Your Pain Is Real and Valid

 Since I have bipolar disorder, my severe depression comes in waves and even though it's awful I know that it's not going to last. At the same time there is always that trepidation in wondering when it will come back. I think when I feel a lot better or even manic it's like I forget how it felt and want to obnoxiously say something insensitive to all of you like, "Come on! Cheer up!" I thought my new meds were really working this last month and then in the last few days I have had a couple of panic attacks/suicidal episodes. I'm trying to tell myself that it's just a setback and to keep moving forward. 

While I don't understand what it's like to feel that severe depression and anxiety 

every moment of every day I do understand what it feels like to feel like you can't 
take one more step. I understand what it's like to feel that even though you know
 that other people have "been there" that it feels like you are the only person in the
 world who has felt such despair. I remember reading in a book a woman talking to 
a group of doctors about feeling suicidal and she said, "We *don't* want to die; we 
want to *live* but we don't want to live LIKE THIS. Try to imagine feeling all consuming 
guilt, anger, sadness, loneliness, hopelessness and anxiety. Now imagine feeling
 those all at once day in and day out." 

I have also been struggling soooo much spiritually and like some of you have been angry at God. Really, really angry. After I have a severe episode I get some great spiritual insight and make commitments to myself and then I fail over and over again when I used to not be able to let my head hit the pillow unless I had prayed and read my scriptures fairly consistently. I get angry when I try to pray and read the scriptures and then I get angry that I feel angry. I try to build a positive relationship with the Gospel but I feel stuck. (I will say that singing hymns seems to help when prayer and scripture study don't. I was feeling too angry to pray or read last night but my husband encouraged me to sing with him and that seemed to help.) Mostly I am angry because the life I once had is gone. I've had depression and anxiety for years but for 90% of that time I was able to work, get out of the house, be social and leave the house without feeling scared even amidst depression and anxiety. Since a car accident almost four years ago it slowly felt like that girl; that part of me has died and is never coming back and I mourn and grieve for that girl over and over again and can't seem to accept that this is my life now. I know for me when I'm depressed it feels like I've been placed in prison when I've done nothing wrong and that prison is in the middle of Disneyland. I get to watch everyone else having the time of their life while I am in a cold, dark and damp cell being fed bread and water. I know that everyone has challenges at the same time all my depressed brain sees is people with challenges (going on the Disneyland theme) comparable to dropping an ice cream cone they just bought or having to wait in a line for a ride for a long time.

I didn't mean to make it about me but I wanted you to understand my background in what brought to me to seeing this post from my friend. A couple of months ago I was feeling suicidal all day and part of it was anger at God and thinking about some of you going through what you're going through when you have probably done nothing wrong. I was in the absolute depths of despair when I saw this picture that my friend posted. She always seems to say things that are positive yet still acknowledging the pain of life. She is going through a lot right now as she is recently a single mom of five kids.

I was thinking about how ridiculously unfair life is. I thought about what extreme injustice I felt for what I am going through when I didn't do anything to deserve it and when some people seem to breeze through life. For the first time in a long time when I read the pages on this picture I thought about how unfair it was for the Savior. He truly did NOTHING wrong. I thought about the times that I felt so alone and watched everyone around me go on their merry way while I felt like I wanted to die. This time I wondered what it was like for the Savior going through his agony while his friends peacefully slept a little ways off. I think about the times when the heavens seem silent to me. This time I thought about how abandoned *He* must have felt when the heavens were silent at His moment of deepest despair.

I messaged my friend my intense gratitude for what she posted. What she wrote back to me is what I will never forget and what touched me the most. She said, 

"Your pain is real and valid. I want you to know that when you experience pain, your spirit is literally shot back in time kneeling beside your brother Jesus Christ in the Garden of Gethsemane...crying together...hurting together...drinking the bitter cup down together. Understanding suffering on this level has helped me feel a companionship with my brother Jesus Christ that has carried me through my darkest hours. He is truly with you, Mary. I know this! There is a deeply spiritual significance to your pain. You just keep going! Do one hour at a time or one breath at a time and surrender the rest. The rest will be taken care of through the grace of God." 

