“I was afraid to lose friends and my family, I ended up losing my parents anyway, but if they knew I was an atheist, I’m almost sure we could never reconcile.”
Bethany, American-born and raised, grew up in a strict authoritarian household with Baptist parents. She represents one of many individuals who have lost family members, friends and whole communities as a direct result of leaving a denomination within Christianity.
Bethany’s de-conversion process has been a 13-year journey, yet the trauma is still prevalent. She has taken a brave stand and asked for her real name to be used within this article. However, many individuals choose to remain anonymous due to stigma and social implications.
“In my mind, I’ve got that 99% feeling, the relationship is over, but I’ll leave that one per cent open in the event she might realise that ‘hey, I’m missing out on a relationship with my daughter and grandkids’,” Bethany paused. “Cause she didn’t even get to meet my second son.”
In 2017, Social Psychological and Personality Science identified 26% of Americans as atheists. Because of the stigma associated with classifying oneself as a non-believer, the researchers used an unmatched count technique paired with a Bayesian estimation to reach this conclusion. Indeed, three years earlier, Pew Research distinguished that only 3.1% of Americans are atheists. The survey asked respondents directly to identify their religious standing. Seven years earlier, a similar study suggested only 1.6% of Americans were atheists.
The evidence suggests atheism is rising, given there is a significant jump between the 2014 results and the 2017 findings. The exponential leap suggests difficulty for respondents to identify themselves as atheists. Meanwhile, during the same period, Christianity has declined.
While Bethany’s experience is a testimony to one person’s struggle, this data highlights the need for religion to be discussed in more depth. The research raises questions, such as, ‘Why do people struggle to classify themselves as an atheist?’ Additionally, it certifies the need to explore the complexities one faces when transitioning out of Christianity.
“People expect that choosing to leave a childhood faith is like giving up Santa Claus,” explains Dr Marlene Windell in her research article for the British Association for Behavioural and Cognitive Psychotherapies (BABCP). However, her clients for over twenty years have said it’s not that simple.
Dr Windell explains that “it involves a complete upheaval of a person’s construction of reality, including the self, other people, life, the future, everything.” There are two underlying elements to the loss of faith, the external reactions and your personal grief. However, the severity will vary from person to person.
As such, the process can leave one facing long-term psychological damage with similar side effects to that of Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD) and complex PTSD. The consequences of de-conversion can be more severe for individuals who have been heavily indoctrinated, particularly as a young child.
Sufferers may struggle with severe anxiety and depression mixed with guilt, fear and shame. Many ‘deconverts’ feel as though they are grieving the death of a loved one. Meanwhile, isolation kicks in, particularly for people whose entire social-network is of their religion.
Dr Windell refers to this process as Religious Trauma Syndrome (RTS) to distinguish the mental impact many of these individuals encounter. While not everyone will develop symptoms to the extent of trauma, Dr Windell says, “it is time for the mental health community to recognise the real trauma that religion can cause.”
At the centre of de-conversion is fear. Fear of rejection by your family, close friends and acquaintances. Fear of losing the connection with this group of people who you have grown to love and be loved. Fear of their reactions when they find out. Fear that this community will no longer understand or accept you.
“It can feel very shattering to have your faith and everything just be abandoned,” Bethany explained. “If you have a lot of family members [and friends] who are still believers, they are not going to understand you. They are not going to understand. They are not going to get you.”
Kyon abandoned his devout Christian faith while studying in London, England. At the time he was also a Bible study leader at his church. “I kind of knew what reaction I would get if I opened up,” Kyon told us.
“[My friends] couldn’t really accept it. They couldn’t understand it. Well, obviously, they didn’t read the things I did. Nor do they actually think the way I do.” As a result, he chose to leave them. “It wasn’t because I hated them or was mad at them.”
Instead, he merely needed space to move on from Christianity. “My friend from church was basically regurgitating information he heard from the pulpit and saying how Jesus was great,” Kyon explained. His friends and acquaintances would say things like “I know you will come back because I am praying for you.”
While Kyon’s friends didn’t reject him, the ‘lack of understanding’ can cause people to lose their connection with their peers. As a result, an element of isolation is still prevalent, even without directly being rejected.
“A deep sense of love and belonging is an irresistible need of all people. We are biologically, cognitively, physically, and spiritually wired to love, to be loved, and to belong,” claimed Brene Brown in an article for Psychology Today. “When those needs are not met, we don’t function as we were meant to.”
