Depression is a very sensitive subject that I feel requires special treatment. It is probably Satan’s greatest tool to damn our souls by sapping our will to move forward, and it afflicts more individuals than we realize. I do not profess to have all of the answers to help with this huge problem, but I sincerely desire to assist those who struggle with this issue and hope that what I write may help in some small way.
Because of the extra-sensitive nature of this subject, I have decided to take a different approach in writing about it than I have with the other essays in this book. I have chosen to approach this issue in a more personal and casual format in hopes of increasing its connection with those who are struggling, so the rest of this essay is written as a letter from a parent to his child. Indeed, it is adapted from a letter I wrote to one of our children.
I hope that those who suffer from depression may feel the yearnings of a parent for them individually. Even if your parent is not in a position to express these thoughts, please be assured that at least your Heavenly Father has tender feelings for you and would express thoughts even more caring than these if you could hear Him.
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Thank you so much for letting us know that you are feeling down. I am so glad you did. It is important for you to have an outlet for your feelings so you don’t keep them all bottled up inside, and that is what parents are for. I want to reach through the pages of this letter and give you a big hug, but all I can do is hope that you can feel my love through the things I write. We love you so much and want you to feel it.
I feel bad that we were not there for you more while you were growing up. I wish we had given you a lot more attention and positive reinforcement. You are so good, and you deserve to know that we appreciate all your efforts. I believe that because we were so busy and involved in dealing with life’s challenges, you were neglected more than I like to admit and more than you realize.
I fear that this neglect has created your own emotional black hole that pulls you down, regardless of how hard you try to resist. It makes it more difficult for you to relate and connect with other people and makes you extra sensitive to feeling alone. And when you face challenges, all these old suppressed hurt feelings come rushing back, and you feel abandoned.
Please know that you are not alone. We are there with you in spirit and think about you continually, pray for you, and love you. You will always belong to our family, and I hope you feel our loving support. Additionally, even though it may sound trite, it is true that the Lord is there to support you as well, and I hope this letter will help give you tools to be able to tap into more of the support the Lord wants to give you.
I wish I could go back in time and fix everything, but I can’t. All I can do now is try my best to be honest with you, admit my faults to help you see where some of your challenges came from so you will have more power to deal with them, try to show my love for you so you can feel it, and trust in the Lord to fill in the holes of the past. I know He can and will do it as we turn to Him.
Unfortunately, that is often the stickler. How do we do this? You try so hard to do what is right, but you feel like you repeatedly mess things up and nothing works out, so why keep trying? I know. I tried focusing on accomplishing things for decades without really understanding the bigger picture, so eventually I gave up and did some really stupid things too.
I now understand things a lot better and want you to avoid the frustration I felt for years, trying so hard and still not having things work out. I see you falling into the same trap I did of feeling worthless. What I was really doing was avoiding dealing with the emotional holes from my upbringing, which in reality kept me from progressing. I was stuck in a loop that repeated itself.
The key is connecting with God. This is achieved by seeking light and truth. Christ is the light of the world, and all good things come from him. As we seek light and truth, we are able to see his influence all around us, and he fills our souls with love and hope.
There are two tools or ideas that help me stay in tune with the Lord’s spirit. First, I look for and try to experience all the good things in nature and the world around me, and second, I look for the good in the faces and actions of the people I run into and see throughout the day.
The scriptures teach us not only that Christ created the world, but also that his spirit (the light of Christ) is in and throughout all things and brings life to all living things. If his spirit or influence is in his creations, then we can find it there if we seek and look for it.
Try an experiment this next week and tell me how it turns out. Each day, try to identify your various sensations―sight, smell, touch, hearing, taste―throughout the day. Try to concentrate on feeling. What does the cool breeze feel like? What colors are in the sunset? What does the food in each meal taste like? While you are at it, tell us about everything else as well. It does not all have to be positive. Remember, in order to seek light and truth and connect with God, it is important to identify all your feelings, negative and positive. Is that smell gross? That noise sure is annoying. And so on. All feelings are OK, but try to look for and emphasize the positive because we will find what we look for.
