Mormon Channel Blog

Patience With Mental Illness

September 29, 2015

Seth Adam Smith is a blogger who has struggled with depression for most of his life. Here, he shares with us what he has learned about patience through this trial of faith.

Sometimes my depression is very subtle, affecting my mood only slightly, while at other times my depression can be quite debilitating, destroying my outlook on life and threatening my relationships.

I’m very open about these challenges because I’ve found that depression thrives in secrecy. But when you shine a light on it (when you talk about it and when you address it head-on), then you’re able to see it for what it really is and work to lessen its severity.

Because I write a lot about depression, I get numerous emails from people with loved ones who are also struggling. These emails come from worried and desperate parents, spouses, siblings, and friends. They don’t know what to do. They want to help the person they love, but they don’t know how. They’ve tried everything, and they feel discouraged and defeated.

Oftentimes, we’re tempted to get discouraged because we’re not seeing the results we’d like to see or because our loved one will inadvertently push us away. In those situations, it’s hard to understand why they would push us away, especially when all we’re offering them is hope and love.

In such cases, it might be helpful to think of the struggle with depression as someone falling through the ice into freezing water. Naturally, your instinct is to run out to help them, but because of the ice you can’t quite reach them. So instead, you throw out ropes and lifelines to help them. But the person who is struggling in the water is having difficulty seeing those lifelines; their perspective is limited to their own fight for survival. As they flail about, they might even knock away the lifelines you are trying to give them.

During one of the darkest periods of my life, many of my friends and family members threw lifelines out to me. I vividly recall my mother reaching out to me on several occasions, trying to help me. She didn’t understand what was going on, but she could tell that I was drowning inside. Looking back, I realized that there were many times when I unknowingly resisted her help.

Things became so dark and painful that I eventually tried to take my life. Fortunately, I was found by my parents and taken to the hospital. In the week following my visit to the hospital, I remember waking up one night to discover my mom lying on the floor next to my bed. She loved me and was worried about me, but she didn’t know what to do. So she just stayed near me.

I didn’t think much about it at the time, but that experience has grown to become a really pivotal, life-changing moment for me. It helped me see all of the other ways in which family and friends had reached out to me over the course of many years of darkness.

If you have a loved one who is struggling with depression, please don’t get discouraged. Be patient and understand that if you love that person and are doing your best, then you are doing all of the right things.

Furthermore, when it comes to helping someone with depression, we are helpers, not the healer. We can and should do our best to help, but ultimately, true help and true healing comes from God.

Then, when it does come, we will look back on our lives and recognize the many times He threw a lifeline to us.

President Dieter F. Uchtdorf said:

“Often the deep valleys of our present will be understood only by looking back on them from the mountains of our future experience. Often we can’t see the Lord’s hand in our lives until long after trials have passed. Often the most difficult times of our lives are essential building blocks that form the foundation of our character and pave the way to future opportunity, understanding, and happiness.”