Tuesday, January 9, 2018

Why I Stopped Going to Church


If I were reading this blog about one of my friends, the title would have made my heart sink. I was always sad when someone I knew left the church, if I'm honest I still am, this isn't an easy decision. I'm sad because I know what it must have taken to admit to oneself that this isn't the life or spiritual path for them. When I say "church" I mean The Church of Latter Day Saints. Everyone who leaves has a reason; it's rarely a sudden decision, and it's heart breaking for those involved along with family and friends.

I converted to the church when I was 18, at the time I needed guidance, fresh out of high school and madly in love with my best friend who was leaving for his mission (I had no idea what it was about), but he always seemed to have his life together. I admired him because not only was he handsome, but kind, funny, and completely different from what I was used to at home. At my house there were a lot of drugs, alcohol, arrests, unsavory people coming in and out of the house all day, and mental and physical abuse. It was literally all I knew. There, of course, were good times; my parents always made sure we had food, and utilities were paid on time; we always had a good Christmas. But I had to endure things like watching my dad get arrested a few times, even picking him up from jail. I'm pretty sure he's on a first name basis with the Kingman Police department at this point. My mother dealt with crippling (mostly untreated) mental illness along with all the problems of the family which she vocalized to me. My whole life I knew our financial situation, why my dad was in jail again, rumors about the family, etc... It was kind of a toxic environment. So when the church found me I needed it; I needed it to rise above my situation and become the person I am today.

After I was baptized, it was a whole new spiritual world and I thrived. I was a follower of the prophet, I knew God existed and I felt his unconditional love. Content with my new roles as future wife of a returned missionary (I was consistently told to not accept anything less) future homemaker, future child bearer,  I got a carnation every mothers day celebrating my womb even though it was vacant, and would remain that way. I could do all these wonderful things all the while contributing to the household income with my "side business" but my family would come first of course. All these things are wonderful, righteous desires! My life was to be dedicated to my family and my place in one of heavens kingdoms was mine,  if I followed all the rules and held on to the iron rod. I still have a little iron rod on my keychain I got from my baptism almost 20 years ago. Over the last 18+ years I have surrounded myself with mostly Mormons. I have a few friends that aren't LDS, some that are teetering on leaving, and some that are die hards forever. I love all of them regardless of where they are in life, and I think thats where the cracks in my foundation was started... Love ironically.
These last few years have been some of my most depressing years of my life. I believe it got much worse when my sweet friend Anne passing away a couple years ago, it was such a shock and we were close in age (and weight, which contributed to her passing) and it was a major wake up call. I wasn't depressed because she had passed away, not the whole time but it just started to make me look deeper in myself and figure out what was happening. Why was I so sad all the time? Why wasn't I working harder to be a better member of the church? I just kept procrastinating the inevitable.
This has nothing to do with Andrew, but with me. I have been unhappy with myself and in order to be happy with my spouse and life I had to make a life change.


Reason #1

I wasn't happy

The teachings of the church instilled a kind of thought process that if I apply all the teachings and church logic to every aspect of my life I will be happy, blessed and successful. If I pay tithes-I get blessings, if I go to the temple-I get blessings, if I go to church all 3 hours and embrace and fulfill my calling-I get blessings. If I don't do those things, I wont get blessings. Well I needed blessings so I did those things, and for most of my time in church it was great! I was getting blessings, more like seeing the positive in life but hey, if thats what it takes to tap into that happiness I'm all for it. I felt like I belonged and I had a great personality and a weird upbringing so I was interesting and different, which meant I made friends easily in my singles wards, as well as other wards I would visit. This block of time between ages 20-30 was magnificent, I was living the life of a good Mormon girl, and fulfilling all the requirements for living the gospel to the fullest.
The problem was when I wasn't living the gospel to it's fullest, I'm sure most of the members have been in this boat before. There are times where my faith wasn't good enough to pay tithes even though rent was due, or I hated my calling and was bitter about it, or I was depressed and couldn't make it to church functions and meetings. I started having a detrimental thought process of guilt, and worth issues. The more I fell away the more these thoughts would consistently run through my brain.

