I got a secret...

Thursday, 19 April 2018

I felt like… a prophet.

I’ve been teaching English as a Second Language, and I generally enjoy my job. I work part-time and pick up other shifts subbing. I was asked to sub yesterday, and I was asked to give the students an assessment… a test. The students were not pleased by this news, and it was very much new news to them. I took the first part of class teaching them about letter writing. It was supposed to be review, but it seemed full of ideas foreign to my students. When it came time to administer the test, they retaliated. They gave me every good reason why they should not have to write the test, and begged me just to teach them instead. I told them we were writing the test. I tried to prepare them for the test, giving them all the information they would need, but they were not listening. They had determined that they were not writing the test. I tried to explain that the test was the material which the teacher had left for them. I was just following orders. I didn’t know why she had left them this test, but I gave possible explanations, guessing at her motivation. They were stubborn. So was I. They threatened to go to a different school, an easier school, if I made them take the test. At one point another teacher walked by the window. I gave a slight nod of my head, beckoning for his help. When he entered, I told him the situation, and he told the class that I was just following orders. They could complain to their teacher, but they shouldn’t complain to me. It was nice having him back me up. He was a second witness, but the class still did not care.
It was then that I started to cry. I didn’t want to manipulate them with my tears, really, I didn’t want to cry, but it didn’t feel like I had much choice.  My tears softened them, but didn’t change their resolve. They assured me that their frustration wasn’t against me, they promised that they liked me, but they were frustrated with all that had gone on that semester and they were not writing that test. One of the students came and put her arm around me, another told me not to cry, while a third asked me why I cried. The only answer I could think to give him was that I am fragile. Through my tears, I taught them the English saying “don’t shoot the messenger,” and pleaded with them again to write the test. One of the students asked me to just teach them. “I can’t teach anymore,” I said. I didn’t mean I could never teach again, only that it is hard to teach and cry at the same time.
The hour allotted for the test was now diminished by half. My resolve was weakened, and I asked them to try. I told them to do the test as practice, and I would help them, and they could ask me questions. I placed the tests on their desks. They looked one to another, trying to decide if they would indeed try. Slowly pencils met papers and they began the test.
I reflected on the question, “why did I cry?”
I cried because I felt disappointed.
I cried because I felt like they were trying to manipulate me.
I cried because I want to do what I have been told to do. Foundational to my molarity is a need to do what I am told, and what I have agreed to do. I am good at following instructions, but they sought to deny me of the joy of doing that.

As I walked home, I thought about prophets. I thought about prophets like Samuel the Lamanite who stood declaring a message only to have people hurl stones at him. I thought about prophets during the years when black members could not hold the priesthood. They wanted to give suggestions about why that might have been so, but really they did not know. They were simply doing what they had been told to do. I thought about prophets today, declaring hard truth against gay marriage. People may threaten them, tell them they will join a different church, an easy church, if the prophets don’t change their mind. The message doesn’t come from the prophet. If we must complain, we should complain to God. President Nelson offers that invitation in these words, “Pour out your heart to your Heavenly Father. Turn to Him for answers and for comfort. Pray in the name of Jesus Christ about your concerns, your fears, your weaknesses—yes, the very longings of your heart. And then listen!” (https://www.lds.org/general-conference/2018/04/revelation-for-the-church-revelation-for-our-lives?lang=eng)


I’d better post this, and then get back to work.

Friday, 13 April 2018

Death or Life

The blogpost I read yesterday left me feeling pretty hopeless.
What I took away from it was that the only way to find happiness in this life is to hope for, seek for and hopefully find, a romantic partner, where both partners feel strong romantic feelings for the other. One idea that was strongly presented was that denying oneself of the pursuit of a romantic relationship resulted in dying, in becoming more and more anxious and depressed and far too often in suicide. While he did not quote any sources, he spoke with one having authority, and I cannot deny his struggle nor the struggles of so many like us.
Am I depressed because I don’t seek for a girlfriend, because I don’t allow myself to hope for a romantic relationship with someone I could love?
Is there no other way to be happy but to search for a romantic partner?
Even if I take anti-depressants, if I exercise and socialise, am I fighting a losing battle? Is the battle to become a happy, faithful Latter-day saint one that I can never win?
Am I dying? Am I killing myself slowly by denying myself of an intimate relationship with a woman?
With these heavy questions playing through my mind, I got to bed late, only to wake up early to head to the temple. While the temple has motivated me to stay faithful before, I wondered if it is really worth it. I go to the temple regularly, I enjoy my time there, but it hasn’t brought lasting peace into my day to day life, it hasn’t made me happy. It hasn’t taken my depression away. I am still dying on the inside.
Before the session began, I found myself focused on a picture I had never noticed before. It is a picture of Jesus Christ standing on a hill outside of a city. I wasn’t sure if it was depicting a specific story. What I did notice, however, was the light radiating from the character of Christ. I was reminded of my institute class from yesterday. “I am the light and the life,” Jesus said.
It struck me, Jesus Christ is my source of life. No potential lover can take his place. While I believe that (and I also believe looking for such life from humans will lead to disappointment), I also believe there is value, a lot of value and a lot of good that comes from human interaction and human intimacy. It isn’t good for Patricia to be alone.
As usual, I struggled to stay away during the session. Suddenly, a phrase hit me, jolting me awake, having me wish I could rewind and listen again. It was a phrase reminding me of a covenant I made with God, a covenant I made to sacrifice, to sacrifice, if necessary, even my life. If the aforementioned blogger is right, if foregoing any hope of a lesbian lover causes me to die inside, even death is not a reason to forsake my covenants, for dying is what I have covenanted to do.
I didn’t get any warm-fuzzies, while I was in the temple, telling me that my life would be easy and happy, but I was reminded that I do have hope. I hope for that which God has planned for me, I hope that his plan is greater than my plan. I hope, indeed, I have faith that what he offers is greater than the joys I could find in a romantic relationship. I don’t know what God envisions for my life, but I know his vision is greater than mine and so I have hope.
I hope that hope is enough to keep me going and to keep me living. Not just to keep me physically alive, but to keep me alive, and thriving, inside.


