Depression for an a-theist

comments 19
the godless side

There is pressure, maybe we all feel it, to present a strength to the world.  That you are strong.  That either your life is so good it’s worth envying, or it’s so hard that we should all admire your strength within it.  That there is an inner force within oneself, a strong one, that knows things.  That figures them out.  That is the teacher and the student.  We applaud the successes or the authenticity in the challenges.

But what we never see is brokenness, period.  Just broken.  It’s not pretty, it’s not comfortable.  It’s like a dissonant chord, never resolving in the next measure.  Odd, unstable.  Like someone deformed.  We turn away.

But right now, I am deformed.  Dissonant.  Broken.  There is no inner strength to help me.  I feel lost and overwhelmed.  Depression ebbs and flows throughout different periods in my life.  And there has always been hope.  Right now, hope is so hard to find.  I love my children and my husband.  That’s all I have.  And I know that that’s enough, because it’s kept me alive and that love is my only source of joy.

I envy belief in god.  To know that through the pain, there is someone who’s got your back.  Who will give you a hope and a future.  Who will work everything out for your good.  Who can see the bigger picture and tell you— “It’s going to be worth it.”

In my worldview, there is no necessary happy ending; the ending is unknown.  Everything is uncertain.  And that uncertainty can be invigorating, but it also means these bleak, dark days have no sure upside.  I have to find it, create it, myself.  By myself.  So the failures are ever so poignant, there is no buffer.  I feel weak and exhausted, how am I supposed to create a hopeful future out of such weakness?

God could do it.  He pleasured himself on showing his strength in our weakest moments.  As perverted as that seems in logical moments, right now I wish I had that strength again.  The magic hand that dried my tears and told me everything was going to be okay.  That the instability is there for a purpose.  That I am here for a purpose.

But that voice doesn’t exist.  It is not here.

For the Christians reading this thinking, “Just reach out, he IS there!”  You must understand that just because you have an answer for pain doesn’t mean it is THE answer.

And pain is not a cause for belief.  Evidence is.  I’m not speaking stubbornly, I’m speaking honestly.  As much as I may desire for a belief in magic right now, I cannot make myself believe in something.  Belief is not a choice.

These 2 am lonely nights are as lonely as they feel.  There is no one listening.  No one to comfort me.  I am a source of comfort to my children, none to comfort me.

Life is so alone.

The Author

I'm a closet atheist christian missionary. Paradigm shifts happen frequently for those who allow themselves to think critically about currently held beliefs and openly about new ones. I’ve developed the skill, or perhaps addiction, for change but the community around me is slow to catch up -- and would damn me if they knew where I stood.


  1. Sarah Furst says

    I appreciate the loneliness you speak of. It’s heavy on my chest and throat. Sending you my love

    Liked by 1 person

    • Thank you my dear friend! I’m sorry for your heaviness. May we somehow carry the burdens for one another, together.


  2. Stephanie says

    Ah, I am so very sorry you are fighting this battle. I don’t know this depth of depression in myself, but I have seen it in those I love, and I want you to know you are NOT alone. Please don’t lose hope that things will get better. My 19 year old son who I love with all my heart struggles with depression. It comes creeping into his life and has the ability to rob him of his will to live. I despise the way it controls his perspective on life. I dread the insidious way it takes his hope and joy and the way it twists his personality into a moody and hopeless mess. He once told me how some days/hours he has to tell himself to hang on just a little longer because it will not always feel so bad. You are a valuable and amazing person. I’ve never met you, but I’ve been reading your blog for a long time and I have seen how you are so creative and loving and you are fulfilling a purpose. Depression lies. It says you are nothing and have no value to anyone. It’s wrong. It lies, and it’s wrong, because you do matter. You matter to your family and so many people you come in contact with and you don’t even realize you impact. You matter. Don’t give up, you are not alone.

    Liked by 3 people

  3. Violet says

    There is deep loss in deconversion…I also experienced (and sometimes still experience) a profound grief/depression over losing god, who was my best friend and protector, and whom I trusted unequivocally. There is no way to skirt this incredible grief. One must walk through it.

    I’m three years out from deconversion and still regret the loss of my devout faith. I want it back! As you said though it’s not the “choice” others think it is…you can’t un-ring a bell. Those of us who have been through it can help prop you up. Hang in there! Pour all that love you had for god into yourself. We can rise above the lies and myths we grew up with…we can!!

    Liked by 4 people

    • You understand so perfectly. I love what you said about pouring our love we had for god into ourselves. That’s actually incredibly profound, and I will ponder that for awhile. Thank you so much for your encouragement!

      Liked by 2 people

  4. Lois Edwards says

    My heart aches for and with you. I wish I could reach out and turn the page and make your life better. But, many years ago, I learned that there are many things that no one can do for you. You have to do them for yourself. But I also know that happiness comes eventually.

    This is the first time I’ve read your blog but it will not be the last. Thank you for expressing yourself. It will help many others on a similar path. All I can do now is wish you the best as your journey continues, and assure you that you are not alone.

    Liked by 1 person

  5. I read this post before the weekend and reading it again now I really am struck by the loneliness described.

    It’s been a few years since I left the faith, it is a lonely process when your whole world is tied into the faith you can no longer accept.

