10.30.2016

Broken

When I first had the idea of starting this blog, I wanted to call it something along the lines of "Like a Broken Vessel" (from Elder Holland's General Conference talk) or "God Loves Broken Things" (from a song by Kenneth Cope).  I wanted the title to include the word broken in it somehow.

When I shared this idea with my husband, he asked how people would feel being called broken for struggling with depression.  I told him that, to me, depression feels like being broken, having a broken mind, a broken heart, a broken spirit.

Our discussion led me to want a more positive, uplifting title for my blog, but I still think about the word broken often.

Why do I think of myself as being broken when I am in the strong grasp of depression?

Is broken the right word to describe the depth of pain and sorrow only known and understood by those who have been down that road before?

Is being broken, or thinking of myself as broken, a bad thing?

The more I've thought about this, the more I've decided that the word broken is the only accurate word (that I've found so far) to describe what depression feels like, but it's not a bad thing at all.

I mean, aren't we supposed to have broken hearts and contrite spirits (see 3 Nephi 12:19)?  Isn't that a requirement to keeping the commandments and really coming unto Christ?

Wasn't the Savior Himself broken, hurt, torn, and full of sorrow, all so that He could understand us when we are broken?

Doesn't the word broken imply that there is hope that we can be mended, made whole, and healed someday?

Right now, I feel broken, but I am learning to be thankful for my brokenness, the brokenness that allows me to more fully rely on Christ, more fully understand His life and the pain He suffered, more fully understand others on this painful journey, and more fully understand the great blessings that await us when our broken hearts are healed, never to be broken again.

10.28.2016

10 Myths and 11 Facts about Depression


Fact: Depression is a real and serious condition. It is no different than diabetes or heart disease in its ability to impact someone’s life. It can have both emotional and physical symptoms and make life very difficult for those who have it. The medical community has acknowledged the seriousness of depression and recognizes it as a disease. While no one is completely certain what causes depression, we know that genetic and biological factors play a significant role in development of this disease.  (Source: www.mentalhealthamerica.net)


Fact: No one chooses to be depressed, just like no one chooses to have any other health condition. People with depression cannot just “snap out of” their depression any more than someone with diabetes can. It is not a sign of weakness or laziness to be depressed; it is a health problem resulting from changes in brain structure or function due to environmental and biological factors.
(Source: www.mentalhealthamerica.net)


Fact: Depression is more than just having occasional sad thoughts. While everyone experiences ups and downs in life, and often will feel sad for some time after a serious loss or disappointment, developing depression does not require a specific negative event. Prolonged periods of hopelessness, sadness, and lack of interest in things someone usually enjoys are symptoms of depression. Depression can arise suddenly, even when things in life seem to be going well.
(Source: www.mentalhealthamerica.net)


Fact: While for some people, depression may go away without treatment, this is not usually the case. Without treatment, symptoms of depression can continue for weeks, months or even years. Depression can lead to suicide, the third leading cause of death for 18 to 24 year olds, reinforcing the importance of seeking treatment. The good news is that most people do get better with treatment.
(Source: www.mentalhealthamerica.net)


Fact: The thought of taking medicine that changes your brain chemistry can be scary. However, antidepressants are designed to change only certain chemicals that underlie the symptoms of depression, not to change your personality. Most people who take antidepressants are actually happy to feel like themselves again, rather than feeling like a different person. It is best to speak with your doctor about the effects that antidepressants can have.
(Source: www.mentalhealthamerica.net)


Fact: Everyone feels sad at different times about different things, not just young people. But when we talk about depression, we're talking about something that is much more serious than just being sad. It's when a person feels a sadness which is so severe it interferes with everyday life, and causes symptoms such as loss of appetite, sleeping issues, loss of concentration and/or low energy levels. Depression also lasts longer than a bout of sadness. If the above symptoms last longer than two weeks, it's likely that there's something more serious going on.
(Source: au.reachout.com)


Fact: Talking and listening to your friends and family is a great way to deal with with the day-to-day ups and downs of life. But when it's comes to depression, things can be more complicated than that. Just like any other illness, depression requires treatment from professionals to deal with the cause and symptoms of the illness. Talking about depression with a trusted friend or family member may help in the short term to feel better, but the seriousness of depression shouldn't be ignored. Doctors, counselors, and psychologists can all provide treatments and self-management strategies which your family can’t.
(Source: au.reachout.com)


Fact: The belief that depression is a side effect of weakness is a harmful misconception. If you think about it, it doesn't make much logical sense. Depression is an illness, in the same way diabetes, or MS is an illness. But people with physical illnesses aren't blamed for their conditions the way people with mental illnesses are. Depression can affect all different kinds of people, even those that are traditionally considered to be "strong", or appear to have no obvious reasons in their lives to be depressed. The connection between weakness and depression is one that makes it difficult for people to get the help they need. That's why it's important to break down the stigma around mental illness and reinforce  the fact that depression, and other mental illnesses, aren't the result of being weak.  (Source: au.reachout.com)


Fact: Just because women are twice as likely to develop depression doesn’t mean men should suffer in silence. In fact, middle-aged white men have experienced the greatest increase in number of suicides committed each year, and the majority of them can be linked back to depression. Men often express depression differently than women, which makes depression among men easier for society to overlook. Afraid of appearing less masculine, strong and stable, men often feel less able to speak up and receive the help they need. This makes depression even more dangerous for men, because they avoid treatment, tend to complicate their condition with substance abuse and are far more successful
in suicide attempts, should their condition worsen to that level.  
(Source: www.huffingtonpost.com)


Fact: Not always. Some people don't cry or even act terribly sad when they're depressed. Instead they are emotionally "blank" and may feel worthless or useless. Even without dramatic symptoms, untreated depression prevents people from living life to its fullest -- and takes a toll on families. (Source: www.webmd.com)

10.26.2016

Rachel's Story (*Name Changed)

I was very blessed to be born to an amazing LDS family in Ogden, Utah. I had one older sister, three older brothers and three younger brothers. A large family is all I knew in life. From a very young age however I struggled with anxiety and self-harm. I think I was angry but I’m really not sure why. I always struggled with knowing how and where to put my anger and frustration. I also struggled a lot with OCD. I remember there was one point when I was in elementary where I HAD to get to bed exactly at 9:30 PM or I would worry and worry that I would not get the right amount of sleep that I needed and I struggled with insomnia. If we were out late as a family, I would beg my parents to leave so that I could get home and get to bed. I’ve been diagnosed since with OCD and still struggle with it as an adult.

