Hide and seek

After several months of pronounced depression this winter, I finally sat down on the bed next to my husband and confessed just how bad things had gotten. “I keep thinking about death,” I said.

“Death in general, or your own death?” he asked.

“Both.”

He paused. “Do you ever think about hurting yourself?”

I hesitated. “Yes.”

His face fell, as I knew it would. That’s why I’d avoided telling him for so long—I didn’t want him to carry the burden of this knowledge. I’d told my therapist and my psychiatrist and even my general practitioner about my morbid fixation, because I felt unsafe being in my head with my twisted thoughts. I needed someone with a clear mind to know what was happening, so that they could help protect me from it. Telling my doctors helped—a lot. But telling Reed brought an extra measure of relief. I was done hiding. The secret was out.

It wasn’t easy, though. Telling Reed made the problem more real, and forced both of us to take a close look at the risks we were facing and what we could do about them. My last shreds of denial were ripped away. And Reed had the whiplash which comes from sudden unpleasant revelation—he’d known I was struggling, but suicidal ideation meant I was in a completely different league than he’d thought.

As we sat on our bed together, we considered the possibility that I might need inpatient psychiatric care. I didn’t think I needed to take that drastic step, not yet. But I realized that I wasn’t far from needing to. I promised Reed and myself that if things got any worse, I would let him and my doctors know, and willingly accept hospitalization.

“But here’s the problem,” he said. “You want to do the right thing. And right now you feel confident that you will. But what about later on? How do you know you’ll be willing and able to take that step after things have gotten worse?”

My mouth went dry. He was absolutely right. Standing where I was, I was sure I wouldn’t let myself hurt myself. I was confident I would take whatever drastic measures were necessary to protect myself when and if danger became imminent. But I couldn’t predict how I would be thinking and feeling once I reached imminent danger. There was a very real possibility that by the time I was deeply in harm’s way, I would no longer be capable of or interested in saving myself.

Reed and I looked at each other, frightened. We both realized how vulnerable both of us were. “I wish you had told me sooner,” he said. I wished I had, too. Had I told him sooner, both of us would’ve had to face painful reality at an earlier stage of danger. We could’ve stepped up protective measures when I wasn’t so close to panic time. Having my doctors know wasn’t the same as having my husband know, the person most invested in my well-being and most able to intervene quickly if the need arose.

And that, I realized, was the real reason why I hadn’t told him sooner. I didn’t want to upset him, no. But I also didn’t want him to interfere. Even though I was unsettled about the path I was on, a significant part of me wanted to stay on it. I hid the truth primarily not for his sake, but for my own. Yet that hiding, which I thought was an act of preservation, was in truth an act of destruction. I was in the grips of self-delusion, telling myself I was being honest and upfront (after all, my doctors knew), but withholding information from the one person it would affect the most.

It was sobering to realize how deliberate, subtle, and perilous my cover-up had been regarding the depth of my depression. It was equally sobering to realize that over the course of many months, I’d been engaging in similar self-delusions about other weighty matters in my life. Time and again, I’d stepped onto ground that was both pleasing and uncomfortable. I’d mitigated the discomfort by releasing just enough of the secret to keep the pressure down. But I’d withheld the truth where it mattered most, so that I could prolong the so-called pleasure, the pleasure of my own undoing.

My blunt conversation with Reed helped me turn a corner. A few weeks previous my doctor had increased my dosage of antidepressants (again), but it the updose hadn’t yet taken effect (it can take several weeks for antidepressants to kick in). Reed and I both knew that if I didn’t start feeling better soon—very soon—I would need another updose, as well as additional preventative measures during the waiting period. Thankfully, within days the medication was doing its work. The threat of suicide significantly receded. I felt much safer, and so did Reed. We took steps to address the other areas of concern in my life and in our marriage, with beautiful results. But I don’t think either of us will ever be the same.

That’s a good thing, though. I hope I’ve learned from my mistakes. I hope I’ve realized how stupid and dangerous it is to pretend things aren’t as bad as they are. I hope I better understand the connection between truth and self-protection, and the vital role confession plays. It doesn’t matter if the problem is depression, or doubt, or sin—whenever I start hiding something, I begin a downward spiral that won’t break until I do the painful work of admitting the truth. And the longer I wait, the closer I will be to destroying myself, and the harder it will be to stop it.

The threat of self-deception, and how to thwart it: Discuss.

About Kathryn Soper

(Founding Editor) is the author of the memoir The Year My Son and I Were Born (Globe Pequot Press, 2009) and the editor of four published anthologies. She contributes to Mormon forums from Meridian Magazine to Sunstone on a variety of topics including gender issues, disability, mental health, sexuality, family life, and spirituality.

63 thoughts on “Hide and seek

  1. I think you nailed it: Unlocking the Silence.

    Wow. I was so drawn in to your post. I have also been depressed but have NEVER thought of hurting myself (physically). Maybe I haven’t experienced that kind of depression or maybe some people just naturally have a heightened sense of self-preservation no matter what the situation. So stepping away from the depression/suicide and encompassing all aspects of our lives where we hide and hurt, I think the only way to heal and grow is to speak. Sometimes those first words are gut-wrenching, heart-stopping and more physically painful than we could ever imagine. I can feel my throat tighten and ache as I think about it.
    What do we hide? Why do we hide? Who do we hide from? (besides ourself?) Answering these questions out loud may be the answer, and they might just have to be vocalized to an “emotionally uninvolved” party first. (i.e. therapist, neighbor, friend.) But, I think you really unearthed the major thwart: talking to the person who is as intimately connected to the problem/solution/outcome as you are.

    You are brave.

  2. i think it’s so wonderful the way your husband has/is responding. from the description here you have an imitable relationship. i wish i had that same response from mine when i confide about my depression. i’ve only had two moments in my life, both in recent months, when i felt that impulsive “just drive off the overpass” kind of feeling. i was shocked by it, and not at all close to doing it. but it surprised me to find myself in that state, and gave me insight into how others must feel at times. your thoughts here were very helpful for me. besides depression, what other ares do i hide the truth from myself? i have a long history of hiding from the truth in my life…starting as a child with an abusive father. in my current life, i may be hiding from truths about my marriage situation. part of me figures i’ll just know when/if the situation needs to change. part of me wonders if that’s just the fear talking. it’s hard to sort out sometimes.

    it took a lot of courage for you to tell your spouse. i’m glad he responded the way he did for you. and that you’re having the insights you need to have about the situation. with depression, i’ve found that it’s very difficult to feel the spirit on a consistent basis. it’s like i can only catch a glimpse of his shadow, but rarely the true form. just wandering through life numb to most everything except sadness. only the peak moments of joy and peace dent the cocoon of depression. but i recognize intellectually the guidance that our loving father is providing to me. it takes conscious effort to notice, but i am able to when i make time to look for it. it’s more an intellectual experience than a feeling though.

    is this just me, or do you feel like that too?

  3. I went through this when I was pregnant and had pregnancy induced depression and anxiety. I did end up hospitalized for 3 days. It was awful, but saved me. The anxiety and insomnia (one week of almost no sleep– almost 24/7 of severe anxiety) were too much and my body and mind kept coming up with ways to end the misery. The feelings and ideas scared me, so I told my husband and doctor. I went to the hospital and finally slept…

    I love this post because you are a wonderful, successful mother and that helps me accept that I am, too. I’m afraid to tell my new friends about this because I don’t want to be judged. I’m just a normal girl who went through some awful pregnancy crap. I really appreciate reading what you went though and felt. It makes me feel so much better about myself.

