Sign in to follow this  
JacoJohnson

Depression and church callings

Recommended Posts

Hello,

I'm writing this post to both "get this off my chest" and to get advice.

First some background info: I served a mission some years ago and struggled with undiagnosed anxiety/mild depression. I was still able to function as a missionary but

found the daily routines and social demands to be so great that towards the end of my mission I cried often due to stress/depression.

So I really struggled with dailiy functioning.  I never mentioned this to anyone, not even my companions, for fear of decreased acceptance or even rejection.  I also thought that maybe I wasn’t being mentally faithful.

Fast forward several years and I just graduated from college (struggled there as well) and moved with my family to a new city to take my first job out of college.  Due to the slow hiring process with this company it took several months to get hired. During this time we had very little income and depended on assistance from the government and the church.  When I finally did start my job I  experienced some light “hazing.”  The hazing threw me “over the edge” and I had my wife take me to the ER because I was having panic attacks/major depressive episodes.

So I was finally officially diagnosed with panic disorder and dysthymia (mild chronic depression).  With meds, therapy, and priesthood blessings I made a recovery such that my psychiatrist said that the panic disorder and dysthymia were in remission.

Fast forward again to earlier this year.  I got a calling to serve in a bishopric and one of the things that gives me a lot of stress are meetings and public speaking.  As you know, in the bishopric you do a lot of both.  I felt like the call was inspired and that God can help me do this calling but I’m struggling again with the feelings of depression, inadequacy, and anxiety. I’m still functioning but feeling miserable. 

I can’t pinpoint what the source of these feelings are. I am reading my scriptures, exercising, and both seem to help.  I don’t like asking for help and would feel bad going to a priesthood leader to discuss these issues because 1) I don’t know who to speak with and 2) I know how busy priesthood leaders are and don’t want to place any more burden on them than what they already have.

Anyone struggled with this or have any advice? Thank you!

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites

I have struggled with depression for years- it kinda goes along with lupus at times.  I find it helpful to help others as it takes my mind off myself.  I also try to keep busy with activities that require concentration.  The biggest help comes from prayer and being in the Word.  Also, medication does help to a point.  God gave us doctors to heal our bodies and our brain is part of our body.

 

Learning new things is a great way to fend off depression.  It boosts your confidence.  I started to learn watercolor painting. It takes 100% concentration, so my mind is focused on the painting instead fear.  You mentioned you were afraid of public speaking.  It is the most common fear.  Maybe this would be a good time to join Toastmasters and learn public speaking.  You can overcome the fear in a constructive atmosphere.

 

I'll be praying for you.  I know it is hard to live with depression/anxiety. I know you will have victory!!!!

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites

First, I'm sorry you're experiencing this.  
I was impressed with Elder Holland's conference talk and feel that if he can open up, so can you and everyone else.  If others don't respond well or don't 'get it', refer them to this:

https://www.lds.org/general-conference/2013/10/like-a-broken-vessel?lang=eng

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites

My understanding of mental illness (which is not great I'll confess) is that the brain is broken in some way.

 

A person is no more responsible for their brain being broken then they would their arm being broken.

 

The difference is a broken arm is visible. You can be shown the break on an x-ray, and treatment is a very obvious cast.  Everyone can see the cast and everyone knows you are not at your best.  They expect you to not be able to do everything that anyone else can.

 

But for mental illness no one can really see it, and when you get treated they don't put your brain in a cast or anything like it.  That can make it very hard for both the victim and the well meaning people around them to grasp and understand what is going on.

 

The things that are described as symptoms (depression, inadequacy, and anxiety etc) are all things we feel from time to time even when we don't have mental illness.  So well meaning people will give the same advice that worked for them to help you.  But that is like trying to treat a broken bone the same way you treat a bruise.   Its not going to help much.

 

Now you have dealt with a professional before and put it into 'remission.'  But remission is not a cure, it can come back.  It looks like it did.  So in addition to the stuff you are already doing get back to the doctor and get the professional help you need to deal with it.

