Wednesday, April 10, 2013

Why are we so sad? Thoughts from the other side of depression


I’m going to be quite honest with you. The only thing that qualifies me to write this is that I have been there. I have been where you are, where your loved one is. I have walked the shadowy path that you have walked. I have been the one who has caused her loved ones worry. I have been the one whose friends thought she was inexplicably, bafflingly crazy and selfish. Why doesn’t she just snap out of it? they would say. Why is she so sad?

            The fact is, I don’t know why I was so sad. But I can tell you, from this side of it, years and years on this side of it, I have a few ideas.

            I know, for instance, that when I was very depressed, I was not getting enough sleep, and probably not enough nutrition, to adequately supply the amount of pressure I was putting on myself. I was a little bit of an overachiever (can anyone be a little bit of that?). I was a little bit of a perfectionist. I pushed myself so hard that one day, when something unexpected happened, something I neither expected nor understood nor had the capacity to understand happened, I lost it. The fragile balance of emotions and hormones and whatever else there is fell off the edge of the earth.

But I also know now that several of the large decisions of my life would never have happened if I had not been depressed. In short, I wouldn’t be the person I am today.

Nowadays, depression is recognized as something that is clinically wrong with you. I think the reasons for depression are many, but many of them can be treated by a doctor, which I highly recommend if you are someone who is suffering with this. Don’t just suffer. Ask someone to take you to the doctor for treatment. I know you can’t do it by yourself, and that’s okay. There are people who love you and will help you get the help you need. Not all depression can be cured with pills, though, and I highly doubt much of it can be cured with counseling. Don’t get your panties in a wad. I really don’t think anyone can talk you out of being sad, but I do think a good counselor can talk you through it.

That’s right. Depression is something you must go through. Depression is like many other messes: the only way out of it is through it. Even with treatment, it will be a struggle. And that’s okay. This life is about struggles. Everyone has their own set. Yours just happens to be a Brain Cloud.

I don’t know why I’m writing this today. It has been a long time since I gave much thought to depression. But for several days it’s all I’ve been able to think about. So here is a short list of strategies I used, or things I used to tell myself in those long ago dark days of depression. Feel free to borrow some of them if you need to. Everyone is different, but maybe something will work for you.

1-Embrace yourself the way you are, not the way you want to be, not the way you could be or could have been. Not the way you used to be. You are fine and you are beautiful and you have been given this trial because you are strong enough to bear it.

2-Realize this is not who you are. You will not permanently feel this way. Your soul, your spirit is not sad. It is glad beyond your understanding to be here on this earth to participate in this part of the plan, the test, the trial. It is dancing, kicking up its heels, turning pirouettes, flying. You just can’t see it—or feel it.

3-Stop concentrating so much on being cured. Start concentrating on living with your depression. Really living. This may sound counter-productive, but it’s the fake it ‘til you make it concept. I know you think I’m kidding, but it actually does work. I know right now you think I’m a Grinny Minny to your Grumpy Gus. Maybe that’s true. Maybe I am. I clawed my way to it and I deserve it. I used to have to write down things like what lunch period my friends had because I couldn’t remember. I didn’t care enough to remember. But the real part of me did care and she was writing ridiculous factoids in her notebook. Just find things that work for you, that get you from one moment to the next.

4-Try to identify the reasons you are depressed. Face them and deal with them. Treat the cause instead of the symptom. For me, it had a lot to do with hormone imbalances and sleep deprivation. I don’t think I ever, not once, got more than four or five hours of sleep in high-school. Because I can’t sleep in the early part of the night. Because all of life happens in the day and I had to be there for it. Now, if I miss a few hours of sleep I become grumpy and hateful, and it is no wonder to me that I was so miserable all the time.

For many, the deep reasons for depression are rooted in, gulp, sin. Perhaps there is something in your past you haven’t admitted yet, or if you have, you haven’t owned up to it. Completing the process of repentance can have remarkable effects on depression. I’m not accusing you (beam in my own eye, anyone?) Just puttin’ it out there.

But perhaps there is no obvious, no definable or quantifiable reason for you to be depressed. And this is a tough one. You will try to tell yourself your life is amazing, so of course there is no reason to feel the way you do. That’s the worst mistake you can make! DO NOT count your blessings! Nothing will make you feel worse than listing the reasons you should feel happy—or at the very least, grateful. You can’t base your happiness on the treasures of this world, so why should they affect your sadness?

5-Instead of counting your blessings, find or renew that thing about you that makes you who you are, that makes you different from everyone else. You know what it is. You already know, don’t you? It’s that thing you love, or that thing you can do, or the way you can be. Find it right now in your heart. Go on. Look at it. Examine it. Don’t be embarrassed or hesitant. It’s yours. Reach out and take it. Perhaps being depressed even enhances this thing.

6-You are not broken. You are not unredeemable or unfixable or incurable. I would always tell myself, “It is just a thing.” Meaning, it’s just a flaw, like a broken leg or a bad case of acne or thunder thighs or thinning hair or an ulcer or a hangnail. Sometimes those things can be fixed. Sometimes they take a while to heal. Sometimes, people just have to live with them.

7-Listen to me now. This is not a punishment. A consequence maybe, a trial for sure, but not a punishment. Do you think God likes it when you’re sad? Do you think He wants your mind to be so cloudy you can hardly find yourself inside it? Depression can really put a dent in your faith. Personally, I never doubted God existed, but I was pretty dang sure He didn’t give a flying rat’s apple about me. If that’s where you’re at, take a deep breath and just listen to me. He is not punishing you. He is shining you up. He will do whatever it takes to make you into the best you possible.

I guess that’s about it for the short list. A little TMI on Misty Moncur maybe, too.

1 comment:

Sheila Hunter said...

You, dear sister, have an amazing soul and incredible writing talent! I was looking up talks on Baptism and the Holy Ghost and LOVE your suggestions and blog! Please write a book someday about this above topic ( LDS and Depression) you're awesome!❤️love Sis Hunter ( We are FT missionaries LDS )