    I wonder if I’ll be brave enough to do pregnancy again.

  4. Thank you for this raw and beautiful post Kathy.

    For me, telling someone is the first and biggest step to recovery. But it’s so hard. Because I have to truly admit it to myself first.

    Ruth– I found your comment so interesting. I was extremely depressed at the end of my pregnancies but I thought it was a reaction to simply feeling terrible physically. I remember asking my husband, “Why don’t more pregnant women commit suicide?” Yeah, I’m realizing now that isn’t normal. I hear that doctors are more in tune to prenatal depression now– I hope so.

  5. Michelle:

    I think doctors are more aware of prenatal depression. I could have used a little more support/acceptance from some of my doctors though. This book was published while I was pregnant and I read it at the end of pregnancy. It is a very helpful, comforting explanation of mental health during pregnancy. It was a big part of my healing and acceptance process that still continues. :)

    Understanding Your Moods When You’re Expecting: Emotions, Mental Health, and Happiness — Before, During, and After Pregnancy
    by Lucy J. Puryear

  6. I was really shocked when I read this post. I hope that doesn’t make me a bad person, and I hope I don’t seem judgmental. I’ve heard that clinical depression is a real issue for many LDS women (and others, of course) and seems to be a common thread among posters here, but it was still a jolt to read such raw honesty. I suppose it frightens me because it forces me to realize that if beautiful, talented women with lovely families can harbor such thoughts and feelings and impulses, why not me? Why not my mother? Why not the sisters I visit teach?

    And I suppose that’s the whole point, isn’t it? We don’t know who’s hiding. Or what. Which is why empathy, compassion, and sensitivity are all the more important.

  7. This reminds me so much of the time when bulimia controlled my life. Even though it was literally killing me, I didn’t want anyone to know, because then they’d interfere and make me stop. And even though once people knew, I got some help and got some control back in my life, there were SO MANY times when I would think, “I wish I never told them.” Because their knowledge interfered with my ability to just spiral back into it.

    Beautiful post.

  8. Kathryn, I could write back to you all day long and not share everything I’m thinking. It was so courageous of you to share this, thank you.

    Having been down the road of major depression, for me not telling those close to me about suicidal thoughts was a way to preserve the last ounce of hope and control. That was my ace in the hole, so to speak. I knew if the depression got any worse, if I couldn’t catch a breath, if I really really couldn’t stand it anymore, there was that way out. But if others knew and prevented me from taking that step then I would have no last resort to escape the emotional pain that haunted me constantly.

    Thankfully it has been a long time since I have been severely depressed, but it is a monster that chases me throughout my days. I literally have learned to run from it, exercise keeps it at bay, as well as the emotionally healthy habits I learned in therapy. I know that isn’t what works for everyone but it is what works for me. I am so glad you are finding what works for you.

    The question of self-deception and the comments reminded me of confessing to the bishop a great sin. I won’t go into detail, but it was something that very much effected my life. It made me feel unworthy in everything I did, despite my efforts to be obedient and faithful. On the outside I seemed to be perfect, inside there was that creeping horrid sin I knew I needed to rid myself of. Speaking to the bishop about it seemed as impossible as climbing Kilimanjaro. Yet, I just couldn’t shake the sin on my own, no matter how hard I tried. When I did finally tell the bishop it was out of sheer despiration and the depths of humility. It was one simple meeting – he basically told me to go my way and sin no more. And I did. Shackles removed, ugly truth cleansed by being aired in the light.

    These experiences with sin and depression happened over a decade ago, but are lasting reminders to me that the truth has set me free.

  9. Jenny: You’re right–speaking to an “emotionally uninvolved” party can be a good first step, but it is only a first step. I didn’t want that to be true. I even found it easier to speak with my bishop than my husband about some issues. Although it was still very uncomfortable in that throat-tightening way you so aptly described to be open with the bishop, and I worried about possible consequences to my confession, at least he wouldn’t be personally affected by the news. Thank you for your insight.

    anon: Yes, I feel the same way when I’m depressed: spiritually stunted. All the things that once brought me strength and comfort (prayer, scriptures, church, temple, service, conference) seem like dead ends. I think this separation makes depression especially difficult and dangerous. Trials of many kinds can be made bearable through the support of the spirit, but when you can’t access the spirit, you feel so alone. Even if you know logically that you’re not alone.

    Thank you for acknowledging my husband’s helpfulness. He has really been through the wringer these past six months. I think depression is just as hard on the spouse as it is on the depressed person herself. I hope you find the support you need and deserve.

    Ruth: Thanks for sharing your experience. It must’ve been very frightening–I’m relieved that you took action and found solutions. I’m also grateful to know about this book you referenced.

    I can relate to your reluctance to let people know what happened. It took a LONG time before I felt comfortable talking about my depression. There’s such a stigma. For that very reason, you’ll be in a position to help others when the time is right. We all need to know we’re not alone.

    And thank you for your generous words. It’s so hard to feel like a good mother when you have mental health issues! Two of my children have depression as well. This means I’m able to understand and help them in ways I otherwise couldn’t, but it also means that I’m sometimes unavailable to them when they need me most.

    And finally, to all readers: This fall I’m going to be working on a series of posts about depression. I’ll be looking for input from a variety of women who suffer from depression, or are affected by the depression of a close family member: parent, spouse, child, etc). If you’re interested in participating (anonymously if you wish) drop me an email: kathrynsoper [at] gmail [dot] com.

  10. Kathy, thank you for your honest and beautiful post. I’ve found that it’s much “easier” for me to keep my struggles to myself, even from my husband. But your post reminds me that honesty and communication are the first steps to recovery, no matter what the issue. You are gracious and kind for sharing your experiences with us, and I know you will help many women with this post–again, thank you.

  11. At 16 I tried to commit suicide with an overdose, which is apparently the least effective kind of suicide. I went into panic after a while and told my parents. They called for an ambulance, but what I rememeber about their reaction was shame. They were embarressed at what the neighbours would think, not particularly concerned with the how/why of it all.

    I later had post natal depression with 2 of my 3 children. The first time was the worst. I had a mental health nurse come for counselling every week and each time I told her that I did not think of harming myself. This much was true, but I really wanted to kill my husband and several times had to stop myself. I did not tell her because I thought they would take my baby away.

    I now know so many people who have had depression. Back then, noone. We need to come out of the closet and talk about things more. It hurts but you never know who you can help. I would have loved to have had someone to discuss it with who really knew what I was feeling.

    Regards my suicide attempt it took me years to feel free of it. I often felt the guilt for years. I don’t know when it left, but I know that it did. It took well over a decade though.

    Life is unbearable at times. Talking helps but only when we don’t feel judged. Sometimes too, I want to talk about things with no advice on offer in return, just someone to listen and be supportive and loving without telling me what to do.

    A friend that I visit teach has depression and she has only told me and her family. She doesn’t want anyone at the ward to know because of how they might see her. Even now there is much stigma attached to it, and yet it is so common. It is that judging/loving thing again isn’t it.

