Tag Archives: Mental Illness

Faith to Be Still

We talk about the faith to move mountains, the faith to heal the sick, the faith to make things change. More often though, I think we need to exercise the faith to stay still in a world of constant change, to hold on when things aren’t happening like we want, and to trust God when he seemingly leaves you alone. Faith is not always the grandiose manifestations of God’s power. Sometimes the greatest faith is necessary to simply be.

I recently went through the worst episode of depression that I have ever experienced. Although things were incredibly difficult, this was not a trial of faith for me. It was a trial of body and mind- a physical, emotional, and social trial. I wondered if I would make it through, not because I lacked faith, but because I did not know how much my physical body could endure before I would break. I had suffered so much for so long that the only thing left was my faith. This particular period of depression though was also a reassurance of God’s love and trust in me.

As the depression progressed, I felt like I was stripped down to my core. Layer after layer of the things I thought were important, the things I thought made me me, were stripped away until I found out exactly what I was made of. In the end, it wasn’t my strength or reliability, it wasn’t my knowledge or willpower, it wasn’t my obedience, and it wasn’t the service or the good deeds that made me me. I found that it is faith that makes me who I am.

I was doing a lot of good things. I was helping people. I was productive. I was a positive influence in the world. I recently read a quote I had written in my journal a few months ago that said, “you find your faith when you are doing all the right things, but everything goes wrong.” I was doing all of the right things. I was being an influence for good. I was doing everything I knew how to do to take care of myself. Things just went horribly wrong. But in the breaking and utter despair, I found something beautiful.

When everything else fell away, I found my core was faith. Not just the faith to move mountains, but the faith to stay where I was, to stand alone, and to stay standing when mountains and valleys and rivers moved all around me. I had faith that God could take away my depression. I had faith that I could be healed and made whole. But I felt like God told me that wasn’t the plan. He told me that this was just what I was going to have to live with for a while. I didn’t know how long it would last. I didn’t know when it would be over or if I would ever get better, but I knew that I trusted God anyway. In the midst of my darkest hours, I found the faith to trust God with all of me even when that faith was all I had left to give.

I have had depression for as long as I can remember. It had never been this bad before, and I am not sure I could have made it through if it had been this bad before. But throughout this trial I was so grateful for how I had been prepared for what I was going through. I was grateful for the previous years of depression that taught me resilience and perseverance. I was grateful that I now have friends that could be there for me through it. I was grateful that I have a good, stable job with an understanding boss. And now I am completely grateful, not just that things have gotten better, but that I experienced this so that I could discover the faith already within me to “be still and know that [He] is God.”

Sleep on Now- The Loneliness of Depression

I took a week off of work and stayed with my sister. Depression had gripped me so tightly that I could not breathe. I just wanted the pain to be over. It was good to have this time off, but I didn’t get better. In fact, I might have just realized how bad it really is.

This depression has been so thick, so debilitating, so all-consuming that I have related to how Job felt and how Christ must have felt in the Garden of Gethsemane. I don’t really know what they went through. I have no idea. But I believe it took them to their limits, and this depression has taken me to mine.

During this difficult time, I could feel my friends becoming less able to be there for me. I knew I was sliding into a dark place that no one could really understand. But I hoped that I could still feel them on the other side of the darkness. I knew they couldn’t be with me, but I hoped I wouldn’t feel like they left me.

It makes me think of Christ in the Garden of Gethsamane. He asked his closest friends to stay with him, to pray with him. He told them that his soul was “exceeding sorrowful even unto death.” They knew he wasn’t okay, but they fell asleep anyway. And when he wanted them to be there for him, when he went back to see if they were still there, they were asleep. And in the agony of loneliness and pain, he asked, “could ye not watch with me one hour?” I understand that question. I understand that loneliness, but I probably would have slept too…

The human body can only do so much. I think of what Christ said, “The spirit truly is ready, but the flesh is weak.” Humans can only do so much. No matter how bad your friend is hurting, sometimes you physically cannot be there for them. That doesn’t say anything about how much you love them. It just is evidence of our human weakness. And like Christ, I have come to understand that sometimes my friends just aren’t capable of being there for me in my greatest struggles.

I don’t think I know what Christ went through. He suffered pain and emotional anguish that I cannot even imagine. But I do know that because of that, he understands. He understands when my friends can’t be there for me. He understands my begging for any other way. He understands the agony and pleading for the end of the pain. And because he understands, I am not alone. God is always just a prayer away.

So I too can say to my friends, “sleep on now, and take your rest: it is enough.”

Never Alone

The last few months have been a very difficult time for me. There have been moments of agony and despair and desperate pleading for any other way. However, through these difficulties, I have found peace in knowing that I am not utterly alone. Others have been through similar circumstances and understand the feelings I face.

I have taken comfort from scriptural stories where the trials faced seemed more than one could bear. I have read in the book of Job, “Though he slay me, yet will I trust in him.” I have read the account of the Savior when he asks for the cup to be removed from him. I have read in D&C 121 where Joseph Smith asks how long God will let his people suffer. I do not hold myself on par with any of these people. I am not a prophet. I do not see myself as anything other than a lonely child trying to do my best. But with these great men, I share their pleadings and their faith.

Depression is very lonely. It can seem to be the longest path you have ever taken. It is difficult to move on, not knowing whether there is any sense of relief in the distance. I have pleaded for the end. I have begged for any other way. I have prayed for relief, for help, for things to just be a little easier. I have felt myself drowning and sensed my friends slipping farther away, the deeper I go.

But through all of this, through the pain and loneliness and heartache, I have understood what faith and hope are. Faith is not simply believing in something you cannot see. It is standing with what you believe in times when you do not know if it will be worth it. Hope is not just thinking that things will get better. Hope is believing that even though things are not getting better, there is a greater purpose in this pain you are called to endure.

My faith is not like a giant. I do not know if I always trust in a greater plan. I wonder sometimes how long this will last and how much I will have to endure. I wonder when the end will come. What I do know is that I trust in the God who made heaven and earth. I trust in a Savior that lived and died for me. I cling to the hope that because my Savior walked his long and lonely path alone, I do not have to be alone. And “though he slay me, yet will I trust in him” because I know that he has never left me and will never leave me. And if all my friends leave or cannot help because this darkness becomes too much for them to bear, I have a perfect friend that is just a prayer away.

Depression is the hardest trial I have ever faced, but because of him I do not have to do it alone. We never have to bear it alone.