Updated: Feb 10, 2020
By Heath Morby
Depression. It is tragic, misunderstood, trivialized, romanticized and stigmatized. But it is real, and it is a disease that is too common, and its victims often live in quiet desperation. Simply put, depression is a soul that is breaking, silently. Said the poet:
“If I'm on my knees, I'm begging now If I'm on my knees, groping in the dark I'll be praying for deliverance From the night into the day
But it's all gray here But it's all gray to me
I recognize the walls inside, I recognize them all I've paced between them chasing demons down until they fall In fitful sleep enough to keep their strength enough to crawl Into my head with tangled threads they riddle me to solve Again, and again and again.” - Natalie Merchant
And such is depression.
sentence encapsulates the essence of this life and of the hope of eternal life. (See Plan of Salvation). The depth and breadth of these words are immense. Men are that they might have joy. It is beautiful. It is inspiring. It is true.
But what is this joy? Where and when does it happen? What if you don’t feel joy? What if you haven’t felt joy? I understand it intellectually. I understand it from the perspective of not feeling what I think joy is supposed to be. But I know more of what it isn’t. Despite this I know that the power of Jesus Christ and His infinite love for us will allow for reprieve. It gives hope when hope is fleeting.
I love my family. I love our life together. I have a couple of lifelong friends whom I love. By all accounts I have an ideal life. But I mostly feel outside looking into that life. I have never felt fully connected to anyone or anything. This is hard to admit out loud or in a blog where others can read it. But I was asked to write about my experiences with depression, how my faith in the Gospel of Jesus Christ, my membership in the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints and mostly, my testimony of the Atonement of the Savior, has carried me when, at times, I couldn’t walk forward on my own.
I wouldn’t undertake to write a blog post on this topic on my own. It is painful and deeply personal. But I suppose I am uniquely qualified to write about depression because it is so ingrained into who I am as a person. It is an uncomfortable thing to talk about a major defect of brain chemistry and function. I have an illness you just can’t see it. Some days the only thing that allows me to keep it all together is my belief in Jesus Christ. Sometimes it is only blind faith that keeps me functioning and gives me a resolve to endure until the pain is swallowed up in the mercy of the Savior.
I have suffered almost daily depression since I was about 12 years old. I am now 51. I have basically felt alone for almost 4 decades. One of the byproducts of my depression that I have developed is an ability to compartmentalize my feelings. Mostly. This is both a blessing and a curse. It is easy to lose track of who you are when you have to truly manage your feelings and emotions.
Depression, put in the simplest of terms, steals life. It steals the little things that make life
special. It has created an emotional distance from much of what is around me. Apathy, indifference, fear; all these are common in my version of depression. This thing, at least in part, has robbed me of the ability to have the closeness I desire to others. Even to those for whom I live and would die. It is a paradox I cannot explain.
I am hoping that using my experience will open some dialog. Even if one person is helped, it is worth it. If I can humanize mental illness, specifically depression, I believe it will help others who don’t personally suffer to better understand. I also hope those who do know of depression know they are not alone and give them courage to seek help. Whether that help is professional or spiritual and preferably a combination of both, there is help! But but choosing to accept it is a diabolical trick of depression. The nature of the disease is to destroy by giving no hope that there is hope.
I have tried to consider the pain that Jesus Christ suffered in His tragic yet heroic life. I cannot begin to comprehend how He was betrayed, falsely accused, beaten, suffered the pains, sorrows and effects of sin for each one of us and ultimately was crucified. Because of this, He has a perfect understanding of what we feel. We just need to have the faith and courage to let Him help.
By no means would I ever compare my life to that of the Savior Jesus Christ. My battle is an inner, very human, personal struggle, and His was a God carrying the weight of the Salvation for all humanity. But I find solace in this passage of scripture used in the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints:
“7 And if thou shouldst be cast into the pit, or into the hands of murderers, and the sentence of death passed upon thee; if thou be cast into the deep; if the billowing surge conspire against thee; if fierce winds become thine enemy; if the heavens gather blackness, and all the elements combine to hedge up the way; and above all, if the very jaws of hell shall gape open the mouth wide after thee, know thou, my son, that all these things shall give thee experience, and shall be for thy good.
8 The Son of Man hath descended below them all. Art thou greater than He?
9 Therefore, hold on thy way, and the priesthood shall remain with thee; for their bounds are set, they cannot pass. Thy days are known, and thy years shall not be numbered less; therefore, fear not what man can do, for God shall be with you forever and ever.” (Doctrine and Covenants Section 122: 7-9)
Recently the Church of Jesus Christ has put a needed focus on mental health and have some resources and tools available to all. Additionally, the message given by a member of the Quorum of the Twelve Apostles for the Church of Jesus Christ in the October 2013 General Conference offers perspective and help to those who seek it.
This conference address and all the resources in the world will not solve the problem of depression. It doesn’t even provide a hope that any of us will overcome this in this life. But what it does provide is a testimony that we are loved. Heavenly Father knows what we suffer and through his Son Jesus Christ ultimately the pain will have an end. The Atonement of Jesus Christ will heal us all and we will have joy. We are asked to endure it the best we can.
I expect to live with depression for the remainder of my mortal life. I don’t like it, but I have accepted it as part of my trials in this journey of mortality. We all have trials. No one is immune. Even though I don’t understand why I feel the way I do, I at least know I am not alone. I know that my Savior descended far below anything I am experiencing and that when it is my time to come before Him to account for my life, I know that He will know me and hopefully I have fought the good fight well enough, and I will have rest. And joy.
There are many days where I feel sorry for myself outside of the depression. Days when I am tired, when the battle seems too long and hard and I ask, “Why me? Why won’t this end? When do I get a break?”. Honestly, I know the answer and I don’t like it sometimes. As another leader in the Church of Jesus Christ talked of his father and the suffering he endured as he was dying with
cancer: “God needs brave sons”. (Henry B. Eyring - Going Home) And that is the answer. Like anyone else who has personal struggles, we must learn to endure them so that we can become the sons and daughters He needs us to be.
I am an everyday, normal human being trying my best to live in a broken world, with broken people in my own broken mind. But I have truth and goodness with which He has blessed me. I have a testimony of Gospel of Jesus Christ, and more importantly, I know He is my Savior. I know He understands what I feel and that in the end, when I come before Him to account for my life, I will be given that which I deserve because He knows me.
Men are that they might have joy. And this is possible because “He was wounded for our transgressions; He was bruised for our iniquities: the chastisement of our peace was upon Him; and with His stripes we are healed” (Isaiah 53:5). Someday I will have joy because that is why we are.