Things like-I'm not good enough to take the sacrament because I couldn't pay tithing this month, and I don't want to face the bishop so I wont go.
I confused happiness and success with worth, the culture teaches this unintentionally, though it's not doctrine it's definitely present. The idea that if you aren't living the gospel to it's fulness you aren't "worthless, just LESS WORTHY" seriously, I don't want to be considered less worthy because I'm making simple mistakes, it's my God given right! Think about it, if someone is having a hard time in life, don't you think..."I wonder if he/she is doing everything right spiritually?" I did initially but would try to change those thoughts to "we all have trials." But I know some people think that way, and it's hurtful. Also by that logic we are all less worthy because we are all sinners right? Right? I always heard "the Temple is for imperfect people" but the requirements to be able to attend were borderline perfection. So that was confusing sometimes.
I struggle with low self esteem in general, and because my entire identity centered around the church, every aspect of my life was hazed by these negative thoughts and spiritual interpretations. This is something I'm still working through and changing, I cannot feel guilty and cry every Sunday because I perceive I'm failing in life, God, family all these things only because I couldn't live up to the expectations of the church at that point in my life.
The idea that happiness will only come to you if you get married in the temple to a return missionary, have babies etc...as a woman this was my destiny regardless if I could have kids or not, I could always spend 30k and just adopt right? This is ludicrous and devalues women who can't have children, and who can't afford to adopt. Often I would feel disregarded and my opinions unvalued because I didn't have kids, because I didn't know how hard it was. I get it, I don't know what it's like, but I'm a woman and I needed to be valued in church even though I wasn't on the path to divine motherhood (I really respect mothers by the way, you guys are amazeballs.). Though I felt this way, it was probably my clouded perception. I had a lot of good women try to bring me back, visiting teachers that came every month and generally tried to lift me up.
For that I am grateful.



Reason #2

Social anxiety is a beast.

Saturday evenings consisted of keeping myself occupied by any means possible because I knew Sunday morning was going to be a battle. A battle of "I SHOULD GO, but I'm such a horrible person" and "I just can't today, I'm so weak" or " I can't pretend to be happy anymore, I'm so fake" or my personal favorite "I haven't prayed or read scriptures in a while, I'm not worthy".
When I did go it was agony for me, those of you who know me well know that I'm an empath. Empaths tend to be overstimulated by large groups of people simply because we absorb emotions. You know how sometimes you're really tired and grouchy, and the kid behind you is whiny and repeatedly kicking your pew, then the lady at the pulpit is having a emotional spiritual moment and you're desperate to know what she's saying but between the primary kids (which should be their own branch it's so big) and her sniffles you can't make it out. The older person in front of you is sleeping, another is coughing and I ALWAYS worry someone is going to vomit. Vomit is my worst fear. Anyway, all those emotions are just seeping in, this last ward was particularly difficult to me because we live in a heavily populated, low income area which is mostly new parents, students, etc.  The social anxiety isn't considered a good enough excuse, I tried to get my temple recommend a year ago because I love the Temple! It was one of the few places I felt I could meditate and worship in peace. But my bishop required me to come to church every Sunday for all 3 meetings for 2 months, (even though we had been attending regularly, but would skip the last 2 hours because of my anxiety) before he'd even discuss getting an interview. I couldn't do that to myself, the prospect was daunting and I had to find another way.

The day we decided to just stop

It was a Sunday morning, and I was crying in the kitchen again, my heart breaking again and again every week. I looked at my husband and I said "Please, I can't do this anymore, I don't want to be LDS anymore" and he just hugged me and said "ok" it was that very moment months ago that my life changed and I was able to take control of my thoughts. Andrew has his own reasons for not wanting to go anymore, I've tried to get him to piece it out and figure out why but he isn't like that. He makes a decision and he sticks with it. I'm so emotionally directed in my life, everything I do is entwangled in my emotions, so even though we decided to stop going, I still had heartbreak for a long time.

Repercussions

Well telling family and friends was like coming out of the friggin closet. When I told my father in law it was less than timely, we were talking about my business and he asked about church, and I literally blurted it out. He was driving, and had to pull over, at one point he barked "WHAT ELSE ARE YOU DOING ON SUNDAYS? IS THE BOOK OF MORMON ALL OF A SUDDEN NOT TRUE?" Some of you might find this negative, but I found it sweet... awww he's mad! When someone is upset with you they love you. My father-in-law is a wonderful, kind man and an unexpected father to me personally. I love you dad! I appreciate the love and effort you put into Andrew and I, you do it for all your kids (8), he really is amazing.

