Wednesday, October 9, 2013

My Story

I have been wanting to share something for a long time. I thought about it quite a bit a couple of years ago and let it slide. But after listening to Elder Holland's talk in General Conference last week I came back to feeling like I wanted to talk about it.

I am not very private about this, I think quite a few people know because I'm not ashamed of it at all. At the same time I don't find many opportunities to work it into my daily conversations. The 'it' that I am referring to is that I have depression, or as the people who know stuff about stuff (doctors) like to call it Major Depressive Disorder. 

I want you to know why I am sharing this. I think we all have an image that comes to mind when we think of depression or someone who is depressed. I also think that image for a lot of people is highly negative. I understand why that is. Going through it is not a great experience. But I want people to understand that someone with depression is not at fault for the way they feel. It is a disease.

"I am not speaking of bad hair days, tax deadlines, or other discouraging moments we all have. I am speaking of something more serious, of an affliction so severe that it significantly restricts a person’s ability to function fully." Jeffrey R Holland

Just a week ago at the LDS church's General Conference an Apostle of the Lord addressed this subject. I beg anyone who may be reading to read this talk even if you've already read it before. I hope you'll read it whether or not you have any interest in the subject. It helps define what depression really is so that people can have a better understanding of the disease that truly afflicts many people. I can't say anything better than Elder Holland said it. Him giving this talk in General Conference told me again what I already know: The Lord loves His children so much. He does not want them to suffer alone. He wants them to know that He knows what they are going through. And He does. 

So I'll just tell you MY story of how I came to find out I had depression. 

I started dating Todd in 2006 and I LOVED being with him. I loved his attitude and I loved his outlook on life. I remember him telling me a story once about something really crappy that happened to him and he said, "It was so terrible that all I could do was laugh". I loved that he was like that. Even though I was dating an awesome guy and I finally felt like life was going the way I wanted it to I still had too many times that I felt 'blah'. 'Blah', for me, was a feeling made up of a lot of other feelings. The feeling that there is nothing to look forward to in life, the feeling that you have every reason to be happy but you aren't, the feeling that you know there is good in the world but you can't see it in your life. There were days when I just didn't want to get out of bed in the morning, and not in a "I hope I die because I don't want to live life anymore" kind of way. But just a "I don't look forward to going through this day" kinda way. 

About 4 months into our relationship Todd noticed that I wasn't as happy as I could be. We talked about my feelings a lot and I basically told him that as far as I know this is my 'normal'. Todd had just taken a psychology class so he busted out his textbook and we looked at some symptoms. He told me that he learned that if an emotional condition gets in the way of normal life it's probably something serious. 

The story of what happened in the next 6 months is long and complicated, but basically I didn't take Todd very seriously and I became so confused by all my feelings that I broke up with Todd to try to get everything figured out. After I had my priorities sorted out and I knew what I wanted, Todd and I started dating again, and shortly after that we got engaged.

It wasn't until a few weeks before our wedding that I went to a therapist to figure out if there really was something going on with me. After a long talk she came to the conclusion that I had Major Depressive Disorder. She also determined since I hadn't had any traumatic experience that triggered the depression, that it was a genetic chemical imbalance I would live with my entire life. 

I struggled a lot with the fact that I had depression. I had absolutely NO reason to feel unhappy or incomplete. I loved life, I loved my Fiance, I loved my family. On paper I had the absolutely perfect life. I wanted to be able to will myself to be happy. I wanted to have the strength to say I SHOULD be happy therefore I AM HAPPY. 

I like the way my therapist worded it. She said, "You're just missing some chemicals in your brain, that's all." Those words were unbelievably comforting to me! I had been beating myself up over how I had been feeling. This helped me understand that I was no more at fault for my feelings than I was for the freckles on my face. This was a medical condition. 

"These afflictions are some of the realities of mortal life, and there should be no more shame in acknowledging them than in acknowledging a battle with high blood pressure or the sudden appearance of a malignant tumor." Jeffrey R Holland

It wasn't until about 6 months into our marriage that I got treatment for my depression, which for me is in the form of medicine. I still remember the moment when, after taking the medicine for a few days I realized that I was happy. I realized that I hadn't cried for a few days. I felt that weight lifted off of me. I suffered for so long with feelings of hopelessness and I couldn't believe that my treatment was actually working. That there actually was a cure for how I'd been feeling.

"If things continue to be debilitating, seek the advice of reputable people with certified training, professional skills, and good values. Be honest with them about your history and your struggles. Prayerfully and responsibly consider the counsel they give and the solutions they prescribe." Jeffrey R. Holland

 I look back on this time in my life and I see so clearly the hand of the Lord helping me to get to where I am today. He put several people in my life who led me to consider the possibility of depression. He gave me circumstances and opportunities to realize that it was something that needed to be treated medically. I know the Lord loves us and wants to help us through our trials. There were a lot of times before I was treated when I wondered if He cared whether I go through life happy or not. Now I know that He did care and He made it possible with hundreds of little miracles, for me to get the help I needed. 

"So how do you best respond when mental or emotional challenges confront you or those you love? Above all, never lose faith in your Father in Heaven, who loves you more than you can comprehend." Jeffrey R. Holland

My hope in sharing this is to spread awareness both to people who might be struggling with depression or people who might be on the outside looking in. No one should have to feel hopeless and alone. I'm blessed to have had so many people to support me through my time of need. I want to be able to help make those miracles happen for others who are where I once was. If you have any questions I'd love to talk. Life is meant to be enjoyed! 


Elaina said...

Thanks for sharing your story! I know it takes courage to share something like that. I also struggle with a mental disorder, but it's more on the anxiety/panic disorder side. I also loved Elder Holland's talk! It's so good to know we're not alone and that its becoming more understood. Anyway, I just wanted you to know I read this and I think you're awesome!

Simonds Family said...

Yes! I was so so so happy when I heard elder Hollands talk! I love how much more open and capable the church is becoming with addressing emotional and mental illnesses that have been misunderstood and stigmatized for so long. Thank you for writing this!