I Didn’t Want to Be Broken, I Wanted to Be Whole: By Neriah

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I Didn’t Want to Be Broken, I Wanted to Be Whole: By Neriah

HA notes: The author’s name has been changed to ensure anonymity. “Neriah” is a pseudonym.

It’s with excitement that I’ve read all the articles posted on Homeschoolers Anonymous — yet I could never figure out which experience of my own to write about.

Until the mental health week.

I was anorexic from about age twelve to thirteen — honestly, the months are blurry and I can’t handle going back and reading my journals from that time to get a more precise number.

But, safe to say, for about a year I starved myself.

I dropped from around one hundred pounds down to seventy-nine; my body began to shut down. My hair and nails suffered, and my period stopped.  When I look at pictures from that time, I’m shocked — my body is gaunt, my bones protrude out, my face is ghostly. I was twelve and yet I could have passed for nine or ten years old.

Those are the biological details.

Once I began eating normally again (as in, being able to eat a bag of skittles without freaking completely out), the next six years were all about recovering mentally: shifting through feelings, engaging my family, etc. I was constantly depressed and unable to participate normally in social situations. My mind was upheaval—until I was twenty, I spent many, many days in a guilt-and-shame induced nausea.

I had no formal counseling. In fact, when I wrote a speech about my battle with anorexia for an NCFCA speech season, my mom read it and asked, “but did you ever struggled with anorexia?”

It was at that point that I realized I was on my own to sort through the mess in my mind.

Since then, I’ve spent a lot of time thinking about cause. While finding the origin of anything is tricky and often impossible, a significant factor has emerged in the past twelve years that I believe contributed my anorexia and concurrent mental issues: my religious background. In hindsight, my family’s constant emphasis on the Bible, for me, lead to drastic jumps in logic that reinforced my depression, shame and guilt.

Here are few logical fallacies (what I now realize are fallacies) that I’ve mulled over these past fifteen years:

1. If my body was my temple, I had intentionally ruined it by starving myself. I was therefore disrespecting God as the creator of my body. This all equaled shame and guilt—and fear.

2. I had always been a very strong-willed child—my mother commented that she had read James Dobson’s Strong Willed Child and she had a few chapters to add. Furthermore, my mother did not often deal with my passionate, argumentative nature well. Often, in the heat of frustration, she would lob Bible verses at me to convince me to change my behavior. Common ones include the following:

Proverbs 16:18, “Pride goes before destruction, and haughtiness before a fall.”

Exodus 20:12, “Honor your father and mother. Then you will live a long, full life in the land the LORD your God is giving you.”

She never quoted the following verse at me, but I had read the obscure (and more interesting parts!) of the Old Testament, so I remembered this one that terrified me:

Deuteronomy 21:18, “If a man have a stubborn and rebellious son, which will not obey the voice of his father, or the voice of his mother, and that, when they have chastened him, will not hearken unto them:  Then shall his father and his mother lay hold on him, and bring him out unto the elders of his city, and unto the gate of his place; And they shall say unto the elders of his city, This our son is stubborn and rebellious, he will not obey our voice; he is a glutton, and a drunkard. And all the men of his city shall stone him with stones, that he die: so shalt thou put evil away from among you; and all Israel shall hear, and fear.”

As a result of these verses, I began to believe that my anorexia was a punishment from God intended to turn me toward him and my parents.

It was my “pride” and “haughtiness” and my “lack of honor” that caused me to come into such problems. Thus, if I listened to what God was trying to teach me, the hardships and pain of anorexia would be instrumental in my walk with God— and my depression and guilt and shame would go away.

3. Once I saw the cause of my anorexia (namely, my sin and pride), I would be better. I tried to repent.

I would go forward at church, confessing my sins…..and I’d still feel crippling guilt.

I would read the Bible with discipline and focus…..yet I would still feel horrible depression that made it nearly impossible to get out of bed.

I would simply assume there was a hidden sin somewhere in my life causing me shame—something I hadn’t confessed yet. I searched my soul— wracked my brain. Prayed and prayed, and yet I still felt the urge to work nearly 50-60 per hours a week one summer because I simply could not handle being in a room alone with my racing mind.

I felt I could never repent enough to make the depression go away permanently.

Plus, with all the talk in Christianity about the benefits of “being broken” and how one must be broken in order to be used by God, etc, etc, etc—- I began to feel an impasse with my faith.