Andrew and I had to make a decision on whether or not to stay married because so much of what we based our foundation on was the gospel. This might sound weird, but long before we ever tied the knot Andrew told me he was gay. It's why we never really "dated" all those years we were friends. When we decided to date and get married we just knew it was supposed to be. We have been together for 9 years, married 6. Being in a mixed orientation marriage is not easy, I do not recommend it. Though Andrew and I are very much in love, and have a wonderful time together, I have to admit that having a husband not sexually attracted to me has been difficult. The negative in the marriage mostly is in my own mind, I've had to adapt so that we can live happily. To be completely honest, the sexual orientation thing is not the biggest problem for us. Mental illness, life changes and learning to grow with one another is the hardest...so normal stuff.

Some of you may be wondering why I'm airing out my dirty laundry. It's because you invested in me, you invest in my life whether you're my best friend or even just an acquaintance. I invest my time into you as well, I love "stalking" people I haven't seen in ages, happy for my friends expanding families new jobs etc. I figured a blog would be the best to really get to disclose my reasons, and I'm not expecting too much.

I still love the church, I want to attend church things like baptisms and blessings. I respect that those I love have a spiritual truth that they uphold, even if I can't. I have so many friends and family that are advocates of change in the church, things like equality and gay rights. I don't feel bad for quitting, I needed to take control of my mental health, unfortunately, I had to give up a huge part of my identity in the process.


Andrew and I still believe in God, but we are just finding a different path. I'm trying new things and stretching myself spiritually and organically. I'm letting my own spiritual path unfold before me and finding my own truth. I have found that if the path feels loving and free thats the path for me. Love, unconditional love. That's all I can offer and it's all I can hope for.
















Monday, February 1, 2016

A Detailed Description of My Crappy Health Situation.


" You've been unfairly judged your whole life"
A couple of years ago I noticed I wasn't losing weight even though I was working my tail off, and eating well. I went in to the doctors, had bloodwork done, and I was diagnosed with insulin resistance, and put on a special diet that only lasted a summer. It was complicated! "You can only eat such and such grains on mondays and tuesdays, on wednesday's and thursday's we eat protein and veg only" yadda yadda, I felt like I was part of a mean girl clique. I didn't want to have to monitor my eating so closely, plus I was annoyed because I became that person who could only eat certain things. I just figured I would eat less and work out and be done with the high stress eating. So that was short lived, but over the course of the last year, mostly this last summer, I noticed my energy levels had gone way way down. I was supposed to be working on marketing and getting my photography business more business, but instead I was sleeping away most of the summer. Then my good friend Anne passed away on July 1 and the rest of the summer was pretty much all grieving in a bittersweet kind of way. There were sweet moments, and the beauty of summer, but the sting of death coupled with the realization that I wouldn't be laughing with Anne anymore...in the flesh anyway, was a lot to process.

Starting school in the fall of my last year of college, I knew I needed to step it up a notch. BUT I JUST DIDN'T HAVE THE ENERGY. I was so frustrated, I needed to get so much done for my BFA and take the dreaded math class. I ended up not passing my BFA class (it's currently on hold) and the only class I need to graduate is math, but I barely have a game plan at this point.

I love school. I love it so much. I enjoy learning new and interesting things, and having sophisticated discussions about art, and why we do what we do. I love working in the darkroom and helping students with their assignments and I feel honored that they ask for my opinion on their compositions and techniques. I want to teach someday! I love photography and would love to work someday for UVU or any other college. I've even been thinking about a masters, or having my own studio with cute decorations and all the things I need for perfect lighting etc. I could take pictures of cute babies and toddlers for a career! I can do anything! I have dreams people! BIG ONES. I want to be successful, because that's who I am.

However. These last few months have been so, so difficult. I can only describe it as being in a dark mental sea of inertia, where I'm literally just living. I'm going through the daily motions of life, I smile, I eat, I sleep, I wake. But there's not much else. The days blur together, I cancel plans with friends and I don't go to parties that I say I'm going to. I haven't taken a proper picture for myself since christmas, I had a dream that my camera was covered in dust and I was working in some job I hated paying bills with meager earnings.

I have a hard time sleeping often, and Andrew tries to help me sleep by having me close my eyes and think of the ocean, he imagines my ocean for me, full of life and color. But in my mind's eye it's deep, dark and I'm on the bottom of the marianas trench, 7 miles down. I'm sitting legs crossed, hair floating above me, no light, no life, and it's silent. That is my peace, and it's usually not like that.

I knew something was wrong, I couldn't breathe right, I'm so sad, I haven't laughed hard lately. Anytime I went anywhere I'm huffing puffing, and then I'm completely drained of energy. I've been sleeping for 12+ hours a day and I'm still exhausted, and I've been bleeding (period, sorry) for 3 months straight, this last month was so heavy I thought I'd have to go to the emergency room. Something was wrong, seriously wrong so I had some blood work done and I got my results today.

