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!

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.

Feature Friday: Linn

Linn is in my parent’s ward and I got to take a tour of her beautiful, tidy, and organized home a few months ago to get some inspiration for my own. Her story is one of familiarity and I am sure there are many who can relate to it. I am grateful for her willingness to share.
Linn’s favorite things are the gospel of Jesus Christher family and organization. She is also obsessed with being a picture taker, reader, laugher, memory maker and chapstick user. All of that said, her IG bio sums it up best: Wife to my favorite person ever, momma to my other six favorite humans. What a beautiful life I get to live, what a mighty Savior I get to serve.

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The first time I remember experiencing depression was when I was 18 years old. I definitely couldn’t have named it at the time, but as they say, hindsight is 20/20. Those few weeks after my high school graduation, after pushing myself beyond my limits for months and months, I felt completely numb and oddly “off” for many weeks. My current 42-year-old self can easily look back and see that it was a precursor of things to come, but it certainly wasn’t obvious then. I have now officially been in treatment for depression for the last six years. I’m extraordinarily grateful for each facet of that treatment. But there is little question to me that I should have been earnestly seeking help longer than I have been.

I believe the depression I know today began when our little family lived back East. Our time on the East Coast was an extremely difficult five years for me. And that was very unexpected. We had moved multiple times and lived in several different cities throughout the US, beginning just shortly after our marriage. But for some reason, my outgoing nature just couldn’t break through in Boston. We had wonderful members of our church congregation that we adored (and still do), but the boundaries of that congregation were huge and our time with them was very limited. I tried for three years to somehow find a friend or two in our town that I could feel close to, someone beyond just an acquaintance I talked to on occasion. I was told more than once, “I’m sorry you’ll never fit it. It isn’t your fault you aren’t a townie.” (Townie refers to someone who was born, raised, and still resided in the same New England town.) I honestly don’t believe the people who told me this were being rude, it was just how it was and they thought I should know. I couldn’t really fix that little problem of mine, so I kept trying. Until I didn’t.

I remember telling my husband after three years of doing everything I could to make a true connection with those around me, “My situation hasn’t changed, but I have.” And I had to let it go. Not out of bitterness or resentment, but just out of a final realization that my extroverted and outgoing personality wasn’t going to win this one.

In addition, and I’m still not sure of the reason behind this, but our time back East just felt hard. Everyday tasks felt like they took a lot out of me, something I hadn’t experienced in the past or since our most recent move. And anything out of the ordinary felt just plain daunting. Obviously those feelings can be signs of depression, but in all honesty, I don’t know how much was because of my emotional health and how much of that struggle might have been causing my depression. I know not everyone who lives in New England feels this way, but I actually have talked to several who do. It is curious to me, if nothing else.

The last two years of our time in Boston were fine; nothing about them was particularly terrible. But I could sense that I had changed in ways that were actually worrisome to me. I could feel my naturally, extroverted self, closing in. A lot of the time, “introvert” better described me during those days. Now let me be clear, I am in no way implying that introverts are depressed, just the drastic change in personality for me was what was notable and cause for concern.

At the same time all of this was happening, I had some terribly difficult struggles with some extended family members that brought me to my knees. Over and over and over again. It was just a lot, for many years, and it definitely contributed to my concerning emotional health.

As did my physical health. I often joke with my husband that I think I received a “refurbished” body when I came to Earth. I have the strangest health issues at times, from high risk pregnancies to an unusual brain disorder (idiopathic intracranial hypertension for those looking for a tongue-twister) to PCOS to bizarre joint and bone problems. I cannot count the number of times a doctor has said to me, “I have never seen anything like this Mrs. Allen.” Nice. And while I usually try to joke about it, physical struggles can most definitely contribute to depression challenges. And those health issues were oddly abundant while we lived on the East Coast.

One last experience in New England stood out to me. I had gone into my OB/GYN for an appointment and I ended up sharing with her how much I was struggling, how hard life felt for me all of the time of late. She told me she thought I should see my primary care, but she also ran a couple of tests herself. Through those tests, she discovered that my hormone levels were incredibly off and advised that I take a small bit of hormone, hoping that would help things. It did. Tremendously. At least for a time.

Shortly thereafter, I did visit my primary care physician. She listened and then suggested that I take an anti-depressant, to see if it would help. I remember being shocked and wondering why she was jumping to something so drastic. I laugh at that now, knowing that she was likely seeing it much more clearly than I was in that moment. (It is so interesting to me that when I think of others with depression or other mental health challenges getting help or taking medication, it feels brave to me. I’m so impressed with them. But when it came to me, it felt weak and lacking. I’m past that now, gratefully, but oh man, it was how my mind operated during that time.) Because the hormones my other doctor prescribed helped so much for a time, I felt almost justified in my reaction to my primary care doctor. I didn’t need anti-depressants, I just needed some help with my hormones. (Insert the emoji where I am shaking my head at myself. Also the prideful emoji that doesn’t exist to my knowledge, but should—at least for me.)

A few months after this experience, we received a strong impression that we needed to move. Through much prayer and fasting and my husband searching for jobs, we ended up with the answer that we should move back to Utah. Both my husband and I cried (and my husband is not a crier). We had lived “away” from our home state for more than a dozen years and while we both loved the state we were raised in, we never imagined moving back. We liked “being away” and it was difficult for that to end. It felt like a bigger change than we had initially thought we would be asked to make.

At the same time, I was expecting our sixth child. As mentioned, I have high risk pregnancies. Every single time. And my last one was especially difficult. It was physically taxing and worrisome, like the rest, but it seemed to take a more emotional toll on me than the other five, likely because of all that was happening in our lives and the large amount of change and challenges throughout my time being pregnant.

I remember about ten days or so after our daughter was born (she was four weeks early, but gratefully, very healthy), my husband approached me and kindly said, “Linn, do you want to call the doctor or should I?” He didn’t need to explain himself. Both of us knew I was in a dark and numb place, deeper in depression than I ever had been before that time. I didn’t even have the strength to make that call. But he did. And I will be forever grateful.

That call was the beginning of me fighting for my mental health and while I wish I could say that initial reason for calling the doctor has remained my worst time, it hasn’t. Not by a long shot. But I have had doctors that I will forever praise their name for going to bat for me and helping me make decisions to help myself. I have an incredible therapist that I have been seeing for years and how I was led to her can only be described as “divine intervention.” And after a few different tries, I have a wonderful medication that I take that has been such a blessing and help to me. It doesn’t change who I am, it clears away the junk, so I can be who I truly am. I have children who know that I have depression and that let me be open with them about it (age appropriately, of course). We talk about it plenty and we joke about it a lot (they are careful to never cross the line in their humor, but it is seriously beyond hilarious, I love it so). And while it may not be right for everyone, it is so right for us for the stigma and secrecy of mental illness not to be present in our family. And mostly, I have a husband who has been through more than anyone else realizes and still keeps coming back and loving and serving and trying and accepting and caring. He is amazing and good and I am eternally grateful for him and how he chooses to love me and how he works to see such good in me, even when I am in a place where I don’t believe him.

Most especially, I have a Father in Heaven and my Savior, Jesus Christ, who love me and have never left my side. When my depression is at its worst, I can’t feel the Spirit. I can’t feel my Father’s love or my Savior’s hope. And that used to shake me and make me feel unworthy and make it hard to pray or read my scriptures or even to care… But more often than not now, it just makes me look forward to when the depression will clear and the ability to feel the Spirit will return. My prayers and my doing everything possible to have the Spirit close to me, especially when I can’t feel it, not only make the post-depression episodes so much better, but they make my actual periods of depression much less. I know how blessed I am to have my depression as manageable as it is. And all of that is due to the above paragraph and to God’s incredible kindness and the Atonement of Jesus Christ. It isn’t easy, and there have been many dark, dark times that bring tears to my eyes when I think about them. But I know to Whom I can go for strength and help and healing (no matter how temporary) and mostly, to feel even a sliver of light, in a very dark place.

