Monday, October 17, 2016

I didn't expect depression

I don't mean to do an injustice to any woman who has given birth to a real child and finds herself dealing with postpartum depression, but I feel like that is what I'm going through right now.

People in academia always refer to a PhD thesis/dissertation as a baby or child. There's the same long gestational period, the same anticipation, a lot of work and effort that goes into preparing, a supervisor (birth coach) who helps throughout, regular "check ups," physical and emotional ups and downs, all the people giving you advice about what you need to be doing now and what to prepare yourself for it, vulnerability (being "exposed" to outsiders) and, at the end, there's an incoherent flurry of commotion and activity as many different people rush around frantically to help bring this new "life" into the world. Then suddenly the moment comes and the pressure stops instantly.

Are you convinced of the appropriateness of my analogy yet?

Over the past several months, I have been prepared for the experience of submitting my thesis and finishing my PhD in many ways, but I have discovered that I was not adequately prepared emotionally. The past month before submitting itself was an emotional roller coaster. There were so many things to do, of course, but aside from stress, there was also so much anxiety, ebbs and flows of confidence, etc. Towards the last two weeks, I had difficulty sleeping and could go from perfectly peaceful to churning with anxiety and nervousness in about five milliseconds.

Although those crazy side effects mostly abated after submission (thankfully), sadly, others have jumped in to replace them. All at once I have lost my:
ability to plan or get anything done
quick smile
desire to see, talk, or spend time with anyone outside of my closest friends and family

and found:
an insatiable craving for donuts
and a new affinity for staring off into space

In short, I feel like my life has fallen apart.

For the past several weeks I've just been wondering what is wrong with me and why I all of a sudden can't get anything done, or even care much about getting things done (it took me a week to finish this blog post). My list of "to-dos after submission", which I was really excited about and have looked forward to for months, has almost not been touched at all. I even feel like I have lost my spark of spirituality--I've been finding it very difficult to read the scriptures, to say meaningful prayers, and to focus in any church setting. This is uncharacteristic and disturbing to me.

So I've been thinking. And talking to people.
My sister mentioned that it sounds like coming home from a mission. That inspired comment is really what triggered me to realize what I'm going through: Depression. I just wasn't expecting it.

I've dealt with depression at other times in my life, so right now I'm doing the things I know will help me get through.
I'm waking up each morning and giving thanks for the sun coming up and out (on the days it has come out)
Even though I often don't feel like it, I'm choosing to kneel in prayer to express gratitude--I know I have so many things to be grateful for;
I'm trying to do a better job each day at seeing all the ways the Lord has worked and is working in my life, and choosing not to believe that He's suddenly not real anymore;
I'm exercising every day,
And eating healthily (minus the donuts, but I'm cutting myself some slack there).
Although I almost can't stand it, I'm still coming into University and forcing myself to work.
I'm trying to serve and get outside of myself at every opportunity;
I'm trying to be honest with others about what I'm experiencing, so that I don't put up a false front and so that I can benefit from the relationships around me;
I'm trying to remember that the best is always yet to be, and there is a bright future ahead;
I'm trying to be patient with myself and my current situation,
To not look back or give in to feelings of sadness,
To be close to, open, and honest with the Lord,
And most of all, to press forward with a steadfastness in Christ (2 Nephi 31:20).

These things all sound so simple on paper, and they are things I generally take for granted at other times. But right now, in my current situation, little by little, they are making all the difference in my life. I'm still dealing with the depression, and each day is still a struggle in its own way for different reasons, but I've been reminded by the Spirit recently of this fact:

In that truism, I'm reminded that trouble, challenge, and trial are part of the mortal experience, and there is nothing wrong with admitting they are there or that they are difficult. However, giving up, or wallowing in the difficulty, is to be avoided. In these truths, I am finding happiness. Mostly I am finding happiness because I've been reminded of Jesus Christ--I know that I have much to be happy about and to look forward to, because of Him. He is the Light of the world, the Life of the world, and the Hope of the world. He is these things to me.

Because of him, I (and we) still have great reason to rejoice. Even when it's raining.

Love love,

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