Wednesday, May 10, 2006 

Depression is the word of the week

Our topics are always so coincidental.

One of my associates quit this week because her depression was interfering with her work. She just left one day last week and has not come back. I finally had to make the awkward phone call telling her that basically she no longer had a job. She has struggled with this problem for a while, and she explained to me that she doesn’t think she was a very good employee and that it wasn’t fair to put that burden upon me and the company. I feel for her. Sadly, she was correct. She wasn’t doing very well and was on the way to being let go anyway. She said that she has a doctor (a psychiatrist I think) whom she is working with. I hope everything turns out OK. She’s getting married in a few weeks.

Do we all suffer from depression? While I myself have very real episodes, I still think of depression as a dirty word. While I am as empathetic as they come, I still roll my eyes at the condition.

I spent the greater part of my teenaged years depressed. Really depressed. I had a lot of anxieties and hang-ups, but didn’t know how to deal with them. I didn’t know you COULD deal with them. Generalized anxiety disorder wasn’t popular then, and neither was Paxil, Zoloft, or Prozac.

My depression is cyclical. While the anxiety comes like clockwork (it is connected to monthly hormones), the depression cycle takes much longer. About 3 times a year I will stay in bed for two to three days because “I don’t feel well.” I will have a bad week with the in-bed time sandwiched in, and then I will slowly come out of the funk and not even remember what it feels like to be depressed. Isn’t that strange, that I can’t really remember what it’s like unless it’s happening?

Just yesterday, I was listening to the radio on the way to work and the guest had written a book about depression. He described his inability to get out of bed for weeks. I turned my head and only listened out of the corner of my eye because I have a hard time accepting how close that reality is for me sometimes.

Any resolutions? Perhaps. Depression is an awful, awful thing. You can’t suck it up or pray your way out of it. A lot of times medication is a good solution, sometimes the only solution for someone to lead a “normal” life.

But I have a fantastic life. I have a husband I LOVE, a nice house, a job I enjoy, family and friends, and a naturally sunny disposition. I have a hard time admitting that I have a little black rain cloud waiting in the wings.

Carrie Ann

Friday, May 05, 2006 

You can't always get what you want...but you can get anything you want at Alice's restaurant

At one point on my mission, 4 missionaries lived in an apartment which was roughly 2/3 the size of my living room. I was one of those missionaries. Elder Miles, our district leader, lived there, too. Okay, the whole district was in there.

One day, Elder Miles was on splits with the local Zone leader (whose name I cannot recall). While they were out, they stopped in a local shop. I should tell you that we were in Russia (post-Soviet) and that our missionary funds were excessive for the area in which we lived. Instead of packing up and shipping out excess funds each month, as I am sure we would have done if we were more socially conscious, we bought a lot of frozen pizza. The funny thing about the frozen pizza, was that it was often Scandanavian in origin. So, we were unable to read the boxes. Nonetheless, we had a good idea about what was on individual frozen pizzas because the good people in Scandanavia shipped their pizzas in brightly colored boxes that featured pictures on the pizzas inside. Cheese, pepperoni, and supreme pizzas were easy to spot and eaten often.

On this particular day, Elder Miles and the Zone leader were flipping through the pizzas in the freezer in much the same manner that one would flip through LPs in a record store. Suddenly, they stopped. They marvelled at what their eyes beheld. It was a Hawaiian pizza. There was the pineapple. There was the ham. Perhaps they thought it odd that this distinctly American pizza had made it into Russia, via Scandanavia, but they didn't care. It was a taste of home. It was bought and it was to be quickly consumed, before the other elders in the tiny apartment (including me) got home.

I should say that Russia, at this point, was on the cusp of its current craziness. Yeltsin was still in power, drinking himself into irrelevance. The area in which we worked was dominated by Mafioso (hence the upscales stores with frozen pizzas). So, while it wasn't impossible to get American foodstuffs, it was rare and expensive. Missionaries went ga-ga over the stuff. I knew missionaries who bought out kiosks of cases of root beer (near 100 cans of the stuff). I personally combined funds with a companion to a buy store out completely of its accidentally acquired stock of canned chili (50 cans consumed in about 2 and 1/2 weeks). So, I did not begrudge them their find, as I likely would have done the same and I know that it would have been shared if there had been more than one pizza.

