Wednesday, January 7, 2009

Depression in the Ensign: "Not all imperfection is sin."

For a long time I was under the impression that being depressed and being a good latter-day saint was impossible. I thought maybe it wasn't okay to take medication because it meant I was lacking faith or that if I admitted my problems out loud it would mean I was a sinner. Then a few years ago, it was in the October 2005 Ensign actually, the Church ran an article about depression that helped me realize how off-base my fears were. Perhaps individual members would think those negative things about me, but the Church--the actual apostles and prophet, the people who are closest to Christ and Heavenly Father and KNOW the Truth about things--wouldn't think that way. Since then I've been referring people to the few Ensign articles I've been aware of to help dispel false notions and misunderstandings. In my research I discovered that the Ensign has covered depression, mood disorders, and mental illness a number of times. So I am going to do a running feature here on the ol' blog. Every Wednesday, for the next while anyway, you can look forward to summaries of and links to helpful Ensign and New Era articles.

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.


smdc said...

Wow. Your thoughts are so insightful. Thank you for your courage to share with all of us who usually "lurk" in the shadows. I'd love to have you link to me!

K said...

My friend, the one with depression and anorexia, once asked me, "Who am I? Am I myself with the depression? Or am I myself when I take the meds? Which one is really me?"

It was an interesting question, one that I'd never seen the shape of before. I'm still thinking about it, years later. I suppose my formal answer would be that whatever gets the body out of the way of the spirit frees your self up. But the state of living is a complex and difficult thing.

I like the way you write/think. Thanks

Courtney said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
Courtney said...

I ask that questions alot. I have lived so much of my life this way that I feel like I am always in a huge identity crisis! I hate the idea of taking meds that alter who I am, or at least who i know myself to be. I have gained a strange comfort from the me that I have always been.
I wonder has anyone had trouble getting answers to paryers... I mean does mental illness cause you to doubt more? Because you spend so much time being unsure of what kind of person you are and how you are really feeling?
When I was part of the church I was so sure I was feeling the spirit. It was so real for me. I was never sure about prayers though.
Now I look back and wonder if its just the way I thought I was supposed to feel. If I just felt comfort because I thought something outside myself had the power to help me. Once that hope was gone I didnt feel anything anymore even when I tried...

Michael said...

You look and sound like a bright, beautiful, intelligent woman. It's unfortunate that you are unable to see that biggest reason for your depression is your inability to live the teachings of your church. But don't feel bad, nobody can. You will never be a good enough wife or mother as long as you are LDS.

I know this because I am a former Mormon who suffers from depression. For the most part my depression is caused by physical problems with my brain and didn't completely go away when I left the LDS church but I can tell you that it got much better. In addition, my need for anxiety medication greatly diminished.

I hesitate to say this, because I know this is hard to hear, but the LDS church is not what it claims to be and you are wasting your time, energy, and money by being a member.

Good luck. I hope you find the answers you so desperately need.