There was a period of time in early 2010 when I was oddly obsessed with all things old.
I fantasized about what I'd be like in my 80's. I told a lot of amusing "granny-jokes", although I'm pretty sure I was the only one laughing. I was constantly noticing, and pointing out, old people in public places and "oohing and ahhing" over them the way that old people typically ooh and ahh over babies. I'd find myself saying things like, "Aw, look at her! Isn't she cute? She's so....old! Isn't that awesome?"
I can only trace my geriatric infatuation back to the fact that for multiple reasons, both known and unknown, in the early months of last year, I found myself in the middle of a deep depression.
I went back and forth between feeling sad and feeling anxious, but a majority of the time I felt nothing at all. I mean absolutely nothing. It was so weird and confusing.
The ironic thing was that I was accomplishing more than ever as a Mother. I had taught my children some of the most important lessons that a parent can teach a child, and we had embarked on a month of serving others every day that was extremely fulfilling. My children were showering me with love. I had many, many reasons to be joyful, and yet, it was as if my "joy receptors" had been clogged by a mist of darkness that surrounded me and that was silently suffocating me.
I had felt deep sadness and emptiness on two other occasions in my life. The first time, I actually lost the ability to form tears, because of an eye infection. So although I was in a lot of emotional pain, I couldn't even get the satisfaction of crying it out! That was a painful experience, but feeling nothing was worse, because I couldn't even give words to what I was feeling. It was just like The Nothing, in The Never-Ending Story...foreboding, ever-present, and threatening.
The more that I struggled and tried to muscle my way out of it, the more helpless I became against it.
It was during this time that I discovered what was to me a very odd trend online where people write letters to their "18-year-old selves" telling them all of the things that they wish they knew back then. After reading one, I burst out with a very depression-induced bit of sarcasm and disdain, "What a load of B.S." I didn't want to talk to my 18-year-old self...What good is that supposed to do me now? What I wanted more than anything was for my 80-year-old self to come and tell me that everything was going to be all right, that I was going to make it, that I was on the right course in my life, and that there would be brighter days and more adventures to be had for me in my future.
Enter my obsession with the elderly! I often joked that I was trying to "channel" my 80-year-old self; my way of trying to tap into her wisdom.
I slept a lot during that time. I prayed a lot too. I leaned on friends. I told almost every woman I talked to..."I'm depressed," and I'd laugh about it, and then I'd say, "no, really, I am." Some people heard my cry for help and some people did not. Some people who were worse off than me, even kicked me when I was down, but that's all right. I understand.
However, the Lord did not leave me comfort-less. In His true, loving fashion, he sent me everything that I would need to climb my way out of the darkness, and to feel love and joy again. He gave me a calling, surrounded me with wise women who would listen to me and advise me. He gave me a great husband who supported me and proved that he loved me through sickness and health. He allowed my children to be my rays of sunshine. He sent the effects of The Atonement to lighten my load in many ways. And he gave me an out-pouring of the spirit that had not been matched previously in my life.
I learned many things about myself, about God, about suffering, about life, about humility, about patience, and about what really matters. I could clearly see the Lord pulling for me, seeing me through it all.
One day, as I was reading scriptures, I decided to pull out my Patriarchal Blessing and give it a once-over. As I was reading it, I realized that, in essence, I was holding a letter from my 80-year-old-self. In my blessing, I was able to read about things that I would do in my "later life" which indicated to me that at some time in the future I'd be ok, my children would be grown and doing well enough for me to leave them for exciting and important new adventures of my own. I could suddenly see her in my mind's eye...that 80-something-year-old Jocelyn, all Grannified and glorious, with flabby arms, and grey hair, and I-don't-care-who-knows-it...ready to take on the world. And my 30-something Jocelyn suddenly sprang back to life! It was just the nod and wink that I needed, to say, "I'm going to be ok."
Of course, it took more than a nod and a wink to make it back. It took chocolate, and medicine, and humility, and long talks with a good friend, and hugs from my kids, and tears with my husband. And about 15 pounds later, I'm really working my way toward that Granny body, but at least I'm feeling like myself again, on the inside. And it feels great.
My sister said recently, "Are you getting fitter and fitter?" I replied, "No, I'm just getting happier and happier."
As I round the corner to the anniversary of that very difficult time in my life, I look back at 2010, and I am still completely amazed at all that I was able to accomplish, even in my impaired state. I could not have done it without the Lord's help. It only goes to prove that God truly works miracles, that he cares about and knows each of us individually, and that,"...if men come unto me I will show unto them their weakness. I give unto men weakness that they may be humble; and my grace is sufficient for all men that humble themselves before me; for if they humble themselves before me, and have faith in me, then will I make weak things become strong unto them” (Ether 12:27)
I'm definitely a different person after going through a depression like that. In the process, I was able to clean out some cobwebs in my soul. Among other things, I'm more careful with myself now. I'm more forgiving of my shortcomings. I try to make time for myself to enjoy my many blessings...time to sit in the sunshine, time to snuggle with my children, time to breathe them in deeply and enjoy their smiles and let their laughter fill my ears. I make sure that if they are laughing, I am laughing right along with them. I don't apologize if my house is a mess. And I thank God every day for allowing me to go through that excruciating, character-building experience. And someday, my 80-year-old self will thank him too.