When Life Doesn’t Go As Planned: EVERYONE

Since this quarantine has started, I don’t think life has gone according to plan for just about anyone. It seems it has affected us all in one way or another. I liked this thought I saw about all of us being in the same storm, but each of us being in different boats. I wanted to share some perspectives from different boats.

Emma, “My name is Emma and I live in Riverton, Utah. I have six kids: 19, 16, 14, 11,8, 2. My oldest was attending BYU in her first year. My next four kid’s schools are 1-3 blocks from our house. Their teachers made it super easy to do school at home. They haven’t overloaded my kids either (only about 1-2 hours/day of school)… they’ve left plenty of downtime. We have had our moments of arguments, but miraculously they have been very few. Seriously, I was expecting a lot of arguing, but it has been a nice surprise to see the bonding we’ve experienced. One thing I decided, in the beginning, was to make a conscious choice to give up a lot my normal routine, put aside some projects I had on my schedule, and just be with my kids. I still got up early for prayer, scriptures, and pondering though…I have found that is critical for me to fill my cup first before my kids get up.

I do have to admit, I was kind of excited that my kids would be home all the time. I might be in the EXTREME minority, but I’ve hit that stage in motherhood when your little chicks are growing up and starting to leave the nest or are too busy working and hanging out. Also, when you have multiple kids, all with different interests, even if you limit them to 1-2 extracurricular activities, life is a lot of running around with schedules that don’t allow for a lot of time where we’re all home together. So, for the most part, I’ve loved quarantine life.

Four blessings that I’ve noticed in my family during this quarantine time:
1) our family is bonding better now than at any other time.
2) a lower level of anxiety in two of my kids-they have been much more at peace when they’ve been able to be home and have me by them as they do school.
3) Increased time to be creative, read my giant pile of books, and have more talks with my kids
4) Sundays. Each Sunday we have been able to have church at home. We have been able to partake of the sacrament, sing hymns, and have some of the BEST Come Follow Me lessons we’ve ever had. I will treasure these moments with my family.

If Quarantine hasn’t been so great in your home, I hope that peace and hope will come to you as you keep trying, keep moving forward, and taking it one moment at a time.”

 

Kendra, “I first have to say that I almost feel guilty in admitting that our lives have not been dramatically affected by Covid-19 and the orders to stay home because I know it has flipped some people’s worlds upside down.

I am a wife and mom to three kids. My husband goes to work at 6:30 in the morning and gets home around 8:30 after the kids have usually gone to bed. I have been so grateful that he is still working during this time and feel truly blessed to still have our normal income. There are people being laid off and our hope is that seniority will prevent that. Because I do know that would be a trial amongst many others.

Our oldest is in first grade, our middle child in kindergarten and the youngest in preschool. So having them home with me all hours of the day is very familiar. We have very organized teachers to help the schooling at home run smoothly. We start our schooling in the mornings after breakfast and finish up within a couple hours and have the rest of the day to play, luckily outside. A hard part is watching other kids play with their friends and telling their little hearts why we are choosing not to okay with friends, but know that this time will pass.

We miss our weekly adventures to parks and libraries and even just a quick run to the grocery store. But we want to keep our workers as safe as possible. So we are willing to sacrifice in small areas of our lives to help others. Because we know this isn’t forever.”

 

Taylor, “Life in quarantine for me has not been easy. I was in Utah, and once returning to Canada I had to quarantine myself for 14 days. The first week was hard, which is honestly an understatement. I don’t like large groups, but I am a person who needs human interactions. I need hugs, and one on one conversations. Struggling with multiple mental illnesses, especially Borderline Personality Disorder, and having to isolate myself, has triggered my fear of abandonment greatly. I’ve felt alone and distant from everyone I love, which has left me to feel like everyone is leaving me, even though they aren’t. I’ve felt trapped, and it’s been really scary for me. I fell into a very dark depression, accompanied by severe panic attacks daily. Also, this was my first Easter I’ve spent without my family, my family lives 12 hours away, I always go home for Easter, but this year I couldn’t because of the virus. That was really hard. It’s all been really hard.

It’s been almost a month since I’ve been home in Canada, in self-quarantine. I wish I could say that I’m used this time to better myself and get my priorities straight and such, but I can’t. I have truly just been in survival mode. But in the last week, the depression has lifted, and the panic attacks aren’t so bad. That first week of quarantine I truly didn’t think I would make it. I was in the darkest place I have been, in years, if not ever. I felt suffocated every moment of every day. But now I’m starting to breathe again, my chest doesn’t feel so heavy anymore. The sun truly does rise. Maybe not the next morning, but eventually, it will. That’s what I’ve learned this last month. God is still good. I have felt comforted during this time. It’s been so hard, but I know that these experiences will refine me, which I am forever grateful for.”

 

David, “During this pandemic I’ve felt set apart from the rest of my community. Job loss, sudden illness, transitioning to school and work from home, these are affecting many people very personally, but not me—or at least not as directly. I’m a single man, working an essential job, and I’ve been going to school online for years.

My painful transition in this pandemic is social distancing. I understand why we’re doing it, but it has left me feeling isolated and disinterested. I don’t want to see any more memes on social media, I don’t care how celebrities or families are getting creative with their “corona-cation,” I’m just ready to have a game night with some friends or have dinner with my parents. I’m ready to feel connected again.

Despite these difficulties, the pandemic has also left me with time to self-reflect and accept some parts of myself that I want to change. I’m starting to realize how many things I took for granted.

I’m not calling for an opening of the economy or to reduce social distancing, I just want you all to know that even a simple smile or personal message could do more good than sharing another post about your opinion.”

 

Cori, “How has my life changed because of this COVID-19 pandemic and being in Quarantine? Let’s just say it has DRASTICALLY changed.

I have OCD and tend to focus on the negative so firstly, let’s start with the positive. I have been able to connect with others I haven’t in a long time. I am in a book club with some friends from work and we connect through Zoom. I am also taking different fitness classes online since I am unable to attend the gym. It’s been great taking classes with people I went to high school with. Also, I have been reading more than ever (started the BOM again!) and supporting my local food trucks, other businesses, and have loved to see the connection of the small city of Kaysville come together.

Alright… but what is REALLY ON MY MIND! I haven’t been to work in 4 WEEKS!!! This is the longest I have gone in 4 years without leaving the state/country. I am a flight attendant, so I am out of work. NEVER in a million years would I have thought I would be someone who would file for unemployment, but here I am unable to go back to work until August 1, 2021, and it might be even longer. I work for Delta Air Lines, and they have cut their flights by 80%. They are losing money by the minute. So… that is a constant worry. There are so many things I could talk about how my life is different in just these last 5 weeks, but the main one besides work is I miss my grandpa! I usually see my grandpa 3-4 times a week, and I didn’t see him for 5 weeks straight. It was the darkest feeling I’ve ever felt. I CAN’T WAIT FOR THIS TO BE OVER!!!”

 

Andrew, “At first, I didn’t think this whole thing has affected me very much. I’m still able to go to work and do the things that I need to do. I see things going around on the internet about introverts and extroverts and how this really isn’t affecting the introverts as much. I laugh because that’s how I feel. I’m the type that stays home, in my room, doing my own thing.

But then I look at the family that I haven’t seen since this started. Yes, I have still seen some of them and will continue to do so. If they need my help, I will do what I can to help them. But there are some that I haven’t seen. There are family parties that haven’t happened. There has been more extreme caution with some. And there are some that are scared. Not necessarily scared for themselves, but scared for their family and friends that might be a little more susceptible to getting sick. My heart aches for my family and friends that all of this has taken a toll on, physically and mentally.

I’ve been blessed. I guess I’m the one that’s more relaxed. Not relaxed about how serious this is or could be. But relaxed as in, either way, we still move forward. Maybe it’s because of how I was raised, that the difficulties you face, you just keep going. But it’s also because of my faith. I know there’s more than just this life. Yes, want to keep ourselves, our families, our friends, everyone safe. But we do all that we can to help others, and then we have to just leave it at that. It’s in His hands.”