  12. Lindsay: Thanks for your honesty. I don’t blame you for being shocked. And you’re absolutely right: the shocking nature of such realities is the very reason why kindness and compassion are so important. Many people suffer in silence because they’re afraid of how others will respond. Unfortunately, LDS culture has many elements which curtail the candor that can help ourselves and others.

    It’s clear from your comment that you’re sincerely interested in supporting those around you–that’s wonderful.

    Sue: I’m so sorry you suffered from bulimia, and glad you got the help you needed. Sounds like emotionally based disorders have a lot of common elements. Makes me wonder if eating disorders ever completely go away, or if they keep lurking in the background even after you’re “well,” like depression often does.

    Thank you for nailing the screwed-up thought process that traps us in our self-destructive ways. I, too, have regretted my confessions at times because when I cycle down I don’t want people meddling in the dark corners of my life. Of course that secrecy is a big sign that something is wrong. But when that’s the case, I don’t want to hear it!

    jendoop: You said, for me not telling those close to me about suicidal thoughts was a way to preserve the last ounce of hope and control. EXACTLY. I am so glad you said that, even though it hurt to read it. You helped me better understand myself.

    And your description of confessing to the bishop felt so familiar. Thank you. It’s wild how the action that will help us most is often the action that is most unthinkable. I think our fallen selves vehemently resist truth-telling because truth and light are pretty much one and the same.

    Melissa M.: Thank you for your thoughtful words. I’m glad the larger principle of honesty came through in the post. Every one of us is subject to self-deception. We fool ourselves in a hundred and one ways, and thereby hurt ourselves as well as others.

  13. I wrote a post about this for another blog about a year ago, calling it ‘the problem of don’t ask, don’t tell’. When my husband and I were engaged he told me about some issues he had; we prayed about it and still felt that we should get married. So we did, and we spent several years mostly ignoring our larger issues. Plus I had serious PPD after our second child and was not in good shape emotionally. He was struggling and didn’t feel like he could confide in me, and I was struggling and didn’t feel like I could talk to him. And we ended up deciding it was easier to get divorced (and we saw a counselor who felt that it was the best solution too–but that debacle is a whole other post).

    Anyways, after a few months of separation we realized that it just wasn’t what we wanted. Plus if we wanted a divorce we’d still have to figure out how to talk to each other and work things out for our kids. Either that or end up with a big long custody fight on our hands. So we finally started talking to each other and it’s been hard, but two years later we actually do have a much better relationship. He doesn’t go to church and that’s hard, and sometimes I just want to say ‘let’s just pretend everything is normal and that we’re the sort of couple we used to be’, but the dishonesty was killing both of us and our relationship. I spent many years of my life ignoring things and ‘keeping a stiff upper lip’, but I’m slowly and painfully learning that it’s not always the best thing for me. I’m trying to get pregnant again and I’ve already decided that if I start feeling bad during pregnancy or afterwards I will say something to my husband or my doctor and get some help. The price of staying silent is just too high.

  14. Kathryn,

    Thanks for your beautiful post. I look forward to the depression series. As has been expressed, women who struggle with depression, particularly in the church, feel spiritually stunted. Yes, there is as disconnect, a kind of numbness while reading the scriptures where there once was comfort.However also I think there is a stigma in the church–a kind of disbelief (as expressed by #6). Sometimes people think if you’re spiritual enough, if you are doing all the right things–you won’t be depressed, as if sin is “the” cause of depression. It seems to be coupled with a distrust of psychotropic medications.
    This is really frustrating to me. It is really harmful to families who suffer from depression or other mental illness.

    As to the threat of self-deception and how to thwart it, I believe you nailed it.We just have to be brutally honest with ourselves and with the very closest people in our lives. I think of the self-deception of anything–if a husband has a porn problem, telling the Bishop and not telling your wife isn’t going to get you very far.
    There is something significant about being who we truly are with everyone in our lives, without assumption, without hiding anything.

  15. Wow, Kathryn. Wow. I love your final remarks about hiding things making it worse. “The truth shall make you free” is so relevant to depression and the emotions we feel during it. I have found my greatest healing when I am completely honest with myself, with God, and my husband.

    How to thwart self-deception is more pertinent to me than I want to admit right now. I’ve been growing increasingly angry and stressed for a while, but have not attended to it. As I admitted to a friend this morning that my well is empty (she said the words, I said “yes”), I felt that brief surge of emotion that told me it was true and needed attention.

    I hadn’t thought of what I’ve been experiencing/doing as self-deception this time, but rather as “hanging in there,” or “being patient.” I’m not sad-depressed, as I have been in the past, or I think it would’ve been easier to acknowledge. I think I may be angry-depressed, which is less obvious because there’s so much more energy in angry depression for me (I get more done, and instead of tears there’s swearing). I’ve made a few comments to a few people, I’ve journaled about it a little, I’ve asked for a blessing and for help when I felt utterly maxed out . . . but somewhere in there, there was still some self-deception going on. So here is your question, reworded for my situation: How did it happen and how do I avoid it happening again?

    The first thing that comes to mind is that my prayers haven’t been completely honest. I haven’t taken the time to pour my heart out to the Lord about how stressed and angry I really am. I’ve given him little snippets, like my journal and a few friends have gotten. Even in the midst of the really rough moments, I do plead for help . . . but I don’t “tell Him all about it.”

    I think that has been easy to avoid because things have been just busy enough that it’s been easy to brush off brief (aka, superficial) prayers as an almost necessary casualty of this season (ooh, satan is tricky–and he doesn’t deserve to have a capital S).

    It seems that had I made myself make real prayer more of a priority, I wouldn’t be where I am now. It seems that there’s more to it than that, but I’m not sure exactly what yet. Hm.

  16. Thank you, Kathryn. Giving these experiences the light of day helps on so many levels: helping others understand depression better, making many feel less alone, & hopefully giving you some sense of an (even if minutely) lightened burden. Bless you.

    To your point on self deception: My struggle with this takes a different form, when I worry I can’t tell the difference between my own fears & anxieties (or, on the flip side, wants) and a true “don’t do this”/”do this” whispering of the Spirit. Hard as I try, I’m not always sure what’s my own (sometimes undermining) self-deception and what’s inspiration.

  17. Annie,
    I have the same problem with discerning promptings from the Spirit. When I am anxious or depressed, I second guess these things like there is no tomorrow and it just spirals and makes everything worse. Sometimes for me, because I’m a worrier, the self-doubt interferes with the comfort and inspiration that could be mine…

  18. http://mentalhealthlibrary.info/library/code/codelds/codeldsauthor/links/drrick/womenanddepression.pdf

    This is (hopefully) a link to a presentation given by Rick Hawks on women and depression. It is not the exact presentation he gave last week at BYU Women’s Conference, but it contains some of the same helpful information.

    Brother Hawks stressed that there is a spectrum in the severity of depression from mild to moderate to severe clinical depression. He said self-help methods may help the mild form, but usually for the moderate form you need to bring in family or priesthood resources. Severe depression usually requires professional help which often includes the need for medication.

