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A Few Thoughts About Mental Illness and Depression

bruce and mom 1957
Bruce and his mom, July 1957

Originally written 2011, edited, corrected.

At the age of fifty-four, my mother turned a .357 magnum Ruger revolver toward her chest and pulled the trigger. The bullet tore a hole in her heart and in a few moments she was dead. Mom had tried to kill herself many times before. This time she succeeded (please see the post Barbara).

When I was eleven, Dad had to call for an emergency squad because Mom had taken several bottles of prescription drugs. They rushed her to the hospital and pumped her stomach, and she survived to die another day. Later in the year, Mom and the neighbor lady were in a serious automobile accident in Lima. I say accident because it is possible that Mom pulled into the other lane of traffic, allowing the truck to hit them.

Mom made a third attempt on her life that same year. I came home from school and found Mom lying unconscious on the floor with blood pooling around her body. She had slit her wrists. Yet again, the emergency squad came, and her life was saved.

As best I can tell, Mom had mental problems her entire life. She was bright, witty, and well-read, but Mom could, in a split second, lapse into angry, incoherent tirades. Twice she was involuntarily committed to the Toledo State Mental Hospital, undergoing shock therapy numerous times. None of the treatments or drugs worked.

In the early 1960s, my parents found Jesus. Jesus, according to the Bible, healed the mentally ill, but, for whatever reason, he didn’t heal Mom. The mental health crises I have shared in this post, and others that I haven’t shared, all occurred after Mom put her faith and trust in the loving Jesus who supposedly had a wonderful plan for her life. Mom died believing Jesus was her Savior. To this day, I lament the fact that I didn’t do more to help her. Sadly, I saw her mental illness as an inconvenience and an embarrassment. If she just got right with God, I thought at the time, all would be well. If she would just kick her drug habit, I told her, God would be there to help her. What she really needed was for her eldest son to pick her up, hold her close, and love her. I will go to my grave wishing I had been a better son, that I had loved Mom and my family more than I loved Jesus and the church.

findlay ohio 1971-1974
Mom, Bruce, and friend, Findlay, Ohio, summer 1971

Mom was quite talented. She played the piano and loved to do ceramics. Her real passion was reading, a habit she happily passed on to me. (Mom taught me to read.) She was active in politics. Mom was a member of the John Birch Society, and actively campaigned, first for Barry Goldwater, and later for George Wallace.

My parents divorced when I was fourteen. Not long after the divorce, Mom married her first cousin, a recent parolee from a Texas prison (he was serving time for armed robbery). He later died of a drug overdose. Mom would marry two more times before she died. She was quite passionate about anything she fixed her mind upon, a trait that I, for good or ill, share with her. In the early 1970s, Mom was an aide at Winebrenner Nursing Home in Findlay, Ohio. Winebrenner paid men more than they paid women for the same work. Mom, ever the crusader, sued Winebrenner under the Equal Pay Act and the Civil Rights Act. The Federal Court decided in her favor.

We moved quite often, and I have no doubt this contributed greatly to Mom’s mental illness. She never knew what it was to have a place to call home. Our family lived in one rental after another, never stopping long enough to buy a home. I lived in sixteen different houses by the time I left for college at the age of nineteen.

I have always wondered if my parents were ever happily married. Mom and Dad were married by an Indiana Justice of the Peace in November 1956. At the time of their marriage, Mom was eighteen and pregnant. I learned a year ago that Dad was not actually my biological father. Dad meant well, but the instability of their marriage, coupled with us moving all the time, caused my siblings and me great harm. Dad thought moving was a great experience. Little did he know that I hated him for moving us around. New schools (seven different school districts). New friends. Never having a place to call home. No child should have to live this way.

From the time I was five until I was fourteen, my parents were faithful members of a Baptist church in whatever community we lived in. The Gerencser family attended church every time the doors were open (I have attended over 8,000 church services in my lifetime). Mom would play the piano from time to time, though she found it quite stressful to do so. One time, much to my embarrassment, she had a mental meltdown in front of the whole church. She never played again. For a time, Dad was a deacon, but he stopped being one because he couldn’t kick his smoking habit. I suspect the real reason was that he was having an affair.

No matter where we lived or what church we went to, one thing was certain: Mom was mentally ill and everyone pretended her illness didn’t exist. Evangelical churches such as the ones we attended had plenty of members who suffered from various mental maladies. For the most part, those who were sick in the head were ignored, marginalized, or told to repent.

In 1994, I co-pastored a Sovereign Grace Baptist church in San Antonio, Texas. (See the I am a Publican and a Heathen series.) One day we were at a church fellowship and my wife came around the corner just in time to hear one of the esteemed ladies of the church say to her daughter, you stay away from that girl, she is mentally retarded. “That girl” was our then five-year-old daughter with Down syndrome. This outstanding church member’s words pretty well sum up how many churches treat those with mental handicaps or illness. STAY AWAY from them!

Many Christians think mental illness is a sign of demonic oppression or possession. No need for doctors, drugs, or hospitals. Just come to Jesus, the great physician, and he will heal you. After all, the Bible does say in 2 Timothy 1:7: For God hath not given us the spirit of fear; but of power, and of love, and of a sound mind. If someone is mentally unsound, it’s the person’s fault, not God’s. Get right with God and all will be well.

I have suffered with depression for most of my adult life. I am on the mountaintop one moment and in the valley the next. Plagued with a Type A personality, and being a consummate workaholic, I am often driven to despair. Work, Work, Work. Go, Go, Go. Do, Do, Do. I have no doubt that the way I lived my life as a Christian contributed to the health problems that now plague me. While I was busy burning the candle at both ends for Jesus, my body was screaming STOP! But I didn’t listen. I had no time for family, rest, or pleasure. Work for the night is coming, the Bible says. Better to burn out for Jesus than rust out, I told myself. And now, thanks to living this way for much of my adult life, I am a rusting 1957 Chevrolet, sitting on blocks, awaiting the day when the junkyard comes to tow me away.

For many years, I hid my depression from the outside world. While Polly and my children witnessed depression’s effect on their husband and father, church members never had a clue. I have often wondered how parishioners might have responded had I told them the truth. I suspect some church members would have seen me as a fellow depressive, but others would likely have questioned whether I was “fit” to be a pastor.