 

As for me, I have gone from extreme anxiety to peace all within an hour. This is the most anxiety I have had in the past 6 months. I have started having chest pains again. My Vitamin D levels have also been low, which has affected my breathing again so needless to say that really freaked me out but I am making sure I get outside to soak up some sun. Most days have been hard, but I am so grateful for the days that have been good. I have been praying constantly through this and am always trying to give myself pep talks to just live in the present moment and worry about things as they come.

My family has been getting along just great. My oldest is in preschool and her wonderful teacher has been dropping off school packets every two weeks for us to continue to do. She misses her classmates but hasn’t seemed to be phased too much. She just keeps saying, “When the virus is gone can we _____?” My husband is doing all of his schoolwork from home, which wasn’t too different than before. We have only been going to the grocery store every two weeks and occasionally have gotten curbside takeout or food delivered.

I am happy to stay in my home where I believe it is safe and protected. When life does go back to “normal” I don’t know that I will be ready and willing to jump right back into things right away. I am just keeping my eyes on the Prophet and waiting to receive more guidance from him and our Heavenly Father.

When Life Doesn’t Go As Planned: Stephanie

Stephanie and I “met” through Instagram and have become friends through messaging each other back and forth. She is amazing and I respect her so much. I finally asked her if she would share her story (I don’t know why it took me so long), and I am so glad I did. It is a story that has gone on for her entire life and hasn’t ended yet.
Stephanie is a wife, mother of two boys, and 3 guardian angels. She is passionate about sharing her struggle with depression and anxiety in hopes of being a light in someone else’s life and to be a voice to end the mental health stigma. Cheerwine soda and peanut M&Ms are the way to her heart.

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I remember being 6-years-old standing at the top of our driveway, in the dark, yelling at my mom to not get in the car and leave. She had been drinking and ran out of beer and was going to get more. Huge tears fell down my face and I recall screaming at God, “This cannot be how my life is going to be forever!” My first encounter with the Holy Ghost happened (I had no idea what this was at the time), “You are going to change the course of your family forever!”

As years went on and my soul took the blame for my mom’s drinking, I began to have no love for myself. I felt that if I could only make my mom love me more then she would stop drinking and our life would be better. I didn’t understand then that she was just doing the best she could in her current situation and she ha no ill will towards me or my brother.

During this time of my life, my Nana was my saving grace and my best friend. She would often rescue us from the really bad days of mom’s drinking. She loved us, took us to church, and also spoiled us big time!

My parents divorced when I was 12-years-old, leaving a new kind of hurt – that of a broken home and uncertainty about life, love, and faith.

The April before I turned 16-years-old, my nana passed away. I was beyond mad at God! How could he take away the only person in my life that had loved me unconditionally, cared for me, and was the anchor to the rocky ship my life had been sailing on?! I hit rock bottom.

Once I turned 16, I dropped out of school, got a job, and started finding ways that I could numb out the sadness, confusion, and grief that I dealt with daily. I turned to what I knew, drinking and smoking. When that wasn’t enough, for a brief time (thankfully) I tried cocaine as well as throwing myself to any man that would show me the slightest attention.

This is when I had my second encounter with the Holy Ghost (once again not knowing that at the time), I literally saw two paths. The first was the path I was on and that if I continued on this path I would surely die at an early age, and the second path would still be difficult but I would be on course to change my family’s life forever.

So I decided to go with the second path. I got my GED, decided I wanted to be a dental assistant and started taking the classed needed to get my certificate. Things were going in the right direction. I met my first husband at this pivotal time in my life and I clung to him. He was older, had a good job, and was stable, something I hadn’t had consistently in my life.

We got married after dating for five years and two years later had my first son. Life was great! However, I didn’t understand that all the trauma that I had suppressed from my childhood would come up out of nowhere like a raging storm! I started having panic attacks (which took me several more years to realize), began to be very depressed and anxious. I decided I needed help and was then diagnosed with depression and anxiety. This was brutal to my marriage and being a new mom. I often wondered if this would ever end and several times prayed that God would just take me. The struggle of not knowing what kind of fight I was going to have to face in my own mind each day sucked the life out of me.

I began working out because the medication for me was worse than being depressed and anxious. The side effects were horrible and I didn’t feel like I was getting any better. A bi-product of working out and eating better was my self-confidence began to grow and I found myself not making good choices again, this time in the form of infidelity. After a year of this, my husband and I got divorced. I’m not sure how many “rock bottoms” one person can experience in a lifetime but this was another one for me.

So I moved in with my mom and stepdad. I’m 26-years-old, with a 2-year-old, and a huge amount of baggage following my every move. The fling that contributed to my divorce ended (imagine that) and I was single for the first time since I was 16-years-old.

Dating was no fun at all. I literally hated it, and came to the acceptance that it was just going to be me and my son for the rest of my life living at my parents and I was OK with that! I was still working out and dealing with my depression and anxiety as much as I could, mainly shoving it under the rug and putting on a good face that everything was OK.

I was in several direct sales businesses trying to make some extra money. The group I was with at this time often hung out at a hookah bar (flavored tobacco, google it). It was close to a college so there were lots of young people to talk to and become friends with who would want to make extra money and join my business. Well, one of those people was Kyle.

We met through a mutual friend at the hookah bar, and over time became super close. He was the one I would call after the horrible dates to confide in and ask for advice. He joined the business and we enjoyed each other’s friendship but that was as far as our relationship would go. He was 5 years younger than me and he had a girlfriend.

After a year of being friends and getting tired of our friends telling us we should date (after he and this girlfriend had broken up), he asked me out. During this time I learned that he was a less active member of The Church Of Jesus Christ Of Latter-Day Saints. I had no idea what that meant. He just kept telling me that I needed to meet with the missionaries if I wanted to learn more (whoever they were).

January 1, 2015, I met the missionaries on accident and they shared with me what they believed and asked if I would go to church that Sunday and I did. From the very first meeting, I knew what they were teaching me was true, I felt as if so many of my questions from my childhood were finally getting answered. I got baptized on February 14, 2014, and Kyle and I got married on July 4th. We had our youngest son in October of 2016 and things were going so so good. I had a totally new outlook on life.

February of 2018 I was able to become a stay at home mom, which had been a dream ever since my oldest son was born. And once again to my surprise my depression and anxiety reared their ugly heads! I once again got on medication and started reading books, listening to podcasts, and working out like crazy.

In October of 2018, while things were finally seeming to get back to normal, I got the strong prompting that we needed to add another member to the family. Against what I wanted I came off the medication and we started to try. It had taken 6 months to get pregnant with my other two so I figured we would have some time. God had different plans and 4 months later, on Valentine’s Day of 2019 I found out I was pregnant. I was so shocked that it happened so fast and I was very excited to be adding to our family. 3 days later I miscarried. I was beyond upset because I had truly felt like this was something we had been asked by God to do. I started questioning my faith and really wanted to go back to my old ways. I received a blessing and got clear answers that this was part of God’s plan, and yes even though it truly sucked, I would one day understand. So we went on with life (the best we could) and kept trying once I was cleared from the doctor. 4 months later (June 2019) I found out I was pregnant again, this time I was not excited at all. I was super anxious and feared the worst, which happened again 2 days later. This time I wasn’t mad at God, I was mad at myself. My body must be the issue. I hated my body and stopped working out. I started eating everything and anything chocolate. I couldn’t understand how this could happen again and I just knew it had to be something I was doing wrong. The doctors didn’t have any answers either and just told me to give it time and try again. So that’s exactly what we did and in September 2019 I was pregnant again!

I changed doctors and we found out one of my hormone levels was too low to keep a pregnancy so they supplemented me. I went in every 2-3 days and had my levels check to make sure the pregnancy was progressing and after 3 weeks everything was great, no concerns and they scheduled me for an ultrasound. This was a super stressful day and I was so worried about something going wrong. To my disbelief, I was able to see a strong heartbeat and everything looked great!!

