DEPRESSION, BIPOLAR & ANXIETY - LIVING AS A LATTER-DAY SAINT, LDS

Episode #198 - Thoughts & Dreams

October 08, 2023 Damon Socha Season 1 Episode 198
DEPRESSION, BIPOLAR & ANXIETY - LIVING AS A LATTER-DAY SAINT, LDS
Episode #198 - Thoughts & Dreams
Show Notes Transcript

While our thoughts and dreams may not mean anything, it is important to understand how the Lord works with our thoughts and dreams, especially when we suffer through our episodes.

Episode #198 – Thoughts & Dreams.  I am your host Damon Socha.  Having grown up within the boundaries of church doctrine, I like you are probably familiar with the idea that our thoughts lead to action.  That we need to watch our thoughts, words and actions as part of keeping our covenants.  While I am not sure that the idea prevails as much as it once did.  At one time within the principles and doctrine taught by the church was that thoughts lead to emotion and emotion leads to action.  Thus by avoiding evil thoughts, you could avoid evil actions.  More recently the principle has been refined to the idea that allowing thoughts to have center stage in our minds is the problem not necessarily the origin of the thought itself.  Being like you I have always struggled with my thoughts.   I don’t disagree with the idea that thoughts lead to action because they certainly do.  I have rarely acted without thought.  I say rarely because our fight and flight mode tends to create some actions without thought, at least not rational thought.  However, not all thoughts create action and in my brain very few thoughts make it to the actionable stage. 

I have struggled with the idea that I could control the origin of my thoughts.  I admit to being one who has tried the experiment and failed more than a few times.  While I agree that at times it is possible, at other times it is almost impossible.  When an episode strikes and my emotions being to change, my thought patterns tend to follow the emotions.  I have found that for the most part my emotions dictate the origin of my thoughts.  Yes external inputs such as sights, smells, noises and other stimuli do cause memory to be brought forward but the memory that is brought forward is most often determined by my emotion.

One of the best examples of this idea comes from my own life.  While in college I suffered a severe depression that lasted sufficiently long so as to cause me to think deeply about suicide.  It was really the first time that suicide became a reality.  I had certainly had fleeting thoughts previous to that depression but they were more like clouds floating above me.  I could see them but they didn’t come down to my level and become real to me.  During this depressive state, the dark clouds descended and could feel every part of them.  Suicide became as real as any other action I had taken.   It became all encompassing and my thoughts tended to stay fixated upon the idea.  My mind could see no other way to end the pain and suffering.  Strangely during this time, I never once had the idea that it would be against the commandments to commit suicide.  I didn’t feel guilt thinking about it.  Actually what I felt was relief that in some way I could end the misery that I was experiencing.  It was a Sunday morning and my wife had left for church.  I didn’t go and could not have gone.  Church attendance at that point would only add to the misery.  Not being able to feel peace while at church would have been worse than being home.  The moment was the darkest of my life.

I cannot explain what happened entirely but during that moment the Lord intervened and provided the help I needed.  It was at this point that I got serious about my illness and began working through different medications to find some solutions.  While that is important, I want to talk about what happened after.  I wasn’t healed entirely and continued to experience difficult episodes for many years after.  However, something changed in my brain.  Before that difficult moment suicide was not regularly in my mind and I could far more easily remove it from my mind.  After that moment suicide remained in my mind as a more permanent feature.  Whenever I have very difficult moments it is quick to return.  Now I have never returned to the point I was previously and the suicidal thoughts have never really had much sway but to this day it remains like the remnant of a sunken ship.  Whenever an episode comes into  my heart and mind those thoughts are quick to return.  Now before you get too worried about me and these thoughts, I have never even come anywhere close to suicide.  I mention it for a purpose.  Our minds and the origins of thought are heavily influenced by our illness.  Patterns of mental health such as depression and anxiety cause mental patterns to arise.  Even with a more mild depression, my mind still gravitates to suicide which is quickly removed and sometimes I even laugh about it.  How quickly my mind follows determined pathways.

You should understand that the thought of suicide is not sin.  Even when you dwell upon it at times.  It is the product of a body and mind that is trying to find solutions.  Pain and suffering are dominating forces in our mind and body.  Our soul will do almost anything to rid itself of the pain.  And so you are going to see patterns develop in your thinking as you pass through various stages of your illness.  Just because your mind brings it to the forefront, doesn’t mean that it is real or that you have committed sin.  It is because similar emotional states bring forth similar emotional patterns and as we develop those patterns they can become sticky.  More interesting than the idea of stickiness is that these patterns can be used to determine when we are heading for an episode before we get there.  One of my patterns that has been consistent at least on the depression/anxiety side of things is to feel as thought I have done something wrong but I cannot come to any conclusion as to what it is.

Depression can feel very similar to sin in many ways and so when I feel as though I have done something wrong without any real evidence coming to mind, I know that I am headed for a depression.  Even the intensity tells me something about what is to occur.  The more intense the feelings of sinful behavior that has not happened, the deeper the episode.  You will notice as you progress through episodes of mental health that similar patterns of thought and emotion will come.

I have learned that for me much of my thoughts come from my inner emotions.  When I am depressed, naturally my thoughts center in unhappy places.  When I am anxious my thoughts wander from fearful event to fearful event.  The deeper my episodes the more difficult to control the pattern of thought.  But my patterns are very similar each time.  It feels as thought my episode is etching itself deeper and deeper through the brain and when I come upon similar feelings during a depression or anxiety issue my thoughts almost uncontrollably find those groves and ruts in the brain.