Thursday, 5 April 2018

Enlarge My Plate

I know that feeling of having too much on my plate. I feel that way almost every day. The reality is, while I feel like I have far more to do than I can possible handle, I don’t. While I feel that adding one more activity to my week, will cause my balance boat to tip and sink, it won’t. The reality is, most days I have plenty of time to waste playing games on my phone and I can’t find the motivation to engage in useful tasks because none of them are pressing.
Today I took on a task, made of goal, which I am not sure I can accomplish. As I was feeling overwhelmed, I prayed, expressing how I felt that I had too much on my plate, but acknowledging that I can accomplish more than I think I can. Rather than praying for activities to be taken from my plate, I asked that my plate would be big enough. Rather than having fewer tasks required of me, I want to have the ability to accomplish more, and, I want to have peace, knowing that God will not ask me to do more than he will enable me to accomplish.


Mosiah24:15 “And now it came to pass that the burdens which were laid upon Alma and his brethren were made light; yea, the Lord did strengthen them that they could bear up their burdens with ease, and they did submit cheerfully and with patience to all the will of the Lord.”

Monday, 2 April 2018

Freud*

I am sure Freud would say
I have some sort of repressed memory
Something that happened
That makes me the way I am,
But what if
I am just the way I am?
Perhaps if I
Make up a reason,
Create a repressed memory,
I’ll have something to blame,
Something to call wrong,
So it will no longer be me
Who is wrong.
If I create a repressed memory
I’ll have somewhere to start.
A place from where
healing can begin.
If Freud is right
Maybe I can be alright

After all.

*I took an introduction to psychology course about ten years ago.  That is all I know about Freud, in other words I am not an expert and have no idea what he would say.  I don't think I have a repressed memory of a dramatic event, but I do at times think it would be nice if there was a reason why I have the struggles I have.  It would be nice to have something to blame so that I don't need to shoulder the blame.

Monday, 12 March 2018

Now!

While symptoms of depression and anxiety are not new in my life, I am finally realising them for what they are and deciding that it is time for a change. A great motivator has been writing a list of what “better” would look like.

What better looks like:
confidence in social interactions
church without fear or extreme discomfort
grocery shopping without feeling overwhelmed
better understanding and awareness of my feelings (recognising stress prior to feeling physical symptoms like stomachaches and headaches)
no thoughts of self harm
no negative self talk
willing to make commitments
worry doesn’t take away from my enjoyment of the present
greater awareness and acceptance of my attractions
no disproportionate reaction to touch
no dread of going to bed
motivation to wake up in the mornings
consistently care about what I care about
friendships in which I am raw
no delay of leaving/being late because of fear/discomfort about where I am going
no general aversion to food
no feelings of vulnerability when wearing a skirt
be okay with looking pretty/attractive
give worries reasonable weight/attention
hope
social interactions a delight and not a burden

Since making this list I have been more motivated to get help and get better. This morning I saw my doctor and she suggested I try some counselling to see if that helps before trying meds. Counselling, learning to change my though patterns, take time and is work. Meds also take time to work. I want to be better now. I don’t want to wait, and I don’t want to work. I crawled out of bed to go see the doctor; when I got home, I crawled right back into bed. I guess I don’t have much hope. I can’t promise myself that every aspect of better will be accomplished as I heed the words of my counsellor; improvement won’t be in an instant, but it is possible.

And yet:


If I were miraculously healed now, I’d feel like that would discredit my current feelings. The difficulty I am having in explaining this is perhaps evident that this thought process is illogical. If I instantly get better, then I will believe I was never sick. I want to be sick. I want to be sick because I want there to be a reason I am feeling as I do. I want to be sick because then there is reason to hope that better is possible. I want to be sick because if this is normal, normal is horrible. Normal isn’t worth living. If I am miraculously happy now, if I wake up as jolly as a daisy tomorrow, I’ll forget how awful I’ve felt. These feelings so present now will flutter away with the dust, and I’ll begin to believe I always was fine. If I wake up happy tomorrow I’ll decide I don’t need counselling, and certainly not medication, but these awful, horrible feelings inevitably will come back. They always do.