Since I was a little girl I’ve struggled with self-harm. I would hit myself and claw my legs until they bled. I would make myself have bloody noses and I would threaten to even hurt myself with knives when I was extra angry and upset. Throughout high school I would make myself throw up, not because I felt fat but to purposely cause pain to my body. I eventually was put on anti-depressants. My mom made me go to a therapist when she caught me trying to cut myself with a razor, but I wouldn’t go back.

Once I got out of high school things got better. Not perfect, but better. I worked in orphanages in Ecuador, was a live-in nanny for two amazing little girls, got married at the age of 21 and became a mom at 23. Besides the self-harm and anxiety, I really was a happy person growing up. None of my friends would have ever suspected anything was wrong. I hid it really well. I was a cheerleader, fairly popular, got asked to every dance there was, dated a lot, and had a lot of friends.  I was always dating someone.                  

When I met my husband the spring of 2012 I knew I had found the one. We dated for 5 month before he proposed. While we were engaged the worst thing that could have possibly happened, happened. My older brother, who was only 27, took his own life. He had struggled with severe depression since I could remember. My parents truly did everything they could to help him.

I married my husband just a month in a half after my brother’s suicide. I had not at all healed. I was completely and utterly broken inside. My husband seemed to be the only thing that was keeping my together. He was my glue, my rock. He held me when I would cry myself to sleep at night. He was so good to me.

The self-harm came back. I was put on medication again and went to multiple different therapists. About 6 months after my brother’s death my husband and I moved to Ohio for the summer. I became so sick. I would throw up and I had constant stomach issues and diarrhea. We went to specialists who couldn’t diagnose me with anything. It was the strangest thing. It wasn’t until we moved back to Idaho and it stopped, probably because I was a little closer to my family who were in Utah, that I realized it was severe anxiety.

During this time I have finished school, which is one of my greatest accomplishments, all while taking care of my other greatest accomplishment, my son. Needless to say my life has been filled with ups and downs of anxiety and other issues and it’s not over yet. It’s something I battle constantly but I LOVE my life. I know I am so fully blessed it’s not even funny. I have so much to be grateful for. And that’s what keeps me going every day. I have incredible people in my life and most importantly I have the gospel of Jesus Christ. My Savior is my strength. Because of the atonement I can heal and be made whole.

A couple of weeks ago I was driving through a beautiful canyon with gorgeous fall leaves and I just thought to myself, I don’t feel like I’m quit as broken anymore. I may have hard moments, but I feel like some, not all, of the pieces inside me that had completely fell apart after my brothers death have slowly but surely been repaired. I know we are all capable of healing and that our weaknesses do not define who we are. I’m a mother, a wife, a sister, a daughter, and a friend. My illness is not who I am and I will not let it take over my life. I have way too much to live for. And I will continue to live with my anxiety, one day at a time.

Open and Honest

Last night was one of the worst nights I've ever had with depression.  Normally, I would lock up the painful feelings for several months before opening up about them, but since starting this blog, I want to be open and honest.  I want to share how I felt while the feelings are still fresh, tender, and raw.

Yesterday, I woke up feeling slightly anxious but mostly just lacking motivation.  I didn't want to do anything but lay in bed all day.  I opened the blinds and looked outside.  It was very cloudy.  I knew it would probably be a hard day if the sunshine didn't come out.

I forced myself to get ready, dragging my feet and wishing that it was an option to lay down all day and do nothing.  Then, my daughter woke up, and I got her ready too.  I'm thankful I have her to make me do something during the day, when I feel awful.

I knew that in order for the day to be productive at all, I needed to get outside for a while to get some fresh air.  I got my coat and shoes on, along with my daughter's, and I decided that we would go on a little walk around our apartment complex.

I opened the door to go outside and a cold, crisp wind hit my face.  I took a few steps out and decided that maybe my walking idea was a bad one.  I tried to tell my daughter that we needed to go back in, but she didn't like that, so I let her play in the leaves for a few minutes before convincing her that we really needed to go inside.  

I felt miserable.  I didn't enjoy watching my daughter play in the leaves.  I didn't enjoy the fresh air.  I didn't even focus on the present moment at all.  All I could think was how I wanted to go inside, lay down, and escape my gloominess.  I wanted a do-over already, a day where I woke up to sunshine, smiles, and motivation to do something good.  Oh how I missed the summer and longed for that time when I didn't have to fight these battles, when I was so productive and helpful to others and energetic as a mom.  I don't like the person that I am when I am struggling with depression, and I find myself spending hours during the day wishing that I could be the me without depression.

We went inside, and I put on a movie for my daughter to watch.  I wasn't mentally able to entertain, play, have fun, or do anything.  I didn't want to lose patience with her, when none of this is her fault, so I sat on the couch next to her feeling completely disconnected.  I kept looking at the clock, watching the minutes slowly tick by, wondering how long it would take until it was finally nap time.  There were things that I could have and should have done, but just the thought of them made me feel overwhelmed, so I didn't do them.  

Nap time came, I put my daughter to bed, and got on the computer.  I checked Facebook, email, blogs, more Facebook, more email, more blogs (just in case someone updated in the last 5 minutes).  I wanted to escape.  I wanted something to make the time pass until my husband got home, something to distract me from the numbness I was feeling.

When I realized that there was nothing new to read on the computer, I turned it off and went into my room.  I laid down on my bed and stared at the ceiling.  I felt guilty for not having the dishes done and for not intending to do them.  I felt angry that I wasn't the "fun mom" that I want to be and that I can be when I feel good.  I felt apathy.  I didn't know if I cared that I was doing nothing but lay in bed and feel awful.

My daughter woke up from her nap and I got her out of her crib.  I needed to do something with my day and to get out of the house.  We made a card for a friend's son who just had a surgery and left to take it to him.  I thought maybe doing something for someone would pull me out of my funk, maybe serving would put the sunshine back into my cloudy day.

