When Life Doesn’t Go As Planned: Kennedy

My sister-in-law sent me Kennedy’s story. I got in touch with her and she was willing to let me share. She was in a tragic car accident and then came home from her mission after a few weeks. I am so amazed by her bravery and strength. I know she will bless lives because she went through these experiences. The following is from a blog post she wrote.
Photo by Ashleigh Brown Photography

Beautiful Heartbreaks 

August 10, 2017

John 16:33 “These things I have spoken unto you, that in me ye might have peace. In the world ye shall have tribulation: but be of good cheer; I have overcome the world.”

How amazing is that to think about? That it doesn’t matter what things are thrown in our way or what hardships we’re asked face, because of our Savior, Jesus Christ. That His atoning sacrifice really does overcome all things and because of that, we have nothing to fear. This scripture has been extremely close to my heart the past few months as I’ve experienced a few things that have tried and tested me. Life is hard and unfair and can beat you down, but as funny as it sounds, when these times come around, I feel like we not only feel the lowest lows, but we also have the ability to feel of the highest highs.

Back at the beginning of February on a super rainy night, three friends and I were leaving to go from our university to Vegas for a weekend trip. I decided to drive because none of my friends had access to a car. Before we even made it out of town, we were driving down a narrow, unlit street and we ended up getting into an auto-pedestrian accident. This old man, wearing a dark raincoat with the hood up, arms full of groceries was crossing the street without a crosswalk just as we happened to be driving on it. I remember so vividly the impact and seeing the body of the man I had just hit roll into the street, not even sure at the moment what had just happened. I remember pulling my glass filled the car to the side of the road and running out in the pouring rain to kneel by the man’s side screaming at him the words “please wake up” and “please be ok” over and over again. It was one of those things that you only expect to see in movies- to say the least, we were all scared and in a lot of shock.

During this time, we had many cars and people stop to make sure we were ok, including two people I like to now consider my earthly angels. While we were sitting in my car, soaked from the rain and waiting to get my information back from a policeman, a sweet lady walked over to us to make sure we were alright, and even though we assured her we were fine, a few minutes later she came back to our car and told us she wasn’t going to leave us and welcomed us into her and her husband’s truck. Them taking us in that night was such a tender mercy and we were all convinced that Heavenly Father had placed them in our path that night on purpose. It wasn’t until a few weeks later when the lady, who we now all consider a close friend, explained her experience that night. The words she used are waayyy better than I could ever try come up with, so I want to share what she said:

“We were headed down Center Street to go to dinner at Café Sabor. But then I told Jason to turn on the first east to go to Le Nonne, which normally I would never say because we weren’t dressed up and didn’t have reservations. When we got there it looked super busy so we just kept on driving along the first east and that’s how we happened upon the accident. We both felt strongly that we should stop even though it appeared that several others had stopped. After getting out and helping and seeing things were under control, I got back in the truck. That’s when I had the spirit tell me, ‘Don’t leave those girls!’ That’s when I came to your car and asked you to come to the truck with me.”

She continued explaining to us that she knows that they were led to us that night, and I have no doubt that she is right. Right after the accident had happened, my friends and I said a prayer asking not only for the man to be fine, but also to have comfort in the situation and I believe this couple was an answer to our prayer. I know without a doubt that Heavenly Father was looking over us that night and was fully aware of everything going on.

Later that night back at our apartment after receiving priesthood blessings, the detective showed up and let us know that even though there was nothing we could have done to prevent the accident because of the circumstances, that the man I hit had passed away in the ambulance on his way to the hospital. Of course, I felt shaken up and extremely heartbroken, but weirdly enough for the situation, I also felt calm and at peace. Once again, I felt that Heavenly Father was aware of me and was surrounding me with people to bear me up.

I remember the next day sitting alone in my room and I just started crying. I wasn’t crying because I was angry about what happened, or sad, or frustrated, but I was crying because I felt so overwhelmed with love.  At that moment sitting in my room, I literally felt the arms of my Savior wrapped around me. I felt like so many worldly things were being thrown at me, yet I couldn’t feel any of them.  It was when I felt lost in the world, that I was able to find myself in Christ. I’ve come to realize the importance and power of having a foundation of faith in the Savior. He was my continuous rock and anchor- because of my faith in Him, I couldn’t sink. Sometimes it’s hard for us to find the beauty in heartbreak when we’re experiencing hard things. We feel like everything’s going wrong and that we’re so alone. Sometimes we feel helplessness because we’re so caught up in everything happening that we aren’t able to see the Lord’s hand in the process. In my situation, it took me hitting a low and allow myself to see Him, and when I did, He was everywhere. I don’t even think I could ever count all of the tender mercies I recognized and received because of my faith in Him. The next few weeks I honestly did better than I ever imagined I could. I moved on with school, work, etc. and I was able to find happiness, but I know that none of that was because of me. Obviously, it was still hard, but Christ was without a doubt lifting me up. Without Him, I wouldn’t have had the strength to endure. Through this experience, the Atonement of Christ became so real to me. He was mending my broken heart and carrying me when I couldn’t walk.

So, fast forward to the beginning of this June when I entered the MTC to serve in the Ecuador Guayaquil West mission. I honestly don’t think I’ve ever looked forward to anything more in my life. I had the strongest desire to serve and I was sooo pumped to finally get out and become a missionary. The first few days were amazing and my optimism and excitement were at a high. It wasn’t until about 4 days in when I started getting strong promptings that I wasn’t supposed to be there. But, for those of you that know me, I’m a pretty stubborn girl, and I was dead set on serving a mission. Because of this, I kept putting off the promptings and every day it got worse and worse, eventually leading me to have extreme anxiety to the point where I couldn’t sit still or focus at all. I was so frustrated. I knew that I was doing one of the best things I could be doing. I knew that Heavenly Father had told me I needed to serve a mission. I knew that I wanted to serve a mission more than anything. But, regardless of all that, everything kept showing me I needed to go home.

Eventually, I started feeling worse and worse and then the anxiety I had from the crash started to kick back in. After talking to my Branch President, we decided I needed to visit the counselor. Each visit the counselor offered me the option of calling home to talk to my family and each time I declined it. Any time he brought up the idea of me maybe returning home with an honorary medical release to get help with my anxiety, I’d quickly shut it down. I didn’t want to give in and I kept fighting the urges to return home.

I had shared all of this with my companion (who by the way is the most amazing person EVER) and one day we were planning a lesson for our investigator and she pulled out a Mormon Message for us to share called “The Will of God”. If you haven’t seen it, I’d definitely recommend it, it’s SO GOOD. Anyway, after watching that video I knew that I needed to do what Heavenly Father wanted me to do. So, finally, I knelt down to pray and I told him that I was willing to accept whatever he had planned for me. I told him that it didn’t matter to me what other people would think about me if I returned home, but it did matter to me that He wouldn’t be disappointed in me for not serving a full mission or that He didn’t feel like I was giving up on him. During a visit to the temple on the next P-day, my prayer was answered and I knew Heavenly Father needed me to be elsewhere. Everything happened so fast and by the next afternoon, I was on my way back to Kaysville with my family.

Coming home was extremely hard, so much harder than I ever imagined. I know. Weird. You’d think that since I was only gone for a few weeks that it wouldn’t be THAT hard, but it was. I didn’t want to see anyone or do anything and even though I knew I made the right decision, I still felt guilty for being home.  My mission was all I could think about and I had reoccurring dreams every night about it for the first few weeks, each time waking up feeling so depressed. One morning I was on a walk with my mom and I told her about how I was feeling and she just started crying out of nowhere and said, “I wasn’t going to tell you this but now I feel like I should”. I guess to understand this part of the story I need to explain that sometimes before big things in life happen, my mom has premonitions of them, such as before my grandpa passed away or before she was diagnosed with cancer. Anyway, she continued to tell me that the week before I left she kept having thoughts and visions of her and my dad reading the letters that they wrote to me and stuck in my suitcase before I left for the MTC at my funeral. They were letters that contained their testimonies and encouragements of how we can do hard things and that Christ is always with us and will help us when we are struggling. She told me that for the entire week leading up to me leaving, she cried and cried, but she didn’t want to tell me, because she knew how excited I was to go and felt that if I wasn’t supposed to go, I would be feeling something too; and she didn’t want to tell my dad, because he’s a dad and was already freaking out about his only girl leaving. So, she kept the feelings to herself and it wasn’t until 3 days before I was supposed to report that I got changed from the Colombia MTC to the Provo MTC and the bad feelings she was having suddenly went away. Things were great until I got into the MTC and started to have those same sick feelings of being there that my mom was having the week before. About two weeks in, I got called to the travel office and they gave me flight plans to switch back to the Colombia MTC the next week and at that moment those feelings I was having doubled and I knew I wasn’t supposed to go.

