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.


I remember being 6-years-old standing at the top of our driveway, in the dark, yelling at my mom to not get in the car and leave. She had been drinking and ran out of beer and was going to get more. Huge tears fell down my face and I recall screaming at God, “This cannot be how my life is going to be forever!” My first encounter with the Holy Ghost happened (I had no idea what this was at the time), “You are going to change the course of your family forever!”

As years went on and my soul took the blame for my mom’s drinking, I began to have no love for myself. I felt that if I could only make my mom love me more then she would stop drinking and our life would be better. I didn’t understand then that she was just doing the best she could in her current situation and she ha no ill will towards me or my brother.

During this time of my life, my Nana was my saving grace and my best friend. She would often rescue us from the really bad days of mom’s drinking. She loved us, took us to church, and also spoiled us big time!

My parents divorced when I was 12-years-old, leaving a new kind of hurt – that of a broken home and uncertainty about life, love, and faith.

The April before I turned 16-years-old, my nana passed away. I was beyond mad at God! How could he take away the only person in my life that had loved me unconditionally, cared for me, and was the anchor to the rocky ship my life had been sailing on?! I hit rock bottom.

Once I turned 16, I dropped out of school, got a job, and started finding ways that I could numb out the sadness, confusion, and grief that I dealt with daily. I turned to what I knew, drinking and smoking. When that wasn’t enough, for a brief time (thankfully) I tried cocaine as well as throwing myself to any man that would show me the slightest attention.

This is when I had my second encounter with the Holy Ghost (once again not knowing that at the time), I literally saw two paths. The first was the path I was on and that if I continued on this path I would surely die at an early age, and the second path would still be difficult but I would be on course to change my family’s life forever.

So I decided to go with the second path. I got my GED, decided I wanted to be a dental assistant and started taking the classed needed to get my certificate. Things were going in the right direction. I met my first husband at this pivotal time in my life and I clung to him. He was older, had a good job, and was stable, something I hadn’t had consistently in my life.

We got married after dating for five years and two years later had my first son. Life was great! However, I didn’t understand that all the trauma that I had suppressed from my childhood would come up out of nowhere like a raging storm! I started having panic attacks (which took me several more years to realize), began to be very depressed and anxious. I decided I needed help and was then diagnosed with depression and anxiety. This was brutal to my marriage and being a new mom. I often wondered if this would ever end and several times prayed that God would just take me. The struggle of not knowing what kind of fight I was going to have to face in my own mind each day sucked the life out of me.

I began working out because the medication for me was worse than being depressed and anxious. The side effects were horrible and I didn’t feel like I was getting any better. A bi-product of working out and eating better was my self-confidence began to grow and I found myself not making good choices again, this time in the form of infidelity. After a year of this, my husband and I got divorced. I’m not sure how many “rock bottoms” one person can experience in a lifetime but this was another one for me.

So I moved in with my mom and stepdad. I’m 26-years-old, with a 2-year-old, and a huge amount of baggage following my every move. The fling that contributed to my divorce ended (imagine that) and I was single for the first time since I was 16-years-old.

Dating was no fun at all. I literally hated it, and came to the acceptance that it was just going to be me and my son for the rest of my life living at my parents and I was OK with that! I was still working out and dealing with my depression and anxiety as much as I could, mainly shoving it under the rug and putting on a good face that everything was OK.

I was in several direct sales businesses trying to make some extra money. The group I was with at this time often hung out at a hookah bar (flavored tobacco, google it). It was close to a college so there were lots of young people to talk to and become friends with who would want to make extra money and join my business. Well, one of those people was Kyle.

We met through a mutual friend at the hookah bar, and over time became super close. He was the one I would call after the horrible dates to confide in and ask for advice. He joined the business and we enjoyed each other’s friendship but that was as far as our relationship would go. He was 5 years younger than me and he had a girlfriend.

After a year of being friends and getting tired of our friends telling us we should date (after he and this girlfriend had broken up), he asked me out. During this time I learned that he was a less active member of The Church Of Jesus Christ Of Latter-Day Saints. I had no idea what that meant. He just kept telling me that I needed to meet with the missionaries if I wanted to learn more (whoever they were).

January 1, 2015, I met the missionaries on accident and they shared with me what they believed and asked if I would go to church that Sunday and I did. From the very first meeting, I knew what they were teaching me was true, I felt as if so many of my questions from my childhood were finally getting answered. I got baptized on February 14, 2014, and Kyle and I got married on July 4th. We had our youngest son in October of 2016 and things were going so so good. I had a totally new outlook on life.