When I read this I felt like Joseph Smith reading the book of James. I couldn't remember the last time something had pierced my soul so deeply and it was such a new concept to me. I knew that the Atonement was infinite and that we could picture the Savior with us during our suffering but never in my life had I pictured myself with HIM in the garden kneeling right beside Him during *His* suffering and suffering with Him *together.*


My battle with depression is definitely caused by a hormonal imbalance

·                                 My battle with depression is definitely caused by a hormonal imbalance.
About nine years ago my sister had convinced me to go on birth control to see if it would clear up my acne. After three months I couldn't take the mood swings (less like a swing and more like a constant emotional mess) anymore and gave up on it.
       Unfortunately, the mood swings continued even though I had quit taking the pill. My mom then suggested that I try progesterone cream for my face. I tried the cream, but it had no effect on my face so when I ran out I didn't buy more. However, apparently, the cream had a positive effect on my mood swings. At the time I didn't realize it, but it was REAL apparent when the darkness returned. The uncontrollable emotions came on fast and hard. I knew I needed to get some more cream when I found myself driving around looking for a bridge to drive off. Fortunately, we were living in a very flat area. The only available bridges were over 2 foot ditches.

So, when I went back to using the cream I went back to feeling normal. No anxiety, not too emotional, not over-reacting to everything… Then one day I started feeling really anxious again! And then the next day I was super anxious and emotional. And then the next day I was looking for those bridges again. And THEN I realized that I had forgotten to use the cream for three days!!!

I try not to make that mistake any more. I can usually catch my mistake when I start to feel anxious. Sometimes, it takes me a few hours of wandering around the house trying to figure what is wrong with me. And then the little light bulb goes on and I go put on the cream. I feel that I am totally dependent on the progesterone cream at this point, but there are no bad side effects, so if I’m going to be addicted to something, this is a good thing to be addicted to.

So, nine years ago, when I started my self medicating, I couldn't find any websites that would confirm that the cream was fixing my hormonal imbalance. Now, they are all over the net.
It’s kind of nice that they are confirming what I figured out on my own.

I will probably never really know if it was the Pill that sent me in the downward spiral of hormonal imbalance or if it was just coincidence, but I have definitely advised my daughter to find a birth control that doesn't mess with the hormones.

Hope this is helpful!!


A Lot of People Suffer this Hell in Silence...

My Story

I have had moderate anxiety and depression for many years. In the early years, I did not like the idea of taking medicine, but I had been on and off it. While the medication did help with anxiety, it did not help with the depression, but I feel my depression was due to a low self-esteem. Plus, it probably would have required a higher dose for it to help with the depression. Whenever I got off the medication, my anxiety would always come back. I finally realized that it would always be with me and there was nothing wrong with taking medicine. After all, I have chemical imbalances, which I have a family history of.

A lot of people suffer in silence with depression and anxiety. Some seeking treatment while others just live with it. It is not a conversation people like to have with others. Everyone has secrets and anxiety and depression were two of mine until something terrible happened to me 2 ½ years ago.

After the birth of my 4th child, I started having extreme anxiety. Everything I looked at made me anxious. I finally told my husband what was going on and so I went to the doctor to get back on my regular medication. That night after taking just one pill earlier that day, I woke up and the skin on my arms, chest, back, and neck felt like it was on fire! It lasted for 3 days and the only thing that would sort of help would be a cool shower. Like a fool I tried to take another pill after that and suffered another 3 days of pain. It made it hard to sleep and I developed insomnia and I was already sleep deprived from having a newborn. I tried other pills in the same category and got the same reaction. Turns out I had a very, very rare reaction to the pills. I ended up in the hospital for 5 days, thus began my Hell that would last for many, many months.

My secret was out for all to see. I had a complete nervous breakdown and developed severe postpartum depression. But even though many people knew what was happening, they were still there to help me and my family get through this really tough time even though no one really knew exactly what I was going through. There is no way I could describe it in words. To understand the suffering I went through you would have had to feel it for yourself. If you could have put your hand inside my soul, you would have been scared to death and scream out in pain!

It took many months and many different combinations of medication before I started to feel better. But I was blessed that someone in my ward who worked with a really good psychiatrist at LDS Family Services offered to help. If not for them, I don’t know where I would be. They cared for me almost on a daily basis to see how the medications were working. If I had not found these people, I would have had to use the psychiatrists at a local hospital and they only see you once a month and if you have a question, they take three days to get back to you.

Through it all I ended up back in the hospital a second time, had my in-laws live with us for 6 weeks, went and stayed with my sister for another six weeks after the in-laws had to leave and my husband hurt his knees in a skiing accident. Yep, our world had turned completely upside down. I don’t know if there were people scared off by what I was going through, I only saw that many people were helping by bringing in meals, cleaning the house, taking care of kids, etc. Plus I had many priesthood blessings.