So now, here I am. It’s crazy because I knew that I was supposed to serve a mission and after only a couple of weeks, I knew Heavenly Father was telling me I needed to be home. There are so many things I don’t know about- I don’t know why my mom had those premonitions and I don’t know why I felt so strongly that I needed to be home. Maybe He told me that I needed to serve a mission just so He knew that I’d be willing to, or maybe I learned everything that He wanted me to learn in that short time I was gone. Maybe something is going to happen at home that I needed to be here for, or maybe something was going to happen on my mission that I needed to be protected from. I honestly have no idea. BUT, what I do know is that Heavenly Father has a plan for us all and I trust him. I do know that He was telling me I need to be home, and for whatever reason that is, I’m willing to follow and act on it. Of course, I’d love to go back out on my mission and I will if I receive an answer that that’s what He wants me to do, but for the time being, I know I’m supposed to be here. Being a missionary was the most amazing experience and I’m forever grateful for everything that I was able to be a part of. Being home is SO hard, especially with having my mind so set on serving my mission. But, through it all and accepting God’s will, I have grown immensely and have come to know my Savior and the power of His atonement in ways I wouldn’t have been able to without experiencing this.

Even with that knowledge and a strong testimony of Him, things can still be hard though, and I think that’s something that people don’t always understand. Our pains and sorrows aren’t just going to be taken away from us, rather, we’re going to be strengthened to bare them. I’m not going to lie, for the first little bit I was at home, I struggled pretty bad. I was discouraged and doubtful of the things I could accomplish. I felt that I was a failure and I constantly had the thought running through my mind that “if other people could do this, why couldn’t I?” Me getting to the point where I’m at now, where I’m happy and working towards my future, wasn’t something that happened overnight. It was a slow and gradual process and it’s even still happening right now. But the point is, is that once I got to where I decided to actively exercise my faith and accept the will of the Lord, that’s when he bore me up and I was able to see his miracles continually in every aspect of my life.  Something that has really stood out to me since I’ve returned is the knowledge that Heavenly Father is so mindful of each of us and our situations and he wants more than anything to be able to help us. Through certain experiences I’ve had in the past little bit of being home, I know that Heavenly Father is telling me that He knows. He knows and is aware of my heartache. He knows my disappointment, He knows my intentions to serve, He knows the feelings I’ve been having, and most importantly He knows that His plan for me is far greater than the plan I saw for myself.

Both with the car crash and returning home from my mission early, I can testify that we are never alone. Christ suffered not only for our sins but for our pains and sorrows too, and because he knows how we feel, he knows how to succor us and lift us up. I love the quote by Harold B Lee:

“Don’t be afraid of the testing and trials of life. Sometimes when you are going through the most severe tests, you will be nearer to God than you have any idea”.

I know this is true. God gives us trials and hardships to grow, and when we endure them well and remain faithful to Him and his plan, we also grow closer to him. We experience the refiner’s fire for the sole purpose of coming to know the refiner, and I can testify that this WILL happen if we have faith in Him and what he’s capable of. Sometimes things don’t go the way we want or plan, but those are usually the times when he’s molding us into what he sees our potential to be.

“Imagine yourself as a living house. God comes in to rebuild that house. At first, perhaps, you can understand what He is doing. He is getting the drains right and stopping the leaks in the roof and so on: you knew those jobs needed doing and so you are not surprised. But presently He starts knocking the house about in a way that hurts abominably and does not seem to make sense. What on earth is He up to? The explanation is that He is building quite a different house from the one you thought of. Throwing out a new wing here, putting on an extra floor there, running up towers, making courtyards. You thought you were going to be made into a decent little cottage: but He is building a palace” -C.S. Lewis

I wouldn’t change these two experiences I’ve had for the world. I don’t know why I was asked to go through these trials, but I know that everything happens for a reason and I’m extremely optimistic to eventually find out why. They’ve taught me more than I could have ever hoped and I’ve come to know my Savior in a way that I never even imagined possible. I know that Christ is constantly by our side and that because of His Atonement we can be made whole in anything we’re asked to experience in life. Climbing mountains can be hard and painful, but the view from the top is worth it all. The beauty that we see from there is something we never would be able to recognize and piece together from the bottom. I know that there is not one person that can’t make it to the top with the help of Christ. Turn to him, lean on him, walk with him.  “If the foundation of faith is not in our hearts, our power to endure will crumble”. Faith in our Savior, Jesus Christ is SO important and enables us to endure and push forward with hope and optimism.  He has helped me find joy in my journey, and I know He can do the same for anyone else. Even in the darkest times, his light shines so brightly that we can find true happiness. Christ truly does overcome the world.

When Life Doesn’t Go As Planned: Emily

Emily shared this on my friend Aumberly’s Instagram, @trekthruconference, and she asked if Emily would be alright with me sharing it here. Obviously, she said yes so here we are!
I seriously admire her and the hardships she has gone through because her husband deals with depression. A little while ago I wrote a post about how mental illnesses are tough on everyone and one of the three people I mentioned was someone who lives with someone with an illness. I couldn’t fully comprehend what that meant and tried my best to write about it, and so I am extremely grateful Emily has opened up about this and is willing to share. Read on for some enlightenment.

Growing up, I didn’t expect to have the perfect marriage but I did have an idea of what I wanted. I wanted to be a stay at home mom, my husband to have a regular 9-5, a nice little house suited for our needs and a backyard for the kids. I anticipate 4 kids or more because being Mormon means having a large family. I expected the normal trials of marriage and adulthood: finances, busy schedule with church callings, kid’s sports and extracurricular activities, friends, and family gatherings and so on. Even though this picture-perfect life isn’t what I have now, what I never, ever thought would be a trial of mine was mental illness. And the mental illness isn’t even mine, it’s my husband’s.

Ever since he was a kid he’s struggled with anxiety and depression. I don’t comprehend what it’s like to have these illnesses. I mean, I get nervous when I have a presentation but I don’t understand what it’s like to live in a constant state of fear and stress, to struggle to get out of bed in the morning after getting a few hours of restless sleep, to not have the energy to do even the most basic tasks. I don’t understand it and I don’t think I ever will.

Our first two years of marriage were fine. I didn’t see him struggle even though he probably was. The next 3 years he got increasingly sick. Eventually, he was missing a day of work every other week. I thought that he was going to get fired because there was no way he had enough sick/vacation leave to cover the amount of time he took off. He would have stomach cramps, couldn’t keep food in his system and couldn’t sleep. I hated seeing him like this but what I hated, even more, was him not doing anything about it. He didn’t like going to doctor because he couldn’t get an answer as to why he was sick.

I was getting increasingly frustrated because he was sick ALL THE TIME. I felt like I was doing all the chores and taking care of the baby and doing our church calling while working full time. I felt very alone. And I still do. Frequently the thought has crossed my mind that I was a single parent and that I would be better off on my own. I would blame my husband for my lack of interest in going to church, reading my scriptures or even saying my prayers and I felt that he was dragging me down. Marriage was supposed to be about being equally yoked and we are not. I am mentally, spiritually and physically exhausted. To be honest, I’m sick of hearing him say that he is tired or that his stomach hurts when I ask him how he’s doing. I just need to hear him saying that he’s doing okay and that he has the energy to play with our daughter or help me around the house. We’ve had many conversations about how we felt as if we both are drowning and needed the other’s help and support. We try harder again to work together as we figure out how to survive each day. I made a covenant with my husband when we got married. I will stick with him regardless of the trials we go through in this life because I promised him I would. And I know God will help me keep that promise.

I see little relief from my sisters at church or other friends and family. I hate going to church because I am so alone. No friends to lift and support me or my husband. No home teachers to give blessings of health or comfort. Few friends to pour my heart out to. Rarely is mental illness talked about because no one wants to admit they struggle with it even though it is so prevalent in our society. Frequently you see posts on Facebook and Instagram on what it’s like to have anxiety and depression and how to be patient and sympathetic or empathetic for those that struggle with mental illness but there is absolutely nothing, no support group, no awareness video, nothing for those who live with those with these illnesses. We are just expected to figure out how to love, support, encourage, and heal our spouses and children as best we can with what information is out there about their illness. I have read Elder Holland’s talk, Like a Broken Vessel, many times seeking help and understanding on what I can do for my husband.