Even Bethany’s parents were concerned about losing their connection with their daughter and told her: “We don’t know who you are any more. You have been brainwashed.” The loss of connection can go both ways and may be difficult for everyone involved.
Another challenge is the concept of acceptance as it can solely rely on the condition that you are a Christian. “What I learned in the process, is that it was conditional love with strings attached. It’s unconditional love if you agree with everything that [they] say,” Bethany recalls.
“The minute you start kind of deviating from that then it was like,” Bethany paused, eyebrows raised, eyes looking downward and face expressive as she impersonated her parents with variating tones of disapproval.
Sassy, as her online following know her, converted from Evangelical Christianity to atheism at the beginning of 2019. Sassy’s homosexuality clashed with her faith. However, she spent her upbringing suppressing these feelings and equally telling others to do the same. She found herself preaching as much as she could. “I would feel that it would’ve been my fault if I didn’t preach to someone before they died. It didn’t matter if people were offended by it,” she explained. “I would mostly preach online telling people that they were going to hell if they didn’t repent and accept Jesus.”
Sassy claims that some of her family members can’t accept she left her faith and refuse to listen to her reasons for leaving: “I got a lot of backlash from Christians, especially from those who used to follow my [Twitter] account.”
All of these deconverts referred to one person or another who assumed they would return to the faith. Kyon experienced this from church friends, Sassy through her Twitter following and Bethany told us that her Christian therapist also tried to keep her in the faith.
Isaac, a 29-year-old married man, grew up in America’s ‘Bible Belt’. His parents, who are actively involved in a Christian 24/7 prayer and worship centre, were “surprisingly accepting” when Isaac transitioned out of his non-denominational Christian faith.
However, just like the other deconverts, there is an unspoken pretence that his atheism will not last forever. “I believe they think it’s a phase and that I’ll return to the fold eventually.”
While everyone has their own uniquely tailored journey, it seems the deconvert’s prior engagement with their faith will impact the gravity of their transition. Individuals who were heavily indoctrinated throughout their childhood are more likely to experience years of trauma. Whereas, others may be able to work through the shift themselves.
The concept of ‘needing forgiveness’ is fundamental to Christian belief. The religion says everyone is inherently sinful and deserving of hell. However, because Jesus loved people so much, He came to Earth and died on the cross. As a result, anyone who accepts Him can now go to heaven.
However, this message can produce a cycle of guilt. Dr Darrel Ray, Founder of Recovering from Religion, explains, “First, the religion teaches you to be ashamed of normal, natural things like sex, masturbation, your body, your sexuality. Constant messages are repeated that you are broken; you are sinful; you are not worthy and need help from God.”
Dr Ray goes on to say: “Once convinced of this deeply dehumanising and damaging message. The religion turns around and offers you a cure for the disease it just gave you.” This ‘cure’ can make you feel better. In fact, it can bring you joy.
Christians who take the Bible literally are told ‘be perfect as your heavenly Father is perfect’. The Beatitudes, in the Gospels, is a sermon in which Jesus lays out many impossible standards. When you do not comply with the scripture, you must ask forgiveness. “I thought that I was worthless without God,” Sassy told us.
During youth group, Bethany would be on her knees crying, feeling as though she wasn’t good enough. In turn, she would feel ‘the presence of God’ and become even more committed. However, the buzz would fade when she would get in an argument with her parents.
“Religion wasn’t all of it,” Bethany says. “But it was a major component. I couldn’t get to the root of this ‘I don’t feel good enough’ feeling. But I’m like, ‘oh my God, it’s so rooted in this. That need to be perfect. Be that submissive person and submit to authority.”
“I was often shamed if I didn’t adhere strictly to scripture,” Bethany recalled. For example, she was regularly spanked until the age of fourteen or fifteen. As a result, Bethany learnt to suppress her feelings and keep quiet so that she didn’t ‘rock the boat’.
“I had some good experiences with my parents,” Bethany acknowledged. However, she was always afraid to lose the connection she had with them. Bethany described this process as ‘a slow death, death by a thousand paper cuts.’
When Bethany was in middle school, wearing ‘What Would Jesus Do’ bracelets was a significant trend. “I thought that the bracelets were a great symbol of representation of what scripture and faith is all about.” The bracelet was a reminder “to be a better person for Jesus and be more conscious of my thoughts and actions.”
