Depression is a strange thing. Although you feel alone and like no one cares; you can’t beat it by yourself. You need someone to support you, even when you feel like you’re the only person who is experiencing what you are going through. I wasn’t always a religious person. But little did I know, He was always waiting for me to reach out.
At the age of 10 I remember seeing advertisements of John Kirwan talking about a big dark cloud over his head. He was talking about depression. I remember thinking, ‘I’m a happy person, that’ll never happen to me’. My mum told me, ‘honey, it could happen to anyone. No one plans to become depressed or sick.’ ‘I’m still a happy person’ I claimed.
But that same big, dark cloud John Kirwan spoke about drifted over me eight years later. It was like an annoying insect that persistently landed on you. I continued to brush it off but it kept coming back.
At first, it crept up slowly. I didn’t feel like going out with my friends, but I maintained I wasn’t depressed. I didn’t want to go to university, but that’s because I was just tired - no need to worry. I didn’t want to eat, but that’s because I’d had a late breakfast and it was ‘only 7pm’. Go figure. I didn’t want to talk to even my closest friends or my beloved family, but it was okay because I had been talking to people all day. Ultimately, I didn’t want to leave the house. I couldn’t get ready for the day. I stayed in bed far past the hours needed to sleep. Eventually all my anger and sadness that I felt turned into numbness. I stayed in that emotional block for months, unable to feel a single emotion. That same nasty, black cloud called depression had finally caught up with me.
My inner ten-year-old self cringed. How had that happy go-lucky girl, full of joy and laughs and smiles just withered away? Wasn’t I a happy person? Depression doesn’t happen to happy people, it just can’t. That would mean they aren’t happy. But somehow, I was in the midst of a storm that raged on in my head for months. I couldn’t find peace or escape from it, because it moved from being over my head to inside of me. It took over and changed my direction. I was no longer in control of myself and I felt myself losing any grip that I had to help me stay on board.
One night, I tried to pray. I didn’t know the ins and outs of how to conduct an official prayer, but with a desire to feel something for the first time in months, I poured out my heart to whatever deity may have been listening. I just wanted to feel something and yearned to find someone I could relate to.
The next day happened to be a Sunday which held no significance to me, other than it was another day that I just stayed at home trying to grapple with my depression. Finding myself bored out of my mind, I messaged an old friend through a ‘prompting’ I felt, to ask if I could see the missionaries from her church. I had always pestered her with my intrigues and questions at high school, about her church that had so much media misrepresentation. And on this day, I decided I wanted to know more, purely out of interest. She responded with intense enthusiasm and within an hour, I found myself at my first Latter-day Saint church service. Within 20 seconds of entering the building, my prayer had been answered. Although the congregation peaked at around 10 people, I felt something in my chest. I was so elated that I started to cry, which in turn elated me more that I could feel, and I began to cry again. I felt like I was walking on air for the rest of that day.
I met the missionaries and was instantly intrigued. How could two young boys be in charge of delivering such an important message? Did they even know how to drive? Even with my strong doubts, I continued to meet with them for a couple of months, and as they say, the rest is history. As I continued to take lessons as an investigator, I felt my old self slipping back into the forefront.
They taught me about my Saviour Jesus Christ and my Heavenly Father, who love me more than I could’ve imagined. I learnt of the Atonement of Jesus Christ, and how He was that person who had felt what I was feeling. He understood and He knew. I was no longer alone. I could feel something in me growing every day and slowly but surely, that nasty, big black cloud shrunk. I felt a light in my life that I had never experienced. I was dare I say it, on cloud nine. Those feelings never disappeared even on my darkest days and I was able to become that 10 year old, happy go-lucky girl again. Eventually I was able to push that dark cloud away forever.
On September 3rd, 2016, I made the best decision of my life. I followed the example of my Saviour and entered the waters of baptism.
Fast forward a year and a half, I am now preparing to serve as a missionary of the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints in Mexico City. Coming from a non-member family has made it hard to explain why I would just leave them for 18 months and put my life on hold back home. Any attempt at justifying my reasoning was initially met with heavy resistance and being shut down. I found myself seriously losing my faith for the first time and it scared me. I prayed and fasted to know if this was the correct path for me and was confused when the answer time and time again came back with a resounding ‘yes’.
Why would Heavenly Father put me through such trials after coming through so much pain and suffering? It all became real when I had to decide if I was going to pursue this desire or not. I came across 1 Nephi 3:7 and decided to take another great leap of faith and pursue this call from God. My preparation has been studded with obstacles but, through the grace and power of God, I have overcome them.
Over time my family has come to accept and encourage my desire to serve. I am not ashamed to talk about my mission and am excited to tell others what the next 18 months has in store for me. I know it will be difficult, but my past experiences have prepared me to understand how it feels to lose faith and despite this, to press forward with steadfastness in Christ.
Through this all, I know that I have a Heavenly Father who loves me. I have a brother named Jesus Christ who chose to come to earth and atone for my sins and grievances. They love me and would do anything for me. I am so lucky to know that the Book of Mormon is true. It contains so much joy and happiness that can only be found within its delicate, beautiful pages. I know that although my life hasn’t been perfect, it is all in accordance with Heavenly Father’s plan for me. I have a strong faith that if we just trust in the Lord and His timing, we can overcome anything. He loves us more than we know and I am a testament to that love; all we need to do is reach out in faith.