They say the Lord will not test you beyond what you can handle, but it was. I can’t count how many times I said, “I don’t know how much more of this I can take!” But somehow I made it through each day amongst much suffering. I endured it, and I finally got better with the right combination of medications after 7 long months of Hell. Mind you it still took several months after to finish healing, but I have been feeling great for the last year or so. I don’t consider this terrible trial to be a blessing, but I did let go of a lot of issues I had, changed certain relationships in my life, and gained new friendships.

Despite the bad, there was some good. Furthermore, you would be surprised how many people are actually taking medication for depression. Nowadays, you are not normal if you are not taking some kind of prescription medication.


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Dropping the 'D-Bomb'
Opinion: An optimist's journey toward dropping the 'D-bomb'

By Stephanie Gallman, CNN

updated 12:01 PM EDT, Sun April 1, 2012

Stephanie Gallman


CNN's Stephanie Gallman describes being diagnosed with depression
She reveals how family and friends reacted to her dropping the "D-bomb'"
Gallman says she was surprised because she thinks of herself as an optimist
"Depression, until now, was my dirty little secret," she says

Editor's note: Stephanie Gallman, a CNN assignment editor, was diagnosed with depression last year despite being a frequent exerciser, a fairly healthy eater and an avid fan of Hula-Hoops.

(CNN) -- In August, after several months of seeing a therapist and a psychiatrist, I was diagnosed with depression.

The news came as a shock.

"I'm not depressed," I said defiantly, shaking my head when the doctor deducted that must be what was ailing me.

"I hate depressed people."

She laughed at my strange reaction, but I was serious. I don't want to be in that category of people. Everything they take in and spew out just breathes negativity, and they are difficult to be around. I despise these people.

But as she went down a list of symptoms, they were all there -- loss of appetite, trouble sleeping, waves of irrational anxiety, crying for no reason, loss of interest in work and hobbies, isolation and seclusion. I had nearly every one of them.

We went over my personal history, which included severe bouts with anxiety as a child, teenager, college student and young adult. I told her I assumed all kids were scared of dying, all teenage girls struggled with weight and eating issues, all college students struggled leaving the nest and everyone had a quarter-life crisis. My severe highs and lows that spanned a long period of time were all red flags.

When I told her my family history of mental illness that included at least one suicide, she threw her pen down on the floor as if this years-long mystery had finally been solved.

"It sounds to me like your body just doesn't produce enough serotonin," she said, matter-of-factly.

Her diagnosis sounded quite clinical. We'd only talked for an hour, but she seemed certain, based on our conversation and the briefing she'd had with my therapist, that my body's chemistry was simply off, causing me to feel down. She threw in slight OCD (obsessive-compulsive disorder) for good measure, to which I scoffed, thinking of the clothes strewn about my house.

"Your OCD is in your thoughts -- you think about things to the point of obsessing about them."

Well, that's just awesome.

I agreed with her that I had been going through a slump but wondered if her diagnosis was a bit dramatic. I've always been a firm believer that happiness is a choice. I'm an optimist, so if I'm not happy, there has to be a reason for it. Could these feelings be the result of job stress? The on-again/off-again relationship I'd been fighting to make work for almost a year?

She nodded as I posed these questions and then said, "Sure, it's possible that all of these things could've contributed to how you're feeling. But it's also possible, and quite likely for you, that none of them did."

She advised me, as a frequent exerciser and fairly healthy eater, to continue those activities before she said what I'd feared the most.

"I think an antidepressant might help stabilize some of the chemicals in your brain."

I continued to challenge her, wanting to know how long I'd have to be medicated. She could tell I was anxious and looking for a solution to this problem that didn't involve drugs. But she was already writing a prescription and scheduling our next visit.

"For some people," she explained, "happiness isn't a choice. You wanting to be happy and expecting it to just happen is the equivalent of someone with brown eyes wanting blue eyes and expecting that to just happen."

I wasn't thrilled with the diagnosis, but her explanation made sense to me and made me feel better.

Still, I refused to let myself completely off the hook, and as I left her office, I set forth on a path of self-discovery to identify how my actions might've contributed to how I felt -- a path that quickly brought up the ever-confusing chicken and egg game.

Did I isolate myself from my friends because I was depressed? Or did I become depressed because I isolated myself from my friends?