She checked my thyroid which wasn't checked last time. Turns out I'm incredibly low on all levels of everything.

Hypothyroidism, she says. My body isn't making enough hormones and that's why I'm bleeding uncontrollably, and I'm so anemic from the excess bleeding, my red blood cells are so irregularly shaped I'm at a high risk of a friggin stroke!?
SERIOUSLY!?
WTF.

In addition to my depression issues, just a few symptoms as of late:


Hypothyroidism



  • Fatigue
  • Increased sensitivity to cold
  • Constipation
  • Dry skin
  • Weight gain
  • Puffy face
  • Hoarseness
  • Muscle weakness
  • Elevated blood cholesterol level
  • Muscle aches, tenderness and stiffness
  • Pain, stiffness or swelling in your joints
  • Heavier than normal or irregular menstrual periods
  • Slowed heart rate
  • Depression
  • Impaired memory

Anemia: 

  • Easy fatigue and loss of energy
  • Unusually rapid heart beat, particularly with exercise
  • Shortness of breath and headache particularly with exercise
  • Difficulty concentrating
  • Dizziness
  • Pale skin
  • Leg cramping
  • Insomnia

Basically all the things that make a girl feel smart and pretty. 


Though the best part of this crappy situation is that the effects of the hypothyroidism is not my fault. I have had no control over this situation, and it's not actually flaws in my character. Which for a long time I was so convinced I was turning into a lazy stupid person. 

My inner thoughts lately-
 "you're so stupid Laura, just go to the gym, just stop eating, just stop being dumb, you're so slow, are you an idiot? Can't you see you're so lazy you're becoming a fat stupid person" 
Especially in the last few weeks I have felt so lazy and stupid. I can't make connections, and I'm too tired to exercise, so I feel slothful and even more crappy about myself. I know it sounds horrible. Because it is! Hopefully those horrible thoughts will subside but I'm thinking medicine won't take care of that.



The good news is that I'm now on a better set of medications, and I literally have to double up on birth control because even though I've been on a normal dose for 2 weeks, because I'm still bleeding I need more hormones to make my body stop. Heaven help my husband! 

I know I'm a big woman, those of you who see big women, please please please don't make assumptions about their exercise and eating habits. I can't tell you how many times in the last year I've heard from friends and family "just go out for a walk" or " eat less, move more it's science!" though I appreciate the sentiment, I already knew that I needed to do those things, and I only really felt worse about myself.

I really hope that I can at least get my energy back, if I can do that I can do the rest of the work. I want to be healthy so bad! So wish me luck!












Friday, April 3, 2015

Craziest Weekend Ever.

A week ago my friend Valor and I were in class and she was talking about convincing her husband to go to capitol reef national park for the weekend. I understood this because I often have to convince my husband to do random adventures as well. So I chimed in and said "lets just go, we can split the cost of the trip and get some awesome pictures"

Saturday morning Valor picked me up and we headed down to Capitol Reef, the 3 hour drive was uneventful until Salina.

I noticed I had quite a few calls from my sister and dad, and I knew something was wrong.

This is the part where it gets personal-

My father called my sister Emily and I and informed us that he had taken 50 Valium and was drinking a bottle of vodka, he was committing suicide and wanted to say goodbye. My sister called me in a panic " this is beyond my maturity level, you're the oldest you need to deal with this" I was quite calm and not really freaking out which is odd. Maybe it's the new meds, anyway Valor and I had stopped at a funky antique store and was looking around, so I had a little reception and was able to deal with it.
I called my dad immediately and talked with him, he was feeling hopeless and sounded absolutely out of it. I tried to get him to go and throw up the meds but he refused. (back story) My mom left my dad about 6 months ago and both my sister and I are REALLY bad at calling my dad often. I did see him a month ago and he seemed to be doing well, but he's apparently a good actor. I had no idea he was feeling this way.

I told my dad I loved him and that I would be calling him back, I called the Kingman police and sent over help. In my gut I knew he'd be okay, so this might sound a little cold...but we decided to keep going. At that point I felt I really needed to just immerse in photography in a secluded space. I have dealt with both parents breakdowns my whole life, and I have had to distance myself in order to keep my own sanity. I cannot be responsible for their actions anymore. It was a hard place to be, but I feel like I have mastered that for my own mental health. I love my parents and I'm proud of my mom for getting out when she did and making her life better.