    I grew up in a missionary environment, so I have some knowledge of that life. I am thankful that it was after I left that life that I left the faith. Going through that journey within the missionary world sounds terrible.

    Fighting the thick fog of depression as part of that process is terrible. I’ve had by own struggle with that, it hurts. I hope this doesn’t sound like a meaningless platitude and please forgive me if it doesn’t help, but give yourself permission to enjoy the life you have.

    I have been encouraged by the support of the online atheist community, when I blogged about my own journey I found support from those who had been there before or who had their own struggles and understood what it is to tear yourself away from the certainty of belief. I am sure you will find the same.

    Liked by 3 people

    • Thank you for this! We are attempting to establish community outside the church, but it is a long process. We are trying to be patient within it, but it takes time, and the waiting in between is the biggest struggle. Thank you for understanding and the suggestions!


  6. Skrag says

    I hope your efforts to create a secular community work out. I have been reading a few of your older posts, and can’t help wonder if your being stuck in the atheist closet isn’t compounding your depression. Especially when you spoke of not finding ‘joy’ in life (a couple of posts back). It’s hard to be joyous when you are hiding who you really are. I can’t imagine what it’s like to live in fear of being myself, well done for finding the courage to speak out.
    From a ‘never been a believer’ in the UK.

    Liked by 1 person

  7. Violet says

    Skrag brings up a good point. When I deconverted I came out right away (probably too soon as I wasn’t prepared enough for the backlash), and lost everything. Family, friends, job…my entire life collapsed right when I was in the worst crisis I’d ever faced. Still, the upside was that I was able to be my true self and did not have to hide…I cannot imagine the enormous stress hiding amidst believers must be for you, Teal. Unfortunately I haven’t been able to build a secular community around myself as I live in a religious area (midwest USA), and we’re unable to move due to my husband’s job. I stand completely alone, but I also stand true to myself. If I’d had to hide I don’t know that I’d have any scrap of mental health left.

    Teal, is there any hope of you being able to get out of the closet anytime soon, or at least relocate to an area where you don’t have to hide? If you can’t, I’d recommend you start posting more. There is a strong online community of atheists and deconverts here at wordpress, and other places online too. This support system saved me…I blogged for two years during the worst of deconversion and received incredible words of comfort and wisdom. Of course christians harassed me relentlessly too…sometimes I look back and think I should have blocked them or made my blog private, which is an option for you if it gets bad. My point is though, you should not attempt to go through such a tremendous paradigm shift alone. The pain of it is terrible and you need support. There are those of us here who are prepared to stand with you on this journey. ❤
    One of my favorite blogs is by Victoria "Neuronotes." A deconvert herself, she studies how human brain chemistry can explain the religious phenomenon we've experienced as devout believers. While she doesn't post as frequently anymore, her blog is a treasure trove of information and she regularly posts comments to help those struggling through deconverson.

    Liked by 2 people

    • Community is key. Being “religious” is more about having a community than about beliefs, I think. I echo what Vi said. I’m a former believer whose faith left about the same time Vi’s did. We found each other online about the same time I found your blog, Teal. Reading you both helped me know I wasn’t going crazy, or if I was, I wasn’t alone! Finding other bloggers like Victoria (who is amazing) and content by other deconverts like Seth Andrews helped me create an online community and learn about this new life I find myself in. Strangely enough, after years of dealing with depression and anxiety, losing my faith actually improved that situation after I came to grips with it. (Not having a poorly defined deity breathing down my neck is a relief.) I’m still not ‘out’ to anyone other than my husband and a few non-judgmental friends (and appreciate Vi’s experienced counsel about this). I would love to be, but choose not to up-end my life that way. At least for now. I’m glad to see you’re still posting, Teal, and hope you’ll continue to use this forum for your beautiful voice. We need each other.

      Liked by 2 people

  8. Skrag says

    Yes, small steps. You don’t have to fully engage with the atheist community. Have a look around, create a few fake profiles and enjoy yourself without exposure. Have a look at some of the well known atheists/sceptics on you tube. Aron Ra and Matt Dillahunty (see The Atheist Experience, often offers help/advice/websites) are both worth watching. I found this page via Paulogia, a deconverted christian, who is well worth a watch. You may find yourself shocked by what they say, and you will certainly find that there is a lot of humour generated by the examination of faith/theism.
    Remember, being an atheist does not define you, it only indicates that you do not accept the theistic claim of god, due to lack of evidence. That’s it, nothing more, nothing less.
    Now you are free, not to define yourself, but to BE yourself, and you are under no obligation to accept anybody else’s assertions. Be sceptical, question everything and never forget, “I don’t know” is a perfectly good answer. It is much more honest than the false certainty given by religion. It opens up life to investigation!

    Liked by 1 person

  9. I don’t know why I didn’t think of this sooner. Are you a member, or are you aware of, The Clergy Project? If not, you should consider joining. It exists for people like you, people who were, or still are, religions leaders who are closeted atheists. One of the originators of the organization wrote the book, Caught in the Pulpit. Take a look.

    Liked by 1 person

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