In 2008, a few months before I deconverted, I told a pastor friend that I was really depressed. Instead of lending me a helping hand or encouraging me, he rebuked me for giving in to the attack of Satan. He told me I needed to confess my sin and get victory over it immediately. A lot of Christians think just like this (former) pastor friend of mine. (Please see Dear Friend.)  Depression is a sign of weakness, and God only wants warriors and winners.

barbara gerencser 1956
Barbara Gerencser, 1956

Going to see a counselor was the single most important thing I have done in the last ten years. It took me leaving the ministry and departing from Christianity before I was willing to find someone to talk to. Several times, while I was still a Christian, I made appointments with counselors only to cancel them at the last minute. I feared that someone would see me going into the counselor’s office or they would drive by and see my car in the parking lot. I thought, My God, I am a pastor. I am supposed to have my life together.

Indeed, it took me leaving the church, the pastorate, and God to find any semblance of mental peace. I have no doubt some readers will object to the connection I make between religion and mental wellness, but for me, there was indeed a direct correlation between the two.

I still battle with depression, but with regular counseling and a (forced) slower pace of life, I am confident that I can live a meaningful, somewhat peaceful life. As many of you know, I have chronic, unrelenting pain. I have not had a pain-free day in over twenty years (my days are counted as less pain, normal pain, more pain, and off the fucking charts pain). The constant pain and debility (I was diagnosed with gastroparesis, an incurable stomach disease, last year) certainly fuel my depression. My counselor says she would be surprised if I wasn’t depressed from time to time.  Embracing my depression and coming to grips with the pain and debility is absolutely essential to my mental well-being. This is my life. I am who I am. I accept this, and I do what I can to be a loving, kind, and productive human being.

To my Christian readers I say this: sitting near you in church this coming Sunday will be people who are suffering with mental illness. Maybe they are depressed. They hide it because they think they have to. Jesus only wants winners, remember? Pay attention to other people. The signs are there. Listen to those who you claim are your brothers and sisters in the Lord. Embrace them in the midst of their weakness and psychosis. While I don’t think a mythical God is going to heal them, I do think that loving, understanding friends can be just the salvation the mentally ill need.

It is not easy being around those who are mentally ill. Let’s face it, depressed people are not fun to be with. We are not the life of the party. When I am in the midst of mental and emotional darkness, I am not the kind of person most people want to be around. I become withdrawn, cynical, and dark. These attributes, coupled with the physical pain I endure, can, at times, make me unbearable to be around. It is at these moments when I need the help of others. Sadly, most people, including my family and friends, tend to pull away from me when I need them the most. I understand why they do so, but the loneliest place on earth is sitting alone in the darkness of night wishing you were dead.

How do you respond to people who are mentally ill? How do you respond to those who are depressed?  Perhaps you suffer from mental illness or depression. Do you hide it? How are you treated by others? If you are a Christian, how are you treated by your church and pastor? Please share your thoughts in the comment section.

Bruce Gerencser, 66, lives in rural Northwest Ohio with his wife of 45 years. He and his wife have six grown children and thirteen grandchildren. Bruce pastored Evangelical churches for twenty-five years in Ohio, Texas, and Michigan. Bruce left the ministry in 2005, and in 2008 he left Christianity. Bruce is now a humanist and an atheist.

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    I’m sorry your mother (and you too) didn’t get the help she needed for a long time. The anti-‘secular’- therapy feelings often run deed in Evangelical circles as does anti-intellectualism. Although my mother did get help for her mental health problems, she did feel very guilty about them, because she couldn’t be as a good a Christian as the other women in our church. Some people also thought demons instead of mental health problems were the cause. Magazines that we read argued against all forms of therapy (still do) with less than solid reasoning. Everything not Christian is immediately suspect: wrong worldview and quite possibly occult.

    I have problems with depression myself, possibly also PTSD. I’ve visited two therapists in the past. One was group therapy which was intense but did help me quite a bit. Unfortunately, later on I visited a Christian therapist and she has made me a bit gun shy about trying therapy again. She was kind enough but wanted to discuss other things than I did and seemed not to believe me when I told her certain things. It was inmensly frustrating to say the least. I eventually gave up on it. At the time, it felt like I had once again given up, but in hindsight, I’m glad I left. She was friendly but because I wasn’t entirely sure if I could trust her, it wouldn’t have worked out in the long run anyway.

    Needless to say, if I will find a therapist again in the future, it won’t be religion based. I’m considering searching for a trauma therapist at some moment. I’m weary of doctors and therapists for a bit, but have a stack of self-help books that have helped me quite a bit in the past, and that I reach for in much the same way as I used to for my Bible 🙂 Fortunately, they are much more helpful.

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      Hi Melody, I believe you are spot-on with your assessment of ‘therapists’. My wish is that everyone who realizes the sick system of Christianity is harming them, could see a therapist who is not religious and who is able to be with the sufferer while they feel their pain. There is no way to understand some pain intellectually, or, perhaps better said, understanding my depression intellectually does absolutely nothing to relieve it.
      Antidepressants helped me briefly but they made me feel like I lived in a bit of a blur and I had little access to the heights of feelings when the lows were taken away by meds. The only thing that is viable for me is to feel the pain (sometimes with therapeutic help) and to really live in that pain completely. That does bring some release and what I would say is a space in my life for other things. This article by the American psychologist, Arthur Janov, explains it better:

