Jenna was (I say was because she has no graduated) a Laurel in my ward (I serve as the second counselor in YW’s), and she is as beautiful on the inside as she is the outside. She has a kind tenderness about her and she truly radiates light and love. I have enjoyed getting to know her and am so grateful for her bravery in sharing her struggles at a younger age.
Jenna is eighteen years old and graduated high school at the beginning of June. Life is crazy and busy for her right now because she has been at Davis Technical College doing cosmetology! She loves it so much and she feels so fortunate to work with amazing and new people every day. Right now she has a BIG goal and that is to spread mental health awareness, to make anxiety and depression and other disorders talked about more. “The only way things can get better is to talk about it and to show people that mental illness is nothing to be ashamed of. That’s why I love what Ally has done with her blog and I’ve actually started my own! Mine is all about my story and mental health, follow along if you’d like here and follow my Instagram @jennalyn.franks.”
It’s really hard to pinpoint a moment when you realize you’re depressed. For me at least. It definitely didn’t happen suddenly or right in front of my eyes. It happened, slowly, over time and in a way I didn’t even know what I was feeling.
Summer of 2015, the summer leading up to my sophomore year is when it started. Depression often has triggers, and me already having anxiety for as long as I can remember, it was easy for there to be a trigger. I was about to take a huge step forward in my life, I was going to be in high school now! Exciting right?! Well… not for me. As I was saying goodbye to my junior high friends and as summer was coming to an end I found myself feeling down. Sophomore year started and my anxiety was the highest it had ever been, I felt no peace and I constantly felt sick. A lot of people are so excited to start at a new school because they can “re-invent” themselves. And I guess I sorta did, but not for the better. I lost myself. Being around all of these pretty girls, with faces caked full of makeup, and then finally getting social media and seeing society’s expectations of pretty, I did not feel like I could ever compare. My self-image plummeted, and with that formed a new, shy Jenna because I didn’t have the confidence not to be. I just got stuck; I got stuck in my head, I got stuck in my dark room, I got stuck in the same repetitive days of high school while feeling anxious and never confident in who I was.
Months went on like this. I would sit in my room and listen to depressing music, only to come out for meals or school. I pushed my only two friends away, and I was alone. Or at least felt like it. I had started to hate doing the things that I loved, like playing guitar, or singing, being outside and I even started hating going to church. Not because I didn’t like church, I just didn’t like socializing IN church. I also think a part of me was a little mad at God for the way my life was. Until one day I was sitting in my church sacrament meeting, and I had such bad anxiety about going to Sunday school that I just broke down and sobbed during the closing song. I remember the embarrassment I felt and I remember thinking, “Oh no, the jig is up. Now people will know how I feel and I can’t hide from them.” I don’t know why, but depression makes you feel like you have to hide like you should be ashamed. I remember my mom taking me outside and I literally just told her everything because there wasn’t anything else I could do, and because I had wanted someone to tell all along I just didn’t know how. I told her how I felt, and the thoughts I had been having. But after I told her, I felt bad, because I felt like now it was not only my burden but hers.
But the thing is, and I wish I knew this then, the longer you wait to get help and tell someone, the harder and darker it gets. Depression takes over your mind and you see the world and life in an entirely different way. If my judgment wasn’t clouded, I would’ve known that my mom wouldn’t see it as a burden because she loves me and wants to help me. Long story short, I got on some Prozac and got into therapy with an amazing counselor who literally saved my life and changed the way I think and cope. Never be too ashamed to go to therapy or take medicine, it helped me so much.
During this whole process of getting help, I realized that I had completely pushed God away. I started to understand that not only was I depressed but I didn’t have the spirit with me anymore, and that made things more awful than they had to be. I started to see that although my circumstances sucked, they could be made better with Christ. I turned to him. I started pouring out my soul in prayer and having conversations with God, real conversations. Christ truly became my best friend, and even if I didn’t feel like I had any friends in high school, I knew I had Him.
The hardest part of my life so far was also the most growing experience and brought me to humble myself and truly come unto Christ. What I went through sucked, but I wouldn’t trade it for the world! Not only have I been able to be more in tune with the spirit but I’ve been able to be a vessel for God’s light to help people going through similar things that I went through. I am so thankful for the empathy I have for them and my awareness towards mental illness. Because I never would’ve understood. Being close to God helped me see my worth, forming me into a (mostly) confident teenage girl for the remaining years of high school. Junior year I really did get to re-invent myself, for the better this time. I was so different that so many people asked if I was new… I basically was.
My favorite scripture that got me through everything is Ether 12:27, my Dad said it once during a father’s blessing and ever since then it has helped me and I know for a fact it was God giving it to me because He knew that I would need it. A while later, I definitely did. It reads: “And if men come unto me I will show unto them their weakness. I give unto men weakness that they may be humble, and my grace is sufficient for all men that humble themselves before me; for if they humble themselves before me, and have faith in me, then will I make weak things become strong unto them.” God’s grace extends to everyone, and I’ve felt it more times than I can count. All you have to do is let Him in. Having God by my side with my depression made things ten times easier than when I pushed Him away. Don’t push Him away. I can assure you, He is waiting with His arms wide open for the day when you turn to face Him and accept His love and beautiful gift.