Friday, 2 August 2013

How the worst turned into the best for me

Quite often, our greatest victories emerge out of our greatest pain. We never know what is around the corner sometimes. I am in the process of writing my life story, which will go into far greater detail, but, keeping the story shorter here ...

At the end of 2005, I was living near Poole, happily involved in my local church, where I had played the saxophone every week for the past 12 years. I had a seemingly strong belief in God and wanted to serve him (I no longer believe that God is male, or even a person for that matter).

Picture by flydyme - 'The Door to Hell'
However, life had other plans. I had stopped thinking for myself a long time ago, trapped in beliefs that were a little absurd and slightly dangerous, and I had never properly faced certain fears and insecurities. Everything came crashing down suddenly, and a month later I was in a psychiatric hospital, thinking I was doomed to go to hell. Whilst the Bible does contain a few pearls of wisdom, particularly in the Psalms and Proverbs, some of the stuff in there is downright scary. And I had taken it pretty literally for almost 15 years.




Looking back, my life could not have carried on being the same. But at the same time, I would never, ever, ever have chosen to go through the trauma and mental pain that I did in 2006. It was hell on earth for 6 months. Maybe, just maybe, in fact probably, there was a higher power watching over me, even then. But it sure didn't feel like it. I could not see a way out until I came across a support site for ex-Christians, which I owe a huge debt to, as well as some wonderful people who supported me during my stay in hospital in particular.

Photo near the beautiful Lulworth Cove
My time as a Christian was well and truly up, and I could easily have ended up being destroyed, but luckily I chose to see that life was giving me a chance to start again. And I decided to try and make the most of it. I had kind of wanted to move somewhere else for a while, but never thought about it seriously, partly due to being so committed to my church, too committed really. Where I come from is lovely (see picture) but, for some reason, it never truly felt like home to me. One of the first things I decided, after starting to get back on my feet, was that I was going to move somewhere fairly far away. I was born in Manchester so initially I thought about moving there. But after taking some holiday in Yorkshire, I decided to move to Leeds. Most of the time, it is worth making some sort of plans for a big decision like this. But here, I was really just following my heart and knew I was doing the right thing. I didn't even have a job before moving here, but sometimes life puts you in a position where you have to do something significant. It was vital for me that I started afresh in a new location, and it has been life changing.

Over time, I have discovered an alternative form of spirituality, which I am far more open about than I was about Christianity, but at the same time I don't feel like I should be trying to convert people to my way of thinking - there are several ways that you can live and be a good person and make a difference in your world. My life is not perfect by any means, and I still have plenty of moments where I feel despondent, frustrated or angry. It's not usually possible to undo years of negative thinking in a short time. But life sure is a whole lot better than it was.

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