In any case, when I came home, I saw two of the most disconsolate missionaries I had ever seen. The pizza had been a mistake. You see, the pineapple, pictured on the box, had turned out to be pale celery. The juicy pink ham was actually salmon. Much more suited to the Scandanavian palatte, don't you think?

They were heartbroken. They could not bring themselves to eat it, or even look at it. My companion and I, however, were unburdened by false expections and, hey, free pizza is free pizza. It wasn't bad if you knew what it was.

I am sure that there is a lesson about religion somewhere in that. Our expectations often prevent us from enjoying blessings that come at us sideways. It is helpful to really understand what you are getting before you dig in. Though the pizza may not be to your taste, it doesn't mean that it is valueless as food. Finally, God loves a good joke. May he smile upon you, too.

Posted by HP

Thursday, May 04, 2006 

I Have a Testimony of Pepperoni

In case you've missed it, the topic this week on Various Stages of Mormondom is "Pizza." Don't look at me, it wasn't my suggestion. It is particularly cruel for me to have to write on the topic of pizza because I am lactose intolerant. I wasn't born lactose intolerant; it's something that developed in my early twenties. I've loved pizza since I was a kid, especially the Godfather's Combination pizza. When my parents picked me up from the airport after two years in Argentina, I made them stop on the way home at Godfather's.

And though you may already hear the creaking of an over-extended metaphor, I think Mormonism and religion in general are a lot like pizza for me. Sure, it's not an exact analogy, but I think it has some good points.

Just because I can't eat pizza, it doesn't mean that I don't want anyone else to eat it. My wife and I order pizza all the time; she eats the pizza, and I have a meatball sub (sans frommage). I am happy that she is happy eating the pizza. What the pizza does to my digestive system has no relevance to her enjoyment of it.

Just because I can't eat pizza doesn't mean that I don't occasionally enjoy the smell of it. That doesn't mean that I want to live in a pizzeria (or next door to one), or have pizza rubbed in my face every single day. But I have no problem with a normal amount of pizza.

If I eat a slice of pizza, I will get sick. But I can pick off the pepperoni and eat them without consequences. There is no reason not to eat the pepperoni if it is the cheese that makes you sick. Of course, you shouldn't cherry pick all the pepperoni off a slice and leave it inedible.

Finally, please believe me when I tell you I can't eat pizza. Some people have told me that there is no lactose in pizza, and that I should feel free to eat it. I have eaten it and I know that there is something in pizza makes me very sick, very quickly. Perhaps I'm misidentifying lactose as the root of my problem, but there definitely is a problem.

Do I envy the pizza-eaters? Sure, though not as much as I used to. I miss the strings of cheese that stretch from your mouth to the slice. I miss eating the cold leftovers in the morning for breakfast. But it's been a few years since I've eaten pizza, and I'm okay with that.

It does help that I've found a substitute: my wife discovered a pizzeria that offers pies made with brown rice cheese. The restaurant is a pain to get to, and the pizza isn't quite like the Godfather's that I remember, but it is worth it to me to eat pizza and not get sick.

After all, isn't that the point? Everyone needs to eat, but they don't all need to eat the same thing.

Posted by Ned Flanders.

This Week's Topic:

  • The Sabbath Day

Various Authors

  • Monday:
    Kaycee opted out of Mormondom 4 years ago. She calls herself agnostic.
  • Tuesday:
    Sarah is not your average Gospel Doctrine Teacher.
  • Wednesday:
    Carrie Ann comes from pioneer stock, and lives in Provo, but is open minded and fair.
  • Thursday:
    Ned Flanders hasn't been to church in a while, but maintains an interest in all things Mormon.
  • Friday:
    John C. is an academic with a sense of humor and a testimony.
  • Saturday:
    JP's not going to church and feeling okay about it.

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