As I told someone recently, I don’t actually believe my life here in mortality is meant to be free of depression. Who knows? Maybe I am wrong about that. But to be honest, I don’t know if I want to be completely free from my depression. I have had opportunities to help others that I never would have had I not personally dealt with mental illness myself. I have made the choice to be very open about having depression and seeking treatment and seeing a counselor, a choice that works for me. And I have been surprised when that comes back to be a blessing to others. I have gone through situations that have rocked me to my core (most especially in the past three years, the last year being an absolute doozy). But because depression is a part of my life, I am learning to make the effort to take care of myself and help to heal myself from those difficult events and experiences in a way that I don’t know that I would without this struggle.

Depression is real. It is a part of my story. But it isn’t my story. And I have my Savior, Jesus Christ and my God to thank for that. They have surrounded me with my sweet kids that care when I struggle and that laugh when it is most needed. They have given me a husband that is the most hopeful and incredible person I know, even when he has every reason not to be. They have allowed me to struggle with depression, knowing that it had the ability to bring me to Them in a way that nothing else could, if I would make that choice.

If there is anything I have learned over the last six years–and beyond–it is that God loves His children. Every single one of us. Including me. Imperfect, crazy, loud, fabulous, depressed, happy, bodily-challenged, joyful me. And there is nothing that my God wants more for me than to run to Him. In joy and happiness, in pain and agony, in numbness and confusion. He will take all of it, if I will just come.

I’m truly grateful for the experience of writing my story. Of course, there are ten million other significant details I haven’t shared. (You’re welcome.) But good or bad, hard or easy, light or dark, it’s all worth it. It is what my Heavenly Father intended for my life. I’m sincerely grateful for every hard, painful, heartbreaking moment that depression has brought me. I’ll take every bit of it. And bring it to God. Because that is where it belongs. Mostly, that is where I belong. He has never left my side. That I know.

When Life Doesn’t Go As Planned: Stef

I had the privilege of hearing Stef share her testimony/story at SALT Retreat last fall. I talked to her a little bit in between sessions and as we got talking about sharing our stories she said something that I have never forgotten, “It’s not for attention, it’s for connection.” She has been through a lot with the loss of her son, and more recently, IVF and a miscarriage.

Stefanie has suffered depression, anxiety, PTSD,  pain and loss silently more than once, but after her son died of a congenital condition at ten months old she promised to make something good come from her grief. With a heart broken open she threw out her fear-induced silence and vulnerably shared a difficult journey of healing.
Even after such a nightmarish trial she achieved the happiness she knew Heavenly Father meant for her. Life hasn’t been free of trial since then, but she learned so much about her faith and strength that she has navigated subsequent trials from a more hopeful place. Because after all, hope heals.

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Everything was going according to plan, college, marriage, kids. That is, until our first son, following 3 girls, was born. His pregnancy, like the others, was horrible but otherwise normal until he was born unable to move.

An infant, so tiny and even more helpless than most without the ability to move, was already moving our family toward more love and closeness. We struggled to comprehend what this might mean for our family and grew closer over prayers and frequent visits to see the newest member of our family those first few weeks in the NICU. But when I was alone with my thoughts, the familiar team of anxiety and depression began making their comeback.

Despite Brody’s weight gain and therapies multiple times a week in the first months, his ability to move continued to digress. The uncertainty of his future life relentlessly chipped away at me at a rate faster than I could combat. God made himself known as much as possible. There were silent walks hanging my head, face shielded from strangers beneath a hat, while He sent my favorite sunny rain to help wash away my tears. Earthly angels about His errand came to my aide with wonderful messages of hope and tangible support of dinners and babysitting, but when Brody stopped eating, my despair spiraled into depression.

It was then I experienced my darkest hours. I tried to focus on all the blessings we had received to that point, there was elation every time I met his eyes and felt the strength of his trusting spirit, but it was met with fear. I was falling deeply in love with a child and I wasn’t sure he would stay long on this earth.

With no new information at doctor’s appointments, we opted for a g-tube and decided to have extensive genetic testing. The results would take weeks but would most likely give us a diagnosis and therefore prognosis of what to expect for Brody’s future. The appointments became fewer and farther between to which I was somewhat grateful. This allowed us an opportunity to work toward accepting our new normal and find moments of joy.

On Brody’s six-month birthday we sat in a foreign hospital room. As we waited to meet a doctor for the first time we struggled to connect with my husband on Facetime – all so he could hear our biggest fears spoken,

“His condition is degenerative, life-limiting and terminal.”

The day after Brody was diagnosed, I made truth of a statement I had uttered many times, “I just want to stay in bed all day.” I slept that day away sometimes cuddling Brody, sometimes letting my family step in to offer his care. Once the day was over, I knew there was nothing left but to take that first step out of bed, and then another and another.

Now we knew. Brody would be physically and mentally limited, and may only reach adolescence. We began a new set of expectations. We learned to love and appreciate every moment with him.

Brody lived 4 more months and passed away at home 6 days after his 10-month birthday. Though his funeral was hard, I felt so much love and hope in those moments. He had helped us grow strong enough to be the ones available to comfort others. We knew where Brody was, we knew he was with his Father in heaven in a perfect body.

Heavenly Father stayed close through my grief. Enough faith remained firmly within me that I knew I would be ok eventually. That thought carried me back into public places such as a drive-thru or a grocery store. As I slowly reintroduced myself to the fast-paced world around me, I was so bare that I saw humanity in its rawest forms.

Here I was, living the unimaginable and I was just a number in a crowd. Or was I? If I looked closely, could I tell what other people were going through? Not usually. Perhaps their timid smiles hid difficult circumstances just like my own. I saw people differently, and I began to thank them as best I could for their simple acts of kindness toward me…though they knew nothing of what I was living. I called this extra effort toward gratitude, #brodymoves. It meant I could do hard things and still be grateful.

God continued to put caring people in my path but I also had to learn to move forward on my own. Though I didn’t recognize it at the time I began a journey of self-reclamation. I questioned who I had become, my spirituality, physicality, my purpose. Where would I find those things again?

I fought to regain every piece of what made me who I was, every ounce of what I believed. I fought for the presence of a will to continue better than I had been before.
I cried, begged God for permission to quit, and thought of ways I could leave this life without giving up on my family. My answers all started with two things, “look inward, look upward.”

I was guided to things from my past. Who had I been? Who would I be now? How would I merge the two people before this life event and after this life event? Old yearbooks with pictures, signatures, and comments reminded me of my old self. It had to be within me somewhere. How would I bring it out and continue building on it?

Physicality would be the first thing I would fight to reclaim. If Brody wasn’t able to use his muscles, I should honor mine. I should use my physical abilities to fight toward the first step of reclamation. I would take back my body, and take it to a peak condition I knew was possible but had never achieved. I would use my muscle to fight for my life – to believe for myself that I was this “strong” that people were using to describe me.

I reluctantly started sharing my journey to healing on social media. I wondered if it might appear as if I was somehow exploiting my son for attention, when a pleading prayer resulted in my answer, “It’s not about attention, it’s about connection.”

My hope is that those who find this account or any other helpful, supportive community will know they are not alone.

I wish I could tell you in person it will all be ok. But the next best thing I can do is share my life and joy as an example of overcoming that darkness.