February of 2018 I was able to become a stay at home mom, which had been a dream ever since my oldest son was born. And once again to my surprise my depression and anxiety reared their ugly heads! I once again got on medication and started reading books, listening to podcasts, and working out like crazy.

In October of 2018, while things were finally seeming to get back to normal, I got the strong prompting that we needed to add another member to the family. Against what I wanted I came off the medication and we started to try. It had taken 6 months to get pregnant with my other two so I figured we would have some time. God had different plans and 4 months later, on Valentine’s Day of 2019 I found out I was pregnant. I was so shocked that it happened so fast and I was very excited to be adding to our family. 3 days later I miscarried. I was beyond upset because I had truly felt like this was something we had been asked by God to do. I started questioning my faith and really wanted to go back to my old ways. I received a blessing and got clear answers that this was part of God’s plan, and yes even though it truly sucked, I would one day understand. So we went on with life (the best we could) and kept trying once I was cleared from the doctor. 4 months later (June 2019) I found out I was pregnant again, this time I was not excited at all. I was super anxious and feared the worst, which happened again 2 days later. This time I wasn’t mad at God, I was mad at myself. My body must be the issue. I hated my body and stopped working out. I started eating everything and anything chocolate. I couldn’t understand how this could happen again and I just knew it had to be something I was doing wrong. The doctors didn’t have any answers either and just told me to give it time and try again. So that’s exactly what we did and in September 2019 I was pregnant again!

I changed doctors and we found out one of my hormone levels was too low to keep a pregnancy so they supplemented me. I went in every 2-3 days and had my levels check to make sure the pregnancy was progressing and after 3 weeks everything was great, no concerns and they scheduled me for an ultrasound. This was a super stressful day and I was so worried about something going wrong. To my disbelief, I was able to see a strong heartbeat and everything looked great!!

They wanted to do a follow up ultrasound the following week to measure again and keep a close eye on me. My mom was able to go with me to this appointment and I was so excited for her to be able to see that this one was going to be ok. The tech kept asking me if I was sure that I was far along as I thought and some other questions that raised concern to me. Then what she said next, I can still hear today. She said, “I am so sorry but there isn’t a heartbeat.” My heart stopped and I screamed out loud to God, “How can you do this to me?! Why are you doing this?! No, this cannot be happening?!”

We were taken to another room to talk to my midwife and I called my husband to tell him and then immediately called a friend to have someone meet me when I got home to give me a blessing. I was given the option to just let my body do what it needed to naturally or schedule a procedure and they would remove the baby. I chose to have the procedure because this time I was 9 weeks along and they would be able to test and see what had caused the loss.

I was numb, physically, spiritually, and emotionally. I wanted to give up so much. I once again was praying every day that God would just take me away. I couldn’t handle the grief and all the emotions that I was dealing with. During this time, I showed up in my church calling, put on a happy face, and made it seem as though I was sailing along, doing just fine. On the inside, I was dying. I really wanted to leave The Church and go back to the things of my past to numb myself from all of this. We found out months later that the baby was a girl (we call her Faith) and that she had a rare chromosome disorder and that she would have either passed at some point further in the pregnancy or shortly after birth.

If it wasn’t for the women in my life that wrapped their arms around me, loved me when I didn’t feel I deserved to be loved, brought me Cheerwine and peanut M&Ms, called, texted, brought me food even when I didn’t want to eat, and most importantly let me borrow their faith I don’t know where I would be today. I call them my sister tribe. One of them kept inviting me to bible study and I wouldn’t show up. But then the day before the procedure, against all that I wanted to do, I went. I sat there, didn’t say much and listened even though I didn’t want to be there at all. One thing I heard that struck me to my core was that the more we struggle and suffer, the more we are becoming like our brother Jesus Christ.

This was the answer I needed, this was what I needed to know. That through all my struggles and suffering my whole life, I would never suffer as Christ did. That doesn’t mean that I’m going through these things in vain. My whole purpose in life is to become more like Him and this is how I am able to do that.

When I feel myself slipping back, I go for a run or have an impromptu dance party. I let someone in my sister tribe or my family know how I am feeling and ask for help. And I trust that God has the big picture and that I am only seeing a snapshot.

I don’t share all these very personal things with you for sympathy, I wouldn’t change a single thing that has happened. My hope in sharing my story is that you will be able to reflect on your own life and see all the ways God and Jesus Christ have truly shown up in your life. Especially the times when you felt they were the furthest away. Look for Them in those moments, because I promise you, just like Christ showed up to Peter when he was fishing, He will always show up for you!

I see you. In so many ways I am you!

