Sunday, February 12, 2012

You're not Alone

It's been several months since I last posted on this blog. Not long after my previous post in September, I once again have had to work on restructuring life.

About six/seven months ago I stopped taking my antidepressant and anxiety medication. I did well for a little while until October came around. Then as a result of the culmination of several stressful situations, I crashed. Interestingly however, before my complete meltdown, I as well as my husband, could sense that I was on a downward spiral. However, I thought that I could do just a little bit more, and then I would focus on taking care of myself. Well, I thought wrong. One final situation occurred that created a lot of personal stress, and that in turn became my breaking point.

I once again became so severely depressed and anxious that it took everything within me to get myself out of bed. I spent most of my days either lying on the couch or in my bed. My appetite was completely gone. In fact there were days in which I scarcely ate any measure of food. I lost nearly 10 pounds in one week. My body was very deprived of food and therefore lacked energy. In addition to the food deprivation was the intense anxiety I was experiencing.
As a result of these struggles I was in quite a state of debilitation. To stand and walk was quite a feat for me. If it was required for me to stay standing for any measure of time I had to lean on something to support myself. I was so heavily weighed down by these monsters termed anxiety and depression, that even raising my arm seemed like an overwhelming task. Unfortunately, that is the reality of the level of debilitation that some sufferers of depression will face.

As soon as possible I resumed taking my antidepressants and anxiety medication. Because I acted promptly in resuming my medications, my severe depression symptoms subsided within about one week. I did continue to have some more mild symptoms of depression, but nonetheless I was very grateful for the short duration of the severe symptoms.

For those who have never struggled with this trial, I'm sure it seems quite unfathomable how a person who seems so blessed could become so overwhelmingly sad, hopeless, and debilitated. I have recognized on numerous occasions how personally blessed I am, and yet I was in such despair. I knew I should be happy, so why was I so desperately struggling?

I believe part of the answer to that question lies in understanding what clinical depression is. Everyone of us experience sadness in this life. In fact sadness is a very natural and even vital part of our mortal experience. However, when referring to depression, specifically that of severe depression, being sad or down is just a portion of what the sufferer experiences.

Although much is still to be learned about depression, many studies have revealed chemical changes within the brain of a clinically depressed person. These chemical changes or imbalances in the brain, affect a persons mental, emotional, and even physical well being. Sufferers of depression don't just feel down or sad, we feel physically ill, helpless, worthless, hopeless, guilty, and yes sometimes even suicidal.

I believe one of the most difficult parts of depression is feeling so alone in your suffering. Because of the stigmas still associated with mental illness, people don't talk about it like they do with other trials. Everyone needs someone to talk with, especially in times of personal despair.

I also believe that depression is still misunderstood by many. Because all of us experience times of sadness, the term "I'm depressed," can be used very lightly. When the term "depressed" is used, I would suggest that the majority of people understand that to mean that the person is feeling down, like we all do at times, but they will likely feel better in a day or two. They just need to toughen up.

Since every person understands what it means to feel sad or down, I feel that many overlook what it truly means to be clinically depressed. In fact depression sufferers are not just suffering from a bad day, they are suffering with a serious medical condition.

Why is it serious? There are several reasons. Depression can have life changing affects on not only the sufferers, but also on friends and family of those who are ill. Relationships can be severed or even destroyed because of the awful affects of the illness and the misunderstanding of those who care most about them. Depression is one of the leading causes of debilitation in the United States. And, of course the most frightening and serious complication of depression is suicide.

For those who are in the midst of this great battle against depression, I offer to you my hope and my reassurance that even in times of extreme sorrow and hopelessness, you are not alone. There is one who will never leave you alone. At times you may feel that you have been abandoned, but I offer to you these words of hope from Elder Jeffrey R. Holland, an apostle in the LDS church.

"I speak to those who are facing personal trials and family struggles, those who endure conflicts fought in the lonely foxholes of the heart, those trying to hold back floodwaters of despair that sometimes wash over us like a tsunami of the soul. I wish to speak particularly to you who feel your lives are broken, seemingly beyond repair.

To all such I offer the surest and sweetest remedy that I know. It is found in the clarion call the Savior of the world Himself gave. He said it in the beginning of His ministry, and He said it in the end. He said it to believers, and He said it to those who were not so sure. He said to everyone, whatever their personal problems might be:

“Come unto me, all ye that labour and are heavy laden, and I will give you rest.

“Take my yoke upon you, and learn of me; for I am meek and lowly in heart: and ye shall find rest unto your souls.” 2

He is saying to us, “Trust me, learn of me, do what I do. Then, when you walk where I am going,” He says, “we can talk about where you are going, and the problems you face and the troubles you have. If you will follow me, I will lead you out of darkness,” He promises. “I will give you answers to your prayers. I will give you rest to your souls.”

Do you—or someone you love—face disease or depression or death? Whatever other steps you may need to take to resolve these concerns, come first to the gospel of Jesus Christ. Trust in heaven’s promises. In that regard Alma’s testimony is my testimony: “I do know,” he says, “that whosoever shall put their trust in God shall be supported in their trials, and their troubles, and their afflictions.”

When He says to the poor in spirit, “Come unto me,” He means He knows the way out and He knows the way up. He knows it because He has walked it. He knows the way because He is the way."

I know the heartache of depression. I know the feeling of being completely abandoned, even seemingly by the one who loves you most. However, please know that He has not left you alone and that amidst your personal trials, He is fully aware of both you and me. You may not have the capacity to fully recognize this when plagued with the terrible affects of depression, but I have a firm testimony and knowledge that He is by your side, just as He always is.

Again from the words of Jefferey R. Holland:

"We cannot sign on for a battle of such eternal significance and everlasting consequence without knowing it will be a fight-a good fight and a winning fight, but a fight nevertheless."

I plead with each one of you to continue your fight. Even through the darkness, pain, and despair, don't give up and don't give in.