An Off Week But Recovery Prevails

This has been an off week.

In recovering from schizoaffective disorder, I am always learning. As normal as I may seem most days, sometimes something will happen that will reveal how deep my issues run — another reminder of my broken brain. But I have to keep moving forward. Recovery is not about a cure — it’s about learning to live with your illness. 

This week I learned that to truly feel stability, you have to learn to be flexible. If you can’t adapt to changes in life, you will always be thrown off course. I’m sure that goes for everybody — mentally ill or not. 

This week fear and distractions won but I will start fresh next week. This is reality and I am regaining my focus. 

A Message for the Atheist in the Closet

1. Know you are not alone — not even a little bit. 

If you are in the States, here are American Atheists local groups and American Humanist Association local groups.

2. Whatever brought you to this decision, it was for a good reason. You did your research. You responded to questions lingering in your mind and came to a solid conclusion.

3. There’s nothing wrong with you (a misconception I grew up with).

4. Not everyone has to know, but you shouldn’t have to hide either. Share as much or as little as you want.

5. You don’t have to prove anything — that falls squarely on the shoulders of believers.

6. Be prepared to face backlash — which may or may not come. (You might be surprised.) 

7. There are resources — books, blogs, groups, podcasts, etc. If you found Freethought Blogs you’re on the right track.

My publisher, Freethought House, has a nice collection of secular books. I suggest Atheist Voices of Minnesota. This isn’t my book and I’m not from Minnesota, but I really enjoyed this anthology of personal stories. If you want something relatable, this is it.

8. Reach out for support if you need it.

Check out this organization — Recovering from Religion

9. Stay safe.

 

Please add advice and resources to the comments!

My Family: Klansmen vs. Catholics

So, I’ve been writing a lot about my relatives that were in the KKK lately, but there is so much more to my family’s story. These relatives were in my mom’s family, but what about my dad’s?

My mom, being the badass that she was, fell in love with a Catholic boy — my dad! 

If you’re not already aware, Klansmen hate Catholics for one silly argument — should god be able to talk directly to me or only through the pope? If you ask me, something that ridiculous is a pretty good endorsement for atheism. 

There’s a little more. Klansmen asked if you’re loyal to the pope, how can be loyal to America? 

My mom and dad dated through high school and college and got married in their early twenties. 

As an adult, my dad was not a practicing Catholic. In fact, he’s not very religious at all. But still, there was always tension. There were fights. There were times that people weren’t speaking to each other. 

My dad’s a good guy — a hard-working single parent — and he didn’t deserve the treatment he received.

People have died. People have moved on, and now our lives are relatively quiet.

It’s just so amazing what makes a family. It’s like we’re all a bit of everything. 

My dad’s family is made up of Catholics, immigrants, railroad workers, and a fire chief. 

And my mom’s family wasn’t just Klansmen. They were farmers and suffragists. 

Both of my grandpas served in WWII.

I just find this all so interesting and I’m looking forward to writing more. I can’t wait to break out the poetry!

Secular Parents vs. Religious Parents

Is it harder to be a secular parent than a religious one?

When you were little and asked where babies came from, what did your family tell you?

Storks? Angels?

I got a ridiculous story about a garden.

Surprisingly my daughter hasn’t asked that question yet. She turned five in April. When it comes up, I plan on giving her a simple and straightforward explanation of sex. I don’t think she’s too young for that and hopefully, it’s a conversation we can continue throughout her childhood.

As a secular parent, I feel I am tasked with telling my daughter the truth. I think it would be easier to be a religious parent always having these ready-made explanations.

Sex, babies, death, the afterlife, gender roles, marriage — you name it, religion has an answer for it.

I always want to give my daughter real answers and I want to encourage her curiosity. If I don’t know an answer, I want to help her find it. I know that will come up. I don’t consider myself worldly or well-read so I think it would be just fine to learn alongside her.

So what do you think? Is it harder to tell your kids the truth? Is it easier to rely on a religion that has all the answers?

