Twice a year the church I belong to—The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints—holds a big conference where our leaders speak to us. They instruct, inspire, encourage and uplift us. I wasn’t able to watch this last conference because I was out of town, but I have begun listening to all of the talks online while I get ready in the morning or am doing housework. I’m usually not a weepy person when it comes to spiritual matters. I tend to feel excitement and joy more when reading, hearing, learning or thinking about the gospel. But with other difficult matters on my mind and my depression in full swing I was already pretty sad and emotional when I began listening to President Dieter F. Uchtdorf’s talk, which started out the first general session of this conference.
President Uchtdorf is the second counselor in the first presidency of the Church. He spoke about finding our way back to our home in heaven with Heavenly Father. Part of his talk addressed the fact that it’s not all about us, but about how God will use us to help others on our way back to Him.
While I was gone I saw a lot of people posting on Facebook about how much they liked his talk and how inspiring and true it was. It definitely hit home for me, but only because I had been feeling the opposite lately. While I heard the words he was saying, I just couldn’t feel them. See, my friend I stayed with is this really amazing person. He does so much to help others in so many ways—through our religion, through his job, through his knowledge. Another friend was telling me how great he was and how much he had helped the people in their line of work. I could see how clearly this man made a difference in the lives of those around him. I had a very strong impression that he was where he was supposed to be, that God had him just where He wanted him. If my friend were to pick up and move away it would impact the lives of so many people—people who would definitely feel the loss of his presence.
When I got home I started thinking about how I was not like this friend of mine. The only impact, influence or difference I make in anyone’s life is my own children’s. And yes, I know that’s the most important kind of difference I can make, but it was discouraging to think about how if I were to move away, no one would even notice. Okay, maybe a few neighbors would notice, but no one would care. I’ve made no difference in anyone’s life that my vanishing would impact in even the slightest way. It was a very discouraging thought.
Ever since high school I always hoped that the difficult things I went through with my mental illness were for a reason, that I would be able to help someone someday because of it. And yet the stigma is still there. The general population still ignores it or feels uncomfortable talking about it. Do you know how much it would have meant to me as a teenager to have an older adult tell me they suffered from depression or that they, too, had once been a masochist? It would have made all the difference in the world. And sure, I’m here blogging about it, but my readership is barely existent anymore. So what difference would it make if I dropped off the face of the planet? These were my thoughts—thoughts of worthlessness, of feeling like I have done nothing to help others, wondering if God really has any sort of plan for me or not.
I ran into a friend as these thoughts plagued my mind one night—the kind of friend who I could actually tell the truth to when she asked how I was doing. She told me she wasn’t doing all that great either. Later that night she texted me and told me some things she does to try to help herself when she is having a crappy day or feeling really bad. The one that stuck out was telling herself something positive—even if she didn’t believe it. She said sometimes you have to tell yourself over and over again until you do start to believe it. It reminded me of a therapist I had who talked to me about positive affirmations. She said I needed to look in the mirror every morning and tell myself three positive things.
For me, this is so hard. When I get really down and have those feelings of worthlessness I don’t want to lie to myself—because that’s what I feel like I’m doing. Telling myself I’m pretty is a lie. Telling myself I’m a good mom or a good person is a lie. Telling myself I’m of worth is a lie. That’s the thing, though—they aren’t lies, but it is so hard to see that sometimes. And yet, I think it works.
Like my friend said, even if you don’t believe it, tell yourself anyway. I do believe that the more you hear something, the more you begin to believe it until it does become true. Really, it seems like the easiest thing in the world to just tell yourself a few positive things—even one positive thing, and yet I resist. But I’m going to try it again. I’m going to try to be positive. I’m going to try to believe President Uchtdorf’s words—that God has a place and a plan for me, one that will allow me to help others. I still don’t think it would make any difference to anyone if I up and moved away, but maybe the only difference I need to make right now is a difference in my own life and the lives of my children. Maybe they are the ones who will impact the world because of what I taught them. See, I’m already being positive! So I encourage everyone reading this to do the same. Look in the mirror, say something good about yourself—whether you believe it at the moment or not. Let’s combat these feelings of worthlessness together.