This post is sponsored by Mormon.org. All opinions are my own.
Last year, for the first time in my life, I felt depressed.
I’m not talking about for a day or a week at a time, but persistently. Like most days sucked. I didn’t mope, stay in bed all day, or cry endlessly, but I sure was angry. Mad even. Unhappy. And most of my ire was directed at my family.
For the first time in my life, I understood the term “Mom guilt” and definitely felt like I was failing my children, and failing my husband by failing our children. I sucked at homeschooling, at running a household, at earning enough money, at being Primary President, at engaging with my children, at following through with consequences, and certainly as being a good example.
Smiling stopped coming easily for me, as did laughing, or I reserved it for social outings with friends. All I could see in front of me was another day with another long to-do list of stuff I didn’t want to adult through. Meal planning? Cooking? Grocery shopping? Please, no!
Several days, the only thing that brought me happiness was the cuteness of my 1-year old child. Because, even the other great things that happened were marred by the 1000 other things that sucked about that day.
There were lots of factors as to my depression, my anger, and my general unhappiness. Sleep deprivation was a leading factor. I worked long into the night, going to bed after midnight, only to be woken a few hours later by my baby who demanded to nurse. My older children then screamed at each other while getting breakfast, so my day usually started with breaking up fights while trying to eat my own breakfast in peace while exhausted at about 7am each day.
Never sleeping for more than 3-4 hours straight is ruinous on your mental state. Especially when it continues on endlessly for over a year.
Obviously, something needed to change.
We gave the “baby” some tough love for a few nights, longer stretches of sleep returned, and the family rejoiced as mom wasn’t so gosh darn crabby anymore!
But, unfortunately, the problem wasn’t completely fixed.
I still complained about most things. I still was unhappy. I still felt mom guilt.So, we changed another factor – my husband’s school/work schedule.
During this rough year, my husband was gone from 7am-8pm (or later) Monday-Thursday, every week. That schedule devasted both of us.
I hated it because I had to parent from the time my kids got up to the time my kids went to bed, solo. I had to cook dinner, solo (and I hate cooking). I had to take care of the home, the laundry, the cleaning, the childrearing, solo.
Considering that we homeschool and have four young children, it was overwhelming. Many thoughts of sending our first graders to public school entered my mind, or of shipping off the “terrible” 3-year old for a few hours every day, because wow. Four kids was kicking my trash. I missed my tag-team partner, desperately. I also just missed him, because I love him.
He now is home by dinner time, and always before bedtime, and it is wonderful. The kids get to see dad during the week, I get to see him, and we get to split some dinner and bedtime duties, and spend more time together as a family.
But, still there was something wrong.
With more sleep and more support, and a better rhythm and routine to our day, things had improved, but still, something was lacking to help me be truly happy again.
It all helped, but yet, I still had this internal scowl, this emotional absence, this part of me that just didn’t care about life and still felt overwhelmed and unsatisfied.
My soul, my core, my heart, needed to change.
During this tough year of sleepless nights, mom guilt, crazy schedules, and depression, I stopped reading my scriptures. I stopped praying.
We prayed and read as a family, or as part of homeschool, but somewhere along the way, I gave up on my personal, individual prayers and scripture study. The demands of motherhood, life, and work halted my time with God.
After following all the advice of popular self-help books and articles on how to be happier as a mom, how to be more positive, how to embrace life, etc, I knew that without changing my internal spiritual self, I would never be truly happy.
I will admit to not having the spiritual gift of being prayerful. It’s never come naturally to me. I often feel as if I don’t know how to pray at all. I mean, really pray. Like pray in a way that forces God to send down angels, to perform miracles, to completely transform my soul. I don’t know how to do that. In many ways, I still feel like I’m talking to a wall.
But, I do have the gift of loving the scriptures.From a young age, I took scripture reading and study very seriously. I’ve read the Book of Mormon multiple times through, as well as the entire Holy Bible, re-reading through the New Testament multiple times, and the first several books of the Old Testament. In college, at Brigham Young University, my religious studies classes were among my absolute favorites.
In high school, I was that annoying student in early morning seminary who actually did the readings before every class, was awake, participated, and ready with questions and insights. At 6:15am.
