I'm a wife dealing with her husband's addiction to pornography. I hope to be a resource for wives (and family members) dealing with similar struggles. Please join in the conversation and leave comments--even if you are here for curiosity's sake and are just learning about this kind of struggle! You can read my story here and the 4 things I think every addict's wife should know here.

Sunday, March 18, 2012

When You Just Can't Choose to be Happy

{Note to readers: I just realized that my settings were configured in a way that didn't allow anonymous comments. I'm so sorry! I just fixed it. Anonymous comments are absolutely welcome!}

This topic of choosing our attitude has been on my mind a lot recently. It's something I've grown up with in my religion--the idea that oftentimes you don't have any control over what happens to you in life, but you have control over how you react.

This does not mean that we have to be jumping  up and down laughing in our hard times. Just that we can learn and grow and choose to use our experiences for our good.

However, I think it is so so so important to remember that sometimes we are not in the right mental health to choose to our attitude. I think that sometimes (in our church but also in many other groups) so much emphasis is put on praying and holding our head up high and focusing on the positive to get through our troubles that we feel like failures when we can't do it.

I have a couple of family members who have gone through very rough periods in their lives, and both were diagnosed with depression.

One had people tell her over and over for years, "You'll be fine. You'll pull out of it. Keep praying. Focus on the positive." Etc, etc. She tried to tell people she was depressed and these were the responses given to her. When she told me, I took her to a depression class that my hospital offers where she was diagnosed as being severely to clinically depressed. She finally went to a doctor and got medicine. It took her a couple tries to find the right medicine and dosage, but she finally got the help she needed.

The other family member had just gone through a painful and abrupt divorce. The problems in her life were piling up before her eyes and she couldn't deal with them. She shut down. The problems got worse. It was a downward cycle. After a year of not being herself, I encouraged her to go see a doctor about depression. She was only on medication for a very very short period of time, but she is herself again now. She is still dealing with hard things, but the depression is no longer impeding her ability to address her problems and move forward with her life.

When someone is depressed (either situationally or clinically), the depression takes over their ability to effectively deal with life. It's a cycle--a downward spiral. Life becomes overwhelming, which sparks the depression, which leads to wanting to shut down mentally and not deal with the problems that are piling up in front of you, which makes life even more overwhelming, which makes you even more depressed... The counselor at the meeting pointed out that the point of depression medication is to bring you up to a mental state that allows you to address the things in your life that are causing the depression. It takes the depression out of the picture and stops the cycle. It makes it so you can deal with your life problems while in a healthy state of mind. Then you are weaned off the medication. The plan is never for you to be on medication the rest of your life.

My point is this: depression impedes your ability to choose how you approach life. Telling a person who is suffering from depression that they will be fine if they just prayed more is like telling someone who is dealing with cancer that they will be healed if they just prayed more. Heavenly Father didn't give us doctors and medicine and research for nothing. They are here for our use and just might be the answer to your prayers. Don't be afraid to talk to your doctor if you think you are depressed.


  1. Mac,

    I am so glad you wrote about this! I also think that this relates with addiction too! It used to drive me crazy that his family thought that by scripture study and prayer, he would get better. WRONG! These addicts need HELP from the trained professionals who are there to do just that, HELP.

    I totally agree with the depression thing too... Humble yourself and GO SEEK OUT HELP- even if it's just to take the edge off a little.

    While there are those times when we can't 'choose' to be happy, we MUST take that first step ourselves because forcing someone to do anything (addiction counseling, depression meds, whatever) is never good. The person has to want it for themselves!

    Thank you for sharing this because I think too often we beat ourselves up (especially in our culture) if we are hurt or mad or upset or depressed because we 'shouldn't be'.. we should be loving and forgiving and perfect, therefor we don't grieve and our healing process is skewed because we haven't dealt with our emotions properly. If that makes sense?

    Rambling... I always do... :)

    Thanks for sharing Mac. So true!

    1. You are right on about people needing to want to seek help. We can't force anyone to really get help. I think the hardest part is that when you are in the addiction or in the depression, it is hard to recognize that you even need help.

  2. Great post and great insight. Even though Mara and I so often focus on the "choosing" part of things, I totally agree with you that there are many times when people need to get a different kind of help (medication, professional counseling, etc.) before they are even capable of understanding what it means to "choose happiness".

    It would be nice if there were no shame associated with seeking help in this way, but unfortunately some people feel like they've failed if it reaches the point that they need medication or professional treatment.

    I appreciate as well that you focused on medication not being an end in and of itself, but the beginning to the true and longer term solution.

    1. I, too, wish the shame associated with seeking help didn't exist. I hope at least one person out there reads this message and realizes it's okay.

  3. Good post, needed to be said, glad you said it and said it well.

    (That's my effort at being brief.)

    1. Very concise and to the point. I'm patting you on the back. Ha! ;)

  4. There is a great power in choosing our happiness. Step One, right! lol...I've been going to my 12-step meetings!

    1. I think I may have just gotten past Step 1. On to Hope, right?!