      Bruce, to answer some of your questions, yes, I suffer from periodic depression. I have undergone feeling therapy for it because it seemed for me to ‘care’ about me, allowed me to weep and rage and sit empty and hopeless. The therapist did not try to save me or lead me because i will not be led anymore. He was pain to be there and help keep me safe as I travelled my memory and pain. I did some of what they called ‘child work’ in the day to help access deep, old feelings, some writing with non-dominant hand, or drawing, some remembering of songs/hymns from childhood, anything that would help me go to beginnings and feel them anew, feel them as fully as I could.
      I rarely shared my depression with others but feeling people do not need to be told of these things because they see them. My regular workouts at the Sarcasm Gym gave me muscles that frightened reptiles around me and kept most people at a distance I could handle.
      My parents (dad preacher) and (mom, preacher’s daughter) did not use human help for mental distress because almighty fucking GOD. They both lived with depression and it ran like a virus through us all, the whole lot of us. Isn’t it an odd visual, the idea of this whole family moping around until they get their Sunday clothes on and hit the Fellowship Baptist Theatre on Sunday morning. Well, helo! It is so lovely to see you at church today! Holy rotten denial, thou dost rule us completely, praise Jesus. My life is a fucking drag, Lord, Kill me off and make me your puppet.
      For all of us, those who suffer depression, there are other people who are servants of Denial who are at church thanking God for making them happy all of a sudden, for lifting the burden. They think we just ‘did it wrong’ or we are under judgement because, well, GOD.
      Some day, and it will not be too long down the road, we will see the origins of mental dis-ease much better and there will be much easier ways to get help for it. Not in church though. People there will still be shaming and blaming, avoiding and praying for us.
      (BTW for anybody interested in reading more about depression and other neat stuff, Janov’s book, Life Before Birth, was a real bingo for me.)

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        “Depression is going to be compounded, clearly, when the outlets in one’s early childhood are severely limited and where the general atmosphere is exceptionally repressive-in strict schools, rigid churches, and a family life that carefully circumscribes every move the child makes. If the child’s head is filled with inhibitions, warnings, and prohibitions almost every minute of his life, sooner or later he’s going to suspect his own feelings and impulses.”

        Quoting the article you mentioned, Brian, which was a great read. This bit really stood out to me. I often feel like I’m trying to find back the girl I was, before I became all inhibited and shy (at about 6/7 years old). I recently saw an old homevideo of myself that I’d never seen before, and what got to me most was how young I was. How young to already be burdened with so much. I tried so hard to keep everything together that it wasn’t possible to fully be a child. I was looking out for my mum and my brother and could only loosen up when I wasn’t at home, or when my dad came home, and I felt I was off duty. I don’t necessary blame my parents, I know they did their best, but between being a good girl at school, home and church, it was difficult finding out who I was myself.

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          Melody, I was first saved as a little boy. I became terrified of going to sleep because of the possibility of Hellfire. I was seven or eight and exposed to those kind of ‘teachings’… I know now that it was child abuse and I lived in mortal fear getting saved by walking to the front of the church and confessing that I was evil and lost…. They like to see little children do this and to understand the almighty power of God. I hated myself and did not know why until later, years later, after I had escaped the Baptist traps and realized that they had turned me against myself, that I was to hate myself as evil without the magic God, the bloody Christ on the Cross and all the rest of the bullshit.
          Once they can overcome your own sense of self (especially as a youngster) there are no personal boundaries they will not trample in their effort to ‘save’ you. They want to know every thought you have and convince you that some are evil and even allowing these thoughts is sinful and fallen. They live lives as indecent as outright rapists and bullies but they do it in suits and pretty dresses and with the tax-free approval of communities!
          To the indecent judge, Brother E. J. Kane, who comments below with shallow sermonizing: It is no surprise to this preacher’s son that Christians commit sexual crimes with children every bit as much as secular people do because I know what it is to live without boundaries being allowed, with figures of authority attacking your well-being and punishing you for being a child. I thank (sic) your Lord Jesus Christ for exposing me to such harm and ruining my life for many many years. I thank (sic) the Lord Jesus Christ because He exposed me to the horror in such a way that I ran from belief until I could breath again and be honest with myself, ran to a place where I could say I am not perfect and it is okay to be human. I ran from your church, Brother, because you hated a child, because you hate children.
          I have loved my two kids from birth to young adulthood. I have never exposed them to beliefs that bring indecency among us, your sick Christianity. They have always been free to read and learn whatever they please and I do not stand before them and blather on about God or lack of God. They are free to choose their way and I love them with all my heart. You put your magical, loving bully first and swing your mallet Bible around.
          When your drug wears off, Brother, you will be yourself again. I, like Bruce, feel sorry that you have had to feel yourself such a pathetic human but your wonderful drug experience with Jesus-dope does not impress me in the least. So many of us here have gone on Bible binges and judging-crusades but come home again to the selves we left behind. Keep on keepin on, Kane. Soon you will writing your words ALL CAPS GOD GOD GOD and if you don’t explode and self-immolate, you might one day see yourself again.

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            Hi Brian, Hell and the rapture and original sin, ugh… I’m still learning not to hate myself over every little tiny mistake. If your self-esteem is low already and you have problems on top of that and then you learn that you’re sinful and evil for merely existing on top of that! well, you just don’t have a chance at all, do you? This kind of religion simply makes it harder for people with already difficult lives…

            You say “they had turned me against myself” which I completely agree with. It’s so toxic and controlling that you begin to doubt your own reasoning and experience. Individualism is hardly allowed. Everyone needs to fit the mold and if they’re not fitting it willingly, they’ll be bullied into it.

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    another ami

    Bruce, thank you for your bravery in telling this part of your story. I don’t know if I want to give you a high five or hug. Probably both. A huge high five to the man you are and a hug (from my “mom” side) for the boy you were.
    Mental illness seems to be reaching epidemic proportions in the USA. In this ere of extremes in our politics, the right and left both agree mental illness is a major component in mass shootings and gun violence in general. (Many gun deaths are suicides, like your mother’s.) Addiction is rampant and also a form of mental illness. “Bat-shit crazy” seems to describe significant portions of our society, right up to and including some Presidential candidates. (The Great Pyramids were built as grain storage bins? Really?) Reading your post makes me wonder something, but first, a little background.
    Some of the broad strokes of our upbringing are eerily similar: neighboring states, a volatile and sometimes violent home life, and a parent struggling with mental illness in a era when such struggles were viewed as moral failures, not disease. I didn’t learn until my late teens that both of my parents had been committed to the Indiana State Mental Hospital for several months around the time of their divorce in 1962, when I was 2. It was serious enough on my mother’s part that my father was given permanent custody of me and my older sister, something almost unheard of at the time. I struggled alone with depression for decades, always asking myself, “What’s wrong with me? Why can’t I seem to get my shit together and snap out of this?” Needless to say, thinking like that only made my condition slowly worsen. I finally got the help I needed and while I have bad days from time to time, it’s been well within the range of normal for the past 8 years. Life is mostly good these days and I am grateful.
    What the similarities in our stories make me wonder is this; is one reason so many people struggle with mental illness today because we were raised by those who were mentally ill? While research has revealed that genetics can predispose a person to mental illness, not all of those with that genetic profile become mentally ill. Nature vs nurture is a classic pychological debate. A university counselor once tried to tell me the only thing wrong with me was never took “Normal101”. In other words, it was only my upbringing that made me think there was something wrong with me. While I knew at the time my struggles were more than that (there were other issues), I also saw an element of truth there. Children learn by modelling the behavior of those around them. Be around “crazy people”, and they learn to be “crazy”. Be raised by intellectuals, become a intellectual. Be raised by fundagelicals, become a fundagelical. Sadly, I am clueless as to what the solution might be. I only hope I did not pass the seeds of mental illness on to my sons.
    Thanks for providing space for my musings.

