Thank you for stopping by my blog and taking the time to share your thoughts with me. I appreciate your experience and that you were courteous in your comment. I hope you will understand that, even though I disagree with you, I am trying to be courteous as well. Please understand that I am not trying to change your experience or disrespect you; your experience is yours and you have made the choice that you feel is best for you. This letter is just me explaining and clarifying my own experiences.
To be honest, after the birth of my oldest, when I was in the throes of untreated postpartum depression (some of the scariest moments of my life), I think I would have agreed with you. Going to Church was the hardest thing for me. I hated seeing all those other people who had it so together and seemed so perfect. Some strange comments and insensitive interactions with people made me feel like some of the members thought they were better than me. Church did feel like one long fashion show with all the models trying to one-up each other with their cars and the fancy clothes on their kids and how much they scrapbooked and who knew the scriptures the best. I would skip class and wander the halls thinking, "Why the hell am I here?" I wasn't really sure. Looking back, I'm not sure why I kept going. Probably because it was easier than not going and explaining to my family how I felt.
Well, that and I still kind of believed it. While not every area of my testimony was solid, I still knew that Christ had atoned for me and my sins and troubles. I still knew that I was a child of God, even though I was pretty angry at Him. And I still hoped to have an eternal family. Even though becoming a mother had been a miserable experience for me I hoped that somehow God could find a way to make us right. I also thought about my covenants and what it meant to break them. I wasn't ready to do that yet.
Eventually I did get treatment for my PPD and I got my head above water. I was still really bitter about some of the other ward members and I was still angry at God about a number of things but I was able to see how my Church membership benefited me and my family. One of the chief benefits from my membership at that time was my calling.
When my oldest was around a year old I got called into the Primary presidency and got to work with some truly spectacular people. The woman who was president over me was a humble, efficient, Christ-like person and I learned a lot from her example. She had a loving and peaceful spirit and she trusted me enough to let me make mistakes and learn from them. I benefited a lot from my association with her. Her attitude about mistakes and how we all learn was unique in my Church experience up to that point. Before then callings were always about impressing people and showing off your own abilities--pretty prideful stuff. Working with this woman was about leaning on Christ and trying to share His love with others. I hope if I am ever in a leadership position I will be able to recreate that atmosphere.
The other thing that was really helpful about serving in Primary was the focus on core doctrines. There wasn't a single Sunday where we "forgot" to include Christ in our lessons. Heavenly Father and his love for ALL His children was central to everything we did. We never strayed into so-called "deep doctrines". We stuck to the basics and the Spirit flourished--at least that's how it felt to me. I was grateful for the refresher course in core doctrines that Primary was. It changed my perspective and approach to the Church. I think that's one reason why I still love Primary and always say yes when someone asks me to substitute.
Another thing that changed during that time was my involvement in the arts. I started writing every day when my oldest was about ten months old and it brought a lot of relief and order to my troubled mind. Writing became an opportunity to sort through myself and experiences and decide how I really felt about them--even when I was writing fiction. It calmed me. Eventually, this led to more involvement in the LDS arts community where I discovered how varied the LDS experience really is. Sometimes in our wards we look around and think that everyone is the same and that we have to conform to fit in. But that isn't true. Lurking, and eventually becoming a contributor at A Motley Vision, opened my eyes to how differently LDS people could think and feel and still be faithful.
Hanging out at Blog Segullah also helped me realize that being a mother is a multi-faceted experience. It isn't sunflowers and roses all the time for anyone. I wasn't failing; I was normal. Hearing their stories was/is good for me because it highlights the process of becoming a Latter-day Saint. I think part of my problem with the Church before was that I thought I had to be everything to everyone all the time and hearing the struggles and victories over at Segullah helped me understand how wrong that idea was. So did M. Russel Ballard's talk "Daughters of God".
There are still things that are hard for me about Church. But another important realization I've come to is that I can take it slow. I don't have to do it all or be it all right now. When my depression was untreated I think I spent a lot of time comparing myself to others and thinking that they were better than me. They were perfect and I was not and it hurt a lot to think that I could be trying so hard and be failing so tremendously. But I often remembered a quotation from Jeffrey R. Holland. He said,
"I testify that no one of us is less treasured or cherished of God than another. I testify that He loves each of us—insecurities, anxieties, self-image, and all. He doesn’t measure our talents or our looks; He doesn’t measure our professions or our possessions. He cheers on every runner, calling out that the race is against sin, not against each other. I know that if we will be faithful, there is a perfectly tailored robe of righteousness ready and waiting for everyone, 'robes … made … white in the blood of the Lamb'"('The Other Prodigal", Liahona July 2002).
Also, I think that there were a lot of principles I misunderstood. Things like the role of self-reliance in spirituality, perfection and eternal progress, grace and works (for more on this idea see Katie's blog. She's like the All Grace and Works All the Time channel. Very insightful!). I'm sure there are more. Increasing gospel understanding through service in Primary and through my own efforts really helped. Us Latter-day Saints are good-hearted people, but sometimes when we give and/or listen to talks or lessons we miss. It helped to find truly authoritative sources and meditate on those.
On rough days, I still struggle. There are times that I hate being at Church. At time like that I try to remind myself that Church is about recommitting myself to Christ. It is about me reaching out to catch the hand my Savior is stretching out. When I remember that it isn't so hard.
Good luck, M. I hope you'll still stop by and that we can all work together to help each other through our darkest days!