Finally, my husband agreed to go to a mental health doctor. He had acknowledged and accepted that his illness was affecting his physical health, happiness, job performance, attendance and church attendance, his relationship with his daughter, my happiness, and sanity, and our spirituality. I was so happy that he took that step and it was a big step to acknowledge that he needed help. After going to the doctor, I think that I expected him to be better and functional right away, but no, that’s not how this works. It’s still a journey and I still need to be patient and compassionate toward him as he gets better. I have to remind myself to not be a stumbling block for him as he works towards better health.

He constantly says he doesn’t want people to treat him differently because of his illness but because he is physically sick, I have to. I’m sorry, you can’t have it both ways. You can’t be treated “normal” while being incapable of fulfilling basic household responsibilities. He’s ashamed of his illness and still struggles with letting people know, especially his family. One thing that has angered me on this mental illness journey is that his parents saw him struggle as a child and teenager and did nothing to help. But when you are the source of your child’s anxiety I can understand why the child wouldn’t want to talk to you about it. As a parent myself, I don’t understand how you can see your child struggle and not do anything about it. He did tell his dad recently, who had felt spiritual promptings that something was going on with him. He received a father’s blessing and was told to serve others and he has sought out those opportunities.

I remember one day (of many) that I was angry at him. When we wake up in the morning I always ask how he is and he always responds with “Tired.” He decided to stay home and I got madder throughout the day. Typically, when he stays home no chores are done. He would rest and play video games and watch TV. Knowing that I would come home to a dirty house with a list of chores to do, dinner to make and a needy toddler (and husband) while still finding time to train for a 5K, I wasn’t happy. So, my anger grew and tears were near the surface when I came home. I was shocked to find a clean kitchen and him cleaning the bathroom. He explained that he was mad at me for not being compassionate, patient and understanding but as he was reading his scriptures that morning he read about charity and thought back to his father’s blessing and realized that he needed to serve me. There are moments that help me know that God is helping us out through this veil of tears and this was one of them.

My husband’s been on medication for 2 months now. He still isn’t 100% better but he is getting there. I honestly believe he will never be at 100% but I will help him get as healthy and functional as he can be. I will never understand what my husband goes through, but what I go through is something else entirely. I have had to give up on my dream of being a stay at home mom, of having a “normal” marriage. I have had to learn to communicate better with him what I need and learn what he is capable of giving. I have had to adjust my expectations of what he is able to do and what I can reasonably ask him to accomplish around the house. Our conversations are frequently filled with tears, love, and apologies as we try to figure out how to help each other and live with this different aspect of our lives.

I can’t do this by myself. I can’t. I have drifted away from my Father in Heaven because I am so exhausted. Reaching for Him is just one more task I have to do in my day. I am trying to do better but I fail more often than not. Mental illness doesn’t just affect those that have it. It affects all those around them. It is an invisible disease that will destroy unless you rely on Heavenly Father, family, friends and professional help. There are those that struggle more than my husband and I, and I feel for them. All our struggles are different, but the same. But we should all pull together, mentally ill and loved ones, as a family. We all need help.

Feature Friday: Alexa

I connected with Alexa about a month ago via Instagram, but I wanted to wait to share her story ’til after I met her at this dinner she hosted last night. I’m glad I did so that I could tell you guys what a power she has! She brought together some amazing women and reminded us all that we can do whatever we have our hearts set on. She has a website and Instagram account where she has “A podcast interviewing women who are making a difference in their community. Whether that’s by being a rockin’ Mom, starting a business, or just being an all-around rad lady.” She has already done amazing things and I can’t wait to see what else she’ll do.
If you haven’t had the chance to hear about Munchin’ With Moguls this is a brief little backstory! Alexa worked in the startup world for the last 4 years and fell in love with the amazing women she met through her business networking. So many rad women doing killer things – she just had to share. So finally, she realized a podcast was the way to do that! She loves people’s stories and has always wanted to be a storyteller so it felt like the perfect fit. In May of 2017, the podcast launched. A podcast interviewing rad women who are influencing the community around them. Just a few months after launching, she had over 70,000 downloads!?! Say what?! She never could have dreamed that this was possible but yet it makes her realize how right this journey is. You could say it’s “meant to be.” She wanted to create a community for women, a place for women to feel empowered. To talk about genuine things that matter. To talk about business. To talk about motherhood. Whatever it is, she loves talking about it! She is still in the beginning stages of this journey but is so stoked for the future and feels so grateful for the success and support thus far. This being said, life isn’t all sunshine and daisies. She also wanted to start this because her life isn’t perfect. She’s suffered from anxiety for years and she felt it was finally time to share. She hopes her story can help others just like others stories have helped her. She loves uniting with all you girl bosses! The following is from her blog.
#magicofvulnerability with Alexa

Hey there! I figured it was about time I take a second to introduce myself, told you a little bit of my story, and told you why I started this podcast. Let me just take a second to say this right at the beginning – I AM NOT A WRITER! Somehow I work in social media and end up writing blog posts for brands but I do not in any way claim to be good at this whole writing thing. What is grammar? There, they’re, their… someone please teach me the rules? So just embrace all my flaws.

Now that I brought up flaws – this is where it gets good! I realized today that it seems pretty unfair that I ask people to come on my podcast and tell me all about their lives while I sit here and ask the questions. If everyone is going to be vulnerable with me, whether that’s via interviews, conversations, or social media, I want to be vulnerable with you as well. So here we go. Let’s get real shall we?

I’ll start out with a quick snip about me just to get things rolling. Grew up in the sweetest town in Utah – Ogden! If you haven’t been, make the trip. I love this quaint town and the people here but that SO doesn’t mean I haven’t had my time away. I’ve spent time living in places like the Upper West Side of Manhattan, the farms of Denmark, and orphanages in Ecuador. I love seeing the world and all the culture it has to offer. My job really allows me to do that! I wish I had a perfect title for what my job entrails but it changes every day. When people ask, I say I am a Free-lance Social Media Marketing Consultant for Start-Up Companies. I work with brands in all different aspects whether that’s planning events, influencer outreach, or just answering emails till my eyes burn out and my hands fall off. I love my job and wouldn’t trade it for anything. I feel so blessed to have found what I love at such a young age. Work basically follows me 24/7 (by choice), but when I am not at the computer you can usually find me exploring the world with friends, eating something constantly, or buying platform sandals I probably can’t afford. Whoops.

So that’s me. The surface part of me that the people around me usually see. I’m hoping by this many paragraphs down, you have stopped reading. If not, congrats to the 4 of you and can’t wait to share my thoughts ;). I’m going to get vulnerable. @weslie_ started this amazing #magicofvulnerability hashtag and I couldn’t help but jump on the bandwagon. There is a lot about me that even my closest friends don’t know. That isn’t because I don’t trust them or I am too afraid to talk about it, I have just never felt like they would get it. Or maybe felt like I couldn’t explain it right? But let’s hope I can put it into words here.

I suffer from anxiety. What is anxiety?

Anxiety is a constant state of worrying and panicking and being on the edge. It’s irrational fears.

Anxiety is wanting to fix something that isn’t even a problem.

Anxiety is the fear of failure and striving for perfection. Then beating yourself up when you fall short.

Anxiety is caring. Caring too much about the people you love, the things you invest your time in, and the outcomes of your investments.

Anxiety is a lot of things I can’t even explain.

I suffer from anxiety. I think we all do in different ways and I think that is normal. But there have been points in my life where it has been absolutely crippling. In high school, I missed roughly 90 days a year from school because I would get migraines. Migraines that lasted for days, weeks. My parents took me to every doctor under the sun and we couldn’t figure out why it was happening. Now I know it was my anxiety but I had no idea then that something so emotional could cause something so physical. My anxiety brought me migraines which would literally make me lose my vision, throw up, and be stuck in a bed for days at a time. Then I got to college and it died down a little but still hung over my head. I think that’s when I realized the migraines were all about anxiety. School brought me so much stress that I would find myself in the middle of the day hanging my head over our creepy college apartment toilet holding myself back from throwing up. Turns out college wasn’t my thing and I dropped out after about a year and a half of school to pursue other dreams.

