One thing that we talked about, in particular, is how depression makes it hard to feel the Spirit. We both share the common belief that God talks to us through the Holy Ghost, who is a member of the Godhead. Because depression makes it hard to feel anything at all, feeling and distinguishing promptings from the Spirit is a nearly impossible task.
We also share the belief that we are able to feel the Spirit when we are living worthy of His influence and that we lose the feelings of the Spirit when we sin. As a result of this, being a member of the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-Day Saints and struggling with depression can often be self-misinterpreted as having done something wrong.
I mean, why else, besides sin, would we stop feeling the Spirit? Why else would we feel like our prayers hit the ceiling and aren't able to reach God? Why else would we become unable to feel the comfort of God's Spirit in our lives? Why does it seem like the Heavens are blocked, like we are praying but cannot receive answers?
I've felt all of these things before, and it took 3 1/2 years for me to get to the point of realizing that it is most definitely possible to be a good, worthy person and to not be able to feel the Spirit because of depression. It does NOT mean that you or I did something wrong. In fact, it means quite the opposite. It means that God trusts us with a trial that feels dark, lonely, confusing, and painful, not because we did something to be unworthy of His love, but because we are worthy of His trust. Every trial we face is God trusting us with something hard so that we can become something greater.
When I was dating my husband, I was in the middle of a deep battle with depression. I prayed several times asking God if I was doing the right thing by dating him, but I felt nothing. I prayed asking if I should marry him, but I felt nothing again. In fact, I didn't just feel nothing. I felt darkness. I was surrounded by darkness, doubt, and fear.
But something inside of me knew that I shouldn't give up on this good man. Something deep inside knew that I couldn't ignore all the little miracles that had happened in bringing us together. Some little piece of my broken heart knew that I had to hold on, because someday it would get better. I thought it would get better when I got married. I thought maybe this was just an opposition to keep me from getting to the temple and that the wedding day would dispel the darkness.
Well, our wedding day came, I felt peace for a short time, and then the darkness returned with full vengeance. I was suddenly so afraid. I thought that I must have done the wrong thing by getting married. I thought that the feelings I had felt when I was dating must have been God warning me to stop dating and to not get married, but I had ignored them. I was sure that God was deeply disappointed in me and that I was going to spend the rest of my life feeling the consequences of my poor choice.
I even told my husband several times that I felt like God was trying to tell me that we shouldn't have gotten married and that someday God would ask us to end our marriage. Imagine hearing your new bride say that? My poor husband had so much to deal with at that time in our marriage, and I'm SO thankful that he didn't give up on me. I still had the small lingering thought about all the little miracles during our dating time, and that only brought more confusion. Why would I have had fleeting moments of peace during our dating if it was all wrong? Why would I have felt some good things, some hope, some happiness if I wasn't supposed to marry him?
Well, you can read the rest of MY STORY if you want to know what happened after that, because I want to get back to talking about the Spirit (but I will spoil it a little by saying that we are happily married and I feel peace now).
So how did I go from feeling absolute confusion and doubt to feeling peace now? I have learned a few things that have become vital to my spiritual survival and progression:
- I have learned to recognize when I am suffering from depression and to accept that it's the depression that is causing my inability to feel the Spirit, not any grievous sin.
- I have learned the important doctrine that what is good comes from God (Ether 4:12), every time. Since my husband was treating me right, since I was filled with the desire to be better because of him, and since I had experienced small moments of peace and reassurance, then the good gift of a faithful, obedient, loving husband came from God. I didn't have to doubt that, even if I didn't have the feelings of the Spirit to back it up. I still have to rely on this knowledge about the nature of God, when I have an important decision to make, and I can't feel the Spirit's confirming witness.
- I have learned that being "like a broken vessel," I can't hold the Spirit with me for a long time, because it quickly slips through the cracks of my brokeness just like water slipping through the cracks of a broken cup, but the fleeting moments when I feel the Spirit are evidence that I am worthy. I have learned to cherish the moments when I feel the Spirit, even if it is just for a second when I hear someone say something in church or when I recognize a tender mercy straight from God.
- I have learned to let other trusted people be my eyes and ears for the Spirit. I talk to my husband, my bishop, or a close friend to help me recognize the answers that are coming to me. I have also learned to recognize how God is talking to me, since He knows my heart is broken and can't feel everything like normal.
I don't know if any of these blog posts help, but I just hope that they can allow one person somewhere to know that they are not alone, that there is hope, that they are loved, that they can get help, that what they are feeling is not a result of their choices, and that things will get better someday.
I still have very hard days, I still cry a lot, and I still have a lot of learning to do, but I feel peace, I feel calm, and I feel like all of this suffering has a great purpose! I have a firm hope that someday I will see that purpose.