I know it will be ok. No matter what happens, no matter the torment we have been through or might soon go through. It will all be ok. You can find the powers that need to be present in your life. You will, and maybe already have, feel opposite ends of the spectrum for every emotion but I promise you your trials can turn into the most beautiful hurt. They can transform wreckage into building blocks to help you climb to a place higher than you have ever before experienced.

Heavenly Father honored me with 10 borrowed months caring for one of His chosen angels and continues teaching me through my son’s short, impactful existence.

It has been my pleasure to share with you all here, and I wish you a meaningful journey of this life ahead, as for me I will continue my journey to live well after loss.

When Life Doesn’t Go As Planned: Anonymous 4

The person who wrote this post is a very near and dear friend. It breaks my heart the things she has experienced in the last several months. What would you do if the person you fell in love with became someone else after getting married and left you one day? Read on to find out what she did.

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Hello! Ally asked me to write a blog post about some of the struggles that I have had during my marriage, and why I am currently grappling with the decision of whether or not to get divorced. I will frankly discuss verbal and emotional abuse/manipulation, as well as mental health, including suicidality and self-harm, which may be upsetting to some. I have decided to remain anonymous—first of all, because my story is ongoing, second of all, to protect my husband and me—some of the things I will discuss are sensitive, and I would prefer to keep them confidential at this time. However, if you or someone you know is going through something similar, and needs someone to talk to, please feel free to ask Ally for my contact information. I would also be willing to share my story in other ways, although I would still prefer to remain anonymous at this time. I sincerely would be happy to help however I can. Something I have learned in the midst of my trial is that support is absolutely crucial to being able to work through your thoughts and feelings and to see things clearly.

To explain how I got into this situation, I think it would be prudent to explain why I got married in the first place. When I first met my husband, the thing that stood out the most was how easy he was for me to talk to. While we were dating, he was attentive, charming, kind, compassionate, empathetic, honest, and charismatic. He was a true gentleman, and he was always going out of his way to make me feel special, and to show me respect. It seemed like so many things in both of our lives had lined up perfectly for us to meet each other. At one point, while we were dating, I unknowingly quoted part of his patriarchal blessing to him. It seemed like the stars were aligning. I usually take time to get to know someone, but I began to open up to him in ways that I hadn’t been able to open up to anyone before, and he listened with great care. I slowly began to fall in love with him.

I feel like it would be misleading to leave out a few parts of this love story. First of all, I have gone back many times and wondered if I made a mistake by dating him at all. I remember having an impression that I shouldn’t date him, very early in our courtship, and it troubled me a lot. I was afraid of diving into a relationship, and so I wondered if I was just letting my own fear and doubt cloud my judgment. On the other hand, I also really did want to date him, and so I worry that my own desires may have gotten in the way of real revelation. Truthfully, even now, I am not completely sure what is true. There is nothing I can do about it now but offer myself grace in knowing that I did the best that I could at the time and that I was truly trying to seek the will of the Lord, and do what is right. I discussed these thoughts with another friend of mine who was divorced, and I really appreciated his thoughts. He said, “I’m not so confident in my revelation receiving abilities as to think that I was for sure given confirmation that I should marry her (his ex-wife.) Maybe I was, maybe I wasn’t. I did the best I could at the time. I just know God doesn’t stop life from happening, so Christ makes up for it.”

There were some big concerns through our dating life. He had struggled heavily with pornography in the past (before we started dating) and had ongoing issues with masturbation because of it. He hadn’t served a mission or gone to the temple, and these issues made me the most unsure about continuing to court him. I had always strived to live the gospel, and I went on a mission and knew for sure that I would not settle for anything less than a temple marriage. I prayed a lot for discernment, and to know what to do, because this was obviously a major concern. However, he was incredibly honest about his struggles, and he was accountable to me, his bishop, and the Lord. He attended addiction recovery meetings diligently and taught the prospective elders class in his ward. As I watched, he made significant progress, turned his life around, and began to prepare himself to receive his endowment. He told me how happy he was, and I could see changes in his very core. I saw the Atonement at work. He received his endowment, was worthy of the temple and the Spirit, and his actions continued to demonstrate a deep commitment to me and the Lord. All of his actions all pointed to him being and continuing to become the kind of man I had always wanted to marry.

During this time, he had started to ask me about going ring shopping. We had introduced one another to our families, and our relationship was progressing. However, I was a little uncomfortable with how fast it seemed to be moving, and I kept putting off ring shopping, wanting to be sure that he could take me to the temple, and that he was the right man. I also wanted to make sure that the spiritual changes he was making were permanent, and that they were not just for me. He seemed frustrated by my uncertainty, and I began to feel a bit pressured to make a decision about whether or not I wanted him to propose. I continued to ask him to wait, as kindly as possible. However, I realized that our relationship was reaching a point where, if I wasn’t prepared to marry him, I needed to end it in order to be fair to us both.

I’d like to reiterate that he treated me very well—he was attentive and went out of his way to serve me and pursue me. He brought me flowers at work, took me on thoughtful dates, drove an extra 20 minutes to scrape the snow off my windows in the morning, and took care of me when I was sick. He was kind and caring. I feel like, because you, the reader, know that this isn’t going to end well, I feel obligated to share all of the challenges and concerns in our relationship. However, please don’t make any mistake that I was incredibly happy for the vast majority of the time that I was dating him, and early in our marriage—happier than I had ever been before in my life.

My then-boyfriend told me that he had received an answer in the temple that he should marry me. I was diligently seeking my own answer but didn’t get it as soon as he did. I wanted to, and continued to fast, pray, read the scriptures, go to the temple, and seek guidance from my bishop. Scriptures began jumping out to me—and over and over, the message was basically the same, “Don’t be afraid to do good.” I remember hearing something similar as I prayerfully went into General Conference in April of 2017, and I decided that I had my answer. Getting married was a good thing, right? I didn’t want to live in fear of doing something that seemed to promise so much happiness, and I felt like I was making a good choice.

Our dating and engagement lasted for a year and several months before were married in November of 2017. We honeymooned in Hawaii, which was pure bliss. We came home and quickly signed on a home that we had bought, and moved in. Immediately after, we hit the holidays hard—switching between families, and scrambling to make sure we had all of our last minute Christmas gifts ready. It was pretty chaotic and definitely stressful as newlyweds—still trying to figure out how to live together and adjust to all of the changes in our lives.

I also had started taking birth control shortly before our wedding. I was a little nervous about it, because I had never taken it before, and I did not know how it would affect me. I had struggled through periods of anxiety and depression prior to that, and I had even had suicidal thoughts in the past. However, they had never been severe enough to be debilitating, and I had always been able to manage it in silence. I had been honest with my husband about these tendencies prior to us getting married, and had even expressed that I was worried about how the birth control could potentially tap into those tendencies and make them worse.

Unfortunately, I was right. Birth control took my feelings and amplified them. I felt anxious and paranoid, and depression started to rear its nasty head. I began to experience regular suicidal thoughts. To make matters worse, our transition to marriage wasn’t going very smoothly. I come from a family where we are able to confront issues and deal with them directly, and my husband comes from a family that does not confront. It was a challenge for him and me to work through even the smallest of problems. I think that he had expected marriage to be much easier and smoother than it was proving to be, and I remember distinctly receiving a text from him that essentially told me that he wasn’t sure that he wanted to be married and that he felt like he was having a crisis of faith and identity. I was already an anxious mess, and this made all of the alarms in my head go haywire. I desperately wanted to fix things. I mentioned to my husband that I was worried that the birth control was affecting me negatively, but I felt pressured to continue to try it. To be clear, some of that pressure was from my husband, but a great deal of it was from myself—I figured that women take birth control all the time, we were going through a stressful time, things would get better, etc. I was terrified to admit that I might have a real problem, so I made every excuse I could think of to just try to “tough it out.”

