Sunday, January 25, 2009

Depression vs. Hope

by Marsha Ward

Creative people seem to have a gene that predestines them to live on the edge of madness. Many authors, musicians, artists have wild mood swings or battle the impending doom of depression.

I've been dealing with depression lately. It's not fun, and sometimes I just want to drag myself into a hole and pull it closed behind me, shutting out the world. These feelings are crippling, both to the mind and the spirit. They can be triggered in me by--among other things--events, powerful emotions, electrical spikes in the brain, or imbalance in brain chemistry. The trick is recognizing the onset of the condition. I'm probably a little late in that recognition, but I hope not too late to prevent a full-blown depressive period.

Folks who have never experienced depression or mood swings have no understanding of these conditions. They tend to think depression is just a case of the blues that can be turned around with a fun outing, thinking positive thoughts, scripture reading, or fervent prayer. While I don't discount the positive effects of such actions, sometimes only medical intervention and medication will help, just as a type 1 diabetic needs insulin.

The upside is that God loves his creative children. He has given them immense powers of expression in a variety of media. He also holds out hope, though priesthood power, the Gospel, and the Atonement of Jesus Christ. These vital elements have been available to me to help me keep the darkness at bay.

President Dieter F. Uchtdorf, Second Counselor in the First Presidency of the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints, recently gave a General Conference talk called "The Infinite Power of Hope." As I read and pondered it, and participated in the Relief Society lesson today that was derived from it, I felt the stirrings of greater hope.

I've never doubted that God loves me and has great blessings in store for me, but external pressures, spreading myself thin, and taking on too many duties and responsibilities have almost tipped me over the edge into darkness. I'll always have to guard against that, but for now, I have hope to get me through until the darkness fades and I once again walk in the sunshine.

7 comments:

  1. I appreciate how open you are about your depression. Some people are scared and hesitant to discuss it.

    I'm one of those lucky people that has never experienced depression before, and can't imagine what it would be like.

    President Uchtdorf's talk has been used quite a bit in my ward lately. It seems everyone needs a little reminder that there is something grand and wonderful waiting for us after this life.

    My aunt who has stage 4 cancer told me this quote that I really like: Life isn't about waiting for the storm to pass... It's about learning to dance in the rain.

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  2. Marsha,

    I've had great struggles with depression in my life, too. You are so right about people who haven't experienced it, being unable to comprehend what you're going through. Some are dismissive. (I have a friend who's that way...I've never had the courage to tell her I've taken anti-depressants, for fear of being hurt by her reaction). Others honestly try to sympathize, but you can still feel that however much they try, they can never really empathize with what you're going through.

    I've recently taken myself off an anti-depressant because, while it helped for awhile, the side-effects were beginning to make me even more depressed. So far, so good, but as you say, I'm keeping a close eye on myself for "triggers". If I had to take an anti-depressant again to stay out of what I call "the Black Hole", I would and will do so. I hope I can stay stabilized without one for awhile now, though.

    One thing depression has taught me, though, is to be more compassionate and less judgmental with others suffering emotional challenges. Maybe that's one reason some of us are given this challenge ourselves? To soften our hearts and teach us greater compassion...and empathy...for others?

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  3. I have a sister and a very close friend who both suffer from depression. I had been one of those dismissive people until I lived with both them in different circumstances. I learned so much from them both. It helped me grow in so many important spiritual ways. I could go on forever but know this you who do suffer from this condition (and it is a real medical condition) teach the rest of us more than we can ever know if we are open to understanding as I was. I just wanted to help but the lesson was for me.

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  4. Winter is alway harder for me. I'd always flunk out of winter semester in college and then ace the other semesters- you'd think I'd figure out that I should have taken that time of year off. Duh!

    I truly believe that some people just have bigger spirits and sometimes their bodies get tired of carrying around so much thought and emotion so you just shutdown for a while. Once I accepted that, I dealt with it better.

    For what its worth I think you're awesome and its true that most people I know who fight depression also are more empathetic and tender because of it.

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  5. I don't think I ever experienced any kind of depression like what you are talking about until just after the birth of my last child. I know it was post partum, mostly, but now that it has mostly passed, I know it was real. Also, I didn't read your post before I posted mine, but they kinda go hand in hand. Much love to you.

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  6. Oh Marsha, I love you so much! The first time I experienced depression was after the birth of my fourth child. I had no idea I had a problem until one day I felt like I had just crawled out of a big deep pit into the sunshine. That awareness startled me. The most frightening time happened when I had a doctor prescribe a "panic disorder kit" after my hysterectomy. He was on OB-GYN and gave it to me without any follow up or supervision. Then one day I found myself driving down the road, so emotionally flat-lined that I wondered if I would feel anything if I drove head on into the truck coming toward me. The Spirit shook me and I knew I needed to get off that medication. Now I know how important it is to make sure you work with properly trained professionals and came to appreciate the great power of priesthood blessings.
    sorry..that was probably more info than anyone wanted.
    Marsha, I, too love Pres. Uchtdorf's talk. I'm sending you lots of hugs...and sunshine!!

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