I was more hesitant than usual to keep what was going on to myself, telling only my family and those closest to me at the time what the doctor had said. Soon it became clear that I needed the support of more than a select few if I was going to get through this. Plus, it's not like me not to share what's going on in my life. And isolating myself, I suspected, was partly to blame for being in this situation in the first place. So, at the inappropriate places and the most inopportune times I could find, I began dropping the "D-bomb."

That's usually how I'd open the conversation, "Um, I have to tell you something. It might feel like a bomb, but I'm OK and everything is fine." As I started to open up about it -- I started to feel more like myself -- the Stephanie who isn't embarrassed by life's setbacks, who tackles difficult situations with humor and honesty.

No surprise, the wonderful people in my life have all been very kind and sympathetic, offering words of comfort and support, but reaction and willingness to talk openly about the disease has varied.

I was raised in a "pick-yourself-up-by-your-bootstraps," kind of a family, so while hurtful that some people immediately discounted that I was actually sick, it was those people who don't believe depression is a real thing that I identified (and still identify) with the most.

The sadness that comes from depression is not rooted in anything real. I'm not sad because of anyone or anything. I don't know why I am sad. I just am. I don't know why I worry about things that are so far out of my control. I just do. And I so wish that I didn't.

Most people who don't believe in depression also don't believe in being medicated for it. Their warnings to me ranged from mindful caution to downright fear that I'd become addicted to pills and turn into a zombie.

Instead of drugs, they'd say, why don't you "do more of the things that you enjoy?"

"Tend to your garden."

"Find a project, something to focus your attention on."

"Read, 'The Secret.' "

Bite me.

These patronizing ("The Secret"? Are you serious?) prescriptions infuriated me, as if the reason I wasn't happy is because I hadn't tried hard enough.

A lot of the people reacted to the D-bomb the same way I did -- "You're depressed?! You? Stephanie Gallman? But you're one of the happiest people that I know! You Hula-Hoop in Walmart!" (I really do Hula-Hoop in Walmart -- every time I go.)

These are the people I wanted to reach out and hug; they made me feel like I hadn't turned into Debbie Downer.

It's true, to the outside world, I do appear happy. And I realize this is hard to grasp, even for me, but I am happy most of the time. I am fully aware of how blessed my life is and express gratitude for it daily. I have worked hard not to let what's going on with me on the inside affect the way I present myself on the outside.

I guess you could say, I've become a Hula-Hoop in Walmart on the outside, want-to-crawl-into-bed-on-the-inside kind of gal; depression, until now, was my dirty little secret.

My happy-go-lucky cheerful attitude is the element of my personality that I am most proud of. This other part -- that obsessively thinks about things I cannot control, is self-loathing and uncertain -- is also a part of who I am; unfortunately, it's the part that has been screaming the loudest lately.

The third, and perhaps the most popular reaction to my dropping the "D-bomb," has been the barrage of friends divulging their personal connections to mental illnesses.

"My mom has bipolar. ... My uncle has been clinically depressed for years."

I was dumbfounded. I wanted to scream like Adam Sandler in "The Wedding Singer": "Gee, you know that information ... really would've been more useful to me yesterday!" Why isn't anyone talking about these illnesses that affect our most important body part -- our brain?

Last summer, I bought a poster that said, "Everything is OK. Maybe not today, but eventually." I framed it and hung it near my bed where I wake up every day and see it.

On my best day, I believe that quote to be absolutely true. I am attacking this diagnosis with every bit of energy and every resource that I have.

On my worst day, I feel like a different person -- tired and unfocused and desperate to feel like the real, fun, positive Stephanie I know is somewhere trapped inside me. I feel let down by the world but too exhausted to go out and change it.

Admitting I suffer from depression and anxiety has, at times, made me feel weak -- like I'm admitting defeat. I am hard on myself for no reason. I'm pissed that despite having every reason to be happy, sometimes I'm not.

My relationships have suffered -- some ruined completely -- because of this disease; some are of my own doing, not trusting those dearest to me and asking for help when I needed it. Others bowed out, not interested in riding this difficult and often unpredictable journey. I can't blame anyone for making that decision, but I'd like to think that even at my worst, I'm worthy of honesty, compassion and understanding.

Anyone who would judge me for this weakness that I've identified and am treating probably isn't someone I would want to work for or date anyway.

I am someone who struggles with her brain the way that others struggle with their heart.

