Things have been rough since the semester started this week. Between the stress that comes from new classes, campus going from the ghost town it was over the summer to downtown Mumbai, coupled with some minor health concerns, life has not been fun. And the beast that is depression has reared it’s ugly head, and is determined to take it’s share.
I have an appointment to see a therapist on Wednesday, and I think I’m going to ask for some anti-depressants. I’ve noticed that I’ve been getting really angry and pissy lately–between the times when I just want to sit down and cry. I’ve been off my meds for more than a year, but I think I need something to lift me up emotionally for the time being.
To that end, last night I asked my Facebook friends to share with me what makes them happy. I did ask that they not talk about their children because, well, that biological clock is ticking pretty loudly, and hearing how other people’s kids make them happy makes it worse. I love the responses I got:
being with people
Dr Pepper (twice! I dislike Dr Pepper’s aftertaste, so I’m going to chalk this down as “a sweet treat”)
watching a favorite movie for the millionth time
reading a favorite book for a millionth time
exercising (’cause of the ice cream and Dr Pepper, I guess)
being in nature
going to the library
laughing so hard you cry
sticking your hand out the car window on a nice day
the stained glass window at the Orem Library:
(which I have to admit, I’ve never really paid attention to–this window is in the children’s book section, and when I go to the library, I’m headed off to non-fiction than the fiction section. I’ve glanced at the window, but next time I go to the library, I’ll be sure to go look at it)
Life is always better in the light of morning so I added my list:
that moment that something I’m making–be it a painting or some baking or a story or a blog post–begins to come together and I know it’s going to be awesome.
re-reading a good book
reading a good book for the first time
little dogs waiting to greet me when I come home
hummingbirds fighting at the feeder
waking up because your body tells you to, not because your alarm clock tells you to.
And of course, wonderful family and friends.
So, if you were to add to this list, what would you say? What always cheers you up? I was amazed at how therapeutic just coming up with a list was. I’d love to hear in the comments what makes you happy, but if you don’t want to share with the world, come up with one for yourself.
Yesterday was remarkable.
The fact that yesterday was so amazing leaves me with an interesting conundrum–I’ve been trying all day to organize my thoughts and feelings about what I experiences in a way that feels not preachy and interesting. The problem with these life-changing revelations is that they tend to apply only to the life of the person who experienced it.
So, yesterday, my local NPR station broadcast an extraordinary interview with a man who is both openly gay, and a faithful member–and employee of the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints. You can hear it here. This interview led me to Wilcox’s pet project–beyond the film discussed in the interview–The Empathy First Initiative. The EFI Facebook page had this video of a TEDtalk linked to it.
First off–why had no one told me about TED? It’s amazing.
Second, I realize I just linked an hour and twenty minutes of media that, while I found utterly fascinating and life changing, others may not. What follows is what I found apropos, if you don’t want to watch and listen to those links. Or, even if you do.
So, here’s how I understood all of this. In Randall Wilcox’s discussion on what it means to be a gay Mormon, he talked about embracing his whole self. When he accepted who and what he was, he became more spiritual–contrary to what Orthodox Mormons tend to believe about homosexuality, and what it means to be gay.
The other thing Wilcox discusses beautifully is empathy. Rather than looking at a person as an object–oh, he’s gay, or she’s a democrat, or their poor–he encourages us to look beyond, to see the person who has thoughts and feelings and ideas. To not dismiss someone as an abomination or a bigot, for instance, but to try to understand their thought process and the life-experiences that led them to those conclusions.
Brene Brown’s talk is on similar lines, in that she discusses empathy as well. But what stood out to me in her talk was the notion that when we numb the negative in our lives–the pain, the depression, the vulnerabilities–we numb everything. I think I’d subconsciously come to the same conclusion, at least in regards to my depression. When I started to open up about the fact that I am depressed, and stopped pretending that everything was fine, I started to feel better.
Brown also talks about vulnerabilities–we are all vulnerable. Everybody has something that makes them vulnerable, but it’s the people who embrace their vulnerabilities who thrive, who can love and be loved, while those who try to hide their vulnerabilities struggle, blame others, and spend their lives searching for meaning.
This makes perfect sense, and it’s something that I’ve begun to put into practice. I’ve been dredging up those deep, dark places within my soul and mind, examining everything and–and I think this is the important bit–not reburying those imperfections that make me vulnerable. I’ve realized that all the self-destructive things that I do are because I feel vulnerable, and I’m trying to either hide the vulnerability, or the shame that comes from being vulnerable.