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites

Thanks everyone for the advice.  I think I am going to schedule a follow-up with my doctor.  I too really liked Elder Holland's talk I just still feel like there is still that stigma that holds me back from getting more help.  I also like the suggestion from Irishcolleen about having a hobby to focus on and providing service. 

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites

The other part of this is my patriarchal blessing states I was "foreordained to leadership and greatness."  Leadership to me means serving in these more visible, public callings.  It's pretty daunting and terrifying to read.  If I could just be "cured" I could do it :-)

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites

Fast forward again to earlier this year.  I got a calling to serve in a bishopric and one of the things that gives me a lot of stress are meetings and public speaking.  As you know, in the bishopric you do a lot of both.  I felt like the call was inspired and that God can help me do this calling but I’m struggling again with the feelings of depression, inadequacy, and anxiety. I’m still functioning but feeling miserable. 

 

Hi JacoJohnson, can you please tell us a little bit more about how exactly are you feeling since you was called to the bishopric? What exactly makes you anxious and depressed? What makes you feel inadequate? Examples? Thanks.

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites

Hi JacoJohnson, can you please tell us a little bit more about how exactly are you feeling since you was called to the bishopric? What exactly makes you anxious and depressed? What makes you feel inadequate? Examples? Thanks.

 

When I was first called I was very humbled because I didn't think I would be called.  When the calling was extended to me I told the stake pres. counselor that I had a lot on my plate - 5 kids ages 2 to 12, working 55 hours per week in my job, watching my kids while my wife works and just trying to do basic stuff in the church like home teaching (which I wasn't usually able to accomplish). 

What makes me feel anxious and depressed?  To be quite honest one thing that makes me anxious is I like to have control in my life.  When I was in graduate school I felt like I had no control for those 3 years.  At that time we had 3 small kids, very little income and I was called to serve in YM and EQ presidencies (not at the same time) where the presidents were not available or reliable and I felt like the programs suffered.  After school and once I got through my panic attacks, I felt like I had some control.  For example,before being called I had a set time frame in mind when I would advance in my career and get certified in my specialty field. I also wanted to be moved out of our small apartment and into a home where we could have some space and breathing room.  I wanted to have all this done by this summer.  The bishopric calling effectively eliminates study time because I'm too stressed thinking about bishopricing and all that needs to be done to move the Lord's work along that I no longer have study time. Less study time means not certifying until 1-2 years from now and waiting even longer to get out this cramped up apt.  We would move somewhere else but my kids would literally die because they don't want to leave their friends at school and we can't afford any house in this school district.  Moving out of the district would be appealing because it would get me out of the calling and get us into a larger place however I don't want to dissapoint my kids.  I don't think I would mind staying in this apt. or district longer if I had not been called.  So knowing that I could relieve some stress by moving into a larger well staffed ward makes me want to move out of the district.  So I'm probably being selfish but at the same time I feel like my kids could make new friends in another district just fine but they don't think so.  Another downside to moving out of the district is that it's one of the best in the nation (hence higher home prices) and moving out would put us in a very good, but not "top notch," district.  So there are a lot of dynamics and I'm having some trouble thinking clearly on this.

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites

The other part of this is my patriarchal blessing states I was "foreordained to leadership and greatness."  Leadership to me means serving in these more visible, public callings.  It's pretty daunting and terrifying to read.  If I could just be "cured" I could do it :-)

 

Good Afternoon JacoJohnson! :)

 

You can use your life experiences to teach others that God is real and that He loves His children. You can use your life experiences to help others to know the power of the atonement. To be a leader is to be a person who can teach others about the gospel of Jesus Christ because of experience. Your struggle in life is an opportunity for you to put great faith in to God and His power to heal and make you whole.

 

-Finrock

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites

The other part of this is my patriarchal blessing states I was "foreordained to leadership and greatness."  Leadership to me means serving in these more visible, public callings.  It's pretty daunting and terrifying to read.  If I could just be "cured" I could do it :-)

 

George Albert Smith suffered from depression. 