Removing things that bring me stress has eliminated a lot of my anxiety. I have a job with a roughly low level of stress, I live a carefree life. I just kind of figured that since I had eliminated the items that brought me stress, I was fine. Obviously, I would still get stressed like anyone does but nothing like my literally being ill and not being able to live my life. I went months without any anxiety and it felt SO FREEING. I felt like a weight had been lifted off my shoulders. I could finally live my life. Like REALLY live. And then – it came back.

Over Christmas of this last year, I had the opportunity to meet my parents in Peru to backpack Machu Picchu. My parents were living in Ecuador at the time so I was flying alone. All the sudden on the plane leaving Utah, I felt anxiety. It all came flooding back and I panicked. Should I just fly back home? It honestly crossed my mind multiple times. But I realized that was ridiculous and just pushed through. Made it to Peru, met up with my parents, and headed to our hotel. I got in late so we went straight to getting ready for bed. I literally didn’t even make it to brushing my teeth before I started sobbing. I didn’t want my sweet parents to see so I hurry and jumped in the shower to cover up the tears. I finally got out and climbed into bed. I tried to contain the sobs but finally, my mom heard me and hopped into my bed. I think I probably cried until about 6am. I honestly have no idea why my anxiety attacks happen. She kept asking why I was upset, what we could do, what was happening. I had no idea. I still don’t. Every time it happens, I have no answers. That’s the most frustrating part. I can’t do anything because I don’t have answers. I won’t tell you about the whole trip and all the details. I was supposed to stay roughly a month and ended up staying about two weeks. My amazing parents bought a very last minute / very expensive plane ticket back to Utah for me. They didn’t have to but they knew it was what I needed.

Guys this story has no resolution. This still happens to me all the time. I will go out with people and have to have them take me home because I lose it. I go out on vacations with friends and stay alone in the hotel on certain days. At this point, I don’t really mind it. I’ve found ways to cope with my anxiety. I’ve realized it is here to stay, at least for now, and that’s ok. I kind of like that my story has no resolution because that makes it more real in my eyes. I wish I could say it is over and I have solved it but I SO haven’t and that’s ok. I’ve found ways to still live a VERY happy life with anxiety. If I need to take a day to lock myself in my room and be alone, that’s ok.

Honestly, this has been A LOT of blabbering on my part. Lots of explaining that I am sure made zero sense. Here is a quick summary – I have anxiety – It sucks – I’ve found ways to deal with it because it is my burden to carry in this life and that is ok. I am almost grateful for it (love-hate relationship yuh know?). Would I give it away if I could? HELL YES. Do I embrace it now? You bet I do.

Feature Friday: Shantel

Shantel and I went to high school together and had some mutual friends. She commented on one of the stories I shared via Facebook and asked if she could share hers. I am so grateful she was brave enough to ask me and willing to share. I can relate to several things she went through and I know there are others who can as well. Keep reading for her story.

I used to think that people that were depressed were always sad, they kept to themselves, they were antisocial, they slept a lot, etc. I didn’t understand the disorder and didn’t consider myself to be a depressed person. I tried to be a happy person or so I thought. In my first year of teaching, I taught a girl who came to school regularly, was an excellent student, seemed like such a happy, bubbly, sweet girl. She was hardworking and got good grades. She was just a great girl. One of those students that all the other students like, and I loved teaching. One day we as faculty were informed that this girl had attempted suicide and would not be returning to school for a while because she was getting treatment. Many of us were shocked. I was especially. How could this girl, the girl that sat in my class day after day, the girl who was so happy, bubbly and sweet, struggle with depression so bad that she had attempted suicide and I had no idea that she was even sad, let alone depressed. I tried to justify that it was because I was on maternity leave for so long that I didn’t really know her that well. I just couldn’t believe that I had not noticed she had an issue. At this time, I didn’t connect that people with depression don’t have to be sad, sleep a lot and be antisocial but this happened around the time that I first began to realize I had an issue of my own.

In high school, I never had a super high self-esteem. I have never thought I was super pretty, or very good at much. However, I would have never considered myself to be depressed, but now that I really know what depression is and what it feels like I would say that I have struggled with depression for a lot of my life, beginning as early as junior high. I specifically remember feeling the way I do often now in my Junior year of high school. I had stress fractured my leg and was on crutches or in a boot most of the year. I was not exercising as much as I normally did. I couldn’t run with all my cross-country/track friends. Also, that year my two really good friends, that I spent pretty much every lunch and weekend with and worked with, started fighting and going their separate ways and I was stuck in the middle not sure what to do because I didn’t want either of them to think I liked one more than the other or that I was picking sides, so not only did I feel like I wasn’t part of my group of running buddies because my leg but I also felt like I lost my friends that I spent all my time with. Luckily, I had one really good friend that I hadn’t done anything with in a while that I started to spend time with, otherwise I would have felt like I had no one. When I talk about that year I always say it was the worst year of high school. However, nothing super bad really happened, any different than my sophomore or senior year, but now that I know what depression is, I now realize that I was depressed to the point that I thought the world would be better off without me.

That summer my parents told me they wanted to move to Logan, Utah. They said they would wait until my senior year was over if that was what I wanted to do. I immediately said I didn’t care as long as I went to a school with a good cross-country program. When I tell people that I chose to move my senior year they are shocked, but for me, all I could think about was getting a new start, with new friends. It actually turned out to be the best year of high school for me. I met friends there that I am still friends with today and were even my roommates in college. I stayed friends with a few friends from Davis high but for the most part, I didn’t feel like I missed much. After that, I don’t remember struggling very much. I remember being sad off and on throughout the rest of high school and throughout college but nothing major stands out.

It wasn’t until I was married and had a newborn baby that things got a lot worse. I was in the middle of my first-year teaching. Anyone that is a teacher knows that the first year is the worst. Almost everyone feels like they aren’t meant to be a teacher at the end of their first year so they always tell you if you make it through your first year you should make sure to try a second year before deciding if you were meant to be a teacher or not. My first year was not just hard because it was my first year but I also had a baby a month before my first anniversary, and 2 months into the school year and was on maternity leave for 6 weeks (not long enough) with a substitute that had no classroom discipline so when I returned trying to control my students was a nightmare. I came home every day saying how much I hated my job, how I didn’t want to go back the next day, even though I loved teaching and loved the students I worked with, I could only see how bad I was at it. I felt like I was a terrible teacher, that all my students hated me, and that I wasn’t really making a difference in any of their lives like I wanted to be.

At my 6 weeks after birth appointment with my OB, I filled out a paper with questions trying to diagnosis post-partum depression. Yeah, that questionnaire is terrible. It just helped me convince myself that I wasn’t depressed. This made me feel like I was just a terrible person because I acted poorly and wasn’t good at anything, rather than there being a reason for all these feelings of hatred and self-loathing.

When I returned to work after maternity leave, I was still trying to breastfeed Hadley and pump but I could never find the time to pump and so I got several batches of infection. I felt like I was only working because I had to or we wouldn’t have any money and we would be homeless not because I liked my job or was good at it. I wished every day that I could just stay home with Hadley and never go back. I just was counting down the years, the months, the days, until my husband was done with school so I didn’t have to do this anymore. Even though the school I worked at was the best school any teacher could ever work at, with the best students any teacher could ask for and the principal there is phenomenal. Seriously, the best administrator and boss. I decided to stop breastfeeding because I couldn’t keep missing work and it had become a chore rather than a time to bond with my child, I started to hate it and resent my child for it and I didn’t want to feel like that. However, lots of people made me feel like I was a terrible mom because I wasn’t giving my child the BEST food she could have. I already felt like I was inadequate to be a mom, a teacher, a wife, and this just added to it. Inside I felt like I was doing everything wrong. I wasn’t sad necessarily, more I was angry all the time. I was always yelling at my students because they wouldn’t listen and I couldn’t control them after the substitute had let them get away with everything. I was always fighting and upset with my husband, or crying to him because I had been mean to him and I hated myself for acting that way. The thing that was the worst is that I would become so angry at Hadley, an innocent child who knew nothing of being bad or misbehaving. She was just this innocent Child of God who Heavenly Father had entrusted me with and all I could do was get angry when I couldn’t figure out why she was crying.

My husband, Chris, would try to bring up how he was concerned that I could become so angry with a newborn child, he had struggled with depression and suggested maybe I was having issues with it. I told him he was wrong because I wasn’t sad all the time, I didn’t sleep all the time, I wasn’t losing my job, I was fine. One day, however, I just broke down and cried saying that I hated myself for how I treated him and our daughter and that I thought they were better off without me. He said he thought I needed to get help, so I went to a therapist because he thought I needed to not because I wanted to.