At the time, Bethany didn’t always get along with her father. “I was headstrong. He was headstrong. We clashed. I constantly got accused of back-talking. So we got into one blow up, and I had my bracelet on, and my dad goes, ‘You need to look at your bracelet and see what that represents’.”
“After a while the shame of, I guess I’m just not good enough. Here I am, I’m trying. So eventually, I just stopped wearing my bracelet because I eventually thought, I’m never going to be good enough for God. I’m never going to be good enough for my parents,” Bethany paused and turned her misty-eyes away for a split second.
“So that’s when I kinda started to slip away. Just kinda like, you know what, I’m still going to go to church. I will still believe in these principles to a certain extent, but it’s like, this concept of trying to be perfect, is just, I’m never going to measure up. Never.”
Karyl McBride Ph.D, is a licensed marriage and family therapist, she has over three decades of working with dysfunctional families. Karyl specialises in narcissistic and abusive families with extensive experience of clients struggling with the internalised ‘not good enough’ message.
In her article for Psychology Today she says that “the negative messages cannot be ‘undone’ by simple techniques of affirmations or telling ourselves we are OK […] rather, this work takes uncovering the deeper trauma embedded in the child or adult brain and body and then releasing it.”
Bethany still remembers enjoying the church services, particularly the youth retreats. “Those are still fond memories in my mind because it was a time to get out as a teenager.”
“The conferences were just spectacular,” Bethany recalled with a smile. “With lights and music, the prayers, the dedication times. You could feel that ‘on fire feeling’. Like, yeah we are going to go out there and fight, and we are going to go and win souls and not be stumbling blocks to others.”
Leaving Christianity would be much easier if one didn’t care so deeply about it or strongly believe in the first place. However, both Isaac and Kyon claimed that Christianity was everything to them. Bethany and Sassy also referred to this kind of all-consuming engagement.
Kyon framed it this way: “Christianity was literally everything to me. Literally, everything. It just dominated every aspect of my life, my philosophy of thoughts. Every behaviour. Every action I took, every decision I made was based on some kind of Christian ethics I heard from church.”
He often prayed and fasted. “Most of the time, I didn’t actually get what I wanted.” However, he was at ‘peace’ with unanswered prayers saying that it must be ‘God’s plan’. Kyon explained that he knew God was saying no if what he asked for ‘didn’t turn up, it didn’t happen’.
“I suppose, it never really made sense,” Kyon mused. “I think that’s the basis of Christian faith is even if something doesn’t make sense, even if you don’t understand something, you put faith in this divine being.”
The Christian faith teaches you to have ‘a relationship with God’. Part of being in a relationship with someone is talking to them. For Christians, prayer is simply talking to God. You don’t have to be on your knees, and you don’t have to pray out loud.
Journaling, worshipping and even thinking can all be forms of prayer. By doing this, you are building up a relationship with God. “When I was a Christian, prayer was everything,” Sassy acknowledged. “I would pray to God all the time. Whether it was about family, goals, money, love etc.”
“I remember going to this Bible meeting every morning because I actually enjoyed praying. I felt like I was actually speaking to God or Jesus and [the] Trinity. That actually used to bring me joy,” Kyon reminisced. “Just knowing there was some spiritual entity. That I’m actually communicating with on a daily basis, every moment, every little decision would be like ‘what would Jesus do’ kind of thing. I was [a] proper, proper Jesus geek.
“That residue of that Christianity, I think still carried on for a couple [of] years after,” Kyon told us. “I think the residue of the love of God, the love of Christ, I think it is still apart of me [at] some level. It still kind of gives me comfort if I, you know, unintentionally listen to the gospel music that used to give me comfort.”
“I still remember those days, and I still revel in it. So I actually believe that I don’t think I’ve actually left Christ or Christ’s love and stuff like that. I think I’ve mostly left the organised religion. Am I ready to go back to church for it? Maybe when hell freezes over!” Kyon concluded.
“For many people who leave their faith, it is like a death or divorce,” writes Dr Windell in another research article for the BABCP. “Their ‘relationship’ with God was a central assumption, such that giving it up feels like a genuine loss to be grieved. It can be like losing a lover, a parent, or best friend who has always been there.”
