Why I Kept Quiet

Somewhere in my early belief system I gathered the idea that in order to be strong, I should carry whatever challenges I would have and keep them to myself.  I subconsciously believed that I could work out whatever those challenges would be by myself.  Somehow I thought that if I just persevered enough, endured enough, and was good enough that I would be okay…I would make it through.  After all, isn’t this life about being tested?  Subconsciously I believed that I didn’t need anyone else.  I had it figured out–by myself.

How wrong I was.  This early belief said that if I just worked hard enough or just acted a certain way, I would not feel the pain, the loneliness, and the deep dark ugly days of depression.  It literally put me on an island in a world filled with people but I was practically by myself.  Few knew the struggles I was having.  My husband knew and a couple of close friends.  For years, that is all who knew.

What I did not realize then was the immense power that would come with sharing my story, with sharing my pain, with sharing what depression looks and acts like.  Had I known, I think it would not have taken 12 years to get to the root of the monster.

My experience with depression proved that swallowing the real life struggle of turning into someone I knew I really was not actually caused deeper depression and eventually anxiety.

And so, why did I keep quiet?  Perhaps I was embarrassed and did not want to be labeled as “mentally ill.”  Perhaps it meant that I would be giving up control–because talking would mean that I had not conquered by myself.  Perhaps it was because I did not understand why bad things happen to good people.  Whatever the reason, I now know that sharing my story in the past 5 years has made a huge difference…for me and for others.  For some, it has given them permission to feel.  For some it has given them permission to be real.  For others it has and is validating their current experience with depression.

I invite you to share a part of your story to someone you trust.  If it seems there is no one like that right now for you, pretend there is someone and write them a letter.  Be candid and specific. Healing can only begin when a person is willing to come out of hiding and seek the support and resources offered by others.  It was this very principle that marked the beginning of the change in me and my experience.

We need each other.  If not, God would have put us on our own islands!

It matters!

My Daughter is My Teacher

Today my intention is two-fold.  One, to present an idea that, if utilized, could really make a difference for those who are seeking to be a support system to those fighting the monster.  And two, to make an invitation to those who are fighting the depression monster.

One of our daughters is serving a mission for The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints in Birmingham, England.  She had an experience last week in a training that really brings to light an extremely important principle.  In her words:

In this training, all of the missionaries pretended they were Wilderness First Responders.  They were on a mission to find two missing people and get them to safety.  We had two scenarios; the first one was a man who had gone skiing, had fallen, and was not able to move.  We called three Elders to the rescue and they were told that they needed to get him down the mountain.  They had called the paramedics and a snowmobile was on its way with a sled attached.  Go!  “What are you going to do to help this hurt man?” we asked.  So we left that with the elders, stepped back, and watched.  Elder S was on the floor groaning in pain, a bit delirious and talking about how his arm hurt loads.  The elders started moving him and he passed out before they could get him on the sled.  Scenario over.  Failed.
  
Then we called up three more elders who didn’t really want to come up this time! 🙂  This time the man was motorbiking and fell.  He looked beat up.  Elder H was on the floor groaning and talking randomly about how he could not feel his foot; he was hot and thirsty and his back felt weird.  Long story short…. They tried to talk to him and get him comfortable.  Their jeep was around the corner and they tried to splint his leg, etc…, got him a drink… did their best.  Sadly, though, they moved him and then he couldn’t feel anything from the neck down. Failed scenario.

So then we had to get everyone under control because the whole zone was in stitches!  They did a really good job acting!  🙂  haha!  We talked about the first scenario.  The man had been hit in the leg by his ski pole and was bleeding badly; because the helpers didn’t do a body check or peel off the layers of his ski clothing, they missed the bigger picture.  Then we talked about how this relates to us; if we don’t really know who the people we come into contact with are, or take the time to peel back the layers of understanding in their lives, we can miss the bigger picture or the problem that they are actually struggling with.  Many times we focus too much on the problem that we see at the beginning of a relationship and don’t look deeper into the problems that they are stressed about–such as their family not accepting them if they join the church.

Next we talked about the second scenario.  The man mentioned that his back hurt but he was focused on not being able to feel his foot and he was thirsty and chatting because he was in shock.  The Elders failed to ask questions until they exactly knew his situation.  They had all the information they needed to really help him but because they didn’t ask questions, sit back, and listen, they didn’t catch that there was a problem. 
The lesson?  For me as I contemplate the 12 years I fought the depression monster, I see how helpful it would have been for me if someone would have known to help me to look deep within myself.  If someone would have known how to ask questions to get below the surface, to give me tools and understanding, to show me my blind spots, and if I had received, the fight with depression would have ended earlier.
So if you aren’t the person with depression, learn to ask good questions of those you are trying to support.  If you are the one fighting depression (which means you are looking for answers, not passively willing to “just endure to the end”), the message is:  open up.  Tune in to my next post in a few days about my experience with not opening up…and why I didn’t open up for years.
It matters!
PS:  If you would like some ideas for good questions, reply to this post!

You Are Not a Mistake

Today I found a great article.  I wish that years ago I had understood what this article talks about.  I wish I had known how to really let go.  It would have made such a difference.

What rocks do you carry?  I invite you to let go of just one rock today.  It matters.