They wanted to do a follow up ultrasound the following week to measure again and keep a close eye on me. My mom was able to go with me to this appointment and I was so excited for her to be able to see that this one was going to be ok. The tech kept asking me if I was sure that I was far along as I thought and some other questions that raised concern to me. Then what she said next, I can still hear today. She said, “I am so sorry but there isn’t a heartbeat.” My heart stopped and I screamed out loud to God, “How can you do this to me?! Why are you doing this?! No, this cannot be happening?!”

We were taken to another room to talk to my midwife and I called my husband to tell him and then immediately called a friend to have someone meet me when I got home to give me a blessing. I was given the option to just let my body do what it needed to naturally or schedule a procedure and they would remove the baby. I chose to have the procedure because this time I was 9 weeks along and they would be able to test and see what had caused the loss.

I was numb, physically, spiritually, and emotionally. I wanted to give up so much. I once again was praying every day that God would just take me away. I couldn’t handle the grief and all the emotions that I was dealing with. During this time, I showed up in my church calling, put on a happy face, and made it seem as though I was sailing along, doing just fine. On the inside, I was dying. I really wanted to leave The Church and go back to the things of my past to numb myself from all of this. We found out months later that the baby was a girl (we call her Faith) and that she had a rare chromosome disorder and that she would have either passed at some point further in the pregnancy or shortly after birth.

If it wasn’t for the women in my life that wrapped their arms around me, loved me when I didn’t feel I deserved to be loved, brought me Cheerwine and peanut M&Ms, called, texted, brought me food even when I didn’t want to eat, and most importantly let me borrow their faith I don’t know where I would be today. I call them my sister tribe. One of them kept inviting me to bible study and I wouldn’t show up. But then the day before the procedure, against all that I wanted to do, I went. I sat there, didn’t say much and listened even though I didn’t want to be there at all. One thing I heard that struck me to my core was that the more we struggle and suffer, the more we are becoming like our brother Jesus Christ.

This was the answer I needed, this was what I needed to know. That through all my struggles and suffering my whole life, I would never suffer as Christ did. That doesn’t mean that I’m going through these things in vain. My whole purpose in life is to become more like Him and this is how I am able to do that.

When I feel myself slipping back, I go for a run or have an impromptu dance party. I let someone in my sister tribe or my family know how I am feeling and ask for help. And I trust that God has the big picture and that I am only seeing a snapshot.

I don’t share all these very personal things with you for sympathy, I wouldn’t change a single thing that has happened. My hope in sharing my story is that you will be able to reflect on your own life and see all the ways God and Jesus Christ have truly shown up in your life. Especially the times when you felt they were the furthest away. Look for Them in those moments, because I promise you, just like Christ showed up to Peter when he was fishing, He will always show up for you!

I see you. In so many ways I am you!

When Life Doesn’t Go As Planned: Ajalon

Ajalon sent me an e-mail asking if she could share her story on my blog. I love it when people do this because it’s one reason I started this blog. I want there to be a place where people feel comfortable sharing their stories. I love Ajalon’s example of choosing to have faith despite her struggle with infertility.
Ajalon is a mother of three, army wife, avid traveler, and horrible crafter who loves God and this country. In a world of naysayers and negativity, she aims to edify, educate, and empower. You can read more of her work at Go & Do.

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Choosing Faith

Years after trying to start a family, I found myself at a crossroad. I had spent half a decade riding an emotional roller coaster with the occasional up, but mostly the gut-wrenching downs that only a woman struggling with infertility can truly understand. We had tried almost every medical procedure possible, countless prayers and tears were expended by us and others on our behalf, blessings and fasts were offered, I spent hours upon hours scouring the internet to research adoption agencies and certify us as foster parents not once, but twice, in two different states. We took the classes, completed the home visits and jumped through all the hoops but never saw a child because my husband’s job took us elsewhere before that could happen. We now were in a new state, and hope was on the horizon as we finished our foster certification – for a third time. I was just hired as a full-time teacher, and we were settled into our new home. But as usual, our plans came to a halt.

My husband got word that his unit would soon deploy for 12 months. Upon becoming licensed foster parents our hope was to take in a newborn. And as much as I longed for a baby and welcomed the challenge, I didn’t know the first thing about them; that was my husband’s expertise and I was depending on him for guidance. When I learned of the deployment the questions and what if’s came: what if he leaves before we are placed with a baby, do I still take one in? How can I take care of a newborn by myself when I know nothing – and I mean nothing – about them? Can I do this by myself while I’m working full-time? Should I wait until he gets home, even if that is a year away? What if we miss the opportunity to take in a child? Was it so stupid of me to even try this with our military lifestyle, what was I thinking!? My mind was in a constant state of anxiety, and the worries, oh the worries, swirled inside my head like a tornado, never ceasing. Each day more unanswered questions plagued me and I felt like my body could go into a panic attack at any moment.

The tornado persisted, then one day I read something that was a game changer for me. In his talk titled, “Faith—the Choice Is Yours” by Richard C. Edgley, a General Authority of the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-Day Saints, he said, “Choose faith over doubt, choose faith over fear, choose faith over the unknown and the unseen, and choose faith over pessimism.”

That struck something inside me. I knew faith was an action; you showed your faith by what you did, like praying to God, following His commandments, and serving His children. But never had I really looked at it as an intentional choice; a choice made in my mind and my heart, every day – every moment – in spite of the doubt, the fear, and the pessimism that paralyzed me.

I wrote this quote on a post-it and looked at it every day, over and over, until that is what I decided to do. I cannot explain the logic or science behind it, but as I chose to have faith in my Heavenly Father: His plan, His timing, His charge… the worries dispersed. I felt as if I had taken the tornado swirling around in my head – picked it up – and handed it to my Savior to let Him carry.

Jesus has invited us to take His yoke upon us, and that is what happened; in doing so I gave my burdens to Him. They didn’t go away; questions remained unanswered, plans unforeseen and we were still childless, but I was left feeling light, calm, optimistic and happy. It was glorious!

Every day that I made the choice, to choose faith, I felt the joy and peace that came from placing my burdens on Him. How grateful I am for a Savior who loves me enough to carry my pains, so I don’t have to.

When Life Doesn’t Go As Planned: Jenn

Jenn and I actually became friends because of our bonding over moving to Texas. She saw my post about moving and sent me a message. A couple weeks later we had a playdate and have been friends since. She told me about this experience the first time we met and I knew it had to be shared. Miracles are real and things happen as a blessing in disguise.
Jenn is originally from Denver, and her little family is from Boise. They currently live in Texas while her husband earns a PhD in Marriage and Family Therapy. She has a 7-year-old daughter, 4-year-old son, and 2-year-old daughter (the one her story is about). She works super part-time from home as a paralegal. She likes to read (ok mostly listen to audiobooks), workout at Orange Theory, drink diet Dr. Pepper, and she’s a decent cook, although she would like it a lot better if someone did the shopping and cleaning!

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Sometimes we make a plan and God sends us in a completely different direction.  It is often difficult to understand why life isn’t going according to our own plan, but in time, we can come see the beauty of His plan and not picture life any other way.  One of these instances brought my family one of our greatest blessings.

As we were exploring Greg’s academic options to further his career we learned of a program in North Carolina that felt like the right fit and began the application process as soon as we could.  Several things happened during this time to make us feel like this was the right direction for us to take. In fact, we were so certain that when I wondered aloud what we would do if Greg didn’t get in, he jokingly said we would have a baby!  We laughed and didn’t bring it up again. However, God must have been listening and did what He needed to do to get Charlotte to our family.  

