Staring at the worn table I felt the waves of anger flow through my body. I slammed the heel of my hand into its unyielding weight. Again. Again. I was in my early twenties. I had a degree in a profession I wanted nothing to do with. I was working for minimum wage as a server hoping I could find fulfillment and happiness. Instead I was lonely and depressed. One critical customer that day had destroyed my fragile self esteem. Amid the raging pain, a little voice in my head whispered, “You’ll never be happy if you keep doing the same things as you’ve done in the past.”
I didn’t realize it at the time, but I was starting to see. I had been running from my pain. I had a bad experience in counseling and I was running from the depression. “The right job, the right apartment, the right ward….if I can just get the right circumstances, my depression will go away. I can get off the medication.” I kept telling myself that like a mantra. Instead I kept having to increase the dose. No matter where I went, the depression went with me. No pill would fix it, and I knew it.
The little voice spoke again, “Look at the servers in this place. They live in sin and they are happier than you. You are a covenant daughter of God. Why do you keep running from your happiness?” It was right. My hand was throbbing with pain and my brain swirled with thoughts of self-harm. It was time to stop running.
It was shortly after that experience that I started therapy with Robbin. I was terrified. He told me later that I was so uptight that he thought I would explode right there. Over the years he would become like a father to me. For the first few months he kept repeating the same phrase, “What would happen if you just gave yourself a break?” Gradually I learned to soften some of my caustic self-talk. I started to find a friend inside my head instead of a constant stream of criticism. Ironically, as I gave myself a break, I found strength to push the depression aside. I accomplished more at work and my self-esteem improved. I was able to return to teaching. For a while things were great, and then after I had children, the depression came back and I went back to counseling.
Robbin had gained my trust, but I was still very guarded about talking about my parents or my childhood. Eventually, we started exploring some of the roots of that negative self-talk; the fear that was so deeply imbedded within my psyche. And I’m still exploring that. I’ve come to deeply appreciate and love the woman I am and the ways my life has been shaped. I’ve come to trust myself and my feelings. I’ve stopped running.
When I read the chapter in Alma about Nehor, I thought about flattering words. Flattering words give us permission to keep running from the truth. Flattering words are the words we want to hear. “The problem is with this job. The problem is with this ward. The problem is with this political party. If not for those things, I would have what I want. I would have what I deserve.” Flattery allows you to see no fault in yourself, no responsibility to change, no need for introspection. The small voice that spoke truth to me in that managers office at Tony Romas was not a flattering voice. It was the voice of the truth.
Nehor is a fascinating character. His flattering words had great appeal and his teachings continued to impact the people of the Book of Mormon long after his execution for murder. In the end, some of the worst atrocities in the book were committed by the followers of Nehor. Anyone who preaches that riches are the reward of the righteous and that our leaders should be popular and given special privileges because of their position is channeling Nehor. Anyone who stirs up the people to hatred against one another is channeling Nehor. We have many voices amplified by social media that would turn us against our fellow citizens. They want to use force to suppress those who disagree with them or speak out against them. That is unrighteousness dominion. The spirit of the Lord is still and small. It is a voice of reason and persuasion. It does not force compliance but seeks consensus. Sometimes it tells us hard truths like it told me that day at Tony Romas.
I didn’t want to go back to counseling. I didn’t want to face the demons in my head. I especially didn’t want to face the dysfunction in my family of origin. That has been the hardest part of my recovery because family is such an important part of my culture. My depression has forced me to choose between loyalty to my family of origin and my own health. I chose my health because anyone who truly loves me would want me to choose that.
The Savior promised his disciples that we would be his brothers and sisters if we keep his commandments. I am in His family. He is my brother and he will not leave me comfortless in the days of my loneliness. In the depths of my sorrow he will come to me. Of all mankind he knows what loneliness feels like.
On the outside, I still look like the same person I used to be. I still attend church and live the values I was raised with. I don’t drink coffee or alcohol. I keep the Sabbath day holy. I read the Book of Mormon. I keep the covenants I made in the temple. But inside, I’m a lot different than I was twenty years ago when I started counseling with Robbin. The kindness and gentleness that I’ve cultivated toward myself makes me better able to feel genuine empathy for others. I don’t have a lot of friends. I don’t have a lot of readers. I have hardly any family still in my life. That’s okay, because I don’t need those things to be happy. Happiness comes from being your own friend.
It has become clear to me that there are some who read my blog who don’t like the person I’ve become. They wish I hadn’t gone to therapy. They wish I would not have listened to the small voice that has guided my recovery. To them, my recovery story isn’t a recovery story. It inflames their fear and causes them to lash out. If this applies to you, stop reading. Take responsibility for yourself and your feelings. Stop doing damage to our relationship because you can’t handle my expression.
This blog is intended to help others as they approach their own recovery or the recovery of a loved one from depression. I have no desire to hurt or criticize anyone. I strive to put the spirit of hate, pride, revenge, and malice far away from me. If you judge me to possess those things, it is likely that your feelings are trying to tell you something about yourself. Rather than blame me for your feelings, I suggest that you stop running from your feelings. Listen to them. Find out where they are coming from. Often the most hateful people in the world hate themselves more than anyone. They refuse themselves the right to listen to their own feelings or deny their existence at all. When I am at peace with myself, I am able to walk away from a blog I don’t like. When I feel compelled to attack the author, it is a sure sign that I need to address the reasons for my being triggered. I usually find that there is some pain I am running from. Life is too short to live at war with yourself. Start the path to healing today.
If you don’t like the ideas I present or the things I say make you uncomfortable, don’t read them. If you choose to read them and they upset you or make you angry at me, that is your problem. Also, anyone who questions my good standing in the church because I am voting for a Democrat needs to do some introspection. I suggest you meet a member of the church who is a Democrat and listen to what they have to say. You might find that they are a better member of the church than you are. The Democratic Party is not all about killing babies and taking your guns away no matter what Rush Limbaugh tells you. I think its past time we allow Democrats in the church to come out of the closet. Most of the ones I know keep quiet about their views in order to avoid the stigma. We miss out on their valuable perspective because of our prejudice against them. They have suffered greatly in the time of Trump and that should be a concern to all of us. They aren’t our political enemies, they are our brothers and sisters in Christ. My life has been blessed by my friendships with Democrats and Republicans and I’ve found that labels often hide people.
It feels good to post again. It has been a while. I hope that my expressions are acceptable before my Savior. Every twist and turn in my recovery, he has been by my side. In the depths of my despair, he has not abandoned me. Blessed be the name of Him who is Mighty to Save.