How to Become "Safe" to Open up to

For many reasons, depression can be a hard thing to talk about.  Partly because I don't want this to be a label placed on me.  There's so much more to me than this ongoing struggle, and I want people to know me for who I really am.  It's also partly because some people don't understand, and it's devastating and heartbreaking to open up to someone, only to have them tell me that if I had more faith or prayed more that this wouldn't be a problem in my life.  Sometimes it's hard to talk about, because I'm not sure who feels comfortable talking about these things, and I don't want to make anyone feel uncomfortable if they don't know how to respond.  And finally, it can be hard to talk about, because sometimes it gets really bad, and there isn't an easy way to tell someone that I wish I could give up. 

But regardless of the reason that it can be difficult to open up, there are several things that people have done recently and in the far past to mark themselves "safe" in my brain for me to talk to, even when things are at their very worst.  I'm hoping sharing these things could help others know how to help someone they love or care about through the discouraging darkness of depression, because I can guarantee that I wouldn't know without experiencing it for myself. 

  1. "I know this is your struggle."  When we first moved here, I was struggling so much emotionally, but I didn't know who to tell.  I knew I needed support, love, and friendship in this new place, but I didn't know how to start opening up.  Finally, I decided to write a couple of blog posts on here and share them.  I was so nervous when I saw that a few people I had just met "liked" the post, but I also felt relieved that this "secret" of sorts was out there, and I didn't have to hide it anymore.  A little while later, a few people at different times said to me, "I know this is your struggle."  Those 6 words lifted such a heavy burden off of me, because I knew that they were aware of this difficulty in my life, but I also knew that they felt comfortable talking about it, because they were the ones that initiated the conversation.  That, in turn, made me feel comfortable going to them, because they were "safe" to talk to and open up to.
  2. "How are you really doing?" or "How are you doing emotionally?" or "How are you feeling today?"  People, in general, ask each other every day, "How are you doing?" without always wanting to know the answer.  I know I am guilty of it sometimes.  It's like this thing that we do in passing so that we can check it off our list that we did our friendly duty of asking how someone else was doing, but we only expect the answer of "good" or "fine."  Sometimes, I know we do ask this wanting to know the real answer, but it's hard for me to tell those two apart.  I don't want to be that person who divulges their whole life story, when someone asks a simple question expecting a short answer, so making the question just a little bit more specific allows me to know that someone actually wants to know my sometimes loaded answer.
  3. "I struggle with..."  A few posts back, I wrote about vulnerability.  I try so hard to be courageous enough to be vulnerable, but it is so helpful to me, when someone is willing to share their struggle as well, especially if that struggle is mental illness related.  It's like it forms this instant bond and helps me to remember that everyone has struggles, so I'm not alone in needing help or love sometimes.
  4. "Do you feel like you want to give up?"  I know this is a hard question to ask, and it doesn't need to be asked often, but I appreciate more than I can express, when someone asks me this straightforward question at the hardest times, because it allows me to explain the extent of the present darkness without feeling like that's too much to share.  Even if things are good at the time, it allows me to know that I can go to that person on the darkest of dark nights, because they care and want to help.
Hopefully this helps some.  I look forward to the day when talking about depression is as comfortable and as easy for everyone as talking about broken bones or the flu.  I've come so far, and yet, it can still be so challenging.  Thankfully there are so many people in my life who have been willing to help me along this journey and have allowed me to be more open and honest about how I'm doing.  I have such a good tribe of people around me who love and care as the Savior does, and that's the best gift anyone could give me.  

Let our hearts and hands


My "Worth It" Moment

As I'm sure many people have been able to tell, these last few weeks have been indescribably difficult and have honestly been the most painful weeks I have ever experienced.  I've been working on writing a post about some of these experiences, but I'm still not sure if I'll ever be brave enough to share it. 

One morning this last week, I was in the depths of darkness and truly did not know how I could handle anymore.  The heaviness weighing on my heart felt like it was too much for any one person to bear, and I wondered every second how I could find enough strength to keep fighting, as my heart continued to plunge deeper and deeper into the sorrow of depression.  I didn't know what to do, so I vulnerably sent a friend a message and asked her if it was all worth it, worth it to hold on and fight through so much struggle, only to have such short and fleeting moments of light and happiness.  She reassured me that it is worth it, but I couldn't feel that then.  It didn't seem like anything could ever feel worth it again for how awful I felt in that moment. 

I immediately knew that it would take great amounts of faith to believe in future light this time.  I was so weary, but I put whatever strength I had left in me toward waiting for and trusting in the one beautiful, tender moment when everything would feel worth it again.

