No Way Out?

I was thinking this morning about my long struggle with depression. For most of my life, I just lived with it, undiagnosed and untreated, and I’m convinced a lot of that had to do with my belief that being a member of the LDS church and keeping the commandments made one “happy.” I was doing what I was supposed to do and trying to nurture a relationship with God, so I told myself I was happy because happiness naturally follows the kind of life I was living. On the rare occasions I admitted how bad things were, I just blamed myself for not being faithful enough and not being content with my blessings.

I was miserable. Sometimes I hated myself so much I contemplated suicide. Ironically, what kept me from making the attempt was my belief that, even if I killed myself, it wouldn’t be the end. I’d just be sitting there in the spirit world, as unhappy and self-loathing as ever. So, what would have been the point?

Obviously, the reality of my life didn’t match what the church told me my life should be. I just accepted that my life was as good as it was going to get, and that meant I was happy. Perhaps, I thought, this was what happiness was, and people who weren’t living like that must be even worse off than I was. Essentially, I didn’t know what happiness was because I hadn’t experienced it.

I’ve said before that it wasn’t until after my loss of faith that I was able to acknowledge and treat my depression. Of course, it took a suicide attempt to get there. I stopped telling myself I was happy, and it was easy to recognize that the words had always been empty. I found a good therapist and got on the right mix of medications.

I finally decided that happiness is being comfortable in your own skin, enjoying your life without constantly feeling you need to do better. Self-improvement is a worthy goal, but I think we were caught in the trap of never stepping back to appreciate how far we’d come. There was always some other imperfection or failing we had to address. And I guess by “we” I mean “me.”

Life is good.

Sorry I’ve been so busy that I haven’t gotten back to the novel, but I will. I promise.

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9 Responses to No Way Out?

  1. David Macfarlane says:

    “Self improvement is masturbation.”
    – Tyler Durden

    • David Macfarlane says:

      I don’t mean to imply that pithy movie quotes are the equivalent of hard-earned wisdom. But I’ve always thought the broader message of the Buddhist principles conveyed through Fight Club were about finding happiness in what is instead of racing after happiness like a greyhound chasing the mechanical rabbit.

      I found Mormonism to be hamster-wheel of self loathing and dissatisfaction, as it appears you did also, Runtu. For me, the single most destructive axiom embedded in Mormonism–and there are many to choose from–is this: Be ye therefore perfect, even as your father in heaven is perfect. I’ve recently been introduced to the counter-axiom from John Steinbeck: And now that you don’t have to be perfect, you can be good.” To me, here is so much more actual living and perception in that quote.

      You’ve helped a lot of people by playing out your questions, concerns and fears in a public forum. Never doubt the impact that has when you go casting about.

      • runtu says:

        Agreed. I never knew what it was to be OK with myself. I defined “happy” as doing what I was supposed to do. Now I feel like I am living, as you say.

  2. Lane says:

    Your story and your writing have really helped me.
    I appreciate this blog. Thank you

  3. cl2 says:

    Loved this. Thank you.

  4. jiminpanama says:

    The church has a lot of worrisome miserable people. Stepping out I found the happiness was up to me and I didn’t have to beat myself up all the time. I am much happier every moment now. Good to see you back sir.

  5. Allan Carter says:

    I felt the same way growing up and felt really bitter about the fact that there was no way to end the suffering. So, I suppose that you can kind of chalk that one up as a big + for the church.

  6. Odell Campbell says:

    Thanks for sharing! I am glad you are doing well. You deserve happiness.

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