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    I’ve been depressed for 15 years or more. No one at church knew, my parents didn’t know. When I finally divorced I told my mother that I had taken anti depressants and was depressed. She just frowned at me. I never mentioned it again because I knew she didn’t understand. In her world, you just deal with whatever life gives you. It saddens me to think that she has spent her whole life just reacting to things and never having any goals for herself. But I also realize that other than the death of my dad this year, she hasn’t had too many traumatic things happen in her life.

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    Karen the rock whisperer

    I suffered with depression from the time I was very young. I didn’t know it at the time, I had no memory of not being depressed. Untreated depression gets worse as one gets older. I teetered on the edge of a nervous breakdown in my mid-20s, and a good friend (who’d seen family members suffer the same way) helped me sort of keep myself together. I knew then that I needed help. However, I was working for a military contractor and held a security clearance. I was convinced (I still don’t know if it was true) that getting help would have resulted in the loss of my clearance and my job. But the only thing that was keeping me sane was my work. So I delayed and delayed, until I found myself unemployed (the company shut down its West Coast facility) and back at school… and reached a point where I became non-functional. Only then did I get the help I needed. That was in my mid-30s. I still remember the shock when the first antidepressant kicked in; I woke up one morning and it didn’t actively hurt to be alive.

    The hardest thing about depression sometimes is the lack of support from family. My husband has tried hard to be supportive, but he has a hard time getting his mind around the notion that my brain can be telling me major lies about myself. My mother never could accept it, periodically asking me “but WHAT are you depressed about?” No amount of explanation that it was a brain chemistry thing could ever get through to her. My mother-in-law basically told me that I should just get my act together and quit being depressed. That wasn’t how she put it, but that was the message. She wasn’t trying to be mean, she just doesn’t understand.

    At the moment the depression is well-controlled, but I perpetually walk the edge of the cliff above the Valley of Shadow, and I know I can slip and tumble back into it again.

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    Bruce, such a service you’re doing with this post to everyone struggling with depression. I hate how the church tries to turn it into a character issue, harming everyone that struggles with depression. Your daughter is a wonderful person, I really enjoyed meeting her so boo on that hateful woman that could not see how great she is.

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      The church lady’s comment really raised my hackles! My parents raised us to be compassionate and not condemning. The church lady didn’t get the lesson.

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    As a long time reader of this blog I have to admit I am now ready to voluntarily terminate my own life. Could anyone please help locate a source of good quality Nembutal that I can have shipped to Australia where I reside.


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    Thank you for telling your story. I too have had depression, but I was able to get meds and good therapists. Two of my siblings committed suicide within 4 months of each other, and my sister did the same thing as your mother. It is most important for people to know they are not alone, and that help is available and necessary. Mental illnesses are very prevalent these days, and I think rampant greed and inequality play a role in these as well. Richard Wilkinson’s studies bear this out. It’s sad that some churches think that it isn’t important to get help, and that relying on church alone doesn’t help.

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    Brother E. J. Kane

    Because I am certain you will censor my comment if I so much as hint at criticism I will be careful in this message here sir.

    I am a christian, though cynically as you may read, I was saved from such a lifestyle, I had a debilitating period of depression prior to my conversion, to the point that I could scarcely leave my house due to anxiety and self-conceit.

    Being unsaved I did see several psychologists and ‘counselors’ and such – They had no answer of course, and for the most part I doubt they truly cared.
    It is my firm conviction that the modern psychologist has no answer, as far as he, or, more often, she’s concerned whatever ‘syndromes’, or conditions we have we are stuck with them and must make do with what we have.
    This fatalism does allow for deliverance, indeed mocks at the possibility of such.

    Now then I had no direction in life, and no sense of purpose, after all, believing as I did in the world’s doctrines of humanistic reasoning, evolution, materialism & postmodernism, what hope was there for me? – Was I to draw my meaning from the things of the flesh? From material wealth, and so forth? I could find no solace therein, I had lived grossly and wickedly, the things of the world provide no rest, can provide no rest, no healing.

    No one ever sought after my soul that I knew of, yet Christ was indelibly drawing myself to Him, my family were never, and are not Christians, and could not help me.
    My deliverance came by bowing in simple faith and humility to the call of God to repentance, He set about therefore within me to cleanse me of all filthiness of the mind.

    Perhaps I carry a trait in my bloodline, like my unbelieving father, who is laid low by this, a sense of melancholy as the old-timers would call it, nevertheless I do believe in Christ, and I am not bowed down by the struggles of the flesh, nor the fiery darts of the devil, and his assault on the mind – A life for others, in obedience and faithfulness to God my Savior is the cleansing fountain for my mind always, as Peter said of yore to Christ’s question (Will ye also go away?) – Said he, “Lord, to whom shall we go?”
    If I depart from Him what refuge has humanism for me? What fellowship is there with an unbeliever? How could I even go back if I was so-minded having, by faith, burned all my bridges.
    ‘Tis the christian life for me my friend – Deliverance from the afflictions of the mind is not found in men.

    If God could deliver me, and uphold me, call me into His glorious ministry, that I might rejoice even in heavy trials and affliction, then why not you?

