Feature Friday: Anna

Anna and I went to high school together so I saw her post on Facebook from her own blog. I am so grateful for all those people who are brave enough to share their stories on their own and then let me share them on my blog too. Keep reading for Anna’s story.

Life Happens in the Pauses.

I’ve been staring at a blank screen for hours, trying to decide how to start this entry of my very private and vulnerable feelings regarding a recent experience I’ve gone through. I’ve struggled for weeks on whether this information and this part of my life needs to be shared with people. It’s deeply personal to me and it’s an experience that is extremely important to me.

The last seven months have been hard, scratch that, they’ve been unbearable. It’s hard to put into words just how broken and devastated I’ve truly been. The months have been filled with huge life changes that have left me with some big questions and such a noise filled mind. Its left me with some extremely dark thoughts and sad perspectives. I know that in these last few months my faith was truly put to the test. More than it ever has been. It’s hard to think you believe in something so much but when it is truly tested, do you really? For those who know me, I don’t do well with change, especially big changes. I was put to the test through so many changes at once, that I shut down. I became disconnected from my life and from who I am.

It started with small and simple thoughts, does this matter? Do I care about this? Am I happy? Does any of it matter? I found myself taking steps backward for weeks. I changed my mindset from my happy, optimistic self to someone who didn’t really care about anything anymore. It’s like everything had lost its meaning to me. I think the worst part about that was that I knew I was hurting more than I could handle, but I didn’t care. I let myself sink further and further away from this person I thought I always was. It’s like looking in the mirror and not even know who is on the other side. I was a stranger to myself.

I really struggled to get a grasp on my life and what I was going through. It’s like I couldn’t accept that I was in the place that I was in. That was my first mistake. Days would go by and I would feel myself drifting further and further away. I started to think; Am I important? Do I really make a difference? Would anyone notice if I was gone? Am I helping people in my life enough for it to make a real and definite difference? I began to convince myself that people would be fine without me in their life. They would find someone else who fulfilled my spot and that I didn’t matter too much anymore. I honestly was so wrapped up in my own mind and my own thoughts that I believed the lies I told myself. Looking back, I think the part that hurts me the most was that I knew I needed to tell someone, but I was so scared of judgment from anyone and someone being insensitive that instead I quietly suffered. I began to truly understand what it felt like to have no control over my emotions and my thoughts. My heart was aching to be understood and not be told what to do, or how to fix it. I just needed to know that what I was feeling wasn’t anything than that, it was what I was feeling.

There was a particular day in April where I allowed my emotions and my fear drive my mind. I ended up in a place where I was struggling to understand what the point was of going on. I hadn’t shared any of my thoughts or any of my experiences with my family, my roommates or my friends. I felt so alone and was so scared. I knew that my thoughts and my heart were experiencing two different emotions. I knew that what I was feeling was not sent from Heavenly Father and that it was the adversary. In those last few months leading up to April, I knew but didn’t care. It was easier to not care and not to deal with my emotions. That was the smart move, I thought. The adversary sadly, works in so many ways, in ways that are so incredibly personal and fragile to who we are. If we are not careful to discern the difference between the Savior and the adversary, we become trapped. Trapped in a false reality and living within all of your vulnerabilities and insecurities.

I heavily relied on the Savior that day. I had many beautiful, inspiring and perfect moments with Him that day. I didn’t have a lightning bolt answer. I didn’t have a gust of light or see any personages. I simply felt love in a moment that I needed more than ever. I never realized the power in our desires and His ability to truly heal and strengthen us, as His children. I sat weeping and knew that my prayers and my heart had been heard.

Words won’t ever be able to describe the love that I felt in that moment from my Heavenly Father and His son, my best friend, Jesus Christ. My heart and my soul were saved. I understood my importance and my role to play in this life. Most importantly, I knew Heavenly Father loved me, without a doubt. It is something I will never ever question again. I have never been one to doubt the Gospel or its teachings. I have believed and served faithfully in my callings. I always try to be kind to others and exemplify Christ. It was so out of character for me to feel the way I was feeling.

