Finding A Way Through Depression

Neda Janet Howes’ story can inspire one to recognize an alternative path to healing: the ability to transform one’s negative emotions into something productive. “I learned hard work from my father, the Croatian side of the family…hard work is what has pulled me through a lot of my life, and especially the downers that I have had,” Neda said. She recalled a time when a close friend’s father died; as a coping mechanism, Neda went home and washed all the walls in her house. “I revert to doing something really hard when I’m down and when I’m not feeling myself, I put everything into doing something hard you know?” she continued.

At the age of fourteen, she converted to the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints, a conversion that came about during a time when her mother was ill with Tuberculosis. Her mother had been reading the Book of Mormon in the hospital, and when she had been released, she sought the missionaries to teach and baptize her. “I used to sit outside the window and listen and a month after Mum joined the church I told her I wanted to join too. And she said, ‘Well, you don’t know anything,’ and I said, ‘Yes, Mum I do, I know that’s where I’m meant to be.’”

Neda married at the age of eighteen, but five children and seventeen years later, she and her husband parted ways. “Things just happened and it didn’t work out,” she explained briefly. After some time, and after another ended relationship, Neda felt alienated from life and the people around her. “I had gone out of the church at that stage I was less active and things and I just was confused and didn’t know where my life was going and I did not feel myself, I didn’t feel like I belonged anywhere or that I belonged with anybody,” she said. During this time, she met her current husband. After marrying him, she recognized that she continued to feel a great void in her life, and decided that perhaps it was time to go back to church.

After her return to church and eight years of marriage, her husband sunk into a deep state of depression. “I didn’t know much about his past and then I learnt it all, that he had some horrific things happen to him when he was young from the time he was about fifteen years old. He was involved with drugs, I knew he had been involved with drugs but there were other things that I didn’t know about and then there were things happening within his own family around about the time that he had his breakdown, he just couldn’t handle it anymore and he was suffering from very deep depression and anxiety.” Despite, her husband’s situation, Neda did not give up on him. “[My husband] is a challenge, he was challenging and he still is a challenge, but Heavenly Father has given him to me to make me grow and to help me grow in directions I hadn’t been  before.”

During the hard times of her relationship, she has retreated to doing what she had always done — channel her energy into work. “There have been times when it has been really, really tough. I have never let my husband see me cry, I go out the back, and I’ll thump something when I’m angry or cry and then I’ll get down on my knees and I’ll plead to Heavenly Father to forgive me for the things that I have done wrong, and to forgive me for losing my temper and to forgive me for being weak sometimes because I normally try to be strong. But my strength comes in being creative and working.” Neda has also had to face people who often question her loyalty to him. “Other people that I knew would say, ‘Why do you stick with him? You deserve better,’ and things like this. I don’t know whether people just don’t understand or whether people don’t see what you see in somebody. When you love somebody and when Heavenly Father has put you together, then you are there together to work things out and to work things through. My strength comes from my Heavenly Father to keep myself going.”

When asked to share some of the things she has done to cope with her husband’s current state, she said, “I bought him a camera!” On his worst days, he often does not want to get out of bed, but now that he has come to enjoy working with his camera, Neda often takes him out to put it to good use. “On his really tough days and hard days, we wouldn’t go out to work because we do landscaping and have our own thing. So sometimes it’s really hard, so I’d say, ‘Right, come on, you’re not going to just lie on that bed and sleep all day, come on, we’ll go to the beach, or we’ll go to the park and you can go and just do your thing with your camera.’ That has helped him tremendously especially over the last three years.” Neda went on to share her feelings on breaking strong habits, “I think sometimes, things can become a habit with people and even though they may not be able to explain how they feel, sometimes it is a habit and if you can break that habit and get them out of it, then that helps. But I’ve been through a lot of things with him on my own because I just felt that sometimes when I’ve turned to other people and everything they’ve been contradictory. I haven’t really really had a true friend except one lady who still is a true friend to me and I can go to her with anything and everything and she really helps me and a part from that, depending on the Lord for most things and for the help that I need, especially when I get down because I try to stay strong.”

Neda’s husband has been battling depression for years, but introducing him to the camera has allowed her husband to find an outlet. With his new found love for photography, Neda’s husband spends more time with his photography. “He’s upgraded to a bigger [camera] and bigger lens and he’s been doing some fantastic stuff and he bought himself a laptop and he does, he fixes all his photos up and everything on the laptop and I think he would eventually like to go in to photography and do a bit more,” she said. She went on to explain how she came about with the decision to buy him a camera. “I just went to Heavenly Father one night and I was just so tensed up and upset about things not going right for him, not for me but for him. And I needed help I needed him to tell me what I needed to do to help him. At that stage the medication was helping him and he was up and down like that.  Just like a yoyo and all sorts of things and so I needed something to distract him, I felt well that’s the word that came to me, distract. And well, that’s when I bought the camera.”

Brooks Atkinson, author of Once around the Sun said, “The virtue of the camera is not the power it has to transform the photographer into an artist, but the impulse it gives him to keep on looking.” Neda’s ability to find solace in productivity to counteract her negative feelings, has enabled her to direct her husband in a similar path. Photography has allowed him to keep on looking to see the beauty in his life, even on his bad days. It has also inspired Neda to keep on looking – finding strength and hope in God through her trials.

As Elder Jeffrey R. Holland of the Quorum of the twelve Apostles of the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter Day Saints so eloquently put, “Trust in God. Hold on in His love. Know that one day the dawn will break brightly and all shadows of mortality will flee. Though we may feel we are “like a broken vessel,” as the Psalmist says, we must remember, that vessel is in the hands of the divine potter. Broken minds can be healed just the way broken bones and broken hearts are healed. While God is at work making those repairs, the rest of us can help by being merciful, nonjudgmental, and kind.”

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One thought on “Finding A Way Through Depression

  1. Truly not only this story is touching and uplifting, but it’s very educational in many ways for my journey in mortality. I’m in awe Neda for such great goodness and courage in your heart. Thank you for sharing your beautiful and heroic story. Your forgiving and loving heart makes you even more beautiful and angelic and happier. Keep it up and all the best!

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