The darkness seemed to come out of nowhere. I started feeling anxious and depressed about all the unresolved issues in my life. I lost confidence in myself, I began questioning my faith, and the list goes on. It seemed like even small inconveniences were blown out of proportion, and my good life was suddenly catastrophic.
I felt like I was fighting an internal battle with demons inside my head.
Darkness seemed to engulf me. And as these feelings consistently got worse, I started asking myself things like, “What if I wasn’t here anymore? Would people even care?” And the demons in my mind would answer, “You’re just dust in the universe. No one would even notice if you were gone.”
These thoughts paralyzed me with fear.
But all while I was dealing with this in my mind, I acted normal. I talked to my family like everything was fine—out of fear, I locked my feelings away from others. I felt like I couldn’t share how catastrophic my mind was.
I was also in denial that something was actually wrong. I told myself I couldn’t have depression. I didn’t want to admit it that I needed help. I was so afraid that if people knew what I was thinking and feeling, they would reject me or think I was weak or crazy. I felt so ashamed for being unable to get out of the dark.
I went on like this until one day, I found comfort from Elder Jeffrey R. Holland’s words. He said: “If you had appendicitis, God would expect you to seek a priesthood blessing and get the best medical care available. So too with emotional disorders. Our Father in Heaven expects us to use all of the marvelous gifts He has provided in this glorious dispensation” (“Like a Broken Vessel,” Ensign or Liahona, Nov. 2013, 41).
This touching message helped me finally accept that I was facing the reality of mental illness and that there is no shame in needing help. Most importantly, I was reminded that I am not weak and that I could be healed.
That night, I said the most sincere prayer I have ever said in my life. Sobbing, I humbled myself and poured out my heart to Heavenly Father. I asked Him for guidance to know what I should do.
After that prayer, I felt prompted to talk to my bishop. He was kind and understanding—I shouldn’t have expected anything less. And he immediately helped me feel peace and great comfort from my loving Father in Heaven. He helped me know that the Savior understood all I was going through, even if I didn’t understand everything myself. He also helped me use the tools I needed.
I learned that mental health issues can be made lighter by faith and by the healing power of Jesus Christ, of course, but that healing sometimes needs to be supplemented by other resources too. I have felt strength and hope and light come from both spiritual and temporal tools. Here are a few practices that bring light into my life each day that you can try too:
Start and end your day with a sincere prayer—ask specific questions, seek guidance, and express gratitude.
Know and accept that it’s OK to be sad and cry sometimes, just don’t let sadness consume you! Talk to a trusted friend or a loved one to help lift you up on hard days.
When you go to bed at night, be proud of yourself for making it through another day! Remind yourself that you are strong.
Read scriptures and general conference talks or even uplifting self-help books to sharpen your mind and your faith in Jesus Christ.
Open up to your trusted friends, family members, or your bishop for support. He can help you find a counselor if needed.
Know there is nothing wrong with seeking professional help! Professionals can be very helpful in learning to overcome and manage mental health struggles. Taking advantage of the free counseling program at my university was very helpful to me.
Don’t be ashamed to see a doctor or of taking antidepressant medications—these are tools Heavenly Father has provided for us to heal.
Do family history and temple work to help you remember that others beyond the veil are praying for your healing too! Elder Dale G. Renlund’s talk, “Family History and Temple Work: Sealing and Healing” gives more insight into promised blessings of doing temple work.
For so long I didn’t think it was possible to hear the voice of the Spirit or to feel God’s love in the midst of depression. I felt like I was constantly floating in an abyss of darkness. But a little glimmer of light from the Savior helped me hold on to hope. And by opening up about my struggles, I’ve learned that many of my friends also experience mental health struggles—and we have helped assure each other that we are not alone.
Who I was before I turned to Heavenly Father for help and who I am today are two very different people. I wouldn’t have the faith and testimony I do in Jesus Christ today if it wasn’t for that period of darkness I went through. I am beyond grateful for the light that He brings into my life that helps me defeat the demons and fears in my mind. I know that He suffered for all our afflictions and that He understands exactly what we are going through (see Alma 7:11–14) and with Him, we can always hold on to hope and light.