Dear Surly Amy,
I’m pretty active in the skeptic community, and I used to blog about my atheism. I’m a 21-year-old gay atheist, formerly a Southern Baptist being groomed for the ministry.
I’m also really depressed.
Depression medications haven’t helped. Talk therapy gets me nowhere. I’m not suicidal or in danger of becoming a shut-in, but I just can’t seem to find enough reason to truly be happy with where I am in life.
The thing is, when I went to church, I was almost never blue. I had a huge, supportive church family that loved me and cared for me. After I lost the faith and left the church, losing that family has really been the number one thing holding back my happiness.
Is there something skepticism/atheism can offer to fill this gap? The drinking skeptically group near me just doesn’t have that family feel. What am I missing? I know I’m not the only de-convert who has this problem.
Dear Sad Panda,
I feel your pain. Literally.
Depression runs in my family and I have struggled with it for most of my life. It’s good that you have sought out professional help. That would be my first bit of advice. As for community and family, I wish I had some brilliant words of wisdom to share. Unfortunately, I agree with what you have brought up and the fact that organized atheism and (skepticism for that matter) hasn’t nearly reached a level where it can fulfill the sense of family and community support that organized religion has. That’s not to say that it won’t in the future but for now our community is fragmented at best.
I am lucky because when I am feeling blue I can often lean on my network of Skepchicks for support and understanding. Man, I love these girls (and Sam too.) And we consciously try to foster that type of feeling of community here on the blog. The community of readers and commenters is important to us. We are in this together. I do realize however, that a blog is no substitute for the actual one-on-one community support that church groups are so great at providing.
My advice is to continue to search out like minded individuals. Attend conferences or other events not related to drinking. Look, I like Skeptics in the Pub as much as the next guy/gal but I’m pretty sure I have made better connections with people on twitter than I have at SitP. I have made better friends at TAM too. If you can afford it, I recommend going to conferences and different places to find like minded individuals.
Or heck, start your own group! Maybe you like to knit or bake or you like to go fishing or whatever! Start a meetup group for atheist basket-weavers in your neighborhood. Just find something that sparks your interest. We are only going to have a supportive community if we continue to build a supportive community. Kammy will be happy to post your event on our calendar to help get the word out! I guarantee you are not alone and you will find many others who feel the same way you do.
I’m often surprised at how a little extra effort on my part can make me feel a whole lot better in the long run even when I’m struggling to chase ‘the blues’ away. Losing your sense of ‘family’ and community is very difficult. Don’t give up. There are others like you, they just might be a bit harder to find.
Got a question you would like some Surly-Skepchick advice on? Send it in! We won’t publish your real name, unless you want us to and creative pseudonyms get bonus points! Just use the contact link on the top left of the page.