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites

My husband used to also panic with public speaking/with high amounts of stress. Three things helped:

1) TrueCalm helps stabilize your nervous system and feel calm. Some people have reported success in using it with depression. Amazon sells it. It is an awesome pill! It did not take away the panic, but it helped him control it better.

2) The more he did spike in public at work and at church, the easier it got. He used to have SERIOUS issues for hours after public speaking...sometimes even longer. It is not so bad now. So, there is hope. :)

3) It turns out he has an overactive sympathetic nervous system. Stress sends his "fight or flight" reflex into overdrive and can cause panic symptoms. It is not something doctors know much about, but there is info on the internet, if you dig. (Or, I can post links if you are interested.) Your comments/symptoms remind me of him a little but, so you may want to check into it. It can be confused with depression and/or come with it.

I hope this helps....just know it can get better!

That's interesting you mention the overactive sympathetic nervous system. I actually had hyperhydrosis (excessive sweating, especially in the hands) which I believe is also a symptom of the overactive nerves. This worsened when in ANY social situation especially when hand shakes were anticipated.  I actually had a surgery done just before my mission to correct it (Thankfully it was covered by insurance) and I can now shake hands with confidence, write without getting papers soaking wet with sweat, and play instruments! Things I couldn't do before surgery. Thanks for your comments.

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites

That's interesting you mention the overactive sympathetic nervous system. I actually had hyperhydrosis (excessive sweating, especially in the hands) which I believe is also a symptom of the overactive nerves. This worsened when in ANY social situation especially when hand shakes were anticipated. I actually had a surgery done just before my mission to correct it (Thankfully it was covered by insurance) and I can now shake hands with confidence, write without getting papers soaking wet with sweat, and play instruments! Things I couldn't do before surgery. Thanks for your comments.

Yep....that is a VERY common sign! TrueCalm should definitely help you. I got it for my husband before I figured out the overactive sympathetic nervous system thing. Turns out the stuff in it is stuff people recommend for OSNS sufferers. :) He says it works better in an empty stomach, and he only has to take it right before (I think an hour) speaking/teaching ( though not as often now) or if he feels a stressful episode coming on....he does not take it everyday. There are foods he eats everyday (like eggs and almonds) that help a lot (he can tell when he slacks off eating them), as well as zinc and magnesium (which he was told to take by his dr for low levels, anyway). I hope you find something to help. The change in him has been night and day since we researched it. :)

http://www.amazon.com/Foods-True-Amino-Relaxer-Capsules/dp/B0006U6IMI

http://drlwilson.com/Articles/NERVOUS%20SYSTEM.htm (We did not do the hair analysis....just followed some of the food recommendations.)

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites

One of the major problems with the way American medicine currently approaches psychological disorders is that it classifies and treats disorders based on symptoms, not root causes. If you look at the DSM-IV-TR (the "Holy Bible" of diagnosing mental illness) it categorizes sicknesses based on symptoms manifested without really looking at the root causes. If the same approach were applied to healing the physical body, you'd have doctors asking about pain in various areas of your body, physical dysfuctionality, and then diagnosing a treatment plan--all without ever actually looking at or touching your body to find out what the root problem is.

 

A lot of modern approaches to psychological healing simply don't work, or are so ineffective as to be practically useless. Biology-altering medications often serve to cover up symptoms for a time while leaving the root causes completely untreated--often because the root causes aren't biological, but spiritual. Then, when enough pressure gets put on the person, the person buckles.

 

I suggest a two-pronged approach to healing: ensure that your physical body is getting the correct nutrition, exercise, and rest that it needs, and focus on delving into the depths of your soul to figure out what the root spiritual causes of your depression are. The ultimate healer in the universe is Christ. Turn to Him and let Him heal you. It won't be easy or a short-lived endeavor, but if you truly desire to be healed, you can let that desire grow into the faith requisite to actually be healed.

