My experience with religion
I feel like I need to preface this article with a disclaimer. I have nothing against Christians; these are just my experiences and not many of them are positive. I’ve grown up with two moms and being queer myself, in the Midwestern United States. I have religious trauma that I work every day to recover from. I’ll also be talking about my experience in a cult, which will remain nameless for the sake of the people still trapped in it. There is a trigger warning for talking about religion and mild mentions of abuse. Now that that’s out of the way, let’s get into this.
I’m extremely pleased with where I am spiritually, but it hasn’t always been that way. I hopped from church to church to try and be satisfied in a faith that hated my very existence. Growing up in a religiously saturated midwestern town gave me a fair bit of religious trauma that I won't go into detail about because I have just come to terms with it myself.
I started in a small nondenominational church in Nebraska. I stayed here for five years until I moved to Oklahoma. While at the surface level it seemed to be a very positive environment, I only saw it that way because I was a small child. One day in Sunday school we were forced to walk around the basement carrying multiple chairs on our backs, with the justification that this is what our sins were like. Please remember that the majority of us were four to eight years old. This was one of the many times I've realized something that happened was wrong, but this is the one I've chosen to share.
Then I joined a cult. Well, it was more my Grandma joined and I got dragged along. It was disguised as a small family church run out of an abandoned gas station. It seemed innocent at first, though that was due to the way it was run. The leaders would slowly phase you up until you were either brainwashed or realized it was a cult. I was in their youth program considering the fact I was 7-10 years old. When we misbehaved or questioned what they told us, we were sent to our “spiritual guide”, who would most of the time punish us physically. That is as far as I’m willing to go into my experience there. I’m still trying to reconnect with the child I was before that experience. I left after I was told to wear a skirt and “boycott” pants or go to Hell.
My grandma is extremely spiritual and was desperate to find another church, so after a while, we found ourselves in a Catholic Mass. I was ushered into the youth group, where I started crying asking to not be taken to the guide because I was in pants. The youth pastor then looked at me with a puzzled expression, whispered something to her assistant, and I was ushered off as sobs racked my body and I had my first ever panic attack. I was dragged to a separate room where I was told to step into the small pool, and I was forcefully baptized to “get rid of my demons”. We went to that church for about a year where I was baptized a total of ten times because my mental illness and trauma were seen as demons trying to possess me. I was 11.
After the constant torment, I was done with religion. I was an atheist for a good two years, with pent up anger and trauma. But then one of my friends invited me to her church, and I sucked in a breath as I saw a gas station up ahead and we turned into it. It was the cult. Her mom parked the car and I tried to say something, but nothing came out. What was said to me that night was unforgettable and traumatic.
I cut her out of my life and I never went back there; in fact, I moved right after that happened and was dragged to another church. This was a megachurch, and I’m sure anyone from Oklahoma can guess which one it was. I went for a year until I broke down to my mom, who is agnostic, unlike my grandmother who is ultra-Christian. I was told I was a sin for existing because my mom had me out of wedlock, and their homophobia and transphobia had become apparent. That was the last time I stepped into a church or looked towards the Christian faith. I’m happily a Pagan witch and I’m healing from what organized religion has done to me. So here’s a list of signs I’ve compiled of when a church/religion is becoming toxic:
As for leaving your parent’s religion, there are a few things to consider. If your safety will be in danger, don’t do it until you are independent. By independent, I mean financially withdrawn from them, moved out into a place you rent or own, and fully prepared to cut them out of your life. If you won’t be in danger, start with excuses to miss religious services and break them in slowly. If you are accepted then feel free to practice your new religion freely.
Please remember that these are just my experiences. If you are happy in any of these religions, please don’t take offense to this, it’s just my experience. Religion means a lot to many groups of people, which means it is one of the easiest ways to be manipulated. Be safe and love yourself no matter what and you’ll be fine.
ramadan in indonesia
Islam has been wide-spreaded religion for centuries. One of the countries with the majority of muslims is Indonesia. In islam, there is a month called Ramadan, where Muslims around the world must refrain from eating and drinking from morning before sunrise to falls at sunset for 30 days. Muslims also must refrain from doing bad habits, because this is a holy month. Instead they are encouraged to do considerable good deeds, because of the huge rewards will be given. While it may seem ordinary, Ramadan is a most awaited month. It is common for nonmuslims join to enliven the month.
Every Muslim around the world has unique habits or traditions only during Ramadan. Here, I’ll explain several traditions that make Ramadan very meaningful to its people.