Despite everything feeling like it would be smooth sailing to North Carolina, Greg ended up being denied admittance and asked to apply again the following year.  We were shocked! And I will admit I was pretty upset and angry. It was so difficult to understand why everything had seemed so right when it turned out it wasn’t.  I quickly recalled our conversation about having another baby and felt very nervous. At this time, Parker was only a year and a half old and he was beginning to enter “terrible two” territory so the thought of adding to our family so soon was intimidating.  However, we decided to go ahead and try to get pregnant during the time we were waiting for school applications to open up again.  

I soon became pregnant with Charlotte and was grateful to still be in Meridian, surrounded by good friends and an amazing doctor (Dr. Uranga) who had also delivered Adalynn and Parker.  At around 16 weeks a nurse practitioner ran some precautionary labs because of a rash I had. She said the condition she was checking for was rare and she was not concerned at this time, nor when the lab results came back.  However, after discussing the lab results with Dr. Uranga a couple of weeks later, she decided to run a repeat set of labs since the first were too close to abnormal for her comfort. These results came back outside of the normal range and I was sent to see a high-risk pregnancy specialist.  

The specialist diagnosed me with Intrahepatic Cholestasis of Pregnancy (ICP), a pregnancy induced liver condition which caused my body to have abnormally high levels of bile in my blood.  Outside of pregnancy these levels do not cause problems, but during pregnancy the excess bile could get to the placenta and harm the baby. I was a rare case of ICP for a few reasons: first because while my blood showed high levels of bile acid, I was not experiencing any of the physical symptoms (mainly severe itching) that come with ICP, and also because I developed it so early in my pregnancy, ICP typically does not arise until the end of the 3rd trimester, plus the fact that I didn’t have ICP with either of my previous 2 pregnancies.  Because of this, and the high risk of stillbirth if left unchecked, it was decided that the baby and I would be monitored very closely for the remainder of my pregnancy to keep an eye on my bile acid levels and monitor the baby for any signs of distress.  My blood was taken and sent to the lab at least once a week and I started with weekly, then twice weekly, then every other day appointments for non-stress tests and ultrasounds to monitor the baby’s growth and movement.  

As my pregnancy progressed Dr. Uranga needed to make a decision on when to deliver the baby.  The highest risk of stillbirth comes after 32 weeks of pregnancy, which is still too early for a baby to be born without complications from prematurity.  For weeks we walked a fine line between wanting our baby girl to have enough time to grow and develop as long as possible and needing to keep her from being poisoned by the bile in my blood.  We were truly blessed that although my bile acid levels remained elevated, they never spiked high enough to require emergency delivery and I never fully contracted the physical symptoms of ICP.  I was anticipating the uncontrollable itching to start and got anxious anytime I felt a bit itchy but surprisingly, it never came! We were also so blessed that Charlotte passed each and every NST and ultrasound with flying colors.  Her growth and movement was steady and normal. I trusted my doctor completely and knew she had both of our best interests in mind. Because of all of this I was able to make it to 37 weeks pregnant, the longest Dr. Uranga was willing to let me get because this was the point where the risk of premature delivery was smaller than the risk of stillbirth due to ICP.  

At this point in time Greg had applied to 2 PhD programs and was accepted for interviews at both.  There were a few stressful weeks when we worried she would need to come while he was out of town but in the end, our baby’s delivery date fell right in between these 2 interviews so he was able to be there for her birth without worrying about missing an opportunity for school admission.  

When my C-section was performed Dr. Uranga observed that my uterus had thinned so much it was nearly clear and she could see Charlotte’s feet through the uterine wall, like looking at her kick in a swimming pool.  She told us later that this put me at a significant risk of uterine rupture and she was almost certain this would have occurred had we waited to deliver Charlotte until 39 or 40 weeks like my other 2 children. Uterine rupture would have most likely been fatal to both me and my baby.  The ICP diagnosis and treatment protocol was a blessing in disguise that ultimately saved both my life and Charlotte’s life. I believe ICP was a way Heavenly Father could watch out for us to make sure Charlotte was delivered early enough to avoid catastrophic complications, without causing either of us too much additional pain or stress.  

Now, Charlotte is a beautiful 2 year old who is a joy to our family and beloved by so many.  She is brave and feisty and smart and sweet and we couldn’t imagine our family without her in it!  And Greg was accepted to both PhD programs he applied to and we ended up in Texas instead of North Carolina.  When I first received news of my ICP diagnosis I distinctly remember hearing the words “This is why” run through my head and I immediately knew this baby and this pregnancy were the reason Greg didn’t get into school when we thought he would.  Looking back I can see now that it would have been SO much harder to go through a complicated pregnancy without a doctor I loved and trusted completely. Had we moved to North Carolina as expected I would have been in a small town and I would not have had quick and easy access to the specialist and hospital I needed.    I will never forget Dr, Uranga’s care, instinct, and persistence in making sure we got the best possible care.  

I also know I would have had a much harder experience without support, help, and love from countless incredible friends.  My friends signed up for times to watch my children so I never had to take the other two to my many (and often lengthy) doctor appointments.  They brought dinners and treats that were so thoughtful and specifically for me because my diet had to be closely monitored to keep my bile acids low.  Many offered to be “on-call” at any time of day or night if I needed to go to the hospital for monitoring or delivery. I would have felt like such a burden to dump this onto strangers in a new town but these dear friends we so loving, giving, and supportive I never felt this way with them.  I truly could not have done it without each one of them and will forever be grateful for the love and service they showed my little family.  

None of this was what I had planned or even saw coming but I know this is one of those times when God’s plan for me was far better than my own, even when I couldn’t see it.   I have no doubt that Heavenly Father had his hand in this pregnancy in making sure that even though it was difficult and scary, it was not impossible and did not devastate my family.  When I feel alone or forgotten or like my problems are silly, I remember this experience to remind myself that I am His child, He loves me, I matter, and to trust in Him.

The Question

Since finishing An Impossible Life, I haven’t been able to stop thinking about a question, that has led to more questions, that came to mind while reading a specific part of Sonja’s story. Her sister Allyson gets diagnosed with terminal cancer and Sonja is there when her sister’s Doctor tells Allyson that, “this is going to be a nasty fight, but you can decide when you’re done.”

Why is it acceptable for physically ill patients to decide when they want to be done but not for mentally ill patients? Why can physically ill patients stop fighting but mentally ill patients are frowned upon if they stop? One is physical, one is mental, and I believe they both have some overlap but why is there such a difference?

I cannot stop thinking about this. And I believe that part of it is because of the stigma that still revolves around mental health. I know a lot of has to do with the fact that physical illness can literally kill and attacks your body. I get that. I get that physically ill patients can be dying. They are fighting for their lives, but so are some of the mentally ill.

Jane Clayson Johnson also talks about this in her book, Silent Souls Weeping. She tells a tale about two sisters – one struggled with mental illness to the point she has been hospitalized, and the other was diagnosed with stage-four cancer. For the sister with cancer, there has been nothing but love, support, donations, and thoughtful phone calls and messages. For the sister with depression, there hasn’t been anything close to that reaction. Instead, there is frustration, judgment, and harsh comments. The sister with depression wishes she could be in the shoes of the sister with cancer. Then she could die in an acceptable way, no one would judge her, and her kids and family would be taken care of.

How twisted is this?!

Why don’t we take meals to those working through seasonal affective disorder during the winter? We do when someone has their appendix or gall bladder removed. Why don’t we offer to help watch someone’s kids when their depression makes it hard to get out of bed? We do when someone has a broken arm or leg and can’t do as much. Why don’t we offer to hang out with someone whose anxiety makes them nervous to be alone? We hang out with friends and family all the time.

I have never made an attempt to take my life, but I have thought about it ending it. (Did you just judge me for admitting that?) And not because I feel that the world or my family and friends would be better off without me, no, because I just want to escape my mind. I want to escape the panic attacks that make me think I am going to die. I want to escape the depression that consumes me to the point that I can hardly bring myself to get out of bed at the beginning of each day and causes me to wonder what my purpose is. I want to escape the fear that I constantly live with. I just want relief.