But, by embracing who I am, the dark scary parts and all, I can become a better person, one who has the capacity to love herself, and by extension, others. I feel like I’m taking the first steps on an important journey.
Now, I do understand that this is all shiny and new, and in a couple of months, the shine will probably have worn off–this post is as much a reminder to me as anything. By getting the words down, it cements the way I’m thinking or feeling. I also know that it might be too much to ask that these few words might help someone else. And you know what? I’m okay with that. Right now, me becoming a better person is all I can ask for.
Momentum is a powerful thing. Writing yesterday’s post was enough to get the ball rolling–I had a good cry and an even better talk with my parents. I’m feeling much better, and, at the moment, am even probably going to go to the Easter Party.
I was thinking about the people I know who always seem to be happy, and I wonder if they realize what a blessing that is. I’m not naive enough to think that their lives are free of pain–in fact, they seem to have gone through some of the worst trials–everything from abuse to a brain tumor, to losing everything they own, building a life again, then losing it all again and more. And I know that their happiness isn’t a 24/7 thing–I once saw one woman I would place in this group break down into tears when talking about her first marriage–her husband had been abusive to her, and she only found the courage to leave after he started hurting her kids too. This messed up her eldest daughter to the point where she’s in worse shape than I am, Michelle (not her real name) would get misty eyed whenever she would talk about Robin (also not her real name), but within the hour she would be sunshine and smiles again.
As I was thinking about happiness as a blessing, I had a realization. Happiness really is a gift of the spirit, even if it is not one specifically mentioned in scripture.
This led me to think about my situation in a new light. Depression isn’t so much a trial I have to face, as happiness is a gift of the spirit that I wasn’t blessed with. It may seem like the same thing, but in reality, it turns everything on its head.
I know that the only true path to happiness is though the Gospel of Jesus Christ. I taught on my mission that the plan (I kinda feel like I should have capitalized that; The Plan) our Heavenly has outlined for us is called the Plan of Happiness. I also know that if we seek after spiritual gifts, that we will receive them as the Lord sees fit.
I think it’s easier to seek to gain something, than to seek to be rid of something. And maybe the serotonin receptors in my brain will never work correctly, and I’ll always have a hard time feeling joy that others feel in the same situations, but I have faith in the Lord that if I do what I should, and seek after the spiritual gift of happiness, that I can achieve it.
I KNOW that every fourth Sunday I have meetings starting at 8am at the church. I prepared for it, I went to bed early, even though I couldn’t sleep, and Lulu kept me up even more than she usually does. I showered chose what I was going to wear–including accessories, the night before, and set my alarm for 7am. I woke up at 8:30. Crap. The last five minutes of my first meeting were really good, though.
I talked briefly with my Bishop, and he complemented me on what I had done in my capacity as the Temple Committee Co-Chair, I thanked him, then commented that I should be doing more. He just smiled at me and said, “Focus on what you can do, not on what you can’t.” Later, he repeated that over the pulpit to the Ward, and added “and you will be happy.”
Happiness tends to be a fleeting thing for me. For everyone I suppose. The depression makes happiness harder to come by, and it doesn’t stay as long as it would for a normal person. But Bishop’s comments made me think: focusing of shortcomings and failures, as well as thinking about what we can’t do is a surefire way to become depressed.
I was feeling anxious during Sacrament Meeting, and would have slipped out to go home, except I had to teach the Temple Prep class in Sunday School. So I pulled out a piece of paper, and started making a list of the things that I can do. It included things like temple and volunteer work, helping my family, gardening in my little patio garden, and taking care of the dogs. There wasn’t anything too big or amazing, but it was a nice little exercise.
While I was writing this, a few other things came into my head–writing, and artwork. My writing has gotten better over the past few months–I always knew I could write, but have felt self-conscious about what I’ve put out. This blog has helped me overcome some of those feelings, and my writing has improved for it. My artwork–painting, drawing and photography, might not be that great, but I can do it. And with practice, those things will get better.
I have an eye for layout and design. I can create wonderful things that catch people’s eyes, and that they enjoy. I can cook and bake, I can sing, just not well, I can memorize songs and scripture and poetry. I can be happy.