The first time someone told me I was depressed was fifteen years ago. I was a junior in college and had gone to the campus physician because I couldn’t explain the way I was feeling. My health had shifted—I was constantly tired, couldn’t concentrate or think clearly, and I had lost my appetite. When the doctor diagnosed me with depression, I was shocked. I did not think of myself as ugly and worthless—for that’s what depression meant, wasn’t it? Well that’s what I thought at the time. But even more than shock, I was offended. Depression had such a negative connotation to it, and I most certainly did not have it.
The next time I went home to visit my parents, I went to my family doctor to get the right diagnosis for me. The office did a little testing and came back saying I had hypoglycemia. That felt better—a real, physical ailment.
But changing my diet and eating at specific intervals throughout the day did not help me feel better. Eventually, with an increased understanding of depression, I became convinced that I truly did have it. I decided to start taking zoloft to counter the sluggish feeling that I carried.
I don’t ever remember feeling “better” from the zoloft. In fact, I actually felt nothing on it. Numb. I wished I could feel happy and sad and elated and angry and anything other than nothing.
So after a couple years, I stopped taking it.
Fast forward three years and I am in a counselor’s office, again being told that I have depression. Only this time, she said, it was “situational depression.” I was in an unhealthy marriage, my negative self-talk was all I could hear, and I was praying daily that God would let me die so I could escape my suffering.
Shortly thereafter, I was back home at my parents’, divorced, and trying to rebuild my life. My situation had changed, but my depression did not lift. It was a slippery, little monster that would slide out and pull me under every so often. I continued reading my scriptures and attending the temple, praying and fasting, believing that true healing in this life was possible, but wondering if it really was possible for me.
I had been taught that these heart-felt actions would help me in my life, and I can clearly see now how they truly did–keeping me on the path that I needed to be on many years later to make those first steps in beating the depression.
I remember the room in the duplex that we lived in—the orange blanket draped on our bed, the tan carpet, the white walls. I had shut myself in there while my two little daughters tried interrupting my phone call, and my second husband (their father) was at work. I was talking to a woman named Jenn. My friend had told me about her. She said Jenn knew how to find deeper roots to problems and could help people release them. I was talking to her now, for the first time of a hundred more, asking her why I felt the way I did. I was tired of slumping into deep depression—something I now admitted to—after family trips or conversations with confrontational people. I was worried about how my children would grow up and what affects my depression would have on them. I was afraid my second husband would feel he made a mistake in marrying me. I was tired of all of it, and I wanted relief.
I fumbled with words trying to describe this to Jenn. It came out patch-worked and awkward, and then she said something completely unrelated, “Oh, you feel like you can’t express yourself, don’t you?” I stopped. It doesn’t sound very profound now, but in that moment, it was. No one had ever put that into words for me. And that was exactly what I was feeling. “Yes,” I confirmed. She then walked me through a visualization of pulling some of those feelings out of me, forming them into a shape in my hands, and then handing them over to the Savior. She had me say out loud to my ex-husband,
“I forgive you for anything you said and didn’t say that offended me, and I forgive you for anything you did and didn’t do that offended me. Please forgive me for anything I said or didn’t say that offended you, and anything that I did or didn’t do that offended you.”
Whether I felt that way or not, I was to say those words. After I did, I handed the object of my feelings to the Savior, then I visualized it shrinking and disappearing.
Well something completely amazing happened. I took a breath in, and I felt lighter. I felt a huge weight lifted and gone. I felt better. I couldn’t believe it. It was a miracle.
This was the first layer peeled back of many, many, many that dissolved my depression. I met another friend along the way. Allison this time. She spent hours helping me uncover trapped emotions from my past that were holding me down, the source of my depression before my unhealthy marriage. Between her and Jenn, (and myself learning how they found trapped emotions and released them), I felt small movements lifting me to the surface where I could finally breath. I was free.
Every once in a while, I have moments where I recognize: I am feeling depression. But now, when that happens, I’ve learned to stop and ask if it’s my depression I’m carrying or if I’ve picked it up from someone else. If it is mine, I ponder on Karla McLaren’s definition of depression and I consider what my emotions are telling me. If it’s not my depression, I find out who I got it from, and I give it right back. I am always amazed that I feel immediate relief every single time.
I am a different person from fifteen years ago. But of course, aren’t we all? I like the me now. I like that I can feel happy and feel sad. I find joy when I recognize my anger and my fear. I have energy and light and feel life inside me every day. I am grateful for my experience with depression, what I’ve learned from it, and from overcoming it.
I know not everyone’s story can be like mine. My dear sweet cousin, at 19, suffered greatly from depression and ended up taking his own life. So I know not every story ends like mine. But what if it could? What trapped emotions do you think you have stored inside you, causing you to slump too low into depression? How do you think you could feel if you released a few deep-seeded emotions that you no longer need to carry around?
Let’s talk about that some time . . . eh?