In April of 2013, 6 months after Hadley was born, I began to see a therapist. I saw her for about a month. I didn’t like her much. She had said a couple helpful things but not much. I felt like it was useless and so I just got her to say she thought I needed medicine so that I could go to my family doctor and get on medication. Medication helped but it didn’t solve anything and created some problems of its own. It helped me not be a mean wife and mom. It helped me be a better, happier teacher but I still hated myself and every time I wasn’t perfect I felt like my family was better off without me. That I should just leave so they didn’t have to deal with me and the terrible person I was. This ate away at my marriage and caused issues in many areas of my life, it just hid the true issue better.

The first medication I tried caused me to gain lots of weight. Which was awful because I already felt terrible about myself and thought I wasn’t pretty enough and this just made the feelings worse. I switched to a different medication and things were a lot better but it has taken me years to lose only some of the weight I gained. Then about 2 years ago, to help my negative self-image, even more, my face suddenly decided it wanted acne. I never struggled with acne as a teenager, but something happened that one day my acne was so bad and nothing I did helped. After a year and a half of trying different medications and treatments from dermatologist to every person on the planet thinking that they had to stop me to tell me they had some new acne treatment or face cream that would help, it was better but still not great. Over this time period my self-esteem, and self-image got worse and worse. I felt like I was so ugly and fat. How could my husband love me when I was so hideous? Then I finally gave in and went on Accutane (not advertising that people should use this), even though it is so hard on your body, and after 5 months, I can now look at myself in the mirror without being disgusted and thinking I’m hideous. The point is medication didn’t solve my problem. I needed something more if I was going to get better.

A year ago, Chris and I decided that I should get tested because I was having a hard time focusing and making sure I was taking care of my daughter’s needs. I would focus so much on a task that I didn’t hear Hadley calling for me, I would stare at the wall when Chris was trying to talk to me like no one was home. After multiple visits, I was diagnosed with ADHD. It was also brought up that I struggled with depression and anxiety. I had never really thought I struggled with anxiety but now I know different. At some point, I decided I should and I wanted to really see a therapist. I went on a search for the perfect therapist. This time seeing a therapist was different because I had the desire to get better and I knew I had a problem to solve. I have been seeing my therapist for the last year and I would suggest everyone could use a therapist. I love my therapist. He is the best, not that my first therapist wasn’t good, I just found one that worked for me and was able to communicate with me. That was one of the best decision I have made.

Working with my therapist I now know that I struggle with depression and anxiety as well as ADHD. I am on medication for all three and have tried going off them but my life is just better and I am a happier person with them. I may not need them one day but for now, if it makes it so I don’t feel the feelings I felt for so many years, I will take them forever. Between medication, and regularly seeing a therapist I have begun to manage these mental disorders so they don’t define me any longer. I have come far enough that I feel like I am actually improving my self-esteem. At this point, I feel like things are going really well but I often struggle with symptoms of these disorders that I will probably struggle with my whole life, but I have slowly learned how to not let them control my life.

Now I am doing something I love, I am currently teaching a class at and getting my Master’s degree from Utah State University in Mathematics and I hope to get my Ph.D. so I can one day be a professor. I love being a mom and I know that I can be the person God intended me to be.

I have learned that anyone can struggle with these things and you never know who. These disorders can affect so many different types of people. People you would never even think had issues like this. Depression is not just about being sad and anxiety is not just about having an overwhelming fear of something. When I am anxious I talk a lot. I get anxiety in many situations that I never realized. I feel like I will always be learning how to deal with these disorders but I finally feel like I am winning. That I am a good mom and wife and though I am not perfect, I have worth. Depression and anxiety are scary and many times you cannot beat it and learn to overcome it without help. Most of the time you cannot do it alone, we all need help. If you can’t ask someone, you always have a Heavenly Father waiting with concourses of angels ready to come to your aid.

Elder Holland said, “In the gospel of Jesus Christ, we have help from both sides of the veil. When disappointment and discouragement strike—and they will—we need to remember that if our eyes could be opened, we would see horses and chariots of fire as far as the eye can see, riding at great speed to come to our protection. They will always be there, these armies of heaven, in defense of Abraham’s seed.

I have learned I can do hard things and do anything with his help. That whenever I feel unloved, inadequate, or unworthy, Christ has felt it all. If I turn to the scriptures or a priesthood holder for a blessing, I will feel His love, overwhelmingly. He will lift me and carry me through it if I turn to Him and follow Him. If you need help, please find someone that can help you, you do not have to make this journey alone. There are so many that struggle with this disorder or are familiar with it, that if you can simply reach out and ask for help, help will be there.

I am so grateful for Ally and the opportunity she has given me to share a small portion of my story, my story that is not over but now feels worth living, in hopes it helps someone figure out their story and find the help they need.

Feature Friday: Elise

Elise and I served in the same mission, but we were able to meet before she left (one transfer ahead of me). I was dating a boy who knew her family and attended her farewell, it was great. She recently shared this story on Facebook and was willing to let me share it here – it’s a little different from what is normally posted but has a new perspective that is a good reminder.
Elise has been married to her husband for three years. They have a little girl who just turned two last week. She is a stay at home working mom, a photographer, and videographer based out of Southern Utah.

A few months ago, my daughter and I were attacked by a man with a deadly weapon.

I won’t go into details for legal and personal purposes.

Needless to say, I legitimately thought I might die that day.
By the grace of God, we were both spared with absolutely no physical wounds, although damage was done in other ways.

I have stopped going for walks around the neighborhood due to the anxiety of encountering strangers.

I have anxiety about driving around my neighborhood, and I lock my car doors as soon as I sit down.

The night that it happened, I had a full-on anxiety attack, was sick to my stomach, and my husband had to help me with some calming therapy techniques.

I wasn’t myself for days… I was extra jumpy and anxious at the grocery store. People walking towards me or standing behind me totally freaked me out. Several people ended up apologizing to me for scaring me. haha. Even though they had done absolutely nothing wrong!

The case was going to go to trial and I was called to testify.

I was sick to my stomach for about a week due to anxiety over this whole matter.

Random people and strangers would ask me if I was ok because of this look that I had on my face when I would zone out and think about being in the same room as this man, and being interrogated and attacked by his attorney.

Thankfully, (I think) the case was canceled and my attacker settled so that I did not have to face him in court.
So today I am celebrating.

I am a survivor of aggravated assault with a deadly weapon.

So is my little baby girl.

Justice was served to my attacker, and for that I am grateful.

I didn’t have to go to court and testify (yayyy!)

Now we can move on and leave this icky situation behind us. (Hopefully)
I am especially grateful to God and His angels that he sent to protect my baby girl and myself.

I am forever and ever and ever grateful for the police officers that came to our rescue.

My eyes well up in tears whenever I think of our heroes that serve us on a daily basis and risk their lives so selflessly for ours. THANK YOU!

I am grateful to the good citizens of America that step in to be witnesses and help in such terrible situations.

I am grateful to be alive and well today and for every day that is to come.

I am grateful for a different perspective that I have on life, and the appreciation and respect that I have for victims and people that have near death experiences FAR, FAR worse than mine.
Today I invite you to celebrate with me.

Let us today celebrate our loved ones.

Let us celebrate this day of life that we have been blessed with.

Let us celebrate our heroes and police officers.

Let us celebrate our God Almighty, who is present in the darkest of moments.

And let us celebrate new chapters!

Feature Friday: Madi

Madi and I lived in the same ward for a little while and after we became friends on Facebook she shared a blog post about her experience of coming home from her mission. I instantly felt a connection with her and she was kind enough to write this for this blog.
My favorite scripture found in D&C reads,
“Verily, Verily, I say unto thee, blessed art thou for what thou hast done; for thou has inquired of me, and behold as often as thou hast inquired of me, and behold, as often as thou hast inquired thou hast received instruction of my Spirit. If it had not been so, thou wouldst not have come to the place where thou art at this time”I know that everything happens for a reason. And because of the choice I made back then, I am where I am today. When I decided to serve a mission I never thought it would turn into a “trial”. Yet it was the best trial I have ever faced. So many emotions come with my experience. Happiness, love, anxiety, tears, but most importantly growth.