I’m not downplaying physical illness and the nightmare that it is, I’m asking you not to downplay mental illness and the living Hell it is. They are BOTH illnesses, so why are the people that suffer from them not treated the same?

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From An Impossible Life

Feature Friday: Brooke

Brooke and I went to high school together. She was a little quieter (and now I know more of why from her story), but was always super nice and smiley. Her story is just another confirmation to me that we truly have no idea what could be going on under the surface.
Brooke was born and raised in beautiful Utah, USA. She loves skiing, working out, and thinks having fun every day is a must. She has schizoaffective disorder but is choosing to learn how to deal with it better all the time. She loves her family, friends, dog, and yes she even loves you! “Let’s be kind, be real, and be there for each other today.”

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I was very humbled when I got asked to share my story of battling mental illness. I know that there are so many stories out there and so many priorities in life you have going on. If you choose not to take the time to read my story, I am not offended. It is long, probably too long, seriously sorry about that. But if anything just know that YOU are LOVED, you are WORTH and DESERVE every bit of love there is. If you need HELP, please please reach out to a professional, friend, or me. We can and WILL get through this together. Please DON’T GIVE UP. Don’t let your battle win, we will WIN, together we can through HIM.

I am just a normal girl, born and raised in Utah. I was oh so very shy growing up. I was timid talking to adults, I had a couple of best friends, but never really valued myself. I worshiped and envied people’s confidence, looks, and personalities. I grew up in a strict upbringing, which actually made me enjoy the different easy-going, fun, relaxed home styles my friends grew up in. (I love my family with all my heart, not trying to say I am not grateful for them, I did, however, struggle with some things in mine. No family is perfect right?) I am telling you this backstory to let you know for me my mental illness started young, there were many factors that affect who I would become and how my mental illness would develop. I’ll spare you most of the details, and try to keep it short. Just know, I have been the girl that seemed like she had a lot going for her. In reality, I had a track scholarship but was so hard on myself for feeling like I didn’t fit in with the team, and did not keep up at practice. I got asked to and went to I think every dance in high school, would research conversation topics to talk about, but I had crippling anxiety I wouldn’t even talk to my date. I seemed to have a lot of friends, but didn’t actually have any close friends at times, got jealous of my friends being better friends with other friends, and ate lunch alone often. Attended almost every church meeting and event, but still didn’t understand that God’s love was a choice and should bring joy. Instead, I couldn’t let go that I was not as “perfect” as I thought I should be.

A fast summary through college, I was relieved to be away from my strict upbringing but started making choices I knew weren’t the way I was taught and have affected me to this day. Thank goodness for the Atonement. I sucked at track, never ran my potential, but learned life lessons that I am so grateful for. I pushed away my family, tried to find value in relationships that devalued who I really was and let my studies be my last priority. My life definitely WAS NOT all negative, I had a blast at dance parties, being with roommates, and fun random “adventures” (yes I am a typical white girl, proud of it. Where my Instagram husband at ;)) I developed self-confidence, felt pretty for the first time in my life, and discovered what it felt like to get noticed. I am just trying to let you know both sides of reality, what really happened and what influenced the person I have become.

I decided to serve an LDS mission, there were so many reasons I was not ready to go. I realize those reasons now, but then decided to move forward with faith, and leave without being healthy personally, emotionally, physically, etc. I absolutely had good desires to serve the Lord, and find out who He wanted me to be, and I had absolutely no idea what was going to happen. Long story short I came home early multiple times, ended up in a psych ward and eating disorder facility. I have to say, I am so grateful for these trials that lead me to the help and knowledge I have now. At the time, however, I was absolutely devastated. I was living in fear, not trusting anyone, not trusting God. I developed psychosis and my anxiety acted up like never before. I turned inward and didn’t realize other people were struggling worse than I. I was told I needed to be on medication but thought I didn’t need it. I got frustrated going to counselors, felt like I didn’t have anything to talk about, or thought it wasn’t helping. I tried for four years to live a normal life, in denial of my mental illness and feeling bitter for the way my life had gone. I was depressed, felt alone, turned my back on the Savior, and questioned the purpose of life.

There is a saying that sometimes when we have trials and hardships they can either turn us toward the Savior or make us bitter. I am so grateful that the last time I hit rock bottom I made the choice to turn to the Savior. In the last two months, I have been to the hospital with the desire to get better. I finally accepted and saw my mental illness as something real and I knew I needed help. I have been transparent and honest with my family, friends, and doctors, so that I can be trusted and trust that they can help me. I have started to make choices to keep covenants I have made with the Savior and to take care of my body, mind, and soul. For the first time in a long time, I feel HOPE. I have started to let myself care more about others than myself, and want to genuinely care. I am going back to school, I feel like I have a second chance. I am blessed, I have a loving family, friends, and support system. I have had a change of heart.

Others, sometimes aren’t as lucky. It completely breaks my heart to see so much hurt and pain on the news. Too many deaths, too much violence, too many misunderstandings, and way too many suicides. My heart goes out to the loved ones of victims, and to well everyone because I know everyone is dealing with pain one way or another. We need to help. We need to help each other, love like He did. You don’t know who needs a smile today, maybe someone with a disability, someone who doesn’t have friends, someone you are jealous of because they seem to have a better life or someone who is happier than you. You REALLY don’t know what anyone is going through. Okay, I’ll get off my darn soapbox, and just hope that this helps someone in some way. I am seriously sorry for oversharing my story, sorry to those I have hurt because of my choices and not understanding my illness. But I hope this helps in some way, and whether we ever actually meet or talk, just know that I love you. More importantly, the Savior loves you. However you are, broken and beautiful, please DON’T GIVE UP. We need YOU to STAY. Have HOPE, you are not alone my friend. We are going to make it, let’s reach out and help each other today.

When Life Doesn’t Go As Planned: Stacy

Stacy posted in the SALT Gathering group on Facebook about her struggle with infertility so I sent her some of the previous stories that have been shared on this blog to hopefully help her. (Thank you to those of you who have shared, it truly helps people more than you’ll ever know!) She told me she has felt similar feelings and agreed to sharing her own story.
Stacy stays at home with her 4 year old. She loves Target. She loves decorating her home and she loves being with her people! She enjoys watching super dramatic shows and anything murder mystery but also loves the classics like “The Office”!

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I married Cory in October 2014 I’ve always knew I wanted to be a mom more than anything and was hoping we’d have a baby pretty quick – well we did! We were pregnant by December and we had our daughter, Payton, at the end of August!

Being a mom is everything I ever expected and more! I really did always know I’d love being a mom but I didn’t know it was this good! It’s for sure a challenge and sometimes it is insane and hard but it’s worth all of it! I am not very close in age to my siblings and I knew I wanted my kids to be close, so we started trying right at a year after we had Payton to have another one. I wasn’t the least bit stressed because we had no problems getting Payton here! Well it was in August 2016 when we started trying and by December I was a little discouraged, but I knew that it can take a year and others had way harder and longer waits. But by the following August nothing.

I went to the Doctor and he put me on Chlomid, which did nothing. I did a few rounds then I went to a fertility specialist, Dr. Petersen, who is the most amazing guy ever! I thought for sure we’d have no issues, that it’d be something easy and we’d be pregnant by the end of the year. Nope! We did Chlomid as well as Femara, with an injection and nothing. So we redid the whole cycle and same thing thing. This time we had to do an IUI and nothing happened with that either.  I was getting miserable on the Chlomid. I was way uptight, hot flashes, and insane mood swings. I was also gaining weight and was just miserable! Dr. Petersen calls this the “divorce” drug and I totally can see why! We tried a few cycles with Femera and nothing either.

At this point it’d been almost two years since we started trying and I was discouraged. I had to take a break for my sanity and my emotions and marriage and to be a good mom to Payton. When I went back to Dr. Petersen he said we could do injections that were more aggressive so we did. They are so expensive and at this point we had already paid so much, but I felt so confident in it so I went with it and nothing!