*update* My dad is fine, although he will need to be admitted to an assisted living facility he will get the help he needs. My mom drove to Kingman from Texas and is dealing with all the house stuff now.

We arrived in Capitol reef around 4 ish checked into our really weird hotel and headed out to the park.

The first night was great! Adventurous and we were able to shoot some amazing places.





The second day we headed out to Cathedral Valley and shot all around that location.









I can't quite figure out where, but we took a wrong turn and thought because of the dry conditions we would end up at the 72 then head over to the 70 then to I15. But we ended up on a snowy mountain and in retrospect we shouldn't have ignored the first patch of snow. The second patch was much worse and when we tried to plow through, the back tires half in mud and half in snow, just started sliding towards the edge of the road. Which was about a 100 ft drop on the side. We tried digging out the truck, adding dry dirt and rocks, but when Valor tried driving out I was utterly terrified that I would have to watch her fall over the cliff. I'm glad we had enough sense to stop what we were doing and try and contact help.  We hadn't had service the whole time we were in the canyon, but a short hike up the mountain gave me 4 bars, and I called Andrew (my sanity) and that definitely helped me through the next few hours. We ended up calling 911 and they were able to get a GPS off my phone, I had to keep calling every few hours and I was able to talk and text with Andrew. He was able to talk to Valors husband and concoct a plan to get us home.





Pano by Valor


We waited about 5 hours for Search and Rescue to get to us. They advised us to build a fire to help them find us, getting enough dry brush was frustrating because it burned so quickly. Sage brush was hard to pull from the mountain and I was so exhausted from hiking up and down looking for burnable material. The wait was probably the worst, we couldn't really get back into the truck because it was tipping. It wasn't too cold (about 40) but my feet were wet and emotions were running high between Valor and I. Valor was pretty upset because we were in her husbands truck, and we really didn't know if they were going to charge us to get us out and what the cost of a tow would be. I was ready to just get out of there and told Andrew to come get me from Loa, which pissed Valor off (with good reason, I was being an A-hole) but she was right, I shouldn't leave my friend behind in a strange town. That was pretty stressful because we're both tired and stressed, and ready to be home.


Search and rescue came and they were our hero's! They tried to see if they could get the truck back on the road but we had to leave it on the mountain and get a tow up there the next day.




 We got back to Loa really late, Andrew was there waiting and we all decided to head back home and Valor's husband would pick her up at our place. Even though she had to drive back down the next day I feel like that was the best decision, we needed our husbands to chill us both out. It turned out much better than expected, I feel that we both learned a valuable lesson about traveling in the back country. I think we both will think differently about the risks we take and the consequences that may follow. I'm just happy we're home safe. As for Capitol Reef, I was worried I would associate the park with the experience but in reality, I can't wait to go back.


Friday, March 6, 2015

San Diego Safari Park

Andrew and I went to Murrieta to visit/work with his dad and get some much needed travel time in. I shot a bunch of photos for his doctors offices, which was surprisingly hard and long but I was able to push myself in an area where I'm rarely shooting. Indoors, strangers, variable light sources and limited lighting equipment. I think they turned out okay, hopefully everyone else does too.

After our work was done we went to the Safari Park in San Diego, I took a lot of pictures but I didn't like most of them because of light issues (middle of the day) But these are the ones I  really loved.


Not dead, just lazy!  Meerkats.




EPIC!


Prey off in the distance


This flower was so brightly colored it was out of gamut for both my camera and computer. I had to desaturated it to look semi normal.




Saturday, February 7, 2015

Shooting with Justin Hackworth



Justin Hackworth (from now on will be Justin) is teaching a wedding photography class that I'm in this semester.

I took it mainly because I felt I could use the extra boost before I graduate and it wouldn't hurt to get some pointers from a photographer that has been in the biz for a while. What I didn't anticipate was the fact that it's actually more of a business class than a "how to shoot a bride" class, for which I am grateful for. I'm all about shooting pretty ladies but that is really just one aspect of a much larger picture-pun intended- of the photography business as a whole.

Justin has a swanky studio in downtown Provo just above Gloria's Little Italy and the place smells a bit like food...which is a good thing in my opinion. Unfortunately my brain got used to it.  Our class met up at his studio on thursday to shoot a mock "getting ready" session and it was quite fun. Though there are only so many shots of a girl getting ready before we turned our camera's on our selves.















This girl looks so much like my sister in law Kirsten. It made me miss her! *love you girl!