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

Episode #199 - Trust

October 14, 2023 Damon Socha Season 1 Episode 199
DEPRESSION, BIPOLAR & ANXIETY - LIVING AS A LATTER-DAY SAINT, LDS
Episode #199 - Trust
Show Notes Transcript

When you suffer with an emotional illness and mental health challenges it can be difficult to trust your emotions.  This causes personal revelation to be a difficult exercise.  However, just because you struggle to receive personal revelation doesn't mean that the Lord isn't directing your life.

Episode #199 – Trust.  I am your host Damon Socha.  So today I am going to reveal my age a little bit as I discuss something I have learned with that age.  Throughout my teenage, young adult and early parent years, I struggled deeply to hear the voice of the Spirit.  The bipolar voices were loud and overbearing for the most part of those years.  And because of the nature of the illness, I tended not to trust my emotions.  I had been taught like almost every other individual in the church that the Holy Ghost or the Spirit works for the most part through our emotions.  That I would feel when something was right.  Or that a particular emotion would follow when personal revelation was received.  Like many youth, I expected that internal voice would be far stronger than it tends to be.  Because my emotions were consistently noisy and domineering, a whisper was not likely to be recognized.  In addition, as I learned to distrust my emotions, I tended to ignore emotions that did not match my reality.  I think over time whether we desire it to occur or not, our illness causes us to disbelieve our emotions.  We often seek outside of our emotional state for answers to our questions.  I was often confused about what I should do, where I should live, the career I should be studying and a host of other important questions that pertain to the foundations of the gospel.  I saw the gospel from a far more rational perspective rather than a deep emotional connection.  While it makes sense given my illness, in the end we need to be anchored in the emotions of faith, hope and charity.  I knew that rationally but struggled immensely to find that anchor.  I more often felt adrift than anchored to anything.

Early in my teens, I would often go out into the woods near our home and pray.  Rarely did I feel something akin to an abiding penetrating testimony of the gospel.  That doesn’t mean I didn’t feel anything, because I did from time to time feel those unmistakable promptings of the Spirit.  But they seemed far intermittent than regular.  I felt like I may be doing something wrong or maybe I wasn’t yet attuned to the wavelength of spiritual communication.  In any case, much of my teenage years were spent attempting to mimic what others felt and rationally accepting the precepts and doctrines of the gospel.  Unsurprisingly the gospel can be observed very rationally and every precept, concept and doctrine has a good and reasonable explanation as you consider the end goal of exaltation and how our Father in Heaven administers the gospel of rewards and punishments.  I had a solid foundation in the rational principles of the gospel but due to my illness by emotional connections tended to be weak.  I believe that is probably true for most individuals who suffer.  We lean upon the rational because we can’t trust our emotions.

However, when it comes to personal revelation, the rational method will only get you so far.  When you need to choose between two good options, working things out rationally comes to a point of needed revelation and a witness of what is to be done.  So I struggled through my teenage years attempting to receive what revelation I could and acting with my best understanding.  I admit this led to a few mistakes or what I perceived to be a few mistakes.  When your emotions are pulling you in various directions, they can be very difficult to ignore.  I also failed to understand the nuanced social interactions that developed during those years.  I admit my teenage years were at times tumultuous and full of social awkwardness.  High school did provide some stability but I admit that I was only successful in things that were more rational such as the sciences, math and history.  This lead to high grade point averages but low social interaction.  Because I was afflicted with serious anxiety along with my bipolar, I did find myself with great desires to be social but with serious inabilities to do so.  Outwardly I didn’t look too terrible to most people, but inwardly I was a mess on a regular basis.  I had few real friends.  Preferred to be home.  I enjoyed things that didn’t require serious social interactions.  While I attended church dances, I didn’t exactly enjoy them very much.  I admit that much of my teenage years I don’t really remember.  I had a couple of difficult years before my mission where I was fairly lost emotionally.

This leads me up to my missionary experience.  Because my focus had been a rational understanding of the gospel with some revelatory experiences, I had a good base of doctrine from which to teach.  This allowed me to appear outwardly a good missionary but inwardly I still struggled with revelation.  However, during the middle portion of my mission, I did have a couple of experiences that allowed me to see and feel things I had never experienced.  These provided some understanding and stability and allowed me to see that the Lord could work within my weakness.  One particular instance came early in my mission with my first companion.  I was still learning Spanish and so my ability to speak was more broken than well versed.  As we were having a discussion with a particular investigator, I was suddenly fluent in Spanish, surprising my companion.  That moment for me and for the investigator was eye opening.  This was a moment of clarity and while it was a moment, it was valuable to me in understanding how the Lord could work with my illness and weakness.  

My next major experience occurred in my next area.  Up to this point in my life, I had never been able to teach by the Spirit in the sense that my message was entirely directed by the Spirit.  I had felt moments but most of my teaching was by the book.  I was teaching a Sunday School lesson and suddenly scriptures and thoughts flooded my mind at the moment I needed them to teach that lesson.  I knew exactly what to say and how to answers questions.  Again the Lord showed me that he could work within my weakness.  Now the gift of tongues that I experienced and the revelatory Sunday School did not necessarily continue.  They were moments in time that provided some insight for me and those who needed it.  My illness continued to plague my missionary experiences and I felt weak in my abilities and emotional stability.  My moments of revelation tended to be few and far apart.  The stress of missionary work caused my illness all kinds of issues.  I suffered deep depressions and anxiety problems regularly.  My lack of social skills also played a role in making things difficult.  While I had a testimony of the doctrine and the scriptures, my emotional testimony, those deep anchors to the soul had yet to develop.  However, my missionary experience gave me enough of a base to keep moving forward.