I love deeply and laugh loudly.

I work hard; I play harder. And I always Hula-Hoop at Walmart.

For information on depression and treatment, go to the National Institute of Mental Health website.

[The opinions expressed in this commentary are solely those of Stephanie Gallman.]

Patience, Patience, Patience...

I am bipolar. I was first diagnosed with depression around age 6. I was able to manage it primarily
with counseling (cognitive behavioral therapy), but by the time I hit high school, it became necessary for me to also use medication to control my depression. In my twenties I began exhibiting symptoms of Bipolar II, and that is when my diagnosis changed to bipolar. I am now nearing my mid-thirties. I have been dealing with my mental health issues for almost three decades.

Over those years I have learned many things that I wish I had known right from the beginning. Here they are.
My apologies if some of the following have already been highlighted by others. That just means what we are saying must be really good advice :).

• Patience, patience, patience.

First, patience for the process. It takes time to find what works. If it's medication, that
takes time. Some times, lots of time to find just the right one. It takes time to find the right
counselor. And then it takes time for the actual counseling. It takes time to learn new
behaviors and new thought patterns. It takes time for lifestyle changes. The process just
takes time.

But it is worth it. So very worth it! Just have patience. This too shall pass.

Second, patience for yourself.

You are going to screw up. No worries. You are not perfect, and that is okay. The thing is to try your best, try again, and just keep on trying. Celebrate
your small successes. There have been times in my life when just rolling out of bed was a
great success. I celebrated those times, and found with that attitude, trying came easier.
Build on those small successes. If you mess up, just start over again. Here is a great talk by
President Uchtdorf that teaches us about patience with ourselves:

Third, patience with others. People are willing to support you, but you have to be patient with them. What helps me is to remember that it is the thought that counts, not the “gift.”

Many well intentioned people try to offer me “good” advice more often than I prefer :).

Some of my favorites are “You just need more vitamins.” And, “Have you tried flaxseed
oil?” The flaxseed one is particularly humorous to me because I have indeed tried it, and my goodness did that trigger me into mania! Natural remedies do not work well for me.

What I try to do is have patience with someone offering me advice and just reply with a smile and a thank you. And maybe a brief explanation. Like with the flaxseed situation I say, “Thank you for thinking of me. I have also heard such great things about flaxseed oil.

Unfortunately, flaxseed oil has an imbalance of Omega 3 and 6 oils that tends to trigger mania in me.” I know that the advice comes from a place of love. Remembering that helps me be patient with others. It is also only fair for me to be patient with others if I expect them to be patient with me.

• Stop and look around.
We are promised that we will not be required to endure more than we are able to. Our
Heavenly Father loves us and wants us to be successful during our time here on Earth. He also wants us to learn things which may require some struggling. What I do when I am struggling through a rough patch is to stop and look around. Our Heavenly Father has provided us with a Lord and Savior to help us be successful through our trials. If I take the time to look around, I can see what ways the Lord as provided for me to make it through a trial.

Sometimes it is small things like a phone call from a friend or a scripture I can't get out of my head. Other times it's bigger things like just helping me have the patience to endure a medication change that ended up lasting for months, or blessing me with faith when yet again my life gets turned upside down. These helps along the way are called tender mercies.

One tender mercy I cam so grateful for is a talk by Elder Bednar titled “The
Tender Mercies of the Lord.” There was one med change where I was so worn out and my
brain so befuddled that for weeks all I had the energy to do was roll out of bed and listen to
this talk on my computer. I listened to it over and over again. It changed the way I think about what to do during a trial. I learned how to stop and look around for the things that were there to help me succeed. Here is a link to the talk:

Remember to stop and look around. The Lord is there to help you with his tender mercies-
He is there. I promise. Look.

• Fight stigma- with a smile :)
You will come across those who, usually unknowingly, perpetuate the negative stigma
attached to mental illness. If you haven't already, you will at some point be confronted with the stigma of your mental illness. I have found the most effective way for me to fight stigma is with a smile and to always be ready with information for those wanting to know more. Here are some statements I have encountered and how I typically deal with them.

“You don't seem mentally ill.” This one bugs me because it is based on the stereotype
that people with mental health issues are just a bunch of crazies running around acting dysfunctional and whatnot.

My response, with a smile, “Mental illness does not discriminate. Anyone, anywhere, any age can be affected. My bipolar is currently in remission due to my treatment plan which includes medication, lifestyle choices like a good diet, exercise, and my support network.