Thursday, 1 March 2018

Purpose

As a missionary I taught the Plan of Salvation as an answer to the question "why we are here?"  It is an important question which the Plan of Salvation answers in many big ways.  We are here to learn, grow and progress.  We are here to gain a body and to eventually live with Heavenly Father again.  We are here to be part of families, to love and to be loved.  We are here to face challenges, hardships and trials, and ultimately, to overcome.  We are here to try, and because of our saviour's atonement, we are here to make mistakes, to learn to repent and to find forgiveness.  We are here to have joy.

Regardless of knowing the above, I go day to day often with little purpose.  I don't know why I get out of bed in the morning, I don't know what to do with my time to make it meaningful, I don't know why I am here.  Living life without a purpose is really hard.

When it was suggested to me today that I have a hard time finding purpose in my day to day life, I wanted to retaliate.  I wanted to argue "But the Church..." The Church, the doctrines it presents, provide meaning in my life.  I ought to have purpose, I know the doctrine, I have taught it time and again.  That said, I could not disagree.  From day to day, moment to moment, my life lacks purpose.  I notice this lack of purpose when I am playing games on my phone, not because I am enjoying the game, but because I can think of no activity which would bring meaning into my life.  I notice this lack of purpose when I cannot will myself out of bed in the morning.  I notice this lack of purpose when I check my social media accounts again and again, not sure what I am looking for, but never finding fulfillment.

Yet I believe the Plan of Salvation is God's plan for us, even for me.  However, I have a hard time applying it to the moments which make up my life.  My purpose here is to progress, to become like God.

How does waking up early and actually getting out of bed help me to become like God?
How does brushing my teeth help me progress?
Will I progress faster if I make and eat pancakes for breakfast or if I eat cereal?
How does my decision on what I wear help me to progress?
And then what?  What meaningful activities can I do before work which will help me progress?
Yes, there is scripture study, and prayer, but what else?
Does sending a text help me progress?
Do I progress as I play games on my phone?
Will skating endless figure-eights aid in my progression?
Does developing and using my skills help me to progress?  Which skills should I develop?
How do I make sure work is more than work, but that I take hold of the opportunities in which I can progress?
How does staying up late writing a blog post help me to progress?

Perhaps it seems silly to consider how each action plays in to my eternal destiny (and if I do not go about this carefully, I may end up feeling stressed about my lack of progression), but if my actions are not eternally significant, then they are not significant, and quickly I begin to wonder if I am significant at all.

If I am going to find joy, I must see the greater significance behind my seemingly meaningless actions.  I must determine which actions will help me become who it is that I want to become.  Progression is a slow journey.  I cannot expect to find meaning in a day.  I still do not know what will get me out of bed tomorrow.  Yet, if in each day I can find some meaning, if I can understand, even if ever so slightly, how my activities are helping me become the best me, if I can take small steps forward, then let me celebrate.  I am here for a reason.  "This is the day which the Lord hath made; [I] will rejoice and be glad in it." - Psalm 118:24

Wednesday, 21 February 2018

A Diagnosis is not an Excuse

I have often seen memes on social media celebrating the small victories in the lives of those who struggle with depression, anxiety or other mental health issues. These memes remind those individuals who suffer with such illnesses to take it easy on themselves, to be pleased if they make it out of bed in the morning even if they do not do all the world demands of them, or all they expect of themselves. I agree. We should celebrate our little accomplishments, even if for others, our accomplishments are their daily routines. We mustn’t beat ourselves up for accomplishing less than others, or less than we wish we could.

But I wonder, and I wonder this only for myself, how do I know if I am doing my best? How can I tell if I am making excuses to stay in bed, when really I could be out enjoying the sun, and how do I know when I am doing my best. An expansion of that question is, am I really mentally ill, or am I just lazy. If I get a diagnosis, do I by extension get an excuse to stay home, hide out and do little?
Unfortunately for my lazy self, the answer is no. A diagnosis of depression is not an excuse, it is an understanding, and it allows for new approaches for battling the mountains of everyday life. And when I put it that way, I remember that I like mountains, and life is to be enjoyed as well. Life is hard, a constant challenge, but within the journey there is joy to be found and wonders to behold.



Perhaps with a diagnosis there comes tools, tools to see the views more clearly, to hear the birds, and to understand the pathway better. Perhaps with a diagnosis comes the support to make it over the mountain placed before me each day. Whether the mountain be mighty or mini, it will be a mountain which I am equipped to face and which I can conquer as I accept all the help I need. I want to have the desire to climb mountains. I don’t want to look for excuses to moan at the bottom, stuck in self-loathing or apathy. I don’t want an excuse to stay where I am. I want the help I'll need to climb the mountains I’ll face, no matter how big or little they’ll be. So I will celebrate getting out of bed, but I won’t be content until I’ve stopped to sample the nectar of the castillejas and can look down in awe from my summit of the day.