 

Melvin Fish's books and works are worth taking a look at: http://www.drmfish.com/ . I can't recommend them highly enough.

 

Good luck. This is a difficult issue to deal with. I struggled with depression so powerful that it stopped me from any kind of personal growth or advancement for 6 years after High School (I mean ANY--couldn't hold a job; couldn't go to school; couldn't serve a mission; couldn't do anything worthwhile). It was only a complete dependence on the Lord and being brought down to the depths of humility that enabled Christ to come to me and heal me. It IS possible, and it DOES happen.

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites

When I was first called I was very humbled because I didn't think I would be called.  When the calling was extended to me I told the stake pres. counselor that I had a lot on my plate - 5 kids ages 2 to 12, working 55 hours per week in my job, watching my kids while my wife works and just trying to do basic stuff in the church like home teaching (which I wasn't usually able to accomplish). 

What makes me feel anxious and depressed?  To be quite honest one thing that makes me anxious is I like to have control in my life.  When I was in graduate school I felt like I had no control for those 3 years.  At that time we had 3 small kids, very little income and I was called to serve in YM and EQ presidencies (not at the same time) where the presidents were not available or reliable and I felt like the programs suffered.  After school and once I got through my panic attacks, I felt like I had some control.  For example,before being called I had a set time frame in mind when I would advance in my career and get certified in my specialty field. I also wanted to be moved out of our small apartment and into a home where we could have some space and breathing room.  I wanted to have all this done by this summer.  The bishopric calling effectively eliminates study time because I'm too stressed thinking about bishopricing and all that needs to be done to move the Lord's work along that I no longer have study time. Less study time means not certifying until 1-2 years from now and waiting even longer to get out this cramped up apt.  We would move somewhere else but my kids would literally die because they don't want to leave their friends at school and we can't afford any house in this school district.  Moving out of the district would be appealing because it would get me out of the calling and get us into a larger place however I don't want to dissapoint my kids.  I don't think I would mind staying in this apt. or district longer if I had not been called.  So knowing that I could relieve some stress by moving into a larger well staffed ward makes me want to move out of the district.  So I'm probably being selfish but at the same time I feel like my kids could make new friends in another district just fine but they don't think so.  Another downside to moving out of the district is that it's one of the best in the nation (hence higher home prices) and moving out would put us in a very good, but not "top notch," district.  So there are a lot of dynamics and I'm having some trouble thinking clearly on this.

 

Thanks for sharing. I believe having a healthier, happier, less-anxious, less-stressed father and husband for your family is more of a priority than young children leaving behind a few friends. I understand they are your kids and that you do not want to disappoint them. You seem like a sensitive and caring father, having said that I believe your health IS a priority and whatever is needed to be done in order to get you back at a point where you can function better and be happier and healthier, well..needs to be done whether it means, going back to therapy, trying new meds, moving, changing doctors or asking for a release of your present calling.

 

Your first responsibility is towards yourself, it is not selfishness.When you feel good about yourself you are able to serve better and more effectively to your family, friends and others including Church members.

 

Depression is an illness and as much as I believe in the power of the Priesthood, God also blessed us with the use of medicine and good doctors to help us deal with these challenges. Remember also that depression is sometimes disguised as anxiety in almost 70% of the time and there are many triggers. If you don't know what are those triggers, your therapist can also help you recognize them. It seems like you have been struggling with depression for a long time which could have a bio-chemical cause rather than a situational cause and the proper use of medication to treat it would have a dramatic improvement in your present lifestyle.

 

Also, a very important element to remember is that depression affects the entire family specially your spouse so she is also in need of some counseling.

 

Whatever you decide to do, remember you need to feel better in order to accomplish all the things you want to do including family and Church callings. Right now, I believe your first priority is about feeling better about yourself and help for your family. The rest can wait.

