillings and extractions. I'm working with a personal trainer to get in shape and eat more healthy. I'm hiring a business consultant to help me propel my business forward. I'm doing well, but still stumbling on a lot of trust issues, self doubt, fear and anxiety, and poor planing and decision making. But I'm moving forward.
I look forward to being part of this group and sharing more of myself and hearing from you all.