It seems so silly, like how could I not know that, right? I’ve always been with people that I love and felt surrounded growing up. But for some reason, I didn’t feel that, not because of them, because of me. I had convinced myself that everyone would be okay without me. I am so happy that I was wrong and that my thoughts were not truly mine. It was an internal struggle. I had allowed myself to feel horrible instead of fighting back.

I will never be able to describe fully how thankful I am for this day. I am even thankful for the saddest days, where I questioned myself that much. I have gained more compassion, more empathy, more kindness and more love for those in my life than I ever thought possible. I’ll never truly know why I had to suffer for those months. Why I had to feel so alone and feel that I was not cared for or loved by those who love me more deeply than I can comprehend.

I will forever be grateful to you, Brooke. You’ll never know how much you did that day. You were everything. Thank the heavens we decided to become best friends so long ago in eighth grade. I think God knew how much I would need you then and now. What an incredible person you are in my life. I love you.

There are so many things that I did wrong through this process. The first and foremost was not reaching out to my family or my closest friends when I needed it. I kept to myself and chose not to tell anyone for fear that they would act differently, treat me like a child, or simply not even try to understand. Because they hadn’t felt that, that it couldn’t possibly be real. Or that I was feeling that way because I wanted attention. There were a million thoughts that would run through my mind, making me feel more and more closed off from ever telling anyone. I know there were moments I would try to work up the courage, and then silently return to my room. I was scared that everyone would be against me, rather than with me. Instead of trusting in the good, I believed the worst would come out of my loved ones. The power of empathy and understanding has truly helped me to believe that the people in our lives are everything and I’ll admit I took some for granted.

The second, I didn’t admit to myself that I needed help until I was already suffering. I shouldn’t have waited so long to know for myself that something was wrong and that I was off. I am thankful to have a patient and understanding counselor who guided me and helped me. By the simplest of ways of just listening and validating that it was okay for me to feel how I was feeling. She always trusted in me that I would be safe, even when I didn’t. I have since had conversations with her and she has said that she knew all along I would find this and be happy. That I had to feel my emotions and not repress them. Which if you know me, I am pretty good at being emotional, so I never thought I would do that.

I’ve never struggled with any kind of mental illnesses in my life. Not like this, I’ve always just found different ways to cope with my sadness, stress, and experiences. Writing has always been a therapeutic way for me to release my emotions. I have known a lot of people in my life who have struggled and I’ve tried my best to be there for them and their struggles but never quite understood it. I am in no way saying that my seven months of depression compare to someone who has struggled all their life, but it helps me to have a greater insight and more empathy and compassion to others. For me, this was my experience. I know that not everyone has an experience that is like mine or even close to mine. I want to emphasize that this was my experience and a new chapter of my life that I hadn’t discovered. I in no way want to downplay depression or make light of any of this experience. I know that everyone will cope differently and this is just how I was able to cope and become happier with my life.

Looking back, I realize the Lord was always there as He always has been. I was making changes and decisions that would be my foundation and my strength in the months following. At the moment, I needed it the most, my foundation upheld me and strengthened me. My foundation is the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-Day Saints.  I began working as an ordinance worker in March. I started the Book of Mormon over in January and it’s like reading it for the first time. I began doing service for others in my life because I couldn’t sit in silence anymore. I started reading Preach My Gospel, so that if an opportunity ever came I would be ready to teach someone else. I have read over ten books on how to better myself. I was scared to be farther away from my Savior. I could feel myself drifting and clung to what I knew. I didn’t realize how much I already knew about the Gospel until it really mattered.

I can now say that without a doubt, The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-Day Saints and its teachings are what truly save me every day. Heavenly Father has sent so many tools and angels along the way. I see them so clearly now. I have over a million reasons to be happy. I can’t believe that I ever questioned it. I can’t believe that I allowed my heart and my soul to be swayed in thoughts from the adversary. Thoughts that would harm me. I can’t believe that I even went through this experience. It’s hard to put into words because I know it’s the farthest thing from who I truly am. But I am so grateful for it. Because it taught me the meaning of life, and most importantly my life.

