Friday, January 16, 2009

We interrupt your regularly scheduled post for a Depression Profile

I know, I know. I was going to be all regular about my posting and I'm sure all of you are expecting the another But Not Unhappy Science Friday, but I have another Depression Profile to share with you and I was just so excited I couldn't wait! I love it when we share our stories. We all have so much to learn from each other.

Name: Courtney
Age: 24
Location: Colorado

I was officially diagnosed with Bipolar disorder, OCD, and anxiety disorder when I was 15 years old. Currently my psychiatrist does not believe that I have bipolar, she has suggested that perhaps I was diagnosed too young and I just have depression with OCD and anxiety. I have been this way since I was very little according to my mother. I first noticed it when I was probably about 12 or 13. As a child I was rapid cycling bipolar so my moods shifted quickly, sometimes several times a day and sometimes just several times over a few days. After I had my son I suffered from severe post partum, which was exacerbated by a lot of external forces at the time. I also suffered from severe post partum right after I had my daughter 9 months ago. I think I am still feeling a bit of that.

My worst days vary. Sometimes it means I feel totally hopeless and spend a lot of time crying and sitting at the computer. I just meet my children’s basic needs and I feel a lot of guilt. Sometimes I get really hostile and angry. It seems I have no fuse and no filter. I say whatever comes into my head and I feel myself loose control quickly. Then I feel a lot of guilt for being so mean and upsetting my family.

My best days I feel like I am okay, I feel happy and hopeful. I feel like I want to go places and see people. I want to be part of society and I am pleasant and I actually laugh about things! I am more patient as well.

I have seen several therapists and psychiatrists. I took meds for bipolar at age 15 switching between several to find the right ones. I stopped treatment at 18, then went back when I was pregnant with my son. I was terrified that I would have severe postpartum because I was predisposed to it with the bipolar. I started taking meds the minute he was born, but stopped them when he was 6 months old. That was a mistake. I spiraled down fast and I was out of control miserable. I tried to go back and get help at the mental health center in [my town] but had a horrible experience. I was having a lot of rage. I felt out of control and I was trying to find a way to help and feel less angry, I explained what was going on that I had lost it and smacked my sons hand after he pulled all the wipes out of the box for the millionth time and she called social services. They came to my house and looked at my son and thankfully closed the case. But I was terrified and the damage was done. I was too afraid to go back and get the help I needed. Anyway right after my daughter was born I went back and got help again. I currently see a psychiatrist for meds and I see a therapist once a week.

The medication has always been iffy for me because I hate taking it so a lot of times I would forget or stop treatment before it had time to work. I cannot really remember my childhood reaction because I was not really sure what was wrong. Therapy has always been a great tool for me and really just good friends who are willing to talk and accept me the way I am without a stigma. I am trying medication again because I am tired of trying to control it all on my own. With two children life is so much more complex. There’s no time for insanity. Especially since my husband is in school full time (night classes) and he works full time. I am also a part time student. Its hectic.

I think I always felt extreme guilt for what I lacked. I searched for the Spirit and always felt that I had a special connection with God because I really felt He was the one person who truly understood me and knew the real me. I felt great compassion for others and I really did feel connected to the spirit. I had a lot of time with prayers though. I tried to pray but could not quiet my mind enough to hear the answers. I always doubted and never really felt sure I was getting and answer.
I was always feeling that if I just did more, tried harder, maybe I would feel better. I never felt like I measured up. I obsessed over not being righteous enough. I worried about not fitting in with people at Church. They seemed so happy and perfect and I was so NOT. I always sensed the fa├žade that members put on. So many people were afraid to tell the real truth about things like mental illness or anything that would be perceived as imperfect. [Laura's note: That's one thing I'm trying to help with at the But Not Unhappy Blog. Mental illness and mood disorders are NOT sins! We can talk about it and reach out to each other.]

I left the church a year ago for one reason; I just didn’t believe that Joseph Smith was a prophet anymore. I read a lot of historical materials about the Church and about Joseph and I just could not make my new vision of all that fit with the vision I had grown up with.

It was devastating because it made me question the reality of God which sent me into a deeper depression. I relied so heavily on God for so many years and suddenly I felt cut off. I was lost. I still am in a lot of ways. I worry about it all the time. I obsess over his reality and what comes after this life. Sometimes I get so wrapped up in it, it sinks me and I feel so hopeless. I am trying at the moment to find God again, taking baby steps just to get some of what I lost back.
Since leaving the Church my guilt has gone away. I don’t feel so bad because I don’t set myself up to a standard that for me was impossible to reach. I am better able to accept my flaws and imperfections.

I wish there was not such a stigma attached to bipolar. To me depression alone seems a little more common these days, but bipolar is still very stereotyped, and feared. I wish people knew that being bipolar doesn’t make you psycho, it just means you are overly moody. I just wish people had more of an open mind and heart to people who are suffering from afflictions like this.


I want to thank Courtney for sharing her story and being honest about her experiences with the Church. While not all depressed people have the same experiences, I think it is valuable to all of us to see the other viewpoints. I'm sending Courtney lots of good vibes and wish her luck in her search for God. I know He will guide her and reach out to her. Thanks Courtney!

6 comments:

Kelly said...

Best wishes, Courtney, and thanks for sharing your story. One thing I know for sure is that Heavenly Father is just that -- a father who absolutely cherishes His children. You are His beautiful daughter who He loves deeply. My hope for you is that you will feel His love in your life and know He is watching over you.

Coffinberry said...

Ah, (among other good things--thanks for sharing!) a reminder to leave room in my teaching to children about Joseph Smith for him to be the imperfect volatile person that he was, so that there's not such a shock when one "grows up" to read history about him. (Leaving room, so to speak, is not so much about teaching that he was a flawed human like the rest of us, but instead simply avoiding beatifying him out of his humanity.)

As for the facade... I have been in the past keenly aware of the facade I put up. I wonder if it is more a wall to keep others out, a buttress to keep myself standing, a hypocritical mask pretending to be what I am not, or a practical application of the adage "fake it 'til you make it" or all of the above. Most likely all of the above, in different proportions over time.

Is our understanding of other people supposed to include a penetration of the facades they put forth? (And I suppose this goes to Joseph Smith, in some ways, as much as for one another.) Clearly, God can see through our facade; but I wonder if the fact of facades (and that we cannot see ourselves as others see us) is part of the mortal veil we accepted. My mind and heart ponder views on this from literature: C.S. Lewis tells us that we must make our choices and live our lives without (despite not?) knowing others' stories; O.S. Card shows us that healing takes place when -- after a person's death -- we seek to understand their story; M. L'Engle points out that we are intimately connected in every act. How accountable are we for giving faces to the hearts around us? (Or conversely, giving hearts to the faces around us?)

Courtney said...

Kelly as in kelly Mielstrup?? If so I know you! You used to play the piano for me when I sang in church... if not sorry for the mistake!

Kelly said...

Yep, that's me! Great to see you here! We miss you a lot!

Anonymous said...

We are told often that our path to God is our own and we cannot worry about what other people think, that this is an individual journey. That is hard to do when as a member of the LDS church we aren't alone. We interact with other members of our church on an almost daily basis. It is hard to not worry what they are thinking, or take their negative comments to heart. This isn't exactly an individual journey in the LDS church.

Thank you for your words. I have felt the same things you do often. Sometimes I think I would feel less guilty and bad about myself if I didn't have to interact with so many people who make it look easy.

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