Those are several traditions or habits during Ramadan. There are still plenty of traditions Indonesians do that aren't enough to write. Also, during pandemic, there are several traditions restricted to avoid any burst covids’ cases in certain places, such as visiting extended family.
In the last few weeks, the UK lockdown measures have eased in ways that a lot of us did not think were ever going to happen. Pubs have opened back up, we can eat inside restaurants, and the queues to get inside a clothes shop are the longest that I have seen for a long time. Living in a small town means that it is nice to see local, small businesses opening up again and serving members of the public. However, the anxiety that some of us are feeling makes the idea of going out to casually eat a meal again difficult to deal with. As someone who has definitely felt this stress and anxiety, I thought I’d collate a short list of things that have helped me in return to normality and might help some of you.
A couple of ways to help ease the anxiety you might be feeling:
For more information about how to combat feelings of stress and anxiety about the easing of lockdown I thought I would provide some links to further reading that some of you might find helpful. These are websites that I’ve personally visited time and time again whilst looking for advice, therefore having no association or sponsorship with Teenagers with Experience. I think the Mind charity does a really good job of explaining a plethora of feelings that individuals may be experiencing, not only stress and anxiety. In addition to Mind, is Rethink Mental Illness. Their website takes you through a series of scenario-based questions about returning to work, the ever-changing rules and the fear of catching or transmitting to vulnerable friends or family members.
It’s easy to think that you are the only person struggling with lockdown easing, especially when scrolling through social media and every other photo is of a person in a bar or with their friends they haven’t seen for months. Remember that social media is not an accurate representation of people’s lives, it’s a highlight reel of their personal best bits. The person who went out the night before may have extreme anxiety about going out in three days time.
Here’s hoping that some of this advice helped, don’t forget to share your opinions or advice. Helping each other is how we’ve made it this far over the pandemic.
Loneliness of Lockdown
During the coronavirus global pandemic, a lot of families were affected physically, emotionally and financially. It was a lonely period for many and some were separated from family. So many plans were affected, leaving people to pick up what seemed like what is left of their life. All these factors, along with the need to self-isolate led to loneliness being a global issue also.
Coronavirus, also known as COVID-19, spread rapidly in 2020, causing schools, businesses, cinemas, beaches and public events to be shut down. It was a lonely time for many with everyone dealing with their own problems. On top of these issues, it was even harder to talk about and share problems in such an unprecedented time as that, knowing that everyone was going through their own problems. Even in our everyday life, talking about your problems can make you feel guilty or even selfish.
I’ve even had my feelings of loneliness, where I felt useless. Having friends with online businesses or as influencers, going on social media to see the positive parts of their lives, because, face it… whoever shows the negatives? Constantly seeing quotes such as ‘’if you don’t make money or acquire a new skill during this lockdown, then you have failed.’’ During the lockdown, many people including me have often felt alone, especially with the constant negativity and bad news on social media.
Advice: However, through it all, I have learnt that while everyone is going through their own problems, it is not selfish to talk about yours or even to share them and you should not feel guilty for doing that. Life is a rollercoaster and people will generally only share their ups but not their downs, so while it can feel like you are going through this alone, don’t hesitate to seek help about it. It can often feel like life is passing by, while you are stagnant but the fact that we get up every day and smile as if nothing is happening is enough. If you don’t make money in lockdown, that’s okay. If you don’t acquire a new skill, that’s also okay, because for some, every single day that they wake up is a battle and they want it to end. The fact that despite everything you are going through, you wake up, you get up, you carry on with your day, and the next, and the next… That’s everything! Don’t let people set certain standards as to what determines success because at the end of the day, it’s all ‘fake it ‘til you make it’!
In conclusion, loneliness is an ongoing universal issue that is prevalent in our everyday world and not just linked to global pandemics so in order to cope with it, as well as the lockdown, just remind yourself that you are doing just fine by the fact that you are alive. Count your blessings! Think of all the good things in your life. Write down your problems and talk to somebody you trust. If you can’t talk to someone you trust, talk to an anonymous person as they don’t know your identity. Surround yourself with positivity and loved ones. Remember: it is okay to take breaks from social media and read a book or do something you love.
