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Thursday, September 19, 2013

Guest Post: Sometimes, The Gospel Just Isn’t Enough

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Cougar Buckeye is a convert to the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints and a transplant to Utah from Ohio. He has been married for six years to his wife and has three small children. Joining the church was one of the hardest decisions CB ever made, but also one of the most rewarding. He's still trying to adjust to being a Liberal Midwesterner in the heart of Conservative Zion.

Image by h.koppdelaney

I did not grow up as a member of the Church. In fact, I joined it seven years to the day I'm writing this. When I joined the church I thought my life would look as great as the life of the family which introduced me to the Church and the Gospel. You see, I suffer from severe depression, anxiety, and PTSD. For two years, as a child, I was physically, mentally, and sexually abused by a sibling. This has affected me in profound ways—ways that I was not aware of until I was much older (and even married). I react to people as if they are insulting me, challenging me, or want to do harm to me. I feel like people never listen. I sometimes don't like myself very much. It can be a struggle to get out of bed, or be a good husband, or a good father. From time-to-time I just want to be left the hell alone. What makes this all worse is that I'm sure (from comments to my wife and other significant people in my life) that my parents don't believe me when I say I am a victim of abuse or that I'm depressed. That's what crazy people say, and our family is decidedly not crazy.

So, why do I say that the Gospel sometimes isn't enough? Because as much as I love the Gospel and have a testimony of it; as much as I love the church of which I'm now a member; as grateful I am for the numerous and tremendous blessings that have come to me because I'm LDS, the Gospel cannot, for me, take away the pain and anguish I feel or the way my life has been affected by being abused. Certainly it helps—but, it's just not enough. Perhaps I just don't have enough faith in Christ or in our Heavenly Father—points which I'm willing to concede. But, sometimes we rely on others and their help to improve our lives. This is why I'm sure programs like Addiction Recovery through LDS Family Services exist or why some programs at BYU train mental health professionals. Because, although the help we can get can be based in the Gospel, the Gospel can't do it by itself for a lot of people. Getting help from a trained professional can go a long way.

Why do I write this then? Not to disparage the Gospel or the Church or the people in it, that is for sure. I write this because I often feel that Mormons don't have particularly healthy attitudes about mental health and the "judgment" they render on others is entirely unhelpful. I don't think I lack faith and if I just had more faith I would be better. Does additional faith help fix your broken leg? Yeah, it doesn't fix my broken brain either. You know what takes some faith? Getting baptized, getting endowed, and getting married in the Temple in spite of friends who no longer want to hang out with you, parents who are angry with you, and a total change in lifestyle in your mid-20s. I know that Christ feels my pain, but ultimately, that just makes me feel bad about his sacrifice, because this whole ordeal sucks. Also, I didn't go to BYU, I didn't serve a mission, I wasn't converted to the church by my wife (I got married after I joined), and my ancestors aren't Youngs, Kimballs, Smiths, or any other pioneer family. Those kinds of comparisons don't help me and make me feel like I don't belong or I'm not good enough. What makes me feel like a good member? My bishop, my friends, my wife, my children, and my love for the Gospel. They sympathize and empathize with me, have concern for me and others, and out of concern suggest getting help.

Maybe we should all do a little more mourning for those that mourn and comforting for those that stand in need of comfort. Myself included.

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