We took the card and visited, but the gloom stayed.  I was supposed to go to the store at some point, and the store is fairly close to where our friend lives, but I didn't want to use my energy going to the store, so I didn't.  Instead, I went home and wasted more time just sitting around wondering how to get myself motivated.  

My husband got home, and I felt nothing.  I forgot to show any interest in him being home, because I was so caught up in my own thoughts.  He hugged me and kissed me, but I felt no warmth in my heart.

In the evening, I had a piano lesson to teach.  My heart was racing as I drove to their house.  I kept fighting myself from making any excuse as to why I couldn't come.  I didn't want to see anyone.  I didn't want to try to muster up some fake energy and happiness.  I made it to the lesson and it went well, but I still had no feelings.  

I got back in the car and felt the tightness in my heart increase.  I wanted to hide from everyone and not come back out until I felt better.  I forced myself to drive home, carry my things upstairs, and walk in the door.  I got my daughter ready for bed, snapped at her a few times for doing normal kid things that annoyed me at the time, and put her to bed.  

My husband asked if I wanted to watch a movie.  I agreed, hoping that a movie would take away the ever-increasing tension in my heart.  We started watching "The Haunted Mansion."  The more I sat there bottling up my feelings, the more intense they became.  I kept fidgeting as the tightness in my heart got to be almost unbearable.  I felt panic and fear, but for no reason.  I couldn't stay still, because being still gave me time to remember how awful I felt.  The pain built up even more.  I wanted to scream out, "I can't do this!  Go away awful feelings!"  But my mouth stayed shut.  I tried to get comfortable, but after several attempts, I gave up; I went to my room to pray. 

I walked into my room and fell onto my knees next to my bed.  I kept repeating, "Heavenly Father, please help me.  Please help me.  Please help me."  I didn't know what else to say.  I started to cry.  The agony grew.  "Please help me.  Please help me.  I can't do this alone.  Please help me."  

I heard my husband walk into our room.  He knelt down next to me and put his arm on my back.  I grabbed his shirt and turned around to hug him.  I gripped his shirt tighter and felt the need to grip it as tight as I could so that somehow it would release some tension in my heart.  I started sobbing.  "I feel so awful!  Please don't let go."  

He held me until I was okay with us moving to a more comfortable position.  We moved to our bed, and he asked me to explain what I felt.  I told him that there was an awful pain in my heart and that it was unbearable.  He asked if it was a real pain or a metaphorical pain.  I didn't know how to answer that.  It was a real physical pain, but not the kind of pain you feel when you get hurt or when there is something physically wrong.  I tried to explain, but I felt at a complete loss of words.  I told him that I would never want him to feel this, but that sometimes I wish he could feel just a little bit of it to know what it's like.  I asked him if he believed me that it was awful and he said, "Yes."  I continued crying, and my mind turned to Christ.  My husband didn't know how I felt, but Christ did.  I felt a small feeling of comfort and peace.  I asked my husband for a blessing.  He stood up next to our bed, placed his hands on my head, and gave me a blessing.  I don't remember a single word that he said now, but I remember that I felt a reassurance wash over me, and I knew that somehow my heart would be alright.

Today I feel a little bit better.  I still feel scared, sad, and pretty unmotivated, but I know that with Christ and my husband, I will make it through even the darkest moments!


10.24.2016

My Experience with Taking Medication for Depression

Well, today I did something that I've been dreading all week.  I took my anti-depressant.  It's not that I have anything against the medicine; in fact, I'm very thankful for it.  It's just that I've been off it all summer and taking it means admitting to myself that the sadness of depression is once again creeping in.  It's admitting that the winter might be long and hard and humbling.

Since medication is on my mind today, I thought I'd share my experiences with taking an anti-depressant for depression.

I first tried to get on an anti-depressant in December of 2013.  This was about 1 year after I started dealing with depression and about 4 months after I got married.  I knew that I needed help, so I called and set up an appointment.  Because my insurance didn't cover very many doctors in my area, my husband and I stopped at a doctor about 45 minutes away from where we lived on our way down to Utah for our Christmas Break.  I remember waiting alone in the doctor's office for the doctor to come in and wondering how I would ever explain what I was thinking/feeling/experiencing.  I didn't know what words to use to describe my deep pain, sorrow, and heartache.  Before I could figure out what I was going to say or how I was going to say it, the doctor walked in and asked how I was doing.  I smiled and exclaimed, "Great!"  He looked down at his paperwork, then back up at me, and with a slightly confused tone in his voice asked, "You're in here for depression?  You seem like the most chipper depressed person I've ever met."  My heart sunk.  I needed help, but now he would never believe me.  My mind started racing.  Why didn't I have him come in the room to find me crying?  Why did I give him the same fake happiness that I gave everyone else?  Why did I say that I was doing great when really I was experiencing more pain than I ever knew possible?  He asked a few more questions, gave me some advice about how to handle the stress of being newly married, and sent me out the door.  I talked to my husband about the visit on the rest of our car ride, but I felt more lost and helpless than before the doctor's appointment.

When I got pregnant with my daughter, I attempted to go on an anti-depressant again.  I can't remember what it was called, and it really doesn't matter since everyone reacts differently to different medications, but it didn't work at all.  I didn't notice even the slightest edge taken off my sadness or anxiety.  I was uninformed about all things depression at that time, so I thought this might be my only option of a medication.  I kept taking it but didn't tell anyone that it wasn't working, until one really awful day!  I was on BYU-Idaho's campus and felt completely overcome with emotion.  I made my way to my car and got in the front seat.  I didn't even feel like I could drive home with how I felt.  I called my OB/GYN and told her that the medication wasn't working.  She asked if I would want to try taking another one.  I was glad that was an option, so I agreed.  I went to pick it up and felt this little nudge in my heart to read the risks of taking the medication.  The packet of information that came with the prescription said that caution should be used when taking this medication while pregnant, because it could cause deformities in the baby.  I felt like there was a reason I needed to look at the risks, and I didn't feel good about taking the medicine, so I didn't.  I called my husband in tears telling him about my terrible day, and how I thought there was hope in taking another medication until I read about the risks.  He agreed that I shouldn't take it, even though we both knew it would be really hard on me to continue feeling the way I did.

