Tuesday, October 28, 2014

Testimony Meeting Support Group

“I don’t know if any of you know this, but I struggle with depression and ADHD…” she prefaced her comment for the umpteenth time. I struggle to keep from rolling my eyes and the rest of the class sinks farther into the couches—lulled to sleep by the familiar declaration and the sure knowledge that any attempt at participation is futile. Many times my seminary teacher does not even have the chance to finish her question before Anna is off, taking us all on a rambling, bumpy journey through an experience relating only vaguely to the subject matter or cataloguing a litany of self-diagnosed psychological illnesses. It requires either prophetic knowledge of the next question or nigh-on divine intervention for anyone else to respond. My mind drifts off during this latest contribution to envision myself diving across the room, covering her mouth as I rapidly covey the spiritual experience I had last week that relates exactly to the verse we are discussing. I tune back into a passionate account of how hard it was for her to try public schools for a few weeks after being home schooled her whole life. Because everyone else in the room attends public school, I am not sure how much sympathy this arouses. There is nothing like waking up at five in the morning and driving in the dark and cold over roads covered in black ice to put you in an uncharitable mood. It doesn’t help that her bastion of bravery in psychological illness has encouraged many others in the youth group to share their own strivings against depression, ADHD or bipolar disorder at every opportunity. Youth testimony meetings have started to feel more like treatment support groups; the percentage of self-reputedly depressed youth in our ward is double the national average (not an exaggeration, I looked it up). But maybe Anna’s over-eagerness to share psychological weaknesses, has given me a chance to work on improving my own spiritual weaknesses: the patience and charity for others.


  1. I see this even in normal fast and testimony meetings (as I'm sure everyone else has). There is always the one person who stands, declares some sort of mental or physical ailment, and continues on to make everyone in the room feel awkward by expressing things that are way to personal to share in a general testimony meeting. Those are the times I always wish the clock would wind faster!

  2. I think announcing weaknesses or struggles can be a way for them to feel safe with what they are sharing, but I don't think they fully realize that in some times and places, it just isn't appropriate, and that it does make people feel uncomfortable. We talked about this awhile ago, but those speakers who have confidence when they speak have a much higher ethos and even pathos.

  3. I think you are right, there are definitely the "wo is me reminders" in every ward and stake. It may not be with depression, anxiety or something like that. It could be the "you know I lost my job" types, the "My son was on a rough road" types and the "my husband works too much but doesn't make enough money" types etc. I feel like these people are looking for handouts in the way of sympathy. Maybe they can't self-soothe and reach out to others to soothe themselves. It is very uncomfortable to hear, but there are some who latch on to other's woes. I think that brings up another stereotype as well: the fixers.