Sunday, August 4, 2013

Low Point

       A common phrase that I heard, throughout my teenage and early adult years, was "You could have said that more nicely." I heard it from my mother after saying something especially harsh to one of my siblings or to her. I heard it from my best friend after saying something to another friend or classmate. And I heard it at church. Maybe not directly to my face but I heard it.
       The trouble was, I did not think anything that I said was particularly mean. I preferred terms like honest and blunt. Indeed, I wore the fact that I could say what I thought with conviction, like a badge of honor. I was proud that I had strong opinions, and I was fairly certain that they were all correct.

A quick side note:
I was a little bit obsessed with the Color Code test as a teenager. After taking it I found out that I was two thirds red. I had no yellow, no white, and about a third blue. That made me a red blue. Red blues, were described in the literature somewhere as people who wanted to climb to the top but felt bad about the people they were stepping on to get there. At least I had a conscious right?

     Anyway, I was fairly sure that all of my strong opinions were correct. I stopped to think about what other people were saying sometimes, but in the end, I knew I was right. Life was sweet. It was nice to know that whatever my logical brain came up with was most likely correct. Then one day, life hit me.
     I was a freshman in college, the worst year of my life by the way, and I was lucky enough to have the opportunity to become morbidly depressed. The year was unfolding like this: I was up at the University of Utah in a major that I loved in theory but that might have been sucking my soul out in reality. I was with one of my high school friends in every single class and we were starting to hate each other (don't worry we are friends again now). I was living in the University dorms with at least 2 room mates with no regard for hygiene or propriety. I worked up at the University bookstore, which wasn't a bad thing but it did complete the cycle of doing nothing off campus. And, I was dating Nick who was living in Sandy.
photo by: Paul Richer
                                                        (Art and Architecture Building)
       It was so hard to find balance. I slept, ate, studied at, worked at, and breathed the U. Meanwhile I wanted to both, be with Nick as often as possible, and find my niche in college. Unfortunately, I couldn't ever figure out how to do both. What actually happened was detrimental in so many ways. I ended up staying up at school all week, barely enduring the majority of my time then going home to see Nick after my shift ended on Friday. I would spend the weekend at home, go to my family ward, and my mom would drive me home on Sunday night (usually crying because I didn't want to go back, often with Nicks arms wrapped around me). Wash. Rinse. Repeat.
     The consequences were atrocious. I started hating school, I never made friends in my building, and I became very dependent on someone who was going to be leaving as soon as he got his mission call.
    Inevitably, the day came. It was late in December. We were sitting in Nick's house with assorted family members and friends and he opened his call. Taiwan, April 15. I bawled. Not because I was happy for him but because I didn't know if I could handle him being around for five more months. It was going to break my heart to have him gone but it was breaking me to have him around as well. I needed a clean slate and a second chance at college life. A friend from the bookstore where I worked, which was probably one of the highlights of my early college experience, once asked me if I cared about anything that wasn't my boyfriend. At the time I was offended. Of course I cared about other things: church, my family, education. . .etc. . . but he started me thinking, did I?
      I trudged through the remaining months of Nick's stay in Utah with a bad attitude and a lot of pain. Then the time came for him to go to the temple. I was sick. I had wanted to go to the temple since I was a little girl. It was something I had been taught about at an early age and waited my whole life for. And Nick got to go instead of me. I knew it was coming, it was what I wanted for him, it was what I expected of him, but the heart wrenching sadness and jealousy that came the day after he went were unplanned for.

    Now back to my highly red personality and tendency to be correct in all things. At some point I had unfeelingly decided that depression was weakness and could easily be controlled with the proper will power. I remember arguing the point that a depressed person simply had to decide to be happy. I think I had even said something like that to someone very close to me who needed encouragement. I was wrong. I was uncaring and arrogant, and self righteous, and wrong.
     After Nick went to the temple I lost myself. I didn't care anymore. I lost interest in everything that I was doing. I felt like my life was a blur of going through the motions. I felt like something that had always been important to me, my life goal in fact, had been turned into a weapon that was being used against me to pull me down into despair. Cause that is what it was, despair. I didn't know how anything could be okay again.
    Throughout that week of utter darkness (because that was all it was), I fought battle after battle with myself inside my head. I listened to church music constantly in an effort to pull myself out of my miserable stupor. I read my scriptures and prayed with everything in me for a reprieve from the utter sadness and despondency I felt. At one point, I remember crying on my dirty bathroom floor in my college dorm begging for my demons to desist. I just wanted to see light at the end of the tunnel rather than the unending darkness that was stretching before me. Then my Mom called. I cried into the phone and begged her to come get me. I couldn't be alone with my misery any longer. She got there in 22 minutes, a record. I spent a fair amount of time sharing my fears and my pain and my desire to be fixed with her that night. She listened and comforted me. She said exactly what I needed to make it through the rest of the week. Prayer answered, though I did not realize it.
    I was still miserable, however, I had reassurance that I was being listened to, but I wasn't anywhere near happy yet. I continued to pray and beg for help. For light. Then I got a second call. My bishop, who I don't think I had ever met, from my singles ward, that I did not go to, called me and asked if I was alright. I burst into tears on the phone. I was the furthest thing from alright that I had ever been. He listened patiently as I cried through my story and he gave me counsel. I was stunned and felt so blessed. I knew at that point Heavenly Father was listening. My mom was one blessing, but she knew I was struggling so I didn't quite recognize it. But to have a man I didn't know call and ask me that question was a very clear answer to my pleas.
     By Friday of my week from hell (I truly believe that's what it was), I had become a much more humble version of myself. I understood what being depressed meant, though compared to many, I had only had a small taste. I slowly began to improve after taking my bishop's counsel. It took until Nick left and then some to feel normal again but at least I could see some kind of glimmer at the end of the tunnel.
      I would like to think that that whole awful experience taught me somethings. I would like to think I am less arrogant now. I would like to think that I learned how to be empathetic and tactful. And, I would like to think that I learned more fully how to lean on other people and on my Heavenly Father.
    I know there are people who know me who will be surprised to know that I am a much tamer version of what I used to be. But, I am. I am on a constant journey of trying to change and better myself.

    About a year later, I actually read The Color Code. At the end of the book it talks about balance. Every color has strengths and every color has weaknesses. The end of the book gave me the impression that the goal should be to collect the good qualities from every "color" while dropping the bad ones. I don't know why I had to read that book to figure out that strengths needed to be strengthened, and weaknesses needed to be dealt with (either dispensed with or turned into strengths). I was taught similar things in church my whole life but I wasn't paying close enough attention. I have the power to choose what qualities I want to have and who I want to ultimately become. However, I think I will turn out better, if I let Heavenly Father help shape me.

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