Depression in Mormon Women
Molly Mormon' is the perfect woman. She never raises her voice. Her house is always sparkling clean and she excels in every church calling. She's understanding and supportive of her husband and children. In essence, Molly Mormon' is the ideal wife, mother, helpmate, PTA leader, quilter, baker, and casserole maker; she is consistently well-groomed, cheerful and bright (Egan 1).
For many Latter Day Saint (LDS) women, the overwhelming pressure to be Molly Mormon' is unbearable. LDS women are likely to develop depression due to the demanding and stressful role of being a Mormon mother in the twenty-first century. The standard answer for LDS women's high depression rate is that they are overworked, heading large families, and struggling to meet expectations of perfection that are too high, said Dr. John H. Dickey, Ph.D. and professor of psychology at Idaho State University during an interview.
The subject of LDS women suffering from depression is a thorny matter; the LDS community bristles at its mention while many women feel the grip of the icy fingers of depression grow increasingly tighter. "In any dominant culture, particularly a religious one," Dickey speculates, "there's a lot of striving for an ideal that's often unobtainable, whether it's a spiritual one or has to do with lifestyle. The body needs an escape valve." In most cases, the women suffering from depression don't have an escape valve, let alone any idea of where to find
one, instead they often self-destruct with prescription drugs.
Anna Figureoa, 59, has kept her feelings suppressed for most of her life. Figureoa's bloodshot eyes extended out of their socket as she struggled to recall how her depression began. She bit her fingernails, then stuffed them ashamedly between her ratty couch cushions before revealing she spent her childhood and teenage years in foster homes. Five different men, including three who were LDS, molested Figureoa repeatedly. She blamed those experiences on herself, thus starting the swift spiral downward into despair.
After attempting suicide for the eleventh time last November, she was sent to Sacramento, Calif. to a depression specialist. Everyday for two weeks, Figureoa underwent Electroconvulsive therapy (ECT), in which electric currents are briefly applied to the brain. This procedure is used to help ease only the most severe cases of depression. It had no effect on Figureoa except to rob her of memory and personality.
Figureoa's marriage to a Vietnam War veteran who suffered from Post Traumatic Stress Syndrome began to crumble quickly in the late 1970's. The physically and mentally abusive relationship took it's toll and Figureoa succumbed to a nervous breakdown. Years later, Figureoa was relieved when her husband began collecting movies instead of abusing her.
When she was no longer able to take care of her two young daughters she placed them foster homes. The self-inflicted loss of her children only deepened the wounds created from her dysfunctional marriage. Figureoa fell away from the LDS church and began smoking again. She choked down quarter sized pills morning and night in attempt to control her depression. Profuse sweating, as well as muscle twitching, are some of the side effects of Figureoa's medications. Her upper lip twitched when she stated that the sweating only got worse. She convinced herself
that this was what she deserved for being such a bad child and incompetent mother.
Pain flickered behind her eyes as she began viciously ripping at her nails with her mouth again. Figureoa bit her nails because she quit smoking five years ago during the process of becoming reactivated in the church in order to gain a temple recommend. She only made it to the temple once. She sat at home during ward temple trips, explaining to herself again how God does not love her, therefore she is too...
Cited: Cart, Julie. "Study Finds Utah Leads Nation in Antidepressant Use." Los Angeles Times 20 Feb. 2002: A4.
Dickey, John H. Telephone interview. 17 Aug. 2003.
Egan, Dan. "The Painful Side of Perfection." Salt Lake City Tribune 22 Feb. 2000: D1.
Figureoa, Anna. Personal interviews. 13,15,17 Aug. 2003.
Moore, Carrie A. "Study Elevates LDS Women" Deseret News 2 Apr. 2004. 10 June 2004. .
Oaks, Dallin H
Ogden, Deborah. Telephone interview.15 Aug. 2003.
Thompson, Will L
Latter-Day Saints, 1985.
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