Friday, January 22, 2010

Baptists Shoot Their Wounded

My therapist has been pushing me to write about what is going on in my life. I don't(won't) keep a diary, so this is a close as I will get. My therapist (Sweets after the psychologist on Bones) tells me I should react with anger to what has happened to me in the last year. That I was hurt, but not angry, worries him.

First, some background.  Over a year ago, I was extremely depressed, so I did what seemed the only logical thing to do: I tried to kill myself.  I only failed because a friend found me in time and got me to the hospital. My suicide attempt may have been a side effect of a painkiller that I was taking because a bone in my leg was dying or a result of the depression.  My friends all want the attempt to be from the painkiller.  Since I still have suicidal thoughts I am not so sure the painkiller was the problem.  Certainly, it did not help.  My life had collapsed around me,  I won't go into details, just say they were financial, emotional, and spiritual.

The dying bone has been replaced by metal. I take a powerful anti-depressant. I see Sweets at least monthly. I still find the desire to kill myself there most of the time. For a while, I had reached the point where I wanted to die, but not to kill myself, but my Baptist friends have sent me back to daily suicide contemplation.  I just see no point to my life.  I still believe in God, but I have doubts that the individual's fate in this world matters in God's grand scheme.  I have no doubt that I will go to heaven and I would rather be there than here.

I belong to a moderate Baptist church and have attended the same Sunday School class for over twenty years.  I thought I was part of that group.  I was the most liberal member of the class, but my opinions had always been welcomed and I thought, respected.

The class responded wonderfully to my bone surgery and recuperation.  They bought my groceries for more that two months as I recovered from the surgery.  Of course, I battled the depression and a few friends and a cousin kept a close eye on me.  No one from my class ever mentioned it, even though I had not kept my problem a secret. When my recuperation from the surgery was complete, I received a shock. My help stopped.  I was told that the class would do no more and handed a list of food pantries.  I was so grateful, but stunned at the abrupt withdrawal of support.  I was working some, but not bringing in enough to support myself or my cats.  I believe the fact that I owned a bunch of cats contributed to the desire not to help me.  I was worse off than when I attempted suicide in every way but physical pain.

I saw no way to take care of myself or my cats.  I decided that suicide was still the only answer to my emotional and financial pain.   I would take steps to make sure I was not found in time. I have never felt so alone in my whole life.

A friend called and asked me to lunch.  I don't know what she said at that lunch, but I broke down and told her how bad my circumstances were.  I did not tell her that I was planning suicide.  She responded magnificently, giving me enough money to get on my feet and pay my income tax.  She has continued to be there for me.  The irony is she is an ex-Mormon who attends no church.  My Baptist friends did not even ask how I was doing.

A member of my class did call and said she wanted to help.  She was a trained social worker and said she had contacts that could help.  She promised me that anything I told her would be kept in confidence.  She lied.

I told way too much about what was going on in my life including a brief synopsis of my childhood.  What a fool I was.  I thought if I shared my pain, she would empathize as a fellow Christian.  She told me she just wanted to help.

Her idea of helping was to share my confidences with others.  She enlisted another member of my class, a real estate agent, to sell my house even though I had told her I did not want to sell.  She did all this without asking me.  The first I knew was a phone call telling me that the agent would call to set up a time to sell my home.  I collapsed emotionally.  I told the agent I could not see him.  I stopped going to Sunday School.  Only Sweets stood between me and suicide.

Sweets managed to help me through the darkness, seeing me on a stepped up schedule..  He was more appalled than I was at the lack of integrity by the class member/social worker.  Sweets is a Christian, but not a Baptist.  He helped me work through how Christians could act so badly and abandon you so completely.  He did not urge me to return to that class, but he did not tell me to leave the class. He should not have had to.  I should have known when I was given the list of food pantries that I did not belong there.  I was stupid. I could not face the reality that my "friends" believed I was a sinner who did not deserve help.

