You know that meme that says something like “Before diagnosing yourself with depression or anxiety, make sure you’re not just surrounded by A-holes?”
Well, it’s not strictly true. If you think you’re having clinical depression or anxiety you should talk things over with a therapist. But you also shouldn’t ever underestimate the power of cruel people on your health.
Iv’e been pretty frank about my struggles with spiritual abuse and bullying; I’ve mentioned being raised with toxic Charismatics, my run-in with a crazy bigot priest, and then the Catholic neighbors who did everything in their power to remind me that they think poverty is a curse. Just the other day I wrote about the homeschool mother from hell. Maybe later I’ll talk about my short stint being forced to attend Regnum Christi youth group meetings as a homeschooler and how I got away from it, or the time a theology student from the local university tried to blackmail my husband into calling off our wedding. The last straw came just over a month ago, when a secular religious community in my town threw me out without warning halfway through my aspirancy and refused to tell me any reason why at all, just “It’s the Holy Spirit.” This is typical for my town in the Ohio Valley; these people blame everything including their farts on the Holy Spirit. They’re notorious for it.
I always try to be so forthcoming about bullying in Catholic circles because I know I’m not alone, and I want to provide a place where others feel they’re not alone. Holy Mother Church is established and preserved by Christ. Her teachings are from the Holy Ghost. But in her individual congregations she is made up of people, and people often do horrible things. Many people have been hurt by abusive Catholics. Many people struggle with their faith because of this. It’s normal to struggle with your faith or even your sanity after something like that happens. I don’t aim to tell anybody what to do. Everyone’s spiritual journey is very different, and no one set of practices invented by a human being with a blog is going to work for everyone. But in the interest of openness and helping others who have similar struggles, I want to talk about what I’ve been doing lately. I don’t expect that what I do will work for everyone; I don’t even know that it will work for me long term, but we’ll see.
After the episode with the religious group, I was quite frankly a mess. I was crying just thinking about going to Mass; I was crying at Mass as well. A priest friend told me it sounded like I was actually exempt from my Sunday obligation because Mass was causing so much suffering; he explained that “nobody is obliged to do the impossible” and quoted Canon 1245. But I didn’t want to stop going to go to Mass. It wasn’t Jesus I couldn’t stand, it was everyone else. Perhaps a stronger person than I am could just let it all roll off and continue going to Sunday Mass at the same churches as ever without all the hurt, and that’s fine for them. Perhaps people who have been through worse things than I have can find a trusted priest to talk to about whether they are in too much trauma to be obliged to attend Sunday Mass as well.
What I ended up doing was a little different.