The Gatekeepers

Something I’ve been told a lot as a Christian-turned-atheist is that “If you’re an atheist now you were never truly a Christian.” This never fails to piss me off. Here’s why.

To begin, I’ve already told my story, so I won’t repeat it in detail, but to sum up, I got saved (or whatever phrase you want to use; that’s the one I will) at 5 years old. I have at least one picture of my baptism the first week in October of 2000 for anyone who doesn’t believe I was. I was faithful and I feel I knew quite a lot about the Bible and Christianity in general. Then at 21 I became an atheist because I felt that Christianity just didn’t add up anymore. For anyone playing along, that’s 16 years of being a Christian.

Sitting there saying that I was never a Christian because I’m not now invalidates 16 years of my life. You’re literally telling me ‘Your entire childhood was a lie’. You’re also saying you know more about me than my own parents. The people who raised me. You’re claiming you know me better than the people who literally gave me life.

You can say all you want to that all atheists are the same. We aren’t. You can say you know my story but you don’t. So don’t pretend to.


Things to Never Say to an Atheist

I just recently let my atheistic worldview become public. I’ve gotten quite a few interesting responses to the idea of me deconverting. Here are a few that I absolutely hated with my explanation on why you should never ever say them.

  1. You can be a Christian and be mad at God. I’m not mad at God. I don’t believe in God.
  2. You’ve clearly been hurt by something or someone. This one really gets under my skin. The idea that you only de-convert because you went through something traumatic makes me really angry.
  3. If you’re an atheist, why do you have morals? Really? Really??? You really think that you can only have morals if you see them in some holy book? If that’s the only reason you aren’t going out killing people and robbing stores, you need to have a serious examination of your own priorities.
  4. You just don’t want to listen to and obey God. You realize what atheism is, right? Lack of belief in God. Listening to and obeying God is, in my opinion, the same as listening to and obeying Zeus or Ra.
  5. I’ll pray you see the truth. Okay? Saying you’ll pray for me isn’t comforting to me because I don’t believe in the power of prayer.
  6. Have you really thought about it? Have you? I was raised in a Christian household where all I ever learned at home was a Christian worldview. That was my childhood. Do you really think I would have decided to completely turn away from that without putting thought into it?

    There are 6. If I come up with more I will add and reshare.

    The Crippling Reality of Depression

    Recently, I saw a post on Facebook from a girl talking about how depression hinders her and makes it seem like she’s lazy when she’s not. I almost cried because I thought that I was the only one affected like that. She mentions that she hadn’t brushed her teeth in a week. She hadn’t brushed her hair in a month. I never realized the true extent of the damage depression does. But now I do. And I feel like everyone needs to know.

    Full disclosure: I don’t brush my teeth twice a day. I’m lucky if I do it once a day most of the time. I can’t keep a clean room (let alone my entire apartment!) for more than a couple of days. I constantly have dirty laundry, dirty dishes, an unmade bed, unkempt hair, etc. I don’t shave very often. I don’t brush my hair all the time. I often forget deodorant. Why? Weariness. I don’t mean to forget. I don’t mean to walk around looking like a homeless person. I don’t intend to forget to do my laundry or leave dirty dishes laying in the sink. I just get…too…weary, I guess. All I ever want to do is lay around and do nothing. I’m always tired. I don’t like being lazy. In fact, I hate myself for it. It’s easy to tell someone who looks lazy to ‘just do it’. You think I don’t want to? I want to function like a regular adult. I’m 22 years old. There is no reason to be this way. I should be able to act like a normal adult…right?


    Depression is a harsh mistress. At best, you have a few good days where you don’t feel the need to lay around and cry all day. Then you have days that you spend mostly just…existing. You’re still weary, you’re still weak, but you aren’t having a mental breakdown. Then there are the days you’ll not only feel worn out from the moment you get up to the moment you go to sleep, but you’ll have a rough day emotionally, which drains you further.

    I moved out on my own for the first time almost exactly three months ago. Ever since, I’ve not been able to keep my apartment clean for a single day. I don’t want it to be messy, I just don’t have the energy to clean it. When it DOES get clean, it’s because one or both of my parents come over and help. It’s a two-hour process we do about once a month. It makes me hate myself even more that I have to have Mommy and Daddy come help me clean at 22.

    That’s the thing with depression–it’s crippling. It’s not me being lazy and shirking my responsibilities because I feel entitled and lazy. I genuinely don’t have the energy to try. I wish I did. I cry over it. A lot. I’m crying right now because I know I’m not strong enough to be the person I want to be.

