So here is the funny thing, I was told I was depressed, and I didn’t believe it. I took a kazillion question test, scored 98/100 on the depression scale, and I didn’t think I was depressed. I mean, aren’t all residents tired? Don’t all residents do nothing but eat work and sleep? I was not suicidal, hadn’t even had the thoughts.
Herein lies the key, I knew because I had had those thoughts before. My medical education alerted me to the fact that I had been in the throes of Major Depression previously. When I was 14, Junior high was not kind to me. I was an outcast, I was lonely, I was miserable. I was suffering. I was young and unequipped to recognize and sort out what was going on with me. I used to go on long walks alone out into the country, listening to miserable music, wallowing in self pity. I am likely the only Mormon kid who ever used to sneak into the chapel when the building was empty and just pour my heart out to God, begging, pleading for him stop the pain. I used to sit, staring at the bottle of Tylenol, wishing, just wishing I could get up the guts to down it all.
I never could. I always came back to the thought, “How could I do that to my family?” I knew they cared. My father may not have been the best at showing it, but he cared. My mother, who had her own struggles and past which I could not begin to comprehend, was above all caring and compassionate, when not yelling and screaming and stressed out her mind, of course. She is a nurse, and my model for what I wanted to be in the medical profession. She was also a perfectionist who beat herself up relentlessly and for better and worse, all this rubbed off on me.
The fact is I moved past that on my own. I maintained high function in school, graduating fifth in my class. I actually had some happy moments in High School and became involved in extracurricular activities. I had a small but close group of friends. I received a 4 year tuition scholarship to somewhere else University (I am being coy about the name to protect the innocent, and my identity.)
I had some great times in College especially, the place where nerds bloom. I served an honorable 2 year mission for the church. This is no small achievement for a social phobic. I was able to take verbal abuse and assaults on what I believed and present what I had to offer, such as it was, in a spirit of love. This was huge for me. I grew, I matured, but there was a period where it was very hard to move or do anything at the end. I became the problem mission companion specialist after I did quite well with a very tough Elder to function with as a missionary. After this, somehow the joy and determination died. I didn’t enjoy missionary activity or our liesure day anymore. Okay, maybe this was a relapse, but I recovered.
Of course, when I returned to college I had my rough patches, periods of melancholy, lack of enjoyment, excessive tiredness, but hey I still kept my grades, I found my soul mate and dear wife and we were married. I made it to Medical school(see part one). Sure, I was really disappointed by the general Peds rotation taken right after surgery, because I was doing something I loved, but got no joy out of it, but still, I wasn’t tempted to knock myself off.
Well it turns out you don’t have to be suicidal to be depressed. It turned out that I was referred to a Psychiatrist, I was started on anti-depressants, and I felt totally defeated. I wanted to be mentally strong. I didn’t want my secrets out. I didn’t want the prejudice. I felt this affirmed all the image problems I fought all my life. I felt like my medical career and dream was slipping away, now that the pretender was caught.
On medication, thoughts of ending my life returned, again rebutted by the quandary that would leave my wife and 2 kids in. Panic attacks and disaster scenarios raced through my mind. While this kept me from giving in to suicidal thoughts, It sure didn’t help my guilt. My weakness was now throwing my family’s future into turmoil. It took several weeks, though I claimed effect earlier, clueless as I was, but one day I found enjoyment in my old hobbies, In music, in joking around, in my children. I suddenly felt alive again, even though I had no idea previously, how dead I felt and for how long I had felt it. I was eased back into clinical duty, with a couple of rotations with very understanding and supportive attendings and my abilities grew. My performance improved, markedly. The workload was less intense, but I was moving and thinking a thousand times better.
I began to see how counter-productive my fear of weakness had been. I felt like Moroni, a prophet in the Book of Mormon, whom God told “And because thou hast seen thy weakness thou shalt be made strong, even unto the sitting down in the place which I have prepared in the mansions of my Father.” (Ether 12:37)
This was so foreign to my previous mindset. I knew all about the wonders of God’s love, and what it meant to be born of God. I had witnessed the transformative power of the atonement. I had read the Book of Mormon, the story of Alma, many times. The power of that story was burnt into my soul. I loved it. I preached it for two years. It resonated with me. Yet, somehow, I didn’t really understand these doctrines. I wanted to be great on my own. I wanted to achieve on my own. I wanted to be admired, not pitied. I was proud, paradoxically in light of my poor self image. I wanted to face down my shortcomings.
I could also see that this was the drugs. Could I really ascribe that to God? Really, all that happened was I was pressured into having some chemistry was mucked around with in my brain, and boom, all better. To paraphrase King Benjamin from the Book of Mormon, It appears that those others who acted in the service of me, their brother, they only acted in the service of their God (Mosiah 2:17).
I came to a point where I was ready to accept any and all help needed. Little did I know that in doing this I was about to really be thrown into the refiner’s fire, and the process of personal growth through trial was just getting started. It turns out having weakness made strong, once you have accepted a weakness, involves some severe, painful soul-stretching challenges leading to personal growth.
To be Continued….