Often when something goes wrong in our lives, we turn to God to fix it. When we have questions, we turn to God for answers. When we want to do more or be more, we turn to God to make us better. And while those are all incredible beginnings, we forget that's just a beginning.
I've never experienced depression in my life—until last year when a series of life changes and illnesses put my body in a lethargic rut that I struggled to pull myself from.
Yes, I knew depression and mental illness are common occurrences. I knew most people will experience mental illness at one point in their life—but that doesn't apply to me, right? Despite seminars I've attended in years past, despite knowing all the warning signs, I couldn't stop the spiral of hateful self-talk and negative thinking as I tried to make sense of things.
What did Heavenly Father want me to learn from this? How could I pull myself out of this? How could I be stronger? What was I failing to do in my life that warranted this kind of pain?
I read up about depression and more importantly followed the advice. (This article particularly helped me find hope.) Gratitude journals, destressing, serving others, getting sunlight, exercising regularly, and eating right. I brainstormed and got creative. But even then, the anxiety and depression deepened to the point that I could hardly sleep at nights.
During all this, the most horrible realization was knowing I had nothing to be depressed about. Worst yet, I felt I was hurting my husband and family and letting others down. When I got married, I was fully ready to take on all of my husband's pains and troubles. I was ready for the difficulty and the work—but I never expected me to be the cause of our most draining, persistent struggle. The guilt ate away at me, becoming so unbearable it incapacitated me at times.
I prayed and cried to Heavenly Father to know what I needed to change about myself for all this to just stop. I prayed so many times, I lost count. Where was God in all of this? What did He expect me to learn, and why wasn't He answering my prayers? What did I need to change? What was wrong with me?
And then I realized something that changed my entire perspective: my depression wasn't sent by God. My depression was a hormonal imbalance brought on by severe illness and sleep deprivation. God wasn't the one forcing this on me, expecting me to learn some great, transcendental lesson. I am mortal. I have limits. And I merely reached one of mine mentally.
Feeling as though God had some reason for this trial, I was left feeling dependent on Him to answer my prayer, for Him to save me from my trial. But I had the power within myself to change, with His help. I could look for answers, speak to doctors, make a change in my life. While it's good to rely on our Heavenly Father, I needed to realize that I couldn't—nor does He want me to—be dependent on Him. The power and control over my life and my happiness were in my hands.
That doesn't mean I couldn't learn from my depression—I learned new things about myself, about humanity, about my husband, about limits and life every day. But through it all, I learned two crucial things:
1. When I felt like pulling away into a dark corner to "spare" others during the bad days, that's when I needed to reach out the most. Just as I loved to serve and help others tackle problems, I had to be willing to be the recipient of service. I had to let others in with brutal honesty. I had to let go of guilt and instead hold onto those I love.
2. God did not want me to go through this. He was not keeping this trial in my life until I learned some mysterious, needed lesson. Some things in life just happen. But Heavenly Father would be there for me in my most broken of moments—loving and strengthening me still. I had to let go of the delusion that my depression was some sign of weakness in my nature and hold on instead to God's perfect happiness.
Depression, anxiety, and so many other problems in life are not some flaw in our spiritual or physical makeup. They are a part of existence—even God weeps. But just as pain and sadness are a part of existing, so are joy and hope and the power to change. And thankfully, with His help and the help of doctors and loved ones in my life, I was able to.