I was done. I felt so much anger and hurt at the whole situation. We haven’t done any sort of fertility treatments since then. A week after my negative test my sister-in-law announced she was pregnant, adding to other sister-in-laws who were already pregnant. It’s a very weird feeling… I would never wish them this pain but I’m bitter. I’ve had to keep my distance at times.

I find myself questioning everything. Are we not good parents? Why is God withholding this righteous desire from me? I feel isolated because I know there are others who don’t have one and my heart hurts for them. I have a great husband, an amazing daughter, and so why should I be complaining? I feel guilty even being sad. My heart hurts.

We decided we were going to another round of fertility treatments and I’m nervous but I can’t stop. My faith is so low right now and that makes me more nervous but this pain inside me isn’t going away and I want to try on my end and trust the Lord that the pain will get a little less every day or we will get pregnant. I know it’s in His timing but I’m struggling with that!

When Life Doesn’t Go As Planned: Norma

If you don’t know Norma, then I promise you want to. She became a very dear friend when I moved into her ward two years ago. She has blessed my life in countless ways and I love and admire her so much! I am grateful for the example she is of turning hard things, like going through a divorce, into a way that can bless others.
Norma lives in Utah. She is remarried and is learning the ropes of blending a family. She has taken her experiences and now helps other women find their light through online classes and coaching programs. She is host of SPARK, the Light Within Podcast. She is also a speaker, writer, and educator. You can follow her on Instagram @normazaugg or @sparkpodcast, on facebook @sparkpodcasts, or for classes or coaching visit her website.

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I was in a fog and having a hard time comprehending what was happening to me. I woke up morning after morning hoping that it was all just a bad dream. I was in so much pain, actually it was beyond pain, It was agony. Crying myself to sleep hadn’t eased the pain, it just left me with eyelids that felt like sandpaper and emptiness that I couldn’t fit. That is felt like no one could fix. I was angry at my husband and angry at God. I had been a good person my entire life, how could he allow this to happen.

Sit-ups then more sit-ups
roll over
push ups
do more… keep going!

My little boys sat on the carpet beside me. Three boys ages 8, 6, and 2 with their big eyes and curious minds watching their mommy struggle through the exertion. I couldn’t hide the pain from them, it had become a part of me in such an intense way.

Norma get up. Keep moving!

I was afraid that if I stayed still too long the anxious energy that held my body captive, and the uncomfortable pain coursing through my veins would take over. I worried that if I stopped for even a moment I would become pixelated, and little pieces of me would float away and I would be lost forever.

My body was exhausted from all the tears that had been shed and the restless nights that were filled with terrifying dreams. I would be lying if I said that part of me just didn’t want to give in to the moment and explode into nothingness. I had experienced anxiety before, but never to this extent and honestly, I didn’t know if my heart could take it. It seemed as if my blood had thickened and my poor heart had to work extra hard to push it through my body.

Some days I wanted to give in just like this day, but all I had to do was look into the eyes of my three little boys and know that was not an option.

My arms were shaking from the exertion of the push ups, I fell onto my rough carpet and lay there for only a moment before I recognized I needed something more. I knew myself well enough to know that I needed some time alone to eliminate these overwhelming emotions. The last thing I wanted was for any of this nasty energy to pour into my children. I called a friend and asked her if she could take my little boys for a while. She agreed and I took them over to play so that I could go and calm the battle that was raging inside of me.

That day I went to the park and I ran and ran and ran and prayed. I begged for some relief from the intensity of the moment.

I wish that this was the only day like this, but as time marched forward I experienced many more that tried my heart and soul. I didn’t like the feelings and quickly learned that running and temple attendance were the only things that I could do to calm the storm inside of me. I created a regular routine that included both as I moved forward through my divorce proceedings. The following months were anything but easy. I had to learn how to be a single mom except for the few days a month that my soon to be ex-husband took the boys. I had to learn new things that my husband had done like care for my vehicles and take care of the lawn. Thank heavens for an amazing father, brother in law, and other men in my church that came to help when the work was beyond my skill set. I had to learn to be by myself after 18 years of marriage.

More than anything I just wanted life to become easy, I wanted it to go back to normal and I didn’t want to feel this way anymore. If you asked me at the time I would have wondered if I could make it. I had doubts every single day and worried that my broken heart wouldn’t be able to handle it.

Time moved forward like it always does and God provided hope and relief that was greater than the anguish. It was not easy, but it was possible. I look back on those dark days now and recognize that they helped to form me into something different. Something better than I was before. I promise that if you move forward through times like these believing in God with full purpose and giving him all that you have, you too will find hope and peace and light.

Sending Buckets of Love,
Norma

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Feature Friday: Linn

Linn is in my parent’s ward and I got to take a tour of her beautiful, tidy, and organized home a few months ago to get some inspiration for my own. Her story is one of familiarity and I am sure there are many who can relate to it. I am grateful for her willingness to share.
Linn’s favorite things are the gospel of Jesus Christher family and organization. She is also obsessed with being a picture taker, reader, laugher, memory maker and chapstick user. All of that said, her IG bio sums it up best: Wife to my favorite person ever, momma to my other six favorite humans. What a beautiful life I get to live, what a mighty Savior I get to serve.

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The first time I remember experiencing depression was when I was 18 years old. I definitely couldn’t have named it at the time, but as they say, hindsight is 20/20. Those few weeks after my high school graduation, after pushing myself beyond my limits for months and months, I felt completely numb and oddly “off” for many weeks. My current 42-year-old self can easily look back and see that it was a precursor of things to come, but it certainly wasn’t obvious then. I have now officially been in treatment for depression for the last six years. I’m extraordinarily grateful for each facet of that treatment. But there is little question to me that I should have been earnestly seeking help longer than I have been.

I believe the depression I know today began when our little family lived back East. Our time on the East Coast was an extremely difficult five years for me. And that was very unexpected. We had moved multiple times and lived in several different cities throughout the US, beginning just shortly after our marriage. But for some reason, my outgoing nature just couldn’t break through in Boston. We had wonderful members of our church congregation that we adored (and still do), but the boundaries of that congregation were huge and our time with them was very limited. I tried for three years to somehow find a friend or two in our town that I could feel close to, someone beyond just an acquaintance I talked to on occasion. I was told more than once, “I’m sorry you’ll never fit it. It isn’t your fault you aren’t a townie.” (Townie refers to someone who was born, raised, and still resided in the same New England town.) I honestly don’t believe the people who told me this were being rude, it was just how it was and they thought I should know. I couldn’t really fix that little problem of mine, so I kept trying. Until I didn’t.

I remember telling my husband after three years of doing everything I could to make a true connection with those around me, “My situation hasn’t changed, but I have.” And I had to let it go. Not out of bitterness or resentment, but just out of a final realization that my extroverted and outgoing personality wasn’t going to win this one.

In addition, and I’m still not sure of the reason behind this, but our time back East just felt hard. Everyday tasks felt like they took a lot out of me, something I hadn’t experienced in the past or since our most recent move. And anything out of the ordinary felt just plain daunting. Obviously those feelings can be signs of depression, but in all honesty, I don’t know how much was because of my emotional health and how much of that struggle might have been causing my depression. I know not everyone who lives in New England feels this way, but I actually have talked to several who do. It is curious to me, if nothing else.

The last two years of our time in Boston were fine; nothing about them was particularly terrible. But I could sense that I had changed in ways that were actually worrisome to me. I could feel my naturally, extroverted self, closing in. A lot of the time, “introvert” better described me during those days. Now let me be clear, I am in no way implying that introverts are depressed, just the drastic change in personality for me was what was notable and cause for concern.

At the same time all of this was happening, I had some terribly difficult struggles with some extended family members that brought me to my knees. Over and over and over again. It was just a lot, for many years, and it definitely contributed to my concerning emotional health.