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      I’m glad you found the answer for your depression but…………..THE CHURCH DOES HUGE HARM INSISTING THAT SALVATION IS THE ONLY ANSWER TO DEPRESSION!!!!

      My poor husband had major depression and we were in a very charismatic evangelical church. We joined the church because some babbling idiot swore it was the ONLY answer to depression. Fifteen years later, after lots of toxic talk therapy with those in the church who blamed my husband’s attitude for his chronic depression and trying drugs and standard treatment it was discovered that he had parathyroid tumors and the depression was a chemical reaction to the tumors.

      He wasn’t depressed because of demonic activity.
      He wasn’t depressed because I wasn’t submissive enough.
      He wasn’t depressed because he was selfish.
      He wasn’t depressed because of a family curse.
      He wasn’t depressed because of a secret sin.
      He wasn’t depressed because his heart attitude was wrong.
      He wasn’t depressed because he didn’t trust Jesus.
      He wasn’t depressed because he didn’t do salvation wrong.
      He wasn’t depressed because he didn’t paste a smile on his face and pretend everything was perfect.
      He wasn’t depressed because he didn’t give enough money to the church.


      If he’d had gotten a complete physical years before when this started he would have spared himself so much judgment, blaming and all around denigration by those in the church and been depression-free. However the church we attended discouraged any sort of medical treatment at all, including preventative things like physicals.

      All of those things listed above were told to either one or both of us by leadership and members of our good Christian church. All of them are ridiculous lies.

      Since having the parathyroid tumors removed guess what? No depression at all~ That was nearly ten years ago. It wasn’t demons, it wasn’t a salvation issues, it wasn’t a not trusting God issue, it was a MEDICAL issue.

      Bruce, spank me or ban me if you must but I could not allow someone to just piously blather on in ignorance about such a serious issues.

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        Bruce Gerencser

        That Kane sees psychologists as having no value tells me all I need to know. This kind of thinking causes great emotional and mental harm. The Evangelical church is NOT a safe haven for those with mental health issues.

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      Bruce Gerencser

      Constructive, thoughtful discussion is always welcome. Name-calling (your first comment) and preaching (your second comment) is not. Thousands of your ilk have come before you. You have said nothing new.

      You errantly assume that you have anything to offer someone such as I. Why would I ever want to return to the fear, hatred, and shaming found in Evangelicalism? I have found a life worth living outside of the bondage of your religion. You sir, have nothing to offer me. To put it bluntly, I have weighed your religion, God, Jesus, and Bible in the balances and found it wanting. And I suspect most of the thousands of people who read thus blog think the same.

      I know you cannot fathom people not wanting what you have. But, here we are. We have no need of Evangelicalism’s fixation on sin, nor do we have a need of salvation or eternal life. All of those things I, at one time, valued more than life. No longer. I am, in every way, happy to be free of your God. I could now say to you, if reason can do this for me, why not you?

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    Brother E. J. Kane

    Furthermore I will say the refreshment and fellowship I have with other Christians, Christians who have stepped out, set forth and decided that they will only live for God has, other than His word, the Holy bible, probably the greatest influence for the good on a man’s thought life.

    Especially in rebukes, exhortations, love, prayer and so forth from my faithful brethren, to exalt myself and always blame others in my affliction is the greatest mistake you, I or any other can make, whether you’re Christian or not you must understand what a heavy burden and affliction pride is on the mind and soul.

    I speak from my experience with assurance, I was WEAK when I lived how I did for years, weak-minded and utterly selfish and apathetic, being minded of others relieves the sinner from the dwelling on self, undertaking for their burdens gives me reference for my own, and I see how mine are incomparable to the suffering of so many brethren who would not bend, would not blame.

    Ignore the spiritual necessity of what I speak if you will, even from a secular philosophical standpoint, surely this is so?
    We must be honest to ourselves, we are NEVER blameless, when I fail, even with all manner of excuses, I will not grow, I will NOT overcome if I neglect my own culpability in my fall.
    We all surely know this is true, mental fortitude and deliverance is not found in succumbing to a desire to blame others, even if it be greatly so, that helps me not in the least.

    EVERY ONE has a sad story and we have ALL wronged others in our travail, even as others lack compassion from time to time, are we not guilty of the same?
    I was not sought after in any great way by the few fundamentalists in my large city, nevertheless also I was not sought after at all by any humanist or similar do-gooder.

    Yet Christ brought me low, that He might teach me how to attain higher ground, even a sure page in the Lamb’s book of life, a mansion in the eternal Zion of God that fadeth not away, to evermore dwell with the elect and precious saints of God in that city foursquare of gilded gold and pillared of precious stone, 1,500 miles in length, in breadth and in height, hallelujah.

    What should I apostatize and replace this with? – A fear always of the grave? A resentment always of they whom I love dearly in Christ? Brothers and sisters whom I would die for, should I betray them, and betray the very Lord who bore my sin on the tree?

    No, Lord forgiving you Mr. Gerencser, I could not, I would not, I have so much more in Christ than I could ever have in this world, or ever had.

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      Bruce Gerencser

      Your sermon only works if one accepts your presuppositions. I don’t. I’m sorry you were such a horrible, pathetic person who needed deliverance. That’s the power of Evangelicalism. It creates a problem, sin and then promises a solution, salvation. For those of us who have left the mind numbing bondage of Evangelicalism, we realized that the problem/solution offered by Evangelicalism has no grounding in reality. We simply don’t need what you are selling.

      I wish you well. I’ve given you the space to say what you wanted/needed to say. I will approve no further comments from you. (per the commenting rules)

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        another ami

        Bruce, if I offend in my comments, please do not hesitate to tell me. I am your guest and do not want to abuse your kind hospitality. It is never my intention to offend, nor to attempt to invalidate or marginalize your experience or that of any of your readers. I am here to learn. My intent is to simply engage in the conversation and offer my own perspective and experiences. What I believe bares little resemblance to what fundagelicals profess (and indeed often seems in direct opposition to them) and I have seen with my own eyes the devastation they can cause. I believe you are doing vital work here and I am glad that you have found a measure of freedom and peace in unbelief. Salut.

