I am nearly 35 years old. And although in the past 5 years I have accomplished so much and have changed so much, sometimes the weight of feeling like I’m still a struggling, immature child that relies on what others think to guide my decisions is overwhelming. When I do make decisions for myself there is the anxiety that some of the people I love the most look down on these decisions, because they don’t fit into their world of beliefs. I was raised in an extremely conservative world of religion, and when I say world, I mean it was taught to be the only option, the only way to live. It’s this insane mix of respect I feel for my family and their undying devotion to their faith, and sometimes utter disgust at the way I was raised and the way it has left me as an adult who turned away from it. Apostolic Christians are literal bible believing Christians. They follow the idea that you need to repent and Jesus will cover your heart, as long as you are true and consistent in your devotions and faith. There is no once saved always saved. I “repented” at 14 years old out of extreme fear of hell. A hell that was introduced to me at the age of 8 or 9 years old. That was such a traumatic experience that I can remember how the Sunday school room was set up, where I was sitting, how the little hard desk felt underneath me. They talk about this idea of “the peace that passeth all understanding”. This feeling you receive when you finally repent, and I remember that feeling well. When I look back now, I simply felt relief. Relief from this terror of burning in darkness, hearing the screams of anguished souls, but never being able to find them. Always being alone and in pain. And why wouldn’t a 14 year old feel relief? Since she was 8 she had this deep seeded fear of being a bad person and burning for eternity. What’s fucked up is that I’m 34, and still have moments and anxiety and fear about hell. This, of course, is not because of the traumatic doctrine pushed on my developing brain. According to those in the faith, God is nudging my sinful heart to repent again. When I left the church, it was because I was excommunicated for sinning, and while many who are excommunicated stay in the church, and accept their punishment of being shunned for a while to feel their separation from God and the church, I was at my breaking point. Too many questions answered with: “because that’s the way it is! You questioning doctrine and tradition is your weakness and Satan tempting you.” When my marriage was on the rocks earlier on, it was: “you need to be a better wife like the Bible says, if you both had Jesus in your hearts this wouldn’t be happening.” It seems any failure I’ve had in my life is chalked up to not trusting in god and being a good Christian. Years and years of being told I’m weak-minded and impulsive has done a number on my self esteem. I have avoided really delving into these feelings for so long, because facing some of the things I’ve dealt with and heard through the years, I’m afraid of how it will affect my already-strained relationship with my family. I’m not going to change their minds, they are so rooted in their beliefs. But I think the only way to heal from the pain and fear of my past and religion is to face it head on and feel all these hard feelings and it’s scary. It’s exhausting. Breaking free from religion is what I need, and while I have in so many ways, the fear that can still grip me shows that I have a long way to go. Religion made me a liar. I found myself hiding things from my family because I knew they wouldn’t approve. I was sneaking around and lying a live life I don’t have a problem with morally or ethically, but living that way only leaves you feeling like you’re wrong anyways. It’s a complicated, fucked up way to be. My partner always says “live in the light”, and while it has helped me so much to be me and love me, it has shed a bright spotlight on how much I have buried and never dealt with. So here begins the journey of trying to understand myself, and re-train myself. I need to break free.