Wednesday, May 27, 2015

Real Life Depression

I have had a little voice nagging me lately to share some of my personal thoughts about depression.  I have light-heartedly referred to it in the past, and most of those close to me have heard me discuss it, but I have never really publicly opened up about the struggle I have had off and on throughout most of my adult life with depression.

Just over a month ago someone close to one of my children committed suicide.  We cried. We talked about it. We went to the funeral...... and the years I have spent drifting above the spell of depression started to come to a screeching halt as that experience rocked my world.  It seemed ridiculous that it would trigger such a response, but it did.  Now that the clouds have somewhat lifted from that fall (although I cried about that funeral and that dear teenager who is now gone this very morning) the nagging is back.
You need to share this. 
So here is some sharing.

I am a survivor of depression.  This is what it looked like for me:
crying spells that lasted for days - thinking about death and imagining floating above my own funeral - thinking of all the ways I was a bad person - thinking about my shortcomings, my fights with people, my weight, my looks, my failures as a mother - attempting on several occasions suicide (although never successful and in retrospect I see these more as expressions but not true attempts) - telling myself and people around me things would be better if I was gone - losing energy to get dressed or get up - and more....
 in the midst of all of this I acted fairly normal around others.

In the midst of all of this I also stayed spiritual and consider myself to be pretty devout in my religion.

This is the strange thing..... it wasn't a lack of faith that triggered these episodes, which occurred on and off for over 20 years.  I have faith. I love my Savior and Heavenly Father.  But depression is different than that- it is like the riptide current of a beautiful ocean- just waiting for you to wade in too deeply and so it can pull you under.  It is sneaky and it is constant and you can not just shake it off.  I validate and understand this about the disease.  HOWEVER there are things you can do to fight the riptides depression.

For me, a year and a half on medication did wonders.  It took two tries to find one that worked well, but the right one was what I needed for a particular battle I was having a hard time overcoming. After some time on it, I lived off it again, and then after a relapse I got back on. It can be a lifesaver, so pay attention if you think you need that help. Whether or not you are on medication the following things also helped me cope and endure my hard falls with depression.

1-) Realize hard times and sad thoughts are NORMAL and they are part of life.   Here's the reality- life is fair in that it is unfair to everyone.  The self talking that says your struggles are harder than other people's struggles is just a lie.  Life is supposed to be hard- it is a wonderful, brilliant learning ground for our souls, and would be ineffective if everything came easy. Stop telling yourself that your life is harder than anyone else's!   A better thought -
" this is a struggle for me right now.  I acknowledge it is hard, and that is okay."
Acceptance is a huge part of the journey. Resistance adds to the pain you are experiencing.  You hurt. You are disappointed.  You have had awful things happen. Welcome to life. Beauty is just around the corner....I promise.

2-) Escape into an uplifting and healthy activity.    There is a need to do things that make your heart sing and your soul happy.  Find those things, or if you used to have hobbies revisit them.  Spirituality is a big one for me, attending my church services and temple worship, plus home study of scriptures and gospel topics.  Art is another one- playing in paint and expressing myself on paper.  I also am an avid reader, a part-time (slow) runner, and letter writer.  All of these are good activities and many of them connect me with other people. Be wise and disciplined here.... video gaming alone (or on your phone), marathon Netflix watching and sad movie watching is not going to be uplifting or healthy.  Cutting, drug use, or alcohol use may feel like an escape, but these things are addicting and incredibly dangerous.  You want to heal, not get worse. The point is to do something that helps you celebrate life and makes you happy. I am sure we could talk about endorphins here, but really.....if it works the science behind it is just a side note.  Find something good to do and do it!

3-) Trust in God's timing.   I was a happy child.  Depression struck me smack dab alongside puberty.  Around 40 some issues in our family hit, and while dealing with those my depression literally subsided.  I am not going to go into details here, but suffice it to say some very spiritual experiences and sacred moments seemed to wash me, as they can you, and the obsession with death was completely taken out of my thinking patterns, almost 30 years after they were planted there.  Recently it has snuck back into my life, and I have had to be honest that this is an illness that most likely will come and go throughout my walk on earth.  I don't understand this and I can't give you a formula for success, but I can tell you this- one day all of us will be healed from our afflictions.  Peace will be more abundant if you are open, patient, and trusting in the will and timing of our God.  His timing is one of the hardest things for us to surrender to, but His timing is perfect.

In my journals I often reflect on 'highlights' of the past week or month.  While individual trials seem hard and certain days feel long, I am amazed by the sweetness of life.  When I take time to write down the magical, simple, and happy  moments I have had I am just overcome with the gratitude of a full life, a real life, and the chance I have to experience it.  I do this often now, and it instantly fills my heart with joy and makes me feel a little closer to heaven.

I hope something I have written speaks to someone out there.  I have no idea who you are, where you are, or how you are even coming to this blog- but it is for a reason.

God is aware of you.
Everything is going to be okay.
Keep fighting and never, ever, ever give up.

go here for inspiring thoughts and insight
Sitting on the Bench - thoughts on suicide prevention
Hear LDS leader Jeffrey Holland speak with power and truth about depression HERE
Suicide prevention - go here to chat, read, or call someone for help