How My Mental Illness Has Changed My Outlook On Life

October 3, 2012, was a Wednesday just like today. How do I know that? Because it was the last day I would be known as “Hermana Harris.”

The age change was announced the weekend I came home from my mission. I was shocked like everyone else, and that shock eventually turned into anger and fueled more of my bitterness of returning home earlier than anticipated.

“Are you kidding me?! You made me wait until I was 21, put me through Hell, and then the weekend I get home you announce that 19-year-old Girls can go?!”

It was a cruel irony to me. And now as I see these young girls get called and leave I struggle to be excited for them. I think negative thoughts like, “I hope your mission doesn’t ruin you like it ruined me. I was excited and wanted to serve all my life and look where it got me.” Etc. I feel like I’ve been ruined and I find myself envious of these young women who prepare and return with that missionary fire. (I feel like my flames were put out with 3 different fire hoses.)

But that’s not the only way I feel like my outlook has changed.

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I used to hear things like, “You choose to be happy,” or, “Serving others will help you forget about yourself,” or, “You create the life you want,” and agree completely.

Not anymore. I was so naive.

Now I listen to conversations, speeches, and sit in church meetings wanting to contest those types of statements. I get that there is good intention behind them, but that’s not sufficient anymore. Because I know that happiness is not always a choice. I know that serving others isn’t going to just take away pain and suffering. I know that you can’t always creat the life you want.

And my mental illness already makes me feel guilty for not having enough faith, I don’t need someone to add to it. Because I KNOW that doing the small and simple things will bless my life, but I still struggle.  I do believe in praying, reading your scriptures, going to church, etc. because all those things strengthen our testimonies and bless our lives, but when they’re used for the cure-all that’s when it bothers me.

Christ is the cure-all. The Atonement is the cure-all.

So the next time you’re giving a talk, a speech, or commenting in a church class and you want to tell everyone that life is all rainbows and sunshine if they just have more faith or pray harder or read their scriptures longer or serve others more… think about the lost sheep. The one that Christ went after. He didn’t scold the sheep or tell the sheep that it wasn’t doing enough, He just went to it and brought it back. Go after that sheep and think about what your comment will do to them.

I know that might be asking a lot, but that is another way we can set ourselves apart from the world. We have the opportunity to go after those lost sheep just like our Savior, and we need to do that now more than ever.

You might be reading this thinking that I now have a super negative outlook on life. I’ll be the first to admit that yes, I kind of do. I have become a little more bitter and cynical because anxiety and depression are pits of darkness, and although I feel like my pit isn’t as big as it used to be I can’t erase the memories of that larger pit. But at the same time, I know the pits that I experienced have helped me become an advocate for others who are feeling the same way. I can, hopefully, help others climb out of their own pits. I may have been too scared to say things in the past, but not anymore.

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1 Comment

  1. You and I are on the same brain wave today! I agree, the atonement is the only way! The atonement of Jesus Christ is the only thing that may save and heal and mend and restore. Beautiful, honest thoughts. Thank you for sharing.

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