First Crack: Experiencing Depression
Part of a series about My Faith Journey.
I began experiencing clinical depression and anxiety starting at around 2009, but possibly earlier. It's hard to pin it down to a specific date. It came upon me very gradually, not all at once. For the longest time, I didn't even know what I was going through; I didn't even have a name for it.
A good friend of mine helped me to understand what was happening. Said friend has suffered from depression for years, and when I described my symptoms, he immediately identified it as depression. The most obvious symptoms that I experienced were lack of motivation, loss of interest in activities I used to enjoy, feelings of worthlessness, irritability, and a general sense of emptiness. It's a little confusing that we use the word "depression" to describe two very different things: temporary sadness vs. chronic emptiness. I heard a good quote that helps distinguish the two: the opposite of regular depression is "happiness"; the opposite of clinical depression is "vitality".
Something I observed while I was depressed is that the feeling of the Holy Ghost completely departed from me. I was disappointed and confused by this. I wasn't sinning or doing anything wrong -- quite the contrary, I was very actively engaged in the church -- but for some reason, the Holy Ghost left. At the time that I most needed comfort, The Comforter just wasn't there. I felt very betrayed.
Making matters worse, I found that the high-stress callings I had (Executive Secretary, Elder's Quorum President, Bishopric Counselor) greatly exacerbated my conditions. Being anxiously engaged in a good cause gave me anxiety. Always trying to make other people happy gave me depression. This was very confusing to me because I've always been taught that "there is joy to be found in service" and for many years, that was the case, but suddenly, the joy was just gone and replaced with emptiness.