Breaking the S.A.D. Cycle

Oh dear! We are heading quickly into the dark and dreary winter, a time of year spent scraping windshields in the morning and getting out of work at 5 pm and having it feel like 9 pm because it’s so flippin dark.A time of stressing about black ice and that super scary refreezing windshield that can happen halfway down the road (because I don’t leave enough time to let the defroster work). This is my least favorite season. Thank goodness for the holiday seasons or it would be absolute torture. As we head into the upcoming winter season all I can think about is how am I going to cope with my seasonal affective disorder or S.A.D. (a fitting acronym), which exists on top of my generalized depression and anxiety struggles. In years past I seem to forget that this SAD thing happens to me until February rolls around and I’m so depressed I can barely do anything. I’m hoping a little pre-planning might help me cope with what seems inevitably to come. No, I didn’t read anywhere that this is possible or suggested, this is just a thought that literally just came to me right now as I am typing this. Maybe if I go into the winter months with the attitude that I’m gonna fight this (starting right now!) I will come out on the other side of winter as something more than a puddle on the floor.

I have been dealing with depression for a long time. It has been a constant struggle for me since about the 8th grade. I wasn’t officially diagnosed until my sophomore year of college when I got so depressed I wasn’t functioning anymore. My grades started falling for the first time in my life. I was literally failing tests or just scraping by with D’s and that was not me. My very kind LDS institute director was there for me at that time, I broke down that I was just not doing well, I felt hopeless. He called up the university’s health center and made me an appointment to see a therapist immediately. After talking to them, they helped me get in to see a doctor who started me on medication. It took awhile to find the right dose, but it was like someone turned the light on. I could focus again. I could actually read my textbooks for more than five minutes at a time without losing focus! It was great.

I am deeply grateful to my institute director for guiding me into getting some help that very bad day back in 2005. Fast forward to 2013, and while I feel that I am a lot more in control than I was back then, there are still some things about it that I still just don’t know how to handle, but I am determined to fight!

I think one thing that I feel I have going for me this winter, that I didn’t in years past, is that I am letting go of all the guilt that has followed me around for years regarding SIN. So many people tell me that the LDS religion gives them peace regarding their sin because of the atonement. This is a concept I never understood and is one that most certainly never gave me peace. The LDS doctrine regarding the redemption of sins is very dependent upon doing all you can do first and that the atonement will cover the rest. At this point I don’t even know if I believe in sin. I do know that all actions have consequences, both pleasant and unpleasant, and that there is difference between good and evil, but sin is different, it is dependent on a higher power that is judging our actions and keeping a log book of things we must repent for before we can be worthy to enter his presence. The church emphasizes this doctrine all the time. Hence the need for a temple recommend, you must be deemed “clean” by “a representative of God” in order to enter.

Obviously no church claims that we can be sinless, just that we are to repent when we do sin. The LDS doctrine of repentance is a concept I never understood and is a topic that has tortured me for years because it MAKES NO FREAKING SENSE TO ME! My blood still boils when I think about this so called repentance everyone claims to be so grateful for.

Lets be real, WE CAN LITERALLY NEVER BE RID OF SIN because according to the church there are a lot of them. I mean like really really really a lot of potential sins. I could be in a constant state of repentance and I would probably still find a way to sin in between my repenting. Probably I would be complaining about repenting or judging someone else who repents less than me. It is a crazy impossible task. But never fear! The LDS religion teaches that there are certain steps to the process to help ensure that our sins have been properly erased from our log book in heaven (I am being metaphorical and sarcastic if that wasn’t obvious).
Please refer to this link for the six Elements of Repentance as described in True to the Faith, A Gospel Reference, a book I used to reference all the time.

1. Have Faith – This is one I tried to do but in all honesty really struggled with. Also, I would indeed struggle with the thought that I was too sinful to pray. The book suggests that this is a message from Satan, but I’m pretty sure Satan didn’t preach in church, or tell me in seminary, or in family home evening, that God will always listen but whether or not you will be forgiven or blessed was dependant on your righteousness, which, as I already discussed, is an impossible task. So, in my mind, even if God was listening, whats the point if he isn’t going to actually help me because I’m too sinful and I’m never doing enough? Perhaps, you say, I was just being too hard on myself, I was taking it all too seriously, but then again, my eternal salvation was at stake! What could be more flipping serious!?!

2. Sorrow for Sin – I was a CHAMPION at this one. I could have won a gold medal for my ability to accomplish this step. I really did want to change and I would cry and cry at home, in the bishops office, during sacrament, because I felt so guilty. It was crushing. People would tell me not to beat myself up so much, but all I could think was, but I can’t repent unless I feel sorry! Which way is it? Feel bad or don’t? Make up your mind! No wonder I would get so depressed. It was never ending sorrow, because, as I say again, it is impossible to be rid of sin.

3. Confession – Again, another gold medal, I was never shy about confessing my sins. I would confess in prayer, to my parents, to my friends, to the bishop. I was constantly looking for help in ridding myself of sin, little did I know I was fighting an impossible task. Again, no wonder I was so depressed.

4. Abandonment of Sin – Fail. Fail. Fail. Fail Again. Fail Some More. Tears. Cursing. Feel bad for cursing. Fail some more. According to True to the Faith we must “maintain an unyielding, permanent resolve that you will never repeat the transgression”. This is impossible. The book and nothing I have ever heard in church has said how to accomplish this impossibility. Maybe I’m being negative but I’m also being real. I have promised God to forsake cursing more times that I can count and yet I still curse dammit! Sorry if that offends you but it is the truth.

5. Restitution – This is more about sins that harmed others, attempting to make them right. I agree that if we have done something that hurts someone, because our actions DO have consequences, we should try to make them right. That is the good thing to do one human to another. I don’t need a fear of God to motivate me to try to do this.

6. Righteous Living – 

  •  “Emmerse yourself in the scriptures”  – Fail. I have never enjoyed nor gotten much out of them, so this was a constant struggle. It just wasn’t something I enjoyed or found worthwhile so it was hard to do. I had other things I could do that were way more helpful or meaningful and I have felt that way as long as I can remember. When I would think to read them I would do it out of a feeling of guilt for having not read them in so long. I would then proceed to read them to check it off the list, and then proceed to forget again for another couple weeks till something would remind me to feel guilty about it.
  • Pray Daily”- Again Fail. I would often think about praying everyday but I often talked myself out of it because I was usually so tired that I wouldn’t be able to pray in a meaningful way, so I would just say (while drifting off to sleep), sorry I missed today, maybe tomorrow! When I would pray though, they were EPIC. There were tears and a lot of begging. Begging God to give me desire to give a damn about this church, to take away my sinful desires, to understand the scriptures, even a little bit, and to ANSWER ME, PLEASE! Well guess what didn’t ever happen…..
So that is why I am done repenting. I don’t know what it even means anymore. I am done with cycles of guilt and wondering if I did enough to have each sin removed from my log book in heaven.
Now, I’m still not guilt free, I still feel guilty when I make poor choices and they have negative consequences. That is just part of having a conscience and is healthy, and I still have to work on not beating myself up too much, it’s a bit of a personality trait of mine to dwell a little too long on things sometimes, but that is a separate issue. At least now I can beat myself up on things that really matter and not that I uttered a few “bad” words earlier or forgot to read my scriptures.
It’s a start!
Samantha Lynn

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