On losing my religion…

One of my best friends once told me that I am the person she calls when she wants to know whether she is being rational. Whenever I take a personality test, I am fifty/fifty on most traits – except one.  I have an incredibly judging personality.  That does not mean I am evil and judgmental.  It means that when a decision needs to be made I look at the pattern of facts and make a rational decision.

For the last five years of my life I have worked in a research-oriented role.  In my life, I have interviewed over 100 people, conducted over 100 surveys to approximately 10,000 people, and pulled Nielsen (look it up) panel data for the largest cereal producer in the world.  I have then used data from those experiences to help people make decisions.  I have helped companies decide what worker policies to implement, and I have helped a University decide whether to start a degree program.

On the other side of that – I am also a Christian.  Because I am Christian, it means that I believe in God and that God sent his only son to die so that my sins could be redeemed.

We live in a highly rational world.  I know this because – in every job I have ever had I am usually the most rational person in the room.  I seldom make purely emotional decisions.  So the fact that I have such a tremendous faith in God seems strange to many people.

The thing is, and I don’t know how else to say this, I think the idea that people put so much faith is science is completely idiotic.  Sorry to break hearts here, but science and the scientific process are incredibly flawed.  Of course, in a business setting I find the rational thought process better than the “I feel this way” process.  The thing is, I have never worked for a company that did not have data that was somehow flawed.  And I have never worked for a company that has not asked me to lie about my data.  And I have never worked for a company where I have handed someone honest data – only to find it was not used – or it was manipulated.

The scientific process – this rational thing – this thing that people think is SOOOO awesome is – in all of my experience – quite flawed.  This also exists in academia.  I have seen grad students and professors lie about their research in hopes of getting published so they could get jobs or higher positions.  This scientific process will always be flawed because it is run by humans, and human beings are always flawed.

Max Weber is one of my favorite philosophers.  Quite a few decades ago he wrote a lovely piece called “Science as a Vocation.”  The main point of this work was to discuss the ups and downs in life as an academic.  However, in that piece he also discusses two important concepts: rationalism and mysticism.

In society (and I won’t get into the whys –because that is a dissertation) we have come to value rationalizing everything.  By that, I mean we apply the scientific thought process to everything, and thereby try to break down everything in order to understand everything.  We no longer have to wonder “Why is the sky blue?” because science has broken that down.  We no longer have to ask “What causes cancer?” because we have answers to that.

The thing is, once you break down everything you are left with…. Nothing.  For years of my life I was only rational.  I broke down everything.  If you gave me a problem or question I could break it down to its core.  Trust me – I can break it down.  The tragedy of rationalism, is that once you break everything down and are left with nothing, that is what you feel.  You feel nothing inside.  You feel empty.

That emptiness, is where Weber enters in the concept of mysticism.  Weber argues that the only thing capable of filling the emptiness left by rationalism is the mysticism of religion.  Where the scientific thought process breaks down and leaves empty, the mystery of religion fills up and attempts to make whole.

The thing that I get angry about, that I rarely hear people mention, is that rationalism or the scientific thought process came around long after religion.  This means that Buddhism, Hinduism, Islam and Christianity have been rocking around the block long before humans dreamed of this thing called science.  To me, the development of science does not invalidate religion – nor does the longer history of these religions invalidate the beauty of science (I mean – I am a scientist by training).  However, these things must be understood within their development.

The hardest thing I hear from people is the scientific method applied to a religion.  “Well, I just can’t believe in God because I can’t know.”

Well – guess what silly pants – I am in science all day – and if you knew how flawed it was you would not believe in that either.  Further, you are applying a new age thing (well, newer in comparison to most religions) to something mystical that was never meant to be broken down.  If you continue to break down what was meant to be mystical you will never get an answer.

That is where I find my faith.  My God exists at end of a scientific process that cannot be explained.  My God exists in a world where I see how flawed everything is, but how hard we all try.  My God lives and breathes at the end of a rope called the scientific process.  A rope which people tie to a religion, because they do not understand history, and process, and what happens when you lose everything.

For years I was an atheist.  By atheist, I mean I hated all religion.  I hated Christ, Christians, God, Buddha, and anyone who had a faith.  I had put all of my faith into other things.  But then – one day – I lost everything.  Everything I had put all of my faith into was gone.  I lost friends, felt like I’d lost family, felt like I’d lost everything.  Everything I had was gone.  Everything was broken down.  And when it all broke down, all that was left was God.  God was and will always be the one thing I can never explain.  As hard as people want to try, they will never be able to explain God either – and that is the entire point.

On how I cope with this depression…

Sooo…. Here’s the thing….

