Hope

I’ve been depressed lately. I can’t pinpoint it exactly, but it’s not typical of me to be depressed.  I’ve had no energy, and no desire even to get out of bed. It makes sense, given the things that I’ve been going through recently, that I would be depressed, but for some reason up to this point I have only had to deal with a constant sense of sadness and loss. I don’t think I’ve been depressed since the years after my mission.

And I’ve wondered about it. If the depression is from the things that I’ve been going through, well, I’ve been going through them for quite a while now. Why has it taken so long for depression to hit? And if it’s something new, what is it? What new worry is suddenly making my life’s problems seem insurmountable?

I think, probably, two things triggered it. First was a long, drawn out, multi-day conversation about my changing beliefs, and how, exactly, I was wrong. It’s so frustrating talking to someone who simply allows no options into the conversation. No matter what reasonable explanation I provided, there was always some doubt, whether it had basis in reality or not, thrown up against it and used to indicate just how wrong I am and that I need to get back with it. My problem is that I’m way too reasonable. I invest myself into arguments used against my position. I look into it, I research it, I explore it. And then I realize it’s just a smokescreen, and I’ve spent so much energy questioning myself along with my beliefs that I feel almost completely exhausted by the time I come back to my original conclusion. I don’t have the energy to have the same conversation over and over again with each new person who finds out I’ve decided to leave the church.

Second, I’ve been thinking perhaps too much about death lately. About how useless it is to struggle through this life when no matter your struggles, your achievements, your failures, your pain, or your happiness, the end result is always the same. The richest king and the poorest pauper share the same fate. The nobel laureates and the serial killers receive the same reward. Death is the great equalizer. In the end, it matters not whether you lived 100 years of pure joy or 100 years of incredible pain. It’s all pointless.

Yes, I realize that I can look at it another way. And that I probably should. I should look at the lives I can touch now, the legacy that I can leave with those closest to me. I should look at the days of joy that are yet before me. But the whole insensible pointlessness of struggle, of desire, of goals, of sacrifices, has just seemed overwhelming to me lately. Not that I feel that ending it all is a sensible option, but “what’s the point?” is a question that has been resonating in my mind.

On top of the inevitability of death, I have been struggling with the directionlessness of life. I feel like a teenager again, wondering what I’m going to do with my life. I have no ideas what I really like. I only know that I convinced myself to work toward things that I was told by Mormonism were worth working toward. That was my purpose in life, and now that it’s gone, I drift. I’m free to choose my own path now, but I never paid attention to my own needs enough to know what kind of path I would prefer.

I find myself looking around at different people as I go out shopping. Complete strangers. I have no idea of their actual life, their goals, their ambitions or desires. But I see their values in their dress, their mannerisms, and their talk. Most people I see I’m not attracted to. I have no desire to trade lives with them. I am so deeply entrenched in Mormon values and Mormon standards that anything that is foreign enough to be noticeably non-Mormon to me, I instantly know I don’t want it. I feel trapped in my upbringing. Even as I try to reject the doctrines, I find I am still clinging to the values.

My wife suggested I go see a counselor who has helped her overcome seemingly impossible issues. This counselor called herself an energy healer, and claimed to be able to feel energy fields inside people. I admitted that I didn’t have much to lose, and agreed to go. I had an hour appointment, and I think I spent 45 minutes of it in tears in front of this total stranger. I’m not quite sure how to go about describing the experience. My wife had explained she never knew when she went in what they would end up talking about, and practically never even knew what her problem was until the counselor had fixed it. And after my experience, I’d say that’s probably a pretty accurate explanation, although I’ve only had one session so far.

As soon as I sat down, she said, “Okay, what’s going on? I sense a lot of conflict inside of you.” I was a bit surprised at that, but had already decided that I’d be as open as possible with her, so I told her that I was highly skeptical of the process she claimed to be able to use, that while I had no information about it, it just sounded too mystic to be believable, but that since my wife had sworn by it, I was willing to submit myself to the process with as open a mind as possible. She said she didn’t mind if I was skeptical and that it didn’t matter anyway. “But,” she said, “that’s not your only conflict. What else?”

I told her I didn’t know exactly where to start, but that since she had already been working with my wife and was at least familiar with the idea that we had been struggling a bit, I’d start with the marriage. I explained to her that although I still felt some amount of love for my wife, it felt more and more like I have to pretend. That I figured I probably had to stay married because of the negative impact on the children if we separated, but that I had a hard time seeing myself with my wife after ten or fifteen years had passed, and I wasn’t sure how to navigate the relationship between now and then.

I can’t follow all the twists and turns of the conversation after that point, but it seemed we spent very little time talking about my relationship with my wife, at least right at first. She was quick to point out to me during some of my answers to her questions, “No, that’s what you think. How do you feel?” and it seemed she was able to travel quickly from the symptoms of the problem to the root of the problem.