    If you struggle with depression, don’t think you’re alone if you can’t manage to leave your room some days, not even to get up and function like a normal person your age. Don’t feel like you’re less of a person. You’re not. You’re stronger than you’ll ever know. Just being able to acknowledge that you want to do it makes you stronger than most people. I’m not saying you shouldn’t try. But if you’re trying and it doesn’t seem to be helping, don’t feel like you’re inferior because of it. Reach out to someone. People who love you will try (and maybe succeed) to understand.

    I know this was really personal and for once that was intentional. I want to show that if you feel like this, you’re not the only one. And you can talk to me if you want. I get it. I understand what it’s like. And for the first time in a very long time, thanks to the Facebook post, I feel less alone than before. I hope this makes someone feel that.

    Secrets (Work in Progress)

    I’ve got very few secrets. I’m usually an open book. I rarely keep anything to myself and when I do, it’s because it’s not my secret to tell.

    But I do have a few. Some things are best left unsaid. I have things I don’t like talking about. Last Monday was my first day of my Criminal Justice class. My professor asked the class to introduce ourselves and say something we’ve never told anyone before. I, for the first time in awhile, had something—the fact that I’m extroverted and egocentric is an effort to mask and defeat my insecurities. Until then I’d never told anyone that. Until now only they and my mom knew—and my mom only found out a few days ago. Now I’m putting it out there. It’s one of my last secrets.

    I’m a very open person. I figure if I’m open and honest then people know the kind of person I am before they get too attached to me. Plus in some cases, such as my rocky past, I know it could help whoever I’m talking to get through a rough time. Not to mention it helps feed my self confidence and makes me feel better about myself.

    Nobody seems to notice how embarrassed/hurt I get when someone points out my flaws. I get that it’s important, but I’m still very insecure. I don’t know how to take criticism. The English class I took last fall was the first time I was able to get past that. I’m still a work in progress, but I’m getting there.

    From burning passion to burning ashes: a true story of love and loss

    This is the story about me and the guy I was in a long-term, long-distance-like relationship with. It’s long, and it’s emotional. I’m not giving away the ending, though the title of this post might be a clue. I don’t know how long it’ll take me to finish this post. I’m mostly over it, but occasionally it still hurts to talk about. I changed his name to protect his privacy.

    When I was about to start my freshman year of high school, I moved back to my original hometown after a 4-year absence. I was upset at first, but I quickly got over it once it happened. I moved back on May 29th, 2009. I had several crushes over the course of that summer and the school year. I was a bit boy-crazy. I’d had a crush on a guy named Tyler from sometime in November of 2009. My mom had mentioned that we had a few things in common and I remember being at a bonfire with my (now former) church youth group and seeing him for the first time. He wasn’t hard to notice–the main reason my mom had even mentioned him to me is because we were the only two kids in the group to wear hats during youth group. I stayed away from him because I didn’t know what to say. I’m not even sure that we spoke to each other until January, when I invited him to come with me and my dad to a local university’s planetarium for my birthday the next month. I realize now how suspicious that must’ve looked, but it was my mom’s suggestion to invite him, not mine (though I was hoping she’d recommend it). Anyway, he came with me and I think he enjoyed it. There wasn’t a whole lot of communication between us for awhile, but I invited him to see me in a school play in April. He was a big theatre geek and came to the final showing. I got his phone number just before so that I could contact him if anything changed. I was super excited about this. I didn’t text him for awhile, but it felt nice to know that I could whenever I wanted to.

    On Easter of that year, I noticed that he’d answered a question on an app called Social Interview (it’s no longer a thing, so don’t bother looking) that asked if he knew who he wanted to or planned to marry. He responded that he was pretty sure he had an idea, but didn’t elaborate. I had this hope somewhere in me that he was talking about me, but I doubted it. I later found out he WAS talking about me.

    May 7th, 2010 was the first time we really talked. We had a big Capture the Flag tournament for the high school youth and any friends we wanted to bring. Tyler sat down right beside me before the event started and we chatted at length. I don’t remember what we talked about, but the fact that we talked at all was good enough for me. We spent a lot of time together–even when he was caught and sent to ‘jail’, I joined him (even though I DIDN’T get caught) and kept talking with him.

    Despite this, I didn’t text him any time other than if I had an excuse. I didn’t text him just to chat; I would only text if I needed something of some sort. Finally, on May 22, 2010, I texted ‘hey’ while at a car wash fundraiser for the mission trip to Seattle the following month. He responded a little while later and we talked for a bit. We considered ourselves best friends, and we finally outright acknowledged that later in the week.

