From Brother Jeff
I wrote the following in 2003 for posting to my original religionisbullshit.com website. I am sharing it again now in an attempt to relate what happened to me when I pulled a successful site off the web and suffered a reconversion to my former beliefs. Thankfully I recovered and am now seeking to mend any broken bridges that occurred as a result of that time period.
I have not ever kept the fact that I have Bipolar Disorder a secret. I have openly acknowledged it on this site on numerous occasions. I was diagnosed with this mood disorder, also known as Manic-Depressive illness, in February of 1998, but the illness has affected me from the age of ten, with the symptoms becoming markedly worse and very troublesome in my teens, and the affliction continues to cause many problems in my life now, at age 37. Bipolar Disorder has a strong genetic component to it, but in my particular case, my story regarding it really begins during my birth. I was born in November of 1965.
At the time, the Community Hospital there in the town that I was born in was a good one and I know that the medical staff meant to care for my mother and I well, but as it worked out the nurses on duty were inexperienced, as was the doctor. He had just begun his practice. I was born breech, and had a very difficult birth. Pressure put on my skull during birth caused damage to my right temporal lobe that eventually caused a seizure when I was ten years old. There is no question that I should have been delivered by C-Section, and I would be beyond any doubt if I was being born today, but things happened as they did and being angry about the poor decisions of the nurses and doctors in attendance at my birth 37 years ago serves no useful purpose now.
I had that seizure during the summer of 1976. My life changed permanently that night. I went to bed the night that it happened a happy, reasonably well-adjusted kid. I woke up a couple of hours later in the hospital a changed and unhappy, insecure young man. Bipolar Disorder, already present in my genetic makeup, emerged and there is no doubt that by my early teens I was a full-fledged Bipolar individual. In 1976, the medication of choice for seizure control was Phenobarbital. I was on it for six years. The seizure itself and the Phenobarbital changed my personality markedly. I was a troubled kid, and my behavior showed it. By the age of 16, I had grown out of the need for anti-seizure medication. I was taken off of the stuff, but it is the opinion of my parents that my withdrawal from Phenobarbital was progressed too quickly, and it wasn't long before I headed for the bottle. Substance abuse is very common in people who suffer from mental heath issues.
By the age of 17, I was a full-fledged teenage alcoholic. My problems with alcohol lasted until the time of my diagnosis as Bipolar in 1998. I have not drank since that time. Other than alcohol, my drug of choice was marijuana and I smoked a LOT of it in my junior and senior years in high school and off and on throughout my twenties.
Bipolar Disorder has no cure. It's symptoms can be managed, but living with the illness is still a living hell most of the time. I would not wish this affliction on my worst enemy – not even the Talking Snake! Medications help, but they do not cure. I almost never am in a manic phase of the illness although I experience a few of the traits of mania such as difficulty sleeping and "racing thoughts" from time to time. What troubles me on a daily basis is depression. I am ALWAYS depressed - how depressed is just a matter of degree. I do have periods of time when I feel basically "normal" but even those times I am well aware of the underlying depression that is still there. I have been clinically depressed for so many years that I have no idea what "normal" feels like.
Bipolar people tend to wear their emotions on their sleeves. We feel our emotions INTENSELY, and that is certainly true of me. My emotional life is an intense one, whether what I am feeling is pleasant or not.
Now, to get to the point of this post. At the time of my recent brief but intense reconversion to Christianity, I was going through a very bad Bipolar episode. I was very depressed. My financial situation, which has always been a struggle had become critical, and that is what led up to my move to Alaska to stay with my Dad. The move itself was very stressful, as big changes in life usually are. I was severely emotionally stressed at the time, and I needed RELIEF.
I did not expect to ever return to Christian faith in any form ever again, but what happened to me does have a perfectly rational explanation, of course, in spite of my earlier insistence that it did not and therefore it had to be god. I was indeed wrapped up in a lot of HATE, ANGER, and BITTERNESS towards Christianity, and I did need to let go of it, and I have done so to a large degree compared to where I was but I would be lying if I claimed that I was totally free of those negative emotions. I'm not, but I am much freer from them and being obsessed with them than I was before. But, there was no miracle and no mythical deity involved in what happened to me. I was aware that I was taking things too far in some of my posts and also aware that the way I was treating Christians wasn't right. I don't apologize for mocking ridiculous beliefs, but the attitude with which I did that was indeed wrong and I knew it, and that was starting to really bother me. In addition to the bad Bipolar stuff going on, I was experiencing a lot of guilt and considering a lot of things about my site and what I was doing with it. It particularly bothered me, considering the nature of some of my posts, to discover that Junior High School-aged kids were visiting my website. This website is definitely for a mature and critically thinking adult audience. I do have an important message - a critical one - in my opinion, but I don't want to be responsible for exposing children to content that is inappropriate for them to see. I have not ever used an excessive amount of profanity on my website, and I don't do so in my normal, everyday speech. It's just not a large part of my vocabulary and it doesn't need to be. But, the language on this site will be cleaner- although not necessarily profanity-free in the future, as will any pictures that I decide to post. For a long time, I failed to take into consideration the fact that I might have some younger viewers and that I need to bear that in mind.