I do not enjoy or like talking about the depression I have experienced in my life, or that fact that I have tried to kill myself.  Depression and suicide are not simple and easy topics for me to discuss openly, and I still worry about being judged. Also, I usually do not put up blog posts within days of each other.  However, something happened recently.  The same sort of thing happened that caused me to write my first post on depression.

A few days ago, a sweet person I know (pseudo) named Damon had a meal with my husband and I. During that meal we discussed our struggles with depression.  Damon discussed his recent bout with seasonal depression.  My husband (who gave me the okay to write about this) discussed being the first person in his family to openly talk about having and dealing with depression.  I discussed having depression for about fourteen years, and the coping techniques I have learned along the way.

I told my husband I wanted to re-post the entry I had written.  He responded with, “You should write a new one.”  I am writing a new one.  I am not writing it because I particularly want to.  I am writing a new post because for some strange reason God has spared my life.  The love of God has overcome what should have been my death.  To not be thankful for the re-gift of my life and to choose not to share my experience would be selfish.

My first post on depression was in October of last year.  In my first post I mentioned a few things I do to deal with my depression.  I mentioned that I: 1) admit that I have a problem, 2) accept help and 3) understand that I cannot do this alone.
After the conversation with Damon, I wanted to write about other things that I have done throughout my journey with depression*.  Writing this now is hard for me, but whatever… okay…. just go……

First, I have made it through the darkness and come out alive.  The darkest day of my life was the day where I honestly believed that death and nothingness would be better than living.  The weeks that followed my suicide attempt totally sucked.  I was eighteen, scared, alone and terribly sad.  That was almost ten years ago.  I made it.  I overcame my darkest day, and I know throughout the depths of my soul that I can always keep going.  That is how we get through life – the only way – we just keep going.

Second, our society can kind of suck at finding fast help for people with depression – but good help is out there if you look.  A few months ago (before we were married) my husband was looking for a mental health counselor.  He was not suicidal, but just needed help.  We had to call the insurance company once to get a list of covered counselors.  When that list of six didn’t answer, didn’t call back or had no appointments – we had to call the insurance company back to get a second list of people to call.  After we got through the second list a nice guy answered and said he could help.  I would say this experience was an anomaly, but I have been around the depression block and a lag time in finding care seems to be standard.  The good news is, every time I have sought out help – I have found it.  I have never reached out for help and had my hand slapped.  Help is there.  If you need it, you can find it.

Third, it is okay and necessary to reach out to ask for help, but you cannot expect that the person that reaches back can make decisions for your life.  I once saw a counselor when I was feeling suicidal.  Half-way though our session the counselor stopped me mid-sentence to say “You can do this.  You have the power not to hurt yourself.  No one else can do this for you.  Only you.”  Until someone said those words to me, I had never thought them.  I never realized that I did not have to be a victim, I have power over myself and my thinking, and I have the power to make good decisions for myself.
Forth, it is so important to have a good support network.  I wrote about this one before – but it has been my saving grace.  I believe that we experience God through other people, and when I have been down and dumpy – people have been there to help.  Finding a good support network has taken me some time and effort.  Case in point… I use to be (emphasis on use to be) friends with a married couple, where the husband was an aspiring counselor who had never experienced mental illness a day in his life.  Now, I am not saying you need to experience an illness to have sympathy for a person.  But I was talking to the couple about my experience with mental illness and the husband proceeded to dump words and phrases on me that were ignorant, alienating, and altogether just plain shitty.  From that experience, I learned to create a good support network.  I learned the value in picking good friends.  I also learned the value in getting rid of not-so-good friends.

Fifth, it is important to do things for yourself.  After a first counseling session, I once had a counselor say to me, “And what are you doing to feed your soul?”  I was so dumbfounded by the question that I became offended.  That following week I couldn’t get the question out of my head, and I quickly realized… I was doing nothing to feed my soul.  I was doing nothing for myself.  So I made a list of stuff I wanted to do, and I started doing it.  I started baking, I started going to church, I started taking walks, I started a little blog.  Doing things for myself has helped me find value in the person God created me to be.  I don’t need to be better than anyone else, because there are tons of people that are better than me at everything.  I don’t need to be perfect, because that is impossible.  All I need to do is be myself, and feed the gifts God has given to me.

Sixth, I accept the fact that I do not have it all figured out.  I don’t know everything.  I never will know everything.  I have issues that come up all the time.  When they come up, I just go through it and figure it out.  I also accept the fact that change happens in a zigzag.  Every time I have wanted to change a habit, I start off great – then fall back – then get a bit better – then fall back – then do more – then fall back.   Making big changes in my life has rarely happened over night, and sometimes I do okay – then fail.  And whatever, that is okay.  I just keep moving.

