Thursday, December 3, 2009

Prodigal Daughter

My suicide attempts were never about me being in so much pain, or so miserable. They were about me being dirty, disgusting; it being unbearable that someone as worthless as I dared to breathe and complain, and wouldn't the world be better off without me?

And then of course I felt ashamed for feeling that way. I'd heard that suicide was the single most selfish action a person could ever take, that it was "a permanent solution to a temporary problem", and that it was short-sighted. I'm glad my suicide attempts failed, but I don't think anyone was really trying to help me with the underlying pain and mental abuse that led me to take such extremes.

I rebelled as much as I could. I was the prodigal daughter, only instead of moving out ,I just snuck out the window.I couldn't figure out the balance between the Law and Grace, legalism and hedonism, being washed clean from my sins, and just using my salvation as a "get outta jail free" card. I wanted God to like me, and I wanted to make him happy, but I'd been told time and time again that I could never be good enough. "All have sinned and fallen short of the glory of God."

I was a stealth perfectionist. I knew that failing - coming in second - was pathetic. Gig treated consolation prizes and self-esteem with equal measures of scorn and disdain. You only got credit for winning; trying my best wasn't good enough if it still meant I was a loser. So why bother trying? There was no way I could be the pious Christian teen to perfection. For one thing, I had started smoking cigarettes, occassionally at 12 and regularly by 14. Then there was the matter of my long-gone virginity. Hell, I hadn't thought of myself as a virgin since I'd been molested as a little girl. And I was told I could never have children, so clearly I was a failure as a Christian woman.

So I quit. If I couldn't be perfect, I wouldn't play the game. Which kept me safe from teenaged legalism, but also kept me from growing, from changing, from learning, taking risks, or trying anything new. When I did take risks, it was usually in poorly conceived reactionary ways. I still felt spiritually convicted about taking Midol for cramps, but I ate xtc and smoked weed with my friends and lovers. There was this huge disconnection. No one had told me how to be moderate in secular life.

The only picture I had of the world outside my narrow religious upbringing was the parable of the prodigal son. I could either stay in the home, in the family, in obedience to my elders and working in the fields OR I could run out and party for a few years, then when times got rough, crawl back home to my family and be cared for. Fecklessness clearly resulted in greater rewards for the prodigal son than for his steadfast brother. It was a combination of teen lust, rebellion, curiosity, and fear of failure that made my teen years so rocky. A lack of a stable home didn't help.