If you need to discuss your problems with someone, please consult:
Mental Health Ireland - https://www.mentalhealthireland.ie/
Jigsaw - https://www.jigsaw.ie/
SpunOut.ie - https://spunout.ie/
Samaritans – call 116 123; www.samaritans.org
"Feminism is only for girls"
A girl asked me the other day “how can you be a girl and not be a feminist?” Simple, I am a girl and I am a egalitarian. According to Urban Dictionary, an egalitarian is someone who believes in equal rights for all humans no matter the race, gender, sexuality or religion. This is also known as humanist.
In the news recently I have seen multiple stories about companies changing names of some of their products because its too “manly” or its “sexist”. For example, Kleenex (the tissue company) recently decided to change the name because it was seen as ‘sexist’. In my opinion I believe that there are much larger issues involving lack of equal rights which are a lot bigger than the name of some tissue company that has been going on since 1924. I want equal pay for men and women in all jobs. I want men to be able to talk about their emotions openly without them feeling like they’ll be made fun of and for them to have a voice for males in abusive relationships. I want women to be able to feel safe walking down street and to be able to have a voice against the rapists and paedophiles in the world. I want the LGBTQ to feel safe in this community and be able to express themselves comfortably. The list goes on.
I believe that being a ‘feminist’ is way more than wanting a company to change their name because its ‘sexist’. The definition of sexism is “attitudes or behavior based on traditional stereotypes of gender roles” and ‘discrimination or devaluation based on a person's sex or gender, as in restricted job opportunities, especially such discrimination directed against women.’ I personally believe that the box of tissues being labelled “man-sized” isn’t that sexist or as a big deal as most of the other issues going on in the world today. I believe that the whole renaming situation was blown out of proportion and I believe that there are bigger issues that need dealing with today.
I also believe that just because you’re a female, it does not mean that you have to be a feminist. I think that everyone should have their own opinion and they have every right to believe in what they think is right and what they believe.
For example I believe in equal rights for not only females but males as well. Not everyone has to believe in the same as I do and just because you're a girl it doesn’t mean you have to be a feminist. Each person is their own individual and they have a right to their own individuality. The comment that girl made about how girls should be feminists, I found quite distasteful. Not only because girls can believe in what they want to, but because not only girls can be feminist. There are so many males in the feminist environment. For example Joseph Gordon-Levitt, a famous American actor, considers himself to be a feminist. Joseph filmed a video, almost 2 years ago, explaining what he believes feminism is and the background of feminism in general. He then talks about when he was on ‘The Ellen Show’ and how Ellen DeGeneres asked him if he considered himself as a feminist and he responded with “Absolutely!” Also, when he was in an interview with another journalist , Marlo Stern,he was asked “What does it mean to you to be a feminist?” His response was; “To me a feminist means that your gender doesn’t have to define who you are. You can be whoever and whatever you want to be regardless of your gender.” Then throughout the video he talks about the sort of feedback he got from fans, both positive and negative, and was clearing up confusion about the term. There are so many famous men out there who consider themselves feminists and are proud, for example; Harry Styles (Singer from famous boy band, One Direction), Mark Ruffalo (famous American actor, plays the Hulk in the Avengers series), Ian Somerhalder (Famous actor in the TV show, Vampire Diaries) There are so many more too.
In answer to the question “how can you be a girl and not be a feminist?”, This is how I am more than a feminist. You have a right in life to choose what/who you want to be and what you want to believe in. My gender shouldn’t have to define my beliefs.
For more information on feminism, visit ‘feminism.com’ , their website has plenty of information and explains in detail what feminist is and what they do.
covid-19 is coming to an end
COVID-19 - the virus that has changed life for every single person - is slowly coming to an end. It has been around since late 2019. Schools were forced to shut down, many people had to work from home, no social gatherings were permitted, and the whole world was shutting down. Many places were going into endless cycles of lockdown. As fast as they lifted, they closed again even quicker. Since 2019, four COVID vaccines have been approved: Pfizer, Moderna, Johnson & Johnson, and AstraZeneca, with Pfizer being the only vaccine approved for those who are 12-17 years old. As a 15 year old, I have been waiting to be vaccinated so that I could return to my “normal” life. Fortunately, in May 2021, the Pfizer vaccine was approved for 12-15 year olds in California. I was so excited to finally be vaccinated. I got my first dose of the Pfizer vaccine on May 14th and my second dose on June 7th. It is a huge relief knowing that I am finally safe and immune against most strains of COVID.