So, I had Bipolar issues going on, guilt issues going on, questions to myself about my own personal character in some areas going on, and all of this stuff was snowballing on me and coming to a head, and like I said I had reached the point where I had to have RELIEF, or the pressure cooker that was my emotional life was going to blow, and probably not in a healthy way. At the time, I was getting dangerously depressed and I was not coping with life very well at all. I did have a spiritual experience that I cannot deny although I know it didn't have anything to do with the Bible God or Jesus any more than it had anything to do with Allah or Mohammed, for example. What did happen to me was a catharsis which I interpreted in religious terms at the time.
In the past, when I couldn't handle things, I self-medicated with alcohol and drugs. I have also self-medicated with religion for years. The only times that I felt "normal" and like I "belonged" was when I was drunk, stoned, or high on god and radically religious. None of those things - alcohol, drugs, or religious belief - are necessarily bad things when handled in a responsible and healthy manner. But, when taken to extremes, all of those things can be very destructive. That's what has happened and does happen with me. I self-medicate in a variety of ways when the emotional suffering caused by my Bipolar illness becomes too much for me to cope with. Back in my 15 years of extreme Fundamentalism, I was in and out of church. When I wasn't attending church and obsessing with my religion and how RIGHT and TRUE my beliefs allegedly were, I was drinking heavily and using drugs. ALL of it - the alcohol, drugs, and religion - were self-medicating coping strategies that I used to try to deal with the emotional pain and issues in my life. I have come a long way in the last five years or so in learning how to deal with my Bipolar illness in healthier ways. I have particularly made progress in the last year.
I made some changes to my diet that have brought a great deal of relief from Bipolar symptoms. I no longer feel a need or desire to turn to substance abuse for relief, and that in and of itself is a wonderful reality. But, sometimes my coping skills are still very inadequate. Although I didn't think through the reality of the situation at the time, I did what I always do when I have a Bipolar crisis. I self-medicated. I turned to religion, and I did indeed find temporary relief. I knew the whole time deep down inside that what I was professing to believe was bullshit that I couldn't rationally or factually defend but at the time, I NEEDED to believe again until the crisis was over.
Karl Marx said that religion is the opium of the people, and he was right. I am aware that he did not say that in relation to using religion as a coping device for mental illness, but it still applies. I used the opium of religion to cope with emotional issues in my life that had become unbearable.
All of that said though, I want to stress the fact that I am well aware that people who don't suffer from mental health and addiction issues can and do use alcohol and the less dangerous recreational drugs without experiencing terrible problems in their lives due to the use of those substances.
The same is true of religion. Religious belief, although no religion is literally true, does serve a positive role in the lives of many people, as does healthy Spirituality outside of the structure of organized religion. I do not deny that there can be and are healthy forms of religious/spiritual belief. What I have tried to accomplish and what I hope I have accomplished in this post is to relate some very personal realities about me and my life and the Bipolar illness that I suffer from, and its role in my recent brief return to religious belief.
This was not an easy post for me to write since it is rather personal in some respects. I know it was rambling, but I put a lot of thought into what I wanted to say and I hope this helps folks to understand my recent changes in belief and why that happened and worked out as it did. So, I submit this with the hope that this information will bring greater understanding of me as an individual and the struggles that I have in my life with this Bipolar illness, and also I hope it will bring a greater understanding and awareness of Bipolar Disorder and the suffering that it causes in the lives of those afflicted with it - suffering so intense and unpleasant that it caused me to turn to a belief system that I know to be untrue and that is obviously and provably untrue in my desperate need to find relief from my emotional suffering at the time.
OK, that was 2003. This is now – early 2008. What I would like to do is explain what happened with my original religionisbullshit.com site and my religionisbullshit.org site. In mid-2004, I had grown so burned out on my site and so afraid that it was a negative thing that I really honestly thought that I was ready to shut it down and be done with it – and that’s exactly what I did in spite of good advice from several good friends to the contrary. I have deeply regretted my decision to shut down my original site ever since then. I was so sure in July 2004 that I was done with my site that I turned my domain name over to a friend.
In early 2005, I went back online with a new RIBS site, but grew frustrated because I wasn’t experiencing the success I had enjoyed with my original site, and I was still having struggles with my bipolar illness. This led to an unfortunate history of taking my site on and offline several times over the course of a couple of years. I wasn’t and I am not currently having a struggle over whether I believe in Christianity or not. I was experiencing bipolar episodes that were really troublesome to me, and I was experiencing frustration at the lack of success of my site. And both of those things combined led to the history of taking my site on and offline.
Again, I deeply regret my actions, I can’t undo what happened, but I learned from it. I am moving ahead with new fresh ideas and some good old fashioned humor! I know that only time will prove it, but my current www.christianityisbullshit.com site is online and will remain so for the foreseeable future. I love doing it and I love entertaining folks and stomping fundies, and I can’t imagine NOT doing my site. I am really dedicated to exposing the fallacies, lies and absurdity behind religion – all while putting giving the reader a chuckle first!
My health now is much better than it was a few years ago. My bipolar illness is much better controlled than it used to be, and I’m better educated about it now than I was before.
I know this has been long, but I appreciate your time in reading it. Thanks and “Glory!”