Fighting the beast
I was diagnosed with depression when I was 10 years old. At the time, my parents didn’t tell me. All I knew was that my teacher saw me daydreaming and starring off into space, and, because she knew of my family history with epilepsy, thought that I was having petty mal seizures. I went to a lot of doctors, had a lot of tests, then, finally, someone suggested to my parents that I might be depressed.
Mom, Dad and I went up to Salt Lake City to Primary Children’s Hospital, where I met with a child psychologist. As strange as it sounds, this is one of my happiest memories. We only made it to SLC maybe twice a year, so it was always a treat, and the fact that I was there alone with both my parents made it doubly so.
My parents didn’t put me on medication at that time, which was probably a good idea. This was the early 90’s, and anti-depressants for children hadn’t really been studied. I did see a therapist every once in a while, but he changed specialties, and I stopped seeing him.
Years passed. My family participated in a failed experiment (which, I may or may talk about later, we’ll see) which put additional strain on our family and my mental health. I did start taking anti-depressants in high school, and have taken them on and off ever since.
While I’m writing this, I’m waiting until it’s time to go see a psychiatrist to talk about the medicine I’m currently on.
I’ve fought depression for nearly 2/3rds of my life, and have no delusions of winning, at least in this life. I think of it as a beast that lives inside my head (in a totally non-crazy sort of way. Er, at least, in a totally non-schizophrenic type of way) that feeds on my happiness, self worth, and love for myself and others. The beast gives me, in return, sadness, loss of hope, irritability, anxiety and shyness.
There is a stigma attached to depression in our society, being a member of the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints, this seems to be worse. I served a mission, and, naturally, being in such a stressful environment, the beast reared it’s ugly head. My companions thought that I was sinning, and needed to repent in order to slay the beast. Unfortunately, it’s not that easy. What sin could a 10 year old commit that would leave the rest of her life in such shambles? Especially a 10 year old who was raised a faithful Christian, taught to love herself, others and animals and nature? On my mission, I thought of my anti-depressants as ‘spirit pills’ because taking them allowed me to fill more fully the power of the Holy Ghost.
I’m convinced that depression is really a disease of the spirit. And yes, it can come as a result of sin, or the result of trying to take on too much, or trying to be too perfect. It also comes as a chemical imbalance in the brain, that, in my case anyway, persists throughout life.
I don’t like being depressed. I hate the beast, and would do anything to be rid of it. I don’t expect to be able to give up the fight any time soon, though. All I can do is work with my doctors, work with my church leaders, pray, study and remain faithful, and maybe, I can keep the beast at bay enough to live a normal life.