Decoding Religion: my journey of escape.

By Monica C. Voskamp

Self Care. Self care isn’t selfish.  It was the first thing I learned in my first counseling session.  It’s ridiculous to think caring for your one irreplaceable self would be considered selfish…sinful. My religion mindset told me otherwise. I was terrified to be doing something sinful.

In 2006, I knew I needed to see a professional doctor for help. Yet my religion had imprinted into my mind psychologists were bad and would sway you from the faith. I was terrified to go against my faith. When I finally got to the point of going to a more approved religious psychologist, it was too late. My health crashed the week before my appointment. 😦

And in the end, I went against the religion. Am going against the religion. I’m wanting to embrace a life free, healing and authentic…the rightful spirituality, what I believe would be true Christianity.

However, it is something else to decode a religion, it is a struggle to decode the religion I was raised with. Why?


The more I uncover what I believed, I see lies I’ve been taught, heard and believe/d. I’m conflicted with religion and true spirituality. This is the why: I’ve been taught good truths simultaneously with lies. A scary thing.

Sifting through this pile is daunting, but I’m sifting anyways. I did a problem solving practice I heard of recently.

The person told me they’d put the ‘puzzle pieces’ of their situation on the table so they can get an aerial view. And the result? Generally, they found a common theme.

I decided to give it a try-literally.  🙂

First I made a (rough) sketch of my possible puzzle pieces.



Then I tried to see how they related (with arrows.)



I found a theme: Spiritual Conflict and Confusion linked with Childhood Teachings and Upbringing.   This has been a strong wrestle the past 5 years especially so I’m not surprised. What I didn’t realize is how deeply this tied into my health and ability to do life well. That is critical!

This puzzle piece exercise allowed me to step aside from my charged emotions and label the different elements. It gave a better clarity to see a bigger picture without the intense emotions.

The conflict I have now stems back to conflict I experienced as a child.  When you’re a child, you can’t possible make sense of the differences. You’re just a kid and in the developing phase of understanding the basics. Your world view on relationships, emotions, conflict, communication etc is all being shaped by what you are being taught and the environment you are exposed to.

I was a child that suppressed my hurt, feelings, and opinion (voice) for fear of punishment and fear of being a sinner. Unfortunately this merged into adulthood.

This can be liken to restraining infection inside a wound and forcing it to stay under the skin or band-aid. Not a great idea.

Years ago  the “infection” of that wound became too much. My health went down the tubes. Holistically. I physically didn’t have the strength to walk more than 15 paces; I was so exhausted. Chronic fatigue put it’s stake down on me for over a year ..and I still have bouts.

 The complexity of having my whole life revolve around a religion was not only  draining but destructive to my whole self. It was the very opposite of what I was told it was meant to be: life and freedom.

It involved: How I thought. What I wore. What I didn’t wear. What I did. What I didn’t do. What was ‘evil’-sinful- to do. What was good to do. Fear of the evil, fear of doing evil…( and in ‘evil’ it could be as simple as wearing make up or listening to the radio.) So we’re talking “basic evils” here. :/ Goodness, this is no joke. Neither is skewing the definition of evil.

I was held under a system of rules and regulations.  It became a mountain load a little bigger each day that dictated my whole being, perspective and way of doing life. My 22 year old shoulders and self could no longer hold up to being that good. I collapsed.

In 2006, finally my ‘wound’ got exposed. In the end, I’m thankful it did. Though it was, has been a hellish and crazy ride to deal with childhood trauma and mixed beliefs; it’s effected every part of me. It’s taken a lot of work to be healthy and pursue what is healthy in all aspects of my life.

Every day I’m more thankful to be who I am and where I am now. I’m grateful for the path I’m now pursuing: a free spirituality, a life-giving faith in Jesus.

Initially, I had a good 2 years of solid counseling and an incredible open minded (non-religious) psychiatrist doctor to help me on the road to dealing with both the physical and inner symptoms. It’s been healing. Don’t be afraid of the (your) healing journey. It becomes what I call a messy beautiful.

Sometimes we don’t know why we are going through: Depression. Anxiety. Insomnia.  Chronic fatigue. Pain. The list goes on. ‘Why’s’ are part of the journey.   Wrestling. They’ve been part of mine.

It’s been wrestling through each of those things and more. It’s been having a lot of medical intervention and support. It’s been the complicated dance of trying medications for coping and healing.  It’s been creating a network of friends, mentors, & family. It’s been the brave of leaving the old religious environment and seeking out new healing and healthy spiritual environments.

It’s been a journey of escape to find a way of safe, truth and healing.

Our childhood pains are relevant. The puzzle pieces are legit. Decoding this religion thing is no fun. Seeing how MUCH my health, self, and relationships have been effected by a religious mindset of rules and regulations, the work and pursuit is worth it. My pursuit is for what gives me the peace, joy and hope I have experienced and know does exist within the creator and giver of love, Jesus.

My decoding journey won’t be perfect or pretty.  Hasn’t been.

But, it has been healing…holistically.

I hope this blog will leave you looking at your own puzzle pieces. I want you to feel unafraid to journey into healthy, healing places.  I want you to be brave and not fear wrestling the whys, the scary of illness, or the pain of childhood trauma. Self-care is love and love is a good thing. It is worth journeying into the self-caring of you.

Know you are meant to love, designed by love and gifted with the ability to receive & share love. So don’t be afraid to love and let love in. ❤

Always believe. Never give up. Forever, love remains. ❤ 

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