Self Reflection on Depression

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I realized something just today. Another one of the most horrible things that mental illness does is that it steals your identity. I already knew this about postpartum depression. I experienced it in the worst way. But I had never thought about it in terms of any other mental illness.

For over a month I was struggling severely with my depression. I feel like I’m just starting to come out of it, and looking back now I see all these things I did, said, thought, felt that just weren’t me—that weren’t the real me. It’s almost like someone inserted another person’s memories into my brain—because the real me would never do, say, think or feel those things.

Living with depression is already darkness, stumbling around with no light, dragging more and more weight behind you and on top of you every day. But it’s also doing it with no real identity—like you are nothing, nobody. Just some . . . lifeless thing.

I’m not trying to use any of this as an excuse. It’s more just self reflection and the hope that next time I will be more aware and try harder to hold onto who I am. I will try harder not to let the depression steal away who I am. Sometimes who I am is all I have.

Doing Your Best

Last Saturday I cleaned my house. At least, that was the goal. I had an event to be to that afternoon, but I thought I could get my entire house cleaned in the morning. I started with my bedroom and bathroom, had my kids clean their bathroom and help me as I started on the kitchen. I soon realized, however, there was no way I was going to get my entire house cleaned. I didn’t do a single thing in the basement which is ridiculously messy. I was so frustrated and angry at myself and hoping no one would come over that day to see how I hadn’t done enough. I’m not sure why I thought that. It’s rare for anyone but my kid’s friends to step foot in my basement, and they don’t care about the mess! But that nervous thought plagued me as I got ready to go out that afternoon.

I just read this really great article, To Women: “Doing Better Doesn’t Mean Doing More”, that has helped put my mind at ease and wanted to share, because I absolutely believe it. Sometimes we need to be told or reminded by other people. The article is by Sharon Eubank and Reyna Aburto, leaders in the women’s organizations in my church. They talked about doing our best and how that doesn’t necessarily mean doing more. Sister Aburto shared how she felt like she had so many things to do and could never accomplish them all by the end of the day. She said, “One day, I realized I will never be done. My lists will never be finished. It isn’t possible. I want to tell every woman what I have learned. You don’t have to do it all, and you are never done, and you can be okay with that, and you can accept that.” So simple, but so true. Even though I got my kitchen totally clean only a couple of days ago, there are dishes on the counter and in the sink, crumbs on the table and the floor. Even when we get something done, we’re never really done, and that’s okay. There is always more to do, and that’s okay. What we do accomplish is enough. puzzle-1727997_1920I thought of it in terms a giant puzzle that has endless pieces. If you only focus on getting the pieces in you miss the beautiful picture you’re already forming. Sometimes we can accomplish a lot, sometimes a little. It’s not about how much we get done, but simply about putting forth the effort and doing our best.

The article ended with the quote from Sister Eubank, “Try. Pray. Trust. You don’t have to do it all.” I’m trying, I’m praying, and I’m going to trust that God will help and supplement me as I do so. So today, I’m telling myself it is enough, and I’m telling you that you are enough, too.

Thief of Joy

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Recently, I thought of a quote attributed to Theodore Roosevelt. I heard it from the general primary president of the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints at our last General Conference in October. It goes, “Comparison is the thief of all joy.” Perhaps the obvious meaning of the quote is that comparing what we have to what someone else has, always thinking this person or that person has it better, doesn’t make you happy—it only makes you miserable. I think there’s more to it than that.

Some of the most miserable people I know or have met are ones who think no one has suffered the way they have, people who get upset when someone else talks about their own trials or hardships. I recently heard a woman share her outrage that her sister had the audacity to complain about how hard her life was—because apparently her sister’s life isn’t as hard as hers. I guess that means she’s the only one who has the right to complain! She said her sister has no clue how hard her life is. Well, maybe this woman has no clue how hard her sister’s life is. This sort of attitude robs you of happiness because you are dwelling on your own negativity instead of being grateful for what you do have.

Also, one of my biggest pet peeves is to hear someone say, “I’ve been through things no one else can imagine,” or, “If anyone else had been given my trials they would have given up or just died.” Well, how do you know that? How do you know how much someone else has suffered or what kind of strength they have in them to endure? Thinking this way certainly doesn’t bring strength, and it certainly doesn’t bring happiness. Maybe this will sound judgmental, but that sort of attitude reflects egotism, in my opinion. Ego definitely stands in the way of happiness.

There’s one other way I’ve found this quote to be true. And that is when we compare our hardship to others—not in a I’ve-suffered-more-than-anyone-else sort of way. In a I-shouldn’t-feel-so-bad-because-other-people-have-it-worse-than-me sort of way. A friend from high school helped teach me this lesson. It was after the second time in high school that I almost took my own life. I told her I felt bad for feeling bad—because really I had a pretty good life. I was just depressed, but I knew I shouldn’t be because there was real suffering in the world, and I was blessed to live in a first world country. She told me I shouldn’t compare my problems to other people. She said something along the lines of, “Something that’s hard for you might not be hard for someone else, but what’s hard for someone else might be easy for you. We’re all individuals, and we’re all different.”

As I’ve grown, learned, developed I’ve gained a strong belief in God’s love for all of His children. We are all important to Him as individuals, and I truly believe that He cares just as much about me as he does anyone and everyone else in the world. He cares about my own individual struggles. He cares about yours. If we are that important to Him, there’s no need to compare ourselves. Doing so only steals joy from your life. I think most of us, as humans, are pretty good at being hard on ourselves anyway. If you have mental illness, on top of that, you are probably an absolute expert! Now, that doesn’t mean it’s okay to become one of those people who says no one else has it as hard as you do, but we all have emotions, and those emotions are real. It’s okay to feel them and even, at times, let them batter and bruise you. It’s about what you do after that counts. Are you going to stay down? Are you going to wallow in misery? Or are you going to say, “Yeah, I have problems, I have trials, I have difficulties, and they are real, but I can keep going. I will keep going, and I will be grateful for the blessings I do have.”

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If comparison is the thief of all joy, then perhaps acceptance is the giver of it. Being able to say that you are good enough, that you are of worth. It’s hard. Believe me, these days I don’t feel like I’m good enough—for anything or for anyone. And I have a hard time seeing my worth in a world that seems to be full of people who are so much more amazing and better than me. But there’s that comparison—it really doesn’t help. It only brings me down. I need to work on it. Maybe we all do. And if we did, maybe we’d be a happier people, a happier world.

Is There a Point?

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Sometimes I wonder if there’s a point in continuing to do this – to do anything, really, I guess. What’s the point of any of it? I try so hard, yet I never seem to be able to move forward in life. This road I’m on is full of speed bumps of disappointment, u-turns of mistakes and crashes of hurt. How do you keep going when you see nothing but fog and darkness ahead?