No, not metaphorically — literally. Meditation (basically just sitting and doing nothing, while letting thoughts come and go without inviting or dismissing them) is really beneficial to your mental wellbeing. Chances are, you’ve been stressed for a long time, or perhaps just intensely stressed for a short period of time. Make time for your body to wind down through mindful breathing. (“I CAN’T CALM DOWN, MY ENTIRE WORLD HAS BEEN CRUSHED” is a thought many of us have had. Again — breathe! You’ll get through it.)
Just do it, even if everything seems to suck. Is there a favorite fast food you like that’s terrible for you? Go and freaking get it. You deserve it. I want to suggest you adopt a “treat yourself” mentality for a little bit, to remind you of little (though meaningless) joys in life. I bought my husband an Xbox before telling him I was leaving the church. It didn’t make up for the trauma, of course, but it gave him a mindless distraction to turn to in the coming months when everything was hard. (He ended up leaving too, and we are very happy. Not because of the Xbox. In case you’re wondering.)
Go on walks. Work out, if you’re into that. You’re going to need all the dopamine help you can get, so don’t disadvantage yourself by staying in bed constantly. Get outside and enjoy the nature that God did or probably didn’t create, depending on your beliefs. 😉
There is a grieving process most of us must go through when leaving the church, or simply realizing it’s not true. Be ok with that. It will pass.
It’s ridiculously unreasonable to expect people to “just leave the church alone” after finding out that they’ve been deceived their whole lives. You shouldn’t feel guilty about feeling bitter, no matter what Mormons might try and tell you. Just be aware that lashing out at the church or its members won’t help anything, and will probably put you in a more difficult situation relation-wise. You don’t have to clam up and stay silent, but be mindful of how you address things with people you care about.
I know, it sucks. But bombarding your Mormon parents or friends or siblings or spouse with all the reasons the church is a fraud probably isn’t going to help anything, and is likely to result in them doubling down in their faith even more. Explain your new feelings about the church in a more emotional way.
For example, something I said to my husband that impacted him was, “I just feel so upset at the thought of having to accept Joseph marrying other people’s wives and 14 year olds in order to have an eternal family myself. It doesn’t make any sense to me, and it feels wrong.” This was a better way to phrase, “Joseph slept with teenagers and other men’s wives! How can you be ok with that?!”
Hopefully, you have a family member or friend who left the church, because those people can be really therapeutic to talk to. If you don’t feel that you have anyone you can trust, take advantage of online forums such as the ex-Mormon subreddit, Mormon Stories Podcast Community, and perhaps even our contact form at Zelph on the Shelf.
Think about the benefits of leaving the church, however small they may seem. When I first left I regularly reminded myself of the little things I was grateful for. Like being able to wear cute underwear again, being able to get a coffee when I have zero energy, and maybe even ordering a Margarita at Chillis at 1 o’clock in the afternoon (it was a rough day). You can also (depending on your family situation and thoughts on religion) look forward to 2nd Saturday every week. Long term, I’m grateful that I don’t have to raise my children in the church, as they would have needed to be even more brainwashed than past generations in order to believe in a church that is ever-more provably false.
If you don’t want to talk to your bishop, don’t. If you don’t want to go to church even though your friends are trying to “fellowship” you back, don’t. If someone wants to talk to you and you’re not ready for that conversation, don’t have it yet. Compromises do often need to be made to accommodate say, a spouse who is struggling with your loss of faith, but you shouldn’t let yourself be pressured into anything you don’t want to do and won’t benefit from.
I think it’s comforting to know that lots of people have felt the same emotions you’re feeling because they left a high-demand religion.
It’s just really good. If you can encourage any Mormons to watch it with you, bonus! (It’s just an inspirational documentary that’s unrelated to Mormonism but certainly contains applicable lessons for everyone.)
Try to find common ground. If you’re married and your husband/wife isn’t on board, don’t start drinking. It will just upset them. You may need to refrain from doing anything that is sinful in the eyes of a Mormon — even petty things like drinking coffee — just so that they don’t have to deal with that on TOP of you leaving. (Even seeing you drinking a cup of coffee can seem devastating to a Mormon who loves you.)
This is a life tip in general and doesn’t have to relate to ex-Mormonism, but I know that a lot of my friends were annoyed by some of the stuff they saw me liking as I left the church!
For me, making a Facebook status about my decision to leave was important, because I felt people deserved to hear it from me in a reasonable way. I didn’t launch into specific issues, just mentioned that the church’s gospel topics essays, the scripture, and church-approved history books had all contributed to my decision to leave after a great deal of studying. I asked people to message me privately if they wanted to talk about it. I got a surprising number of people messaging me saying they’d felt the same way for a while but were too afraid to say anything. So I’m a huge promoter of being open, because I think it effects necessary change. It also helps people to realize that you didn’t just want to sin and that you reached a conclusion after studying things you found deeply disturbing. Express love and calm in your words. Let’s change the narrative about ex-Mormons! (But don’t speak up if you don’t want to. Go at your own pace.)
One thing I’ve noticed about ex-Mormons is that we often hold onto random things longer than we should, which can be psychologically damaging. For example, I’ve known people to keep wearing their garments for weeks after they realize the church isn’t true because the fear of taking them off has been so deeply ingrained in them. I personally think it’s best to just bite the bullet and take them off, and this applies to other things too. Total immersion, am I right?! (Again, at your own pace. No one can force you to do anything.)
Some members nobly step up to talk about your issues with you, thinking that they’ll be able to help you. They’ll often say things like, “I struggled with these issues too and I was able to reach my own conclusions” or “I know all about this/this is nothing new”. Don’t let yourself become frustrated at their half-assed attempts to justify evil things. Be nice. Be calm. And be as educated as possible.
When people asked me what my issues were with the church, I’d usually give them a list of questions I had, like “Why did Joseph Smith say he wasn’t practicing polygamy? Why did the original D&C say that it was a sin? Why did Joseph break the rules for polygamy laid out in D&C 132?” Questions come across as less intimidating, and no one can be mad at you for asking them. Bombarding people with “anti-Mormon” facts and logic, as I’ve said, is typically unhelpful. PS. Don’t be surprised if you get some pretty whacky responses sometimes. Feel free to send them to us for fun.
While you should probably practice some moderation in what you choose to share, it’s also important not to feel pressured into inauthenticity. You haven’t done anything wrong, and you shouldn’t feel the need to apologize or hide how you’re feeling.
It can be difficult to see anything funny in a life-shattering situation, but it really helps. I personally found comfort in watching hilarious comedians talk about religion. This might not be to your taste as it might be too raw, but anything you can do to make yourself laugh is a good idea.
Hopefully you don’t feel this way, but many do, which is understandable. The church loves to own people’s identities, but there are hundreds of things that make you unique, and hundreds of ways this experience will benefit you in the future. You aren’t a different person after you realize the church isn’t true. You’ll probably still laugh at similar things, enjoy some or most of the same hobbies, like the same food, (hey, but more tiramisu, am I right?) and so on.
Lots of people leave their childhood religion. It’s ok. You’ll learn and grow from the experience of having done so. Hopefully you’ll become more compassionate, more open and interested in learning, and more inclined to make the world a better place. Don’t feel like you need to go save the world now, but I’m just saying — there are some great things that can happen to a person when they break free from chains they didn’t realize were holding them back.
Decisions shouldn’t be made in fear, and you shouldn’t live in it. Be brave. Things can, and do, get better.