Tuesday, December 4, 2012

how mountains kept me alive

I remember a Saturday afternoon pressing blobs of cookie dough down onto the pan as my old friend Nate sat in my kitchen.

"How have you been, Dana?"

"Actually," I started, "I've been having a rough time lately."

"Well," he chuckled, "a rough time for Dana is still pretty darn amazing, right?"

"What?" I asked abstractly.

We moved on.  I didn't feel like sharing the reality of my sorrow with him at that time.

Earlier in this blog, I shared my triumphant story of defeating bulimia.  A triumph indeed.  I wouldn't trade my freedom from that beast for anything.  Honest.

But when the act of binging and purging subsided, and when the dust settled, what was left was an illness--an illness that I had been using bulimia to medicate.

What's it like?  Gosh, I don't know.  I guess the one in ten American adults who experience it do so differently.  What's your story?  Share it, if you would.

My life is great.  I mean, really great.  I grew up with intelligent and responsible parents who loved and still love me.  I have the BEST friends a human could ask for (and an inordinate amount of them).  I landed a job doing what I adore and have vibrant, creative, exciting, affirming students (sure they're a pain in the ass sometimes, but that just adds more spice to this life-o-mine).  It has been one adventure after another.

Sunday morning I woke up and rolled out of my bed to kneel and say my prayers.  I stood up, threw my pillow back onto the bed, made my way to the bathroom to brush my teeth.  Then like a train it hit and I didn't even make it through the doorway before I was on my knees and sobbing.  Feeling and thinking things I won't share here.  Why?  I don't know.  Nothing.  Everything.

I have scribbled in a journal from six years ago the words "You have to find something to make you live" with a picture of a tree next to it.  It was something a modern dance teacher had said once in class.    I didn't think so much of it six years ago.  I just liked it.

Sunday morning I stepped outside to rain and mountains and something inside of me said "Let us keep living.  It's worth it so long as there is rain and mountains."  I agreed.  So here we are.  Here I am.

I started counseling (again!) in March 2010 at BYU and resisted medication but finally consented (for the first time) in March 2011.  It helped.  I didn't feel dead or passionless like I feared I might.  I felt, functional.  Capable.  Stronger than my despair.  Lows would still hit, but they weren't debilitating.  A year and a month passed and my insurance was up.  A week or two later, so was my medication.  I didn't want to be on it anymore.  I didn't want to be on it forever.  I had a great summer filled with races and adventures and moving to a new place, a new job.

About a month ago depression came back.  From 7:00-2:30 Monday-Friday (and 'till 4:00pm on rehearsal days) I play games/have discussions/make magic with my teenagers.  They make me laugh, and I feel alive.  Then I come home, run, shower and wish I could disappear.  I cry almost every day.

I can see how this all seems incongruous to both those who know me well and those who are only loosely acquainted.  Poor Nate didn't know any better, and how could he?  I'm Dana!  Dana the bubbling, excited, energetic, expressive, runner, aerobics instructor, previous member of her university's sketch comedy group, leading teenagers through goofy warm ups, baking cookies for the entire universe one church/school function at at time, and posting stickie notes that say "Stop fixing your bodies and start fixing the world!" on bathroom mirrors.  I am FILLED with life, and yearning to live, so fully and so well.  Perhaps this makes it all the more unbearable.  It's difficult to share your pain with others because something in you believes that they depend upon you to be happy and well.  But maybe it isn't this way?  Maybe they'd rather hear the truth--that a woman can be full and empty, sick and strong--that she can be vibrant and broken all at once.

How does this relate to bodies?  As previously stated, my life is wonderful.  I really have no complaints.  But depression is not about that.  I don't understand why it happens, but it is not something that more prayer, more work, and more service dissolves.  There is an imbalance in this beautiful body of mine, that makes it hard to carry on.  You give your diabetic her insulin, why not medication for all the sick?  Let us keep the diabetics alive.  Let us keep the depressed alive.

I know too many beautiful humans who are depressed, and I want them to stay.  It might help them to know that they are not alone.  It might help you to know that you are not alone.  We can overcome a lot of things in this life, and I would love this to leave me.  It's important to understand that Paul asked God thrice to remove his personal "thorn in the flesh" (and depression IS a thorn in the flesh--body, heart, and mind.)


"My grace is sufficient for thee."  (Note: not "I will take it away in time." or "Someday you will be healed.")

I have insurance again.  I guess the Prozac and I will have another go.  I don't want to be on medication.  But I want to live, so here goes nothing.  Here goes everything.


  1. It is the sad truth that often the bubbliest, most caring people suffer with depression on the inside. Not letting anyone see. But I don't think that's how life should be. In my experience, honesty - admitting your struggles - brings you closer to the people who matter.

    Beautiful words, my friend.

  2. Love this post. You find a way to put into words so many feelings I often struggle to express. It gives me hope, and reminds me I'm not alone. Thank you for sharing! :)

  3. Sometimes the most influential people struggle with depression. It has been said of Lincoln and even Joseph Smith. I almost think a large part of the battle is the guilt that we feel when we feel bad, like we aren't the Christians and Mormons we should be. I want people to know that you can have faith in sorrow and sadness. Your faith tells you that the sorrow and sadness doesn't last. That is what is important. Not to sound too "churchy" but I love the line of "I heard the Bells on Christmas Day" when it says "God is not dead nor doth her sleep. The wrong shall fail the right prevail with peace on earth and goodwill to men." I believe that message extends not only to the world in general but to each of us individually. The wrong (or ugly or sad etc) shall fail within us and the right will prevail with on earth and in us. Keep going Dana, the world needs YOUR light.

  4. as always, i love your writing. the title reminds me that i need to formulate the post i promised. i think about it almost every day, but am intimidated by my lack of writing skills. i'll figure it out. :)

  5. This is wonderful. Thank you for writing.

  6. I too battled with depression for many, many years. I took Lexapro for a while and it really helped at times, made me feel horrible at others. Ironically enough, I think the hormones of pregnancy and breastfeeding have actually helped my depression (or maybe I'm too tired to think about it...) so fortunately, I've felt better since having kids than I ever have, though at times I do have breakdowns still. Thank you for being so brave Dana! You are one of a kind. I love you.

  7. [hugs] I'm sorry that you're dealing with this again. If you ever need to talk, please call.

  8. I could have written this. Thank you for being so open and sharing.

  9. Ohhh I am a sufferer of anxiety mixed with depression. It comes in waves, and leaves in waves. It really is nature's rollercoaster, and I hate rides. Let me think about writing, it's hard for me to share it... so it might be a while... or it might be anonymous... or it might not happen. We shall see! Hang in there, and I'm proud of you for being strong enough to do what helps, instead of pretend you are superwoman and hide everything.

  10. Hey! I just wanted to tell the fact that you really managed to build a magnificent domain. Will you be so kind and give an answer to my question. Do you run in some sort of blogging competitions?