I managed to make it all the way until after having my daughter before I went in one last time to get on a medication.  I called my OB/GYN's office to tell them that I was feeling post-partum depression and would like to start taking an anti-depressant.  They took me very seriously and got me in the next day to be evaluated.  My OB/GYN (a different one from the first part of my pregnancy) was so great and agreed that I needed to start taking an anti-depressant.  He prescribed Zoloft (Sertraline) immediately and then scheduled another appointment to check in on how the medication was working.

It took about a month before I really felt significant changes, but once it "kicked in," I noticed that I started to feel normal again.  I felt like I could function; I wanted to do things, I enjoyed my baby, I didn't get overwhelmed by dishes or dinner as often, I could go days without crying, I didn't feel panic or fear all day, I could think more clearly, and I felt genuinely happy most of the time.

The only down-side I've had with taking my anti-depressant is that it makes me sleepy.  I didn't recognize this until after I was able to stop taking it and I felt a surge of energy, but I would rather be sleepy than sleepy and sad any day.

At first, I did not like taking an anti-depressant.  I thought it made me weak or fake, since I needed a medicine to make me happy.  Since then, I have learned and accepted that taking a medicine for depression is just like taking medicine for diabetes, high blood pressure, or arthritis.  Depression is an illness, so it's alright to treat it with medication.

I was talking about my concerns with a friend one day and she brought up a good point.  When I wasn't taking an anti-depressant, I was constantly faking happiness in front of everyone so that they wouldn't know about my depression, so feeling true happiness while on an anti-depressant was not fake at all since the happiness was there.  The medication was just an aid to feeling genuine happiness instead of pretending that I was happy when I wasn't.

She also helped me to feel thankful for taking an anti-depressant by pointing out that a long time ago, there wasn't anything to help with depression, and that must have been so miserable for those people.  I am blessed to live in a time when I can get help when I feel sad, and I don't just have to endure it.

I have heard the rumor before that anti-depressants change your personality or make you a non-emotional robot.  This is not my experience at all!  My anti-depressant helps me feel normal, happy, and peaceful.

If you are struggling with depression and think that a medication might help you, this is what I advise:

  • Make an appointment with a doctor today!  Don't wait.
  • Tell the doctor up front that you are struggling with depression and would like to try taking an anti-depressant to help.
  • Give the medication 4-6 weeks to really take effect.  
  • If it is working, keep taking it and don't miss a day!  Take it at the same time every day to keep the same amount of medication in your bloodstream.
  • If it isn't working, call your doctor again.  They might switch you to a different medication or up the dosage.
  • Don't be ashamed of getting medical help for your mental illness!

10.22.2016

Famous People With Depression


"Whatever greatness Lincoln achieved cannot be explained as a triumph over personal suffering. Rather, it must be accounted an outgrowth of the same system that produced that suffering. This is a story not of transformation but of integration. Lincoln didn't do great work because he solved the problem of his melancholy; the problem of his melancholy was all the more fuel for the fire of his great work." ~Joshua Wolf Shank

To read more of Abraham Lincoln's story of depression, click HERE.


"Depression is the most unpleasant thing I have ever experienced. . . . It is that absence of being able to envisage that you will ever be cheerful again. The absence of hope. That very deadened feeling, which is so very different from feeling sad. Sad hurts but it’s a healthy feeling. It is a necessary thing to feel. Depression is very different.”  ~J.K. Rowling

"For Rowling rock bottom wasn’t the end; it opened up new possibilities and eventually led to her success." ~Justin Bennett


"Defy and deny: great men cannot be ill, certainly not mentally ill.   But what if they are not only ill; what if they are great, not in spite of manic-depression but because of it?" ~William Manchester


"First and foremost, for George Albert the turning point in his ability to deal with his particular limitations came from accepting in submissive prayer whatever outcome resulted. Second, although his personality seemed overanxious and even guilt-ridden, leading to debilitating depression, after 1911 those tendencies never again controlled his life. Third, although he resigned himself to death, if that was God’s will, he concluded from the fact that his life was prolonged that it had a purpose. This attitude sustained him during repeated episodes of weakness. And fourth, he learned to seek respites from the stresses of his duties. By occasionally “dumping his responsibility,” George Albert Smith had “cheated the asylum of a victim,” and continued to make his contributions, including service as president of the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints. Despite his lack of physical health, he developed traits that made him, in many ways, a model for emotional and spiritual health. ~Mary Jane Woodger

To read more of George Albert Smith's story of depression, click HERE (it starts on page 113).


"Beethoven is considered to be one of the greatest composers of all time.  During most of his life he had many medical and psychological problems.  Because of the strength of his personality and knowledge of the power of his message, he was able to rise above these ailments. As he himself on occasion admitted, composing for him was therapeutic. His deafness forced him to withdraw from teaching, performing and conducting, hence all his energies were focused on composition. His passionate nature is reflected in the passions of his music. We are all the beneficiaries." ~Fran├žois Mai


In researching the lives and stories of these famous people, I learned many things:

  1. Depression is real and no one is exempt from it.
  2. We are not limited by our weaknesses, whatever they are.
  3. Great people do great things when they allow their struggles to shape them.
  4. Depression is a gift that brings compassion and understanding for others.  
  5. Those who struggle with depression and mental illness are not alone.

10.20.2016

More Explanation of Symptoms

This is an anonymous addition to the post I made about the symptoms of depression:

You hit the nail on the head on every point!

I would add to the social isolation a feeling of guilt. Although depression isn't actually contagious, I often felt like mine was, like if I didn't keep my little black rain clouds home, everyone would feel the weight of them like a wet blanket on a chilly day. I didn't want people to notice because I didn't want to explain but also because I didn't want to burden them. I didn't want them to feel bad for me or feel like they needed to somehow fix what I knew was hopeless, because then they might "catch it" and it would be my fault. I knew that I had wonderful friends and the sisters at church were full of compassion that I was sure should be spent on someone more worthy. That guilt of not wanting to weigh anyone down and fear of burdening others often kept me home and when it didn't, it propelled me into serving others, determined to carry my own weight. While the fear was irrational, serving others actually did help a lot because it helped me focus on others and put my problems in perspective. It also brought me some sense of purpose and accomplishment where I couldn't find them at home. Eventually I realized that if serving others helped me, maybe allowing them to serve me just a little might help them too... Obvious conclusion for most, but my brain was pretty warped for a while.