January of 2018, I took a trip to go visit my mom and grandma. My husband stayed behind. He was acting strangely, and I remember feeling desperately anxious and worried, especially after his texts about a crisis of faith and identity. He was not communicating with me, which made me feel really insecure and scared—as it turned out, rightfully so. I remember calling him, angrily, and trying to explain how the lack of communication was making me feel. I tried to explain to him that I felt insecure and that not having open communication was amplifying the issues I was experiencing with anxiety and depression. I probably didn’t handle it the best, but I tried. That conversation was one of many that did not go well.

However, I was still completely shocked when I arrived home, and my husband of two months informed me that he had spent the weekend I was away contemplating divorce. Even though our marriage had been a little difficult from the start, I was still in the honeymoon phase, and still thought that he was also madly in love with me. I remember just collapsing into a heap and bawling my eyes out. I am not much of a crier (usually), but this just flayed me. Before we got married, he and I had discussed what things would be grounds for divorce, and we had agreed that it was not an option except for in very exceptional circumstances—and even then, that marriage was sacred and that we should try to make things work between us. Therefore, when he told me what he had been thinking, I was in absolute shock. I had just given this man everything, and he was rejecting it and rejecting me—like I was a donor’s kidney. He told me that he thought I was an abusive wife, and I was completely shocked by that, too. I dug through my mind and probed him for an explanation. I could admit that I had been less pleasant than usual, with all of the stress and the hormonal changes from the birth control—but abuse? This accusation also shook me to the core and made me question myself deeply. I didn’t understand how he could possibly think I was an abusive person, but I also worried that maybe I just didn’t see myself clearly. I was terrified of being that kind of person and resolved to figure out whether or not my behaviors really were abusive, and to try to fix them. I was also alarmed by the fact that he didn’t feel like he could confront me before his feelings had become so extreme.

I finally confessed to my husband that I didn’t think I could continue on the birth control, and described in detail some of the symptoms that it was giving me. He agreed, and we stopped using it, hoping that it would ease some of the burdens on our marriage. I accepted much more blame for our situation than I probably should have, but I genuinely wondered if it was my fault that he was considering leaving me. Was I really as broken as he was telling me? Was I really breaking him? I began to obsessively read every article about healthy marriages that I could get my hands on, desperate for answers.

Unfortunately, the security was taken out of our marriage for me. I kept trying to rebuild trust, but things kept happening that would break it again. After the initial shock of the divorce threat wore off, I became angry and resentful. I needed to talk through what had happened, to try to heal. I needed to express to my husband how much hurt and fear he had caused. I needed to understand his rationale, and why he hadn’t tried to talk frankly with me before making such a threat. I was trying to stand up for myself, because I had always been a relatively strong and independent woman, and I had enough self-confidence to realize that I couldn’t be the only one doing things wrong. However, every time that I began to talk about it, my husband would reply viciously, using cutting remarks to silence me. Looking back, I believe many of the things that he told me were verbally and emotionally abusive. I also felt like I was walking on eggshells, questioning many of my behaviors so that I couldn’t again be accused of abuse. My husband told me that the only reason he hadn’t left me was for my own sake and that he thought that I might be a good mother for his future children. Those words made me feel like he had dropped another bombshell on me because I felt so devalued and unloved. The bombshells just kept coming.

I can’t say that there was any one event that made our relationship cross the line from loving and respectful into what it became–it was so insidious that I hardly realized how bad things had gotten until I was eventually removed from the situation. However, there were some events that were noteworthy, so I will briefly mention those:

· My husband asked me to attend counseling with him after his first divorce threat in January. I was terrified and had never done counseling. I resisted it at first because of all of the stigma that I had associated with it—partially because of the way I was raised, and partially because of the culture in the church. I thought that for a marriage to require counseling, it must be on its last leg. I asked instead if we could try taking a healthy marriages class in the community, which I arranged for us. We took that, and it helped for a short time. However, when things still were rocky in April, we began regularly seeing a marriage counselor. While I do think that this helped, I also do not think that this particular counselor was the right fit for us and our marriage, and sometimes I would walk away from the sessions feeling more depressed and discouraged, and even more like everything was my fault.

· There were several nights that felt noteworthy to me because they were so heart-wrenching. I remember having an argument with my husband one night, and he rolled over and went to sleep, while I literally cried the entire night by myself. Every time he woke up, he would treat me with scorn and anger, and I felt so incredibly abandoned. I was so distraught by our argument, and he seemed so callous. My heart was broken. Please keep in mind that while I would consider myself to be an emotional person, I have never been much of a crier. I have always been somewhat stoic about my feelings, so I have to be hurting really badly to cry like that. I remember mechanically getting up and going into work the next morning, not having slept, eyes were swollen, desperate to not let anyone know that anything was wrong in my life. Little did I realize that this was the first night of many where I would have to do that. I would wait the next day for apologies that almost never came until I eventually would apologize, just to try to make peace, even though I usually wasn’t sure that I had done anything wrong.

· There were nights where I left the house and walked alone, in the dark, because I felt like I had no other choice. I was in so much pain that I felt like I would explode, and my house didn’t feel safe anymore, because the source of the pain was there. There were some nights I considered not going home at all and thought about where I might sleep. My husband later described these incidents to try to prove that I was mentally unstable.

· My husband has never been physically abusive to me, but there was one time that he came close, and that was a very sobering experience. We were talking about something trivial, and suddenly, he got irrationally angry. Alarmed, I asked him what was going on, and he asked if I would just leave him alone. This upset me, and I told him that I hadn’t done anything and didn’t understand why he was angry. I tried to ask him, and he slammed his hands down on the banister of our stairs, telling me that he was doing it to intentionally scare me into silence. It worked, and that was a wakeup call for me. He had crossed a line that he had never crossed before, and in my mind, it sort of clicked—his actions at that moment were to consciously use fear and manipulation to be domineering and control my actions. That was an alarming realization.

· My husband began to lie to me. I do not know to what extent, but I do remember catching him once. When I told him that it was unacceptable, he told me that it was my fault—if I were more trustworthy, he could have talked to me. He didn’t feel safe, because I was so critical of him. He made me feel guilty and responsible for his mistake. This blaming became an ongoing pattern.

Obviously, things were in a downward spiral, and getting worse. My husband, who had rarely exhibited anger towards me when we were dating, was now angry almost all of the time. Everything I said could cause him to lash out at me, and say things that cut me to the core. It was so inconsistent—sometimes he was the man I knew and loved, but most of the time he was scary. He knew exactly how to hurt me. I was extremely depressed, and despite the reprieve that getting off of the birth control gave me, I still experienced thoughts of self-harm and suicide, most days, and persistently. I would fanaticize about just not waking up, and being released from the situation I was in. I felt like I was just hurting my husband, who constantly told me how abusive, critical, unsupportive, and broken I was, despite tremendous effort on my part to be the best that I could be for him and our marriage. The harder I tried, the more I seemed to disgust him, and the more he seemed to despise me. He would hold things against me for weeks and months, resenting me, while I tried to figure out what was wrong. I thought it was all my fault because that is what he kept telling me. I thought that the world might be better off without me. I began to feel fairly certain that my husband would be happier if I was gone. I felt desperate all of the time—desperate to make him happy, desperate to overcome my own feelings, desperate to make things work, desperate to be a good member of the church. It was so consuming. It was destroying me. I felt like I had nowhere to turn—I didn’t want to talk to my family or friends, because I was trying to be loyal to my husband, and I didn’t want them to know how deeply we were struggling. Even heaven began to feel dark, as I became so engulfed in misery.