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      Michael Mock

      You know, I’m a huge fan of broad vocabulary and antiquated words and phrasing… but there’s a point at which it moves from being a legitimate interest and into the realm of foolish affectation. Brother E. J. Kane has long since crossed that boundary, and is striding boldly forward into the seldom-explored genre of “How much can I try to make my comment sound like a Bible passage before everyone breaks down laughing?”

      This is a blog set in the real world of the modern day, Sir. It’s not a high fantasy novel; neither is it a game of Dungeons and Dragons. Verily, though thou dost attempt to speak like a Paladin rebuking worldly evils, thou sound’st like one who hast mistaken rhetoric for reality.

      Stop trying to impress us with your elevated language, and get to the firk ding blast point.

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        Bro. E.J. Kane

        What would you have me say sir?

        I am old-fashioned, southern, I believe what once was right is still right, and what once was wrong is always wrong.
        That Jesus Christ is the same yesterday, today, and forever. (Heb. 13:8)
        I read the King James Bible often, many old writings by faithful men and seek for a precision with my words, and often listen to recorded sermons from the last 90 years.
        I suppose this has affected and influenced me and makes me to write and speak more like them.
        I believe in the Old-fashioned way and precision in thought and speech, is that wrong? Why?

        Am I ‘affecting’?
        Do I offend you because I don’t talk or write in an ultra-contemporary manner, dragging my knuckles on the floor?
        Did I exceed your attention span?

        I understand I’m in enemy territory here and you’re not none of you sympathetic to me in the least, and you have a great degree of antipathy toward me for who I am and what I am, I will not likely comment on this site for long and only at the host’s discretion, but I do believe this sort of talk of yours and the reply by Mr. Gerencser are disingenuous and hypocritical.

        You believe cussing and twitter-like brevity are important perhaps, I do not.

        • Avatar

          re: “…I believe what once was right is still right, and what once was wrong is always wrong…”

          slavery? right or wrong?
          eating shellfish? abomination or no?

        • Avatar
          Michael Mock

          “Am I ‘affecting’?”

          In the sense of having an effect? No, not particularly; at least not the way I presume you would like to. Does your manner of writing come across as an affectation, as a deliberate pretension? Ye gods, yes.

          “Do I offend you because I don’t talk or write in an ultra-contemporary manner, dragging my knuckles on the floor?”

          Nope. I doubt that anything you have to say would offend me. And, as I said, I’m a fan of antique words and old-fashioned phrasings. I’m categorically in favor of precise language and clear thinking, as well. If you look around at some of the comments I’ve left on other articles on this site, you’ll find that I’m perfectly capable of pontificating at considerable length myself.

          Let me reiterate, for the sake of clarity: I don’t find your writing style offensive, I find it risible.

          You see, I believe that if you wish to communicate effectively, you should understand your audience and try to use terms and approaches that are meaningful for them. In a setting like this, that means composing your sentences as if you’re having a conversation with modern people, and not as if you’re preparing an epistle to Martin Luther. Not only does that make it easier for the rest of us to follow along, it also makes us rather less likely to suspect that you’ve immersed yourself a little too deeply in some fantasy identity of yourself as a Mighty Warrior for God.

          “Did I exceed your attention span?”

          Not at all.

          “I understand I’m in enemy territory here…”

          Whereas the rest of us understand that there’s a difference between disagreement and enmity…

          “…and you’re not none of you sympathetic to me in the least…”

          This is true.

          “…and you have a great degree of antipathy toward me for who I am and what I am…”

          No, not really. You’re pretty much just another preachy Christian who’s stopped by to deliver yet another iteration of the same old message: tiresome, but nothing more.

          “I will not likely comment on this site for long and only at the host’s discretion, but I do believe this sort of talk of yours and the reply by Mr. Gerencser are disingenuous and hypocritical.”

          I think Bruce has already had enough of you, so I doubt you’ll be able to answer me… and honestly, I’m not sure it would matter if you could. So I won’t ask in what sense you think I’m hypocritical for making fun of your writing style, or why you consider the digression disingenuous. But I’m absolutely serious about how you come across to your audience, and I hope you’ll give it some thought.

          Perhaps more importantly, you don’t seem to have any clear idea of how someone might go from being Christian to being an unbeliever, or how a former Christian might view the world rather differently then someone who grew up without religion. In other words, you presume to lecture us without showing any particular understanding of us, and that’s almost never a workable strategy.

          “You believe cussing and twitter-like brevity are important perhaps, I do not.”

          Nope. You’re wrong on both counts. I’m merely saying — repeating, now — that if you want people to take you seriously, you have to speak and/or write in a way that comes across as genuine; whereas you come across, instead, as someone who is very self-consciously playing a role.

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      Charles S. Oaxpatu

      Listen up Bro. Kane. I am a Christian, and the wording of your post sounds to me like the words of a person who has fallen into the depths of some sort of weird, unhealthy religious cult that uses the word “Christ” as mere bait to suck unwary people into its clutches. Can you say Rev. Jim Jones? Good luck—-’cause you’re gonna need it. Or as another famous Reverend Kane said: “You’re all gonna die in there!!!”

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    “…and betray the very Lord who bore my sin on the cross”

    Does anybody who believes this sort of stuff ever think about what they are saying? I suppose not, because if they did then it might turn them into reasoning beings.

    There is so much wrong with the statement that one could write a textbook. Oh just remembered, many have done so. Nobody has ever made sense of it.

    • Avatar

      No, they don’t think. That’s pretty much the point. They pontificate, postulate, assume and feel vastly superior to all the ‘unsaved trash’, but there’s no actual thinking going on. Because if there was critical analysis going on they’re realize they aren’t really following the words of Christ at all, but a bunch of man-made gobblity-gook that has nothing to do with either reality or the historical Jesus.

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    Sometimes I think religion causes mental illness; one thing I know for certain is that it does not help the mentally ill in any way. I wrote on another thread about a relative of mine whose family was Pentecostal and who thought the voices he heard in his head were Jesus (and later Satan and demons) speaking to him; in reality, he had severe schizophrenia that eventually drove him to set his house on fire and nearly kill his entire family. (He believed it was the only way to get rid of Satan and demons that lived in the walls and were whispering to him.) This was a man who actually led his own church and was believed to be “prophetic,” even by his own family. To this day, more than a decade later, his now-ex wife kicks herself for being so brainwashed by her faith that she did not realize that her husband was extremely mentally ill. He remains in a mental institution, and will most likely die there. She no longer considers herself religious, but sadly, many of this man’s family members continue to pray that Jesus will deliver him from his “demons.”