    He also stressed the connection between body and spirit and had excellent quotes and scriptures to support his presentation. This explained why the spirit feels “numb” when your brain is malfunctioning. There are also many causes of depression. I’ve inherited the biological cause of depression from both sides of my family tree. My siblings and cousins that belong to the CLINICAL DEPRESSION CLUB share a special bond. Just like some people with fragile immune systems avoid germs, I avoid negative people and negative media (I watch very little television) because they are just as toxic to my well-being as germs. Most of my positive friends (who are filled with light and love) are also members of the CLINICAL DEPRESSION CLUB. We have all taken responsibility for our illness and we’ve sought professional help and we’re better mothers and happier people because of it. Many of us have also had to deal with passing the genetic disposition to some of our own children which is heartbreaking. When people who have never experienced clinical depression make ANTI anti-depressent remarks, it makes me sad because so many families are destroyed and so many suicides result from untreated depression. I wonder how many marriages would be saved and how many suicides would be prevented and how many miserable lives could have become joyful and peaceful if there wasn’t such such a big stigma about getting professional help (which often includes medication).

  19. There are many reasons why we don’t fully tell the extent of our problems to our most loved ones.
    In my case, as much as I love and trust my husband, the issue of depression is one which he completely misunderstands. And I don’t think he is the only person who misunderstands it. I’ve been fully aware that I need to have a psychologist to help me manage my depression and especially monitor me through the darker periods. But my husband is afraid of medication. And I often feel that he thinks that I am choosing to be depressed or that I need to be more faithful to the gospel. This summer I suffered horribly from a terrible black bout of depression because I wasn’t taking a certain medication. During this time, I walked in a black cloud, completely unable to cope with my children or husband. Day in and day out I contemplated leaving because I was in such a bad state. I knew my children were better off without such a dysfunctional mother. I tried to explain what was happening to my husband. He tried, but wanted me to go to the bishop. While I like and trust my bishop, I felt the problem didn’t relate to church and would be best served by a psychologist. We disagreed about what to do, and I ended up continuing to suffer. Once I realized that not taking a certain medication (I needed to find a new doctor and begin my treatment) was really hurting me, I took the needed steps to begin my treatment again. I feel better but I don’t want to spiral downward again like that. I’ve contemplated setting up my own appointments with psychologist without the knowledge of my husband because I just don’t how to reach him about how I really feel about this. But part of me wonders if I am also blaming him and so I continue to remain inactive in getting the treatment I need.

  20. I wish I was brave enough to post this with my name and link my blog, but I dont speak much of my past there.
    I too, was very suicidal as a teen.
    The strange thing now is that I am 31, pregnant with my third, and I can manage my depression much easier than I could back then. I dont know why, and I know it’s possible it can come, and deeply at any time.

    When I was a teen, I didn’t feel responsibility for myself as much as I do now. I didn’t feel like I mattered to the world if I was here or not. I felt destructive, and I almost sensed a tiny bit of vigor for being and feeling reckless.
    I learned after overdosing on pills and being in the hospital how foolish and selfish it was, and it was a wake up call for me. I now see the life that I would have missed had that attempt worked.

    I also never found a good therapist or a good drug to pull me through over years, and although I went on an antidepressant at the end of my 2nd pregnancy because I felt so psychotic – the drugs didn’t help at all. I found a wonderful therapist last year, and I realized that I focus so much on my weaknesses, what I’m not good at, what I’m not successful at, instead of focusing on my strengths and my gifts.
    I am now trying to focus on the things people love about me and see them as gifts and the positives about me. Value myself. The demons that try to take over want me to focus on all the things that I do not accomplish – all the talents I dont seem to develop and share. Those same demons that want me to believe that I am less of a woman because I dont measure up to my own standards and wishes.

    I feel like we put a huge pressure on ourselves to change – to do better. To be better and MORE. We fail to see what we are, what we do, and what we are capable of and take those and RUN WITH IT. Instead I let the feeling that everyone is talking to each other in Relief Society but me – no one wants to be my friend… No one called on my birthday… I suck at organizing… I suck at cooking.. I suck at patience with my kids.
    I can keep going and going with this – my demons. Or I can choose to see that this is a step in the wrong direction for me, and that I am comparing my worst to everyone else’s best. I don’t know if anyone will relate much to this, but I think this is a great discussion and am thankful that Kathryn put her heart out there for everyone.

  21. I think some posters have touched upon one of the problems in the church. If people are feeling depressed, there’s a tendency in the church to send the person to their Bishop. That’s crazy! If you have a heart condition, cancer, or a sore throat you don’t go see your priesthood leader (unless you want a blessing–or money to pay for a professional). With depression it’s the same thing, you should see a doctor, not go down to the church building on a Tuesday night for an interview.

  22. Depression and anxiety have been a constant companion of mine for as long as I can remember. I have tried every antidepressant on the market, but I have never felt the joy and beauty of life that I imagine others feel. I had been feeling alone in my struggles since moving to a new state, when someone at church told me that they had seen my special needs son being mistreated by his teacher at school. That seemed to be the last thing I could handle, so I left the meeting in tears and went out to my car. As others have said, when you are in depths of depression it seems that the spirit leaves and you feel so incredibly alone. I thought that maybe the scriptures would help, so I opened them expecting that the answer to my struggles would be there. The scripture that I opened to was “it is better that one man should perish than that a whole nation should dwindle in unbelief.” There it was…I should commit suicide so that my family should not dwindle in unbelief. I had even made a plan of how to do it. Then I started having health problems and ended up in the emergency room. It was a blessing because I was seen by a doctor that truly seemed to care about me. Something I had not felt for a long time. He got me the help that I needed and I started medication and counseling. It is still a constant struggle, but there have been people and situations put in my path that have helped me. I know that Heavenly Father loves me even when I don’t love myself. Depression is such a lonely disease. My sister just passed away from breast cancer, but for 5 1/2 years she was constantly told that people were praying for her. She even received a letter from the first presidency of the church that she had been added to their prayer list. She received letters and gifts, with words of encouragement from people all over. I am so grateful that she was given that gift. It helped her so much. At the same time though, I was thinking what about me? I am hurting also! It reminds me of the line from a hymn “in the quiet heart is hidden, sorrow that the eye can’t see.” It has given me an empathy for people that I never would have gotten if I had not been given this trial. I see the Lord’s hand in my life and though it isn’t easy, I am grateful.

  23. From my experience, I don’t think I’d immediately discount the value of bishops as a resource. If money is a problem, the bishop is often willing to use church resources to help you get the necessary professional help. A bishop can make sure you have the amazing home teachers and visiting teachers that can be so helpful in times of adversity. If a bishop is aware of your challenges, he is less likely to call you to be the primary president. When I was going through my divorce and in a clinical depression, I went to my bishop for a priesthood blessing. He was a blue-collar worker with no knowledge of mental illness and marginal people skills, so the glorious and comforting words in that blessing were obviously from a divine source. Bishops can help lighten our burdens…

  24. Kathy, thank you for this beautiful post. It has given me a lot to think about, as have all the comments. Honesty is so valuable, so important–not only honesty with oneself and one’s spouse, but the kind of honesty evidenced here, where we can share the realities of challenges in an atmosphere of respect and love. I agree that “in the quiet heart is hidden” all sorts of things. Or as Sister Hinckley (and, also Plato . . . who probably said it first :-)) said, “Be kind. Everyone you meet is fighting a hard battle.”