However, when someone dies, people understand why you need to grieve. Equally, you don’t lose your entire social network. In contrast, people may make even more effort to support you through the process. For deconverts, often they must face this grieving process alone.
Kübler-Ross’ Five Stages of Grief highlights some of the primary emotions one goes through when grieving the death of a loved one. As with grief, these stages are merely factors that one could feel but will vary from person to person. It can be more complex than chronologically making your way through the process of shock, denial, anger, bargaining and acceptance.
Initially, as with grief, there is a stage of shock. At this point, the individual may not realise they will eventually transition out of their faith. However, they tend to experience an element of cognitive dissonance.
Psychology Today provides their own glossary for a vast number of topics, including cognitive dissonance. The online magazine claims that cognitive dissonance is an uncomfortable feeling that “occurs when one’s ideas, beliefs, or behaviours are contradictory” and “when a person learns new information that challenges a deeply held belief.”
Bethany remembered several key moments where she would think to herself, ‘this doesn’t feel right’. For example, when Bethany started college, her mother told her ‘you need to be worried’ about the Muslims on campus as ‘they could be carrying a bomb’.
On another occasion, Bethany was out with her mum. Another lady, who was wearing a hijab, was also shopping. Bethany’s mother asked, ‘Is she gone?’ Bethany was confused. Her mother explained that she didn’t want to walk down the same aisle as the Muslim lady.
Bethany explained that her parents and the radio show that she would regularly tune into would say ‘We’re not being racist. We are not discriminating.’ However, she recalls thinking “‘Yeah it is. It feels like what you are saying is discriminatory.’”
“My mum would say things like, ‘I think the people who bombed abortion clinics are heroes’ and stuff like that. I would normalise that in my mind, but now I’m like, that is sick!” Bethany also heard things like ‘ah don’t you know Darwin, he converted to Christianity on his deathbed.’
Time and time again, Bethany ctalked about feeling that element of shock. It wasn’t until later in life when these thoughts caused her to fact-check everything daily. For example, Bethany felt a “cement block on her chest” when her eldest son turned three years-old because she didn’t want to spank him. It triggered personal memories of being ‘shamed by religion’.
Kyon experienced a similar feeling of cognitive dissonance when the church would ask for money every week. He said the church leaders encouraged people to cheer for the offering. As such, money shattered [his] illusion about the church: “The church as an organisation, it needs financing. It needs money. It pays rent, bills, pays staff members. It all requires money, yes. But the thing is the way they approached it and trying to argue that was actually based on the bible,” Kyon laughed, shaking his head with a lengthy pause.
“No, that’s just not right. In the sense that, if the church was actually more straightforward in saying ‘We actually need money, we need donations’, without actually selling God out, that would be fine in my mind,” however, Kyon claimed the church would say “you are robbing God if you don’t bring in tithes.”
Kyon was studying theology in hopes of becoming a pastor or vicar. He said he wanted this profession because he ‘loved Jesus’. However, Kyon changed his studies to Religion, Philosophy and Ethics to gain a ‘third-person perspective’: “Quite ironically, by studying Religion and Philosophy and Ethics, I lost my religion. By studying philosophy, I felt dumber than ever,” Kyon explained. “There was an inverse relationship between studying ethics and my personal morals.”
The Christian perspective on homosexuality was one example of this clash between Kyon’s morals and his faith. He recited a verse in Leviticus which says: “It is an abomination for a man to lay with another man.”
“The thing is, I grew up in […] a very liberal country. My friends were openly gay and bi-sexual. I think I always struggled with that thought. Like why are they an abomination? They are just my good friends. You know? There were internal conflicts, but then I kind of had this unwavering Word of God in my mind. Like, that’s what it is. I will try and make them Christian, I suppose,” Kyon explained this was because he cared about them. If hell was real, he didn’t want them to end up there.
Sassy grew up being attracted to both men and women, however “because of the Bible, I had to deny […] being homosexual.” Sassy recollected convincing herself that “Satan is just trying to make me disobey God.”
Dr Darrel Ray told Artefact: “Imagine being told since you were born that your body is your enemy. Your body is sinful. Your thoughts are sinful, and most of all, people who are LGBTQ are the most sinful, even inhabited by the Devil. Then as your body matures and you become sexually aware, you realise that you are gay, bi, trans or something other than the approved sexuality. Suddenly you realise that everyone around you will hate you, including your own parents and family.