I will now discuss something that I am deeply ashamed of, and that I have not been able to admit to many people. At one point, I did act on an impulse to harm myself, creating a shallow cut in my hand with a pair of scissors. I was horrified by this and felt so much shame. I hadn’t really meant to hurt myself, and honestly didn’t think that I had it in me to do anything like that. I can’t explain what happened, other than that I was just hurting so badly, and I wanted my emotional pain to stop. I felt like I had no outlet for my emotional pain, and it felt good to focus on anything else—even physical pain. When I realized that I had actually cut myself, I immediately stopped, realizing what a bad place I must be in. I had crossed a line. My body is a temple, and in an effort to temporarily ease some of the emotional pain that I was feeling, I had defiled it. I called my husband over and over again until he answered, and, crying, I asked him if he thought I needed to go to the hospital. He answered with contempt and anger, and that amplified my fear of reaching out for help.

Supposedly, it was the self-harm that made my husband decide to abandon our marriage and to leave me. I guess it is time to move on to that part of the story.

In October of 2018, he and I went up to my parent’s house to watch General Conference. Supposedly, during that conference, he received an answer that he should move out of our house and ask me for a divorce. He did not tell me this until much later, but he began to make preparations to leave that very day, calling his parents and asking them to help him move out and to help him hire a divorce lawyer.

During this time, he did many things that deeply violated my trust. He staged a conversation with me, asking me loaded questions with his phone secretly recording the responses that he was trying to get me to say. He lied to me repeatedly—telling me that he was committed to our marriage, that he loved me, and that we were going to work things out. I even asked him directly at one point if he had been considering leaving, and he told me no. He told me he was going to talk to the bishop, and instead went and called my parents, telling them about my mental health issues (something I had not been ready to discuss with them,) and telling them about his plans to leave. There is much more that happened—he told me that everything that happened that week was a lie, staged so that I would not uncover the truth. He even took me to the place where he had proposed to me, the night before he left me. He sat there laughing and reminiscing with me, fully knowing that he was about to break my heart. His lies and manipulation during that time continue to haunt me deeply.

On October 12, he went home early from work. He told me he was meeting his dad to do some yard work at the house. Something didn’t quite add up, but I trusted him enough that I didn’t question his motives.

My parents were supposed to be with my extended family that day, and they had called to cancel plans. They were upset and told my grandparents and some of my extended family about my husband’s phone call to them. Because of that, I started getting strange texts. My grandparents texted me to tell me that they were there for me, and to keep my chin up. My cousin told me that she wanted to reach out to me because she heard that he was moving out. My heart stopped, but if I am completely honest, I didn’t believe her at first. I was that convinced that I would call him, and we would laugh about some misunderstanding later.

I went and called him, and he confirmed that he was leaving, but told me that ‘things weren’t over.’ I was in complete and utter shock. I left work in a panic, drove home, and found him and his dad sitting on our front porch, bags packed up in his car and his parent’s van. He had written me a letter, telling me that he was leaving and that he never planned on coming back. He told me our marriage was over and told me later that the only reason he didn’t have divorce papers in hand was that they couldn’t get them ready fast enough. My world was flipped upside down in a matter of minutes.

I begged him to reconsider, to try to work with me and to save our marriage. I asked him to pray, to go to the temple. I cried a lot. He listened for a while, but he ultimately left. I remember standing in our living room with my mom. The photo from our wedding had been stripped from the wall, and I wrung my hands and paced, scared to leave. What if he came back, and I wasn’t there?

The days and weeks that followed were absolute hell. Even though our marriage had been struggling, I was in complete shock. I missed him terribly. I couldn’t sleep at night, and if I did manage to doze off, I would wake up having a panic attack, reaching out for someone who wasn’t there. I didn’t want to eat, and I lost ten pounds in a matter of days and continued to lose weight over the coming weeks. I kept throwing up for no particular reason—my body was just under so much distress that I would get sick out of nowhere. I went to work because I had nowhere else to go, but I would not do anything productive—I would just go stare at a computer between episodes of running to the bathroom to cry. I tried to avoid our home at all costs because being alone there was almost unbearable—so I tried to only be there to sleep. I remember at one point trying to exercise and laying on the ground gasping for air, heart pounding, wondering if I was having a heart attack. I worried that it was a matter of time until I wound up in the hospital. Everything triggered memories of him, and they were all so incredibly emotionally painful. I kept stumbling across things he had forgotten or opened a drawer only to realize that his things were gone, all over again.

I was so unhealthy during this time that I decided I needed to be medicated. I went to see a psychiatrist, which was a humbling experience for me. He prescribed me anti-anxiety and depression medication, as well as sleep medicine. I had a hard time admitting I needed this help. However, I no longer feel any shame about it and have discussed it openly with many people. If anyone is on the fence or is scared about getting help or treatment for their mental health, please let me encourage you to not let stigma or pride keep you from really taking care of yourself. I do not know how long I will need to be medicated, but what I do know is that it has dramatically increased my quality of life right now.

My husband and I have been separated for about six and a half months at this point. It has been the most exhausting, emotionally draining, traumatic, and difficult experience of my life. Throughout this time, many things have happened. Since this is already pretty lengthy, I will try to summarize. My husband and I have had significant ups and downs—we have come very close to getting divorced. I have asked him to come home and try to work things out with me many times. He has asked for the divorce and then backed out of it. We have both undergone a lot of counseling. We both have gained a lot of perspective. To be honest, I have no idea what will happen. I think part of the reason Ally asked me to write this post is to share my experience through the eyes of someone who is still suffering through a difficult trial.

Everyone’s situation is different, but for me, right now, I have decided to give our marriage one more chance. I have no intention of tolerating abuse or allowing anything to drag me back to the depths of depression that I described earlier. I realize that this will take a lot of help. We will need ongoing help from our counselors, bishop, each other, and most importantly, the Savior, to have any chance of restoring our marriage and having it be healthy. There is a lot of damage that has been done.

I know some of you, at this point, are undoubtedly wondering why I stayed at all after my husband left me, or why I am not already divorced. From an outside perspective, it would be easy to ask, and I would probably be wondering the same thing. However, there are several factors that I think make a big difference. Again, this is just for me, personally—I cannot speak to the situation or choices of anyone else, and my heart sincerely goes out to anyone else who has had to endure something similar. I am also not advocating that anyone stay in a situation that is toxic or abusive—I have no intention of doing so, myself. Elder Holland said in a recent conference talk, “It is, however, important for some of you living in anguish to remember what He (Christ) did not say. He did not say, ‘You are not allowed to feel true pain or real sorrow from the shattering experiences you have had at the hand of another. Nor did He say, ‘In order to forgive fully, you have to reenter a toxic relationship or return to an abusive, destructive circumstance.’” I fully know and understand that a loving and merciful God does not expect us to be in a situation that destroys us. He loves us enough that he does not want us to be tormented, miserable, or abused.

However, I have had counselors, mental health professionals, and church leaders all tell me that it is possible for my husband and me to still have a happy and healthy marriage. I have tried my best to stay close to the Lord and to try to receive personal revelation throughout our separation and all of the trauma that it has brought with it. I have never felt at peace with a decision to move forward with the divorce. I am not completely sure why, but I believe that the Lord will let me know if and when the time is right to move forward.

