Ever since I was a little girl, I have had a love for and fascination with budgies. They are smart, small, and incredibly adorable. They can talk, they can sit on your shoulder, they bond well to their owners. More than that though, they can also live in the wild. They are native to Australia where they pfly in flocks of hundreds of birds. As a girl, I used to read books about them and when I grew up, I bought one of my own which I named Feathers. Ben and I taught him to say “Hi” and whistle. In my research I learned that budgies hardly ever act sick. This is an evolutionary thing. If you act sick, you get targeted by predators, so a bird can be very sick with a respiratory illness, but they look fine until one day they drop dead. People are like that with depression.
I listen to a podcast called, “Therefore What?” that is done by the opinion editor of the Deseret News. The Deseret News is pretty amazing, and this podcast never disappoints in giving me plenty to think about. In the last podcast I listened to, there was an interview with a lady named Jane Johnson who wrote a book called “Silent Souls Weeping.” It is the product of a three year investigation into the issue of depression in the LDS community. It contains the stories of many many people who have suffered with depression among us.
The overwhelming message that is coming to me from so many places is to stop keeping the secrets, start sharing and don’t hold anything back. People should not be like budgies. We need to share our pain and offer one another assistance. We need to allow ourselves to engage in what Jane Johnson calls, courageous vulnerability.
Of course, that is kind of what this blog is all about. Still, most of my posts have lacked a lot of specificity. I don’t want to reveal everything because I don’t want to be judged. I have spent fifteen years and more dealing with these issues. I have spent thousands of dollars on medication and therapy, and I’m still getting treatment. There is so much I don’t understand about myself and my story and the people who played parts in it. I’ve come to a place where I love my parents and accept them for exactly who they are in their perfect imperfection. They are wonderful grandparents to my four boys and are very supportive and helpful even though they don’t understand what’s wrong with me. We have reached an understanding that we agree to disagree about certain things in my treatment. I risk offending them by revealing more about myself and my story which involves them, and yet, I think, what is the point of all this? Why am I writing if I’m not going to be real about how I got to this place? How are we going to shed light on the real issues if we can’t even talk about them? How will we root out the mental plagues that spread among us, if we refuse to acknowledge to ourselves and one another, the shape of the disease and all of its contributing factors?
In sharing some of the more personal and vulnerable parts of my story, I’m going to be addressing some very uncomfortable topics that will require nuanced thought and careful wording. I might come across at times as judgmental or condescending. That is not my intent. I don’t pretend to be an expert on these subjects which are incredibly complex. I don’t want to shame anyone or slap generalized labels on large swaths of people. I only want to share my journey in hopes that it will spur important conversations about ways that we can foster greater mental and emotional wellness in our families, our congregations, and our communities.
There are budgies among us that fall every day. They are mothers, fathers, sisters, brothers, sons, daughters, and friends. Being open and honest about the diseases of depression, trauma, PTSD, and other common mental and emotional problems is hard, but it’s so important. Its the only way we can change the culture, break down the stigma, and find our way through this modern challenge. It will take courage, introspection, and sometimes repentance and reliance on the atonement of our Savior to make things right. I believe as I share my story I can help bring about a healthier society.
I am hoping to write a little each day about some of the root causes of my depression, some of the patterns I have observed in my life, and some of the challenges I have faced. Some of the stuff I need to talk over with family members before I can post, so the timeline might be a little weird. I might write something, but not be able to post it for a month or something.
I will talk frankly about abuse in families that masquerades as discipline and the consequences it can have on a child. I will explore the nuance of abuse and abusers and the misconceptions that many have about what an abuser is and what abusive relationships look like. I don’t have a lot of simple stories with tidy characters and easy answers. Some of the stories will be from my childhood. Some will be from my experiences in the schools. Some of them will be about my therapy. Hopefully it will demystify some of the treatment of depression, PTSD, and anxiety.
I pray that my words might be a balm and not a bruise to my readers. I hope that hearts will be softened, minds opened, and lives changed as we explore my life and experiences. Everything that has happened in my life is a gift. I share it with you, along with the parents, teachers, friends, and family members that contributed. The Savior’s words echo in the chambers of my heart, “Judge not that ye be not judged, for I alone can see into the hearts of men. Let your heart be full of my Love which springs forth as rushing water.”