It took me over a decade after leaving my church to even realize there had been something wrong with my head the whole time because of the church. I went through years of depression. To the Christians in my old church, it was confirmation. “Yep! Atheists are unhappy!”. But the depression started months before I even left the church. It was the church that caused it.
Essentially, fundamentalist religions teach you that you’re a worthless piece of shit. You are a sinner, dirty, tainted, flawed, evil, vile, unclean. The ONLY thing that can make you better is God. But it doesn’t last long because sooner or later you’re going to think a thought and you’re going to be as filthy as Hitler when you do. Then you need God to fix you again. EVERY good thing in my life, I had to thank God for, INCLUDING the good things I personally sacrificed to do! And every bad thing, including my depression, was my own fault. I LET myself become “devil oppressed”. I was depressed because I, like the piece of shit I was, let the devil in. THAT was the source of my depression for over a decade. I had been taught that the ONLY thing which gave me value was God, so when I rejected the faith, only the filth that was me was left.
Once I finally did realize that I was screwed up, that I still feared Hell, even though I didn’t actually believe in God, and that I still saw myself as a filthy, worthless scumbag with no intrinsic worth of my own, then I could start to heal. Then I started to see my destructive behavioral patterns. I was a bit of an ass, angry all the time. I’m surprised my wife put up with me for all those years, to be honest. Now THERE is real, loving forgiveness. She forgave me when I didn’t even deserve it. I didn’t have to beg her. I didn’t have to sacrifice a sheep to her. She just forgave me, over and over, until I figured it out and started worshiping her like I should have been the whole time.
Now, I’m sad now and then, but I’m never depressed. And I realize that I was depressed ALL THE TIME in the church. I told myself that I was happy because I had God, so how could I NOT be happy? But I wasn’t. I was scared ALL THE TIME. Terrified. I’m not going to lie, I like boobies. I really do. I think about them now and then still. But back then, I was a teenager. Those thoughts weren’t “now and then” in those days. And EVERY SINGLE TIME I was damned to Hell for all eternity, for a faction of a second of a random thought I didn’t intentionally think. If Jesus had come back right then, and he was coming back ANY second now, I would burn for eternity because I was a filthy sinner, not worth saving. This happened multiple times a week. I was ALWAYS on the verge of going to Hell, even though I tried harder and had a stronger moral compass than literally any and all the other people in the church with, maybe, 1 or 2 exceptions (in my mind, based on the standing of each person in the church, which was all important). So several times a week, sometimes several times in a day, I was reminded how worthless I was, how precipitous my grasp on salvation was, how close I was to Hell literally all the time. On at least one occasion I literally prayed for death so that I could die righteous because I was so afraid I wouldn’t make it otherwise. I was so terrified of what I thought was coming for me that I was literally not afraid of death at all. Death was salvation. I was terrified at the thought of continuing to live.
That’s some messed up shit right there. Oh, and this was in my mid teens, BEFORE the depression started. I got MORE messed up from there. So yeah, I get where you’re coming from.