One of my favorite quotes from Preach My Gospel says: “Satan is attacking the family on many fronts, and too many families are being destroyed by his efforts. The message of the restored gospel of Jesus Christ is that all individuals are part of God’s family and that families can be united now and in eternity…Through the light of the gospel, families can resolve misunderstandings, contentions, and challenges. Families torn by discord can be healed through repentance, forgiveness, and faith in the power of the Atonement of Jesus Christ.” What a hopeful message! I truly believe that my family could be healed if my husband and I are both willing to repent, forgive, and accept the Atonement in our lives and in our marriage. However, those blessings are conditional on our actions. I recognize that we BOTH have to choose that, and I cannot control the actions of my husband. I am also sure that it might be one of the most difficult things that either he or I will ever do—but I would like to have the opportunity to test this promise. I know that I have not done things perfectly, and there are many things I have learned throughout this trial. I have realized that, for me, I need to be able to have the closure of knowing I gave it my best. That way, if our marriage does end in divorce, I can hold my head high and know that I put my heart and soul into doing what I believed to be the right thing.

I also believe that my husband is a good man, in his core, and I still love him. I think that a great deal of what has happened was due to a lack of skills on one or both of our parts. The more he has begun to acknowledge and accept his role in what has happened, the more hopeful I am that we can find a way back to a happy and healthy place. I believe that he has struggled with his own mental health issues, and also has some issues from the way he was raised that have played into how things have gone in our marriage. Now that we both have learned lessons and skills, perhaps we can do better. I am not certain that it will work out, but I am certain that I do not want to live with regret.

I’d like to end with some lessons I have learned:

· It is okay to get help. Find support. Don’t try to go through hell alone. It is not worth it, and it is not necessary. You will be surprised by how many people understand what you are going through. I have been overwhelmed by the compassion and understanding of others, and I have also been overwhelmed by how many other people have suffered through tragedy that is similar to mine. Reach out, and you will be surprised who reaches back. God puts people into our lives who can help us, and when tragedy strikes, know that he has prepared a way for you to endure. It may not be what or who you expected, but there will be a way.

· I have several suggestions to anyone who is doing marriage counseling (or counseling of any kind)—first, find a person who makes you feel empowered, and preferably someone who shares your faith/values. Those things have made a tremendous difference for me. Second, be willing to be 100% honest with your counselor. If you don’t feel like you can be that vulnerable, you probably don’t have the right counselor, or you probably aren’t being completely honest with yourself. Finally, be patient with yourself. If you, like me, are hesitant to see a counselor at first, be honest about it. If that is where you are at, it is okay to own up to it. It is surprisingly common, and counselors are equipped to deal with those kinds of doubts and fears.

· Real, unconditional, Christlike love is respectful, forgiving, and kind. Unfortunately, humans are still trying to learn how to develop this kind of love. Be patient with them, and with yourself. Look to the Master Teacher for His example of love, and try to emulate it.

· At the same time, do your research and set healthy boundaries. I have delved a lot into research about narcissism, codependency, addiction, attachment style, love languages, and so forth. Arming myself with knowledge has helped me to understand both myself and my husband better. It has also helped me realize what things are and are not acceptable.

· I found a quote by Hank Smith that I really loved, regarding boundaries. He said, “Being Christlike means being tolerant and forgiving. However, Jesus had boundaries. When Nazareth tried to kill Him, He never returned. He told Peter when he had crossed a line. He called out leaders for hypocrisy. He refused to speak to Herrod. Clear boundaries are Christlike.” Again, our Savior and Heavenly Father expect us to be loving, and tolerant, and patient, but they do not expect us to allow other people to abuse us or to walk all over us. Taking care of yourself and standing up for yourself is not wrong. Being Christlike does not mean that we have to subject ourselves to abuse. There IS such a thing as being too self-sacrificing, too understanding, and too willing to overlook the mistakes of others. Be careful, because we each have the responsibility to protect and care for ourselves, and to stay true to ourselves and the things that we know are right.

· Remember that you deserve to be loved and to feel safe. Elder Holland once said, “In a dating and courtship relationship, I would not have you spend five minutes with someone who belittles you, one who is constantly critical of you, one who is cruel at your expense and may even call it humor. Life is tough enough without the person who is supposed to love you leading the assault on your self-esteem, your sense of dignity, your confidence, and your joy. In this person’s care, you deserve to feel physically safe and emotionally secure.”

· If you find yourself in a situation where this is not the case, like me, then get help. And, if necessary, get out. Life is tough enough.

· Give yourself grace. One of my favorite quotes by Maya Angelou is “Do the best you can until you know better. Then when you know better, do better.” I know I made mistakes, and I could spend all day delving into the “what ifs” and the “why me’s.” That is a dark, downward spiral that I have learned is better to avoid. I can offer myself grace knowing that I have done the best I can throughout this trial, and I have learned a lot. Now that I know better, I can continue to do better. However, there is no point on being hard on my past self, or dwelling on things that have been repented of and cannot be changed—it just damages future possibility. Be humble, but remember to be kind to yourself.

· Recognize what you can control, and do not accept responsibility for anything else. After my husband abandoned me, he told me that he believed I was too emotionally unstable for him to be honest with me. He also told me it was my fault that he had asked for a divorce. I believed him. It took me quite a while to reject the idea that it was my fault that he had left me, because it was something that he reinforced almost every time I talked to him, for a long time. I had become convinced that I was damaged, and that I was the entirety of the problem. I also had become co-dependent in our marriage, and I accepted far more blame than I should have. This is where an excellent counselor has been extremely valuable in helping me to see things clearly and to heal. Again, I would encourage anyone to seek this help.

· Don’t judge people. In the midst of this crisis, I have been on the receiving end of judgments that have felt unkind and unfair. I have been shunned by friends who I thought would be there for me. Many people have said and done things that have been very hurtful, whether intentionally or not. Many of them simply do not understand my situation. Please do not judge situations that you do not understand. I, in turn, have had to learn to be less judgmental of the people who have hurt me and to expand my willingness to forgive. It is easier to forgive others if you believe their intentions are good, even if their actions sometimes are not.

· Remember to look outside yourself and to count your blessings. Gordon B Hinkley said, “For many years there was a sign on the wall of a shoe repair shop I patronized. It read ‘I complained because I had no shoes until I saw a man who had no feet.’” Sometimes, it can be incredibly difficult to look outside of ourselves in the midst of a bitter and painful trial, or when we are sad and depressed. However, the times that I have been able to do so have been very meaningful to me. I have developed a deeper empathy for those around me, and have realized that my trials are small compared to some—even though this has been an extraordinarily difficult one for me, personally. I also keep a running list of blessings and good things that happen to me each week. This helps me to see the hand of God in my life, and also helps me to try to stay positive.

· The Savior will be there, no matter what. One of my favorite scriptures is D&C 84:88. It says “And whoso receiveth you, there will I be also, for I will go before your face. I will be on your right hand and your left, and my Spirit shall be in your hearts, and mine angels round about you, to bear you up.” I have seen this. There have been so many times throughout this trial where the right person has stepped into my path, or someone has sent me a message that helped, or someone has simply called at the right time. God is merciful. He is mindful of us, and He is there whether or not we feel or recognize His presence and love.

· Healing is always possible. Always. Elder Holland said, “However late you think you are, however many chances you think you have missed, however many mistakes you feel you have made or talents you think you don’t have, or however far from home and family and God you feel you have traveled, I testify that you have not traveled beyond the reach of divine love. It is not possible for you to sink lower than the infinite light of Christ’s Atonement shines.” Find the courage to start over, if necessary. But know that you are never too far gone to come back and for the Savior’s Atonement to make you whole.

Thanks for taking the time to read this very lengthy post. Again, if you would like to reach out to me directly, please ask Ally for my contact information. Sending hope and love and encouragement to everyone who suffers in silence.

