Monday, November 17, 2014

Serving With Depression

Dear friends, 

Winter has officially come to Utah. We had a very prolonged fall, for which I was very grateful. But in the last week I have had to start wearing gloves and boots and scarfs and coats. I keep forgetting to leave early enough in the morning so that we have time to scrape the ICE off of our windshield. :) And it snowed! The mountains are turning white. It's magical really! Brother Eubank - our stake high councilor over missionary work and the KSL weather man - said that we can expect 5-8 inches of snow by December. 

December! That's just a few weeks away! So ready or not, here comes the cold! And with the cold and the short days and the darkness begins my yearly struggle with depression. 

Depression is hard to describe. Sometimes I feel perfectly fine! I am laughing and working hard and enjoying life. Other times the biggest, hardest decision I make in my day is whether or not to get out of bed. Some days start out fine, and then I hit a mid-day slump and want to curl up and not do anything for an hour or so. Bishop Pierson and his wife have both been very kind to me - he's given me two more blessings this week, and she got permission (from him) to work her "voodoo" with me! Essential oils are a really popular thing out here, but Bishop Pierson calls it voodoo... with the addendum of "well if it helps, it helps..." I've only used it a few times so far, and I don't have sufficient data yet to report on its effectiveness. :) But it smells good! And that makes me happy, so hey. What do I have to lose? 

The other missionaries in our district have also been kind. The sister training leaders keep asking what they can do to help, and the zone leaders were patient when I snapped at them for asking for the same information for (seemingly) the hundredth time. :) 

Brother Eubank even gave us money and told my companion to go buy a pair of boots (since she has none) and told me to go buy a light box. People are really too great out here. :) I love Utah!

(I can also see that my dear YSA Branch and you gracious Marylanders are being so KIND and helping financially as well! So far I have not had to pay for my mission at ALL. I did not expect that, and I'm not sure that I deserve it since Heavenly Father has already so abundantly blessed me. Please know that it is greatly appreciated! Though I am facing struggles, I am still loving every minute of my mission, and I can't imagine being anywhere else in the world right now...)

Some days I feel like I am in a fog. My emotions feel dull. It's hard to feel the impressions of the Spirit. Sometimes I feel like I am just going through the motions, and I wonder if the testimony I bear or the things I say has any relevance at all.  We've been asked to speak in church the Sunday after Thanksgiving. The topic is actually our choice, though they suggested that we talk about something like Gratitude or some Thanksgiving theme. The talks will be 15 minutes each... I keep feeling impressed to speak on hope, but I'm not quite sure yet how to when sometimes I feel such a lack of it. 

Some of the hard things about serving with depression:
-The schedule! It's hard to get going, it's hard to be places on time. It's hard to have a schedule when you move so much slower.
-Having a companion. Glued to you for 24/7. Poor Sister Alaiasa has to bear this as well. No, I don't take it out on her. But I'm sure she feels pretty helpless. I'm sure it is hard for her too when I am just SO not fun when we are alone. It's also a hard thing when social anxiety is considered. After we teach or spend time with other people I just need to veg for a minute. Or twenty. I need people to not talk to me, not touch me, and not require explanations. But when you have a companion that's not always an option.
-Standing as a representative at Christ at all times when your temper is markedly shorter. I am usually a patient, easy-going person. Depression brings out irritability, and impatience. I get annoyed so much easier than I usually do, and it's a struggle to not take it out on the people around me. (Thus the snapping at the zone leaders.) (But they did kinda need to be told to not treat us all like unruly children, so I only feel slightly guilty for that one. ;) 
-Teaching about praying when you don't feel like praying
-Teaching about the guidance of the Spirit when you don't always feel the Spirit
-Trying to determine what you are actually capable of accomplishing, and when you need to take time for yourself. 
-Trying to explain it to people. I'm actually not stressed. I don't have issues that I need to talk about. This isn't depletion depression... There's literally nothing in my life that would trigger this - other than the chemical imbalance that occurs every year. I really AM okay, and there's not really much that others can do... other than pray.  