Almost 3 years ago I entered the MTC, I’m sure we can all remember how emotional that day is. The excitement soon left as I was overcome with severe anxiety. I was so confused as I could not pinpoint as to where it was coming from.  I spent countless hours on my knees, praying to my heavenly father to make it all go away. It was starting to wear on me and people began to notice. After being referred to different counselors I was put on some medication. I had never felt more defeated. Never did I think that I would have to rely on medication for something I should have been able to control. Fast forward a few weeks… I was sent home on a medical release. They had decided I needed to go home and get better before flying off to Argentina.

As hard as it was for me to come home, it would have been even harder for me to stay. Since returning home I have grown so much. I have gained such an amazing relationship with my Heavenly Father. I can truly say that going to the MTC was exactly what I needed. I needed to learn how to hit my knees when things got tough, I needed to learn to appreciate the love he has for me.

Everyone says that you gain an amazing testimony being a full-time missionary. I don’t doubt it, but the testimony I have gained from this trial is nothing short of amazing!! I am so grateful for the opportunity I had to serve. Whether it was for 18 months or for 1 month. I changed. That change is everything to me. The MTC opened my eyes to things that staying home wouldn’t have. My testimony of this gospel has grown so much over the past few years and continues to grow every day. Before decided to serve, I was lost. Life was hard and I found myself confused at what direction to turn, but when I turned to Him when I looked up, I found answers. I felt the love from my savior, a love I still feel today. I began to have the light of Christ shine within me. I was happier. I am forever grateful for the chance I had to serve as a missionary. I may not have converted the people in the mission field, but I converted myself.

Feature Friday: Megan

I found Megan on Instagram through her photography account. She posted on World Mental Health Day about her struggle and was willing to let me share her story.
Megan is an amazing photographer and is married with two beautiful children. I am so grateful for her example and bravery in what she’s gone through. Continue reading for her story…
I am Megan. Wife. Mother. Photographer. Enrichment Committee Member. Daughter. Sister. Disney Lover. Scheduling Queen. Artistic. Traveler. Friendly. Introvert. And most importantly… I am Me.
Those are only some of the words I would say describe who I am. Two very specific things that I didn’t mention are two mental illnesses that I suffer from. While I don’t think they define me, they have become a major part of who I am and who I am trying to become. I have been diagnosed with Postpartum Depression as well as Anxiety Disorder. My story begins last November when my baby boy was born. Everything was perfect. He was a good baby, I was healing and enjoying the holidays. After the new year began, I started realizing that I didn’t want to get out of the house as often as I use to. Then February came around and I didn’t want to get out of bed. I started feeling less and less enthusiastic about things. Then that lack of excitement became irritation with EVERYTHING. I began stressing about things that weren’t in my control, like terrible scenarios where my husband would be tragically killed. I began realizing that this wasn’t typical for me. This wasn’t me.
My lowest point came one afternoon when I was laying on my couch, watching my favorite show on the tv, while my kids were playing on the floor with their toys. I wasn’t giving the time of day to them as I was much too busy playing a game on my phone. My two-year-old daughter came over to me asking if I could read her a book. The flip switched. I went crazy! I yelled at her. Screamed at her for interrupting me. Grabbed her arm and sat her down next to the wall and told her she was in time out. For wanting me to read to her. The moment I sat her down, I knew something was incredibly wrong.  I immediately called my OBGYN and told her I believed I had Postpartum Depression and she immediately set me an appointment and prescribed me some medication that would help me. I didn’t know what came over me. I was embarrassed, angry with myself, sad for my daughter, guilty for being this way, and completely ashamed of who I was. I then realized that was not me. That is not me.
I am Megan. Wife. Mother. And so much more!
While I am still on the road to healing and becoming myself again, I am learning how to cope with my Postpartum Depression and Anxiety. I have learned that these illnesses do not define me but are a part of my life and I need to accept that this is just one trial that I agreed to take on. I know without a doubt that my Savior and Heavenly Father have been with me the entire time. They have never left my side and are constantly and perfectly loving me. I wouldn’t be getting better and feeling more like myself without their love and arms pulling me out of my lowest pits of despair. I am so grateful for the knowledge I have gained in knowing where to find help, especially in my Heavenly Father.
I am Megan. Wife. Mother. And I suffer from Depression & Anxiety, but I AM getting better.

Feature Friday: Alec

Alec and I went to Davis High together and when I came home from my mission he reached out to me and shared some of his experiences, for which I will be forever grateful. He is part of the reason why I believe this whole sharing thing helps others. Here is a blog post he wrote in March 2014.