There are a lot of amazing people out there who also happen to have brains that process things a little differently. I am happy to tell you more if you would like.”

“Mentally ill people shouldn't have kids.” This is my response, with a smile, “I am
bipolar and a parent. Thanks to my dedication to my treatment plan, I am able to keep my mental disorder in remission. My bipolar disorder is not a character flaw- it is a health issue.

Just like diabetes is a health issue not a character flaw. My bipolar disorder is under control, and I am perfectly able to parent. In fact, I do a much better job than most because I am keenly aware that others are watching and judging to see how a “mentally ill” person parents.

Please be a little more compassionate when you judge who should and shouldn't be a parent. If you would like more information about mental health issues, I am happy to tell you more.”

“Children can't have depression (or insert some sort of mental health disorder here).”

My response, with a smile, “Mental illness does not discriminate. Age is not a factor when it comes to mental illness. I can distinctly remember when I was 7 on New Year's Eve sitting in a depressed stupor thinking how I had done nothing with my life and that I was a failure.

Thinking life was not worth living. That is not normal for a 7 year old.

I remember not being able to sleep at night for a good part of 5th grade because I was terrified of fires. I was overwhelmed by anxiety. That is not normal.

Mental illness in children is real, and does exist. The symptoms are not always the same- for me it was deep sadness that wouldn't go away, anxiety and anger. It is important for us as adults to be aware of all the symptoms, so that we can know how to spot children that need our help.

I made it through childhood because I had caring adults who knew the signs and symptoms and got me help. If you would like to know more about how to help children with mental health issues, I am happy to tell you more.”

“Happiness is a choice.” Ugh. Seriously? This one bugs me the most. What I want to
respond is, “That is so true! Just like diabetics have a choice about how insulin is processed in their bodies.” But, saying that won't help anything. So instead, I say, with a smile, “My body neither produces nor processes chemicals in the brain correctly.

Some times chemical imbalances make it impossible for me to “feel” things normally.

It is biological.

I can not choose to feel something I am not biologically able to feel. Just like someone who is missing a leg can't kick a ball with that missing leg. I can, however, choose to get help correcting imbalances. Once my biological imbalances are in check and my brain is functioning, then I can make choices regarding my feelings.

If you would like to know more, I am happy to tell you.”

The stigma associated with mental illness, however, is slowly diminishing. I have watched it over these many years, and am amazed at the progress that has been made.

In my experience, these days I can talk freely and openly with most people about being bipolar, and they are not only understanding,they are well informed.

However, you will still come across a few people who, no matter what you say,
they will never change their minds. Just walk away and don't waste your time with them. You have better things to do with your time.

• Diet, exercise, sleep

Diet, exercise, sleep. Three little things that are the foundation of good mental health. If you are not actively making sure you are eating right, exercising (every little bit counts) and getting the right amount of sleep (make sure it is not too much), your mental health will suffer.

There are countless studies out there detailing the benefits of diet, exercise and
sleep, so I won't say much here. I will just strongly agree that it is astounding the effect a good diet, a little exercise (the more the better) and a good night's rest have on a person's mental well-being.

Hopefully my thoughts have been helpful. For those of you just starting out, keep going. You can do it! It is worth the hard work and patience.

For those of you lucky to be stable right now, speak up and speak out. Speak up so others can learn from you and speak out against stigma. Thanks for reading :).

