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Tuesday, January 31, 2017

Depression - Part 1 of 2

Dear Bro Jo,

I stumbled upon your website this past weekend as I was looking for LDS resources on depression/self-harm/etc., and decided it couldn't hurt to reach out and get your advice on my situation.  It's not really about dating, but more about how to trust in the Lord and His love.

I'm a 27 year old single sister, return missionary, grad school student.  And I have depression.  Severe, crippling depression that keeps me in bed for days at a time, has led to cutting and suicidal thinking in the past, and complete social withdrawal.  Mental illness isn't something we really talk about in my family and so I've carried this burden alone for years.  I've come to terms with the fact that depression (at least to some extent) will be part of my experience throughout this mortal life. I've figured out how to manage the depression, especially on the outside and still function as a successful grad student.  I've also realized that my depression is what keeps me from feeling the Lord's love for me and that the feelings of being unlovable also fuel the depression.

I do have a testimony of the gospel, and can look at any other person and see their value, worth, and potential as a child of God.  I look at the experiences I had on my mission, and know without a doubt how much the Lord cares about every single one of those individuals.  And yet, I can't seem to understand that He also feels the same about me.  I feel so completely worthless and unlovable.  I feel like I will never be good enough, or obedient enough, or whatever to deserve His attention, let alone His love.  I don't even want to make friends in my new ward because I feel like they would be better off not wasting their time getting to know me.  *Now, background info here, I worked in the psych field before grad school and am now in a psych program.  I know all about these cognitive distortions I have going on, and know that these thoughts are untrue and irrational.*  Yet I can't seem to change how I feel... and I know until I feel differently, nothing is going to be different.

I met with my bishop this morning and discussed some of my concerns.  He asked me several questions about my worthiness, and honestly I'm doing pretty well.  I don't drink, smoke, etc.  I keep the law of chastity.  I pay my tithing.  I go to sacrament meeting every week.  But I don't pray.  I don't read my scriptures. But my bishop told me that I am worthy - and always will be worthy - of the Lord's love.  I just have to accept it. He told me I simply have to open myself up to that love.

So I guess my question is how?  How do I do that?  How do I go about believing that a) it's possible for the Lord to love and then b) that He actually does love me?  How do I motivate myself to read my scriptures and say my prayers, when I couldn't even get out of bed this week?  How do I do that in a way that's not like a checklist, like I did it because it had to be done so there?  I want to be active in the gospel.  I want to feel like I belong at church.  I know that understanding my relationship with Heavenly Father is a crucial part of that.  I know that part of my problem is the depression, but I feel like even more it's a spiritual problem.  I think of the scripture in 2 Nephi, about how men are that they might have joy.  I don't believe that I will have that joy until I consistently feel the Lord's love.  And then I get down on myself because I feel like I should feel the Lord's love, but I don't, so therefore I must be bad person and the cycle just continues and continues and I just want to stop trying to make it work sometimes.

I'm not sure if this is making sense, or if I'm really saying what I wanted to say. It kind of ended up being a bit of a word vomit; so sorry about the jumbled mess.  I guess I want to know how to feel the Savior's love (consistently) when I feel so unlovable?

Thanks for taking the time to read this.

Also, I don't care if you put this on your blog or whatever, but I would like to remain anonymous.  But I'm sure there are lots of people who probably feel similar so maybe this would help them to.  Either way, just a response or any ideas you might have for me would be very much appreciated.

Feeling Unlovable

Dear Feeling,

How does one jump in a swimming pool?

How does one breathe?

How does one feel the warmth of the sun or a campfire?

Clinical Depression is very real; everyone gets depressed from time to time, but some of us just have a harder time with it because of the way things are functioning inside.  You're not alone.

The best advice I can give you is to be of service to others.  Especially when you're feeling most blue.

When we give of ourselves we see the Lord's love for His children both in our own actions and in how our service makes them feel.

When your day is gloomy, take your mind off of your troubles by brightening someone else's day.

You'll always be anonymous on the blog, but you're never anonymous to the Lord.


- Bro Jo

PS:  It caught my attention that you used the phrase "self-harm".  If you've read my posts about it, you'll know that it's a topic I'm both aware of and very sensitive to.  If you didn't mention this to your Bishop, and you're struggling with it at all, I beg you to get professional help.  People who struggle with self-harm, like any other addiction, aren't unworthy (though they often think they are, and therefore need to be "punished"), rather they're trying to control the hurt in their lives by being the source of the hurt in their lives.

I take all of this very seriously, and I want to hear back from you.  What's troubling you, little sister?

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