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Thursday, February 2, 2017

Depression - Part 2 of 2

Dear Bro Jo-

Thanks for the reply.  Service really does seem to help, I just have to make a conscious decision to act and not just be so passive.  As far as the self-harming goes, I did not mention it to my Bishop.  But, I have not cut in a very long time.  It was definitely an addiction in the past, but I have tried really hard to overcome it.  But like any addiction, I still have those moments when it's all I think about and I'm really tempted to cut.  I wish there was more of a support for this, in a helpful way and not just a my life sucks so I'm going to cut way.  But I now know and understand that it's not going to help me at all in the long run, and I try to focus on other coping strategies instead.  And I am getting professional help for the depression, and know myself well enough to know when I need to be around others or get out of the house and away from the temptation. 

As far as what's troubling me, I'm not even sure what to say.  Bro Jo, my life is super complicated, and a lot of the time I don't even know how to make sense of it.  I know the gospel and the Atonement are crucial to finding peace in my life, but sometimes it just seems so impossible.  Sometimes just taking that first step is so overwhelming that I give up before I have a chance to fail.  I have a testimony, it's just not as strong as it could or should be.  And then there is a little piece of me that is afraid to try, because if this doesn't work then nothing will, and then where does that leave me?  Or if it doesn't work for me, that means I am the problem and I'm not good enough.  Honestly, I think a lot of it comes from a difficult childhood, always trying to earn my parents' love and never feeling like I was good enough, and then blaming myself when their relationship struggled.  I guess I have a huge fear of failure, mixed with a fear of never being good enough.  And then that paralyzes me, and I give up before I have a chance to really fail and confirm that fear.

But I also feel like I am in a completely different place than I was when I wrote that last email.  Not better or worse exactly, just different.  (And the rest of the email I'm not sure about you sharing publicly....)  The last two weeks have been some of the hardest, most heart wrenching weeks of my life, but they've also helped me realize that the Lord never abandoned me and that I friends that care deeply about me.  

My father attempted suicide last weekend.  It was such a shock to get the phone call from my mom (my parents live in another state) and at the same time I wasn't all that surprised.  Depression runs in my family and my dad has it bad.  But it made for a long and difficult week.  I have gone through a roller coaster of emotions in the last few days, but the one that I can't seem to shake is anger.  I am so angry at him and his choice.  Yet that quickly turns to guilt because I know I need to be supportive.  I work in the psych field; I know what the literature says about this.  And a suicide survivor doesn't need people angry at him.  He needs support and love and help.  But how do I balance that with my own emotions?  Especially when he didn't want to talk to any of us for several days?  I have such a hard time reconciling those conflicting feelings.

Yet at the same time, this terrible thing has helped me realized how much the Lord is in control and that people do care about me and that I do have friends here that love me.  I spent the weekend before helping my siblings and visiting my grandpa.  I went to stake conference with my sister and her family where the message seemed to be about steadfastness, and remaining faithful in our "but if not" moments.  Then when I got the phone call before class last Monday, I had friends step in and take care of me, give me a priesthood blessing, tell the teacher why I couldn't stay in class, and find another professor to talk to me for the next two hours and process what was happening.  These friends stood by me all week and were supportive and let me know that whatever I was feeling was okay.  They've helped me realize that I'm not a burden.  They've told me countless times that I've been through a traumatic event and not only did I need to take care of myself, but I deserved it.  I deserved to be taken care of.  That was huge for me.

I've always had a complicated relationship with my dad.  Honestly, I think that's why I have a hard time accepting the Lord's love.  It's hard for me to understand how a father (who I can't even see) can love me so perfectly and unconditionally when my own family life is such a mess.  Like I said, I felt like I had to earn my parents' love, especially love from my dad.  He and my mom split up for several years and he was inactive for even longer, and I blamed myself for that.  I felt like if I was better, that wouldn't have happened.  Now, lots of therapy has helped that, but those thought patterns still pop up.  And it makes it so hard to trust that other people love me even when I'm not perfect.

I don't really know what to do.  I finally talked to my dad yesterday, one week after the attempt, but I'm not ready to have a relationship again.  I am so angry and hurt, yet I want to be supportive.  But I'm also realizing that I'm not a five year old anymore, and that this time I have a choice of how much I'm going to let this affect my life.  And through it all, I know the Lord was with me.  I felt so calm Monday night after my friend gave me the blessing, and I know it was because of the Lord.  I just have a hard time holding onto that faith and that conviction.  I tend to bury myself in my homework instead of dealing with the anger and emotions.  But that also pulls me away from the Spirit because I can't as easily cross those spiritual things off my "to do" list.

I'm not really sure why I've written all this.  I'm not sure if it answers your question of what's really going on.  Clearly the depression was severe before this, but in a way this hard thing helped me realize again that the Lord is in control.  I don't know what will happen.  I don't know what I want to happen with my dad.  But I think the gospel can provide the peace in the meantime.  And until I figure it out, I guess I just have to keep getting out of bed each morning and putting one foot ahead of the other and know that someday something will happen and it will be okay.

Thanks for caring and listening!  This ended up being a super long email.

- Feeling

Dear Feeling,

Sometimes it's therapeutic just to write stuff down . . . I know that helps me from time to time.

While you're right that now may not be the time to tell your father how angry he has made you, I also think you're entitled to feel angry, hurt, frustrated, or anything else.  Those are very real, very human, responses.

It doesn't mean you love him any less.  On the contrary.  You feel the way you do BECAUSE you love him.

So Be Angry! 

Get it all out in emails to me or your journal or conversations with your therapist.  Whatever it takes.

Put on a happy face for your father, but allow yourself to deal with what you need to deal with.

Life hurts.  And it can be messy.

And, this is the thing, little sister, that's okay.

Because you're right:  you're NOT a burden, and your Heavenly Father DOES always love you.

You don't have to do anything to deserve that love; and there's nothing you can do that will ever send that love away.

It's unconditional.

And that's awesome.

Relationships can wait.

And I agree with you:  the Gospel can provide peace . . . especially when we need it most.

Always here for you,

- Bro Jo

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