I didn’t realize how much better life could be. I was stuck in a pit of anxiety and depression but didn’t know it. I thought that was just the way life is. I didn’t know how much unnecessary emotional pain I was actually dealing with until I later found solutions and began to experience a higher level of light and joy. Only then did I look back and realize how dark and dreary my life used to be.
I’m not saying I had the worst life ever and that everything was miserable. I’m saying that in comparison to the sustainable degree of light and joy that I live in now, those earlier years were much dimmer and I was more frequently drowning in despair.
Matthew 4:16 Sit in darkness, saw a great light.
Going into marriage and motherhood, I was so confident that I would be the best wife and mother. I was determined to be a blessing to my husband and my kids. I thought I would be. I had made a solemn commitment to God to stay home and be with my children at the crossroads of their lives. I refused to send them to daycare or leave them at home to fend for themselves. I would stay with them, care for them, teach them, prepare meals for them, listen to them, talk to them, and take them places.
During the years after I got married and started having children, from 1990 to 2006 when I was 23-37 years old, I experienced extreme emotions of anxiety and depression. For me, the anxiety manifested as anger and toxic shame more than fear. It was my way of resolving the fear so that I was not subject to something outside of my control. I was supposed to be a good mom. No, I was supposed to be a great mom! I was supposed to be that patient, loving, kind, reliable mom who was at the crossroads of their lives. I definitely was at the crossroads, but I was impatient, angry, critical, and frustrated.
However, it is important to note that there were also patches of good times. I wasn’t always failing. There were successes — plenty of times when I was patient, loving, and kind. But the times of extreme emotions were so difficult that they weighed heavily upon my soul. And my identity of being that good mom was no longer there. After failing to maintain my cool so often, I saw myself as a failure. And so my work at home became drudgery. This was something I could not succeed at.
I didn’t give in to the negative emotions. I was working hard to resolve them. I prayed, read scriptures, sang hymns, received priesthood blessings, took anti-depressants, and went to a couple of counselors. My husband and I took the kids camping, to the beach, and to the mountains. We played with them, celebrated holidays together, and read books together. Nothing had any lasting effect.
Medications created a different problem — they numbed me to feelings of joy. And taking the kids anywhere usually turned into a fiasco because it was much more difficult for me to manage them in public.
After years of being unable to maintain my balance while dealing with the normal challenges children present to their parents, the result was lingering despair and belief that I was a broken person. That was my identity. I just wasn’t a good mom.
listening to the Spirit a little more carefully which kept calling my attention to Dietary Solutions.
The Spirit was guiding me to eat better, give up my treats, and slow down my kick-butt exercise habits. But as yet I didn’t have enough faith that something that small could make such great changes in my life. Besides, I was highly dependent upon my treats for peace and excitement. And my exercise methods helped me keep up with the Jones.
I had noticed for quite some time that the problem was associated with my hormone cycle. One day while looking in the telephone directory I noticed a “PMS clinic for Women” in Boulder, CO. In hindsight I recognize that was another clue, a lifeline being thrown to me but again, I didn’t take it!
I had grown very leery of therapists and other “helpers”. But one day in the year 2000 when I had reached an all-time low I finally agreed to go to that PMS clinic (now called Full Circle Women’s Health).
I went in that very day and met with my imminent liberator, Stephanie Bender, who was a nurse and a psychologist specializing in women’s health. She understood exactly what I was going through! I can still remember how powerful my astonishment was in combination with the relief I felt when I sat in her office listening to her describe to me exactly how I had been feeling for the past 8 years. Up until then nobody had been able to do that. Her recommended solution? Change my diet! Cut out the sugar and refined grains. Increase whole foods and add some supplemental vitamins.
But she didn’t expect me to do that on my own or overnight. Through medical testing, she found my progesterone levels to be incredibly low for my age. That’s the hormone that is supposed to calm us—assist us in our ability to feel peace. She worked with my doctor to prescribe for me, not another synthetic anti-depressant–Band-Aid-fix, but bio-identical progesterone.
Her easy-to-understand explanation was that synthetic meds are like keys that fit into the lock but they don’t unlock the door. With the door locked, the body’s inherent needs can’t be met. These meds clog up the passageway. They halfway meet the need, leaving a person almost obtaining but never actually getting there. They also block any naturally produced progesterone from being able to fulfill its purpose.
Bio-identical hormones, on the other hand, match the hormones identically as their name implies. They are derived from real foods. This key fits the lock, unlocks the door, and delivers the needed physical peace.
I followed her plan. Sure enough, this was exactly what my body needed. The progesterone served as a merciful crutch that supported me until I could master the higher level nutrition skills and moderate my cardio output, which my body required for its balance. Turns out changing one’s diet isn’t such a small thing after all.
Over time and with the help of another health professional—Dr. Susanna Choi and her staff at Integrated OB/GYN in Parker, Colorado I became so sensitive to my body’s balance and how to maintain it that I was eventually able to go off progesterone entirely. I learned from Dr. Choi that because I had allowed taste to govern too much of my food choices I had developed an imbalanced environment in my body—especially in my gut.
Re-balancing that ecosystem took years of learning about nutrition. I had to develop the trust that if I let nutrition be my main governor with taste being the deputy governor, I would be completely satisfied. Once I had enough faith to do it, I had to then convince and persuade my body to come on board with long-suffering and gentleness (D&C 121:41). My body incrementally learned to find its pleasure in balance. I’m still working on fine-tuning it and I believe I always will be. But as soon as I started, I felt better. There has been much joy in the journey. And the depth of overall health I enjoy has increased steadily over the past 13 years.
As my body became increasingly balanced I became more sensitive to the ever-present, softer (but oh, so powerful!), deeper joy of Jesus Christ. I found that cutting out the alternative sources I was turning to for peace and excitement was a prerequisite to receiving the real source, both physically and spiritually.
In my present life, depression and anxiety serve only as occasional warnings of imbalance or motivation for growth instead of being the state of my life. I realize now why my blessings, prayers, and scripture studies were not enough. I had to learn the actual process to obtain my desire. It wasn’t going to be given to me out of thin air. When I pray for healing, my next step is to go to work seeking out all that I can do to contribute to the process. I know not to give up until I find it. It is neither all grace nor all works. It is a balance between them.
Before I had depression seeping into the interstices of my heart for no apparent reason or anger exploding out of it over the smallest things. Now I feel this deep, strong, affectionate love and gratitude for my God, my family, and my life.
“The challenges you face, the growth experiences you encounter, are intended to be temporary scenes played out on the stage of a life of continuing peace and happiness. Sadness, heartache, and disappointment are events in life. It is not intended that they be the substance of life. I do not minimize how hard some of these events can be. When the lesson you are to learn is very important, trials can extend over a long period of time, but they should not be allowed to become the confining focus of everything you do. Your life can and should be wondrously rewarding. It is your understanding and application of the laws of God that will give your life glorious purpose as you ascend and conquer the difficulties of life. That perspective keeps challenges confined to their proper place—stepping-stones to further growth and attainment.” -Elder Richard G. Scott, The Atonement Can Secure Your Peace and Happiness