There are some really good things too though. I have always talked candidly about my depression, but now I am forced more than ever to be honest about the emotions and feelings that I face. And that's actually a really good thing. I hate it when people ask "are you doing okay?" but I appreciate their concern all the same. Likewise though, if you ask that question, I'm not going to lie to you. Life is hard, but I'm gonna make it. It's good that others know what I am facing because it helps me to turn inward less. It's good to explain how I feel because others don't always understand or sympathize when you say, "I have depression." And it's good because I'm relatable. 

Depression is something that so many people today struggle with. I think it's the biggest cause for missionaries to go home early. I won't be one of them. As much as I sometimes think "I want to go home" I also recognize that I'm not ready. As much as I love my home, there's nothing for me there right now. So I can struggle with Depression as a missionary, or I can go home and do the same thing. At least here I'm being productive with my life. :) 

But I also won't be one of those missionaries that suppresses everything and puts on a pretty mask for the world to see. Bishop Pierson says that I'm "peppy" which is good I guess. :) So I'm not totally the boring lump that I perceive myself to be. I won't be the missionary that speaks sweetly about prayer and scripture study as a cure-all. I want to be real with people. And for me that means, "You know what, you're right. Life is pretty rotten sometimes. But these things HELP. Praying to a Father in Heaven, even when you don't feel like it, HELPS. Studying your scriptures fills up a spiritual well that your soul so desperately needs when times are hard. I can't promise that things will instantly be completely cured, and that your problems will go away. But I can promise that you will have the strength you need when you choose to trust in Christ." 

Yesterday in church we were reminded of a story that Elder Bednar told at General Conference last April. A man who purchased a new truck wanted to justify the purchase, so he drove up into the mountain to cut firewood. As he drove into deeper and deeper snow, he soon found himself to be helplessly stuck. However, choosing to complete his task rather than worry about being stuck, he filled his truck up with wood that would warm his home. It was only after his truck was full of the heavier load that his truck was able to get the traction that it needed to return home safely. "It was the load." Elder Bednar said, "It was the load of wood that provided the traction necessary for him to get out of the snow, to get back on the road, and to move forward."
(Bear Up Their Burdens With Ease by Elder David A. Bednar )

Likewise, our loads can be the very thing that propels us forward. Sometimes we may feel helplessly stuck, but if we choose to do the things that we know we should, we'll find eventually that we have traction once more. 

I'm not perfect, but I'm doing my very best, and I'm content with that. :) 

So to give you a little update on my wonderful area since it really is very great! We have another person on date for baptism! J.  from the care center has decided that she wants to be baptized the week before Christmas! So we're trying to teach all the lessons before then. :) Irene and Michael are still strong - they have been smoke free for over a week and a half! Irene can't even stand the smell anymore. The power of the Priesthood is REAL, friends. Faith + Priesthood blessings = miracles. :) Irene is such a wonderful real life example of turning your life around and embracing Christ. That family is incredible. And the S's are due to have their baby in the next week or so! We spend a lot of time with the Solipos - a mostly active member family who are actually related to Sister Alaiasa and are from Laie in Hawaii. They feed us a lot :) It's impossible to not have good times when you are with Polynesians! They've adopted me in too, and Sister Alaiasa says that it means that if I ever need anything for the rest of my life that they'll do their best to help me. We even got a new teaching referral from them this week! A random girl was at a family gathering that we were invited to (which I agreed to attend, even though it meant two dinners! ;) She started asking us all these questions about serving missions, and then about the church. It was just natural to say, "So would you like to learn more? We can come and teach you." And she enthusiastically responded, "Yes! I've never really stuck to anything in my life... I really want to learn!" Seriously, who does that?!

Today we were able to attend the temple, and it was really such a wonderful experience. I will have to send pictures next week. 

I love you all. Hope you have a great week!
Sister Tipton

Oh PS... One of the Polynesian foods I tried this week was "poopy" chicken. They all thought my reaction to the name was pretty hilarious... until Sister Alaiasa explained, "It's spelled 'Pupi'" Ohhhh! Okay! I'll gladly try some then! It's SO GOOD. 

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