Friday, June 10, 2011

My story: My history as a Satanist.

My first exposure to religion happened when I was about three or four years old. I remember sitting by my mother's bedside and listening to her read the bible. This was when she still had hopes and dreams about molding me into the type of daughter she wished she had been. We never made it past Genesis.

My parents, if anything, were consistently inconsistent. They would say Jesus Christ and Oh, God! Naturally, my brother and I picked up those habits. But if an exhuberant Oh my God! should slip from my mouth, I was immediately reprimanded to not say the Lord's name in vain. Often the message was cemented with a spoonful of dish soap shoved down my throat. I never noticed my parents feeding themselves dish soap any time they slipped up.

Eventually, that rule faded. By the time I was ten I was cussing about as much as folks do on daytime television.

I was always an introspective child. My mom frequently told me that as a baby I was quiet, inward turned, and could be left alone for hours without making a fuss. In hours of spirit-crushing boredom, forced to lie still on my bed because my mom wanted to take a nap, I would contemplate nonexistence. At four years old I decided that it was something like a camera that pans from perspective to perspective- when you die, it simply switches to someone else's perspective.

What was, perhaps, an aspect of my personality that saved my life, also became a curse. I would also lie in bed at night, undergoing mental torture. I would compulsively say the word 'God' in my head and then try as hard as I could to not mix it with a cuss word. Godfuck. God...zilla.
 My mother had always seemed to me to be omnipotent. It was as though she could see into my head. As a kid I was incapable of understanding that it was my expressions and body language she was reading. In a sensitive person, the ability to read other people's emotions can lead to empathy. And sometimes, it was empathy. But most often, it was used to cage me in and punish me and twist me up into knots.

If my parents could read my mind, then of course God could. I couldn't ever think any "bad" thoughts. I didn't know what kind of punishment to expect, when it would come, or what form it would take.

The fear of God turned into downright paranoia that lasted until I was at least twelve or thirteen years old.
But religion in my household was lax enough that I was also able to develop a healthy cynicism by the time I was well into my puberty (ten years old). I disdained church; resented it, in fact. It just seemed like a bunch of rigid customs and boring services listening to some stranger ramble. On a more personal level, I had begun to come to terms with the fact that no matter how hard I prayed to God, the blows kept coming, and the terror I felt at night, seemingly without origin, never abated.

Sometime in my "tween" stage, I started to explore other religions. I don't remember where I got the book, but I ended up with Silver Ravenwolf's "To Ride a Silver Broomstick". I tried out being Wiccan for a while. My older friend bought me a pentagram necklace that I proudly wore to school, much to the detriment of my social life.

But Wicca was not enough. Its focus on peace, forgiveness, the Threehold law, and the idea that anything we think can be real, did not appeal to me. I didn't feel vindicated by the things I learned about Wicca. And the idea that anything I thought would be real simply scared me. I had seldom been able to get a peaceful night's rest without being plagued by fear of unknown terrors- of ghosts, of demons, of murderers, a fear that was exacerbated when I saw the Exorcist when I was nine years old. If what I thought was lurking in my closet was real, then there was no hope.

My brother, four years my senior and already in high school, had begun his own step toward individuality. He had started wearing black, and had a copy of La Vey's Satanic bible. At this time I was also starting to wear black, and reading Gothic comic books. My brother showed me his bible, and when he was away from the house I would borrow it and read it for myself.

I liked La Vey's unforgiving attitude toward Christian dishonesty. I finally felt vindicated.

But there were also messages within his book that triggered the guilt that had been my heritage, as well as other emotions, emotions belonging to a reality that was locked up in the dank closet at the back of my mind.
When I was about twelve, my parents finally got the internet for our house. Before the internet, I was already lonely, "unsocialized". I was too honest to hide the things about myself that are considered disgusting and contemptuous, and too needy and fucked up to gain anyone's sympathy for long. A friend I had had in grade school got tired of me by sixth grade and stopped answering my calls, especially because I had no interests outside of the house and no other friends to talk to on the phone. My world was tiny, it didn't go beyond my room, my books, and my sketches.

The internet opened up my world. It also gave me a limited amount of control of how other people perceived me. Nobody could look at me and see the fat, bespectacled, unattractive little girl I was. A certain amount of honesty and disgustingness is a privilege belonging to people who get higher regard than fat little kids in this world. Since no one could tell either way, they could only judge me for my words. I was still considered "weird", though. A friend later admitted to me that when she had first met me, I scared the shit out of her. I couldn't hide what I was and wasn't very aware of other people's feelings and thoughts to begin with. I didn't really have empathy for anyone, although I tried as hard as I could to be a good friend.