As did my physical health. I often joke with my husband that I think I received a “refurbished” body when I came to Earth. I have the strangest health issues at times, from high risk pregnancies to an unusual brain disorder (idiopathic intracranial hypertension for those looking for a tongue-twister) to PCOS to bizarre joint and bone problems. I cannot count the number of times a doctor has said to me, “I have never seen anything like this Mrs. Allen.” Nice. And while I usually try to joke about it, physical struggles can most definitely contribute to depression challenges. And those health issues were oddly abundant while we lived on the East Coast.

One last experience in New England stood out to me. I had gone into my OB/GYN for an appointment and I ended up sharing with her how much I was struggling, how hard life felt for me all of the time of late. She told me she thought I should see my primary care, but she also ran a couple of tests herself. Through those tests, she discovered that my hormone levels were incredibly off and advised that I take a small bit of hormone, hoping that would help things. It did. Tremendously. At least for a time.

Shortly thereafter, I did visit my primary care physician. She listened and then suggested that I take an anti-depressant, to see if it would help. I remember being shocked and wondering why she was jumping to something so drastic. I laugh at that now, knowing that she was likely seeing it much more clearly than I was in that moment. (It is so interesting to me that when I think of others with depression or other mental health challenges getting help or taking medication, it feels brave to me. I’m so impressed with them. But when it came to me, it felt weak and lacking. I’m past that now, gratefully, but oh man, it was how my mind operated during that time.) Because the hormones my other doctor prescribed helped so much for a time, I felt almost justified in my reaction to my primary care doctor. I didn’t need anti-depressants, I just needed some help with my hormones. (Insert the emoji where I am shaking my head at myself. Also the prideful emoji that doesn’t exist to my knowledge, but should—at least for me.)

A few months after this experience, we received a strong impression that we needed to move. Through much prayer and fasting and my husband searching for jobs, we ended up with the answer that we should move back to Utah. Both my husband and I cried (and my husband is not a crier). We had lived “away” from our home state for more than a dozen years and while we both loved the state we were raised in, we never imagined moving back. We liked “being away” and it was difficult for that to end. It felt like a bigger change than we had initially thought we would be asked to make.

At the same time, I was expecting our sixth child. As mentioned, I have high risk pregnancies. Every single time. And my last one was especially difficult. It was physically taxing and worrisome, like the rest, but it seemed to take a more emotional toll on me than the other five, likely because of all that was happening in our lives and the large amount of change and challenges throughout my time being pregnant.

I remember about ten days or so after our daughter was born (she was four weeks early, but gratefully, very healthy), my husband approached me and kindly said, “Linn, do you want to call the doctor or should I?” He didn’t need to explain himself. Both of us knew I was in a dark and numb place, deeper in depression than I ever had been before that time. I didn’t even have the strength to make that call. But he did. And I will be forever grateful.

That call was the beginning of me fighting for my mental health and while I wish I could say that initial reason for calling the doctor has remained my worst time, it hasn’t. Not by a long shot. But I have had doctors that I will forever praise their name for going to bat for me and helping me make decisions to help myself. I have an incredible therapist that I have been seeing for years and how I was led to her can only be described as “divine intervention.” And after a few different tries, I have a wonderful medication that I take that has been such a blessing and help to me. It doesn’t change who I am, it clears away the junk, so I can be who I truly am. I have children who know that I have depression and that let me be open with them about it (age appropriately, of course). We talk about it plenty and we joke about it a lot (they are careful to never cross the line in their humor, but it is seriously beyond hilarious, I love it so). And while it may not be right for everyone, it is so right for us for the stigma and secrecy of mental illness not to be present in our family. And mostly, I have a husband who has been through more than anyone else realizes and still keeps coming back and loving and serving and trying and accepting and caring. He is amazing and good and I am eternally grateful for him and how he chooses to love me and how he works to see such good in me, even when I am in a place where I don’t believe him.

Most especially, I have a Father in Heaven and my Savior, Jesus Christ, who love me and have never left my side. When my depression is at its worst, I can’t feel the Spirit. I can’t feel my Father’s love or my Savior’s hope. And that used to shake me and make me feel unworthy and make it hard to pray or read my scriptures or even to care… But more often than not now, it just makes me look forward to when the depression will clear and the ability to feel the Spirit will return. My prayers and my doing everything possible to have the Spirit close to me, especially when I can’t feel it, not only make the post-depression episodes so much better, but they make my actual periods of depression much less. I know how blessed I am to have my depression as manageable as it is. And all of that is due to the above paragraph and to God’s incredible kindness and the Atonement of Jesus Christ. It isn’t easy, and there have been many dark, dark times that bring tears to my eyes when I think about them. But I know to Whom I can go for strength and help and healing (no matter how temporary) and mostly, to feel even a sliver of light, in a very dark place.

As I told someone recently, I don’t actually believe my life here in mortality is meant to be free of depression. Who knows? Maybe I am wrong about that. But to be honest, I don’t know if I want to be completely free from my depression. I have had opportunities to help others that I never would have had I not personally dealt with mental illness myself. I have made the choice to be very open about having depression and seeking treatment and seeing a counselor, a choice that works for me. And I have been surprised when that comes back to be a blessing to others. I have gone through situations that have rocked me to my core (most especially in the past three years, the last year being an absolute doozy). But because depression is a part of my life, I am learning to make the effort to take care of myself and help to heal myself from those difficult events and experiences in a way that I don’t know that I would without this struggle.

Depression is real. It is a part of my story. But it isn’t my story. And I have my Savior, Jesus Christ and my God to thank for that. They have surrounded me with my sweet kids that care when I struggle and that laugh when it is most needed. They have given me a husband that is the most hopeful and incredible person I know, even when he has every reason not to be. They have allowed me to struggle with depression, knowing that it had the ability to bring me to Them in a way that nothing else could, if I would make that choice.

If there is anything I have learned over the last six years–and beyond–it is that God loves His children. Every single one of us. Including me. Imperfect, crazy, loud, fabulous, depressed, happy, bodily-challenged, joyful me. And there is nothing that my God wants more for me than to run to Him. In joy and happiness, in pain and agony, in numbness and confusion. He will take all of it, if I will just come.

I’m truly grateful for the experience of writing my story. Of course, there are ten million other significant details I haven’t shared. (You’re welcome.) But good or bad, hard or easy, light or dark, it’s all worth it. It is what my Heavenly Father intended for my life. I’m sincerely grateful for every hard, painful, heartbreaking moment that depression has brought me. I’ll take every bit of it. And bring it to God. Because that is where it belongs. Mostly, that is where I belong. He has never left my side. That I know.

When Life Doesn’t Go As Planned: Lexi

Lexi and I are part of a networking group on FB, so when she asked people to share her story I was happy to since that’s part of what I’m all about here. I am proud of her for being so brave in sharing something so personal.
Lexi is 27 years old and has way too many passions for her own good! Between working in healthcare, photography and her blog she stays very busy. She wears her heart on her sleeve and loves to inspire others! Some of her hobbies include cooking, jamming out to music, being social, going boating, and being adventurous!

lexi

Lately, I’ve been somewhat quiet on social media and there’s a reason for that. Life has been a little bit crazy and I’ve been having to make a lot of big decisions and I just didn’t have time or energy to put into social media. One of those big decisions is time sensitive, which was what lead me to finally doing this blog post.

Please bear with me throughout this post, it is not something that is easy for me to write, talk, or ask about. I’ve rewritten this post probably 100+ times over the last year. And here I am again, shaking as I am writing, but this time I have to muster up the strength to hit publish. I’m asking that if you aren’t willing to be understanding or take the time to try to see my perspective that you please keep your comments or assumptions to yourselves. I am going to lay it all out there and be the most vulnerable and transparent that I have ever been.

As some of you may know, I was diagnosed with endometriosis a little over a year ago, I was diagnosed after having surgery. You can read more about that here.