The next few years after my mission were far more difficult.  I attended college but the stress and the anxiety caused that my efforts were not consistent.  I was able to maintain grades but studying was based more on my bipolar cycles than consistent effort.  There would be times when I could study and work through the homework and there were other times when I just skated by.  My emotions would not allow me to work and to provide for a continuous study.  Because my emotional foundations were limited, I sought out my identity at times through others.  I sought out praise regularly from those around me.  This is natural to mental illness and I can see that from the perspective of time.  My identity tended to be wrapped up in what others thought of me.  Rationally I knew that wasn’t wise but when you do not have any real emotional stability, you seek it out where you can find it.  This is one of the problems of the inability to trust one’s own emotions.  When you find it difficult to trust your emotions and strain to feel any resemblance of personal revelation, establishing your identity through personal revelation is difficult.  I vaguely understood my standing with the Savior but it was limited and thus I tended towards outward signals that I was doing well.

When I finally completed my education, changing my career several times, I moved into a part of my life that was at times very difficult.  During the next ten years, I would have more than ten different jobs, and I would move more than fifteen different times.  I was consistently searching for revelation and what I should be doing in my life.  Looking back those times didn’t feel very revelatory.  They felt more chaotic and frustrating.  I wanted what everyone does in life, to know what I should be doing, where I should be doing it and how I was doing in relation to what the Lord wanted me to do.  Yet I rarely felt like I was receiving that revelation.  Oh I definitely worked at receiving the needed revelation and at times things felt right but I just couldn’t trust my emotions long enough to really accept anything I felt.  Even if I felt something was right, doubt would quickly invade those thoughts and I became confused.  My wife was patient and continued to work to find herself and that same revelatory voice.  I admit that both of us didn’t always see a clear path.  I suspect one could say we felt more the mists of darkness than any beacon of light.  However, we worked, prayed and continued to live the gospel.  Eventually I received a healing blessing that removed the bipolar allowed for some stability. The Lord then proceeded to increase my needed training in personal revelation and emotional stability but that took some time and serious effort as a new weakness appeared with some of the old ones.  With my autoimmune illnesses and some reoccurring depression and anxiety, I was again thrust back into that learning sphere of life where it feels far more like failure than success.

Now why do I tell you all of this.  It is because much of my difficulties can be traced back to the idea that I could not trust or did not trust my emotions and what I was feeling due to my mental health challenges.  You are likely to feel the same way.  You are likely to feel a lack of identity or seek your identity from places other than your emotions.  You are likely to pass through similar difficulties in the sense of revelation and understanding what the Lord desires you to do in life.  You may even feel lost much of the time.  That is one of the most difficult struggles you will face in this life.  Learning to trust your emotions and seeking out revelation in spite of the emotional challenges.

But there is something more important in my message today about trust and about what the Lord can provide.  Even when I felt as though the Lord was not guiding my life and I felt surrounded by mists of darkness and confusion, the Lord was there guiding every footstep.  He was just doing it in nontraditional ways.  The Lord knew me very well during those difficult years and he knew what I would choose given a certain set of circumstances and choices.  As I look back I can see how he set up those choices in a way that I would choose the path he desired.  Meaning he knew that I didn’t trust my emotions in a way that he could work more traditionally with me through personal revelation.  So he guided my life in other ways such as providing opportunities he knew that I would accept and causing me to think about things in certain ways.  He was directing my life in ways I could not see because I hadn’t opened my eyes to them.  I was focused on the emotional personal revelation and he was using other methods to direct my life.  I eventually ended up with a job I love.  I have a wonderful family.  I have a strong testimony of a living Savior and his gospel.  I have been prosperous when I shouldn’t have been.  That is the wonderful blessing of the atonement.  It does not matter the weakness we possess.  The Lord has many methods to direct our lives.  We just need to do our best to live the gospel and everything will turn out as he desires.  It may feel a little unnerving not to have those revelatory moments but the Lord can guide your life where it needs to be even when they are limited.  Just because you don’t have distinct moments of personal revelation guiding your life doesn’t mean that the Lord isn’t directing it.  He is and he will continue to do so by unseen methods.  You may not even see it until you are a couple of decades down the road.  That is the grace of the gospel that is afforded us when we work to live the gospel and try to do what the Lord desires.  When we are trying the Lord can direct our lives in miraculous ways that are truly unseen and small but have significant overall effects.

So my thoughts for today is not to worry so much about the revelation you are not receiving.  If you continue to do your part, the Lord will direct your life where he wants it to go.  As you listen to your emotions as your illness allows the Lord will speak from time to time and let you know that he is there, watching over you.  He is as concerned or perhaps more concerned about your exaltation than you are and he will continue to work with you as you work with him.  Today, I hope that you find greater hope that the Lord is watching out for you even when the mists of darkness may seem far darker than they really are.  Until next week, do your part so that the Lord can do