I sit and think if I had chosen to be impulsive and not waited and listened for my answer, what I would have missed. It’s the first steps and first words of my nieces and nephew. It’s the long talks and long hugs with my mom and the unconditional everything that she provides. The sweet and kind temperament of my sister. The jokes and loving conversations with my brother in law. The patience that Abby teaches me as she goes through her life and Shania Twain dance parties. The real and hilarious moments with the girls and Nate. The advice and love from Alison and Eric. It’s the late-night conversations and laughs with Chantelle and her ability to be my best friend still through it all, the Face-Time conversations with Brooke and Sabra and my nieces from them. The four to five-hour phone conversations with Tan and the love that she radiates. The moments of watching Ashley’s family grow by number each year and her guidance throughout my life. Singing Celine Dion with Bay until our lungs hurt and all the heart to hearts we have. The late-night dance parties in my house with my beautiful roommates. The lessons and experiences that everyone in my ward has taught me. The friends that I made when my world fell apart. It’s my life and I can’t believe for one second that I thought it would be okay to miss it.

I reflect on this experience often since it has happened and feel incredibly sad for this girl. Even reading and writing this has been so painful. I have kept so much inside for too long. Knowing that my heart has changed immensely and I am so far from this girl I am writing about just gives me strength and courage to love myself. It’s okay for me to love myself, even when I was that girl. Like, I can accept all parts of who I am, even when I never suspected I would go through this. It’s not okay or healthy to feel the way that I felt and I knew that throughout my entire process.

I’ve spent a lot of time in my living room staring at a picture of the temple and wondering if I will ever reach my goals and if my life will truly mean something. Waiting for the perfect job, my list of hobbies to grow, my heart to love someone completely, etc. I’ve felt like my life has been on pause mode. As if I am sitting here pressing play but the disc is stuck. I thought that my life was going nowhere and that these past few months have been the worst of my life. That may be true but they have also been the best. I didn’t realize that my life happened in the pauses. My heart was rediscovered in the best way. I am a better person because of the pauses, who knew?

I have learned more in these past seven months about myself than I ever thought I could. I have sat at home a lot and pondered my meaning and the meaning of life. Where we fit, where we don’t. My mind has been given the ability to be clear and think concisely. I understand God’s plan for each and every one us. My testimony is more than a testimony. It is knowledge, undoubtedly that this Gospel is true. I’ve said it before but not like this. It’s like this time, I mean it wholeheartedly and I thought I did before. My heart and my spirit are routed within this Gospel. I love the Lord more than I ever thought I could. I love my Savior more than I thought humanly possible. I trust in Him and His teachings. I love the temple and know that we can be healed and strengthened by attending regularly. People are what make this Church good. I am thankful to have met the best and to have them in my life continually. Kindness and charity have played a huge role in my understanding of how Christ yearns for us to love one another. I know that my family will be together forever. I know that the Book of Mormon is true and that it healed my heart and my soul. I have no doubt that I am here for a reason and that it is great.

In sharing this experience, I think this is the scariest thing I have ever done. I want the message from this post to be “There are a million reasons to be happy and live your life, trust in the Lord and His teachings and your plan.” That is the biggest lesson that I learned, one that I thought I had already learned. It’s interesting how we are constantly refined throughout our lives. Progression, it’s the most beautiful gift that we are given. I know that this post is very invasive of my life and my heart. I hope it is treated with kindness and understanding. I know that it may seem like I am not doing well from this post, but the truth is, I’ve found my happiness. I understand now that it truly was never one thing or one person. It was me all along. I always had the power to be whatever I wanted to be. I hope that someone out there who is struggling and feeling alone knows that they are so deeply loved by our Heavenly Father and His Son. I believe that we go through experiences to teach and help one another. I think that this experience taught me everything about my life that is important. I want someone else to feel that. I felt so strongly that it needed to be shared. Even if it’s just one person, it’s enough. I mean it when I say, the Gospel saved me on April 12. There is so much more to be had in my life, I know that. I love the Lord, I love my family and I love this Gospel, with every single fiber of my being. It is my foundation and my salvation. I have come to know the Savior and trust in Him. This is real, I know it. This is my full and most raw testimony. I know with all my heart, He lives and He heals. Amen.

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