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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