However, as I have learned this, I have been able to more often make myself a third person bystander.  Knowing what will occur, I can isolate it and know that it isn’t real.  That doesn’t necessarily stop or dimmish the pain but it does help me avoid the actions I might have taken.  When you can isolate feelings as false indicators and assign them to an illness, you provide your mind with an outlet and a form of relief.  So often when we descend into the emotional chaos we do so seeing our illness as reality.  Yes the emotions are real but they don’t represent reality.  When you can help your mind to see them as a byproduct of an illness, you can provide for some relief and it is possible to get yourself outside of the mental and emotional patterns.  This for me has not been a cure, but it has helped me especially with the idea of suicide.

I admit that for some time it bothered me when my mind would so easily drift to suicide.  It felt just plain wrong that one who knows the gospel would be so quick to allow suicide to enter the mind and be unable to dislodge it.  When I realized that it was more of an emotional pattern and that my mind was using it as a relief valve, I began to see it as simply one of the symptoms rather than anything real.  Suicide has not be real for me for many years and it is partly to do with understanding my thought patterns brought about by my illness.  When you can see those patterns and understand them as symptoms rather than reality, it will provide some relief and understanding.  It may even help you to step outside of the patterns and to isolate them rather than treating them as reality.  

Now I am going to switch gears a little bit.  I want to discuss the origin of thought in the sense of personal revelation.  I know that everyone of us who deal with mental health challenges deals with hearing the voice of the Lord clearly.  It has been a problem for me much of my life and somewhat of a struggle on a regular basis.  I have spoken about it several times.  I have realized over the years that our thoughts have several different origins.  Certainly our emotions are the largest contributor to our thoughts but they are not the only source.  I have found that certainly the Spirit can provide thoughts directly to our minds.  I believe that Lucifer certainly has some influence, although I don’t know exactly how or how much.  I also believe that our spirits experience from the pre-mortal life comes into our mind regularly.  Because my emotional state has been regularly as source of poor information about what is real, I do not often hear the voice of the Lord in my emotions.  For many people that is their main source but because I struggle to trust my emotions, the Lord has provided other means.  For me those methods have been in random thoughts and dreams.

That may not sound like the best strategy to employ when seeking guidance from the Lord but it has worked for me on a regular basis.  When I have a question I need answered, I do what I can in prayer and other means to ask the question or questions.  Then I have to wait.  I will from time to time ponder on the question but most often my answer does not come during the time that I am pondering it.  More often the Lord brings me my answers when I am not concentrating on the problem.  When I am pondering the problem, all too often my emotions at the moment cause any answer to be blurred by several other options or emotions.  The Lord most often speaks to me what I would call spontaneously.  My answers most often come when I am not thinking about them from the Lord.  For me, there exists a divine purpose.  I can tell that the answer is not mixed in with my emotions and I can then use the answer to obtain confirmation.  Now because my mind works all the time and I am consistently thinking about something, I don’t worry about random answers that make no sense to the problem.  When I get these random thoughts I try to write them down or file them away somewhere I can think about them.  When I have the right answer using this method, the Lord can then confirm it to me in a way that I know it is from him.  Now do my answers all come this way.  I wish the answer was yes but they do not always come this way.  I do from time to time have powerful feelings that I know are from the Spirit.  The Lord tends to use this method with me when he wants me to fully understand he is in the answer or the action he desires that I take.  Now when I say powerful, I mean powerful.  These are the I know feelings that come with no mixture of emotions or signals.  But these are far more rare than the spontaneous method.  The reason I say this is because we so often look for answers from the Lord in just one way but he has many ways to speak to us and for me the Lord tends to use several of them.  The Lord also understands that I don’t trust my emotions, so he will repeat ideas and actions I should take in various ways so that I can understand it is him.  The key to all  of this is to listen and wait.  The Lord is ever willing to provide his direction if we are open to his many ways of speaking.

Finally, I think that it is important to understand that many individuals with mental health difficulties often have spiritual dreams.  Some may call them visions but I prefer dreams.  I have experienced many wonderful dreams in my life.  Several are far to sacred to me to share.  But I believe that this method of communication is something that the Lord uses to aid us in our journey.  Now I have many dreams that make little to no sense and I don’t worry about those types of dreams.  I shrug them off as random firings of a troubled mind.  And You are likely to have those type of dreams.  But it has been my experience that individuals with mental health challenges may dream regularly and that the Lord can and does communicate to us in this manner.  However, one must always be cautious about dreams and allow for the Lord to confirm their origin.  Lucifer does also appear to have some influence and I have had nightmares as well.  What is important about dreams is that the Lord can use them to teach us principles and truth.  We should not discard them if the Lord has confirmed that they come from him.

Finally, remember that as much as we would like to think that we are in control of our mind, we do not control it entirely, especially when we suffer with mental illness.  When we suffer, we will tend to think all of our emotions and thoughts are suspect.  We will learn not to trust our emotions.  While that is certainly understandable we should be cautious not to distance ourself entirely from our emotions.  While we suffer with an illness that casts serious doubts on the reality of what we feel, the Lord will continue to communicate to us using our emotions.  His communication though will tend not to be subtle or small.  He knows our difficulties and he knows what we need to understand the revelation he provides.  We will know when he has spoken to us.  However, once he does, doubt will quickly come to erase that truth if we are not careful to record it in some way.  What I most desire to communicate today is that the Lord is in your life and he is consistently working to provide for revelation and guidance in your life.  Many times you may not even recognize his guidance and revelation until long after it has occurred but that doesn’t diminish it as a revelation.  What I have learned is that if we do our part, the Lord always does his and provides for us even through the darkest of days. If you ever wonder if he is speaking with you, ask him to show you the revelation he provides and it will open your eyes to wonderful things.  May he bless you to see all that he reveals to you.  Until next time do your part so that the Lord can do his.