  25. I’ve experienced depression, postpartum and otherwise, and I’ve tried a medication a doctor prescribed for me. I was surprised when the medication did not seem to help and even worsened the “deadened” feeling that plagued me then. The side effects made things worse in my marriage and I slowly took myself off the medication. I think it’s great that some can benefit from medication and it’s probably a lifesaver in many instances.

    There were times I thought “I could just turn the car into that tree” but it was more a coldly calculating voice than a real desire to escape despair. It would always “wake me up” a little.

    I vent in my journal, or cry into my husband’s shoulder, and sometimes I can talk to him about what I am feeling. I would rather do that than talk to my bishop, dear man that he is. I think I am probably one of those cyclical, mild to moderate cases. I do the best I can to help my family, working around it, or just putting it in “this is just something I have to put up with in this life” box, Paul’s thorn in the side so to speak. There are definitely times when the scriptures don’t speak comfort and prayer feels empty, but I try to soldier on in that respect anyway. It’s better than letting my mind wander to negative things.

    I’m definitely interested in a depression series of posts. This post was jarring and I wondered who I knew that might feel this way and never knew it. How can others help those who feel this way without doing more harm? Is it just me or does it seem that more and more people are becoming more severely depressed?

    Thanks for prompting such a discussion. It took a lot of guts to open up like that.

  26. Anon (#12): My heart goes out to you. I’m sorry you didn’t have the support you needed, when you needed it most. People who feel urges to harm themselves or others are in a terrible bind. I’m glad the guilt has finally gone away and I hope it never returns.

    FoxyJ: Your experience is very helpful to me. I’m learning the hard way that “the price of staying silent is just too high.” Time and again I think I can successfully repress or ignore a problem, and time and again I’m proven wrong. It always leaks out, one way or another, and ends up being a bigger mess.

    mmiles: you said, Sometimes people think if you’re spiritual enough, if you are doing all the right things–you won’t be depressed, as if sin is “the” cause of depression. It seems to be coupled with a distrust of psychotropic medications. You’re so right. And this attitude is particularly harmful when it’s held by the depressed person herself. For over a decade I was sure I could cure my depression through sheer force of will–particularly, “righteous” will. I wish I could have those 10-plus years back, with needed treatment.

    And I completely agree about finding the right source(s) for treatment. In many cases it may be helpful or even necessary to discuss your depression with your bishop (I did, because it was affecting my ability to fulfill my calling). But he wisely acknowledged his limitations as a therapist and emphasized that I needed professional help (which I was already getting). Sadly there’s so much misinformation about depression and mental illness in general that some people come out of the bishop’s office worse off than when they entered. But thankfully some people have good experiences–I’m grateful to be one of them.

    wendy: I appreciate your insights regarding prayer. The same dynamic happens in my life–hiding from God is a big red flag and often one of the earliest. I needed your words today, so thank you.

    Annie: Thanks for your kind thoughts. You’re certainly not alone in your confusion–it’s a great topic for another post. I’m starting to learn that inspiration always feels good, even when it hurts. Even if I have strong regrets, I feel motivated and encouraged to do better rather than feeling guilty and paralyzed. As for self-deception, paying close attention to my thoughts and feelings during past occasions helps me identify new occasions when they arise. But that awareness doesn’t always stop me in the moment. In fact it can make me mad, and even more determined to proceed in the self-destructive course I’m on. Sigh.

    Kathryn P., thank you for that link. I look forward to checking it out. And thank you for highlighting the enormous amount of unnecessary suffering that arises from misunderstandings and misconceptions about depression and its treatment.

    Tiffany W.: I’m sorry to hear about your situation. Managing depression is nearly always a complex endeavor, but factoring in marriage issues makes it *extremely* difficult. Thank you for reminding us that there are many reasons why a wife might not confide in her husband (about depression or anything else). It’s not a blanket solution. Neither is confiding in one’s bishop. We must use our best judgment when seeking a confidante.

  27. I will most likely be on Celexa or an equivalent the rest of my life and I’m okay with it, because now that I’m treating my depression I am amazed at all the other health related things, including reduced PMS symptoms, that have gone away. It turns out I have been depressed for years and I didn’t realize it until things got really bad.

    I really like the billboard that says “You never hear it’s just diabetes, snap out of it.” Generally, depression takes some sort of intervention, and some of us will always need help of some sort, whether it’s a psychologist or a drug. Sadly enough, a lot of people are surrounded by those who think you can just snap out of it, or if you prayed more you’d be fine. Not always.

  28. It struck a chord with me that you described it as a spiral. That’s exactly what it was for me. And it was a spiral that I remember consciously deciding to see how far down it would go. Of all the things I’ve done in my life, that was definitely the worse. And I lied to everyone about it. I lied to my friends. I lied to myself, telling myself that since I chose to go down, I could just as easily choose to come up at any time.

    I don’t have a husband, so I couldn’t tell him. But I clearly remember the evening I went to the bishop for an interview. I wasn’t contemplating physical harm to myself, but I had plans for ways to harm myself spiritually. My calling at the time wasn’t one that most would consider a stressful calling, but I informed my bishop that it was too much for me and if I wasn’t released, I’d go through with my plans and force them to release me through a disciplinary council. He released me, got me a referral to LDS social services, made sure my home teachers and visiting teachers were people I could trust and feel comfortable with, and gave me several blessings as I had finally hit bottom and needed to start working myself out of the hole I had dug for myself.

    I’m still not completely honest with everyone about that time. Most people are completely shocked when they find out that “someone like me” could have those problems with depression.

  29. I think one of satan’s greatest tools is to make us think we are awful and alone. He sells this at every turn, and so often we believe it.
    I bought into it when one of my children started struggling with depression, and I started that downward spiral myself. I thought I was alone.
    Then I found ward members, Visiting Teachers/ees, and relatives had been or were struggling, too. I was not alone. The Lord told me that through the angels HE sent!!!
    I still struggle with depression, but I am so grateful for the scriptures, the Gospel, those angels that are there to bear me up, and the knowledge that the Lord is on my right hand and on my left. (Doctrine & Covenants 88:84)
    Remember to look for the love our Heavenly Father and Savior have for you! That’s what rescued Lehi from the “dark and dreary waste” — when he prayed for the Lord’s mercy in helping him escape that darkness, he was shown the tree of life — a symbol of God’s love for each of us. (1 Nephi 8)
    No matter how we feel about ourselves, no matter what satan tries to sell us, we need to remember God’s eternal, unconditional love for us! He loves us no matter what. We are NOT alone!

  30. Oops! Didn’t know that an eight and an end parentheses made a sunglass smiley face! It’s supposed to read 1 Nephi 8!

  31. AnonymousFriend: Please don’t think yourself a coward for concealing your identity. The choice to put one’s name on such personal experiences is highly individual and must be undertaken with great care. I don’t proceed unless I expect the benefits to overtake the risks. Thank you for sharing your perspective–it sounds like you’re learning some great healthy mental pathways. I’m so glad that your depression feels more manageable now and I hope it stays that way.