I'd also add physical symptoms. When I was at my lowest I had headaches, mild but constant body aches, a knot in the stomach and the feeling that life was so heavy it could be felt physically, like my limbs were too weak or tired to get up and accomplish anything. The weight lifted some if I could do simple tasks with someone else. Sometimes there was also a heavy tightness in my chest that felt similar to what I'd imagine a heart attack would feel like, but without the anxiety. Sometimes I felt like my chest was so tight my heart couldn't beat right and my lungs couldn't fill completely. The only way I could get it to relax enough to breath was to cough but I wasn't ever afraid.  I actually thought it would be a relief to slip into sudden unconsciousness and never wake up. The idea of verbalizing any of this made the symptoms worse.

Another separate heading would be irritability. This is more often experienced by men, but in the early stages of my depression I experienced it too. Maybe it was because of my inability to concentrate or because I felt totally worthless, but I often felt disproportionately irritated over little things. My kids' noise, typical childhood bickering, my husband's innocent jokes or simple oversights, my own lack of motivation and total disorganization all just annoyed me and I felt snappy and yelled more than my family deserved. Then I'd realize how irrational I was and feel guilty. I realized I couldn't control my lack of patience so I checked out. I'd tell myself that retreating into my Facebook addiction for hours at a time was actually protecting my family from my bad attitude. (I was never actually abusive but I felt as guilty as if I had done much worse than raise my voice in impatience.) It was from that point that I started to feel like they'd be better off without me. I know better now and I'm able to recognize those dangerous thoughts and head them off before they get too out of control, but that's how they started.

My husband was amazingly supportive and understanding and he started to catch on to some of the symptoms when I couldn't communicate them. I never would have gotten through it without him. I can tell it's left a mark on him too though, so for anyone on either end of this relationship, don't forget to take care of yourself too. Don't forget your spouse will need you and you'll need them so recharge when you can.

10.18.2016

Ashley's Story (*Name Changed)

I went for a run the other day for the first time in I don't even know how long. The air was crisp, I could feel the autumn creeping in upon us. Growing up I absolutely loved this time of year. I even liked going back to school. New school clothes, new friends and teachers, all of my favorite holidays approaching, it didn't get any better. But the last 4 years have been different. When Fall comes around a sudden sadness also arrives. A pain I had never felt before October 1st, 2012. The day my brother took his life.

As I was running and listening to my music, I could just feel it, summer was behind us and Fall was fast approaching and, like a sharp knife, it hit me. The pain. The pain I've been holding on to, though most of the time I try to bury it so deep that even I forget it's there. I remember him, my brother who I miss so deeply. I remember his life. I get angry. Mostly at myself. I get angry because I haven't thought about him for too long. I've gone on with my life as if everything is fine. I get angry because it seems my family does the same, which I know deep down isn't true.

I continue to run as hard and as fast as I can, as if doing so will somehow take the pain right out of me. It doesn't. I reach my house and go to the backyard where the neighbors can't see me. I feel that oh so familiar pain. I want to scream. I want to know if he is there, if he knows the pain I'm going through. Then I think of him. I wonder about the deep, dark, drowning pain he must have been going through. I hurt for my brother. Every single day I hurt for him as well as for all my siblings and for what we've been through these last 4 years. I hurt because it's so hard to talk about it that we just CAN'T. We hold it in. We bury it until it's no longer visible. We go on with our lives.

I walk inside after my run and act like every thing is fine, because that's what we're supposed to do right? Wrong. I learned that in therapy. Therapy that I needed because I struggled with self harm and anxiety after my brother died. I realized from a very amazing man that the definition of 'strong' is NOT acting like everything is perfect in our lives, like we have it all together. Being strong is not never crying because that means you're somehow 'weak'. Being strong is letting it out, having compassion for yourself and realizing what your truly capable of and sometimes that means not being the perfect mom or wife or acting like we have it all together all the time because we don't. No one does.

I forget this though, a lot, trust me. I even struggle to be 'real' in front of the person I love more than anything in the world, my husband. I worry he will judge me but I know he would never, ever do such a thing. He's seen me in my darkest hours. He's held me when I didn't even know if I wanted to live anymore. He would do anything to make me happy. He's patient and kind and gentle. He's perfect for me. He's the reason I'm where I am today. He's truly my angel and the reason I know there is a God because without him I would be lost.

I really am trying to make a point here. I'm being as real as real can get. Suicide is not the answer. All the pain and agony a suicide victim leaves behind is suddenly placed on their family and friends. The family and friends of victims are no longer the same people they once were. They live with this pit in their stomach and a hole in their heart that can never be fixed. They feel guilty for having joy but they have to act like everything is okay and live this life of secrecy almost.

As hard as the last few years have been, however, I have found true joy and true happiness. I live every day for my son and my wonderful husband. I love my life. I know I am truly blessed. I may not be the person I was before my brother passed away but it's okay. I know I will see my brother again. I know I will hug him again. I have felt him with me when I am in pain. I know he hurts for his family. I know if he knew how much pain he has caused his family that he wouldn't take his own life. I hurt, yes. I miss him so bad. But the sun continues to shine and my baby boy still needs his mama. So I go on with life, but deep down inside me lies the hole that will never get better until I see him again.

Sarah's Story (*Name Changed)

Well, I’m not entirely sure where to begin. Let’s just start with the basics, shall we? I am writing this anonymously to protect the identity of the other people in my story. I don’t believe it is my place to expose them. So, with that aside, I suppose all you need to know about me is this. I am a wife, a mother, and a member of the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-Day Saints. And I have lived with major depression and an anxiety disorder for most of my life.

I was only fifteen when I was first officially diagnosed, but I know it was always there, lurking in the shadows, long before I ever saw a doctor. Ever since that day my life has been a journey of different medications, counselors, and psychiatric care. The worst stretches of time for me were my sophomore year of high school, and my freshman year of college.

College, especially, was VERY difficult. I made the decision to go to a university clear on the other side of the country from where my home was in the midwest. I was alone for the first time in my life, trying to live as a somewhat independent adult, far away from all my family and friends.