Well, one thing I can tell you is that telling my daughter the truth sits a lot easier on my conscience. 

 

So I thought this meme was really fucking funny and it’s actually why I wrote this post. Inspiration comes from everywhere!

I’m so sorry — I don’t know the original artist to give credit to. I see a little watermark but can’t really make it out. If you know the artist, please let me know and I’ll post it.

Letting go: death is final and I may never get the answers I seek.

I want to let you all in. Having a schizophrenic disorder can be terrifying and confusing and I want to reveal what it’s really like. You might say it’s just a diagnosis, but it’s part of my story and often the reason I do the things I do. As disturbing as the symptoms are, when they cease with medication you sometimes feel a sense of loss.

I recently wrote about my family’s involvement with the Ku Klux Klan. I write what I know and how I feel about it. Honestly, I want answers but everyone’s dead. 

What does this have to do with my schizoaffective disorder diagnosis?

Prior to treatment, I thought I could communicate with the dead. I saw apparitions and heard voices. Sometimes I had visits with dead relatives. I saw my mom who died when I was five years old. I was terrified day in and day out, but in a sick way, I thought my “abilities” made me special. 

Hence the feeling of loss when medication takes away the thing that makes you special. Also, I have no memory of my mom so thinking I had a way to communicate with her was somewhat comforting.

With medication came a clear head and then atheism. In becoming an atheist I had to conclude that death is final. I never communicated with the dead. It was all symptoms of my mental illness. Thankfully, my feeling of relief has always been more powerful than my feeling of loss.

I was just thinking about this tonight because my grandparents who were in the Klan were my mom’s parents. What happened between my grandparents and me? My mom is an important link in this story and I’ll never know how she felt about it.

It’s now easy for me to say there is nothing after death, but I have to admit it’s hard knowing I may never get the answers that I seek.

My recovery is thanks to science.

I’m going to expand on something I tweeted. (Yes, I’ve been spending a lot of time on Twitter.)

Do you know what’s amazing? I don’t even remember the last time I had a psychotic symptom.

As many of you know, at 21 I was diagnosed with schizoaffective disorder. My years as a teen and young adult were plagued with terrifying hallucinations and crippling mood swings. Rock bottom hit hard and my parents got me help.

When I received my diagnosis I began taking psych meds and the effects were dramatic. I went from barely functioning to going to school. Working. Dating. Things weren’t perfect but I was going in the right direction.

Now here I am — 38. A wife. A mom. Working a job I love and writing poetry and books. Normal life has completely taken over. It was just a random thought today — I don’t remember my last psychotic symptom. 

Schizoaffective disorder is serious — but I’m thriving. 

But let’s give credit where credit is due. My recovery isn’t a miracle. My life isn’t blessed. All of this is thanks to science.

My medications work and I am incredibly grateful. 

Do you believe the differences between generations?

A tweet I saw today inspired this post.

My husband is a little older than me and it’s just enough to put us in different generations. He’s in Gen X and I’m a Millennial. 

My husband is sort of a bleeding heart. He’s passionate about causes and politics and is skeptical of authority and people in power. He’s always seeking balance and keeps his work and home life separate. He’s a little rebellious and believes in giving our daughter freedom.

I love all of that about him. 

I’m definitely more high-strung. I’ve always been ambitious and I do a lot of work at home. I have a long list of side hustles. I’m all about multi-tasking and I’m the queen of the helicopter parents.

I think we fit the stereotypes pretty well even though there are really only five years between us.

Enter Gen Z

Almost two years ago I took a poetry class at a local university. It was in-person and just before the pandemic. 

I was nervous. Times have changed since I first went to college and I was by far the oldest person in the class. Most of my classmates were just barely young adults. 

As the semester went on, I became more and more impressed with these young people. They were so considerate and respectful. This was probably most visible to me when it came to pronouns. When I was younger, a person’s pronoun preference wasn’t really considered, but these students not only introduced themselves with their pronouns, they would ask you for your pronouns if they were unsure instead of assuming. Could you imagine the heartache this could have saved people if students did this when I was younger? It was amazing. 