When Life Doesn’t Go As Planned: Norma

If you don’t know Norma, then I promise you want to. She became a very dear friend when I moved into her ward two years ago. She has blessed my life in countless ways and I love and admire her so much! I am grateful for the example she is of turning hard things, like going through a divorce, into a way that can bless others.
Norma lives in Utah. She is remarried and is learning the ropes of blending a family. She has taken her experiences and now helps other women find their light through online classes and coaching programs. She is host of SPARK, the Light Within Podcast. She is also a speaker, writer, and educator. You can follow her on Instagram @normazaugg or @sparkpodcast, on facebook @sparkpodcasts, or for classes or coaching visit her website.


I was in a fog and having a hard time comprehending what was happening to me. I woke up morning after morning hoping that it was all just a bad dream. I was in so much pain, actually it was beyond pain, It was agony. Crying myself to sleep hadn’t eased the pain, it just left me with eyelids that felt like sandpaper and emptiness that I couldn’t fit. That is felt like no one could fix. I was angry at my husband and angry at God. I had been a good person my entire life, how could he allow this to happen.

Sit-ups then more sit-ups
roll over
push ups
do more… keep going!

My little boys sat on the carpet beside me. Three boys ages 8, 6, and 2 with their big eyes and curious minds watching their mommy struggle through the exertion. I couldn’t hide the pain from them, it had become a part of me in such an intense way.

Norma get up. Keep moving!

I was afraid that if I stayed still too long the anxious energy that held my body captive, and the uncomfortable pain coursing through my veins would take over. I worried that if I stopped for even a moment I would become pixelated, and little pieces of me would float away and I would be lost forever.

My body was exhausted from all the tears that had been shed and the restless nights that were filled with terrifying dreams. I would be lying if I said that part of me just didn’t want to give in to the moment and explode into nothingness. I had experienced anxiety before, but never to this extent and honestly, I didn’t know if my heart could take it. It seemed as if my blood had thickened and my poor heart had to work extra hard to push it through my body.

Some days I wanted to give in just like this day, but all I had to do was look into the eyes of my three little boys and know that was not an option.

My arms were shaking from the exertion of the push ups, I fell onto my rough carpet and lay there for only a moment before I recognized I needed something more. I knew myself well enough to know that I needed some time alone to eliminate these overwhelming emotions. The last thing I wanted was for any of this nasty energy to pour into my children. I called a friend and asked her if she could take my little boys for a while. She agreed and I took them over to play so that I could go and calm the battle that was raging inside of me.

That day I went to the park and I ran and ran and ran and prayed. I begged for some relief from the intensity of the moment.

I wish that this was the only day like this, but as time marched forward I experienced many more that tried my heart and soul. I didn’t like the feelings and quickly learned that running and temple attendance were the only things that I could do to calm the storm inside of me. I created a regular routine that included both as I moved forward through my divorce proceedings. The following months were anything but easy. I had to learn how to be a single mom except for the few days a month that my soon to be ex-husband took the boys. I had to learn new things that my husband had done like care for my vehicles and take care of the lawn. Thank heavens for an amazing father, brother in law, and other men in my church that came to help when the work was beyond my skill set. I had to learn to be by myself after 18 years of marriage.

More than anything I just wanted life to become easy, I wanted it to go back to normal and I didn’t want to feel this way anymore. If you asked me at the time I would have wondered if I could make it. I had doubts every single day and worried that my broken heart wouldn’t be able to handle it.

Time moved forward like it always does and God provided hope and relief that was greater than the anguish. It was not easy, but it was possible. I look back on those dark days now and recognize that they helped to form me into something different. Something better than I was before. I promise that if you move forward through times like these believing in God with full purpose and giving him all that you have, you too will find hope and peace and light.

Sending Buckets of Love,


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.

#4627 Ally & Dan b&w

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.

When Life Doesn’t Go As Planned: Berklee

Berklee was “introduced” to me by a mutual friend through Instagram. She has her own blog where she shares her experience with divorce but offered to write a post for mine too. (Her blog is definitely worth checking out! Even though I haven’t been divorced, I could totally relate to some of the thoughts and feelings she experienced from my experience of being an ERM.) This girl has a heart of gold, read on to see for yourself.
Berklee is a BYU graduate and currently teaches high school history and geography. She loves to travel, having lived in both Italy and Germany, and has visited 23 countries. She is applying to grad schools in the UK to further her education in history and she hopes to be a professor someday.