 

All the best. :)

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites

Most of the members have read what I am going to tell you. About 23 yrs ago I served as the Bishop of our Ward. During this time my wife suffered a break down. I did not see this coming and did not know she suffered from depression. She kept it hidden from me and she was the first person in my life that I ever knew battled this. At that time our 4 kids were aged 10, 8, 6, and 4yrs old. Our stake President was awesome and came to visit us 2 weeks later. He counceled us to see the Church Physcologist, which we did. We went once or twice a month for a year. Today she is on a very mild anti depressant. It's helped wonders. That's enough for now. There is always hope....one of the joys of the gospel.

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites

Bless your heart. Life can be unexpectedly hard at times.Sometimes I think our Mormon culture is hard on those with depression. We take the quote "As a man thinketh, so is he," so seriously. At least, I did. I thought that meant I was supposed to be able to control my thoughts and feelings at all times. I hid my depression for awhile, but when I started having thoughts about slamming the car into the barricade with me in it, I knew something was really wrong with my head and I wasn't just making stuff up. I told my husband who was very supportive and we went to the doctor who believed me and helped me. I had 4 children at the time ages 9, 7, 4, 2. 

I have been on anti depressant meds for 30 years. My kids grew up, have married and are leading productive lives. My depression did not "scar them for life." I have been able to have a functional and happy life all things considered. There are times I feel like the "black hole" will just suck me into oblivion. Luckily, with my meds it doesn't last for more than a few days at a time. My suggestions are to get medical help. Take the meds till one is found that works best for you. Don't be afraid of being on meds "the rest of your life." What a blessing to live in this age where there is medicine to take and feel better. Exercise is good, but I have found yoga to be helpful also. The stretching and holding positions builds strength not only physically but mentally too. The deep breathing and relaxing tense muscles has helped me a lot. I use the deep breathing when I feel myself tense up.

I can say from experience that my church callings have helped me in many ways. I haven't always appreciated them at the time I was called. The first time I was called to be Primary chorister I was not happy. I was afraid of being in front of a group of kids and adults, but I kept trying. I didn't always enjoy that calling at the time, but it did help (force) me to develop in ways I would not have chosen. I went on to be Den Leader of my son's cub scout troop and that was another growing experience with a bunch of lively boys. Because of those experiences I was able to secure a teaching position at a private school when my family needed help financially. During my teaching  years I was also called again to be the Primary chorister. It was 20 years from my first calling as such. By that time my fear of being in front of people was long gone because I had had to do it so many times as a teacher. That 2nd time I really loved being the chorister and the Primary kids and still look upon that experience as my favorite calling. So, don't give up. Seek medical attention, go to counseling, take medication if needed, don't worry about others judging you. The Lord loves you and so do all of us who have been in your shoes. 

 

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites

Thanks all for your comments and support.  I have actually been taking citalopram (anti-depressant) since I had my panic attack/break down several years ago.  I honestly don't know how I managed life without it prior to that time as I've always had an anxious/nervous disposition and the meds have helped me to mellow out a lot since then.  I'm really thankful for that medicine!

 

One thing that I did over the weekend was read a lot about George Albert Smith.  It gave me some hope knowing that as an apostle he was essentially bedridden for 3 years at one time because of depression.  He battled with this for all of his life but still was able to function in his calling. 

 

So I'm leaning towards trying to stay in this calling, "Let go and let God" and just take it one day at a time.  At least that's what I'm thinking for now...

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites

Thanks all for your comments and support.  I have actually been taking citalopram (anti-depressant) since I had my panic attack/break down several years ago.  I honestly don't know how I managed life without it prior to that time as I've always had an anxious/nervous disposition and the meds have helped me to mellow out a lot since then.  I'm really thankful for that medicine!

 

One thing that I did over the weekend was read a lot about George Albert Smith.  It gave me some hope knowing that as an apostle he was essentially bedridden for 3 years at one time because of depression.  He battled with this for all of his life but still was able to function in his calling. 

 

So I'm leaning towards trying to stay in this calling, "Let go and let God" and just take it one day at a time.  At least that's what I'm thinking for now...

