I suffer from depression. My last downward spiral was the worst I have ever experienced. I felt I had a nervous breakdown, for lack of a better term. I cut off all communication that was not absolutely needed to be sure my children survived each day. I spent two months living in any world that was not my own. I read tons of books and watched lots of TV shows and movies. Anything to distract myself from the gaping hole in my heart.
When I felt myself beginning to spiral, it was like being on the edge of a cliff.
Teetering on the edge of a cliff.
Screaming inside for help.
I prayed that God would save me.
Everything that previously mattered to me fell apart. I pushed everyone away especially God. After all if He had saved me like I asked I wouldn't be broken. I could no longer trust my creator with my heart. I had no faith. I simply existed with no hope for the future and no reason to think anything would every get better.
Sad? You don't know the half of it. It's like someone punched a hole in my chest, inserted a black hole and turned up the juice. There was nothing left.
Or at least that was what I thought.
After months of putting up with my crap, my husband called me out on it. It was not fun. Depression is at the core a disease of selfishness, so the last thing I was doing was thinking about anyone else, aside from feeding the children. We had some difficult talks. He knew I was unhappy, but did not know the full extent because I refused to share anything with anyone. Eventually I described my breakdown and the resulting mess inside of me. He suggested talking to someone about it. I refused. This went on for another several weeks. I'm a really stubborn person and for some bizarre reason I hold on to pain like it's my best friend. Smart? Not so much. As was inevitable, things came to a head and I finally agreed to go see a therapist. My reason for agreeing was simple, if I went, it would make David happy. I have a hard time with him being unhappy with me. I could care less if the rest of the world hated me, but I need his good opinion.
I went to therapy, I spoke with a nice lady who was really good at her job. I felt like it was okay to say anything. I admitted things to her that I have never admitted to anyone. And miracle that she is, she took it in stride and did not judge. That was just what I needed. We talked and she helped me hear myself describe my relationship with my parents in the exact same words as my relationship with God. Basically, I felt like I was worthless. I felt like I was one out of so many that I didn't matter. I didn't feel loved by God or by them. As an adult with a (hopefully) fully developed brain, I know that is not true. My parents love me and always have. But knowing something and feeling it are not the same thing.
I left that first session with the assignment to ponder on this dual relationship situation. I'm an introverted person. So spending time talking about deeply personal things wore me out for a few days. Once I had recovered enough for my brain to try and ponder I did. I do lots of pondering when I go out and walk or jog in the mornings alone. One morning about a week after the session, I got an epiphany.
Here was my thought train - I'm so screwed up - How did I get here? - Childhood bullying, check - naturally introverted personality, check - married for infatuation because a hot guy actually liked me, huh - If I married for the wrong reason, where was the love? - Have I ever loved him? Do I love him now? - I want to love him - Love is a choice. - I choose to love him - How do I love him? - I have to love me first - Can't give away what you don't have to start with - I don't love me, nobody does - Why would anyone love me, I'm worthless - I am always messing up and failing at life - I'm like the sinners in the scriptures - Wait, God loved them - They were screwing up and He loved them, he tried to help them and forgive them - I'm not seriously sinning, just more of a neglecting kind of thing - Maybe if God can love those who are doing really bad stuff, he can love me regardless of the fact that I am always failing - God could love me just because I exist and not because I am being a perfect Mormon girl.
This might not be news to anyone else, but it was for me. I honestly thought I had to do something in order to deserve to be loved. I had to be doing all the righteous stuff, and trying really hard, and being that ideal Mormon mother, wife, sister, member. If I fell short of that requirement, I was no longer worth being loved. I felt a literal weight lift off my shoulders once I processed the thought. I didn't have to do anything for God to love me and if he could love me, then others can love me too.
I shared this with my husband and my friend (I only have one). They both assured me that my line of thought was correct and God does indeed love those who fall short. For the first time in months for sure, and maybe longer, I felt hope. You can never know how dark it is to be without hope unless you have actually been without it.
I went to another therapy session and shared what I had learned. My therapist asked me to think of what I had learned in another way.
My thought: God loves me simply because I exist.
Her thought: I exist because God loves me. His love created me.
I'm still trying to really understand her thought and it has been a few weeks.
Going with the concept either way, the bottom line is that God loves me. So if I can choose to believe that I have to reconcile that with my breakdown. If God loved me even then, then why didn't he help me? I never expected a huge miracle, I just wanted to feel like I wasn't alone. I wanted to be reaching out and feel like he took my hand and pulled me to safety. I have been bitter and angry for months that I was denied that. Here is how I have found peace with that.