It was during my years in seminary that I really came to love studying the scriptures.
My seminary teacher, James H. Fullmer, is one of the most passionate scriptorians I know. The man didn’t just teach seminary (unpaid) but lived and breathed it. He was, in fact, released from his calling as the second counselor in our branch presidency because the youth needed him as a seminary teacher. He had applied to be a paid seminary teacher a few times, his dream job, but was rejected. But, that didn’t stop him from being amazing!
Brother Fullmer lived and breathed the scriptures, especially the Book of Mormon. He was a full-time artist and worked on projects illustrating characters from the Book of Mormon, designing a Book of Mormon battles card game, creating foam weapons to battle with, drawing up Book of Mormon character chess pieces designs, sketching his own map of what the Americas looked like as described within the Book of Mormon itself, and many more geeky and totally awesome religious projects.
Thankfully, despite the geekiness, he had a way with words, was a naturally gifted teacher and storyteller, a huge people-person, and made studying the scriptures enthralling, engaging, and exciting. He explained difficult concepts in amazing ways.
To top it all off, he also had a wife and four young boys whom he adored and doted on faithfully as a father, leading his posterity and his family in paths of righteousness. He is also one of the happiest individuals I have ever known.
You better believe I looked up to him as a role model! He was everything I could have wanted in a spiritual leader while in my youth. Add in the fact that I was also an artist (majored in art in college), he was also my mentor and personal friend.
It became clear to me, though, that life wasn’t necessarily easy for him, though, as an up and coming full-time artist trying to support a family of six, still living in an apartment. He and his wife had their share of heartaches and difficulties. But, they loved the Lord above all, and it was clear that the scriptures were a huge factor in their faithfulness.
I know for my mother, in particular, that daily and deep scripture study were the foundation of her testimony through the years. I loved conversing with her about various passages I read as I wondered at their meanings and tried to grasp the sometimes difficult language of the scriptures.
I learned as a youth that most often a person stopped believing, stopped attending church, stopped praying, and started doubting their faith when they no longer studied their scriptures, or never did in the first place.
Because, when you study your scriptures, and I do mean study, not just read, you begin to develop a connection with its characters. You begin to look beneath the surface of the story and put yourself in their shoes, in their time, in their situation. You also see connections between various peoples, individuals, and relationships. You begin to better understand the very nature of who God is and your personal relationship to Him.
It is in the studying of the Bible and the Book of Mormon that you find answers to life’s questions and gain clarity on issues of today as you hear counsel directly from God or His chosen messengers.
It is through persistent and regular and thorough scripture study that you find peace.
And it was peace that I was missing in my life, in heart, and in my thoughts.
Worry, doubt, guilt, stress: these had thrown peace aside within me and I could not replace them simply by sleeping more, being more active, getting fresh air, or making time for myself.
But he answered and said, It is written, Man shall not live by bread alone, but by every word that proceedeth out of the mouth of God.” – Matthew 4:4
And it is in the Holy Scriptures that we learn of Christ. We learn who He was, how He loved, how He lived, how He died and lived again! It is in the scriptures that we find guidance for our lives today, and most of all embrace an eternal perspective.
I know that when I focus so heavily on my to-do’s and the here and now that I forget the grandness that is Eternity. When I focus so much on earthly cares and worries, I forget to look up to the One who blessed me with so much to care about. The One who loves me so much and actually thinks I’m doing one heck of a good job doing all it is I do.
My goal this year, and for always, is to get back on the scripture reading and scripture studying train (and prayer too, among other spiritually enriching habits). I know that doing so is the secret, the cure, the fix for my Mom Guilt, my anger, my overwhelm, exhaustion, frustration, and general unsatisfaction with my life. I can change my environment, my body, and my mind, but I need to make sure I’m feeding my soul too.
I know that studying the scriptures bring me closer to Jesus Christ, the #PrinceofPeace. It is Him that will cure my depression, as He is my companion, friend, and elder brother.
*Please note: Sometimes reading scriptures and praying and doing everything “right” is not enough. Sometimes you will need medical and professional help. It’s okay to take medication to help if needed. One of my friends informed me that all she needed was the Gospel and medication to fix her depression and bipolar issues.