    Shanon: I so appreciate your words. Thank you for describing the loneliness of depression. Thank you also for sharing the desperate state of mind women can find themselves in–the lie that our families are better off without us. People may wonder how a mother could ever be so selfish as to commit suicide and leave her children. They don’t understand how depression twists and deranges the mind. It can thoroughly convince you that you’re doing your children a favor by checking out. That belief may be one of the last outposts on the path to self-harm–if anyone out there believes her death would bless her children, or no longer feels capable of caring about the well-being of her children, please please get help right away.

    Angela, thank you for that quote and for your friendship.

    anonymouslymom, thanks for your perspective. Some medications have made me feel worse, too. Most people can find one that works well for them, but not everyone. And unfortunately a medication that works for a time might stop working. I’m so glad you have found coping mechanisms that work for you.

    This is not directed at anonymouslymom, but at every person reading this who has suffered from some degree of depression: It’s so important that we not become suspicious of each other regarding treatment. Those of us for whom medication is optional may mistakenly think it’s optional for everyone–it’s not. Those of us who take medication may mistakenly think of those who don’t as “weak”, and vice versa. There are good reasons for taking medication, and good reasons for not taking it.

    Sadly, there are also deluded reasons for refusing medication, and these delusions are a dime a dozen to a depressed person. Whenever I can, I want to help others see through those delusions without implying that every depressed person should be taking medication.

    anonymouslymom, you asked, How can others help those who feel this way without doing more harm? Is it just me or does it seem that more and more people are becoming more severely depressed? I will share some thoughts tomorrow, as well as respond to those who commented while I was writing this comment. In the meantime I hope others will continue to share their perspectives.

    Thank you for this discussion, everyone. I’m signing off for the day with deep gratitude for your participation. Will return in the morning.

  32. That last paragraph really hit me, Kathy. I hadn’t really realized that I have an awful little issue that I love to hate. I keep it very secret–unwrapping and savoring it’s nastiness; not wanting to tell anyone because then I would probably have to stop. Which I don’t want to do. But I do want to at the same time.

    Aaah, it sucks to be a natural (wo)man!

  33. Thanks so much for your honesty, Kathryn, and all of the rest of you. I’m very much looking forward to the depression series.

    I’ve struggled with forms of depression during periods of my life. I think honesty is a really interesting part of it. I like the Johari Window model (search Wikipedia for more) relative to honesty in all human relationships. It explores questions like: What is it that others know about me that I don’t know or can’t see? What do I try to keep secret? Which secret parts of myself leak out in spite of my efforts to hide them? So, for example, I’m really close to my spouse and his interpretation of my depression, in some ways, redefines it for me. Sometimes when I am deceiving myself, I am NOT deceiving him.

    It’s a delicate balance. I actually think that constant, brutal honesty with oneself can sometimes quash hope and lead to negativity. Sometimes the honesty has to creep out slowly. And I think it’s best to avoid “helping” others see themselves honestly. Self-deception can be a warm blanket and it can be very cruel to rip it away without consent. (Never tell your sister-in-law her pumpkin pie sucks if she thinks it is terrific. If she’s chosen that self-deception, it’s not your job to reveal the truth. Unless she asks, fully open to the truth.)

  34. Tiffany,

    My husband is also not too keen on medications. Unfortunately he is also not keen on therapy. I just really have to take ownership of my body. If I had cancer and he wasn’t comfortable with chemotherapy, I sure wouldn’t say, “Well, my husband isn’t comfortable, so I’ll forgo treatment.” It is the same thing with treating depression.
    I know that when I am depressed, I am not sure I am thinking right, so unsure of my thoughts. It is hard and I need someone I can trust and will help. So telling my husband a lot of detail isn’t always helpful in that way. I have a friend I can talk to who encourages me to get the help I need. Find someone. It has been my experience that my prayers are answered to help me find resources for the help I need. A person to talk to is always such a help.
    Nonetheless, I do tell my husband, “Every time I drive over the railroad tracks I think,”Hmm. What if I just park right hear and wait for a train?'” He doesn’t understand. He isn’t really helpful. But I know he prays for me. And I know it’s important for him to know where I’m at. For me it’s part of avoiding that whole self-deception thing. Besides that, I’m pretty sure down the road I’ll realize he’s helping more than I can see right now.

    It’s really hard when we have a scripture, “Wickedness never was happiness.” We take the inverse to be that righteousness is happiness. It’s not necessarily true.
    We hear from the pulpit time and time again that happiness is an attitude. To look on the bright side of life. Men (and women) are that they might have joy. It goes against the very basic tenets of our theology to be in a downward spiraling state of hopelessness and despair. The guilt that accompanies depression (guilt that you are depressed & are transgressing in not pulling yourself up by sheer will power), only compounds the situation. I really, really wish we would change this!

  35. Kathy- Thank you for sharing. I always appreciate others opening up honestly about their struggles. It teaches us how to better help and understand those in similar situations. I do like your larger question of self deception. It took me a long time to really let me self be honest. I always just wanted to avoid all negative things. I learned that isn’t coping and it isn’t using the atonement. We have to be willing to break ourselves down -see the ugly to get get better.

  36. Kathy, thank you.

    Wendy, I could have written your comment, and I didn’t realize it until I read it. Thank you, you’ve led me toward some answers I was looking for.

  37. Kathryn, I like what you wrote about meds. I was in the anti-meds campaign with vigor for a long time. Then during one of my worst rounds with depression, I actually had a dream where I was told to take Prozac. I KNOW it was from the Lord, yet I refused. I started therapy, but it wasn’t until I tried St. John’s Wort (which has its own controversy) months later that I could wake up and find a smile without effort. There are many different things that can alleviate depression, just as there are many different causes. My depression recurs . . . sometimes I take meds, sometimes I don’t. Sometimes I go back to therapy, sometimes I don’t. Meds can be a tremendous help . . . or not, and we need to give each other the benefit of the doubt for choosing what works for us.

  38. I tried many methods for managing my depression: lots of sunlight, service, exercise, sleep, healthy diet, etc. After none of these worked, I went to my doctor for medication. He told me, “Depression is terrible. You are a very strong person for living with this so long.” That meant so much to me. It is a battle to get through life with the weight of depression.

    I felt like another commenter – that it was a trial I would have to deal with my whole life… and then the medication kicked in!!! What a miracle!!!!!! To not be unhappy for no reason – to not feel like crying at any given moment – to not be wracked with worry – to not have a floating feeling of melancholy, unconnected to any event. In my prayers, I thank God for research scientists, pharmaceutical companies, and doctors. It is truly a miracle to me, to be freed from the crushing tentacles of depression.

  39. I have really been struggling with this lately. I had a couple very bad weeks where I thought all the time about how my kids would be better off without me. I would wish for death because life just seemed so overwhelmingly hard. On alternate days, I would daydream about just taking off and leaving. I have perked up from there, but I still just feel so tired emotionally and feel like I’m a horrible mom to my three kids. It’s all I can do to just make it through each day. I feel like I will never be good enough, and wonder all the time if the terrestrial kingdom would be that bad. I’ve been on antidepressants since my third child was born but they don’t seem to help much.