    On May 26th, we texted for awhile after church. The night before, I made him promise not to fall for me, as it could jeopardize our friendship, and when he did I felt I could accept that and keep our relationship totally platonic. Well, that all changed the next night. Somehow the topic of our feelings for each other came up. I told him that up until the night before I did have romantic feelings for him, but I’d accepted that we’d remain friends and nothing more. He admitted he’d had feelings too. I proceeded to ask if he still did. He admitted that he did, and I realized I still had feelings for him, but I was trying to stifle them because I didn’t think it’d work out. Now that it was possible it COULD work out, I gave up on denying what I felt. We tried to keep it quiet and wait to start a relationship, since he wasn’t allowed to have a girlfriend until college and that was two years away. We held out for 3 days. Less than 3, actually, since we pronounced our feelings on Wednesday night and started our relationship on Saturday afternoon. We didn’t want to wait until we saw each other again the following Wednesday (he was going to be absent from church that Sunday), so he ‘asked me out’ via text. I’m not even sure how the conversation went exactly, or what time it happened.

    We mostly kept it under wraps for a couple of weeks. My parents knew because shortly thereafter my mom confiscated my phone at night so I would get plenty of sleep the nights before finals. I think they suspected it, because at that time my mom had my passwords to my internet accounts and found a suspicious email in my inbox a few days prior, where Tyler and I had a correspondence the day after we established how we felt, which mentioned that something incriminating was said, though neither of us elaborated. Plus, it wasn’t exactly a secret that I had a thing for him. However, she told me that she wouldn’t pass word on to his parents. Other than the secrecy, we had a good relationship for those days. We saw each other in youth group, and when the group would go volunteer somewhere we would sit together in the van and hold hands. It was nice.

    Then we got caught. In a conversation with his mom two days prior, I admitted to having a crush on him, but made sure she knew that I accepted that we’d be just friends. She didn’t believe that, so she would occasionally log into his Facebook account to see if we began talking about anything. He took to checking if his mom was online before we started chatting. We got caught that Wednesday because, while she wasn’t on when we first started talking, she logged in mid-convo and found out everything. We were formulating a plan to meet up before church that night and spend some time together. We didn’t explicitly say what we were planning to do, but I think the worst thing was a kiss on the cheek. We planned everything to the last detail…and his mom saw the entire thing. When I signed off, he sent me one text asking what I had in mind for that night, then nothing for the rest of the afternoon.

    He was promptly grounded. When I found out, I snapped. I will swear to my grave that I was never the same again. Anyway, we didn’t break up and when we were on our mission trip in Seattle a week later, we hung out as a couple. When my mom found out from the leader assigned to my group–the one leader who hates me–that we’d been doing that, she promptly grounded me and told Tyler’s mom everything she knew so she wouldn’t be ‘blindsided’ again. At this point, he gets so far grounded that his Facebook was completely deactivated. I was unfriended at this point, but I wasn’t allowed to check my Facebook anyway so it didn’t really matter. Sometimes if my mom left hers up and went to take a shower or get ready to go somewhere I’d go over to the computer and go Facebook creeping, which is how I found out about Tyler’s account being deactivated.

    July of 2010 was the longest month of my life. I was totally miserable. I got my phone on rare occasions, but only if I sneaked it away from my mom. His birthday just happened to fall on a Monday that month, and he volunteered at the zoo on Mondays and Wednesdays, during which time he was allowed to have his cell phone. My mom had left my phone sitting out that morning, and I put it on the charger. I don’t remember if I thought about it before I put the phone on the charger or after, but she went to church to set up for VBS, which was later in the month, and, knowing he’d be having his lunch break I took the time to text him to tell him happy birthday and that I loved him. We talked for an hour or so before he had to go. It was the highlight of the month, I think, as I pretty much didn’t see him at all for the rest of it, since he went with his parents to church for that time.

    August was a little better. He got back his phone and internet privileges back, so we could text, though we still had to keep it on the DL. Near the end of the month, I started cutting as punishment for everything I’d been doing. I felt at fault for Tyler’s hardships and felt like if not for me he’d be better off. I got a bit suicidal and told him that.

    On September 8th, 2010, we ended up getting caught. Again. This time, his dad texted me immediately to tell me to leave him alone because I’d ‘wreaked enough havoc on his life’. Later, he called my dad to tell him everything. Apparently Tyler had told him that I was to blame and told him I was cutting and made me look like a complete psycho. I did not take it that well.

    The rest of the year was miserable. We left the church in December and the last time I saw him before leaving, he kissed me, then disappeared for fear of being seen with me again. It hurt to see him go, but it felt so good to feel his lips on mine again.