I struggled in my classes, but the worst of it was about one semester into the school year, when I became trapped in an extremely unhealthy relationship that would slowly destroy me over the course of the next semester. This person also suffered from mental illnesses, and in the beginning it wasn’t too bad. But as the weeks turned into months it became clear that he needed much more help than I could give, but I gave anyway. I gave all my willpower, all my energy, energy that I normally would have used to get myself through my illnesses, to him. I was miserable. I spent many nights alone in the dark, waiting for tears to come. Sometimes they would, sometimes they wouldn’t. I didn’t eat, I didn’t sleep, and I lived my life through a fog. Because, to me, that’s what depression is.

Imagine your world is covered in a dense fog, stretching as far as you can see. All around you are the vague shapes and voices that make up your life. You have just enough access to your senses to function, but that’s all it is. Functioning. Existing. Surviving. It’s not living by any means of the imagination. Your life is dulled and dulled until finally, you can’t feel at all. The only thing you want to do is curl up, close your eyes and hope to never wake up again.

For those dreadful months of my life I lived in this fog. I would wander aimlessly around campus, trying to distract myself from the worst feeling of all: not feeling anything. Yet even in this emptiness, there was one emotion that peeked through the fog ever so slightly. Fear. I was so afraid to leave him. I was so scared that my leaving him would result in his suicide. I couldn’t live knowing I was the reason someone else died. So I felt obligated to protect him, even though by doing so I was slowly killing myself.

Even in this dark time I was extremely blessed. My earlier run with depression and anxiety had taught me some things. It taught me that I am so so SO fortunate to have the parents I have. My mother struggles in the same way I do, and that meant she truly understood that it wasn’t “just a phase” and she knew how best to help me. In a similar way, my father had experience in supporting people with depression, and he knew how to listen to me and give me support. On top of that, I had tools that I had obtained from my old counselors and doctors. I took medication. I journaled. I saw the on-campus counselors. I took ink pens to the skin of my arms to distract myself from doing something much worse.

All of these things helped me. However, the greatest blessing to me in those times BY FAR was my dear roommate. She truly saved my life. In those dark, dark nights she would hold me as I cried. She made sure I ate something each day. She helped me get out of bed and get fresh air even when that was the furthest thing from my mind. She prayed with me. She made me feel like there was still hope even when all hope felt lost.

Months passed, and I eventually returned to the safety of my home in Indiana. I was far away from that person and that place that had caused me such pain. I took comfort in my family, and stayed busy with my job at a local hotel. I slowly returned to some sense of normalcy, but inside I was dreading my return to school in the fall. My roommate would be leaving on her mission soon, and I wouldn’t have very long with her before being alone once again. But little did I know, I wouldn’t have to go back. My life was about to change forever.

One beautiful Sunday in early July, I found the courage to finally end that unhealthy relationship. It had been a long, steady decline up to that point, and I think that we both knew that it needed to end. The very day after I finally broke free, I met my husband.

That day was the turning point in my story. Since that day I have never gone back to that level of despair I had felt before. Of course, depression never really leaves. I still have my bad stretches every now and then, but nothing even close to what I had experienced during my one year of college.

My husband gave me life again. I started smiling. I started eating. I wanted to wake up in the mornings again. After four weeks of dating he asked me to marry him. It just all felt so right. We knew it was the path we were both meant to take, and a mere three months later we were sealed for time and all eternity in the Salt Lake City Temple.

Since then, life with depression and anxiety has become much more bearable. Part of managing my illness now lies in recognizing what triggers it. For me, some bad triggers are disturbing stories on the news, disaster or otherwise “scary” movies, fasting, not getting sleep, forgetting my medication, bad things happening to the people around me, and trying to take on too much at once. If I try my hardest to avoid these triggers I find that my depression is much easier to deal with. Because once I start to slip back into that fog, it becomes much much harder to get out.

But when I do slip into that fog again (trust me, it still happens) I try to lean on those who love me. I try to let them help, I find comfort in the fact that they’re there, even if their words aren’t getting through to me. Another thing I do is I try to stick to my routine, even if it’s the last thing I want to do. Sometimes, for me, just going through the motions is enough to keep me going until I eventually snap out of it. But perhaps the most important thing I do is I remember this: I have a disease. There is an imbalance in my brain’s chemistry. This condition is not my fault. I didn’t do anything to deserve this. I am not being punished. This is simply the way I am. All I can do is try to keep going anyway.

And that’s all that anyone can do really. Keep moving forward and trust in the good times to come. And they will come. Mine came on that July day when I laid eyes on my husband for the first time. They will come for you too. Until then, hang in there, and know you’re not alone.

10.10.2016

Something Only People With Depression Will Understand

I saw something on "BuzzFeed Life" with this same title and I was immediately intrigued.  

I clicked on the link and what I found rang true with me in so many ways.  There were several charts and graphs created by Anna Borges that demonstrated some things that only people with depression would understand.  I recreated these charts to match my blog colors, but the credit for the idea goes to her.


One of the big problems with understanding depression is understanding that it's not something that is there one day when you get a bad grade on a test or spill ketchup on your new white shirt, but that it's an illness that is felt day in and day out.  There can be good days and bad days, but it reaches far deeper than being a little upset or bummed about something.


This is something I NEVER would have understood if I hadn't been through depression myself, but I understand it very well now.  I remember days of having dishes waiting to be done or dinner waiting to be made, but I would sit on the couch or lay in bed on the verge of tears as I tried to gather the strength and energy to do it.  It's not that I wasn't capable or that I was just too lazy, it's that I felt so overwhelmed and unmotivated and upset that it seemed my only option was to cry rather than do the dishes or make dinner.  Once I could finally get up and get started, it really would only take a short amount of time, but I had to fight with myself every day to do every single little thing that needed to be done.  It's not something that I can fully explain, even now, because it doesn't make sense in any way, but it's real in every way.




This is amazingly accurate!  Depression causes sadness, but it doesn't stop there.  The sadness turns to hopelessness, leads to isolation, anxiety, and guilt, and removes the feeling of happiness and enjoyment, which makes you feel like you are the only one moving painfully slow while the rest of the world is moving at its normal fast pace.


