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God and Depression

“When you live in a cookie cutter world, being different is a sin.

So you don’t stand out, but you don’t fit in.”

–Hanson, “Weird”

If I had to put a pinpoint on when my depression began to manifest, I would put it at age ten when nearly my entire class bullied me for listening to Hanson. It seems strange that Hanson was (and still are) playing sold out shows all over the world yet in a rural town in Wisconsin they were loathed for being a band with girlish blond locks who wrote a song about a nonsense word that actually has deeper meaning than most people know or are willing to admit. Between coming home crying because of the bullying and getting my first period, the fourth grade was awful. And back in the late 90s, they didn’t diagnose kids barely into the double digits with depression and schools took bullying even less seriously than they seem to do now.

During this time, I started going to church on Wednesday nights—I think a friend invited me to go. A large van would come to the cul-de-sac of low income town houses I lived at and take a bunch of us to a church right on the outskirts of town.

At first it was a means to have McDonald’s every Wednesday as we were taken there for dinner because we wouldn’t get back until the evening. It became something more as I learned of God’s love, wisdom, and power to bring good to those that put their faith in him. I kind of knew God before going to church regularly. We went to church on holidays or when visiting friends or family that went to church on Sundays. I knew of the basic stories like the first sin being created after a snake convinced the first woman to eat forbidden fruit or God drowning everyone except a family he commanded to build an arc to house them and pairs of every animal. I had always had some sort of belief in a Christian God, but started taking religion seriously after going to church every Wednesday.

I had begun to believe that if I put my faith in God and believed the words in His book, He would help me with my bullying problem. My Grandpa was injured in a work related accident so I would ask the pastor to put my grandpa in the prayers we asked of God towards the end of the service.

But the bullying didn’t stop and my Grandpa’s recovery didn’t hasten with prayer. To quote “Drift Away” from the Steven Universe movie: Is this how it works? Am I doing it right?

One day, everyone was getting in the van to take us to McDonald’s and then back home. I had one of the many cheap, mass produced biographies about Hanson with me. Like most paperback biographies you could get from a Scholastic Book Fair, the center of the book had color photo pages—this one had photos the band had taken for photo shoots. Zac was wearing these vinyl yellow pants that had a thick black stripe down the side.  I was sitting in the van admiring that picture when the driver of the van—a grown man in his late 30s or early 40s—made a snide comment about how ugly those pants looked. I said I thought they were cool—“They’re made out of vinyl!” He laughed and said mockingly “That’s the same stuff they make car seats out of. You know that, right?” No, I hadn’t because I was 10 or 11. It sounded like a fashionable, high end material for an item of clothing I thought looked cool. And I felt so stupid and ashamed…just like I did at school.

I had gone to church thinking God would stop the bullies if I did with unquestioning faith only to find a bully within its walls preaching the loving word of God like everyone else that was there. If he didn’t stop cruel people from residing and practicing their own version of the faith from inside His own house, he certainly wasn’t going to stop bullies at my school. Either God didn’t exist or he didn’t care about the suffering of a child. Later experiences, especially those that made my depression worse, would validate this feeling. I stopped going to church and I’ve only went when I’ve absolutely had to for family gatherings.

I don’t truly believe God exists, but that doesn’t mean I haven’t thought of the possibility of God to try and make sense of who I am in regards to mental illness. Why would God create me this way? Is he a major asshole who had another bet with Satan about a human’s loyalty to God no matter what misfortune befalls them (See: The Book of Job)? Or is Lucifer really a cat who knocks over bad shit into a cauldron where God concocts the human beings when God has his back turned for one second? Who knows.

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