    Secular psychology is not perfect, but it is far superior to anything that “religion” has to offer, and no priest or pastor should be in the business of counseling anyone for anything other than explicitly spiritual matters. It should be a requirement that priests and pastors refer anyone who comes to them with depression, anxiety, addiction etc. to secular mental health authorities, and those who fail to do so should be held civilly and/or criminally liable if the person they “counseled” goes on to harm themselves or others. If that runs afoul of the First Amendment, frankly I do not care. We give religion for too much leeway in this country, and it causes far too much harm.

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    Recommended work about the Birchers and their negative influence on the GOP, Claire Conner ‘s memoir about being raised by parents who were zealous Birchers “Wrapped in the Flag.” Claire lectures on the Birchers and she and her siblings have rejected their late parents political wackery. Tim LaHaye started out as a Bircher and kept his paranoid world view intact.

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    Karen the rock whisperer

    I commented in 2016, but had another thought, reading about all those people in church with suboptimal mental health, all hiding it from one another.

    I worked for two decades as an engineer in Silicon Valley, where my husband is still an engineer (he retires in a couple of years). Early on in my treatment for depression, my psychiatrist told me that antidepressants were very, very widely prescribed in the Valley, because the pace of engineering work tends to burn people out. Since then, I’ve heard a lot of horror stories, and watched mothers in particular struggle to juggle work and parenting. It’s tough to be a parent when you’re expected to work 10, 11 hours a day five days a week, plus at least six hours on weekends. Certainly not all engineering jobs in the valley require that level of commitment, but most do at least part of the time.

    At least when I was in the engineering workforce, nobody admitted having suboptimal mental health, seeing mental health professionals, and so on. It labeled you as weak and possibly not able to get the job done, regardless of your actual output. Still, people creep out for a little over an hour in the workday to “run errands”, and no one cares most of the time, as long as they’re still at their computers late into the evening. So, the lucky ones get some treatment.

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    I’ve had an eating disorder which is rooted in anxiety and depression. I am largely winning the battle over the eating disorder, although great stress can cause a short term relapse. I suspect my anxiety and depression are rooted in my (undiagnosed until 4 years ago) autism, along with the pain and fatigue of fibromyalgia.

    Usually if I can manage my pain, my anxiety and depression are more fleeting. I did have a number of years after menopause when I stopped having big mood swings. I’ve noticed after several serious surgeries more recently, that I don’t have a lot of energy for stress.

    I do think that people having mental health issues are underdiagnosed in this country. Most people I know have some, even in a milder form. And most of us don’t want too many people to know it.

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    Charles S. Oaxpatu

    “In the early 1970s, Mom was an aide at Winebrenner Nursing Home in Findlay, Ohio. Winebrenner paid men more than they paid women for the same work. Mom, ever the crusader, sued Winebrenner under the Equal Pay Act and the Civil Rights Act. The Federal Court decided in her favor.”

    I like this woman’s better lights and better choices—–like the one above—–may it increase in all women, particularly the women in Christian Fundamentalist and Conservative Evangelical churches.

    Unfortunately, your mom’s fate may have been inevitable. Psychiatrists and clinical psychologists have a secret handshake term, among themselves, for patients who are beyond help and beyond hope. The term they use is “fried.” It refers to people who have experienced in their younger years a perfect storm of horrible abuse (of some sort) combined with personal brain-related genetics that perfectly predispose them to being maximally destroyed mentally and emotionally by that abuse. Being closer to your mom might….might…have helped her a little bit. However, if she was indeed fried, nothing would have helped ultimately and her fate would have inevitably been about the same. Rather than beat yourself up about what you failed to do—-if you do that—-it might be healthier to just focus on the past positive interactions you had with her. My mom was severely mentally ill too, so I have a lot of experience with this. My Ph.D. clinical psychologist of 15+ years spilled the beans to me once about “fried” people and explained it to me.

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    Charles S. Oaxpatu

    Oh. One more thing Bruce. This article is among your best and most helpful. Cherish it and put it in a place where it can be a continual blessing to others. The comment string is also a similar supporting blessing and should go with it. Excellent job Bruce and folks!!!

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      Dear Bruce,

      Thank you for sharing your story. Your mother was such a beautiful lady, it really saddens me that she couldn’t find the help she needed.

      And I’m sure you did your best given your circumstances. In my previous Evangelical circles, mental illness was also generally frowned upon. Some people I met even believe in Biblical counselling, the insane teaching that supposedly traces every mental issue to sin. And that anyone is “competent to counsel” as long as they have a bible with them. This is just a recipe for dangerous and stupid advice.

      One of the choir ladies at my parents’ church has been suffering from mental illness for as long as I remember. Every now and then, she would make a scene of herself in front of the congregation. A pastor I know once confessed to me that he had been feeling suicidal for quite some time. People are suffering everywhere, left, right, and centre, and the Evangelical faith seems powerless to stop it. I sometimes laugh at the arrogance of Evangelicals, who insist that Christians are the only ones with an access to true J-O-Y.

      I consider myself really lucky that I’ve not suffered from any debilitating bouts of depression (at least, no symptoms that can lead to clinical diagnosis). But I know first-hand how Christian teachings can cause much mental anguish. I spent a chunk of my formative years in great fear – I was convinced that I had committed the unpardonable sin and would definitely go to Hell. I believe that experience has scarred me for life. On top of that, I am constantly made to hate myself for my unapproved sexuality. I’m really grateful that I can still find reasons to live. I’m lucky that, despite their Evangelical beliefs, my parents tried their best not to hurt me.

      I have so much respect for people like Bruce who, despite their constant suffering, find the reason to endure and help other people along the way.