  40. Kathryn, Thank you for your post. I’m finally on the “other” side of depression. I’ve gotten my life back. I probably have been depressed most of my adult life,finally crashing during mid-life. Prozac saved me, but it takes years to get “back” what you had before. My life is so much better now. I’m happier and Heavenly Father is back in my life. I left him behind while I struggled with my feelings of self hate. Certainly I wasn’t deserving of him in my life. I told my RS Pres. what was happening to me and then I never talked to her again. Literally, she moved a couple of years later. I often wondered if it scared her. Sometimes when you’re depressed you don’t make sense. The stories you tell can be way out there. People don’t know what to say. I belong to a close knit ward, but when I stopped attending regularly no one seemed to notice. Now that I attend regularly there is a disconnect. People have moved on to new friendships and I feel left out. Weird how you can be so active and then not and no one notices you’re gone. NO ONE CALLS. Depression is just as bad as any cancer or disease. No one starts a blog to keep friends and family informed on how you are doing. lol
    Today I make no judgments about anyone. Most people are suffering in some way and they are only thinking of themselves, just like I was. We need to be more kind & loving.

  41. Red- Your thoughts about self-deception are valid, I think.

    Recently in a psych class I learned that when people are surveyed about their opinions of themselves depressed people are more likely to have an accurate view. While “normal” people have an inflated sense of self. So you’re right, we have to be somewhat ignorant of our flaws and weaknesses to have hope and move forward in life.

    Since learning about this study I’ve loosened up on the self-introspection. Leaning on the Lord a little more- if there is an area of my soul that needs to be developed I pray that he will open it up to my understanding, gently I hope. If we are fully aware of every flaw and sin we will be overwhelmed and give up.

  42. Thank you Kathryn for writing and sharing so honestly. I like what annie said, “Giving these experiences the light of day…”. Obviously and sadly relevant. Shame continues the spiral.

  43. I think we need to be more open about depression. It might be the bump someone else needs to seek treatment.

  44. I felt this post was so much more than just depression…but the idea of telling the truth about your life, your feelings, your thoughts, really sets you free–not just when you have depression. For me it was thoughts about my marriage and my spouse that was bottling up and becoming so completely unbearable. In short I felt that deep down I had made a mistake and fretted and worried about it constantly. My husband knew there were some issues, but I had not been completely {and painfully} honest yet because to me those were the worst thoughts I could ever have. I had an eternal marriage and yet I questioned it daily–what could be worse than that??? Once I finally laid it all out on the table and we decided it was time to see a counselor things improved–rather drastically. Not that our marriage became perfect, but once the “secret” was out I no longer actually felt that way. Not to mention counseling has been good for us on so many levels.

    Anyway, I think that whatever the situation, when you’re finally ready to be honest–it’s not easy and sometimes very painful–you release this pressure, you realize it’s not the worst thing in the world and then you can really work on what needs to be fixed, not the fear running around in your head.

  45. I am a man, and I hope you don’t mind my comments, as it seems everybody is a woman commenting on here.

    I have depression. I have depression that is so severe that a previous therapist told me that men with this severe of depression end up in one of two places: in jail, or suicide. I talk heart with your words because I don’t think I have taken this problem seriously enough. As a man, my natural fatherly instincts are to hide my problems – I don’t want my wife or children to panic with “something wrong” with daddy. That seems almost to be a biological thing – the father’s instincts to keep an upbeat, positive attitude so the family won’t suffer. So, it feels even worse with my own natural guilt.

    I hope I can get the help I need – medication has never worked for me – and sometimes the medication has made it worse.

  46. one of my favorite authors, Orson Scott Card, wrote a book called Speaker For The Dead…which was a kind of weird title I thought, till I read the book and found out that in that society, when a person died, there was a “speaker” who spoke their lives. Not just the happy, good things, but the whole story. The bad, sad and good. Because everyone has both.

    I liked that concept a lot when I read the book, but wished there was a way to have that whole truth be part of life, not just known after we die. I’m sure it was based loosely on the final judgment, when the whole story will be told. Anyway, I’m just thinking about how this thread on being honest about our struggles relates to the gospel, culture, personal growth, and so forth. I’ve really enjoyed all the thoughts shared here. They’ve helped me and given me courage. Thanks to all of you! ♥

  47. Oh, Kathy, I’m so sorry you hurt this way, and so, so glad you’re still here. Thank God for Reed–give him an extra hug from all of us who love you.

  48. I’m not very happy right now either. I think about cutting my body and letting all the stress and strain and self-loathing drain out. I imagine violent scenes and think about death. I don’t know if I need help right now or not. I talk to my husband, and he knows generally what’s going on, but I don’t think he really knows what to do either. And I hurt him, too, when I’m like this. But I haven’t taken any serious action to actually hurt myself. I don’t have any intentions in these thoughts.

  49. Kathryn, I do have a question for you. A few months ago, a single mother in our ward, going through a horrible divorce and struggling with drug addiction, confided to her therapist that she was contemplating suicide. Her children were removed from her home immediately, because the therapist was obligated by law to report it to the CPS. Is such a law in force in Utah. Her kids are now in foster care, and have been for months. It is such a tragic situation. Anyhow, you haven’t mentioned this so I assume nothing happened in that regard. But did that concern you at all? Or did it even occur to you. Just curious. I never would have thought about it until hearing it happen.

  50. anonymouslymom (#26): You asked what you can do to help others who are depressed. I’d like to talk about that in depth in the future, and include multiple perspectives. For now I’ll just give the most basic answer: charity never faileth. Of course, the application of pure love will vary somewhat from situation to situation. But I always appreciate sincere expressions of caring and willingness to listen (even if I choose not to speak). I’m grateful when friends acknowledge their limited understanding and ask me to describe my experience rather than making assumptions. And prayers are always appreciated.

    You also asked whether severe depression is becoming more prevalent. Here’s one statistic: “Twenty years ago, about 1.5 percent of the population had depression which required treatment; now it’s 5 percent, and as many as 10 percent of Americans now living can expect to have a major depressive episode during their life.” (From Andrew Solomon’s book, The Noonday Demon: An Atlas of Depression.)

    Lindsay 1138: I’ve seen that billboard. I have mixed feelings about it. It’s problematic because there’s a misconception that depression is due to low levels of serotonin in the brain, like low levels of insulin in the blood. Increasing serotonin levels (through SSRI antidepressants) helps many depressed people but scientists don’t know why. If only depression were as straightforward as diabetes.

    BUT despite the fact that the billboard perpetuates one misconception, I very much appreciate the way it dispels another. I think it’s MUCH more dangerous for people to believe depression can be “cured” through a simple act of will than for people to believe a somewhat problematic comparison between depression and diabetes.

    There’s so much room for misunderstanding regarding depression because the term covers such a huge spectrum of experiences. Our multiple frames of reference cause painful and perilous communication breakdown. I was about to launch into some extended thoughts on this issue but I think I’d better save it for another post…

    But thank you, Lindsay, for getting the gears turning. I took Celexa myself for several years and I hope it keeps working for you.

    Giggles: I’m glad you spoke up. It’s easy to underestimate the power of depression to pull you down fast and trap you hard.

    Last fall when my doctor told me to switch medications I thought, “Why don’t I just see how I do without anything. Maybe I’m better now. And if I’m not, I’ll start a different medication, no problem.”

    PROBLEM!

    Long story short: I will never discount the seriousness of my depression again.