I was so impressed with their writing as well. These students were open, thoughtful, and articulate. When they shared their poetry, they were wise beyond their years.

I was extremely apprehensive about sharing a poem I wrote about being an atheist, but apparently, it was only a big deal to me. Everyone was supportive and many came up to me after class to compliment my poem. Is Gen Z more secular? I really don’t think that would have gone so well when I was younger. 

Obviously, you can’t judge a whole generation by just one college class, but the tiny glimpse I got of Gen Z was incredible. Everything I was impressed with came so naturally to them. These were obviously things they were used to and expected.

 

Maybe these generation stereotypes aren’t always true, but you have to admit the time period you grow up in is going to affect your values.

The good news is I have hope for the future.

 

What generation are you in? Do you fit the stereotypes? How about the rest of your family/friends?

My 200th Post — A Look Back

I started “From the Ashes of Faith” back in December 2019 and I have now reached my 200th post.

When I applied to be a blogger at Freethought Blogs, I had been writing for Healthy Place for just over two years. Healthy Place is a mental health website where I posted articles every other Wednesday about mental illness recovery. Mental health is very important to me but there were a lot of rules writing for Healthy Place and I was looking to branch out.

Being an atheist is also really important to me as well as important to my recovery from schizoaffective disorder. I was looking for a platform where I could express that and I was lucky enough to be accepted into Freethought Blogs.

I really enjoy the freedom of blogging for FtB.

Prior to FtB, I had very little contact with other atheists. I was very certain in what I felt and believed but I feel the readers with their comments and support really brought me out of my shell. 

Thank you!

My blog has been a place where I could work out ideas and find my voice.

Today I am working on getting the word out about my poetry book which was published and released back in February. I also have several other book projects I’m working on. 

I’m looking forward to many more posts and thank you for your support!

A Secular Childhood: Letters to My Daughter — no. 27 “Pink”

Dear daughter,

As daddy and I waited to welcome you into the world, we spent a lot of time thinking about how to raise a little girl. We wanted you to grow up to be strong and independent. Did that mean we should steer you away from traditional “girly” things? We weren’t sure.

Eight months into the pregnancy, Pop-Pop and Grandma threw us a baby shower. Everybody loves to buy adorable little baby clothes when they go to baby showers, however, I asked everyone to stay away from pink. Daddy and I were going to do everything gender-neutral. Your room was an “under the sea” theme and we wanted to dress you in yellow, green, and purple. (No pink.)

Gender-neutral is surprisingly hard to pull off in America, but we did our best. However, it wasn’t going to last.

Things changed a couple of years down the road. As soon as you learned your colors, you knew you loved pink. Shit! Really kid? How did this happen?

As soon as you could walk in the store, we let you pick out your own clothes. You wanted pink everything. There were many days that you were dressed from head to toe in pink. 

Three years later and nothing has changed. Your clothes are pink. Your shoes are pink. Your bed is pink. You come into mommy and daddy’s room and steal mommy’s pink jewelry and hair things. Everything is pink.

I’ve caught hell for it. “You shouldn’t dress your little girl in pink every day.” The thing is, I didn’t dress you. You picked out your own clothes and dressed yourself. 

So I started to think, is pink really that bad? It’s your favorite color and it was never forced on you. It’s just something you like.

I’m learning, daughter. Pink isn’t bad — it’s just another color.

On June 18th, 2021, you graduated from preschool. Your graduation was a special event, but you refused to wear a dress. Instead, you wore a pink shirt with a doggie on it, gray leggings, and pink unicorn snow boots — and you looked absolutely adorable!

So now I say, as long as you are comfortable and your clothes make you happy — wear whatever the fuck you want. That’s all that matters. 

I hope you remember this if you decide to become a parent one day.

Love,

Mom