Sunday, February 22, 2015

Sharing Responses

I've decided to do a little Mormon Lent! It's true that my religion doesn't practice Lent but what a great chance to break bad habits. I gave up a few Internet things that distract me from doing more productive things with my time. However, once a week, on Sundays, I want to use social media for something good and share a little about Christ, God, and everything good. This time I'll kill two birds with one stone by sharing about how God has blessed me and also share some wisdom I got after my last blog post.

This week I've been thinking a lot about how God has been with me through my fight with depression and then share some of the responses I received from my last post. I think I'll do that once a month if there are enough people who are interested in sharing their experiences and ideas.

So first, I've been thinking about a scripture that I found during a particularly hard time with depression that has meant the world to me. This scripture is from The Book of Mormon, a book of scripture in my religion that we often use hand in hand with the Bible. In a book within the Book of Mormon called "The Book of Mosiah" there is a true experience that was recorded of an elderly king who wanted to address his people before he died. 

He talks about how while we devote our lives to serving those around us we are really devoting ourselves to God, how whether we be a king or citizen we are all human beings and must work and serve.

There's one particular verse in chapter 2 that I had never paid much attention to:
11 But I am like as yourselves, subject to all manner of infirmities in body and mind; yet I have been chosen by this people, and consecrated by my father, and was suffered by the hand of the Lord that I should be a ruler and a king over this people; and have been kept and preserved by his matchless power, to serve you with all the might, mind and strength which the Lord hath granted unto me.
Mosiah 2:11

A king talking about infirmities of mind really caught my attention at a time when my mind had never felt so infirm. And I have had many times before and since then when I have the feeling, it has not gone away. 

This man had been consecrated, despite his infirmities, to be a ruler over his people. I don't think that I'm being audacious in thinking that I have also been consecrated by my Father to do some pretty incredible and important things. I am a daughter, sister, aunt, wife, friend, employee, coworker, student, someday a mother, and I do believe that I have been sent to earth to succeed at all of those. Not only succeed but fulfill those roles with God by my side, helping when my mind seems infirm so that I can still be the kind of daughter, sister, aunt, wife, friend, employee, coworker, student, and mother that I can be proud to be. None of those suffer, even if that's hard for me to see, because I came to earth to fulfill those roles despite hardships that I couldn't have imagined.

I hope any of that makes sense! The bottom line is, when you have depression you tend to feel like you are failing at everything because of something outside of your control. The fact of the matter is, it is outside of your control. So do what it takes to get your life back. Counseling, medication, exercise, diet, drink lots of water, fill your life with things that bring you purpose. 

So as I stated in my last post, it's purpose was two fold:

"I share my experience for a couple of reasons, they are a mix of altruism and selfishness. One is in hopes that others like me can know that there's nothing wrong with them."

"Another reason is to make it less scary for others and myself. The less taboo the subject is the less scary it is when it strikes. However, the only way to be less afraid of it is to become educated about it."

And most of the responses I received were exactly in line with my motives and a few went even further! I just wanted to share some responses, some questions, and some explanations since that is how I feel I can accomplish my goal of making things less scary and taboo. It would be selfish not to share the wisdom that people shared with me. My comments will be in red and these are in no particular order, all bring up excellent topics for discussion (I'll also be keeping these comments anonymous so that the focus is the topic, not the person and out of respect for the amazing people who shared thoughts with me):


What is the difference between a psychiatrist and psychologist?
 A psychiatrist has a medical background and can prescribe medication. I only meet with a psychiatrist when I feel that I need to change something with my medication which so far has been maybe once or twice a year as I try to find something that really works for me. You don't really sit down a ton and talk through things with a psychiatrist unless they ask you to be more specific about how you are reacting to the medication.  

A psychologist is the person that you actually sit down with, hopefully on a regular basis if needed and talk through what is keeping you from functioning the way you wish to. For me, personally, I have found that medication can keep my head above water but therapy is what really helps me to get outside of my own mind. There is also something comforting for me in knowing that someone who has seen a lot of people like me and has a good education on what I am trying to overcome is telling me that I am not alone in this and what I am feeling is understandable. 

But that's just my experience. Does anyone have an experience they can add to this or advocate more for medications?

What did you mean when you said " I don't feel like those things led to depression I feel like depression led me to those difficult times."?
There's a good quote in the comments section about this but to explain a little from my experience: Depression or anxiety (or any imbalance) can warp your reality. I can point back to experiences that I have had in my life and say "that triggered what I struggle with" but I actually feel that my predisposition toward depression and anxiety may have actually been step 1. I didn't realize it at the time because I thought that everyone felt the way I did. I didn't know that feeling constantly on edge and like I might drown at any moment was not how everyone felt. So when those difficult things happened I was not equipped to deal with it given that my mind was already willing to cave in. I feel like if I had been educated about what was happening to me then I could have avoided some of those hardships but how could anyone educate me? I wasn't willing to tell anyone about it!

 Why would anyone harm themselves?
I am going to combine this one with some very respectful comments that I received from people who have never experienced depression or anxiety. It was funny because as I was reading them I realized that just like these people were expressing that they could not imagine what depression is like, I cannot imagine what it feels like to not be depressed or anxious. I can't relate to that at all or accurately picture it! I sometimes forget that not everyone has to convince themselves to leave the house or drive the car or make a phone call. Some people can just do it! I was so grateful for those comments because it helped me put things into perspective. 

