In January 1993, a fall from a ladder left me paralyzed from the waist down. In April 2012, complications from that paralysis rose up and nearly took my life -- and threw up a brick wall in front of the course I thought my life would take, a path I thought was I doing OK on with a career, decent health and opportunities.
There have been months of spending most of my time in bed, countless doctor and therapy appointments, many chapters of medical issues, improvements, regressions, unemployment and fatigue. This, plus a feeling of very low self-esteem and financial worries, led to major depression that I am still battling.
I have had great support from my wife, family, friends, neighbors and members of my ward in The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints, but periods of anxiety and depression have hit hard. Elder Jeffrey R. Holland's speech, two weeks ago in General Conference, on mental illness and disabilities provided hope for my soul and hopefully for many others as well. When the member of the Quorum of the Twelve Apostles spoke about his own experiences with depression, it was like a true sense of understanding.
He spoke of a time in his life when "financial worries collided with staggering fatigue." He talked of George Albert Smith's recurring battles with depression. Smith was later the eighth prophet of the LDS Church.
Holland even referred to the most common advice given to me by well-meaning people: "Square shoulders and positive thinking." Not a bad idea, he said, but not a cure-all. He spoke of miracles, but the timetable is up to God. He spoke of the need to seek professional help as well.
"If you are the one afflicted or the caregiver to such, try not to be overwhelmed with the size of your task," he said. "Don't assume you can fix everything, but fix what you can. If those are only small victories, be grateful for them. Be patient, dozens of times in the Scriptures, the Lord commands someone to be still or stand still and wait. Patiently enduring some things is part of our mortal education."
He reminded those listening that you are "worth infinitely more than your limitations."
Holland also brought up thought of suicide of "self-destruction."
"Whatever your struggles, my brothers and sisters ... don't vote against preciousness of life by ending it. Trust in God. Hold fast to his love. Know that one day, dawn will break brightly. Broken minds can be healed as broken hearts and broken bones can be healed.
"We may feel was though we are broken vessels. Remember we are in the hands of the divine potter."
Dawn hasn't risen for me yet, but hope continues as well as times of anxiety. Holland's speech and the sessions on Oct. 6 were punctuated by an overnight observation stay in the hospital. Hope returned later that weekend when my current LDS bishop helped arrange for a personal visit with the first bishop my wife and I had when we moved to the area. His picture will be on the General Authority page of November's Ensign magazine, as humble and as caring as he was when he drove an orange Pinto as bishop 20-plus years ago.