Wednesday, January 12, 2011

A Note From My 80-Year-Old Self

There was a period of time in early 2010 when I was oddly obsessed with all things old.

I fantasized about what I'd be like in my 80's.  I told a lot of amusing "granny-jokes", although I'm pretty sure I was the only one laughing.  I was constantly noticing, and pointing out, old people in public places and "oohing and ahhing" over them the way that old people typically ooh and ahh over babies.  I'd find myself saying things like, "Aw, look at her!  Isn't she cute?  She's so....old!  Isn't that awesome?"

I can only trace my geriatric infatuation back to the fact that for multiple reasons, both known and unknown, in the early months of last year, I found myself in the middle of a deep depression.

I went back and forth between feeling sad and feeling anxious, but a majority of the time I felt nothing at all.  I mean absolutely nothing.  It was so weird and confusing.

The ironic thing was that I was accomplishing more than ever as a Mother.  I had taught my children some of the most important lessons that a parent can teach a child, and we had embarked on a month of serving others every day that was extremely fulfilling.  My children were showering me with love.  I had many, many reasons to be joyful, and yet, it was as if my "joy receptors" had been clogged by a mist of darkness that surrounded me and that was silently suffocating me.

I had felt deep sadness and emptiness on two other occasions in my life.  The first time, I actually lost the ability to form tears, because of an eye infection.  So although I was in a lot of emotional pain, I couldn't even get the satisfaction of crying it out!  That was a painful experience, but feeling nothing was worse, because I couldn't even give words to what I was feeling.  It was just like The Nothing, in The Never-Ending Story...foreboding, ever-present, and threatening.

The more that I struggled and tried to muscle my way out of it, the more helpless I became against it.

It was during this time that I discovered what was to me a very odd trend online where people write letters to their "18-year-old selves" telling them all of the things that they wish they knew back then.  After reading one, I burst out with a very depression-induced bit of sarcasm and disdain, "What a load of B.S."  I didn't want to talk to my 18-year-old self...What good is that supposed to do me now?  What I wanted more than anything was for my 80-year-old self to come and tell me that everything was going to be all right, that I was going to make it, that I was on the right course in my life, and that there would be brighter days and more adventures to be had for me in my future.

Enter my obsession with the elderly!  I often joked that I was trying to "channel" my 80-year-old self; my way of trying to tap into her wisdom.

I slept a lot during that time.  I prayed a lot too.  I leaned on friends.  I told almost every woman I talked to..."I'm depressed," and I'd laugh about it, and then I'd say, "no, really, I am."  Some people heard my cry for help and some people did not.  Some people who were worse off than me, even kicked me when I was down, but that's all right.  I understand.

However, the Lord did not leave me comfort-less.  In His true, loving fashion, he sent me everything that I would need to climb my way out of the darkness, and to feel love and joy again.  He gave me a calling, surrounded me with wise women who would listen to me and advise me.  He gave me a great husband who supported me and proved that he loved me through sickness and health.  He allowed my children to be my rays of sunshine.  He sent the effects of The Atonement to lighten my load in many ways.  And he gave me an out-pouring of the spirit that had not been matched previously in my life.

I learned many things about myself, about God, about suffering, about life, about humility, about patience, and about what really matters.  I could clearly see the Lord pulling for me, seeing me through it all.

One day, as I was reading scriptures, I decided to pull out my Patriarchal Blessing and give it a once-over.  As I was reading it, I realized that, in essence, I was holding a letter from my 80-year-old-self.  In my blessing, I was able to read about things that I would do in my "later life" which indicated to me that at some time in the future I'd be ok, my children would be grown and doing well enough for me to leave them for exciting and important new adventures of my own.  I could suddenly see her in my mind's eye...that 80-something-year-old Jocelyn, all Grannified and glorious, with flabby arms, and grey hair, and I-don't-care-who-knows-it...ready to take on the world.  And my 30-something Jocelyn suddenly sprang back to life!  It was just the nod and wink that I needed, to say, "I'm going to be ok."

Of course, it took more than a nod and a wink to make it back.  It took chocolate, and medicine, and humility, and long talks with a good friend, and hugs from my kids, and tears with my husband.  And about 15 pounds later, I'm really working my way toward that Granny body, but at least I'm feeling like myself again, on the inside.  And it feels great.

My sister said recently, "Are you getting fitter and fitter?" I replied, "No, I'm just getting happier and happier."

As I round the corner to the anniversary of that very difficult time in my life, I look back at 2010, and I am still completely amazed at all that I was able to accomplish, even in my impaired state. I could not have done it without the Lord's help.  It only goes to prove that God truly works miracles, that he cares about and knows each of us individually, and that,"...if men come unto me I will show unto them their weakness. I give unto men weakness that they may be humble; and my grace is sufficient for all men that humble themselves before me; for if they humble themselves before me, and have faith in me, then will I make weak things become strong unto them” (Ether 12:27)

I'm definitely a different person after going through a depression like that.  In the process, I was able to clean out some cobwebs in my soul.  Among other things, I'm more careful with myself now.  I'm more forgiving of my shortcomings.  I try to make time for myself to enjoy my many blessings...time to sit in the sunshine, time to snuggle with my children, time to breathe them in deeply and enjoy their smiles and let their laughter fill my ears.  I make sure that if they are laughing, I am laughing right along with them.  I don't apologize if my house is a mess.  And I thank God every day for allowing me to go through that excruciating, character-building experience.  And someday, my 80-year-old self will thank him too.