Seventh – last – perfectly … it must be said that…. you are loved.  You are loved beyond measure, despite what any person has ever told you.  Despite your faults, your sins, your past or your pain – God loves you.  God will always love you.  There is nothing you can ever do that will destroy that.  The love of God is stronger than anything we can ever imagine or dream.

  •   * This post is about I did and what I have done to cope with my depression.  I am not a counselor or therapist.  I do not have formal training on depression.  If you have depression or a mental illness, I recommend seeing a trained professional first.  I hope that if you need help with depression, you use my words as a voice of someone who has found coping techniques to deal with a tough issue.  Do not use my words as your exclusive medical advice.

On gaining weight…

When I started writing this blog, my intent was to write about things I had noticed were wrong in my life – that I hoped to make right.  My intent was to be honest about struggles I dealt with, and never represent myself as someone who does not have any issues (trust me, I have issues – just like everyone else).  My intent was to forward with the fact that when I have problems I have to find ways to address them – one day at a time.

Each year, when the New Year rings in, millions of people flock to gyms across the country in order to lose weight.  They join Weight Watchers buy Slim Quick.  However, when my New Year rang in I was moving in the opposite direction of weight loss.

The day after we celebrated the New Year, my husband sat me down and had a serious conversation with me about my weight.  He said that he loved me, but that he was worried about how thin I was getting.  He said that he loved to hold me, but that he did not like feeling my rib cage when he hugged me.  I might have just shrugged off his comments, but a few months prior one of my best friends had sat me down and had a similar conversation.  She said she loved me, but that she was worried about me.  She said she didn’t like seeing my rib cage through my clothing.

Throughout high school and college I always thought that I was overweight.  At my largest, I was a size 16 and weighed about 190.  According to the BMI chart I was “obese.”  However, I never thought I needed to lose weight until I started dating a guy I will refer to as “jerkface.”

Jerkface and I started dating in college.  After we were dating about a year he told me that I was too fat, and that I needed to lose twenty pounds in order for him to keep dating me.  If I was dating a guy like that now, I would most likely kick him in his man parts, and tell him to stick where the sun don’t shine.  Unfortunately, I was so desperate for affirmation that I started to lose weight.

Over the next few years I went from 190 pounds… to 140 pounds.  On a positive note, in addition to losing weight, I also dropped the jerkface.  While the jerkface was gone, the fear of not being loved had stayed.  Sadly, I hadn’t really realized how embedded that fear was until my husband sat me down and asked me to gain weight.

I am writing this today because I bought pants for the first time in over a year.  That last time I bought pants they were a size 4, and I was ecstatic about my tiny frame.  Today, I fit perfectly into a size 8.  I don’t know how much weight I’ve gained, because I haven’t weighed myself in three months.  What is really sad to me, is that my brain is having a mini crisis about being a larger size.  My brain is telling me to go work out, to not eat so much, and that I need to slim down.  As I am freaking out, my husband’s request echoes through my brain.  As I am freaking out, I start crying when I have the thought that my nieces and sisters would grow up ignorantly believing they have to be thin in order for people to like them.

I would never say that I had an eating disorder, but maybe I just don’t know what this is called???  I never fully stopped eating food, nor did I binge and purge.  I like food too much to never eat.  I lost weight because I became OBSESSED with working out and tracking my food intake.  If I went over 1600 calories a day I would freak out, and do a second intense workout.

Somehow, magically, I managed to gain weight.  How did I do it?  How did I gain  weight?  In order to gain weight, I had to do four things.  First, I had to start eating more food.  Instead of eating 1600 calories a day, I started eating closer to 1800 or 2000.  I stopped going hungry in between meals.  I started having healthy snacks.  Second, I had to stop working out so much.  Instead of doing daily doubles or seven days a week, I cut down to six (which I know is still a lot – but I have to start somewhere).  Third, I had to trust that the person I married would love me despite the size pants I was wearing (and trust me when I say that very few husbands mind it when their wives gain some cushion up top and in the back… especially mine).  My husband has been nothing but supportive, and tells me I am beautiful at least once a day.  Forth, I had to learn to appreciate the body that I have.  To me – the forth part is still incredibly difficult.  But I figure that if I couldn’t love my body when I was a size 4 (which is by ALL definitions thin), then I will never love my body until I choose to start doing so.

I spent the last four years of my life believing that I had to be thin in order for people to love me.  That – was wrong.  I spent the last four years of my life slowly killing my body by not eating enough and by working out too much.  That – was wrong.

I have loving friends who accept me as I am.  I have a wonderful husband who is kind and supportive.  And fortunately, I have the chance to make this right.  One day at a time.