I watched all around me for this miraculous moment to come, believing that it would come eventually.  Things didn't improve right away and still nothing felt worth the pain, but there were small moments of joy along the way that strengthened my faith that my "worth it" moment was coming.  There was the moment when my heart felt so broken, and then my baby boy lovingly snuggled his chubby cheeks into mine, and I knew that I had to get through this storm. There were a few moments when I was able to help someone else or make someone smile, and it brought a small feeling of purpose back to my life.  There were the moments when I was supported and wrapped in love by so many wonderful people around me, some not even knowing the challenges I was facing, and I felt little evidences of God's love for me.  There was the moment when I opened up to my husband and finally told him the extent of the darkness I had been facing, and my burden got lighter as I didn't have to carry it alone.  All of these moments were beautiful, but they didn't take away the thought that the darkness was too all-consuming and that I didn't want to fight through it anymore.

And then today, my husband and I left our kids with a babysitter and went on a hike.  The weather was absolutely perfect, the sky was the most beautiful blue, the sun was shining so brightly over the mountains, and we were able to talk and enjoy being together.  We hiked and admired our surroundings and I loved that it was a good day.  But nothing could prepare me for the view when we came around one bend.  It was truly one of the most incredible vistas I had ever seen.  As I looked out and tried to soak up this breathtaking view, my heart felt for the first time in a very long time that it was worth it to be there at that moment.  It really was worth it.  It finally felt worth it. 

There will likely be many more battles of darkness in my life, and I will likely need to rely on the many good people around me who strengthen me when I am at my weakest, but one thing I know for sure-- it will ALWAYS be worth it to live and experience the times of light, no matter how short or fleeting they are.  It will simply always be worth it.


Through My Kids

This weekend has been so emotionally difficult for seemingly no reason. I've tried to make sense of it, but it seems there's not much to understand about something that's just chemically wrong. Every time I've wondered how I'm going to get through the storm this time or how I can find enough strength to hold on until the light comes again, this sweet boy has snuggled his soft, chubby cheeks into mine or looked up at me with his big, blue, hope-filled eyes, and I've felt comfort and love surround the broken pieces of my heart. I'm always amazed at how I can feel God's love and mindfulness of me through my sweet kids.

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My Eyes and Ears of Truth

I'm not sure it will ever be less frustrating to me that in my greatest hours of need, I cannot receive the comfort of the Spirit.  I can pray all day and all night, but when I am struggling with depression, I cannot feel Heavenly Father speak peace to my heart, especially about the hundreds of things it seems that I am failing at.  Often, this compounds my emotions as I think that maybe I am not feeling the Spirit, because I am not worthy of that precious gift. 

Over time, I have learned to accept that as hard as it is, my broken eyes and ears cannot see or hear truth on their own, and attempting to handle these episodes of heartbreak on my own only lead me further and further into despair.  So I have to rely on others.  There isn't really another choice. 

It's so hard to ask for help, because my brain feeds me the constant lies that all I do is burden others, that they don't want to help me, that I've asked for help too many times before, or that I am weak for not being able to handle this on my own.  It usually takes hours of struggle before I can find the courage to let someone in, but once I do, I am finally able to receive the truth that Heavenly Father wanted me to know all along-- the truth that I haven't disappointed Him, that He loves me, that He recognizes how hard I am trying even though it doesn't look like much in times of deep struggle, and that He is with me through the darkest of nights. 

My eyes and ears of truth might be broken along with my mind and heart, but Heavenly Father has blessed me with the most incredible people who can help be my eyes and ears, when mine can't give me the comfort I need in the most difficult times.

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Vulnerability Begets Vulnerability

One of the greatest blessings about how much I've struggled in the last month and how much I continue to struggle is the way that it has led me to be vulnerable out of necessity.  Things have never been so difficult or threatening before, so as a result, I have needed others more than ever before.  Being in a new place and surrounded by new people has presented an obvious obstacle to this need.  That is, unless I am willing to step far out of my comfort zone to open up and ask for help.  I have definitely grown in this ability in the last few years, but it has become incredibly harder recently knowing that no one here knows the real me yet, so exposing this broken version of myself without that foundation is frightening.  It makes me want to explain everything about my past and my story, but especially how this is not me.  I want to repeat that one truth all day, even though I know that getting to know someone simply takes time.

As I've been forced to be brave for the sake of my own life, I've seen something beautiful happen.  My vulnerability in opening up about my deep struggles has made way for others to feel comfortable sharing their deepest struggles as well.  And not only has this made me feel more comfortable sharing, because I've been reminded once again that everyone has some struggle and that depression is not something to be ashamed of, but it has also given me the feeling of such meaningful relationships, far beyond the surface level where most relationships begin.  I've felt an outpouring of love-- pure, unconditional love-- that has carried me through the darkest of nights recently, and I've felt support and companionship that has allowed me to know that I am not alone.

I'm not sure that it will ever get easier to be vulnerable, but the beauty of these most recent experiences has shown me that being vulnerable is definitely worth the few seconds of courage it takes to reach out for help, because the connection it creates lasts forever.

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