    Early 2011 was hell. I kept getting sent home for suicide threats. It all came to a head in February, when I was reported by two teachers and ended up in a mental hospital. Tyler didn’t know until May, on our 1-year anniversary. We barely talked for awhile after that, except on his birthday that July.

    Finally, that fall we talked almost as much as when we first got together. We still didn’t get to see each other, but we talked on Skype a few times. I was working on my school’s radio station and we got to hear each other’s voices when his family wasn’t home.

    In December of that year, he wrote me a poem while I was on a church retreat. It was sweet and never failed to make me cry. I even kept it on my Kindle.

    January 11th, 2012, I decided to date a guy from church who had a crush on me. It was a mistake that I wish I wouldn’t have made. Tyler and I were already having problems, but this first breakup jump started our relationship’s failure.

    A few weeks later, Tyler and I were planning to rendezvous at a concert being held nearby. I broke it off with the other guy and met up with him. We shared some quiet moments together, enjoying each other’s presence. A friend of his rushed him off to their seats and I never got to be with him again. I cried. A lot.

    A month or so later, I was still feeling something for the guy from church and on March 25th, I made another mistake—I kissed him. I felt bad, so I confessed to Tyler and he went ballistic. We broke up the next day, this time for good. I don’t consider it cheating, but Tyler told me that even though our reunion was unofficial it was more official than I was giving it credit for. I didn’t take it well.

    We tried being friends a few times, but it didn’t work out. Finally, late that December (I believe the 28th or 29th), after we had some time to heal, we decided to try being friends again. It was like we’d never dated in the first place. Things were back to how they were before the relationship.

    A month later, he decided to tell me that he was considering reinitiating the relationship. I was elated. We discussed it a couple of times, but a few days later he told me that he didn’t feel that way anymore and wanted to be just friends. Our friendship crashed after that. He told me I was being a jerk about him stringing me along and ended up threatening a restraining order when I tried to fix things.

    The last time we talked, he made it very, VERY clear that he never planned to speak to me again. I’ve seen him a couple of times since then and I never quite got over him until October of last year. I saw him working where I had my birthday lunch this year and while I was a bit shaken up out of surprise, I wasn’t sad.

    If he wanted me back, I’d say no. I can’t deal with that again. I’ve found someone much better and while I don’t regret our relationship (I’ve met hundreds of people as a result of being with him, including someone who’s the reason I quit cutting), I do wish it’d ended on better terms. I just hope that someday he won’t dislike me as much as he does now.


    EDIT: After typing this, I realized that he was very likely using me to get back at his parents for being so strict. A couple days before he dumped me, they told him that they would stay out of our relationship from then on. The timing, added with all the horrible things he said immediately after, makes me think he was using me the entire time.

    The Road Less Traveled

    I shall be telling this with a sigh/Somewhere ages and ages hence/Two roads diverged in a wood, and I/I took the one less traveled by/And that has made all the difference. Robert Frost, The Road Not Taken
    5 years ago next month, I was checked into a mental hospital and diagnosed with bipolar disorder. Soon after that, ADHD. Then, more recently, Asperger’s and anxiety. I’m taking four medications, two in the morning and two at night. I’ve been dealing with it for so long it’s second nature to me to include that in my daily routine. Even my little 8-year-old sister will sometimes ask me if I’ve taken my meds. Everyone in my house has adjusted fairly well.
    But there’s still a big problem that can be summed up in one word–stigma. There’s a huge stigma that’s attached to all mental illnesses and disorders. It’s like people don’t think it can be real because they can’t see it. They think that people who say they have a mental disorder must be doing it for attention. And yes, sometimes people are. But the people who really need help aren’t getting it. Why? Because there’s a stigma attached to mental disorders. Nobody wants to admit it though.
    So what can we, people with MDs do about it? Well, you have two options: hide, or be a voice. If you hide, nobody ever has to know you have it, you can have a normal life and have friends who are normal and you can have some semblance of peace in your life. OR, you can take the road less traveled and speak out for everyone who’s like you. You can make a real difference in the world and maybe someday there will be a cure. And even if you don’t have a mental illness, you can still either ignore the problem or face it head-on. I just hope you’ll do the latter.

    1,000 days

    1,002 days ago, I became an adult.

    1,001 days ago, I took a blade to my skin for the final time.

    1,000 days ago, I had a new beginning. The sky broke open and the sun shone down. And I had renewed hope for the first time in two years.

    983 days ago, my friend made me make that promise that changed my life–the promise to never cut myself again. I vowed to never let him down.

    400 days ago, my mom made a status with how proud she was of me for making it to day 600.

    Today, I learned how much of an inspiration I am and that makes me feel more accomplished than I’ve ever felt in my life.

    And I’ve never felt more proud of myself.