  1. Thank you for sharing this. I have been feeling battling with feels of depression/pointlessness lately. Last year my husband finally got his PhD after 6 years of grad school, we moved to a new state for his new job, and I was finally able to quit work and stay home with our son...And all I felt about the whole thing was depressed. I didn't understand why. I guess it's just all the life changes and moving so far from my family. I have had to learn how to find joy in motherhood, something I took for granted when I worked full time. It's a different kind of joy (and struggles) staying home full time. It's been 5 months in this "new life", and we haven't completely figured it out. The depression still sneaks around, but we are getting through it. I know this is what the Lord wants me to do, it will just take time. Thanks for making me feel less alone.

  2. I love you too...keep up the great work.

  3. we all fight with depression at different points and ages in our lives even 70 year! I've found Julia Cameron's artist's way's book very helpful. Also writing about the little voices in our head that are so critical-there is a way to stop them by writing down everything they say then countering it with a positive. I've had times of silence-no critical voices and it's amazing. And of course prayer always helps. We are here to learn and help each other. Thanks for sharing. There is to be opposition in all things. Like the image of your patriarchal blessing as a letter from your 80 year old self. There are however many older people who feel like failures and too much teenage suicide in our world. Satan is out to get us but we can overcome with God's help. Love you, Aunt Lin

  4. Oh Jocelyn...I could have written this! I have travelled the path and know there is an end.

    So many people are stuck in the "you are a sinner if you can't get over it right away" attitude. (seriously heard that more than once) But it is not because of sin.

    What a beautiful way to help yourself. The patriarcal blessing is a truly powerful tool and prayer. Our Heavenly Father really does know what is best for us and He really has provided.

    Thank you for sharing your struggle. Even if I am "offically" over all of it (for 7 years now) I think it helps to know that I am still not alone.

    (on a totally different note you win the book on my blog, email me)

  5. Thank you for sharing this. I think that many people struggle with depression (myself included) and hiding it in the closet doesn't help anyone. Our long, grey winter up here has got me really down again this year and I appreciate your comments this morning.

    Now I'm wondering about my 80 year old self. I think that is a great thing because looking to the past, that is often filled with regret, doesn't help with depression. It is much more helpful to find a glimpse of hope in the future. Thanks for sharing Jocelyn.

  6. You have a gift for words. And expressing love. I hope you continue to find the 80 year old woman. She is a magnificent creation in the making. Sharing helps depression not be so taboo and finds the greatest supports.

  7. What a wonderful and helpful post. Nearly every woman will struggle with depression at one time or another, and you have offered hope and comfort to all of us by sharing your experience.

    Right on, Jocelyn!


  8. Thank you for sharing, what a beautiful testimony you gave of how Heavenly Father helped you during that time. And I love the idea of your patriarchal blessing being a letter from your 80 year old self.

  9. Jocelyn, other then saving me from a bind the other night you totally lifted my spirits today. I think we all get the feeling in our lives and if we can just hold on the truth and pray through it our burdens are made light. Thank you for your example and friendship. You're one of the good ones. (That's something an 80-year old lady would say, right?)

  10. Thank you, thank you, thank you. I have been in the winter blah slump lately -- not truly depressed, but not truly happy either. Thank you for the reminder to humble myself. :)

  11. Love this so much I think will send you an email. :)

  12. Depression is never a pleasant ailment. I know that I did not like it either, but when it was my companion, I learned so much about myself and the world around me. I learned to be strong and to stay healthy. I learned to take care of myself, and most of all, I learned that I had worth. Great post.

  13. Oh man. I went through some pretty serious depression about 3 years ago. It was awful. I look back and remember those feelings and it makes me cry a little. But, like you, I made it through with Christ...and a loving Father in Heaven. Thanks for sharing your experience. So glad that I refound your blog!~

  14. Beautiful post, Jocelyn. It's surprising how easy it is to forget to take care of ourselves.

  15. The photo alone says so much.

    I can't wait to see what's next.

    Love you!


  16. Thank you, I am full time finding my self lost in every day things. Your blog really heled me turn my mind to more eternal and important things. Thanks again for the reminder ;0)

  17. Thank you! I am sitting here crying and knowing that it is time for more meds. I struggled with this exact thing almost 10 years ago and have felt the ebbings since moving here. But your description is so me right now...Guess I'll have to brave the doctor that called me a crazy old woman...before I can't go to the store by myself again! You've made me wonder if there would be an 80 year old me and what would I be like....I really want to be me again!

  18. I'm glad you shared this. It's hard to share sometimes feelings of depression. Such a great remeinder that we will make it through those days/weeks/years. I think you are amazing. Thank you for the reminder to not apologize to anyone for my messy house. :)

  19. You are amazing. I know I've said it before....but it's still so true. Thank you for reminding me I need to read my blessing more often! :)

  20. Beautiful. I often write letters to my 37 year old self--- because in my heart I know the answers, but my head is too busy doing the busy work.

  21. What a beautiful post. I always love to come to your blog when I need a pick-me-up. I too turned to my patriarchal blessing the other day and was pleasantly surprised at what a treasure it continues to be. You bring so much light to the lives of others and spread good wherever you go. I am glad that you are winning your struggle and I have a feeling your 80 year-old self is going to be so pleased with what you accomplish by then - look at all you've done already!

  22. Thank you for this post. So good to read. The journey through depression is very enlightening. I found writing in my journal and being very truthful about my feelings, and not letting myself exaggerate (sp? sorry) really helped me through some hard times. And tonight having been Women's Conference that I am reading this, I think it goes nicely with the Forget Me Not talk.