Post surgery I’ve had to make a lot of big decisions and it has been super stressful but I am beyond grateful for the diagnosis that I have now as opposed to not knowing for years from now.

Here’s what has happened since surgery, I hadn’t even fully woken up yet when my OB was telling me that I need to get pregnant sooner than later and that I had no choice but to start on medication ASAP. This was devastating for me to hear, how am I supposed to make that happen when I’m not married yet? I hadn’t even had two seconds to process the fact that I do have endometriosis and this is why I had been getting so many burst ovarian cysts. While I felt a lot of relief that I finally had an answer to my cysts and occasional pain, I immediately started worrying. It was explained to me that the medication I should be on was one that would put me into menopause, at only 26 years old. It would require 6 months of injection and once you’re done with the injections the medication can stay in your body for up to a year as time goes on and it gets out of your system you will begin to ovulate normally again. This did not sit well with me, so I got a second opinion from multiple OB’s and a fertility specialist because knowing my luck my body wouldn’t react well and it didn’t make sense for me to mess up my hormones when they are currently perfect and suitable for a viable pregnancy. I wanted to research all of my options, and avoid the whole ‘temporary menopause’ thing if at all possible. The second and third OB’s advised me in order to protect my fertility that I need to be on some sort of medication, whether that be Lupron or birth control, and that I should look further into freezing my eggs, just in case, because at this point I was 6 weeks post-op and had been having immense pain – worse pain than I had before my surgery. The surgery had removed most of the endometrial cells, but it exacerbated my pain.

I then met with the fertility specialist and I will never forget the feeling I had sitting in the waiting room. I felt incredibly guilty and selfish for being there, my eyes welled with tears as I looked around. Here I was, as far as I know, able to conceive and get pregnant on my own, waiting to meet with a specialist to talk about potentially messing up my hormones and my options for ‘what if I can’t get pregnant naturally’ when I haven’t even been in a situation to try. All I could think about were the other people sitting in the waiting room alongside me who were struggling to start a family of their own and how I felt so selfish for being there when I have a high chance of being able to conceive on my own as long as I manage my diagnosis. The thing that kept going through my head was, “You are so selfish for being here, you aren’t in these peoples’ situation, why are you here?”

But guess what? After speaking with the fertility specialist, I was gently reminded about how smart I was for seeking out her opinion and how proactive I am being for my future family. Especially with such a strong family history of severe endometriosis. Reality is that I don’t know what the future holds for me and being pregnant, I’ve never been in a situation where I have tried to become pregnant. As of right now each of my doctors believes I should be able to conceive on my own but are strongly advising that I begin other precautions as well. I do know that by choosing to manage my diagnosis, staying on birth control and freezing my eggs before the age of 28 (aka-the other precautions) I will have the reassurance that my mom, aunt, and grandmother didn’t have and I am being proactive about giving myself the best chance possible at having a family.

Currently, I am established with a fertility specialist and the first thing we spoke about were the serious issues that could occur if I am unable to get on top of my pain. I am unable to laugh, sneeze, move certain ways, breathe deeply, etc. without being in pain on my left side. Sometimes even walking will cause my ovaries to flare up on a bad day. The pain feels like someone is stabbing a knife into my body and twisting it repeatedly which in turn causes nausea a lot of the time. I am not the type to take pain pills every day, in fact, I only take them if the pain is bad enough to land me in the ER. As much as I try not to let it affect my life, it has. I’ve been living with it for a little over a year now praying that it will get better and more manageable as time goes on, but so far I haven’t had much luck. We discussed that at some point my left ovary may need to be removed. This does not mean I cannot get pregnant, it simply means my eggs are cut in half and it may be more difficult. I hope it doesn’t come to this, but if it does, it is yet another reason for me to take precautions and freeze my eggs.

The second thing we did was come up with a regimen of the medication that would put me into menopause that was pill-based, so if I reacted poorly to it at any point I could stop taking it. I was on this regimen for 9 weeks and had so many awful side effects that my dr. and I decided that for now, I am better off being on birth control and preparing to freeze my eggs.

Since making this decision I have felt immense pressure, physically, emotionally and financially. Enduring and learning how to live with this pain that used to only happen on occasion for me has been a major adjustment. The entire process has been so emotionally taxing and it’s only the beginning. I feel so much guilt about the fact that I am having to make these decisions by myself, especially because the decisions I make now are going to impact a man I’m not yet married to. Vulnerable because it’s not something I necessarily want to open up to people about, especially because I am still single and dating. I really hope that people won’t jump to conclusions or make assumptions about my situation. Also feeling vulnerable because this is the most important decision that I am making in my life and this decision will lead to the most important thing to me: creating a family. Guilt because I have friends who have struggled with infertility, whose hormones aren’t normal when mine are. Lately, I’ve been having panic and anxiety attacks anytime someone announces a pregnancy or has a baby because it’s a reminder about how I am on a time limit to freeze my eggs. Confused because although I love my friends and am SO happy for them, I still get sad. And I don’t feel justified in how I am feeling.

After I met with the finance advisor at my specialist’s office I was under a completely new type of pressure. The process of freezing your eggs is not cheap even with some things being covered by health insurance. I walked out of the office with a bowling ball in my throat and cried crocodile tears in my car for hours. Having a family means more to me than anything, and I know that I will make it happen, but after that meeting I was so overwhelmed. How am I supposed to come up with $14,000 when I’m only making enough to pay my bills and save a little here and there? Financially I have been under so much pressure to save large sums of money without the means to do it. Not able to qualify for grants or scholarships because I’m not in a ‘couple’ or I don’t have a ‘100% diagnosis of infertility’. In order to freeze my eggs within the timeframe suggested by my doctors, I need to come up with $14,000 in 12 months. I’m not in a spot financially that allows me to save a lot, I do what I can but I also have bills to pay. Racking my brain I constantly felt like it would never happen, I felt so defeated and anxious but knew that I would do whatever I could to figure it out.

Then one day I hosted a brunch with girlfriends and my friend Emily came up with the idea as I was telling her about my situation. She said, “Why not do a GoFundMe?” I told her I had thought about it but I didn’t feel right just taking people’s money. And then she said this, “Well you do photography! Offer people a service and have them pay the account instead of paying you directly.” I felt better about this but still wasn’t sure if it was something I wanted to do, especially because it meant I would have to open up about what I’ve been dealing with over the past year and a half.

But as you can see, here I am, telling all of you my story, opening up about the fact that I am hoping to begin the process of freezing my eggs before I reach the age of 28 which will be June 2020. As soon as I raise the money, I will be beginning the process. I am absolutely terrified of all of this. Of opening up, of asking for help, of going through the process of actually freezing my eggs. As terrifying as this all may be, I know in my soul it will be worth it. I will do whatever I need to do in order to have a family someday even if it means taking these precautions now and opening up to the internet. I’m not sure what all of the answers are, but I do know I am choosing a route that will be best for me in the long run and I am attempting to do it all while staying positive and vulnerable.

I want to officially announce that I have set up a bank account created for the sole purpose of paying to freeze my eggs. This bank account is also directly attached to a Venmo account if you prefer to donate/pay that way as opposed to making a direct deposit. All proceeds from photography sessions I do that involve anything regarding family will be placed or paid to this bank account.

These sessions can take place now, or you can donate and have your session take place at a later date (for example, you aren’t pregnant but you’d like to donate and receive a future maternity session, or you haven’t had your baby yet but would like to donate and receive a newborn session once the baby is born). I want my clients to know that they are contributing to a cause much bigger than my passion for photography, I want to give back to those that donate. You are helping me to be proactive about having a family of my own someday. To those that choose to donate without doing a session and those that are doing a session, there are no words I could say to thank you enough. Please do not hesitate to reach out to me with any questions you might have!

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To see the type of sessions Lexi is offering and the price, along with how to pay/donate you can go here and scroll to the bottom.