I have to pay attention to the moments I get clarity of thought. It doesn't happen a lot, but I think, that just maybe, it might be the spirit trying to help me figure this out.
Today I recalled several things:
-During Stake Conference Adult Session, last week thoughts came to me during one of the talks. The talk was about not shutting out the lord, something that was said triggered me to think that during my breakdown I was expecting a "Mormon" experience. I was expecting what the culture of the church told me I was supposed to expect of God, instead of actually relying on the Lord. (I have really big issues with the culture of the church, as I am just recently learning, but it should never be confused with the gospel itself. The Gospel is true. Green jello with fruit chunks, self-deprecation and having your 4 year old perfectly coiffed for church, are not true.)
-A sacrament meeting talk, from a few months ago, during which someone mentioned something about a gardener and a bush, wherein the gardener cut the bush basically down to the roots, for it's own good. I remember thinking at that moment, that I felt like that bush, hacked down into nothing.
-I don't know what God's plan for me is (duh, I know, but sometimes it just hits you)
-The But If Not Talk, from April 2004 and what that phrase really means
I have a hard time with the Mormon culture. Sometimes as a group I think maybe we talk too much. Too many experiences are shared in an effort to uplift. Maybe I'm just jaded, but I get really sick of hearing people's super faith-promoting experiences. It's just not like that for everyone. There are a lot of us, who never get that amazing experience, that earth shattering answer to a prayer or that warm feeling that makes you cry at the pulpit. If I cry at the pulpit it's nerves or embarassent, not the spirit. Hopefully all that sharing is good for other people and I'm sure that with all the different types of people out there the typical stories are helpful to a lot of people. In any case, with all that knowledge of what happened to everyone else and the excessive phrase coining that goes on, it's really hard to not want/expect to have an experience like that. Who wouldn't want to feel a confirmation that is without doubt? Or be strengthened to withstand a trial, feeling the arms of love around you? I wanted it. I was denied it.
But it's okay. I have realized that it's wrong to think that I will ever have an experience like someone else's. I am not them. My spirit doesn't learn like theirs do. The Lord will deal with me in His own way, probably involving a brick to the head, cuz I just don't listen, but it will be a personalized brick. So that's the first thing I learned, I can't expect to have my prayers answered like someone else's.
The Currant Bush, Hugh B. Brown, New Era 1973. That is the original. Other people seem to think it's okay to take those stories and tweak them, but this is the original version. It's a good read and a good reminder. I am the currant bush. My gardener has a plan for me, but since I am a bush, I am not at liberty to wander into his gardener office and check out the plans. I don't know why I had to be razed to the ground. But this story is assuring me that it is because He knows what he wants me to be and since He created me, He sort of has rights over directing my life. I have to trust in Him, which leads me to . . .
But If Not. Elder Dennis Simmons, April 2004 Conference. At the time that this talk was given it had such a profound effect on my husband that he requested I find someway to immortalize those words to help him remember the talk. I designed a cross stitch with a lovely floral border and the words boldly stitched in the center. My husband liked it so much, he asked me make one for each of his sisters, his parents and for Elder Simmons. So I did. It was quite an endeavor, but in any case we have had those three words hanging on the wall of our home for the last 10 years. The premise of the talk is the story of Daniel and his buddies refusing to worship an idol. They are threatened with a fiery death, and respond that God will save them, but that if he doesn't they still won't worship the idol. There is the trust. Trusting God even if things don't go the way you want them to, or think they should, or ask for. That is true faith.
This is what has been missing. I have had hardships and trials during my life. I had always been a good Mormon, faithful and obedient. I tried to do whatever I was asked to do at church. I served in a limited capacity, but I tried to serve where I could. Did I have faith before? I don't know now. I think I believed I had faith, but that's not the same thing as actually having it. The ability to trust so completely, to essentially put your life in the hands of God, well, I'm thinking I was never there.
So now I am learning to trust. I am learning to trust my husband when he says he loves me and choosing to believe that he really does love me. I am learning to trust those moments of clarity as divine inspiration. I am learning that I have to trust in God, that if I am suffering that there is a reason for it. It is part of his plan, which I am not privy to. I might understand in a few months, or years when I look back over my life, or I might not. I might live my entire mortal existence and never know why I had to suffer this pain. I'm not sure I'm okay with that yet. But I will be.