Rocks, Mistakes, and Forgiveness

Why I Am Sharing

Some may wonder why I am sharing my story.  I heard a story from David Bednar a few days ago that explains exactly why I share. ( Come and See )

He told about a time when two of his sons were very small.  They were playing outside and the younger son got hurt–not badly, but he was scratched.  The Bednar’s decided to watch and see how the two would interact.  They wanted to see if their teachings about caring for one another had sunk in at all.  And so they watched.

The boys came into the house, pulled chairs up to the sink, and the older brother began to clean the arm of his younger brother, using large amounts of dish soap in the process!  This proceeded to bring much howling and weeping from the younger brother.  After that was done, the older brother took a towel and dried his brother’s arm.  Then he climbed onto the counter and proceeded to find a medicated ointment and bandages, wherein he proceeded to use most of the ointment on his brother’s arm–never mind that the scratch was not very large!  By this time, the howling had stopped; the ointment must have felt good!  He then unwrapped the bandages and carefully applied them from the wrist to the elbow of his younger brother.

With a near-empty ointment tube and bandaid wrappers left behind, the younger brother then gathered other bandaids and the remaining ointment and went outside to his friends…whereupon he began to apply ointment and bandages to their arms!  Why?  “He immediately and intuitively wanted to give to his friends the very thing that had helped him when he was hurt.”

And so, why do I share?  Because I have been in the shoes of the little brother who is hurt.  And I have been comforted, cared for, and delivered from my hurt because other people have been unafraid to share the water, the soap, the ointment, and the loving care they have also had in their lives.  And I completely recognize that every bit of this healing comes from one source and one source only:  Jesus Christ.  Had He not come, I would be doing this life on my own which would mean I would just have to endure the pain, the hurt, the illness with no hope of ever being delivered.  Had He not come, the ability to find hope because He and others have walked the path would be futile.  There would be no hope.

I share with you because I want you to find the hope and the healing that I have found.

It matters!

Dreams

About 2 1/2 years ago I came across some very interesting research on dreams and depression.  I studied the idea, thought about it, and connected several dots about how this had been playing out in my life when I was captive to the depression monster.

The short version is that when our brains ruminate on stress and the stress is not resolved during the day, the brain works on it at night.  The worry of the stress gets acted out during dreams which leaves the body feeling very tired in the morning because the body does not go into deep, restorative sleep.  No wonder I had such issues of tiredness like I talked about in my last post!  Add a medication that possibly added to it and WHAM!  Thankfully I have a new story now that I read every night…

http://www.clinical-depression.co.uk/cycle-of-depression-diagram/


From my journal:
Thursday, September 14, 2006

This morning I woke up very upset.  Steve usually wakes up between 5 and 6 am and then calls everyone at 7 am.  He came up to the room and I broke out into tears.  I told him that I had had a nightmare about committing suicide.  I was absolutely distraught.  This is the only time this has ever happened, in a dream or in the daytime.  I was scared.  I started to get light headed and had to go back to bed.  Before I did, Steve said and prayer and asked for me to be able to overcome whatever is the problem.  I really appreciate this prayer and know that it helped.  I went back to sleep and didn’t have disturbing dreams.  

About 8:15 I was able to get up and not feel too dizzy.  The kids got off to school and I started the day.  Steve was worried about me.  He said that I really scared him.  I was plenty scared myself.  It has to be the Cymbalta medication.  I called the doctor’s office and he won’t be in until Monday.  I asked about not taking the meds anymore.  About 1 p.m. the answer came back that I need to cut my dosage…I feel much better now.


Fast forward:  My dreams during the years with depression were often vivid and sometimes extremely disturbing.  There were countless nights when I just did not sleep soundly or I would sleep soundly for 20 or 30 minutes and then wake up and fight going to sleep–all because my brain would ruminate and whirl with activity.  


As for other suicidal thoughts during the 12 years, I had them occasionally.  I know that many people with depression actually attempt to end their lives; some succeed.  While I never attempted, I do know what thoughts of it are like.  I remember one time in particular at about year 11 when I was having an extremely tough time in the fight.  I will never forget how dark and hopeless I felt.  I remember thinking, “I’m turning into something else.  I don’t have control over it.  It is such a dark, dark feeling…”  I remember walking downstairs to our kitchen to join my family for dinner.  Everyone knew I was not having a good day.  I emanated darkness and sadness.  I recall saying, “Everyone would just be better off without me here.”  My family did the best they knew how to do; they told me I was worth everything to them.  I went to my bedroom early to just be away from everyone and everything.  I knew I did not want to check out of life.  I also knew the feelings I was experiencing were real.  I really didn’t want to take myself off the planet; I was just so lost for help and understanding.  So I did the only thing I knew to do:  pray.  

The Present:
And it was this prayer and thousands more that eventually led me to people who have studied depression, people who understand the mind in ways that I did not, and people who had answers that changed my trajectory.

So…dreams…what is ONE thing you are ruminating about that can be dealt with so that you will sleep better?  Think on it.  Ponder on it.  And rewrite the story (Old and New Stories). 

It matters!

Further information about dreams and depression:
Audio Clip

The Link Between Depression and Dreams