Hell, I didn’t want to be broken; I wanted to be whole.

It was at that point that I realized that Christianity and my religious background were not helping me overcome anything— instead, it provided the framework, the worldview to perpetuate these overwhelming waves of depression.

Thus, for me, I left Christianity behind. I believe in God, and yet I find the organized interpretations and literal approach to the Bible not only shallow, but dangerous. My depression and feelings and of guilt and shame have been helped with actual counseling, new “worldly” friends, and a fuller awareness of myself resulting from exposure to ideas in undergraduate and graduate studies.

The very places and people my church tried to save me from instead became my mental health salvation.

On Reading Nietzsche (And Becoming A Heretic To Myself): Lana Hobbs’ Thoughts

On Reading Nietzsche (And Becoming A Heretic To Myself): Lana Hobbs’ Thoughts

The following piece was originally published by Lana Hobbs on her blog on April 10, 2013. It is reprinted with her permission. Concerning this piece, she says: “I do not specifically mention homeschooling in the post, although I was homeschooled. I do, however, allude to the fear of ‘unholy’ and unbiblical knowledge that a very conservative education instilled in me, and in many others.”

"Now I read and recognize my own self, now I see myself more clearly, and understand how I view the world."
“Now I read and recognize my own self, now I see myself more clearly, and understand how I view the world.”

I’m reading ‘Thus Spoke Zarathustra’ for the first time.

I read a little of Nietzsche in college and found his writing fresh and brilliant, but also confusing and frightening. I didn’t read much beyond the assignment, partially from the exhaustion of school and partially the exhaustion of strange new ideas.

Prior to college all I knew about him was that he was an old philosopher who was possibly crazy and who was against everything the bible stands for.

I don’t think that is true, although he was certainly a subversive thinker.

And okay, he may have been a little bit mad, and was definitely against the organized religion of the time. I dare say he’d be against a lot of the organized religion today. But I don’t find it frightening any more, I welcome it. I am better able to understand him now, and I think he is a proper genius.

Nietzsche – through the prophet Zarathustra – puts words to nebulous thoughts, concerns, and hopes that have been floating in my head for years, unexpressed and not quite understood.

I don’t understand everything he says… And this is where I want to say ‘and I don’t agree with it all’, but frankly, whether I agree with it or not is not very relevant. Why should I form an immediate opinion on such new thoughts?

My beliefs are changing, shifting, evolving. I used to hold everything I read up to the standards of truth I held in my mind – standards created by the Bible – or by what I was taught was important in the Bible but which I now know many people who do love the bible do not agree with.

Now I still examine what I read – especially things telling me how I should act – but in this examination I try to focus more on logic and kindness, than on how much I agree with what I read. I read with less arguing and more taking things in, letting people speak to me. Digestion comes after tasting.

I read stories from all sorts of people, from different ideologies, with different experiences.

And I learn.

Sometimes, I allow the stories to change my mind.

Sometimes, the stories touch things in my mind and soul I didn’t know were there.

Instead of shutting up others’ voices – shutting myself off – for fear I will be swayed and tricked away from my absolute truth, I let my mind be open to ideas. Slowly, slowly I’ve realized there can be more truth, and more ways of understanding the truth in this massive universe than just the truth I was taught as a young child and clung to ferociously.

This is why I am ready for Zarathustra now. This is why Nietzsche’s genius frightened me before.

I wasn’t ready.

Now I read and recognize my own self, now I see myself more clearly, and understand how I view the world.

At least I understand it a little more.

So many new ideas jumble inside my head but I am not afraid of them anymore. At least not so much.

If I am seeking truth, I will find it, don’t you expect?

If I cling to my truths with a closed mind, insisting anything new must be not-true because it us new to me, then how will my understanding grow? It will wither inside and nothing new will come in to take its place.

So I take in new thoughts and fight the old part of myself that thought knowledge must be sanctified, certified kosher, to be consumed.

Here’s to new thoughts and to the overcomers.

“But the worst enemy you can meet will always be yourself; you lie in wait for yourself in caverns and forests. Lonely one, you are going the way to yourself! And your way goes past yourself, and past your seven devils! You will be a heretic to yourself and witch and soothsayer and fool and doubter and unholy one and villain. You must be ready to burn yourself in your own flame: how could you become new, if you had not first become ashes?”

~ Friedrich Nietzsche, Thus Spoke Zarathustra