 

As long as you understand that God expects us to go and do, not just rely on Him without doing. We cannot, and should not, expect that we can ask God for something, and then sit on our behinds and it will work out. We pray for a new job -- and then we job hunt like mad. We pray for a mountain to move, and then we pick up a shovel. Etc.

 

You should rely on God, absolutely. You should also take advantage of every tool, opportunity, knowledge, and situation that you can to deal with things.

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites

As long as you understand that God expects us to go and do, not just rely on Him without doing. We cannot, and should not, expect that we can ask God for something, and then sit on our behinds and it will work out. We pray for a new job -- and then we job hunt like mad. We pray for a mountain to move, and then we pick up a shovel. Etc.

 

You should rely on God, absolutely. You should also take advantage of every tool, opportunity, knowledge, and situation that you can to deal with things.

Amen.

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites

Hello,

I'm writing this post to both "get this off my chest" and to get advice.

First some background info: I served a mission some years ago and struggled with undiagnosed anxiety/mild depression. I was still able to function as a missionary but

found the daily routines and social demands to be so great that towards the end of my mission I cried often due to stress/depression.

So I really struggled with dailiy functioning. I never mentioned this to anyone, not even my companions, for fear of decreased acceptance or even rejection. I also thought that maybe I wasn’t being mentally faithful.

Fast forward several years and I just graduated from college (struggled there as well) and moved with my family to a new city to take my first job out of college. Due to the slow hiring process with this company it took several months to get hired. During this time we had very little income and depended on assistance from the government and the church. When I finally did start my job I experienced some light “hazing.” The hazing threw me “over the edge” and I had my wife take me to the ER because I was having panic attacks/major depressive episodes.

So I was finally officially diagnosed with panic disorder and dysthymia (mild chronic depression). With meds, therapy, and priesthood blessings I made a recovery such that my psychiatrist said that the panic disorder and dysthymia were in remission.

Fast forward again to earlier this year. I got a calling to serve in a bishopric and one of the things that gives me a lot of stress are meetings and public speaking. As you know, in the bishopric you do a lot of both. I felt like the call was inspired and that God can help me do this calling but I’m struggling again with the feelings of depression, inadequacy, and anxiety. I’m still functioning but feeling miserable.

I can’t pinpoint what the source of these feelings are. I am reading my scriptures, exercising, and both seem to help. I don’t like asking for help and would feel bad going to a priesthood leader to discuss these issues because 1) I don’t know who to speak with and 2) I know how busy priesthood leaders are and don’t want to place any more burden on them than what they already have.

Anyone struggled with this or have any advice? Thank you!

I have experienced this and I too struggled while in the Bishopric, but as Christ said...If you want to save your life, loose it in the services of others. It is great you are doing so many good things that the Church admonishes us to do, but remember we cannot serve without the aid of Christ and the Holy Ghost and constraint prayer unto,our Father in heaven. Also get help for LDS services or a professional in the field of such problems and don't be afraid to take meds that may help. I will pray for you as,well.

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites

Sometimes my depression and anxiety get so bad I can't leave the house. It alone is the main reason I've not joined the church, (the other things are more petty issues with doctrine, but that is, by far, the biggest thing) and I don't look forward to the explenation of what sensory issues are when I say "no I am not wearing temple garments".

The 'big thing' is largely is the cause of other issues I have, which I won't get into here, but it sounds like you're doing a good job as it is! Don't sell yourself short, whatever you do!

I myself am 25, I never properly finished high school (getting a GED later) never went to collage, never had a proper relationship and probably never will, and live on assistance which I refer to as my "crazy money".

If you'd like to talk about it, I'd be happy to, but I'd rather speak in private...

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites

Create an account or sign in to comment

You need to be a member in order to leave a comment

Create an account

Sign up for a new account in our community. It's easy!

Register a new account

Sign in

Already have an account? Sign in here.

Sign In Now
Sign in to follow this