I eventually found my way to Joy of Satan, probably via a Google search for 'Satanism'. I learned a good deal of interesting information, but it just triggered my guilt more and twisted the knots in my head even tighter. I got all kinds of messages from it- about requisite loyalty and service to Satan when, by then, my avolition was rapidly developing into total paralysis of the will, admonishments to "not be afraid" when experimenting with meditation and self-hypnosis, when I knew very well that I had much to be cautious about. This was before my diagnosis, but I knew on a visceral level that I could fuck myself up pretty bad by messing with self-hypnosis.

Around this time, I had started cutting myself. Puberty awakened long repressed emotions and I sought everywhere for a witness, someone to hear me, to empathize with me. I was met with derision, disgust, contempt, silencing. "What the fuck is wrong with you? My childhood was way worse and you don't see me complaining." One is exonerated to sainthood by never speaking of their troubles, and yet it is considered healthy and sane to unleash one's negative emotions on the helpless.

I ended up in a mental institution, needless to say. All I had needed was someone to listen to me. And then I was put in a place where everyone reinforced the same damaging messages. I remember talking about how I wanted independent studies, because the amount of bullying I underwent at school had risen to a level that I couldn't handle anymore, especially because when I told any of the adults in my life, they told me it was my fault for alienating myself from others. That is what I have been consistently told; that I alienate myself from others. When the truth is, no one ever did anything to make me feel welcome.

Anyway, a fellow inpatient snapped at me that everyone gets bullied and just deal with it. It cut deep. The staff were controlling and verbally abusive. One of the staff members matter-of-factly explained to us how it "didn't make sense" to cut yourself. "That's like slapping yourself because someone slapped you," he said.

Still naive and honest, I talked about my religion to any who would listen. I'm not quite sure how the staff responded to that, but I ended up on Haldol.

Well, my parents' efforts to control me seemed to have worked. I stopped cutting for years as my emotions became compartmentalized. I became like a snail which freezes in the winter and remains quite dead until thawed. The more I suppressed and repressed my emotions, the less energy I had left to simply function in school. I finally did get independent studies, but my attendance was inconsistent. I had absorbed so many messages about how bad and stupid I was and things I must never do or say or expressions I cannot make that it became almost impossible to leave the house. I was frozen in terror and didn't even know I was terrified. My emotional affect became blunted and even this became something to be remarked upon and tormented for. My brother, the laughing jackal of the family, who can find something hilarious about the way you breathe, would constantly tell me I looked like I was about to murder someone.

I took a break from Satanism for a while. The only other Satanists I had met were patronizing, although fairly tolerant, adult men who did nothing to help me unlearn my guilt and discover my right to set boundaries. My relationships with other people tended to be abusive and cold. Nobody ever dared to speak about anything of any emotional relevance beyond what books we liked and what we did that day. If anyone got emotional in our group, everyone would fall completely silent. We ignored each other's distress signals, thinking this was the polite thing to do, when in reality we were so repressed that strong emotions scared the fuck out of us, made us uncomfortable, made us angry.

For a while I just drifted through the internet, focusing on my hobbies and conducting a self-imposed and informal education where I looked up anything that struck my fancy. For a while I became engrossed in the online crime library.

Around the age of fourteen, I discovered my first book by Alice Miller, For Your Own Good. It awakened sleeping emotions, and while I ended up in self-destructive clashes against my mother and brother, it released me from most of my guilt feelings, self-hatred, and anxiety.

I was not "cured", but I knew how to find pathways to things that could validate the things I felt. I eventually found my way into a feminist community, where I found out that all the things I observed around me and reacted so strongly to were not only real, they were part of a worldwide pattern. From feminism I branched out to other areas of social justice. I learned about ableism, racism, LGBQTIAA*, trans theory. My passion for justice had been awakened.

Feeling more confident, I renewed my interest in Satanism. I had been reading Diane Vera's website as well as Joy of Satan, and it was a haven I could return to- I was never made to feel guilty or like there was a prescribed way of being a Satanist. I had always stayed with Satan out of loyalty, now and then feeling vague guilt feelings about never observing his personal day or engaging in meditative prayer, and I felt ready once more to pick up my education where it left off and form a more personal relationship with my god. I also wanted to become involved with other Satanists again.

And that's where I am today.