Surviving Divorce

I have found, after trying to explain my story hundreds of times, that tragedies are often best explained and remembered in moments. Take, for example, a moment from last September. I was sitting in the Celestial room of the Provo temple, overwhelmed and frustrated beyond belief. I had been coming to the temple every few days for over a month now, and I still wasn’t receiving an answer. I needed to know if I should leave my husband. I felt like I was supposed to, all the facts told me I should, all the people that showed up in my life at the time steered me toward divorce; yet, I wanted a direct answer from God. The day before, my (now ex) husband’s excommunication had become official, and our sealing was broken. I felt so alone, not only on Earth but also realizing that I wasn’t sealed to anyone anymore. Sitting in the Celestial room I felt hot tears silently roll down my cheeks. Then a stranger from across the room walked up to my chair. I was embarrassed about crying in front of this beautiful lady. I gave her a shy smile and looked back down. Then she wrapped her arms around me and held me. At that moment, I felt so much love. She helped give me something that Heavenly Father could not at the time, and she is an angel for being His arms on the Earth. This same pattern surrounded my divorce. Every time I felt so alone, that I could not go on, Heavenly Father sent me someone to take care of me. He ensured that I was never really alone. Because of the principle of agency, Heavenly Father could not save me from the consequences of my husband’s actions. But He always made sure that I was taken care of in the wake of those consequences.

The events leading up to my divorce are dark and complicated. The quick version is that my husband had an addiction to pornography (which he lied about) that led to many other infidelities (which he also lied about), and he wasn’t fixing anything. This sounds quick and dry. While I was still married and debating if my marriage was salvageable, so many people told me, “well obviously you should leave him! He was unfaithful, why would you stay?” And yes, on paper, all signs pointed to me getting the heck out of that marriage. But it is so much more complicated. For starters, I loved him. To be fair, I loved a version of him that was not reality, but there were still very real parts of my ex-husband that I loved dearly. Then there was the fact that we were married in the temple. This was supposed to be an eternal marriage. How could I break that? I felt so guilty for choosing to break apart something I had covenanted to keep. Especially when the society around me was constantly talking about marriage as the pinnacle of human existence. Marriage is the happy ending of a million movies, the most trending search on Pinterest, and the exalting ordinance in the LDS church. It is what every little girl dreams of until her day finally comes, and her happily-ever-after is made a reality. And I had to choose to walk away from it. That decision is so soul-breaking. I grieve for anyone who has to make the decision to get divorced. The only way that I was strong enough to walk away from my marriage was through the guidance of Heavenly Father. I prayed to Him asking what to do at least 100 times a day. Just like the moment when I was I the celestial room, I was constantly looking for Him to come and tell me, “get divorced!” in a super-clear, ultra-powerful way. That never happened. What did happen is that each week as I went to the temple, God gave me enough answers to get me through another week. It took months for me to get to the point that I was ready to walk away. God knew that it would take me time, and He gave me answers line-upon-line to get me to where I needed to be.

Once I made the decision, life did not get easier. I once heard divorce described as getting in a car accident every day for two years. I think that is a pretty accurate description. Emotionally, I was a mess. I was lonely, confused, sad, angry, and I had totally lost my identity. Physically I was also a mess. I didn’t eat and I couldn’t sleep, which only made my emotional state worse. Then there is the financial and legal side of divorce, both of which brought out a terrible, frightened, and ugly side of both my ex-husband and me. And to top it all off, this was all happening the month I was starting my new job as a high school teacher. I was completely overwhelmed. I had to take leave and go to the bathroom while teaching to avoid breaking down in front of my students.

However, just like that moment in the temple, God made sure that I was always supported. He had to let me fall, but He gave me the softest pillow to land on. I had women come into my life that had very similar experiences and now were OK; that gave me such hope! There are so many people who are affected by divorce, even in Mormon Utah culture. The problem is that we don’t talk about divorce, so when people experience it they feel very alone. I want to be a voice of hope, that there is life after divorce! For those of you who have experienced divorce, I know it can be hard to share. But the more we share, the less taboo it becomes and the less alone those who have to go through this trial in the future will feel. Your examples can give others hope. For those of you who have not experienced divorce, know that every divorce is different. Try not to judge those going through a divorce, because you never know what has happened. If a loved one of yours is going through a divorce, be there as a friend. Ask how they are doing, reach out and show that you love them no matter what they choose. For me, the people who helped the most were those who would reach out and let me talk about what I was going through, and who loved me. I didn’t need advice or someone to offer solutions. I just needed to feel like I was loved and not alone. You can do that for others!

