Monday, March 31, 2008

Every story counts

So I was thinking about Wendy, you know, the woman from the hack job article ran by abcnews, and how hard it must have been for her to share her story. She was pretty honest about her experiences with depression and the Mormon culture and I think that took a lot of courage. I feel like hearing Wendy's story (such as it was, sandwiched between those slabs of yellow journalism)broadened my thinking on these issues. I'd really like that to happen more.

So, in that spirit I've decided to start running short profiles of other depressed LDS people. Everyone's experience with depression is different. Depression occupies that netherworld where body spirit and mind meet and that can get pretty complicated. Hopefully, hearing other people's stories will help break down the stereotypes that currently pervade and distort the discussion of what it means to be depressed and LDS. (Note: I made up the questions myself and I haven't edited the answers at all.)

Here's the first profile:

Name: Charlotte
Age: 29
Location: Minnesota

1. Have you ever been officially diagnosed? How do you classify your depression? (i.e. post partum depression, anxiety/depression, clinical depression, etc.)
I don't suppose I ever have been "officially" diagnosed although I don't think anyone doubts that I've had at least 3 serious bouts of depression. I would categorize mine as anxiety/depression - heavy on the anxiety.

2.How long have you been depressed?
As long as I can remember? Seriously - I've always been an intense kid. Although if you are asking about this current bout of depression, maybe 6 months.

3.What kind of treatments have you pursued?
Therapy, drugs (I'm currently on Wellbutrin, have done Celexa in the past), and lots of other remedies like exercise, gratitude journaling, prayer & scripture study, priesthood blessings, eating more Omega-3s, getting 8 hours of a sleep a night, calling my sister 10 times a day. All that good stuff.

4.How have those treatments worked for you?
Different things have worked at different points in my life depending on the source of my depression. When my depression is situation specific (like now) then a combination of drugs & therapy seem to help best. When I just get into a funk (I swear I have Seasonal Affective Disorder), then the other stuff like exercise & service & lots of sex help the best (yeah, I just said sex.)

5.How do you feel your depression has affected your spirituality?
I feel less spiritual when I'm depressed. I feel like I'm living at the bottom of a well and only seeing life through a tiny circle at the top. Kinda hard to feel the spirit when you are focused the whole time on sitting in a dank puddle. That said, when I'm depressed I am more likely to reach out to those around me for spiritual support. It's as if I know I can't sustain my own spirituality so I ask them to help me. And it does help. I would also like to add that no matter how depressed I've been I've never lost my testimony. Just my will to improve it, I suppose.

6. What do you wish other people understood about depression?
That I need help even when I don't ask for it. That I may joke about it but it really does hurt. That my body often shows the signs before I'm mentally aware of them, so if you notice something you should tell me (is it weird that I have that little self insight?). That I still need opportunities to serve. Don't release me from my calling. Please do call me when there is a compassionate service need in the ward. That somebody truly listening is really the best thing you can do for me. Well, that and babysit:)

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