Unfortunately, this has been me on too many days, especially recently as we're coming in to winter.  It's hard to completely enjoy a good day when you know that a bad day will most likely follow.  I have struggled with this far too many times and have slowly been learning to enjoy the good moments and allow the bad moments to come when they do without wasting my whole life worrying that another bad day is coming.


I know that you probably don't feel strong, because I don't either.  I am completely surprised and taken back every time that my husband says he looks to me as an example with how I have handled depression.  All I see is the crying, the fighting with myself to find motivation, the occasional anger, the pleading with God to take it all away.  I don't know if I'll ever understand what my husband sees in me, but I guess somewhere in the falling on my knees in prayer to God, the picking myself up again and again and again, the humility in asking for help when I can't do it on my own, or the desire to not let depression define me, somewhere in there is strength, and it's definitely more than I will ever see in myself.  Trust that you are strong and that you have the ability to help others through your struggles.

10.09.2016

"I Don't Feel Like I Love You"

These are words no one should ever hear, especially not a spouse.  Unfortunately, my husband has heard these words before, from me.

The experience went something like this.  I was laying on my bed with my heart pounding almost visibly out of my chest.  I wasn't crying yet, but the tears were waiting to spill at a moment's notice, and I knew I wouldn't be able to hold them in forever.  I felt awful as my mind rehashed my day over and over again, all the things I hadn't gotten done, simply because I didn't "care."  I kept thinking that if I really cared about my husband and loved him, then my love for him would have motivated me to do all the things I didn't do that day.  Really, I was so overwhelmed at the simplest tasks of the day that the thought of doing dishes or making dinner felt impossible.  But I wasn't thinking clearly, so I came to the conclusion that I must not love my husband, since I didn't do the things that I should have done if I really loved him.  The more this thought lingered in my mind, the more I believed it.  And the more I believed it, the more hardened and bitter I became.  I wasn't angry at my husband at all.  Just at myself, that I wasn't stronger or more capable of handling life.  I should have gone and talked to him about my thoughts right away, I should have tried to find the words, but I was too upset, so I waited in my room until he came to me.  After several minutes of waiting, I heard his footsteps walking toward our room.  I continued laying there, wondering what he would say and if I would be able to explain the tough feelings in my heart.  He opened the door and looked in until our eyes met.  He slowly walked over to me, probably trying to figure out what to say.  He started talking.

"What's wrong?  You seem upset."

"I don't feel like I love you."  I said it so matter-of-factly with little-to-no emotion.

"Oh yeah?"

"Yes.  I don't feel like I love you."  Still not a quiver of emotion in my voice.

"What do you mean?"

Perhaps a little annoyedly, I said, "I don't feel love.  I know that I've felt love for you before, but I don't feel it right now."

Those words echoed in my mind and immediately softened my heart.  There was a moment of silence before the door holding in my tears was forcefully shoved open and the tears spilled out freely.

"I don't feel like I love you, because I don't feel anything."

By now I was sobbing, completely unable to control myself.  I looked up at him with complete sorrow in my eyes and pleaded,

"Will you help me know that I love you?  Will you help me see what I do to show love for you so that I can remember what it feels like?"

He went on to list one thing after another of all the things I did to show my love for him.

When he was done, he asked, "Now do you feel how much you love me?"

I could only nod my head because my words were so choked up in my tears.  I still didn't feel love like I thought I should, but I trusted that I had love for my husband and that I would feel that love again.


Thankfully, it was only a few weeks before I was able to feel love again, but I'm so glad that I was able to hold on and trust in the love he described, even when depression robbed my heart of that emotion for a time.  Today I feel love and appreciation for my husband like I never have before.  And I desperately hope he never has to hear me say the words "I don't feel like I love you" again.

Signs of Depression and Why They Make Sense

According to WebMD, the signs of clinical depression are:


So why do these make sense?

First things first, I think it's safe to say that depression causes sadness and that pretty much everyone knows about that sign of depression.  Well, almost all the other signs seem to stem from the sadness caused by depression.  So let's take a look at how:

Loss of energy- Have you ever cried for days, weeks, or months without a break?  Have you ever spent nearly every moment of your day trying to smile, trying to keep moving forward, trying to get normal things done, trying to stay afloat?  This is what it's like to have depression and it is exhausting.  Loss of energy is another way of describing the mental, emotional, and physical exhaustion that accompanies depression.

Impaired concentration- Depression is a mental illness; therefore, it impairs a person's ability to think normally.  For me, it is hard to concentrate when my mind is constantly being flooded with thoughts of negativity and sadness.  It's like trying to listen to soft music while the TV is blaring.  It takes so much effort to cast aside the thoughts that are so loud in my mind to be able to focus on what someone else is saying or what I am doing that I hardly concentrate on anything at all.  Also, when I was in school, I had a very difficult time concentrating on my homework when I really just wanted to go to bed and cry.  Evenings were especially difficult so trying to concentrate on homework was always a battle.

Indecisiveness- Since depression greatly affects a person's ability to feel things in a normal way, it becomes difficult to make decisions.  First, it's hard to make a decision when you can't think clearly about how it will affect you or those around you, and second, it often seems like the decision doesn't matter if you are just going to feel sad no matter what.  I also feel the added component of wanting to do what God wants me to do but feeling like I can't decipher what thoughts/feelings come from God, so it is difficult to decide what choices to make.

Lack of enjoyment in things that were once enjoyable- The sadness that comes with depression changes almost every other emotion into either sadness or indifference.  It's no wonder then that things that once brought joy now bring a lack of joy.  This is a huge sign for me.  I can tell that I am beginning to really struggle with depression when I have to fight with myself to do anything, especially things that I normally love, like playing the piano, doing crafts with my daughter, crocheting, sewing, etc.

Feelings of despair or hopelessness- When you feel sad for a long period of time, it can leave you feeling like things will never be normal again, you'll never feel happy, you'll never see the light of hope, you'll never enjoy life again.  Of course, those things aren't true, but they feel all too true while in the middle of a dark battle with depression.

Too much sleep- As I already said, depression causes a loss of energy AKA exhaustion, so it makes sense that someone who is exhausted would sleep more.  When I was really struggling, I would get tired and want to go to bed around 8 or 9 (I was also pregnant for part of that time), sleep until 7 in the morning, and take a nap for 1-2 hours during the day.  