    And Giggles, there are good reasons for not broadcasting your struggle to everyone. We *definitely* need more openness, more dialogue, more awareness about depression. But we need to use wisdom in how, where, when, and to whom we share.

    You’re Not Alone: Watching a child struggle with depression is a difficult experience indeed. I’m so glad you’ve found strength and comfort in the scriptures. I wish reading the scriptures could heal depression across the board, but unfortunately that’s not the case. Many depressed people are incapable of feeling the spirit/God’s love, no matter how hard they try.

    The spiritual complexities of depression is something I’d like to discuss at length in a future post.

    Jennie: I hear you, sister!! Glad I’m not alone. :)

    Red: Such valuable insights on the balancing act of honesty. Thank you very much. I completely agree that it’s both futile and foolish to try to yank someone out of denial–including ourselves. Our psyches build protective walls that we need in order to function. In my experience, those walls tend to dissolve as we become capable of living with the truth. The process can’t be rushed.

    In an earlier comment I mentioned wanting to help others recognize the deluded thinking that can keep a depressed person from seeking treatment. Even this can’t/shouldn’t be forced.

    But there are different varieties of delusion/denial. The denial we’re not aware of is the denial we need. The denial we’re aware of is the denial we must come to terms with, one way or another. We wouldn’t let ourselves see it unless it was important to see.

    Again, though, it’s a highly private, individual process. You (not you Red, but the categorical you) can’t reveal me to myself. You can be a catalyst, but only if I’m already ripe for revelation.

    And I agree, Red and jendoop, that relentless brutal self-honesty can backfire. I think, though, that this is because our access to truth is limited. The truth we can grasp about ourselves is inevitably incomplete because our existence here is only part of a whole…

    mmiles: I’m with you.

    You said, It goes against the very basic tenets of our theology to be in a downward spiraling state of hopelessness and despair.

    Indeed. Moroni even tells us that “despair cometh because of iniquity.”

    It’s a terrible conundrum for depressed people. We’ll definitely talk more about this down the road.

  51. Those who need to know my whole depressed story know it. Those who it would help to know part of it because of what they are struggling with, know part of it. Those who don’t need to know, don’t know any of it.

    I think it’s only now that I can look back on it that even I know the whole truth about what happened.

  52. Before I say anything else:

    Anon for this time (#41), my heart goes out to you. I know you’ve already sought help but I think you need to go to plan B. If you haven’t already, please consult a psychiatrist. General practitioners don’t have the expertise necessary to help you. You need and deserve a specialist. There are many treatments available–if this one or that one haven’t worked well, don’t give up. Keep exploring options until you find relief.

    BJ (#47), I hope you’ll do the same. The field of mental health is constantly evolving. There are new medications available, new approaches to treatment. I’m glad you’re such a caring father, and because you are, I trust you’ll do whatever is necessary to help yourself so you can help your family. Thank you for speaking up. You’re welcome on this blog anytime.

    don’t want to say anything now (#50): You’re experiencing symptoms of pronounced depression. You have my sincere sympathy, and also my concerned counsel: It’s highly unlikely the symptoms will resolve without treatment, and they might escalate without warning. Please seek professional help right away.

  53. You are right. Whenever we begin to hide we are listening to the adversary, and the longer we do it–the harder it is to stop. It reminded me of the temple–Satan hasn’t changed his tactics a whole lot. He wants us to hide. There is a power in truth, and most importantly: PEACE.

  54. Before I sign off for today, I’d like to share just a few words in response to the remaining comments:

    Leslie, Kristine, and Angie: Thank you. I’m grateful to have such friends.

    Maryanne: Thanks for reading. I’m happy Wendy’s comment was helpful to you–it was to me too.

    anon (#39), Angie (#40), Scattered by nature (#42): Thank you for sharing your insights and experiences regarding depression. I’m grateful we can strengthen each other this way.

    b. (#44), a-nony-nony (#46), Blue (#48), and Merry Michelle (#55): I appreciate your thoughts about honesty and deception. I’m glad you joined in the dialogue here!

    Tiffany W: (#51): Sounds like a very sad and complex situation. I imagine the combination of factors (single-parent home, drug addiction, plus mental health concerns) is what led to the intervention. Yes, I was concerned about the consequences of speaking up, but more concerned about the consequences of not doing so.

    Giggles (#53): Sounds like you’ve been wise indeed in your decisions regarding self-disclosure.

    I hope I didn’t overlook anyone. Thank you, all, for participating in this conversation. I look forward to picking up these topics again in the future.

    A brief note to those who have sent emails: I will respond as soon as time permits.

  55. For those of you with spouses who don’t really understand what you’re going through with depression, I’d really recommend that you try getting them to read Andrew Solomon’s book, The Noonday Demon: An Atlas of Depression. My husband has depression, and while I’m sure I still don’t fully comprehend what he’s feeling, that book went a long way towards understanding that depression can be just as physically debilitating as being paralyzed (at its worst). It’s helped me to be more patient and sympathetic towards my husband. Andrew Solomon does a good job of putting depression into words; it is a dark, heavy, sometimes graphic book, but well worth reading for those with and without depression.

  56. Kathryn – you write beautifully. I’m so sorry you are suffering.

    The NY Times has an excellent article today about a woman hospitalized for chronic depression. I thought of you and this post when I read it.

    Here’s what the author says about her thoughts of suicide and “hiding” from others:

    It was because of my daughter, after all, that I had given voice to my “suicidal ideation,” as it’s called, in the first place, worrying how she would get along without me. At the same time, I recognized that, for a person who was really set on ending it all, speaking your intention aloud was an act of self-betrayal. After all, in the process of articulating your death wish you were alerting other people, ensuring that they would try to stop you.

    http://www.nytimes.com/2009/05/10/magazine/10Depression-t.html?pagewanted=3&_r=1&hp

  57. ECS, thank you. An insightful article–really got me thinking. The quote you picked out is especially helpful. I’ve been trying to figure out why telling my husband helped me turn a corner–now I understand.

  58. ECS, It’s true. When I told my husband how I was feeling months ago and he said, “No you wouldn’t”, it made me feel a lot better. If he was so confident that I wouldn’t, it made me feel stronger–and those thoughts were fleeting, and now seem so far away.

  59. My son is one of those whose depression requires medication. If he quits taking it, he will be having suicidal ideation in a very short period of time.

    My sister and mother also suffer from depression. It is fairly significant, but because they have never felt suicidal with it, they have options about whether to take meds or not. They choose not to (not because they judge taking meds but because they don’t like certain side effects), and they manage their moods with structure and activity.

    I guess my point is that no one can know what is best for any individual in dealing with depression. One thing that is always good is for a depressed person to feel respected and understood, and that is what I try to offer my friends and family members who suffer with this difficult issue.

    As for you, Kathryn, I am thrilled that you are willing to be a groundbreaker in beginning and continuing this conversation. You will save lives. In fact, you probably have already.

    Bless you.

  60. I posted on my blog about this my own struggle. It’s been a great read with your post, and then also all the comments. I think talking about it is the best thing you can do. You can turn a corner and change your perspective just by voicing your feelings and staring your demons down straight in their eyes.
    Thanks Kathryn. I hope you are doing well.

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