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    Brian Vanderlip

    Bruce, it astounds me when I reread this bit of your early history… It astounds me because you are one of clearest and most capable expositors I know regarding evangelical belief. I tend to want to extrapolate from that widespread viral group (evangelicalism) to all belief, to all groups of belief but that tendency just might be an extremist remnant of my Baptist upbringing!
    You, sir, tell the truth as you feel it in your heart and as you think it in your head. It is more than a balm to me: It is an education for me even though I was brought into this world and raised through it by committed Baptists. You help me find my way and my words when the dark places take them from me. This is what you were born to do because you have loved with all your heart. You loved your mother with all you had and your service to God from a very young age clearly demonstrates your deep wish to save yourself and your mom, to bring all to glory. That God delusion was adopted by your parents and you lived it most fully, most truly. Sadly, all your faith and hope and charity could not save your mother or change your father but you were a faithful a son, a most loving son in the way you served God for them. I am sorry that the God Delusion did not come through for you and that you had to live much of your life serving a Bullshit, cow-patty, dried turd religion… But you did it in human faith, dear man and you did it serving your parents and God. You loved them with all your heart and still do, as I read your words here.
    You could not have done more in love and service. I’m sorry you must feel (as any child wouId) that you should have done ‘more’ for your suffering mom but as I read it, you did it all, all that was humanly possible.
    I find joy in this season of giving and receiving and I am glad you now focus as fully as you are able, even with your illness, on your love of family, on Polly and the kids. If God had a face, it would be the face of one we truly love… or, better said (Victor Hugo) ‘To love another person is to see the face of God.’ Perhaps that is so. And perhaps to love another person is to BE the face of God. There is no greater love than this human phenomenon, not God or Nature, not Science, not Belief…. perhaps human love is the best this world can do, the perfection of being and a moving target.
    Bruce, I want to thank-you once again for not giving up on the writing, for telling the truth… In some circles of family there is only one person or maybe two telling the truth while all the rest are on drugs, main-lining the latest dope of belief, the old, old story…
    The very best wishes for you and yours in 2022!

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    Bruce, I think that your experiences with your mom have given you more empathy and love for others. And I bet that you were largely kind and helpful to your congregations as a pastor. Your experiences could’ve closed your heart to your others, and instead they opened up your heart. It’s just too damn awful that your mom experienced what she did, especially the sexual abuse. At least you remember what was good about her and I’m so, so sorry.

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    MJ Lisbeth

    Bruce, I was married to someone with mental illness and was in a relationship with another. A cousin of mine, who died last year, was called “profoundly retarded”: He never learned to speak or do much of anything for himself. And I have had friends who suffered from severe depression, among other mental difficulties.

    One of the hardest lessons I’ve had to learn is that even if I had done more to help them–if I could have–it wouldn’t have helped. For years, I beat myself up over two friends who committed suicide and blamed myself for not keeping a marriage–which, truth be told, I didn’t want to be in–together. Perhaps I could have given them a brighter moment or two, but ultimately I didn’t have the power to make them well, to keep the marriage together, to keep two people I loved alive.

    My aunt thought religion–her devout Catholicism that bordered on mysticism (Did I repeat myself?)–would help my cousin. My ex-wife thought her religion would help her deal with being bipolar. One of my friends who committed suicide was part of the Evangelical church I attended and the Bible study group I led.

    Faith in their gods, in their myths, didn’t do a damned thing to help them–any more than it helped me to “overcome” my gender identity and sexuality, forget the abuse I suffer (and forgive the abuser), and to escape from the cloud of depression that enveloped, and nearly suffocated, me.

    So, Bruce, at the risk of “projecting,” I would venture that you loved your mother in the way you knew how And that was exactly, and all, you could do. It’s terrible that a woman so beautiful and talented as your mother had to be so tormented–or had to live among people who thought that if she Jesus-ed hard enough, she would get better.

    Those who try to “cure” people with “faith”–or convince people that God (or Yahweh or whomever) will take care of them–really should be in prison for practicing psychiatry and other kinds of medicine without a license.

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    S.D. Edmister


    This is my first comment on one of your posts, so I hope it reads across alright. As an opening disclaimer, I am currently very ex-Christian and in the starting process of Reform Judaism conversion. When I was a Christian, I was very much evangelical, though I tried to salvage my faith and beliefs later with mainline liturgical denominations. During that time, I saw the tide turn from condemnation to awkward acceptance of the mentally ill. As a student at a fundie school, I was told how the mentally ill are suffering demons because of their weak and lukewarm faith in G-d. Psychologists were out to probe your souls and instill Freudian complexes. I myself was diagnosed with autism spectrum disorder at a young age, and the original sin theology became a self-consciousness for me. I believed that I was cursed from birth because I viewed things differently, and I was also the butt of jokes at the fundie school. I felt something was wrong with me because I wasn’t Christian enough, and I lost count of how many times I “renewed my vows” and raised my hand in need to accept Christ. I felt He rejected me because I was rejecting Him by existing.

    Through time in various therapists’ offices, I found out a great irony: When I was told that mental illnesses are a result of having a fallen nature, that in turn made me develop a mental illness: depression. It runs in my family, along with anxiety, and you bet I got that too. My self-worth was less that zero, and it was considered a sin to love myself. I still remember being told that suicide was a selfish decision that earns you a ticket to hell (but that went silent when a student years after I graduated took his life.) The bootstraps mentality runs strong here, so the expectation of not asking for help and soldiering through can lead to despair when you’re not supposed to have support. Even when I attended mainline services where mental illnesses were validated, I couldn’t shake off the notion that I deserved my depression and anxiety just for being born.

    Without going into detail, my wife has her own mental struggles as well, but she accepts me for me, as I do for her. We’re in therapy for what remains, but that line of thinking in fundiegelical circles has given far-reaching scars in so many. As a Jew-in-process, I feel better because I still feel chosen by G-d, despite what flaws I have. It’s a process, and I’m studying as much as I can, but I can now say that it’s okay to be me.

    I also wanted to offer my mindful condolences and sympathy for your loss. I cannot begin to imagine the pain, but your writing has shown me a woman who should be remembered and honored. I know we might see things differently on some matters, but I do wish the best for you. Your posts have helped me a lot to deprogram my lingering toxic beliefs from those days, and I cannot thank you enough.

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Bruce Gerencser