Feature Friday: Joan

Joan and I have known each other since elementary school and played with each other in those years. Later, during high school, we worked at Cherry Hill together. She has always been a fun person to be around. When I came home from my mission I remember she sent me a message saying she was there if I needed to talk because she had come home early too. Back then I wasn’t really ready to talk about it, but I was so grateful she was thinking of me and cared enough to let me know.
One thing I love about Joan’s story is that she knew herself well enough to demand what was necessary to feel better. I don’t think enough of us do that. It’s ok to put yourself first sometimes and do what you need to take care of yourself!
Joan was born and raised in Kaysville, UT attended BYU Idaho where she got her degree in Public Relations. She uses her degree to fulfill the best and worst career she could possibly think of, motherhood. She is married to Tyler Brough and has two little spitfire girls. Life seems to be going by so fast Joan tries very hard to never blink as not to miss a thing. Keep on reading for her story.

From a young age, I knew I never wanted to serve a mission. I was the one in Young Women’s who never raised their hand when asked who wanted to go on a mission. I knew what I wanted, and it was to get married. In college, I still held firm to the idea of never wanting to serve a mission. It’s not that I didn’t believe in the Gospel, or love God I just didn’t want to leave my family for 18 months.

After many failed attempts at serious dating, and two years into my degree, in the month of November 2011, I got an overwhelming feeling that I needed to go on a mission and all I could think was “oh no, no, no, no….I don’t want to.” I battled with God, but as usual, God knows better than I do, in all things. I started my papers that weekend and had them submitted by Christmas of that year.

In January 2012 I received my call, with family gathered around I opened my call and was devastated that I was called to Minneapolis, Minnesota. I pulled up my big girl pants and I packed my bags for the Provo, MTC the end of March 2012. From the very beginning I felt off, I remember I would write a family email and then write a “mom” email where I would tell my mom things didn’t feel right, but I pushed on.

I entered the mission field and in my entrance interview with my mission president the only words I seemed to remember “I hope you brought good running shoes because you’ll be hitting the ground running in this area. It’s our busiest area in the mission.” That first transfer I killed off my trainer (she completed her mission and went home after six weeks) so I wasn’t fully trained and right after her, I got a companion who was, in my mission presidents words “a hard sister who needs love.” It was not what I was expecting.

I became so overworked and stressed my body started shutting down. I was becoming depressed and I wanted to go home. After several meetings with my mission president, I would leave his office feeling more overwhelmed as his response was essentially “no you can’t go home, you need to batten down the hatch and forget yourself.” I tried that, but anyone who has experienced depression will know that it can make you numb to almost everything. During very spiritual lessons I would feel nothing. The desire to be out and see people whom I absolutely loved was gone. After months of going back and forth and my depression became worse I knew that the next transfer I was going to tell President C. I was going home. The Sunday before transfers I got a call from President C., who called me to be a trainer. I was heartbroken and felt completely trapped.

Being called as a trainer could not have been more of a Godsend. All my companions before my trainee had some form of anxiety or depression. My trainee was ready to work and so happy to be out in the field. I finally felt that this was God saying, “I have found someone who can handle this area and the people you so dearly love and have worked for these past few months.”

Two weeks into the transfer I broke mission rules and called my Dad. I needed to talk to a man who was by no means emotional and very calming in these situations. I was struggling with the idea of coming home early. I was so embarrassed and afraid of what people would think. I felt that if I came home early God would surely punish me and not bless me with a husband. (Irrational fears.) I called my dad and poured my heart out to him, his response was directly from my Father in Heaven. He said “Joan, I could never be disappointed in you, so no matter what you choose I will always love you…..” after a small pause he said, “and Joan, God will always love you too, and He will always be there to bless you.”

That day I called the President and I said, “You’re sending me home on the next flight.” I went home that next Wednesday. My exit interview with my mission president made me feel small and like I was breaking covenants and that God was not pleased with my efforts. Thankfully when I was released from my mission, my Stake President told me “Sister Johnson, when people ask you if you’ve served you tell them you served a full mission. Time does not matter, all that matters is you went and served.”

The next Sunday I got asked all the stupid questions, “Why are you home early?”…. “Wait a minute, you’re not supposed to be home, are you?” I felt the only way to respond was to be honest. So my response was always “Yes, I’m home, I have been diagnosed with stress-induced depression.” I even announced it over the pulpit, because even though it’s no one’s business, I felt people are too curious for their own good and this would maybe help them be a little more kind/cautious when asking questions to others who come home early.

Fast forward five years and who knew that coming home after only five months in the mission field I would meet my eternal companion in the sealing room of the wedding of my two high school friends. Only God knows what’s going to happen, and if I put all my trust in him, everything will work out. Even when the path flips, and curves in very uncomfortable ways the Gospel is always straight, God is always constant. We must always trust he knows better than us.

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