Right after I posted my magical formula for mental wellness on Facebook, I started drowning again. I cried in the morning. I cried at night. And in my prayers, I cried out in frustration and pleading. Why, after all these years, am I still wrestling with depression? I thought I had already slain this beast! How many times must I experience the disappointment of failure after the elation of success?
Maybe, I asked myself, in the remotest corner of my mind, maybe I'm just lazy? Maybe, with all my openness about my condition, and all the many people who love and support me through it, I have allowed depression to be what we all fear it will become: a crutch.
For days this question hovered over me, until one dark night, I had to voice it and see what would happen. And as always, TJ was there to hear my darkest fear and to defend me against it.
He was the first of many voices raised in my defense during this time. One particularly tough morning I spent about an hour in my room trying to put myself together in time for home school. As I prayed, an inarticulate wish issued from my heart that a friend would reach out to me. TJ was morally obligated to love and support me, and so were my parents and siblings. But my sick mind reasoned that if someone outside that circle could show concern, I might feel that I was worth something to the world at large.
Within two hours the Lord sent two loving friends to me with messages of love, validation, and encouragement. One showed up with a sugar cookie and a long note of thanks for my friendship, emphasizing how she felt the Lord must be pleased with me. When I asked later how she had known I needed help that day, she said she had received a distinct impression that I needed to hear from her. Then TJ's cousin called out of the blue. We are about as close as two distantly related women can be, who see each other only every one or two years--and I mean that without sarcasm. So to have a long phone conversation with her about my struggles was uplifting as it was unique.
Their message? That I am not failing. That I am doing good, in spite of, and maybe even because of this weakness. That the Lord is pleased with how hard I try. And that it's making me into a better person.
Two other friends I've heard from in the past two weeks have been Chad Webb and Elder Jeffery R. Holland, speaking in separate meetings with seminary teachers and spouses. So, full disclosure, they weren't speaking to me personally. But it felt that way. Elder Holland's strength and conviction and tenderness sank deep into my soul and gave me strength, as it always does. Brother Webb's teachings on the Atonement surprised me by offering a completely new perspective. He quoted a conference talk by Merrill J. Bateman called "A Pattern for All"
For many years I thought of the Savior’s experience in the garden and on the cross as places where a large mass of sin was heaped upon Him. Through the words of Alma, Abinadi, Isaiah, and other prophets, however, my view has changed. Instead of an impersonal mass of sin, there was a long line of people, as Jesus felt “our infirmities” (Heb. 4:15), “[bore] our griefs, … carried our sorrows … [and] was bruised for our iniquities” (Isa. 53:4–5).
Mind. Blown. I have been taught all my life that Jesus Christ bore my sins, infirmities, griefs and even sicknesses, and yet when I heard this quote, my vision expanded. Christ really does completely remember what it's like to be in my shoes. And that means that I am not alone.
Not being alone means that Jesus Christ is sending help every day. It means He inspires loved ones to help in ways that are meaningful to me. It means that He teaches TJ the perfect words to say that will help me to heal, time after time after time--and it means that He will strengthen TJ to bear the weight of my sickness so he can always be there for me. It means that He is pleading for my redemption before the Father. It means that he is suffering beside me, and when the Father sees fit to give me a respite from the pain, Christ is bearing the whole of it.
Jesus Christ gives me hope. I may never be completely whole in my lifetime. I will most certainly experience the joys and sorrows of mortality in one form or another, until my earthly mission is fulfilled. But in the meantime, these struggles are not in vain. If they do nothing else, they humble me and show me His hand in my life. And that truly makes it all worthwhile.