Wednesday, January 7, 2015

Satan's tic tacs

I'm withdrawing from steroids. This makes me miserable - sensitive both emotionally and physically, and in continuous pain. But that's not really what I'm writing about today (though the title of this post is playfully referring to what one NMO mom calls the steroid pills her son takes).

The NMO Facebook group that's been an important source of support for me is very religious. I doubt that most people in the group are particularly evangelical, but there is a critical mass that affects the overall character of the group. I am not the only secular person who's mentioned feeling alienated as the group more and more closely resembled a prayer circle around the holidays, and particularly when a couple of members were critically ill or had passed away. 

Prayer was a sticking point. As I've written about before, I emphatically do not like when people pray for me. After one thread when people talked about Satan when a member posted about losing her faith, and another when a new member said she felt alienated in the religious environment, and another when I asked for support and received prayers and even a recommendation of videos of evangelical preachers, I suggested a compromise to the group that I thought was really reasonable. Pray for people who ask for prayers - don't for people who do not (and a similar principle could be exercised for cat photos, hugs, whatever). The responses I got were upsetting - disturbing, even. 

There seems to be a chasm between the mindset of religious people and my own mindset. A few of them said that offering prayers was the only way they knew of to comfort someone. That really doesn't sit right with me - how did prayer and compassion become so synonymous? What about listening to one another; telling stories; sharing songs, poems, photographs? Of course, to them, it is just as unfathomable that I find prayer upsetting. The disturbing part, though, was how snarky people became. I ended up in hysterics (on top of the pain I was already in) and terrified I was about to lose one of the only places where people really understood NMO.  One moderator insisted that I was suggesting censorship, and then declared that the thread was closed to further posts. As my temperature rose (literally - I was quite feverish) I definitely posted some incoherently upset comments. I'm not proud of myself for staying on the internet rather than looking after myself, but once I'm in a comment war, I stay until the bitter (and this really was bitter) end. 

It was a nasty evening. Now, it is as though it had never happened - mostly. I don't feel safe posting in that group when I'm really struggling, and I'm sure there are other members walking on eggshells around me. It's not a safe and supportive place for me anymore. It all leaves me trying to sort, iron, and fold my thoughts about religion and compassion, but it's hard to find the mental space to do that when all I can really do is cry. 

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