The strangest teacher

Lately I have felt like Lemony Snicket in that my life has been a series of rather unfortunate events.  One such event occurred in July and I’m still suffering because of it.  I needed help, I began maximizing all the resources I could and a mistake was made so huge, I will never be the same.  That mistake is one that has happened before repeatedly.  It’s one that will likely keep happening because the fix is costly.  If the fix was applied though, it would likely never happen again.

Over and over I was apologized to and told the person responsible for the mistake feels awful about it and is very sorry.  While that might be and that person may be sorry and feeling awful, that person has likely not had the experience I have.  Her mistake lit the fuse and depression blew up inside of me.  I was powerless to control it and sunk deeper and deeper into the abyss of despair.  I tried to grin and bear it and fake it till I made it for months…ultimately I found myself thinking about jumping off an area bridge and knew exactly where all the ones high enough to kill me were.  It was very very bad.

I cried all the time.  I cried every day for months and no one knew.  I’ve gotten good at hiding things because of how much I had to hide when I was married.  Finally it was so bad I couldn’t hide it anymore.  My daughters were worried, my son was worried, my friends were worried.  My daughter started texting my Relief Society President, my friend called my Bishop and then called my Relief Society President too.  I wound up in the ER one night and on medication and in therapy a few days later.  Despite my best efforts to fake my way through it, I had learned that depression was not something you could manage or get through without help.

The weekend after my hospitalization my Bishop was released and a new Bishop was called to serve.  If you’ve read my story, you can probably understand why new and strange men are hard for me.  The new Bishop was both new and strange to me.  I didn’t even know who he was until that Sunday after my ER visit and we’ve been in the same ward for over a year.  I was going to have to meet with him for countless reasons and it was scary…turns out he is amazing and wonderful and I love him and he loves me.  He is committed to helping me because he loves me.

Prior to his release, the previous Bishop arranged for me to be able to see an LDS therapist.  He chose the perfect one actually…her name is Sister…just like every female over 18 in my church!  She has been critical in helping me get my head back on straight (still a little crooked but getting straighter and straighter) and I’m grateful for her experience and wisdom and help.  Sometimes though, she asks some very hard questions of me…questions that leave me inquisitive for weeks as I search for answers.  One such question was something like if depression is my teacher, what do I have to learn?

Told ya…hard questions.  It has taken me weeks to answer this question, but I think I have finally figured out some answers.  Depression has taught me many things…first though that like the God I love and serve, it is real.  It is not something you can talk or resolve your way out of (if you can then you aren’t really truly depressed).  I have had a very difficult childhood and life and yet I’ve never been what I’ve learned is depressed.  Unless you’ve been depressed yourself, you really just don’t get it.  Trust me on that…I thought I got it too and then it happened to me and I realized I really didn’t have a clue.

After the lesson on how real depression is and how badly it can hurt yourself and everyone around you, I’ve learned that depression is really a great teacher if we are only willing to open ourselves up to learn its lessons.  I’ve learned more about myself as I have processed my depression and worked to overcome it, than I even knew there was to learn.  I’m grateful for opportunities to learn.

My Father in heaven is keenly aware of my needs and He loves me and WANTS to bless and protect me.  Sometimes though, I get in the way of His desires for whatever reason and, despite His best efforts, I can’t be blessed the way He intends.  As I’ve battled with depression I’ve been put in a situation where quite literally the only thing keeping me alive and breathing was the faint glimmer of hope that comes from knowing He loves me.  My depression has taught me that He loves me the way I love my children and then some.  It has taught me that He hurts when I hurt, that He weeps when I weep and most importantly, that he understands what I cannot and I can trust Him.  Depression has taught me how to know in my heart many of the things I’ve only believed in my head.

Trust is not something I come by easily or naturally anymore.  In my head I’ve always thought I trusted God.  Depression has taught me how to trust Him with my whole heart and not just my whole head.  I heard a song not to long ago from Big Daddy Weave that says “I am sure all of heaven’s heard me cry as I tell you all the reasons why this life is just too hard.  But day by day without fail I’m finding everything I need and everything that you are to me.  Every time I breathe you seem a little bit closer I  never want to leave I wanna stay in your warm embrace oh basking in the glory shining from your face.  And every time I get another glimpse of your heart I realize it’s true that you are some marvelous God and I am so in love with you.”  I am still amazed at how God can speak to me so loudly through music.  As I found myself turning to God more and more and pleading with Him to get lost in His embrace and seeking deliverance from depression’s hold on me, I started to become keenly aware of how mindful of me that He is.

He knows my name, He loves me and His grace is enough.

Depression has taught me who I matter the most to.  It’s taught me that people I never knew I mattered to love me.  It’s taught me that people I thought I mattered the world to don’t care as much as I thought they would or should.  It’s taught me who my real friends are, it’s taught me what “ward family” really means and it’s taught me that it’s ok, necessary even to sometimes be selfish and take care of me first.