We went back and forth between my marriage and my childhood several times. She pointed out that my wife was very similar to my mother, and speculated that I had married my wife so that I could finally get the love I always craved from my mother. I had heard that hypothesis before, that people tended to do that, but I’m not sure how much it applies to me. There are certainly some parallels there, but I’m not sure how much those really affected my decision.

She told me that I had some incident when I was just a little boy that made me start believing that I could never measure up. I certainly don’t remember any such incident, but the more I talked about it with her, the more I could see that certain patterns in my life could fit with that theory. I’ll definitely have to think about that some more.

She also told me that she sensed that I was very angry with my wife. I know I have felt very hurt, but I didn’t realize I was angry. She told me to close my eyes and imagine that I had a baseball bat and was swinging it, hitting my wife, and yelling out (in my imagination) all the things that she had done to hurt me. I was instantly horrified by the thought, and told the counselor, “Uh, I don’t think that’s going to work for me.” I asked if it would be the same if I just imagined the yelling but not the hitting. She agreed, then had me imagine it, telling me she never leaves people in that place for long, but quickly takes them to a better place after they release their frustrations. But maybe I needed to have the baseball bat, because she sat there for the longest time while I was trying desperately to imagine myself yelling at my wife, and finally said, “Hm. Okay, imagine throwing ice. It’s satisfying because it shatters when it hits the ground, but then it melts away and is gone.” I tried that, too, but I don’t think she was pleased with the results that way, either, and I could feel the clock ticking, ticking, ticking. Finally she said, “Okay, take a deep breath and release all of the pain. Just let it go.” Then when I did that, she quickly said, “There. You are much more relaxed now.” Oh. I was supposed to relax during moments of imagined contention?

She told me that I didn’t know how to say no. I started to disagree with her about that, but she quickly pointed out all the ways that I sacrifice my own desires because it might make someone else uncomfortable or embarrassed, or it might be impolite, or it might be the opposite of what someone else wants. She explained that my yes would never mean anything unless I had a no that I could voice. I had never really thought about that before, but that seemed to make a lot of sense to me. But I struggled with the idea of saying no. I mean, I could imagine saying no in the situations she had me imagine, but only in my imagination and at her behest. If I were actually in that situation in real life, I wouldn’t actually say no. She had me imagine being at someone’s house and being served a meal that I found disgusting. Or having someone physically unpleasant come up to me and ask to admire and hold my baby. Yeah, I could say no in my mind, but I wouldn’t say no in either case if that really happened.

She told me how much I needed to be loved, but that I would never be able to be loved until I learned to love myself. I never thought I didn’t love myself. But I was able to recognize the deep need for love showing in many instances of my life, and having reflected on it a bit since the session, think it is probably one of the greatest subconscious driving forces of my life. It explains so well the great sorrow I feel about my childhood, the misery I experienced as a young adult, the way I latched onto my wife so strongly when it was apparent that she loved me, and, when I realized that she didn’t love me, my almost irrepressible attraction to Girlfriend despite the fact that any love-based relationship with her is impossible. I never really understood how strong this is for me until now. I need it more than I’ve needed anything else in my life. And the counselor says the key to it is loving myself.

During the conversation, she also ferreted out that I had ceased to believe in God. Quite interestingly, she didn’t focus on that at all after the brief explanation I gave, but while she had mentioned aspects of religion in our discussion up to that point, from then on she didn’t mention it once, even in situations where it would have made sense. Instead she approached whatever topic from a scientific or rational standpoint. I would have been fine either way, but I really appreciated her sensitivity.

By the end of the session, I had a pile of used Kleenex beside me, and I was feeling very grateful I had come.

She gave me two assignments. She wants me to travel back in time in my mind to find the little boy that I once was, the one who so desperately needed love, and spend time with him, talk to him, and tell him what he needed to hear, hold him, love him. I cry every time I think about that.

She also said that I need to be able to feel yes and no. She told me not to worry about acting on it yet, but she wants me to learn what it feels like to know when something I am doing is what I want to do and when it is something I don’t want to do but am doing it anyway because I feel like I should. It’s still early, but so far I’ve felt no half a dozen times, and yes not once. I think maybe that says something about me.

She said she wants to see me in two weeks.

I don’t know why, but this filled me with hope. It’s been a long time since I’ve felt any hope. I’m still skeptical about what she claims her method is, but I’m impressed with her ability to cut so quickly to real issues. I’m not cured yet by any means, if that’s even a possibility, but I do feel hope for the future again. Maybe I can find out who I am, what I really want, and how to find some amount of purpose in my life beyond the expectations I have of what I should do.

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That’s my truth. What’s yours?