After a number of therapy sessions a few years ago, I came to understand some of my built-in imperfections: depression and ADD, to name a couple–not to mention a host of personality traits that make holding down a conventional job really difficult.
Throughout my adolescence and early years of adulthood, I often felt at odds with myself. I believed my flaws were hateful things to be rooted out and destroyed by any means. Shame and fear compounded my depression, which aggravated my attention disorder, which made me even more depressed, and so on. I was thinking things healthy people do not think about, weighing the decision to “suffer the slings and arrows of outrageous fortune, or to take arms against a sea of troubles and by opposing end them.”
Sometimes my symptoms manifested themselves as burning anger toward God. In prayer, I would accuse God of negligence and abandonment. I started to believe the Atonement was a hoax, that it didn’t really change anything.
But while very little has changed about my mental illnesses, everything has changed about how I see myself, and I believe it is thanks to the Atonement I could change my view so dramatically. My journey since has been to love myself—not despite my flaws, but because of them.
It may seem counter-intuitive to love yourself because of your mental illnesses or whatever else ails you, but let me share a quick anecdote that demonstrates how this is possible:
One of the times I was in a dense fog of depression, I remembered a conversion I had heard on the radio. It was a talk show—I must have been a teenager at the time—and the host was talking about his dogs. One of his dogs was a rescue; she was blind. His other dog was perfectly healthy. He said he loved his blind dog all the more because she was blind, not in spite of it.
I think this is how enlightened people love themselves and others. Honestly, I don’t love depression. It’s awful. But I do love the person my unique challenges have helped be to become, chiseled out of marble and eroded down by the elements. My imperfections have helped me to empathize with perspectives I would have never considered otherwise, and my own perspective has been colored with irreplaceable experience. Blind dogs are still lovable, and so am I.