Now specifically with self harm (this part may be a little graphic)- I know it's hard to imagine why someone would try to solve a problem by hurting themselves (it seems like that would be adding pain to pain) and again, I can only share my perspective, but for me it was all about finally feeling something other than dead inside. When I started using this coping mechanism I was still able to see clearly enough to know that I didn't want anything that would leave a scar. So I chose scratching as opposed to cutting myself. I would take my fingernails across my stomach, legs, or the fleshy part of my hands to feel something. It wasn't enough to scratch chalk-board style where you're going straight down. I made my finger nails into little dull knives and tried to slice. I would mentally picture my thighs being shredded because it felt like the physical pain wouldn't overcome the emotional pain until that happened. My emotional pain was temporarily converted to physical pain, which was much easier to handle because I was worn down emotionally. Imagine if you had your hand always stuck in a car door and then someone told you you could take your hand out for a few minutes if you let people yell mean and horrible things at you for those few minutes. You'd take it just to give your hand a rest!

Chemical Imbalance vs Depression or Anxiety-Inducing Experience
Depression and anxiety are a lot more complex than people give it credit for. As I've said, my experience is that the chemical imbalance brings me down and sometimes results in a further traumatic experience because I didn't cope appropriately. Other people have experiences that bring the depression or anxiety on. This can be the result of a big, terrible experience such as an abusive relationship (familial, romantic, etc), experiencing the hardship of war, kidnap, rape, or a number of other experiences. It can also be the culmination of smaller experiences that eventually build up to become too heavy to lift alone such as prolonged unemployment, unexpectedly failing at schoolwork, not finding success in dating, etc.) These are just examples to show that no two situations are alike and no two reactions are alike. Anything involving the mind is too complex to be black and white. EVERYTHING is a spectrum and we don't understand the full spectrum. In my other post I compared it to a broken bone. Sometimes someone does something terrible to you to break your arm, sometimes you do something unwise and break your arm, and sometimes it's nobody's fault! You slip, you were born with fragile bones, you happened to be in the wrong place at the wrong time!  

I've had many people in my life who have helped me keep my head afloat, whether they knew it or not. A week or so ago I made this board of some of those people because when I'm down my world gets very small and I forget about all the great people out there! I'm hoping this will help me remember and that it will grow!

This is also why I wanted to share the wisdom that people sent me after my last post. I hope it helps people as much as it's helped me!

-Perhaps one of the most important truths illustrated by your story is that you have NO IDEA what someone is feeling/experiencing in their lives just by observation. Similarly, through my experience I realized that people with food addictions come in all shapes and sizes. For many people, "you would never know" they were dealing with that. and That's why it's important to share what we are going through. So that we don't feel like we are the only person on the face of the planet who is dealing with this tough stuff even though it doesn't look like it. thanks again.

-I think that at certain times in our lives, we all suffer from depression. It's a dark hole and sometimes just hard to crawl out. I believe you are so strong! Especially for putting it into words and onto paper. Enjoy the good times and get through the bad times. Life is worth living and it's a journey!  

-Thank you so much for sharing all of your thoughts, and feelings on depression and anxiety. ,we are all fellow travelers in this life, this will help all of us. From your friend ,who like all of us ,is under construction daily.

-That was really awesome what you wrote about. You know that is why my son came home from his mission. That is amazing that you were able to stay out. The psychologist that he was working with called him and said ..Elder, you are going home. He was not good. And my husband was still not working at that time, home with depression..had not been to work for three months. It was a super rough year for us. I am sure you will have all sorts of people now talk to you. I love that you are so open ..interestingly enough...I had just got home from seeing my therapist when I got home and read your article. I have been seeing her since last year when all crap hit the fan...I have depression tendencies so I have had to be super careful so that I could take care of the two depressed and the rest of my family.

-The more you can open your support group, the more you can have people to help you "keep your head on straight" and to stay based on reality. Because sometimes you just need to get out of your own head. 

-depression can be a cyclical pattern that only leads down to more depression. I don't know if it is the same for you or anyone else, but if I recognize the things or times when I get depressed, the things that cause me to be in patterns of depression I can kind of head it off at the gate. If I feel an outset of depression coming I do what I can to break the pattern. For me if I break that pattern enough times I find it possible to stay out of the ruts of depression. So if when faced with looming depression or if I am having thoughts like those you listed above, changing my pattern or encountering a more powerful idea that those that are associated with depression helps me greatly. For me what helps is listening to/reading General Conference, Scriptures, Tony Robbins, and TED talks, etc. I will say that Tony Robbins has been particularly helpful in the past two years for helping me identify emotional patterns and how to create better ones. You can find a great deal of his stuff on youtube, so that you don't have to buy his audio series or other products. Although I have not been disappointed with my purchases of his products.

A turning point for me was a deeper conversion to the gospel and experiencing/encountering more powerful beliefs than my doubts and fears associated with the depression I went through. There was no "one thing," no smoking gun, that has helped me turn the corner so that I don't struggle with depression on a daily basis. But overall the theme that helped me was breaking the depressive cycles/patterns that I would get into. 

-You put a lot of things into words that I have felt myself. I agree so much about the need to remove the stigma.

So these were just a few of the thoughts, and questions that were shared with me! If you want anything shared or have any interesting thoughts on the subject you can leave it in the comments, send it to me on facebook, or give me a call!