Sometimes when we get in touch with our feelings, we feel the hurt from the past, so we try to shut down all our feelings. But we connect with God mainly through our feelings. So experience the full spectrum, but concentrate on looking for the good or the influence of God all around us. I have found that as we do this, we don’t hide from pain but bring it out in the open so we can see and examine it. Once we really own our pain, we can give it to the Lord so he can take it away. As we get in touch with our feelings, we will feel less alone. The sound of a bird or the beauty of a flower will lift our spirit, and we will feel closer to God and more connected with the whole world and humanity.
However, if we do not look for the good and beautiful in life we will miss it. Again, try to get in touch with your feelings by experiencing all of the sensations of life while you look for the influence of God in all His creations. If you have seen the earth, sun, moon, and stars, you have seen the Lord, the Creator. God promises us that if we will seek Him, we shall find Him. Try it. You might like it.
The second approach is to look for the good—or, in other words, the light of Christ—in the people we meet. We know that we are all children of God and that he has placed a spark of his divinity within each of us. So we can seek God and connect with Him by looking for the influence of the light of Christ in the people we interact with every day.
Look for situations where people are kind to others. Was the bus driver friendly? Was a little girl helpful to her brother? All this goodness comes from Christ, and as we look for it and recognize it, we will feel closer to him. Also, look for the goodness that shines through individuals. Some of their faces may have been hardened by life’s challenges, but I have found that if I look for it, I can feel the influence that God has in their lives and see it in their eyes and countenances. Everyone has different strengths, so His influence is felt and reflected in different ways in different people, but it is still there. Granted, it is easier to see it in some people than others because some people have accepted and are following the light of Christ within them more than others. But, regardless, you can be uplifted and feel the Lord’s love for you by identifying his influence in the lives of the people around you. I have found that as I do this, I not only feel more connected to God, but I also feel more connected to other people, and they also feel more connected to me. We are edified together. I strongly believe that if you try this approach, you will feel less alone. It has helped me a great deal.
I hope these ideas help you. These are just suggestions, and there are many other ways to get close to God. Music is another example. Try different things and find what works for you. Remember, prayer is always a great way to connect with God. You may also try reading the scriptures and find things there that will help you as well. But, above all, please remember, we love you!
It is also important to exercise whatever particle of faith you have and reach out to serve others. If we focus on ourselves and our problems, we draw in and away from God, but if we reach out and serve others, we draw closer to Him and the peace and freedom He offers us. It is impossible to know a master whom we do not serve, and it is God’s work and glory to bless and lift mankind. So, as we serve others, we are actually serving God, our King. Look for ways to serve by simply going the extra mile at school or work, volunteering to help at a local school or hospital, joining a choir at your church. There are many ways to serve, and even if it is something very small, it is important to reach out and start to do something that benefits others. As we follow the Savior’s example and serve others, we not only draw closer to him, but we also start to connect more with other people and receive strength and encouragement from them as well.
Again, it is good for you to open up and express some of your feelings to family and friends. Please keep doing this. It is healthy. As the scriptures state, it is not good for man (or woman) to be alone, so reach out to other people. I really believe it will help you a lot if you relax and try to enjoy life. The other stuff will come if you take care of yourself.
This coming week, try writing in a journal and make notes of details about your life that you like and what you don’t. What did your food taste like? What was the weather like? What interesting thing did you notice in your neighborhood? What music did you enjoy? What clothes did you wear? How did you spend each day? I think you get the idea. Some people find that a gratitude journal is helpful. Try writing down something you are grateful for before you go to bed at night.
Also, you may want to make a point of trying something new each day, like taking a different route to work or buying a different treat to eat so you can have some variety to stimulate your senses a little, and then writing about it. As you learn to express your feelings, it will help you identify them and, in the process, get closer to God.
We all can benefit from applying this saying I heard the other day: “Look up, not down. Look forward, not backward. Look out, not in.”
Well, as usual, I went on and on too much, but I really want you to know I love you and want to bless you in any way I can. We love you always.