Cynical and Angry

Two people I care about told me today that I am cynical and angry. Something has changed. I used to be happy and positive, but not anymore.

One thing I’ve been good at my entire life is keeping my true feelings to myself. I always tried to project a positive and happy image, partly because I wanted my parents to think I was doing OK and also because I knew people would judge my religion by my example. So, I was pretty good.

I went through a phase in seventh grade or so when I was being picked on continuously at school, so I just shut everyone out and refused to show any emotions at all. (I suspect, by the way, that my struggles with depression began then.) My parents were understandably alarmed that their normally cheerful and happy son was suddenly withdrawn and unemotional. My dad was worried enough that he took me on a week-long trip to Washington, DC, where he was doing business. It helped me at least feel that not everyone was down on me.

So, that phase passed, and I went back to trying to be positive. But when I left the LDS church three years ago a lot of emotions came flooding out that I had never allowed myself to express. I felt hurt, betrayed, and angry at my church for a lot of reasons.

But really, I still had trouble expressing my feelings to my family, and I talked about what I was thinking mostly on Internet boards, which isn’t entirely healthy but at least provided some outlet. Just over a year ago I came to Utah for a job interview, and I knew I was just barely holding myself together. I was depressed and feeling terribly alone. A family member said I seemed cynical and angry, whereas I think I was just depressed. A few days later I tried to kill myself.

Since that rather dark time, I’ve been working on telling people what I’m thinking, and it’s been really hard. One good thing to come out of all this has been the book I wrote about my mission, but it has really caused some conflict in my family. I read my mission journals, and I see someone constantly wracked with shame, guilt, and self-loathing. But I’m told by people who were there that they know I was “happy.” I guess I was really good at putting on a happy face.

So, where does that leave me? It’s scary to think that people who love me think that the “real me” is that fake happy person that was making me miserable. I think I’m generally a happy person, but I can be angry and cynical. And that’s OK. What isn’t OK is trying to make myself put that mask on.

I think I’m going to be all right. For the first time in my life I am trying to live my life for myself without being so afraid of people not liking me. I think I can do it.

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9 Responses to Cynical and Angry

  1. Fr. J. says:

    Runtu,

    I ran across this post tracking LDS hoping to come across more on Prop. 8. But, that is all written out now.

    But, I read your post and was intrigued. As a Catholic from a devout home, I felt the same pressure to be cheerful and light hearted and for similar reasons. Depression was the reality beneath the surface I presented to others. I am just a bit older than you, 43, and have gotten some help with it. It seems that depression is common at this age for men and precedes what others observe as the mid-life crisis. Keeping everything tucked behind the mask is poison and cant be maintained forever. That is what I’m learning for myself anyway.

    I looked at your “about” and saw that we have another thing in common. We were both missionaries in Bolivia. I was in Cochabamba and then Peru back in the 90’s. It was a great experience.

    I realize this is just a blog entry and have no idea who your audience is, but if there is anything I can do for you, just follow my link.

    God Bless,
    Fr. J.

  2. Ray Agostini says:

    I read my mission journals, and I see someone constantly wracked with shame, guilt, and self-loathing. But I’m told by people who were there that they know I was “happy.” I guess I was really good at putting on a happy face.

    That’s why I eventually burned my mission journal, Runtu. I couldn’t even bear to go through those “guilt” times again, although other parts were about the more interesting events on my mission. For most of it I wasn’t happy, and didn’t even look happy. Sometimes investigators would ask, “you don’t look like you really want to be here”. The happiest day of my mission, was the day I boarded the plane to fly home.

  3. >>I think I can do it.

    I know you can, John!!!

  4. Simeon says:

    Hang in there Runtu. You’ve been a godsend (whether or not there’s really a god) to many of us dealing with the same issues. We’re all trying to find our places in this post mormon world. It’s enough to deal with the personal anger, disappointment and genuine pain that comes from finding out the truth. Dealing with judgemental spouses, family members and TBM’s we were close with is enough to make any of us feel like we’re spinning out of control.

    How can you not be seen as cynical under the circumstances? It’s about the only way you can appear to believing folks after finding out that your life isn’t what you thought it was. What’s cynical to some is simply reality for others.

    Just take it one day at a time and try to find hapiness in the simple things.

  5. Mina says:

    Boy, angry and cynical are not the words that come to my mind about you. Especially not cynical! Sincere, caring, principled and extremely thoughtful and reflective—that’s where I’d start.

  6. OutontheFarm says:

    I was always looking for your posts on RFM because they were thoughtful and well reasoned and sometimes very, very funny. What’s wrong with having a range of emotions and having the courage to talk about it? Anger has been a good thing for me to express after a lifetime of trying to please everyone else and hoping they like me. I live my life much more honestly now. Thank you for writing.

  7. Eli says:

    Thanks for this post Runtu. Your story resonates with me and there are a lot of similarities in my own. I’ve followed your posts on FLAK for a while and always enjoy your insight, and I can’t wait to read your book. Reading how you’ve dealt with your struggles gives me courage.

    I struggle with telling people what I’m thinking, to the point of being dishonest. For me I think it comes down to fear. I still care about people think about me and what I’ll lose if I tell them how I really feel. I put on the happy mask all the time. I know I’ve grown more cynical over the past few years, and honestly, there’s good reason for it. I still have a lot of anger and a not-so-bright outlook on the future. I guess you could say my glass is still half empty. My inability to talk about my thoughts and feelings have caused me immense pain, which in turn, I’m sure is one of the causes of my anger. I’m contemplating some major changes in my life that will hopefully help me break from my fears.

  8. Lamanite says:

    I usually just eat more xanax 🙂

  9. aerin says:

    Thanks for this post. I agree it can be hard – especially when what you say (about your own feelings) can hurt others. It can be vital to express ourselves though. Finding that line is so important – when it’s important to speak up – and when it’s important to let things go.

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