Are traditional full-time missions for everyone?
Let me first state that I hope that what I say doesn’t come across as a slam against the Church or anything. I want everyone to know that I have a firm testimony in the Gospel of Jesus Christ and that nothing would ever change that. Not too long ago, I had a really great conversation with one of my old friends from high school. We were discussing our missions and the effect they had on each of our lives. We also discussed how it felt coming home early from our missions. It was a wonderful conversation, and since then I’ve reflected on it often and I’ve been impressed to share some of my experiences. This blog will hopefully help me reach my goal of impacting someone’s life, especially if that someone is going through a difficult situation concerning their mission. So here we go…
Some people, not many, are aware of the fact that I returned home early from my 2-year mission to the Santiago West, Chile Mission. Fewer people are aware of the fact that I didn’t even make it out of the MTC (Missionary Training Center) in Provo. Before I left for the MTC, I remember feeling absolutely confident that no matter what life threw at me I was going to be ready for these next 2 years serving a full-time mission. Boy, was I wrong.
Look at that. Look at how confident I am! I was pumped! Nothin’ was gonna pull me down. Those two fine Elders right there basically yanked me out of my parent’s car and scurried me away from my entire family with hardly a goodbye, but it didn’t matter. I was ready. Or so I thought. Not even 2 hours after this picture was taken, I was feeling absolutely miserable. I’ll never forget the feeling of dread I felt while I sat through my first class with my brand new district. My teacher walked in and immediately started speaking Spanish. Only Spanish. For an hour and a half. I had no experience with this! No one did! Didn’t this teacher get that?! Of course, he did. I slowly came to realize that teaching this way was quite effective. But that realization only came to me right before I left.
Everyone always says that the first few days in the MTC are the hardest you’ll face. Everyone always says that if you make it past Sunday, you’re good to go. Once you’ve made it past Sunday, you’ve made it past the “initiation” process and are now an official missionary in the MTC. I held on to that for dear life as I struggled through the next few days. I remember thinking, “Why the heck do I feel so miserable every second of each day?!” or “Everyone lied to me, this doesn’t get easier. This can’t get easier.” This quote comes directly from my journal, “I don’t understand. It’s probably me doing something wrong. I’ve always heard that you can feel the Spirit so strongly here, that you can almost cut it with scissors because it’s so thick. I don’t feel it.” I wrote that on my fifth day. It took me 5 days to realize that I wasn’t feeling the Spirit, and I had no idea why. I was worthy to serve a mission, so why couldn’t I feel the Spirit? Why did I feel so sick? Why did I feel such a massive amount of dread every single time I tried to do anything? And I mean ANYTHING. I couldn’t walk to class without freaking out. I couldn’t eat, I couldn’t sleep. I was miserable every single second of every single day. The scariest thing that I kept thinking about was that this wasn’t getting easier. I watched everyone around me blossom with their newly found missionary mantle. Why couldn’t I be like that? Why was I having SUCH a hard time? These questions just kept coming into my head. I tried distracting myself with my studies and to force myself to completely lose myself in my missionary work. Those kinds of distractions didn’t work. The only thing that made me feel better was writing out my feelings or talking to my best friend who blessedly was in the MTC with me at the same time.
So what was it? Why did I feel that way? Before my mission, I had NEVER felt anything like what I was feeling. I tried convincing myself over and over again that there was nothing wrong, that I was freaking out for no reason. I tried telling myself that everyone was facing what I was facing, but they just weren’t making a huge deal out of it like I was. But as time progressed in the MTC, I slowly realized that that wasn’t true…
Something was wrong, and I had no idea how to fix it. Because I had never experienced anything like that before, I didn’t know what I could do about it. I didn’t tell anyone, not even my family. Sure, people knew I was struggling, but what brand new missionary doesn’t struggle? No, this was different. I knew it was different, but I had no idea how to go about fixing it.
Well, weeks went by. I hardly ate, and I hardly slept. My only solace was going to the Provo Temple once a week and doing temple work. I remember thinking all the time how Wednesday (temple day) was only 5 days away! and that I had only 5 days to go before I could feel 3 hours of comfort! Thoughts like that were all that kept me going. I remember discussing this with my companion and my other 2 roommates often. I was sick and I didn’t know what to do about it. Those 3 guys helped me out more than they will ever know. I still think of them often and surprisingly enough, I miss those nights where I would struggle so much and just talk with them. They distracted me from my “doom and gloom” feelings and honestly, they saved me. This picture is one I’ll treasure forever:
Alright, now I’m going to jump ahead a few weeks. I was sitting in class trying as hard as I could to not puke (a never-ending battle for me throughout my entire experience in the MTC) when I had the strongest urge to go speak to my Branch President and tell him EVERYTHING that I was feeling. So, immediately after I got outta the class, I met with him. The couple of hours that I sat in there with him were the first moments of comfort that I had felt as a missionary outside of the temple. I knew then that I was feeling the Spirit and that I was doing what Heavenly Father wanted me to do. Finally. My Branch President (who happened to be a doctor. Coincidence?) was absolutely stunned after what I had told him. We cried together and he confirmed my suspicions that I was absolutely correct. I was NOT supposed to be feeling this way. He immediately contacted a therapist in the MTC and I started meeting with him for a couple of hours on a daily basis. My poor companion must have gone through some crazy trials dealing with patience. He dutifully tagged along and offered support where he could. I hope he knows how thankful I am for that, I don’t think I ever told him. Well, the therapist helped a little bit, but not much. He referred me to someone else that had more experience. Still, no one knew what was wrong with me. Not my Branch President, not my companions, not me, and not my therapist. It was just weird. (I should also add right here that no one at home was aware of my issues. I still hadn’t told anyone. Just that I was having a hard time. No one knew the severity.)
Just over 5 weeks into the MTC, I met with my new therapist. He, finally, knew what was wrong. I had/have what’s called an “anxiety disorder”. In that, my brain freaks itself out over just about anything it decides and then it pumps crazy amounts of adrenaline through me. That’s just a very brief explanation. He also had the inspired thought to put me on a scale and weigh me. I weighed roughly 150 lbs going into the MTC, and 5 weeks in I weighed at 132 lbs. That’s when we knew that something had to change. He told me that this was so severe that he recommended me going home. But, of course, it was my choice and that if I decided to stay he could prescribe me some medicine that he THOUGHT might help. I told him I’d think about it and then I left. That night, I of course got zero sleep. Instead of lying there feeling miserable, I got down on my knees and asked the Lord if going home was the right option. To my complete and utter surprise, it was. That morning, while doing laundry I sent my mom an email explaining what had been going on. I told her the truth about everything that I had been hiding from her. I also told her she’d be receiving a phone call that day and to probably expect me to come home within a day or two. Well, I’ll spare you all the details. I called home with one of my leaders in the MTC. I talked with my Bishop, Stake President, and my parents. It was absolutely the hardest thing I’ve ever done to tell them that I was coming home. I wept, they cried etc etc. My greatest fear was that everyone would be disappointed in me. I KNEW I had to come home. I didn’t know why. I didn’t know how to explain to anyone what I had gone through, what I was going through, and what I felt I needed to do. I’ve never felt so confused or vulnerable in my life. But I knew that the Lord was on my side. To make this part of my long story short, I said my goodbye’s to my dear friends and then my parents came and got me and I went home.
Confusion. Doubt. Pain. Regret. Those were the feelings that I felt over the next few weeks. I had failed. No one understood me. No one COULD understand me. I didn’t even understand. Why had this happened to me? Why had the Lord wanted me to come home? All I wanted was to be a dutiful son and serve my Father. When I was driving home with my parents from the MTC, I realized that even after this life-changing ordeal that I had just gone through, I still wanted to serve Him. I felt like a complete, absolute failure. But I still wanted to serve. The thing that surprised me more than anything was that my testimony of the Gospel had VASTLY increased. Why was that? I met with my Bishop and my Stake President that night and they released me. We talked about my plans and I told them that I still wanted to be a missionary. I think that might have surprised them. I immediately thought of the temple and the comfort it had given me. Before I knew what was happening, I asked them if they could help me get a missionary position at the temple. Right when I asked that, I was overcome with the Spirit. I knew what I had to do.
Not too long after, I was a service missionary working in the Bountiful Temple and I was so, so happy. It took a long time for me to adjust, to realize that I hadn’t failed. One thing that helped me and my mom more than anything was an experience that I will never forget. One that has stayed with me over the years and that I will always reflect back on:
I was standing in a huge checkout line at Costco with my mom feeling absolutely terrible about myself. I was still battling thoughts of having “failed” my Father. I was embarrassed, I was upset, and I hated myself for being “weak”. Thoughts of “not being good enough” or “I’ve let everyone down” kept popping up in my head. Well, as I was standing there, I felt a soft tapping on my shoulder. I turned around and was surprised to be facing an elderly gentleman. I will never forget his eyes. He had the kindest, most sincere eyes that I have ever seen in my entire life. He then asked me, “Are you okay?” At that moment I knew that this man was an answer to my prayers. I didn’t know what it was, but I felt so GOOD about this man. I completely opened up and told him everything. Then I cried. He grabbed me by the arm, looked right in my eyes and said, “Don’t EVER think that you failed Father. Don’t EVER think that coming home from your mission was a mistake. It’s not. Heavenly Father knew you would come home. It was His plan for you. He has something in mind for you, and you couldn’t accomplish it on your previous mission. You have already completed the mission that you were called to serve. Now it’s time for your next mission.” (I copied that almost word for word from my journal) He said a few things more, but after we checked out and were walking away, I turned around and asked him his name. “Elder Fisher” he replied. He’s a member of the Seventy. I know that he was placed in my path for a reason. Ever since that moment, I have never had any doubt or regret about coming home from my first mission.
Now, about my temple mission. It wasn’t long after I came home from the MTC that I started serving in the temple. It was the most BEAUTIFUL experience I have ever had. I was there Monday through Friday, and most Saturdays. I will never ever forget the experiences I had there. They were divine experiences that I will never trade away for anything. As time progressed, I realized that serving in the Bountiful Temple was right for me. Nothing else made sense during that short period in my life. It meant everything to me. I felt myself growing in ways that I had desperately prayed for while serving in the MTC. I felt myself developing a testimony that I knew would never go away. I KNEW that this is what Heavenly Father wanted me to do. Now, here’s the interesting thing. Certain things are stated in my Patriarchal Blessing about my mission and the experiences I would have. That was one of my major doubts upon coming home from my mission. I knew that those experiences would never be accomplished. But in retrospect, I realized that the experiences spoken of in my Blessing didn’t happen on my first mission. But every single one happened during my mission at the Bountiful Temple. Once I made that connection, I knew without a doubt that Heavenly Father wanted me to end up there. I realized that had I not gone through the “traditional LDS mission” path and served as a missionary in the MTC, I NEVER would have ended up at the Bountiful Temple. The place where I was supposed to complete my mission. There’s a WONDERFUL Mormon Message about taking certain paths in order to get to where we should be. It’s called Wrong Roads and it’s based on a talk by Jeffrey R. Holland. Watch it here. Now, I’m not saying that my first mission was a “wrong road”, but I am saying that “there are times when the only way to get from A to C is by way of B.” Watch that video. It will change your life.
Now, I know this was a super long post, but I just want to wrap it up here by summarizing it a little bit. My Father in Heaven sent me on a mission. I felt like I had “failed” that mission, when in fact I actually succeeded. Father gave me a mission, and I answered the call. I accomplished everything I needed to, and then He sent me home. He sent me home using a method that caught me completely off-guard because He knew that an “anxiety disorder” would be the one thing to get me to come home. He then gave me another mission. A mission at the LDS Bountiful Temple as an Ordinance Worker. A mission that I completed and that changed me forever. My testimony is infinitely greater than it was upon first entering the MTC. HEAVENLY FATHER HAS A PLAN. My greatest fear that I had was that I had failed. Well, I promise those who read this that if you follow God’s word, and you do the things that you’re SUPPOSED to, don’t ever feel like you can fail. Even if things don’t go according to plan. It’s because it’s your plan when that happens, not Heavenly Father’s. He knows what He is doing. He has a path designed for each and every one of us. Sure, bad things happen. But with Heavenly Father involved, why do we even worry?
Here’s a support website for missionaries who come home early (https://earlyreturnmissionary.wordpress.com/). If you or someone close to you has come home early and you’re struggling, I highly recommend this.
Also, here’s an article that the Salt Lake Tribune did on a missionary who came home early. It’s pretty dang good. (http://archive.sltrib.com/story.php?ref=/sltrib/lifestyle/57219005-80/mission-missionaries-early-says.html.csp)