“This fear and loathing of the normal and natural leads to enormous psychological conflict in the growing child and teenager. The result is devastating to many, even traumatising. This leads to all sorts of problems from teen suicide, to self-abuse like cutting, to acting out in self-destructive ways.”
The transition out of Christianity may include many moments of experiencing jarring feelings of dissonance between one’s founding principles and new information or beliefs. Yet, this is often the deconvert’s starting point.
It is also worth noting that some deconverts may also feel a sense of shock in the form of numbness. For example, facing the transition may be too much to handle. As such, they put these uncomfortable questions aside, perhaps even their religious practices, to deal with their day to day life.
Another stage of the grieving process is denial. It’s when you push away those uncomfortable feelings because you are in the ‘faith zone’ as Bethany calls it. This phase can last a long time. Bethany, Sassy and Kyon experienced uncomfortable feelings early on. However, they ignored it; they were in denial.
There are two key challenges relating to denial. Firstly, allowing yourself to ask questions. Secondly, acknowledging that you don’t believe in some of the fundamental principles that you once held dear. These feelings can also come and go throughout the grieving process.
A research article for Christianity Today explored the stigma of doubt within Evangelical Christianity. Michael Hakmin Lee conducted 31 in-depth articles with deconverts to discover that there is ‘little or no room’ for doubt.
“[Like] many evangelicals, myself included, and former evangelicals can personally attest to, doubt is commonly vilified within evangelicalism as though there is little or no room for doubts within an authentic and maturing faith,” Michael wrote.
“Consequently, those with doubts, like many of the participants, often feel compelled to suppress them and deal with them on their own in secret,” he added. Artefact’s own in-depth interviews with Bethany and Kyon also testified to this response to feelings of doubt.
“When you believe something so strongly,” proclaimed Former Pastor Teresa MacBain at the American Atheists National Convention in 2012, “when you’ve been immersed in your faith your entire life, when it is just as much a part of you as your arms, or legs, or fingers, then the acknowledgement of change is a very hard pill to swallow. I didn’t want to lose my faith. I didn’t want to change or stop believing, but I wanted truth more!”
At one point or another, a deconvert may feel a sense of anger. Bethany recalled feeling ‘very mad’, ‘deceived’ and almost as though factual information was deliberately kept from her. She wasn’t only frustrated with what others had told her, but that she didn’t act on the ‘uncomfortable feelings’ faster.
Richard Wade, a retired license Marriage and Family Therapist, writes an advice column called “Ask Richard”. He receives numerous letters from all different perspectives focusing on non-Christians and Christians working or living together. The responses are then published with the anonymised notes.
One letter, in particular, depicts this ‘anger’ stage of deconversion very clearly. In it, Roberta asks: “When does the anger at wasting your time and energy go away?” She expressed anger that she spent her ‘life and time’ trying to adhere to the scriptures.
“Don’t lust. Don’t lie. Always put others before your own needs and desires, and always be humble towards others because you are not your own. Don’t question because doubt is a sin. Don’t criticise the church, but make it better. It was like it didn’t matter what you did; you were doomed anyway for something,” Roberta’s letter added.
This letter is followed by multitudes of comments expressing similar emotions and offering words of support. One comment promises hope, “It gets better. It takes a long time, but it does get better. I spent a few years being white-hot angry about all in my life that religion had taken away from me, but then the anger started to fade.”
Bargaining also comes into play throughout the deconversion process. Christina Gregory, PhD explains in her article ‘The Five Stages of Grief’ that the bargaining stage has an element of ‘false hope’ because one is ‘desperate’ for things to return to normal.
For some, it’s the stage where you try to negotiate with God, saying things like, “show me you are real and I will return.” After all, the individual may have numerous positive memories and a strong relationship with God.
For others, it includes the ‘if only’ and ‘I wish’ statements. Bethany worded it this way, “I wish I could change it. I wish that I had found out and spoken to someone about it, but I was afraid. It was like, oh this is normal. And it was easier to submit to my parent’s authority and what they had to say […] I just felt helpless.”
Depression is likely to emerge in the deconversion process at one point or another. As with all of the replications, the intensity and length will vary. Kyon recalled having, “a really turbulent month because my […] entire identity was falling apart.”
