Wednesday, March 22, 2017

My Survival of Depression

Since about ages 8-10 I was aware that I was feeling depressed. How does an 8 year old figure that out? When I expressed thoughts of taking my own life and shocked family and loved ones. Why did I want to do that? I felt lonely and unwanted. I felt empty.
It got easier, and then it got harder, but never left me completely.
When I was 14 I'd been in a car accident, wasn't wearing my seat belt, we rolled off the road after trying to slowing down from sliding on the road at 75 mph.
For a young man with several attempted suicides it might seem cruel to keep an accidental death out of reach. But it did it's purpose and I questioned the reason for my own life.
A month later one of my role models died in a hockey accident, described by the doctors as being a chance event. Why him and not me? He was such a good man, his funeral was evidence that many loved and respected not only him but his family. And he was Mormon.
Then I looked into it and the first thing I learned was that God was more like us and we more like Him. He had a body, His Son Jesus Christ had a body. And they are perfect. So they can understand and help me not feel lonely. They know what depression left me with and I wouldn't feel alone or unwanted.
So I chased it down and became a Mormon. I imagined finding other people who would help me feel wanted and loved. And I did. I have met so many good people. Very good people.
And then I learned about marriage for eternity, family for eternity. The most important thing any individual could do in this life. And I imagined finding someone who would love me. I found some purpose! I need to live and learn so that I can have my own kids and show them how to live happier and better than me.
But, I thought then, and many times since, that pornography and self stimulation would stand in my way. I could live without alcohol or drugs, I never consumed those. It wasn't an inherent part of my humanity to want or yearn for chemical fixes.
For those who aren't Mormon, the Law of Chastity warns us that sexual activity prior to marriage can result in significant problems. The details of why that is are left to faith. Just like if a parent says to not touch the stove because its hot. And we should trust them, they know.
But I struggled with something each and every one of us feels, this very basic instinct. Whenever I sought help in overcoming what I thought was an addiction to pornography I encountered many different strategies for helping people through this. Encouragement, pray more, read more, trust and ask God for help, and then shame. I believe in the goodness of people and trust that everyone I went to for help were doing the best with what they had. I have never met a person that actively tried to destroy me when I asked them for help.
But the result was becoming aware of a stigma and fear that would haunt me for years.
Church leaders have described pornography as the greatest threat to family life in our time.
At 18 I told a nice Mormon girl I liked that this was something I struggled with. She went to her parents for support and her Mom reminded her of an uncle who ended up raping and abusing his own children.
Since then I haven't had such an extreme example of this fear playing out. Everything since has thankfully been much less intense.
I knew that eternal marriage and having a family in this life were the most important things I could do. I wanted it. But I was starting to think that this was going to stand in the way of reaching that. And it has!
It's scary being a young returned missionary at BYU and after liking a girl then deciding to tell her that this has been a struggle of my life. I did just that and then soon after broke off an engagement because I didn't want to put her through all of that.
(If you made it this far, some of you are thinking that this is ludicrous and bizarre to make such a big deal out of, kudos for making it this far)
I'm kind of dancing around it, but what I'm getting at is I still felt lonely or unwanted as a missionary and then afterwards in the years I spent going to a singles ward for church.
When these young people are so concerned about making the right choice of marriage so that they can be happy now and in the next life, of course they're going to worry and be careful about who they date.
But I had this problem which to many was scary and a sign that a future family with me would be in danger.
I tried to make friends, and often did. But we're in a singles ward in a college town, everyone is moving in and out, going on dates and finding someone to marry.
I felt lonely and unwanted and it seemed like something every single one of us feels was standing in the way.
So I stopped going to church. Not because I didn't believe in God or that He came and visited Joseph Smith, showing His own body and also that of Jesus Christ, revealing that we are not so far or distant from the God of our world, that He is involved in our lives. No. I still have that.
"But you won't make friends until you go out and try, you just need to get out" Is it that easy? I really wish it were. Serving a mission for two years would have been so much easier.
No, I still felt lonely, especially as a missionary. It wasn't because I wasn't close to God, it's because I wasn't close to the people around me.
And so here I am. 27 years old. Why aren't you going to church? It's going to help!
Yes. I can go and sit, sing, take the sacrament, attend Sunday school, and fulfill responsibilities. But all of that does not equal friends. Especially in a place where what's important is to find a partner for life and the hereafter.

Then it comes back to my own thoughts of why can't this just be easier? Why is this so hard for me? Why does it matter so much to me?
Because an 8 year old Chris started trying to take his own life after feeling lonely and unwanted. He found something that gave him hope for not feeling that way.
I do it so that I don't come back to that point at age 8, 9, 11, 12, 13, 15, 16, 17, 18, 19. 20, 21, 22, 23, 24, 25, and so on.
I don't have a choice there. If I don't meet that need it becomes a matter of life or death for me. I wish It wasn't, but memories of past attempts tell me that it is this way.

If there is any purpose in this life I think it is to learn how to be happy, help others in that, and make connections with each other.