Too little sleep- It might seem strange to have two opposite signs of depression but this one also makes sense.  If you are constantly being bombarded with awful thoughts, it can be hard to turn your mind off when it's time to get to sleep.  I remember several nights when I was crying and couldn't stop thinking about how awful I felt.  I couldn't turn off the anxiety, fear, sadness, or hopelessness to be able to fall asleep.  Sometimes I felt like I wanted to "solve" my problem before sleeping because I didn't want to have to wake up the next morning and fight it all over again.  Usually I would end up falling asleep after a few hours, but sometimes it would be 1 or 2 in the morning before the exhaustion would take over.  

Increased appetite- I haven't experienced this one myself, so I don't have much to say about it, except that I'm guessing that emotional eating plays a role.

Decreased appetite- When I feel depressed, I have such a hard time choosing what to eat, and nothing tastes good even if I put in the effort to make it, so I would rather not eat.  My appetite definitely decreases, because I can go a couple meals without eating and not feel very hungry at all.

Social isolation- I think this sign makes sense for several reasons. 1) A lot of people don't understand depression, so it's hard to want to be around people, when you might have to explain why you feel upset or why you don't feel like yourself.  Sometimes if I felt sad at church, I would go hide out in the bathroom for a while until I felt like I could keep my emotions under control.  I didn't want to have to explain myself, so I just avoided everyone who might see my tear-stained eyes.  2) Struggling with depression can feel like a shameful thing, so if people don't know you are struggling with depression, you might not want to be around them with the fear that they might "find out."  I have definitely felt this too and have taken it so far as to try to avoid family so that they won't "find out" about my struggles.  3) Due to the exhaustion of depression, it may feel too exhausting to get ready, get out of the house, and have fun with friends.  4) Finally, the lack of enjoyment of things that were once enjoyable makes going out to do things "pointless" if it won't bring joy.

Thoughts of suicide- This one goes hand-in-hand with the feelings of despair and hopelessness.  Struggling with depression for any period of time can cause someone to begin to feel like suicide is the only option to relieve the suffering or that all hope is lost in ever feeling better.  DO NOT BELIEVE IT!  Hope will come.  Hold on.  Tell someone if you are having thoughts of suicide.  Get help!

What thoughts or experiences would you add to this list?  Which signs are more prevalent in your battle with depression?  I'd love to hear your thoughts!

10.05.2016

Hope from Heartbreak

I have seen so many stories like this recently:
I know there are many more out there, and although I won't go searching for them because I can only handle so much heartbreak, I know they are there.  

I guess you could say the reason that stories like these break my heart so much is because it could have been me.  It could have been my daughter living the rest of her life without her mom, my husband raising my daughter alone, my family and friends wondering what they could have done more to help.  It could have been me all because, as Allison wrote to her family before her death, "I didn’t know how to describe this pain and seek help."

I've been there.  I've felt completely alone and exhausted and hopeless.  I've felt the loss of words to describe something so deep and painful.  I've felt the awful feeling that there was only one option left for my life, and it wasn't a good one.  By some miracle, God gave me the strength and the ability to find the resources I needed to pull me up out of the dark hole I was in and see the light of hope again.  Now that I'm at the top and can feel the happiness that was missing for so long, I desperately want to help others get to this point too.

That's why I am starting this blog.  I want others going through the same struggles to be able find the words to describe their deep pain, find the hope to hold on, find the strength to open up, and find the avenue to get help.  

My hope is that just one person will find this blog in the moment of their deepest struggles, and it will save their life.  

My hope is that there will be no more stories of heartbreak, but only stories of hope.

My hope is 
together.

10.03.2016

Why This Blog and Why This Title

I first wrote down "My Story" after going to a General Women's Broadcast for my church.  While I was there, one of the speakers said:

An image of vivid pink flowers overlaid with a quote by Sister Carole M. Stephens: “Hope and Healing are not found in the dark abyss of secrecy but in the light and love of our Savior, Jesus Christ.”

When she said that, I felt an overpowering burning in my heart telling me that I could find hope and healing through the Savior and that others could also find hope and healing if I was willing to share my journey with depression.  I could hardly concentrate through the rest of the session of conference, because my mind was flowing with words to write and experiences to share.

I got home and started writing right away.  It was late, so I didn't get much written by the time I had to go bed.  I tried to sleep, but I couldn't, because the words were weighing so heavily on my mind, so I got up and continued writing.  I felt my heart begin to heal as I wrote about my experiences and was very real with myself about how hard it had been.  By the time I was done several hours later, I was filled with so much gratitude, hope, and light.  I cried reading back over my story and knew that it would take courage to share such personal details, but I also knew, without a doubt, that it would help.  

The next morning, with a nervous and fearful heart, I logged on to Facebook, said a prayer asking for courage and strength, and then shared the link to my family's personal blog where I had written my story.  

Within hours, over 500 people had read it and many people had contacted me through private messages, comments on the post, texts, and calls to tell me about their own struggles and how my story had helped them.  As they shared their personal experiences, I felt comfort, hope, validation, and support.  I knew that I wasn't alone, and I knew that my friends weren't alone either.  We were there to help, love, and support each other through our hard times.

After reading several messages and talking to several people, my mind started racing again.  What if there was a place where people could share their stories and could find hope and healing through their honesty and openness?  What if those struggling right now could read these stories and feel validation, comfort, and strength?  What if the family members of those struggling could read these stories and better know how to help their loved ones?  What if those who have never struggled with depression could get a glimpse of understanding and feel more love and compassion for those who fight these daily battles?  

That's when the idea of starting a blog was born.

But how did I choose the title?

Originally I thought about calling it "Like a Broken Vessel" after the wonderful talk by Elder Holland about depression (I'll share more thoughts about that talk later), but I wanted something more encouraging, more uplifting.  I prayed that God would help me and then I watched General Conference.  One of the talks referenced the scripture 2 Nephi 2:25 "Men are, that they might have joy."  Immediately, I knew that the title needed to be "That We Might Have Joy."

I believe that by sharing our stories and our struggles, we can strengthen and uplift each other