Monday, September 27, 2010

Mortal Angels

Saturday evening I had the wonderful opportunity to go to the Conference Center in Salt Lake City to attend the Relief Society General meeting.  I was particularly touched by President Monson's talk.  He emotionally spoke of the importance of not being judgemental, and he reminded us to continually live by our Relief Society motto, "charity, never faileth."

His talk stirred up in me memories of others examples of compassion, charity, and understanding that have been given to me.  In the midst of the darkness of depression, especially that of severe depression, my self esteem and confidence were at times depleted to almost nothing.  It then became easy for me to believe that I was unlovable and that others couldn't truly care about me.

However, there have been several times through this mental battle, that the charity and kindness of others, kept me going to the next day and the next week.  A smile, a compliment, or a hug given to me, literally became a sustaining influence in my life.

As my depression has started to lift it has become easier and more clear for me to see that these individuals, including my good husband were heaven sent.  They were and continue to be "mortal angels" in my life.  Elder Jeffery R. Holland said: "When we speak of those who are instruments in the hand of God, we are reminded that not all angels are from the other side of the veil.  Some of them we walk with and talk with-here, now, every day.  Some of them reside in our own neighborhoods.  Some of them gave birth to us, and in my case, one of them consented to marry me.   Indeed heaven never seems closer than when we see the love of God manifested in the kindness and devotion of people so good and so pure that angelic is the only word that comes to mind."

I believe that most people have the desire to lift and strengthen others and to more fully emulate the Savior's perfect example of charity.  I also believe that we will all have times in our lives when we need to allow others to lift and strengthen us.  I would say more frequently than not, that it's a lot more difficult to allow others the opportunity to serve and strengthen us, than it is for us to be the one serving and strengthening.  It's a very humbling experience to allow others the opportunity to serve you.  But at the same time, those humbling experiences can be just the thing we need to recognize and feel the Savior's love for us, through others who are serving as instruments in God's hands.

To those who may currently be struggling with depression, please accept and believe in the goodness and kindness offered to you by others, even if it's just one person.  I know how difficult this can be to accept, when your self esteem and self confidence is almost non existent.  But sometimes the goodness and kindness of these earthly angels, might be the aid you need to make it through another day, or another week.

I'm so grateful for the "mortal angels" who have crossed my path and blessed my life.  I will be eternally grateful for their compassion and goodness! 

Thursday, September 23, 2010

Is it Sadness or is it Depression?

So many people around me have dealt with very difficult life circumstances.  There are those who have dealt with the loss of a loved one, financial difficulties, addictions,  children who have gone astray, physical illness, divorce,  the inability to bare children, and the list could go on.  Each one of these experience's carry with it at times, overwhelming sadness and adversity.  I have a great admiration for those who I know of, who have personally carried the heavy load of any one of these life trials.

We all will have times in our lives when we experience sadness as the result of life's cicumstances.  In the Book of Mormon we are taught that there must be opposition in all things.  If we are to truly know what happiness feels like, than we must also experience the pain, hurt, and sorrow of sadness. We can't fully understand the emotional feelings that accompany either happiness or sadness, unless we experience both of them.

Many times the word "depressed" is used to describe sadness.  However, true clinical depression is actually a mental/mood disorder, with sadness being a major symptom of the disorder.  Sadness, as an emotion, however, is a natural and normal human response to any of the trials and adversity that we are given along life's journey.  So how do we know if we are experiencing sadness, or if we are dealing with clinical depression?

David Burns, an expert in the field of psychiatry describes the difference between sadness and depression in his book "Feeling Good the New Mood Therapy."  He said:

"Either depression or sadness can develop after a loss or a failure in your efforts to reach a goal of great personal importance.  Sadness comes, however, without distortion.  It involves a flow of feeling and therefore has a time limit.  It never involves a lessening of your self-esteem.  Depression is frozen-it tends to persist or recur indefinitely, and always involves loss of self-esteem."

Because sadness is so often associated with depression, I think it's good for people to understand that there's a difference between a healthy, normal, sadness and clinical depression.  I hope recognizing depression as a disorder helps to shed light on understanding those who struggle with it.

To all those individuals who are struggling with difficult challenges and adversities, whatever they may be, I truly admire you.  There are many who have had very difficult trials to deal with, and your example of strength and faith have been truly inspirational.  Thank you for teaching me to have faith and patience as I work through my personal trials.  You are truly amazing!

Thursday, September 9, 2010

Don't Worry Be Happy

"Don't worry be happy".... sounds simple.  It reminds me of the well known cliche from Disney's The Lion King."  'Hakuna Matata!"  Timon and Pumba, characters from The Lion King, adopted this phrase as their motto, which means "no worries."  For them, it was a "problem free philosophy."

We all know and recognize that life typically isn't quite that simple.  All of us will have times throughout life's journey when we will be faced with adversity which will make Timon and Pumba's philosophy seem completely unrealistic.  We can decide how we will handle each struggle that we are faced with, but it is sure that we will all have experiences that will stretch our patience, hope, faith, and capabilities.

For me, my struggle has been fighting the battle of anxiety and severe depression.  This is something that many people deal with to different degrees of severity.  But it still carries with it a stigma, which many times will keep people from talking about it and treating it properly.

Elder Alexander Morrison, a general authority of the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter Day Saints, has great insight into the suffering experienced by those with mental illness, specifically that of depression.  He has a daughter who has struggled with depression and panic attacks for half of her life.  Elder Morrison describes very well the adversity that individuals face who are suffering from mental illness.  He said:

"Among the most painful and often protracted ordeals an individual or family may face is that of mental illness.  One of the central characteristics of the cruel constellation of disease groups under the general rubric of mental illness is the suffering involved.  Its intensity cannot be described.  One perceptive sufferer, William Styron, has pointed out, for example, that "the pain of severe depression is quite unimaginable to those who have not suffered it, and it kills in many instances because its anguish can no longer be borne."  And yet there is hope.  Many mentally ill people find their suffering greatly reduced once they are properly diagnosed and receive the proper treatment.  In addition, although those who are suffering may feel unable or unworthy to experience God's love, they can be assured that nothing "shall be able to separate us from the love of God, which is in Christ Jesus our lord" (Rom8:39).  They can come to know, perhaps as never before, that "God hath not given us the spirit of fear, but of power, and of love, and of a sound mind" (2Timothy 1:7)

As one who has suffered with severe depression, I understand that sometimes you don't believe there is hope.  The pain of what you are feeling and experiencing is at times unbearable.  Because I have experienced depression and anxiety, I know how devastating it can be and I want to be able to help others who are suffering similarly.  It has been a journey for me as I have taken steps that are leading me to a discovery of a new me, a better, and more healthier me.  My hope is that others might find peace, hope, faith, and courage as they strive to overcome this silent battle and discover healing and happiness in their lives.