- Anonymous contributer

Diagnosis can take a long time.... Depression

I believe I have had depression my entire life, but was not diagnosed until about a year and a half ago. I didn’t notice anything was wrong until I was in high school and considered going to counseling a couple times, but the sadness would go away enough that I could function again. This went on for ten more years. My husband, who had seen the signs of depression with his own mother, would often tell me I needed to see someone about it, but the sadness and darkness would go away again and I thought I was fine.
Then a year and a half ago we moved away for my husband’s work. We left our comfort zone and many of our close friends. I didn’t know anyone in our new area and the people at church weren’t very friendly. The sadness and darkness all came back to a point that I could barely function, just enough to maybe shower and feed myself daily. The rest of my time was spent sitting on the couch in front of the TV where I could get away from reality. I didn’t have the energy to do anything else. Doing the simplest chore around the house would exhaust me and I would have to sit and rest for a while afterwards. Thinking about doing any work or going anywhere overwhelmed me. I knew that I needed help.
The first thing I did was made an appointment with a counselor. I was completely against taking medication because I thought it would mess me up somehow and I didn’t think I was severe enough. The moment I sat down in the counselor’s office I started sobbing and she knew I was about to have a nervous breakdown just by looking at me. She told me I needed to see my primary care doctor about some antidepressants. She explained that antidepressants would just get my brain functioning right so she could do her job more effectively, and that they would help with the lack of energy too. A couple days after being on the medication I felt so much better, but I knew that the counseling is what would really help me get better.
That next year I spent one day a week in her office. She was an amazing counselor and I trusted her completely. We got down to the bottom of what was making me so unhappy. I learned that because of some traumatic things that had happened to me while I was young, I was terrified of being rejected by others, I have a low self esteem, which I am still working on daily, and I learned that I stuff my feelings so much that at times I blow up, in the form of these depressed episodes. By knowing these things about myself helped me know how to fix them. I now know that it’s okay if someone tells me no and it’s not something I need to take personal. I read a book called “Self-Esteem” which completely described me and helped me learn how to change the way I think and also helped me understand why I sometimes feel the way I do. My counselor taught me ways to stick up for myself and voice my opinion on things I did not agree with or did not like. Journaling has been a very helpful tool. My counselor would often tell me that depression used to be called an inward expression of anger. I did feel very angry inside and I didn’t know why. Journaling helped me get those feelings out of my head and into words so I could understand what I was actually feeling.
It felt like a long time before I felt normal again. One thing that has been most helpful to me was exercise. Eventually my energy came back enough that I could exercise hard again. I hate exercise and will probably forever hate it, but the feeling you get after you exercise is an amazing high! I’m happy to say that I am no longer taking medication for depression and I know it’s first because I recognize my feelings and know how to handle them, and second because I exercise regularly.
Even though I feel normal and happy again I realize I could have a relapse any time. So I have continued to keep a journal, I try to get out of the house and socialize with other people/adults, I exercise and try to eat healthy, and I set goals and accomplish them giving me things to look forward to.


Exercise and Service helps give "Hope" (anonymous contributor)

Taking Action!

I was diagnosed with severe depression about ten years ago. Although I was able to overcome it, I am still haunted by its symptoms. The difference is now I know what the symptoms and triggers are for me and so I know how to stop it in its tracks before it gets out of hand. Exercise, giving service, getting out of the house, spending time with friends, or doing something creative are the things that help me the most.

Whenever I start to feel anxious, irritable, or depressed, I ask myself, when was the last time I exercised, did something kind for someone else, got out of the house, talked to a good friend, or did something creative? I also ask myself, what am I looking forward to in my life right now? If I don’t have anything that I am excited about, then I plan something to be excited about. It can be as simple as a girl’s night out at the movies or signing up for a class or competition.


I am a certified personal trainer and weight management coach. I also have a degree in exercise and nutrition. I have studied and seen first-hand the positive effects of exercise on relieving anxiety and depression.

As little as 20 minutes of exercise per day can release substantial amounts of serotonin and other “feel good” hormones in your brain that keep you feeling calm, happy, and “normal”. I have had many clients experience this change and for myself personally, I use daily exercise as my preferred form of treatment against anxiety and depression. I am happy to report that I have not needed medication for ten years!

Medication has its place-

I believe that there is a time and place for medication. Usually this is when the depression is severe and you need it to help get you back to a “normal” state. When I had severe depression ten years ago, I was put on an antidepressant which did help me to feel “normal” again so that I could think straight enough to make better choices for my life. I know that everyone is different, but I do encourage people to do more than just rely on a drug to fix their situation.

Depression can be a chemical imbalance in the brain, but I believe that there are almost always underlying issues that trigger the episodes of anxiety and depression. Perhaps you need to take better care of your physical body, including what you feed it.

The wrong kinds of foods can detrimentally affect your moods. (See D&C 89).

Maybe you have relationship issues or need professional counseling to get over a past event. Maybe you need to let go of an old grudge (true forgiveness is powerful medicine!) Perhaps you have too much stress in your life or you have some decisions to make that you have been putting off.

Maybe you simply need to feel in control of your life again by realizing that you are responsible for your own actions and behaviors. My advice is to use medicine to stabilize your brain; then take action to improve your situation. It is much easier to jump over a pit in the ground than to climb back out of it!

