SOS: My mountains
When my mom grew up at the base of the Rocky Mountains in Salt Lake, she loved looking out and seeing “her mountains.” She moved away from Utah after marrying my dad, but when she came back, it was such a homecoming to see “her mountains” again.
I looked out the window of the car yesterday morning as I drove with my family to a baptism. It was a gorgeous, sunny day: bright blue sky, radiant sun–all smiling brightly over snow-capped mountains: “my mountains.”
Then I thought about the mountains I was trying to move that morning: a recent lack of sufficient exercise, hormones, insomnia, negative thoughts all combining forces again to bring on that physical feeling of my strength being drained away, a lack of appetite, motivation to go about my day gone, and that sense that I might just cry if someone speaks to me. Like my grandma’s funny cartoon said, “My get up and go got up and went.”
It’s what I have come to recognize as depression. I know that depression isn’t all in someone’s head, because it’s really against my personality to be depressed. But when that feeling comes, it is real, and I don’t like it.
As hard as it is and used to be, I know what to do about it now: act. I have to keep praying. I have to keep reading my scriptures. And I have to GET OUT OF BED and exercise. Exercising is like starting my engine, or winding me up. If I exercise, I can keep going. If I sit down or stay in bed, the feelings I have will only get worse.
I remember when I was a teenager and received a priesthood blessing from my step-dad. In the blessing, he said that I had faith to move mountains, but I would need to get out and shovel one shovel-full at a time. Agency is my shovel. Faith is the muscles I have to exercise when I choose to do what will help me work through the depression. If I use my faith and agency to get going, I begin to move my mountain. And when I put forth the effort to move my mountain, then the Lord sends others to help me, and sometimes he seems to come in with a bulldozer and helps me make some major progress.
That priesthood blessing from my youth has so much more meaning to me these days. I have come to recognize some of the “mountains” that are mine to move: temporal ones, like piles of papers, fabric, unmended or unironed clothes, messy or dirty rooms, a budget that doesn’t seem to cover what we hope it will or my lack of ability to live within it, financial papers needing to be shredded, bills to be paid. And then there are the other mountains: negative thoughts cycles that include comparing myself to others, or thinking that I’m not doing a good job, or that somehow I am not measuring up; or that what I have in front of me is too much and that I’m not capable of doing it. Or it can simply be discouragement at what looks like a lack of forward progress in meeting my life’s challenges.
Do you know how the Lord helped me get out of bed this morning? I knew I had to get up for this baptism, and if I didn’t my family wouldn’t be ready in time. And I thought about that young girl that we love, and likewise her mother, who deals with insomnia, chronic pain, rheumatoid arthritis, and Parkinsons, not to mention other great difficulties. Can you imagine? But she is the most determined mother I know. She gets up in the morning and has so much self-respect and love for her family that she continues to fight and press forward, no matter what is going on. No matter how hard the row is she has been given to hoe.
I wanted to be there for them. If she could do it, I could do it. She was the biggest reason I got up this morning. And then there was the melody of a hymn in my head that was in my first wakeful thoughts. I looked it up on my phone and read these words:
In a world where sorrow Ever will be known, Where are found the needy And the sad and lone, How much joy and comfort You can all bestow, If you scatter sunshine Ev’rywhere you go.
I started to think about some of the other people I know who deal with some big challenges. My problems are not theirs. This phrase from the second verse came to my mind: “Sing some happy song.” So I made myself start singing that song as I tackled making the bed.”This is ridiculous!” I thought, as I half-choked back tears and half-sang. But I did it.
And then I went running with my husband, so grateful he was there running with me. Still, I couldn’t keep the tears back. I wanted to stop so badly and go back home and climb back into bed and not deal with this. I couldn’t help but think of my friend who is dealing with depression and runs everyday as part of her therapy. That helped me move forward. I was running with her in my mind. Once we got to the baptism, it was easier to think about someone other than myself. I saw that beautiful little girl, and the big brother who baptized her, hugging one another in the font, and the other siblings giving talks and playing the piano, and seeing a slideshow of her life to this point with the worlds that their family members “make and keep covenants.” It really encouraged me. I felt the Spirit, even though when I feel depressed it is harder to feel the Spirit. It’s a little like having numbness in a part of your body. But I could still feel it. And I could feel love for this family.
Visiting with her mother afterwards about several topics just reminded me that I have so much to be grateful for. My mountains are small. With God’s help, I can move them. I can do this. I will just take one step forward followed by the next until this fog lifts, until the shovel-fulls carve out a little path through which I can pass.
Yesterday continued, and I kept putting one foot in front of the other. There were some bumps. I had to watch myself not to get frustrated with my children in the overly-tired state that I was. I did OK some moments, not as well in others. But we made it through some work (cleaning out some of those dreaded piles) and I went to take a nap for an hour (who can sleep on a Saturday afternoon in our noisy home?). That was something to celebrate.
At last the girls and I were all in the car headed to Salt Lake. I had said a little prayer earlier in the week when the depression was creeping in. I had prayed for tickets to go to this General Women’s Meeting with my daughters. And we got some tickets, that day. I shouldn’t have been surprised, but I was! And we had prayed that Sarah would be able to get someone to fill her shift at work so she could go. And at the last minute, someone came through for her. For us! So we went. And we got in and got seated one minute before the meeting began.
It was great. It was so good to be there with my daughters. Again, I couldn’t feel the Spirit like I sometimes do, because of that numbness. But it was still there. I knew that what I was being told was real, was true, and would help me: things like the quote from President Eyring, when he said: “You may not have clapped your hands when you first heard that invitation…but you surely felt the love of the Savior and a greater commitment to nurture others for him. I can say ‘surely’ to this audience because those feelings are placed deep in the hearts of all of Heavenly Father’s daughters. That is part of your divine heritage from Him. You were tutored by your Him before you came into this life. He helped you understand and accept that you would have trials, tests, and opportunities perfectly chosen just for you. You learned that our Father had a plan of happiness to get you safely through those trials, and that you would help bring others safely through theirs….It is our choice whether we make and keep those covenants…You dear sisters: each of you is a daughter in the covenant. Heavenly Father taught you before you were born…that the way back home to him would not be easy. He knew that it would be too hard for you to make the journey without help….You have been blessed not only to find the way to make those covenants in this life, but to be surrounded by others…who will help [you to travel the path back to Heavenly Father–I don’t have time to finish extracting this quote right now.] (Go to the broadcast and hear it beginning 1:04:24).
Then there was the song, “Fear not, though the enemy deride. Courage, for the Lord is on our side.”
I left that meeting feeling better than I had felt in days. I knew I could make it.
When I woke up this morning, my burden was significantly lifted. I felt more energetic. I had slept better. I wanted to get up and get going.
God is helping me fight this. I know it. I won’t give up.
These are my mountains. And they will not bury me.
Happy Moving Your Mountains,
P.S. Reading back on this after I finish writing, it sounds easier than it was! You should know, that the skills I have learned and the ability to put it off faster than in the past is because of years of learning from the Savior what I need to do, and because of healing he has given me. It’s because of prayers and fasting on my part and others’. It’s because of prayers of family members still today, here on earth and certainly beyond the veil. This is not about me. This is about those people that President Eyring was talking about, who have helped me along the way as I put forth the effort, and the Savior is right at the heart of it all. I could not do this without HIM.