Is it really your life to throw away?
It's not the kind of task you hope for, when a friend calls and asks you to sing at the funeral of her son. Of course I'm glad that there's something I can do for her as she's going through the worst thing that can happen -- the death of a child.
So I sit there trying not to listen to the funeral. I'm supposed to hit some high notes in Goudod's O Divine Redeemer, and if I allow myself to become even slightly emotional, things will happen inside my throat and sinuses that will put those high notes out of reach.
But then my solo ends, and I can look at my friend there on the front row, so devastated that her son's life is over. I can listen to the testimonies and teachings about the resurrection, about forgiveness. I have sat where she is sitting -- but what I felt was not the same.
Because her son, still such a young man at age 33, took his own life.
In the nearly three decades I've lived in the Greensboro Stake, I have attended four funerals of Latter-day Saints -- two male, two female; two adult, two teenage -- who have committed suicide. In every case, I have wondered: Would they have done this thing if they had understood the utter devastation they are bringing to their parents?
I know something of the black despair of depression, the sense that nothing you have ever done is worth anything, that everyone would be better off if you were gone. I have also talked friends through some of those desperate hours.
Kind, good, loving, beautiful souls with wonderful futures ahead of them -- I have pounded my head against the wall of their resistance, trying to make them believe that their present feeling of worthlessness and utter loneliness is a lie, that the truth is the opposite, that their lives have been a blessing to many, that soon they'll feel hope and happiness again.
And I've been on the other side, where it feels impossible to believe any good or hopeful thing, because your own dark madness is assuring you that if your loved ones only knew the truth about your own worthlessness they'd not bother to try to talk you out of it.
But I do know the truth about your worth. It is great in the sight of God, and no one knows you better than he.
To my friend who thinks of death as something that would come as a relief: Don't do it.
Depression is the inward lie of permanent worthlessness. You can't stop yourself from feeling it, but you can stop yourself from believing in it or acting on it.
You think you're causing everyone else so much trouble and annoyance and pain -- but your death would put on others a burden that far surpasses any annoyance you might have caused before.
Your despair is not your future and contains no truth. It is a fog that keeps your true spirit from gaining complete mastery over your body.
The genetic predisposition toward depression is no more a part of who you are, in your spirit and soul, than if you had lost a limb or been born blind. In the resurrection of the perfect body you will have no such dysfunction in your brain.
So if you and a psychiatrist can find a medicine that restores your body's natural balance and tames this wild despair, it is your true self that is being released from bondage, and not some pseudo-happy impostor created by the drug.
Your true self is eager to get on with life -- as eager as when you first agreed to the Lord's plan to come to this world, with all its ups and down, joys and miseries.
Feelings are not decisions. It is the world's lie that if you feel something you must act on the feeling. This is the excuse that leads people to adultery merely because they feel desire, to harsh words or cruel deeds because they're angry, to failure to do good merely because they're afraid -- and to suicide merely because they have a feeling of desperate unhappiness, or a helpless hunger to show others just how sad they are.
Do not buy the implements you have thought of as a means of death; get them out of your house if you already have them. Tell someone what you have been thinking of. Don't reject their love and their reassurances.
Distract yourself with concern and work for others. If the ones you wish would love you do not, then do good for others. There are always people who will be glad of your help and kindness.
Outward actions often can control inner feelings. Act cheerful and purposeful, and most of the time you will be cheered, and will care about the good purposes you find for yourself. This is not hypocrisy, this is self-therapy.
It is also following the Savior's example: Go about doing good, and your own heart will take care of itself.
We're all amateurs at this business of life, my friend. But the great teacher is only a prayer away from you. The mere process of explaining what you feel to him who has felt a deeper pain than yours will bring a lightening of heart, because your burden will be shared.
God sent you here so you could have joy. Don't refuse the gift forever just because you do not have it now.
Copyright © 2010 by Orson Scott Card
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