I've been thinking about all the reasons that have prevented me from taking an anti-depressant all these years. I started the excavation of all those ideas in my first Humble Pie post, but there were a lot more. They were always so nebulous, but a phone conversation with a trusted friend helped me crystallize my thinking and I came out feeling that I knew myself better. I'll share my thoughts with you if you promise not to laugh at me for being a weirdo.
I'm starting with this one because it's probably the one that startled me the most when I heard it coming out of my mouth. I've been dealing with the illness so long and have been so open about it, that I have really started to identify myself as a depressed person who makes the best of it. The love and positive feedback I get from friends about how bravely I face this challenge has become a bit of an addiction. My inner martyr just loves the attention. Could it be, I wondered, that I'm so content with the counterfeit happiness of praise, that I'm actually not willing so seek healing anymore? I know. It's so sick.
My second identity question has a little more credence. There have been so many real and wonderful compensatory blessings flowing from this disease. As Ether 12:27 teaches, this weakness brings me to my knees over and over, teaches me humility every day, gives me gratitude for those who help me, and keeps me from forgetting how pathetically dependent I am on the Lord's grace. I wondered where all those blessings would go if my struggle with depression ended. In the end, I had faith in the adversary to present me with plenty of opportunities for humility and growth. That's his job, not mine.
"There should be a blood test," my friend told me, and she's absolutely right. Depression is such a subjective thing. I was diagnosed with depression after a couple of sessions with an LCSW. I told my doctor, who will prescribe anything I ask him for, that I wanted an antidepressant, and he really didn't even ask me any questions before scribbling my prescription. What if I'm not really depressed? What if I'm too lazy to create lasting happiness, or too negative and ungrateful to see my blessings?
I grew up laughing at people who need a pill to feel good, at a society that over-prescribes pharmaceuticals. Doesn't everyone suffer? Why should I be different?
I believe this paradygm has kept some of my dearest loved ones from seeking treatment, and I've thought all these years I was smarter than that--truthfully it's been influencing me anyway.
But when I'm honest with myself, if a doctor told me I was not depressed, that I was just too lazy or too negative--I would know he was wrong. I know the truth about who I am and what I struggle with. And that's enough for me now. I don't have to prove myself to anyone.
"Existential" being the only one-word title I could come up with that conveys the idea that I'm depressed because I deserve to be depressed.
This one was tough to pinpoint, because it goes against everything Jesus Christ wants me to know about myself. But it's been there all the time anyway, subtly and constantly influencing my decisions for my whole life.
I don't remember ever feeling like I was good enough, even when I was very, very young. I've only ever seen my failings and weaknesses, and so when things go wrong in my life, I'm not really surprised. It kind of seems like if I could just be a better person, I'd be happier. And so I try harder, I run faster, I pray longer, and when I'm still unhappy it's just another failure.
Depression is so very difficult to distinguish from spiritual problems. We talk every week in church about how unhappy we are when we're not living gospel principles. And so if happiness is not a good yardstick for worthiness, then what is?
I'm working on this one, and I don't have all the answers yet. But I'm trying to take my worthiness on the word of those who know me best: my bishop, my parents, my siblings, my friends, my wonderful husband. Heavenly Father, too, makes contact once every ten years or so to tell me what I'm really worth to Him--and I treasure those experiences with all my heart.
And what if my depression does stem in some part from some of my own bad choices? Does Heavenly Father want me to punish myself by not seeking treatment? Of course He doesn't. He wants me to repent. He wants me to trust in Christ's grace to make me clean. He wants me to be as happy as I can.
If my sister were in my shoes, I'd tell her to be nice to herself. So I finally decided to cut myself some slack. I decided to assume the best about myself and to get the treatment that might just lift my burden. I finally decided to be kind to myself.
And for those of you still reading and just dying to know how my medication is working--haha!--it's working great. It took five whole weeks to kick in, and then one Sunday, I felt normal and cautiously optimistic. Then I had a normal Monday, Tuesday, Wednesday and so on until today. I feel whole and well.
I still cry sometimes--my family is still in turmoil and there's still grieving to get through--but I only cry for good reasons now, and I don't carry the constant weight of despair. I feel emotionally sound and strong. And that's way more valuable than my pride, any day.