Today Grant introduced me to a new word; “snakebit.” It meas when you feel cursed to fail in everything you try. That is what this year has felt like, for both of us.
I was systematically bullied by coworkers at my new job. Meanwhile, Grant struggled to find another job, so I couldn’t quit. I saw over and over again that, when other people complained about being treated the same way that I was, they were the ones who got blamed. I saw over ten people moved around classes, kicked out or driven to quit from the way they were treated. There were no consequences for the instigators of the bullying. They were the sort of people who could paint a target on anyone in the building, and the whole community would follow along, if not in active bullying, but in looking the other way and carefully avoiding being seen friendly with the chosen targets. I think, in a way, management was as scared of them as anyone else.
On top of that, at home Grant and I were plagued by unexpected costs. We had pest problem after pest problem, and my sister’s life was falling apart in a way that meant our one anchor in this new city really did not have the spoons to provide either financial or emotional support. Our money and stress problems made it hard for us to get out and find some social groups of our own, so we both ended up feeling isolated.
By the time Grant could support us and I could get out of the job, I was having mental health issues that went beyond your basic stress. We looked into hospitalizing me for a few days. One hospital had no beds.
The other told us that they had no beds, but did have a psychiatrist to speak to. As soon as I was stepped in, their door locked behind me, with Grant on the other side. Over an hour later, I was still trapped in a waiting room where not only had I not been helped, but neither had anybody else. I asked to leave, as we had been mislead about their resources and wanted to go somewhere I could be helped. They refused. I had to talk to their psychiatrist before l left.
There was no food or water for me in the room where I was waiting. It was cold and there were no blankets. The nurses were barricaded behind a thick window, and they would not leave to check on anyone without being asked. I saw a couple of patients get up to be asked to get into the bathroom, which was behind another heavy, locked door. None of the nurses were nice to any of the other patients, so as a person with social anxiety, it would have been hard to ask for anything in even my best mood. It was more like being in a prison than a hospital.
After that, we did not want to try again. I’ve just been doing my best with meds and visiting an outpatient therapists. However, those two visits were enough to hit us with bills, over five hundred dollars each, which our insurance rejected. So now we are fighting that battle.
It really does feel like a curse at this point. Like the city we have wanted to move to for so many years is trying to expel us. At this point, it might have succeeded. Grant does love his current job, so we will try sticking it out for as long as we can, but we are only a few months away from running out of money and needing to move in with his parents. It isn’t even a matter of hoping we avoid more bad luck. In order to stay, we would need to get seriously lucky, very soon.
I think part of why people crave religion is the ability to explain these stretches of horrible coincidences. Explanations create a sense of power. It’s not just that explanations give us ideas for solutions. Explanations also give us a framework for understanding what we can’t control. The problem with explanations is that, once you have one, it is scary to let go. Letting go of an explanation means surrendering even the illusion of power.
I don’t even think that illusion of power is always bad. The world is full of situations where we have to take action, without having all the answers. I think this is part of why atheism has mostly been the territory of people with incredible privilege; white, straight men with upper middle class backgrounds and high education. These privileges give people access to power and information, which in turn reduces the times in your life when you truly need to take a blind leap ahead.
All of which makes this a very strange time in my life to have rediscovered spirituality. Everything is coming apart, and I no longer believe I should believe in nothing, but I am not certain enough in my beliefs to let them guide me.
So, with that said, why did I stop being an atheist? What do I believe now, and what am I unsure about? What does spirituality mean when it is too new to provide most of the normal culture?
As my longest and most popular series centers around an atheist identity, it seemed about time I started to address these questions. Previously I had a goal of posting four times a month, and I took a break from that because there was too much to process in my life. But now it’s time to get back into it. So stay tuned for the answers, and thank you as always for reading!