Kyon stated, “I didn’t really eat. I didn’t really drink. I just thought about it a lot. I just kept reading all of these philosophy books. […] You know, just suffering in silence and just doing a lot of digging around to find myself again.” He described this process as ‘suffering in silence’. Except for a listening ear from the Anglican chaplains at his university. However, Kyon had his liberal upbringing working in his favour. For example, his parents showed religious indifference, and he still had friends outside of the church. These accumulating factors may be the cause of a speedier recovery.
Dr Windell writes: “For some people, depending on their personality and the details of their religious past, it may be possible to simply stop participating in religious services and activities and move on with life. But for many, leaving their religion means debilitating anxiety, depression, grief, and anger.”
Bethany also reached a point where she realised she needed to talk to someone. However, her deconversion process has been a 13-year journey. It was only last year in which she concluded “I’ve got to get out. I’ve got to get therapy.” She told Artefact, this was a result of a lonely “I’m on the outside feeling.”
Bethany was one of 14,630 people who had used the Secular Therapy Project, provided by Recovering from Religion, to search for a therapist. The service was designed to help people find qualified therapists who will not bring religion into the clinical setting.
“The problem is helping people find the right kind of treatment. Far too many counsellors are religious themselves, and are well trained in trauma recovery but loathe to admit that their religion has caused trauma in their client,” articulates Dr Darrel Ray, Founder of Recovering from Religion.
The first time Bethany went to therapy, she met with a Christian counsellor. However, when her beliefs were changing, and she vocalised these new opinions within her sessions, Bethany felt she was being treated differently and claimed, “it was isolating. It was crushing in a way.”
The service has nearly 400 qualified throughout seven countries and three continents, including the UK. Dr Darrel Ray said, “We have consistently seen a 25% increase in clients using this service every year since 2012.”
Finally, there is a stage of acceptance. However, to ‘accept’ one’s loss, the person must reconstruct their entire identity. This reconstruction may include a process of ‘rewiring’, reflection and study.
“It was a process of rewiring and taking a step back, going, what about this point of view?” Bethany reflected. “I was hungry to learn […] I’m still like that, I can not get enough information.”
Sassy claimed, “it’s hard to accept” that you have lost your faith. “I believed that my identity only came from being a child of God. [This was] because Christians are told that God made us who we are and that our identity comes from being a believer.”
As such, for Sassy, losing her faith meant losing her identity and initiated a process of ‘finding herself’. “Since I’ve left Christianity,” Sassy told Artefact, “I can truly see that my identity doesn’t come from a deity. It comes from who I am as a person.”
Kyon revealed that he found comfort in Agnosticism: “I actually don’t know if God exists or doesn’t exist. I don’t know. I can’t know. Therefore, I just decided to bury it and just live happily, to live the life I see fit.”
Kyon observed his experience after accepting to leave Christianity: “I felt free. Completely free. I felt happy.” He recollected that missing church made him feel strange. However, after a while, the pressure of church, meetings and caring disappeared. He described it as ‘liberating’.
“For some reason, Christians seem to draw people to church, for instance, Alpha, Christians just go in there and approach other strangers assuming that their lives are falling apart and their answer is God,” Kyon declared. The Alpha is a service, which, according to their website, provides ‘a series of interactive sessions that freely explore the basics of the Christian faith.’
Kyon recited a frequently-used church analogy, “‘every man has a little God-shaped hole in their heart.’ Fucking corny, but whatever,” he quickly adds. “For me, it was actually the complete opposite. By letting that go, I felt completely free.”
Isaac made a deconversion announcement on Facebook, saying, “About one year ago I came to a realisation. It was one that I had thought about and struggled with for years. That realisation was that I am no longer a Christian. I told my closest friends and family and started the long journey to figuring out what my life looks like without Christianity. It has been hard, but I finally feel free.”
Isaac told Artefact: “My inner life is so much more peaceful now than it ever was as a Christian. I don’t beat myself up over being human, I treat other people’s cultures and beliefs with more respect, I am still terrified of death and that anxiety of not being sure what happens after death has been a huge challenge, but I feel so much happier now.”
The change has helped Isaac ‘both mentally and physically’. Ultimately, he claims it has been a ‘very positive change’.
Many of the names within this article have been changed at interviewees’ request.
Featured Image by Ben White via Unsplash.