Give Service

-President Hinckley was big on the idea that if you are feeling down, the best thing you can do is “go and do” for someone else. Much of our unhappiness is caused by selfishness. Just as serotonin and other “feel good” hormones are released through drugs and exercise, doing something kind for someone else also releases those same happy hormones.

About 5 years ago, I was close to experiencing another episode of depression. One night I was talking with my husband about the matter. In tears I told him how “I” was feeling and how “I” needed this and “I” needed that to be happy. He loving and wisely said some words that I will never forget. He said, “No offense Hun, but when was the last time you did something for someone else?”

I truly believe those words were inspired. They were exactly what I needed to here in that moment. Since then, I have sincerely tried to take his advice. Whenever I am feeling down on myself, I ask myself, “When was the last time I served someone else?” I always find that I have been slacking in that area. Then I go and find someone to serve. I always feel so much better. It works every time! It is by far the best medicine that even money cannot buy!


Kirby & Sherri - Bipolar Experience

I often think the biggest problem with finding competent doctors to help is the arrogance of the doctors themselves. If the patient is fairly intelligent, especially a logical thinker, he/she can out-think the so-called specialists at every turn, using the same words/phrases the doctors use to rationalize or cover up the root problems, eg. stating that he/she was overly tired, had been working too long supporting everyone else, and letting it come to a head.

Another specific instance I recall is when a psychologist told me he “now understands why you have difficulties in interviews”, but he never elaborated, not in that session, or any subsequent session. If you have the answer (at least in your own mind), shouldn’t it be shared with the afflicted? At least, that’s my (logical) thinking.

- Kirby

Hi, I'm Sherri. Shauna asked me if I would contribute to her U-2 site.

I-2 have dealt with a BCD. My husband of 28 years, and now my daughter, 15 years old, are afflicted with bi-polar II disorder. In case you are not aware, BP II consists of periods of mania, depression, and mixed episodes. Mixed episodes are times when both mania and depression are evident. BP II is one of the most difficult BCDs to correctly identify and treat. There are many symptoms of this disorder, but impulsive behavior, broken relationships, and suicide are some of the big ones.

I have learned many things over the span of years that my family has dealt with this issue. I will try to elaborate on some of them briefly. Someday, I may write a book--because that is the length of article I would have to write to effectively cover this span of years and the lessons I have learned—stay tuned :).

At this point in time, I have come to realize that mental illness is simply one of many trials that we may be subjected to in this life. It has a purpose similar to other trials of life. In my mind, the purpose of these trials is to teach us to love unconditionally, as Christ does; to teach us that each life has immense unconditional value; and to teach us to come unto Christ to be healed from the emotional, physical, and spiritual injuries of this life. Christ is the great healer, the light, and the life. He will be the one ultimately, who will bring us up out of the grip of these diseases and their effects, and who will bring us peace. I have experienced this healing myself, and testify that it can come.

This is not a simple process or an easy road. It is one that has literally taken me 28 years to traverse. There is much difficulty in this journey. I would not in any way try to simplify it or make light of the suffering incurred by anyone who is subjected to these trials, but I would offer hope.

At one time my husband and I were at the brink of divorce. At many times he was suicidal. For ten years he was inactive in the church. (We were both returned missionaries who married in the temple and have raised 7 children together.) A few weeks ago, my husband and I spent time together in two temples with extended family and he currently serves in a branch presidency. Our love is stronger than it has ever been. We are truly one.

My one plea to anyone who is in the middle of this trial is: Don't give up! It can get better.

When I took my daughter in to the doctor this summer to try to find some type of medication to ease her symptoms, I told the doctor what I thought her problem was. He listed some symptoms of BP-II and the length of time most people suffer from the disease before obtaining a correct diagnosis.

Most people with BP II have it for 15 years before it is diagnosed and go through 2 to 3 failed relationships. I thought at the time that this sounded about right. I diagnosed my husband. He has yet to find a doctor or counselor who has been helpful, and he has never been correctly medicated.

He currently controls his condition by learned behavioral techniques, awareness of symptoms, and self control of thoughts and self monitoring of mood swings. As a spouse of a BP personality.

I felt like I have gone through at least 3 personalities myself. These personalities correlated with stages I went through: the innocent optimistic stage, the surprise and shock stage, the why does this keep happening stage, the grim determination stage, the somebody help me, I'm not going to survive this stage, and the recognition and recovery stage.

Hopefully these stages will take you less time to go through than they have for us. For my daughter, early recognition and treatment have made a huge difference.