Guest Post: Telling the Truth About Depression
(This post is by D’Arcy’s friend Jo (bio below). Since D’Arcy’s out of town, I have the privilege of introducing our guest blogger. I’m grateful that Jo has written about the reality of depression, which is especially important to me because many women in my life have these struggles. -Jessawhy)
hi, i’m jo. i have a ba in humanities from byu and i used to work at the harold b. lee library. that’s where i met adventurous, compassionate, rosy-cheeked D’Arcy. i got married in 2002 and we had our first baby a year and two months later. shortly after, i was diagnosed with clinical depression (although i first started showing symptoms before i was even pregnant.) since that first diagnosis i have been on ten different anti-depressants/anti-anxiety medications, seen two therapists, two psychiatrists, and a handful of general practitioners. i’ve consulted with two different alternative health experts, read lots of books, and taken up (and dropped) yoga (although i’d like to take it up again!) i have two children, both who have never known a mom who isn’t dealing with depression in some form or another. it’s pretty safe to say that depression has affected every area of my life: my physical health, my relationships (especially my relationship with my husband), my ability as a mother, and my spirituality.
sitting in church one sunday a few years ago i felt uncomfortable, anxious, and self-conscious, so it was pretty much a sunday like any other. at the end of sacrament meeting our kind bishop stood up and said that there was a family in our ward who was having a very difficult time and that we all needed to reach out and help them. he explained that the young father had a brain tumor and he became emotional as he talked about how good and strong this family was, and how much they deserved our support.
i couldn’t stop thinking about what the bishop had said, not during the rest of the meetings, and not on the way home from church. i felt truly sorry for this family and their trials, but that’s not why i was so upset. being as introverted and caught up in my own situation as i was, i could only think of how different and yet similar my own circumstances were.
we had told the bishop a couple of weeks before that i had severe clinical depression, that it was hard for me to go to church, that lots of times it was extremely difficult for me to take care of myself and my children. we had shared this with him so that he would know that i probably would not be able to hold a calling or be a visiting teacher, because my “bad times” were unpredictable and i didn’t want to commit myself to something and then continually let other people down. i think he might’ve asked at the time if there was anything they could do for me, but i didn’t know what to ask for. the issue had never been raised again.
i felt selfish and self-centered for thinking the way i did that sunday, but all i could focus on was that here was a family who had a serious trial going on in their lives, and here was a ward rallying around them and bringing them meals and praying for them continually. and i was heartbroken because i honestly felt that i needed that kind of help too. (not that i was equating a brain tumor to depression, just that i was in serious trouble and needed help.) but the nature of depression made me unable to ask for it, and the church leadership hesitant to talk about it. i couldn’t help thinking that the bishop thought of this young father as a brave, hard-working, faithful priesthood holder, and that he thought of me as an inactive, non-contributing, unfaithful woman.
now that i’m not in the throes of an overwhelming depression, i don’t think he actually saw me that way; he was a kind, excellent, concerned bishop, and i’m sure he wanted to help me. i think he just didn’t know how. and feeling overwhelmed, anxious, and shy, i wasn’t going to go out of my way to ask for help. just the thought of going to talk to the bishop was enough to give me a nervous breakdown. i wasn’t doing very well those days: i had lost my driver’s license because i was too overwhelmed and anxious to go renew it, my house was almost always a staggering mess, my very patient husband had to do the grocery shopping and a lot of the housework and understandably lost his patience sometimes, most days i had a hard time getting out of bed and taking care of my two year old daughter. i sometimes went for days without a shower, i never had an appetite and consequently only ever ate easy and convenient junk food, i had gained a lot of weight. i would look at the mess in my house and just feel beyond overwhelmed. sometimes just seeing all those dirty dishes in the sink would bring me to tears. other times i would look at my little girl and feel guilty for not playing with her more often. i would sob at the thought of how my depression was affecting her.
if i made it to church it would usually just be to sacrament meeting, i was really uncomfortable in relief society and sunday school and usually just skipped those meetings. i felt so guilty for missing church so often that i stopped praying, in general i felt massively unworthy, unlovable, of no worth to anyone,miserable, and unbearably alone.
i am only able to share a tiny part of my story and my feelings about depression here. i can tell you that there have been many times that i’ve wondered why anyone (not just me, but in general) had to have the trial of depression. i felt like it changed the core of who i was, in my eternal soul, and that it took away my agency. there were many times when i felt like i couldn’t control my overwhelming sadness or the anger that i felt. sometimes i would think, “who is this horrible person saying these things?” and i would think, “could it really be me?”
at different times in my journey through depression i have been desperate, hopeless, and suicidal. but there were other times when i thought, maybe this is somewhat of a blessing. depression is teaching me that everyday i have to choose to be alive, to stay alive and try to be here for my children and my husband. it’s also teaching me (slowly) that even in my darkest most horrible moments i can choose. maybe it sounds cliche but i can give into the darkness or i can choose to work my way out of it. maybe i’ll be clawing my way out, and maybe it will go extremely slowly, but i have the power to get out of it.
although things are currently a lot better for me,i don’t have any answers to share. depression has brought a lot of doubt and cynicism into my mind that wasn’t there before, but in a way i’m grateful for that, too. not the negative stuff, but the question everything, puzzle it out in my own mind stuff. i figure that everything that i believe after i come out of this will have been hard-earned, struggled-for, and will be that much more dear and true to me.
i feel like william ernest henley must have been feeling when he wrote his poem Invictus. henley, born in 1849, had his foot amputated when he was young and was ill for most of his life.
Out of the night that covers me
Black as the pit from pole to pole,
I thank whatever gods may be
For my unconquerable soul.
In the fell clutch of circumstances
I have not winced nor cried aloud.
Under the bludgeonings of chance
My head is bloody, but unbowed.
Beyond this place of wrath and tears
Looms but the Horror of the shade,
And yet the menace of the years
Finds, and shall find, me unafraid.
It matters not how strait the gate,
How charged with punishments the scroll,
I am the master of my fate:
I am the captain of my soul.