Content note: Suicidal thoughts, depression, religious abuse, and the inhumaneness of capitalism.
We've been a little more depressed than usual lately, partly because having our sleep and eating schedules thrown off (which is very easy to do) always makes us feel miserable and out of control. And one big sign we're feeling this way is the recurring thought that we're terrible and don't deserve to live. That we aren't really alive or a person, but are some kind of walking dead thing that has learned how to act like one but isn't.
I think part of the reason for that is the cultural messages that capitalist society sends. Where you haven't really lived until you've bought a house, a Mac, a cosmetic surgery procedure, or 5000 coins in your free-to-play MMO. Where things like that are considered the baseline, the entry ticket for "real life," and you're either living the dream or saving up so you can taste it.
Having gone from lower-middle-class to upper-middle-class and back while growing up, and from the kind of working class that lacks health insurance to unemployed with no prospects as an "independent" "adult," I think we're especially sensitive to these kinds of class distinctions and gatekeepers, and are always going to feel like we've "fallen from grace." There are positive experiences we had growing up, like being able to travel cross-country or have expensive holiday celebrations, that we just need to get used to the fact that we can't count on ever being able to have them again.
I think that it's more than that, though.
Better to die than to lose your virtue
But remember this, my son, we would rather come to this station and take your body off the train in a casket than to have you come home unclean, having lost your virtue.
You can read a lot more quotes like that here, in an essay by someone else that's part of a series on why she left the Mormon church. Here are a couple more:
“There is no true Latter-day Saint who would not rather bury a son or a daughter than to have him or her lose his or her chastity – realizing that chastity is of more value than anything else in all the world.”
- President Heber J. Grant, Gospel Standards, complied by G. Homer Durham, p. 55
“I know what my mother expects. I know what she’s saying in her prayers. She’d rather have me come home dead than unclean.”
\– Apostle Gordon B. Hinckley, General Conference, April 1969, pp. 52-53
These may sound like they're old-timey quotes, but ones like them were in a book that was given to me in the mid-2000's by my local Mormon church leader, called The Miracle of Forgiveness. I truly believed them, and guilted myself with them often.
My brother told me that my mother of origin "cried like her son had died" when she heard I was transitioning. I think he meant it. I think she meant it, as well. And I think those are the values that we internalized long ago. So when I ask them rhetorical questions like "would you rather I'd stayed there and killed myself?", I think they truly wish that I had. And I think there's a part of us that wishes it had, too. Because I hear from it pretty much every day.
A lot of people have remarked on how heavily capitalist the Mormon church is. They're the people who built a mall in downtown Salt Lake City, and had a man who they claim speaks for God cut the ribbon with a cry of "One, two, three ... let's go shopping!"
I'm not sure most people realize how deeply-embedded the "prosperity gospel" is in their religion, though. Not only do they teach that God will reward the righteous (unless of course he decides to "test" you), they also teach that you can only truly be happy if you follow their byzantine rules. That everyone outside their church has nothing truly good to look forward to, and that being a faithful, tithe-paying member is the entry fee for "real life."
I guess their media subsidiary's "HeartSell"® technique really works. Because sometimes, I really do feel like I'm not alive.