Due to the mass number of people being vaccinated, restrictions that were set in place to reduce the spread of COVID have slowly been lifted due to the increasing probability of achieving herd immunity in many areas. In California, the mask mandate was lifted on June 15th. Moreover, most shops are now open for in-store shopping and social distancing is not mandatory. Personally, although I am vaccinated, I still feel the need to wear a mask and be cautious of my surroundings. Some people may not be vaccinated, some might have a strain of the virus I am not immune to, and I am so used to wearing a mask that it feels weird not to do so. It also honestly feels like I’m breaking the rules when I’m not wearing one, even though they are not required in my state anymore. Essentially, masks give me a sense of protection and safety, so not wearing one, will take time for me.
Furthermore, I did online school for the entirety of my sophomore year of high school, and even a quarter of my freshman year of high school. Although my district did give us the option to take part in the hybrid model - two days in school and two days online - back in late September of 2020, I stuck solely with online school because I felt safer and was already used to it. However, schools will open back up in the fall and I will be going to school everyday, just like the olden days. I am quite nervous about this, because I haven’t been surrounded by and/or in places with so many people at once since March of 2020. Moreover, getting used to in-person schooling will also take time to adjust to due to the amount of online learning I have been doing.
As the world starts to open back up, you have every right to take your time and ease back into “normal” life. Try starting with smaller social gatherings, and then gradually move your way up to larger gatherings. Furthermore, never feel like you need to take your mask off or you need to do something that you are uncomfortable doing.
Although life going back to normal can be scary, it can also be extremely exciting! And I honestly can’t wait until COVID is just an event of the past.
covid-19 vs my friendships
COVID-19 has affected everyone in many different ways and has essentially changed all of our lives. Throughout this time, I learned a lot about my friends and our relationships. I became extremely close with some friends, lost and drifted from some friends, and also learned how toxic some people were.
In school, I had a close group of friends, which included me and three other girls, but I also had an extended group of friends which probably ranged between 15 and 20 people, as well as others. During school, I was with these people every day and it was really easy to communicate and stay in touch. However, this changed when we went into lockdown in March of 2020. I felt extremely isolated and was not able to see anyone for two months. I kept in touch with my close group of friends and a couple of other friends during COVID, however, I also drifted with many of my friends. I realized who my true friends were. Furthermore, I became aware of the effort I was putting into many relationships that weren't being reciprocated. Through this time I was able to realize how much effort friendships really took, and I also realized how valuable my closest friends are.
Unfortunately, I did have some toxic friends through this time that were not treating me or some of my other friends right. Toxic people, in general, are tricky to deal with, but my advice for them is to talk to them, tell them how you feel, and what you feel they could do to make you feel better and more comfortable. Then, give them a chance to change, but if you realize they continue to be toxic, cut your losses. There is no need for anyone to be involved with people who bring you down or treat you badly. You deserve the best!
the power of diagnosis
Did you know that, on average, ADHD is diagnosed in three times as many boys than girls? This is despite the fact that there is no conclusive evidence that ADHD is less frequent in female than male demographics, only that its presentation tends to be different. Often, girls and people who are AFAB (assigned female at birth) present with greater inattentive symptoms, internalized hyperactivity, and less externally disruptive symptoms. They tend to develop anxiety and people-pleasing coping mechanisms to mask their ADHD symptoms, and their struggles get missed or mistaken. Even professionals fail to spot ADHD in women, girls, and other AFAB people, simply because most information and early research only pertains to young boys with the hyperactive type. My own ADHD went unnamed, but not unnoticed, throughout my childhood and most of my adolescent years.
Even still, I know I am one of the lucky ones: once it came, my diagnosis was quick and easy. I lucked out on a psychiatrist who believed me and supported me. I had waited years for a moment when someone would finally look at me and tell me “you have ADHD,” but the moment itself never actually came. After taking an in-depth patient history, giving me treatment for some other problems, and discussing the nature of my symptoms, I was simply prescribed medication. Weeks later I still questioned if I had actually been diagnosed. It’s silly, but it’s something that is so common for those of us with ADHD who are used to our experiences being dismissed. We always question ourselves because that is what the world has been doing to us our whole lives. Yet, as time went on, I realized that the diagnosis was real, valid, legitimate, and something that will influence the rest of my life - possibly as an obstacle at times, but also majorly for the better.
