For today I'm going to point you all to the article in this month's Ensign. I was so happy to discover the article, "Bipolar Disorder: My Lessons in Love, Hope, and Peace".
Something I'm glad the author pointed out:
"Mental illness is unique from other human frailties since it can impair our ability to think, reason, and feel the Spirit. I believe it is for this reason that mental illness is often feared and misunderstood. We live in a wonderful time when the Lord has blessed us with all the marvels of modern science, including improved medication. Where mental illness might once have destroyed lives, many of those who deal with it can now control their illness and live relatively normal lives" (p 66).
These ideas cannot be reiterated enough! I hope many, many readers make it to that page of their Ensign--it will save those of us with mood disorders and mental illnesses so much breath!
"The gospel teaches us about perfection and the joy that comes with it, but some of us expect perfection of ourselves instead of seeking to be perfected in Christ. I struggled with the large gap between perfection and where I perceived I stood, made even more obvious by my illness. I regained hope when I realized that although sin is an imperfection, not all imperfection is sin" (p 63, emphasis mine).
I love that! For a long time I kept wondering what the magical spiritual bullet would be for my depression. If I prayed harder, studied my scriptures more, or was better at sharing the gospel, or had more kids, or whatever, I thought God would fix me. I thought that my imperfection was sin and that I could make it disappear through good works. Not so.
Which brings me to another favorite part:
"When the Savior was asked, 'Master, who did sin, this man, or his parents, that he was born blind?' He answered, 'Neither hath this man sinned, nor his parents: but that the works of God should be made manifest in him' (John 9:2–3). Mental illness is not a punishment from God, but His works are manifest in each of us when we allow the Atonement to work in our lives. We may not be healed immediately as the blind man was, but no matter what pain we bear, the Savior will heal us. Through His love and sacrifice we can find strength to overcome our trials, since He has already 'overcome the world' (D&C 50:41)" (p 67).
That part actually makes me cry. I love the idea that my struggles aren't punishment or just part of our crazy, hard, fallen world. My struggles are part of God's plan and actually, amazingly, are a way for Him--and maybe even me?--to testify to the world of His goodness and love. Blows my mind how God can take hardship and ugliness and make them right and wonderful. That is the power of the Atonement. That is the power of Jesus Christ. It is my prayer that we can all find a way to access that power in our most blinding and discouraging down times.