Feature Friday: Jamie

Jamie and I have been interacting on Instagram for I don’t even know how long now, and I hope to be able to meet her in person someday. I have grown to love her through the things she shares on her platform. Her smile shows that she has found happiness despite her struggles. She went through things a small child should not have to go through, and it has been affecting her all her life but I love the faith she has in our Savior.
Jamie is married to her husband of 19 years and lives in Queen Creek, AZ with her three kids: 17, 14, and 10 years old. She is a convert to The Church and was sealed to her husband in the Las Vegas Temple. She started writing her blog 3 years ago and speaking to the youth. Her passion is helping youth and women feel that they are not alone in their struggles. She wants to help open the conversation about mental health and share her testimony of her Savior. “It’s okay to not always be okay, and there is always hope.”

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Photo by Noel Grace Photography.

When I was 9 years old, I spent my entire Christmas break in bed. I had been for weeks and things didn’t seem to be getting any better. I had a few pretty typical flu-like symptoms and others that didn’t make much sense. My body constantly ached, I had fevers off and on and I was extremely pale. I also had leg cramps so severe I couldn’t move at times. I had extra bruises on my body and one that was large and almost black. It had been there for several weeks and all I could remember was bumping into the rounded corner of my desk at school.

When my fever spiked to 104.6, my mom decided to take me in. I was diagnosed with a rare form of Leukemia, called Acute Myelocytic Leukemia. I was given a 25% chance of survival. None of the doctors in the entire state of Nevada knew how to treat me. I was sent to Children’s Hospital in Los Angeles (CHLA) for treatment.

Once I got to CHLA, I immediately had more tests run and started my first dose of chemotherapy. After a little over a week, I was placed in what we called a “bubble room”. It was a back section of the hospital on the pediatric oncology floor dedicated to quarantine treatment. My chemotherapy protocol was so severe that my body would be unable to fight off common ailments. The flu could have been very dangerous. With my immune system completely depleted, I could have easily died from an infection.

The room looked a lot like a typical hospital room; bed, tv, a large cabinet, and sink. What it was lacking was a bathroom. I had a small metal toilet in the middle of the room that I had to use and a makeshift tub that I was only allowed to use a couple times a week. There was a stationary bicycle in the back corner and where the front wall should be there was a large, clear, vinyl curtain that hung from the ceiling.

There was no door to the room, however, if anyone (doctors, nurses, or family) wanted to come into the room with me they had to “suit up”. They would have to put on a medical hazmat suit that covered their entire body and all of their skin. I had to have no skin to skin contact while I was in the room. I spent three months in that room unable to leave even for a moment.

Those three months were very traumatic. Lots of painful procedures, one of which resulted in an accidental temporary paralysis. I was so weak and sick that I had to be placed on a feeding tube for a couple weeks just to be able to get any nutrition.

The nights spent in that room were terrible and felt extremely lonely.

I had miraculously gone into remission much sooner than any of the doctors expected and the plan was to have a bone marrow transplant; the only known cure of Leukemia. After many more setbacks and difficulties with my heart, I never was able to receive the transplant.

I continued the chemotherapy for one year, and five years later was considered completely cured. It was a miracle. Well, many small miracles that kept me in this world.

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I had been raised in a few different faiths and after my chemotherapy ended, my mother and I were baptized into the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-Day Saints. My faith in my Savior sustained me through many years of hard times after that.

As a teenager, I suffered from severe PTSD, Survivor’s Guilt, and depression. Life looks very different to a teenager that has gone through a life or death trauma as a child. I felt like I was squandering my second chance at life while I watched many of my friends pass away from the same disease I was saved from. When I was 17 years old, I planned my suicide. I know that it was by the grace of God that I was able to keep myself from following through with those plans.

I now speak to youth to try and help them feel not so alone in their darkness. I want to help break open the conversation on mental health and help these teens see that there is always hope through our Savior. He is the only one that can be there in the darkness with us, understanding, loving, and guiding us back to the light.

I am beyond grateful for my testimony and faith. I have a very real relationship with my Savior and have literally felt Him in the room with me in some of my darkest moments. I have continued to struggle with PTSD and depression throughout the years. I continue to go to therapy to help get through the traumas I have experienced. It has helped in so many ways.

The one thing though that has and always will be my constant, is my Savior, Jesus Christ. He has always been there and I know it is by His hand that I am still here today and able to love my husband and three miraculous children. This Gospel helps keep me grounded in a scary world where I have no control over health or traumatic things. It is my faith that keeps me going and that keeps hope alive that one day the darkness will all subside, and only light and peace and love will be left in its place.

Feature Friday: Colie

I felt a special connection with Colie because she too came home from her mission in Texas because of medical problems. I’m grateful for her willingness to share about that.
Colie Jensen is 20-years-old and is currently a student at BYUI. She is passionate about dance, travel, and being in the moment.

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Photo by Amanda Photo Co.

One of the most humbling moments I’ve ever had was being faced with depression. For 19 years of my life, depression was an excuse for people to get out of situations they didn’t want to be in. It was “all in your head” and it was “made up”. Why couldn’t people just “snap out of it?”

There is something so real and dark about depression that I didn’t understand until I went on my mission.

My life made a complete 180 turn when I arrived in Texas. I went from a happy, outgoing, and bubbly girl to someone who hated looking in the mirror, never wanted to get out of bed, and dreaded putting on a “happy” face. There were days where I laid in bed for hours at a time because the darkness around me and inside me felt so real and overwhelming. There were days where thoughts of self-harm would come into my mind and it terrified me. These thoughts were not normal and not healthy!

Days, weeks, and months went by after I came home from my mission – 16 months early. It was HARD. There were and still are moments where I have PTSD after something triggers a dark thought I encountered on my mission. It’s been over a year and a half and sometimes, I question if it was even worth going in the first place. But, there is a quote that a recently heard that changed my perspective on my experience. it may not mean anything to anyone, but it was one of those phrases that sunk DEEP into my soul. “You’re too focused on where you’ve been to pay attention to where you are going.” (Mary Poppins Returns)

It can be so hard and damaging to live in the past and wish for things to change that can’t. Looking at an eternal perspective, this life is so short. My mission and my depression is only a blink compared to an eternity of love, laughter, and pure joy. For those struggling, there is always a light and the end of the tunnel. It may not be now, next week, or 12 years, but it will come. I’ve been walking through this tunnel with a flashlight (and some Dr. Pepper of course) for some time now, and who knows when I’ll get out of it. But, there is so much hope and joy knowing that it’s not forever, only a few minutes out of eternity. You can do it. WE can do it.

Figuring Out How The Atonement Works… For ME

I have been engaged in a wrestle for a majority of 2018. Something has been going on inside me that has made me unsure of the life I knew. It has been a quarter-life crisis of sorts. I feel I need to mention that my testimony hasn’t been at stake, it’s nothing like that. The best way I can think of describing it is a reconversion of sorts. And I haven’t had the words to explain it until an extraordinary aha moment I had in Sunday School back in November.

Our Sunday School lesson was from Isaiah, “How Beautiful upon the Mountains,” and we focused on The Atonement and how it applies to our lives. And sometime during this lesson I had this thought, “I’m trying to figure out how the Atonement works for me.” And since that thought has come into my mind a series of thoughts and impressions have followed and I feel like I have had this vast breakthrough into what I have been wrestling with.

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In order to explain this breakthrough, I need to give a little bit of background information…

Growing up in the Gospel I was always told that if I prayed, read my scriptures, went to church, served others, lived the commandments, kept my covenants, obeyed my parents, followed the Prophet, etc. that I would be blessed and that everything would work out. I do believe this to be true, BUT, I also believe that it is not that easy.