Feature Friday: Ashley

My friend Ashley and I have known each other for 7 years now. We became friends by bonding over having sent boys on missions (neither of us married them ha) and then when we both developed illnesses around the same time, without really knowing what the other had been through, we eventually bonded over that too. She has been a rock in my life and I am so grateful for her.
She graduated from BYU with a Bachelor’s in Psychology. She is currently living in West Virginia because her husband is in his third year at West Virginia Med School. She has two beautiful children, a girl, and a boy. She amazes me with her kindness and abilities to be a great wife and mother. Continue reading for her story…

I’ve been a worrier as long as I can remember. I’ve always been cautious and one to calculate risk in almost every situation. Still, I was outgoing and adventurous. I had a real belief that I could impact the world for the better. The summer after my freshman year of college, I spent 6 weeks in Belize on a humanitarian trip. I organized and carried out projects, cliff jumped, and explored miles of Mayan caves and ruins. A few months after returning home, I got engaged to the man of my dreams. This was everything I had ever hoped for becoming reality, and this is when my anxiety began to set in.
I became acutely aware of how much I now had to lose. I had found the man I wanted to spend eternity with. But what if I lost him? What if I died, and he fell in love with someone else? I started to notice every ache and pain in my body and my mind jumped to deadly conclusions. My headache was brain cancer. My abdominal pain was appendicitis. I received blessings, which brought reassurance, but the anxious thoughts remained invasive. As the wedding approached, my symptoms worsened. I began experiencing GI symptoms and was certain I had a rare case of colon cancer. I went to doctors but didn’t take much comfort in their diagnoses of IBS. I was certain they just didn’t understand the severity of my symptoms. At the same time, I didn’t want further testing, because I didn’t trust my ability to cope with a terminal diagnosis. I received additional blessings and was able to find a measure of peace and hope. We were married and enjoyed a perfect day and a dream-come-true honeymoon. When we returned home, my anxiety continued to progress. That fall was when the shooting in the Aurora movie theater occurred. It paralyzed me. I experienced what can only be compared to PTSD, though I hadn’t actually been there. The scene played in my mind over and over.
Suddenly, nowhere was safe. This was my lowest point. I only went to school and home. I couldn’t go anywhere alone – not the grocery store, the mall, a restaurant. I could barely even go with my husband. I was on constant high-alert, poised to run or hide at any moment. My physical symptoms also worsened. I felt sure that I had little time left to live. I remember collapsing on the floor one day, sobbing to the Lord, finally telling him that if it was his will to take me, then I would accept it.
With the support of my dear husband and my family, I started to improve. I took small steps, which felt like huge victories. The next spring, however, I had a miscarriage. I was devastated. I felt that finally when I had trusted that everything would be okay, the opposite had happened. That year was particularly rough. I experienced an unexpected marital trial that crushed me. This time, instead of wanting to hold onto life, I started feeling apathetic to it. I didn’t care anymore.
I attended therapy and spoke with my local church leaders. I began to understand myself better. I learned tools for how to adjust my thinking patterns. I learned to look at all the options instead of discounting all but the worst. Things improved.
I got pregnant unexpectedly and the pregnancy was very difficult. From a suspected miscarriage to bed rest to preeclampsia, the pregnancy was full of complications and fear. But then my baby came. She was perfect and she gave me a motivation I hadn’t experienced before. This baby needed me to heal. I didn’t want her to live in a world she feared. I wanted her to see the joy and the beauty that surrounded her. I wanted her to see the blessings that were so abundant in our lives. I wanted her to be happy.
We moved from Utah to West Virginia that year, which was very difficult and anxiety provoking; but also a tremendous blessing. It pushed me to do things I don’t think I would have had the strength to do otherwise. It forced me into independence again. It forced me into the world. I told new friends of my struggles with this mental illness and they accepted me with kindness and support. My marriage improved dramatically. We became an inseparable team.
I have still experienced some pretty severe lows. Toward the birth of my son, I experienced nightly panic attacks that I would die in labor and that my sweet 2-year-old daughter wouldn’t understand where her mom went and why she wasn’t here to care for her. She wouldn’t remember me. I fear for the safety of my husband and children. I hate that I can’t be in complete control of their safety and health. One of the most frustrating aspects of my anxiety is that often it is the happiest moments that are the most triggering. When I have a sweet conversation with my husband, I envision him feeling that way for another woman. When I play with my children, I can see them growing up calling someone else, “Mom” or I imagine the immense grief I would experience if I lost one of them. I realize that none of these fears make sense in the context of my beliefs. I have a firm testimony in the gospel of Jesus Christ and the Plan of Salvation. I believe that I am sealed to my family for eternity. But it doesn’t take it away.
I hate what anxiety has done to me. I miss the person I used to be. I want to be that adventurous, fun-loving, outgoing, kind, faithful, optimistic person I once was. I want to be out in the world, helping others; not trapped inside my house. Though I miss who I once was, I retain hope for who I can become. I know that I am becoming stronger, more faithful, more confident, and more prepared to serve the Lord. I believe that eventually, I’ll be able to impact the world in a greater way than had I never experienced this trial.
My new mantra has become, “Live in the Moment.” My life is full of so many beautiful, blissful moments. I strive to be present. I have this illness, but I am so, so happy. I feel like the most blessed woman alive. I love my family. I love my life. I love my Savior and am so grateful for this trial. This trial requires that I put my full trust in Him EVERY SINGLE DAY. I pray constantly. I make a conscious effort to see the good all around me, and there is SO much good to see. There are kind cashiers and receptionists. There are crisp fall leaves and beautiful sunsets. There are laughing babies, story times, and tender hugs. Sometimes I feel that because I know the dark side of things, I know the light even greater. I feel such a depth of love and joy and gratitude. It is truly glorious. I don’t expect this anxiety to go away, maybe ever. But I don’t plan on allowing it to stop me from doing the work the Lord needs me to do or from experiencing the joy that can be mine.
Be still, my soul: The Lord is on thy side;
With patience bear thy cross of grief or pain.
Leave to thy God to order and provide;
In every change, he faithful will remain.
Be still my soul: Thy best, thy heavenly Friend
Thru thorny ways leads to a joyful end.
Be still, my soul: Thy God doth undertake
To guide the future as he has the past.
Thy hope, thy confidence let nothing shake;
All now mysterious shall be bright at last.
Be still, my soul: The waves and winds still know
His voice who ruled them while he dwelt below.
Be still, my soul: The hour is hastening on
When we shall be forever with the Lord,
When disappointment, grief, and fear are gone,
Sorrow forgot, love’s purest joys restored.
Be still, my soul: When change and tears are past,
All safe and blessed we shall meet at last.

Feature Friday: Cori

This is my friend Cori. We have gone to the same school since Elementary, and she has always impressed me with her ability to not care what others think and just own her personality.
Cori is always good for a laugh and very hard working. She graduated from UVU in Public Relations and has worked for FOX and ABC. She also works part-time for Delta and has been able to travel frequently. I recently learned of her illness and am so amazed at her strength and the way she is open about it. Thank you for your words Cori! Continue reading for her story…
Hello! My name is Cori, I suffer from Anxiety, Depression, and OCD. These are all terms that we hear all the time, and on a light note, but for those who truly deal with this on a daily basis understand the severity that it actually brings to their lives. And for me, it’s to the point that physical pain to myself is better than what is going on in my mind, being the only way to make that pain stop is to hurt myself.
I have self-harmed myself multiple times throughout my life due to frustration, anger, and confusion during panic attacks that I can’t control. Yes, It is extreme and it scares me, just as much as it scares you reading this.
There are many things I do to work on this illness but what helps me most is the Gospel, my favorite scripture I turn to is John 14:18, which reads, “I will not leave you comfortless, I will come to you.”
I know that my Heavenly Father is always there for me and that my Savior died for me, and He has felt the exact same pain I have felt, and He knows EXACTLY what I am going through… and that is what brings me comfort and I’m grateful I can communicate through prayer my struggles and know that things will work out!
A mental illness isn’t always something that you can see with the physical eye, but it’s there and we don’t always need a black eye to prove it.
BUT… I’m not insane, and my mental Illness doesn’t represent who I am, and at 25-years-old, I’m close to overcoming it, and I WILL overcome it, and in posting this if you or someone you know deals has a mental illness, let’s beat it together!