I am not very good at taking care of myself.  I never did much of it growing up in my family or origin and that pattern continued on as I became a mother and wife.  I just got so used to taking care of people I forgot that one of the most important people to take care of is me.  Another hard question Sister asked me is what do I still have to mourn?  In figuring out what I had to mourn, it has allowed me the chance to mourn and move on.  I learned that some things have to be mourned more than once from different angles. Let me explain…

When I first asked for a divorce I cried for 10 days straight.  I didn’t really want to end my marriage, but he gave me no choice.  I had to end the marriage before it ended my life or the lives of my children.  It was such a sad time for me…notice I said sad, not depressed.  I was sad the marriage was ending.  Though marriage to my ex was difficult, I believed in the sanctity of marriage, I liked being a wife, and I wanted to stay married.  I was sad that a relationship I had spent more than half of my adult life involved in was ending.  I was sad for a lot of reasons, but then I got over it and moved on.

When Sister asked me what I still had to mourn over, I realized I still had to mourn over how the loss of the marriage affected my kids and how hurt they have been over it all.  I had to mourn the loss of the marriage all over again and this time for totally different reasons.  As I mourned this time, I became painfully aware of another thing I had to mourn over.  I realized I had to mourn the loss of mothering I should have experienced and never did.  I had already mourned the loss of the relationship I wanted with my mother several times; this time I had to mourn how that loss made me so very inadequate in so many was as a mother myself.  It’s not easy to nurture when you’ve not been nurtured.  It’s not easy to mother when you’ve not been mothered.

Sister suggested I learn  how to mother myself.  How to give that little girl inside me the same love and energy and nurturing that I give my kiddos.  She said inside each of us is still a young child and we must learn to nurture that child.  She paraphrased a comment from Tyler Perry who was savagely beaten by his father and sexually abused by men and women both.  I just found the interview.  Oprah asks what Tyler would say to the little boy inside him and he replies “It’s going to be all right. I’m going to make you proud.”  Sister suggested that I learn to mother the little girl in side me so that the adult I’ve become can quit mourning the loss of mothering.  I started to be as gentle and loving and compassionate with my inner child as I am my outer children and you know what…I’ve learned that even though I wasn’t mother well, I can still mother well.  To the little girl inside me I have to say the same thing Tyler did…I’m going to make you proud!

Depression has taught me where I derive the most joy.  It has taught me how important it is to do things that bring us joy daily.  Let’s not get silly here…of course those things you should do daily to bring yourself joy need to be legal, moral, and those that cause no harm to others.  Do I get to rob a bank daily if money brings me joy…no.  Can I listen to my favorite song on repeat for hours…yes.  Can I pull out my paper and glue and ink and stamps and make something pretty…yes.  My depression has taught me that I do not function well unless I have music and creativity in abundance.  It goes back to that quote I have on my crafty blog from President Uchtdorf…“the desire to create is one of the deepest yearnings of the human soul.”  In this same talk, he goes on to say, “the more you trust and rely upon the Spirit, the greater your capacity to create. That is your opportunity in this life and your destiny in the life to come. Sisters, trust and rely on the Spirit. As you take the normal opportunities of your daily life and create something of beauty and helpfulness, you improve not only the world around you but also the world within you.”  Depression taught me that I must create to maximize the joy of the day.  Not just with paper and glue though…I create memories, I create laughter, I create smiles, I create fun, I create love, I create learning, I create…I find joy by using the talents I have been given and I am very creative.  I now look for ways I can improve the world around me and the world inside me every day.  It’s much easier to be depressed when your environment is sad and dreary.

Depression has taught me how to realize my limits.  Maybe not the depression exactly, maybe more the anxiety I also have.  I’ve become keenly aware of some of the triggers for anxiety that, when totally ignored, become depressing.  Things like finances, unnecessary contention, false assumptions, attacks on my character, clutter, and strangely enough…lack of sleep.  Depression has taught me I need to be aware of these triggers and do my best to avoid them.  It has taught me how to acknowledge when these triggers are occurring and given me a sense of urgency in processing them.  Some of these triggers I am powerless to control at the moment…like the finances.  Those I’m learning to give over to God entirely.  Others, like unnecessary contention and attacks on my character I am learning to end by eliminating the relationships to the people who constant cause contention and set out to attack.  Depression has taught me how to clean up the emotional clutter as well as the physical clutter in my life both.

Depression…the strangest teacher.  I’m so thankful for the lessons its taught me though.  I hope that they will be lessons I don’t have to learn the same way over and over because it’s so true what they say in that medication commercial…depression hurts everyone.  I’m tired of hurting.

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