Before my appointments with this psychologist, I had already been struggling. Between gender dysphoria, body dysmorphia, stress, tense family relationships, disordered eating, frequent panic attacks and sensory overload meltdowns, and recurrent anxiety and depression, my mental health was... a boiling hot mess. But because I was somehow still excelling in my structured activities, no one thought that I could possibly have a neurological developmental disorder. And for a long time, neither did I. They did not dismiss the idea of it, more that it simply never came up. Why should it have? So, I started therapy, which I stayed in on and off for almost four years. It helped me get through the stressful four years that were my hectic high school life with undiagnosed ADHD, but nothing from therapy seemed to make any lasting difference for my mental health or general wellbeing. Despite doing well, I was still struggling.
Now that I have that official diagnosis of ADHD - as well as diagnosis and treatment for Premenstrual Dysphoric Disorder (PMDD), which was an underlying cause of much of my recurrent depression and anxiety - I am in therapy again. Though what I discuss and work on in my current sessions is not so different from what I would do before as far as I could remember, the manner in which we would go through things was completely changed. Before, I would simply discuss an experience, and the therapist would connect it to an idea and coping mechanism. The next week, we’d move on. Unfortunately, so had my brain. I couldn’t retain the information long enough to actually incorporate anything useful into my day-to-day life - thanks, ADHD. Now that I am working with a therapist who understands my ADHD, she gets that I may need more support and close working than with her other patients, she is able to work with me and my brain productively. I never realized how much support I could actually get from therapy until I noticed that I was finally able to progress through my sessions while retaining the information I’d learn in the past.
Having a diagnosis, especially for conditions like ADHD, can be a life changing experience. A diagnosis brings along proper treatment, validation, external support, accommodations, and understanding. Though all of these are important, simply knowing you have ADHD - that new understanding of how your mind works - is possibly the most powerful part. Despite the numerous myths and misconceptions about ADHD that plague far too many people, ADHD is one of the most researched conditions in all of medical history! With the internet, so much of that information is accessible right at our fingertips. So learning more about what it really means to have ADHD and how to work with your ADHD brain has never been easier. They say knowing is half the battle: nowhere in my life has this been truer than with my ADHD.
In fact, even years before I finally was able to meet with a psychiatrist, I already embarked on this journey of understanding and working with my ADHD. The main obstacle I faced was not that people didn’t know about ADHD, but that a lot of people think they know what ADHD is so they never do any research about it. In reality, they are actually very misinformed, and at times may spread information that is wrong and harmful. Most of my life I had heard of ADHD, but only thought of it in the case of extremes and stereotypes. As I started researching it, however, I recognized much more of the symptoms in me. I am not so impulsive that I put my life in danger, or so inattentive that I do poorly in school, but the symptoms still affect me from my home life to the way I think. And there is so much more to ADHD than what the name or diagnostic criteria suggest. All of a sudden, looking back on my life, everything seemed to make a whole lot more sense. I’d been given glasses for the first time and I could finally see clearly.
The great thing about a buttload of information about ADHD being online is that there is also a lot of information about different ways to shift my life to work best with my brain. Slowly over the span of two years I began implementing these informal accommodations, and my life started to feel so much easier. Learning about my brain and why I act in certain ways allowed me to make peace with things that, until then, I had felt were only “flaws.” I was more comfortable with myself, and let myself do what I need to manage my attention and energy. I forgave myself for forgetfulness, and started learning how to organize my belongings in a way that works best for me. I flipped back and forth about whether or not I was comfortable saying “I have ADHD” because I had no professional diagnosis, but I was able to learn much more about my brain and how ADHD affects my life. I recognized that even if I didn’t have ADHD, I can still use any tips that help me, and there’s no harm in that. And any sense of self doubt vanished when all the extensive research I had done to increase my understanding of my ADHD brain helped me get my diagnosis.
Every day since that fateful appointment with my psychiatrist, I have been so grateful for my diagnosis. Even though I understood my ADHD brain, the people in my life didn’t necessarily. Post diagnosis, there was an adjustment, and it’s still in progress, but now my parents understand why I don’t seem to learn from my mistakes or their discipline, or how my room can never be organized with everything put away. With medication and proper therapy, as well as the support and understanding of my family, managing the challenges of ADHD has never been easier - in spite of everything going on in the world today. I haven’t taken any formal accommodations yet, but I may when we return to in person learning. And, most importantly, I am still learning about my brain every day. Reading about ADHD and learning how my mind works - how it’s always worked - helps me love myself a bit more and grow a bit every day.
For more information about ADHD, check out the links below!
(Apologies for the U.S. centric list, most of the well established research and resources for ADHD are U.S. based and centered. In fact there is an interesting niche in ADHD research about ADHD in the U.S. vs in other places in the world!)