Depression and Spiritual Abuse: By Kierstyn King

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Depression and Spiritual Abuse: By Kierstyn King

HA note: The following is reprinted with permission from Kierstyn King’s blog Bridging the Gap.  It was originally published on July 17, 2013. This is the second of Kierstyn’s three-part series on mental health. Read Part One here and Part Three here.

Looking back, it’s no wonder that all of the feelings and self loathing that lead to my depression, brought depression. I was taught that I was worthless, that I should never think well of myself, that I needed to be humble, I was never allowed to show any emotion that was not a plastic smile.

Perfection was constantly demanded, and perfection is what I was incapable of.

I am, and was, keenly aware of my failings, of the places I don’t measure up, where I don’t meet parental wishes or requirements — those were held over my head, brought up in arguments to coerce me further into being my family’s slave.

I remember times when my parents would sit there and berate me for hours (under the guise of “concern” and wanting to “help my [spiritual] walk”) and tell me that because I missed doing laundry one day, misheard or misunderstood a demand, that I was a bad sister, a person going down a path of destruction, away from god, if I kept up this “rebellious” attitude.

I remember being bragged about to people (when convenient) only to be later pulled aside in private and told to shape up. I remember dismissal and invisibility.

I was a pawn, a tool, a broom.

I related strongly to cinderella and everyone thought it was cute, but they didn’t realize that I felt as worthless as the dirt she was mopping. That I believed I was as worthless as the dirt she was mopping — to know and be told in actions that I am only loved and approved of when I do things in a certain way, with a certain demeanor regardless of feeling, ill, tired, or stressed. When I was imperfect (as all humans are) I was punished — verbally, emotionally, spiritually, psychologically, mentally.

I internalized their words of my failures and believed that I was a failure, who didn’t deserve any good.

This was aided by the fact that my family explicitly believed and taught that it was better to live a life of suffering (by god’s hand, of course) than to live a happy life. That god did not want us to be happy (and by unspoken extension, wanted us to be miserable or persecuted).

It’s no wonder that between the bullying because of my imperfections, and the toxic theology of my parents, that I internalized at the most impressionable ages, my total and utter worthlessness and the only way to deal with that, was to hate myself as much as I perceived I needed to be. It’s no wonder that it escalated. It’s no wonder I shut down, became numb, stopped feeling, and felt robotic.

It’s no wonder I was, and at times still am, utterly ashamed of being a woman (someone who is less because of different anatomy)*.

*by people like my parents, the tendency of republicans in positions of power, and people who perpetuate the theology of “equal but different” where differences justify belittling.

*****

To be continued.

6 comments

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  • Headless Unicorn Guy

    Uh, Kierstyn, it’s not just the “tendency of Republicans in political power”. ANYBODY in political power tries to throw their weight around as much as they can; just the GOP Tea Party types don’t have real good spin doctors.

    Some years ago, I was involved in a fandom that was very gay-heavy. And I observed a lot of gays in positions of (informal) power within that fandom throwing their weight around against straights like me. Anybody who gets on top will try to throw their weight around. Doubly so if they were stomped on in the past; there’s a payback/lashback factor. Often they become a funhouse-mirror reflection of their former persecutors with identical intensity. Communism begets Objectivism.

  • HUG–
    As a woman, I think I see what Kierstyn is saying. Of course it’s not just the Republicans who throw their weight around, but the tendency to treat women and certain other groups as inferior does seem to be more prevalent among the more conservative political groups.

    I read a very interesting book a while back called “The Authoritarians” by a professor at the University of Manitoba, Robert Altemeyer. He discusses in depth the differences between conservative and liberal political groups and how members of the two groups tend to think very differently, especially in terms of “us versus them” (women/men, gay/straight, white/other, etc.)…anyway, there’s not enough room to summarize it here, but I recommend it to everyone who has been watching the drama in DC the last few weeks: it’s available free online at http://members.shaw.ca/jeanaltemeyer/drbob/TheAuthoritarians.pdf.

    Kierstyn, I’m sorry you experienced this. I share many of your experiences, and it takes a lot of hard work and courage to pick up the pieces and invent a new self. I’m still working on it, but I have to believe there is hope for all of us.

  • Yeah, the footnote is there not because I don’t know that people with power abuse it (believe me, I am _well_ acquainted with the concept), it’s because at the time of writing, I’d been dealing with some PTSD from semi unrelated things and I wanted to make an effort to be extremely specific that I was talking about expectations and how people treat me (and other’s with female anatomy) because of my(our) body, without getting into a whole thing on gender identity because it would have been way too long and I hadn’t even come to coherent terms with it at that point.

    Considering their [tea party/republican/christian conservative] politics make up my background, and my parents support and claim the beliefs that people in congress are currently enforcing it seemed the easiest shorthand. I’ve also had it up to here with being treated like a walking uterus by people who believe those things. >.<

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  • Jane, A Female Deer

    I understand how you feel. My mom was famous for her “girls don’t” lines. Girls don’t wear that. Girls don’t do that. I also think that there are a lot of harmful spiritual teachings that have indirect and unintended negative consequences on children who do not yet have a firm grasp on reality. As a child, I remember going to church, and people would talk about how God gave them joy… and about how they could “feel” God’s presence and love and it gave them warm fuzzies or whatever. I naturally began to associate positive feelings with God’s love and presence. As a downside, I then also began associating negative feelings with God’s absence or disapproval. This led to a very harmful pattern. Whenever I had very natural feelings of sadness, boredom, depression, or anxiety, I thought it was because God had abandoned me or didn’t love me.. or because Satan or demons were tormenting me (because Satan is the root of everything bad). Instead of learning how to deal with and understand my negative emotions, I created this very dark and scary world where I was being tormented by demons or abandoned by God every time I was sad… which would make me severely depressed and frightened. It took years into my adulthood before I began to learn how to own and process my own emotions instead of associating them with the whims of an almighty being.

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