After several weeks, I returned to class.  I said nothing to anyone about the hurt I had experienced.  I should have.  Sweets says that is an issue we have to work on.  I just didn't want to be alone.

The class had changed.  Now Southern Baptists dominated it.  The members railed against the minister and staff because they did not espouse the conservative Baptist beliefs.  The class was caught up in intercessory prayer.  They were all becoming "prayer warriors"  I stopped going because the class just made me sad.  No one ever asked how things were going for me.  No one ever asked about my depression.  I never mentioned it either.

Finally, I had a financial crisis.  There was one member of the class that I had known from before we started the church.  He had been through something financially similar to my problems.  I thought he would understand and when I called, he seemed to.  He agreed to keep everything confidential.  We had several conversations and email exchanges.  He told me he had a plan to help me and I believed him.  I received an email to the whole class in which he told them what he was doing and what I had confided.  There went confidentiality.

He did have a plan: tell me in an email about all my failings, how I had procrastinated and that there was little hope for a good outcome.  I would lose my home and not get anything from the equity.  I received the email at eleven at night. At two, I was preparing to kill myself. 

I remembered what my pastor( he's gone now) had said once about suicide years before I ever contemplated suicide.  He said you can always do it the next day. Wait.  So I did.  I sent the email my "friend" had sent me to my cousin with a brief explanation of the circumstance.  The next day my cousin was there, caring and helping.  I saw Sweets two days later. I gave him all the emails I had between my "friend" and I. Sweets was appalled and disgusted with my "friend."  Sweets reminded me that I could call him for help anytime.  There is always someone on call.

Nothing has improved much, but I am hanging in there.  I will almost certainly lose my home.  My friends are all tired of my problems.  I pray, but still feel alone.  My dreams are ashes.  I have no one.  My cousin has had a tragedy in her family and financial setbacks because of the economy.  I do know why the Sunday School class has shunned me.  The tip-off was in that last email.

A true believer would not be depressed.   Depression is a sign that you are weak and a sinner.  If you were in tune with God, you could pray yourself out of such a mood.  While the Sunday School class believes that, I do not.  I know about mental illness because my mother was schizophrenic.  Her church turned her away when she had a psychotic break. I am stunned that fifty years later mine has shunned me.  Sweets assures me I am not psychotic, "just" depressed.  I think he knows that a child of someone with severe mental illness always worries about that.

There is one final chapter.  After Christmas, I received an email sent to all members of the class.  I am still on the email list.  In it, the class thanked the "friend" I had asked for help for all the aid he had given to someone else in our church.  The email went into detail about their prayers for this man, how much money the class had raised for him ($10,000+), and about the vehicle purchased for him as well as the other assistance given.  I would be the first to tell you that this man deserved all the help he received and I would not begrudge him one penny.  My question is why my Sunday School class never thought I deserved help during my year of struggle.  I would have been happy with their prayers.

Sweets told me I should be angry.  He wants me to write a letter to the class.  I am not sure I can.  Sweets says that is what we work on next.

I did remember what  my pastor said referring to how a Baptist church had kicked out of the congregation a recovering alcoholic.  "Baptists shoot their wounded."


Anonymous said...

hi, please know that church and god are two separate things. if the church rejets you, then they never had God's plan in mind to begin with, and they are wrong.

In my humble albeit young opinion there is no such thing as a "true believer." We believe, we doubt, we question and then we believe again. Anyone tells you differently is either lying or simple minded. Please keep searching and looking for a church that will love and accept you. Don't give up because maybe their is a reason God doesn't want you to attend the church who can simply disregard you.

Keep believing,


January Cat said...

My faith in God is intact. I dealt with this issue when I became a Christian in my late 20's. Until then I had been a deist because of the way another church treated my mother when she became mentally ill. That Baptists 50 years later still blame the mentally ill for their sickness turns my stomach. Jesus was the only perfect human. When you have known people 20 years or more, you expect some understanding.