We all know by now that while I was serving my mission I was diagnosed with anxiety and depression. And those illnesses have forever changed my life and the person that I am. No, the illnesses do not define me, but they have changed me. And I won’t go into that tangent right now, but I need to say that because I was doing all the things that I was taught growing up that I was told would make everything turn out right. When I was diagnosed I was doing them more fervently than ever before. And yet, here I was… a representative of Jesus Christ and my life was not turning out right (at least in my eyes, I know His eyes saw something different).

I had become numb to everything and everyone. I could not see, feel, or hear my Heavenly Father anywhere. I knew my Savior was relying on me to bless His children and I did not care. I knew my companion needed me to go out and bless the lives of the people in our area but I could not get out of bed unless it was in the middle of the night when I was supposed to be sleeping but instead I was experiencing panic attacks and could not relax. Life was a real struggle. Things that I used to do without thinking now took all my focus and energy. And I couldn’t help but wonder why the blessings of living the Gospel were not coming.

I think that has been one of the most frustrating parts of living with a mental illness: feeling like my faith doesn’t overcome my anxieties and learning that those little things that I was told would bless me, haven’t in the way I want them to. Living with anxiety for almost 7 years now has also hindered my ability to receive personal revelation. I can still feel the Spirit, but trying to discern between my thoughts and things from God has become really difficult because my perception of what is real and what is not has become so distorted.

This is something that I already beat myself up for but then to have everyone around me continually say the same things, “pray, read your scriptures, go to church, serve others, live the commandments, keep your covenants, follow the Prophet, etc.,” knowing that it doesn’t work for me… it truly defeats my heart and Spirit. Why should I keep trying if it doesn’t work?! That has been my wrestle as of late. Still doing those things without feeling like Heavenly Father has been blessing me for it.

I want to give an example of what I mean by that, to hopefully help you understand more. When my husband goes out of town, and he has been gone quite a bit the last few months for med school interviews, I have a really hard time. At night I am in a constant state of fear and worry that someone is going to come into our house and take my girls or hurt us. This fear is so real to me that the last time he was gone I stayed at my parents’ 3/6 nights he was gone and the nights I was home I had my girls sleep in my room with me so I could lock the door and protect them more easily. I fell asleep thinking about what I would do if someone did come in.

I read my scriptures and prayed before going to bed. And I was constantly saying prayers that I would be calm and my fears would subside so I could sleep. I thought of the promises of angels coming to aid those who called on them, so I tried doing that and told myself that angels were watching over us. And yet I was still afraid. Why?! Isn’t my faith enough?! Do I not have enough faith if I am still afraid? Faith and fear cannot coexist so what is wrong with me? Why am I still scared?

(And I get that this is all in my head and I just need to think happy thoughts, be present, or whatever. That’s just another reason why all of this is so frustrating. I can’t just magically fix it. I can’t always override my brain, and yes, I’ve tried.)

I have experiences like this fairly often. I tear up just thinking about my lack of faith and how it doesn’t trump my anxieties. So why do I even bother to pray if it doesn’t (seem to) work?

Is this promise in Alma 36 not for me?

And now, O my son Helaman, behold, thou art in thy youth, and therefore, I beseech of thee that thou wilt hear my words and learn of me; for I do know that whosoever shall put their trust in God shall be supported in their trials, and their troubles, and their afflictions, and shall be lifted up at the last day.

And then I received some of the answer to my why that I have been desiring for years… figure out how the Atonement works for YOU.

I need more. I need to learn how to apply The Atonement more. I need to do the little things but I need to take it a step further. Life isn’t as simple as it used to be.

I believe Christ’s Atonement is a one-size fits all – it works for everyone. However, the way that size looks and feels is going to be different for each of us. And I am, and always will do the things that I was taught growing up because I know they are righteous and they will bless me somehow. But I have found that they aren’t going to take away or overcome some of my trials… The Atonement will. I need more.

And what works for me may not work for someone else, and what works for someone else may not work for me. If serving others is what makes you feel better and helps you overcome your hardships, that is wonderful and I am truly happy that helps you. But if that doesn’t work for someone else then please don’t look down on them for not doing it, or continually tell them that will make them feel better.

One of the beauties of the Gospel is that we can each find unique ways that it will help us. We are all so different and yet it is specifically catered for every individual.

And that is how I know that I will get through living with anxiety and depression. Because of Christ’s Atonement. I don’t understand it fully. I still wonder how, why, and when. But I trust in my Savior and my Heavenly Father, and I have faith in Them. I KNOW They sacrificed for me so that one day I will be able to overcome. The little things help, but they aren’t going to entirely overcome my silent struggles.

This realization has cleared up one wrestle and began another: now I need to figure out how The Atonement does work for me. But having my testimony rooted in the Savior will go deeper than the little things, as stated in Helaman 5:12.

12 And now, my sons, remember, remember that it is upon the rock of our Redeemer, who is Christ, the Son of God, that ye must build your foundation; that when the devil shall send forth his mighty winds, yea, his shafts in the whirlwind, yea, when all his hail and his mighty storm shall beat upon you, it shall have no power over you to drag you down to the gulf of misery and endless wo, because of the rock upon which ye are built, which is a sure foundation, a foundation whereon if men build they cannot fall.

Feature Friday: Mindy

I met Mindy at the lunch meet-up that I co-hosted with Veronica from Utah Women’s Retreats last Saturday. She was so easy to talk to and I feel like we have already been friends for longer than a week. She is doing amazing things!
Mindy Rowley is a wife and mother of four kids, she is starting a mom coaching business and she loves nature, writing, and art. Also, check out this ebook about anxiety and depression her Father-in-law wrote here.

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Photo by Fausett Photography.

My whole life I’ve felt two-faced. I’m super nice, but sometimes I would feel so out of control that I would behave in unacceptable ways.

Like in first grade when that boy who always tried to kiss me at recess got the scare of his life when I pulled sharp metal scissors out of my pocket. I just wanted to scare him so he’d leave me alone!

Or the time I punched my dad in the gut when he was “pretending to be me” while talking on the phone to my best friend.

Maybe some childhood circumstances conditioned me to behave this way as a child, but I struggled to grow out of it!

After my husband and I were married I had the horrible thought of killing him while I was holding a knife. There I go again with sharp objects! It was a terrible thought and my husband had done nothing to even make me feel this way. He’s a total sweetheart! However, in my mind, I felt threatened in some inconceivable way.

Or there were the countless times when my oldest daughter was potty training and whenever she’d have an accident I was convinced that she was doing it to make me mad. I felt like I couldn’t control myself and I would spank her. Sometimes so hard it would leave a mark. I knew it was abuse and I felt like such a horrible person and a complete and epic failure at being a mom and disciple of Jesus Christ. I felt like I was spiraling downward.

So many times I had the urge to run away and leave my kids. I felt like they’d be better off without me. Maybe my husband could remarry a really great person and my children could have the mother they deserved? Sometimes I felt like I could hardly breathe, or like I was having a heart attack. I felt like I was suffocating in hopelessness.

There were times that I considered talking to a doctor or therapist, but I was too afraid to even say the words anxiety and depression. I was afraid of what those labels would make of me. Would they make me even more of a monster? I didn’t really think there was hope for me.

Finally, I went to a therapist and I just let it all spill. I cried so hard that I’m sure he didn’t have a clue what I was even saying, but it felt really good to get the dark feelings out. I’ve continued to go to counseling, engage in writing and art therapy, meditation, make changes to my diet and getting more sunshine.

Gradually I have felt life come back into me. I could feel the Spirit of God when I read the scriptures and pray. I know it will always be an uphill struggle for me, but I don’t feel alone in the struggle.