By taking religion, philosophy, and critical thinking classes and learning to think and stand up for myself, I realized I wasn’t Christian. I stopped guilting myself and wearing myself out trying to force it, and I was able to unpack and detangle the harmful beliefs that had been keeping me down.
I lived in constant anxiety and fear, and believed at my core that I wasn’t worth anything if I didn’t unquestioningly follow what I had been taught. Instead of pursuing things that interested or helped me, I kept myself locked into a small, boxed in idea of what I thought I had to be. Being raised in a missionary community, the message was constantly pressed on me that any lapse of faith, any idea of leaving Christianity, would result in burning for eternity. I’d heard this constantly, from every summer camp when I was a kid, to every youth group sermon I heard, and it terrified me.
Realizing how unhealthy my relationship with spirituality was and stepping out of Christianity greatly helped my mental health, and I am very grateful for it, although I do realize it is likely not the outcome many people in my life wished to happen. However, while educating myself, learning from the classes I took, and starting to be able to think and analyze things for myself, I was able to recognize that the mental space I was in was not healthy, and that something needed to change. I was able to pull myself out, look at myself and the world unclouded by terror and guilt, and actually set goals for myself, have ambitions for the future, and learn to care for and have compassion for myself, something I had not learned or been taught by the heavy self-sacrifice missionary culture I was raised in.