This week marks one year since I started the process of getting divorced. It has been a rocky year, but I have found so much peace and joy. The two things that have helped the most have been time and support (from God and from those around me). I have found myself again, I have made many friendships that I would not have made otherwise, and I know that I am where I am supposed to be. It seemed impossible for a while, but I really do love my life. I hope that anyone out there struggling through similar experiences can know that there is hope for you too and that Heavenly Father knows and loves you perfectly. You are never alone!

When Life Doesn’t Go As Planned: Jenny

Jenny and I have been following each other on social media for a while and she asked me if she could share her story. I seriously love when people ask to share their story! My goal has been to create a place for people to speak up about their trials and hardships without feeling guilty, like they failed, or weak. I love Jenny’s story and her beautiful testimony.
Jenny Jamison lives in Utah County and couldn’t imagine living anywhere else. She loves music, the mountains, rainy days, autumn, cookie dough, and her dog Bridger. She is passionate about helping women understand their identity as daughters of God to help them avoid the pain found from searching for fulfillment, love, and acceptance from anything or anyone other than the Gospel of Jesus Christ and Heavenly Father. It’s her belief that women feel joy, are confident, and can change their own life and the world when they know their innate divine worth.

Photo by Hashtag Fly.

I remember distinctly thinking, “How am I still breathing?” I didn’t understand how you could hurt so much emotionally and mentally and still be alive. I had just discovered my husband struggled with an addiction.

I had been in a battle with anxiety and depression for as long as I could remember. I already felt less than from the sexual abuse that happened to me when I was a teenager. I had been harboring pain my entire life because I desperately longed for more of an emotional connection with my father (who also struggles with mental illness). Overwhelmingly, I didn’t feel lovable, wanted, or enough at all. I never had. I didn’t know how much more could I take. The pain seemed unbearable.

I felt completely shattered and broken. Irreparable. I got to a point where I could only see darkness and pain in my past. I felt like all of my own regrets from sin, the heartbreak that had entered my life from the decisions of others, and the consequences of living in a fallen world completely overshadowed any moments of light and joy in my life. I remember just hating all the things that made up my life and I didn’t want any of the regret, the devastation, the sorrow.

I thought, “Maybe if I pray hard enough, I’ll wake up decades in the past, and I’ll redo life; I’ll avoid all pain and make no mistakes!” I even thought that maybe I would just forget all the pain over the years, and that forgetting was the only way to find peace and joy in life. In my darkest times, I remember wishing with all my heart that I could literally gather up all my broken pieces from my life and somehow throw them away forever and get rid of them for good. I wanted a miracle that could somehow change my past so that it never existed.

Over time, I started to realize that all of these wishes and hopes were the Adversary’s attempt to get me to avoid true healing found in the Atonement of Jesus Christ… but I didn’t want to turn to Him or to God; I didn’t want to accept that my past was what it was.

I already had been having a hard time turning to God for years because I didn’t trust Him. I was convinced for a long time that He was only there to correct me harshly, punish me, control me, and show me how much He was in charge of my life — that it didn’t matter what I wanted or what I felt, and that He would make all decisions. I remember avoiding the temple, prayer, scriptures, church — anything that would give me time to be still and quiet. I avoided it all in varying degrees for years because I didn’t want to give Him the chance to talk to me. I was certain all He had to say to me would cause me pain and even more sorrow — and I couldn’t take anymore.

Eventually, I separated from my husband right before the holidays. It was excruciating, but I knew it was the right thing for me to do. Being alone is something I have felt my entire life and it has always been difficult for me… but now living alone after being married seemed more than I could handle. I felt more alone than I ever had. I cried continually and uncontrollably every day for weeks. I didn’t sleep well. I didn’t do anything most days. Leaving the house felt impossible. I felt less important and more forgotten than I ever had. I knew that I was at my rock bottom. I had no one there 24/7 to help me, listen to me, and comfort me whenever I needed them — no one, except my Savior.

In all honesty, I think the major turning point was when I finally talked with complete honesty and vulnerability to God for the first time in years. And I was upset! I yelled and screamed so much I could hardly breathe. I told Him all of my pain and told Him how much I hurt and why. I asked, “When will this end?! Haven’t I had enough?! Why am I constantly left alone and hurting? How much can one person take? When will I finally have someone notice and care for me?” I sobbed and sobbed. And then, things started to change.

My understanding of having a broken heart and contrite spirit expanded. I used to think it was just a nice way to say “be humble”, but now I was beginning to understand on a deeper level because I definitely had a broken heart. Very slowly, timidly, and apprehensively, I started to give some of my broken pieces to the Savior. I needed to know He was safe. I needed to know He could be trusted. I felt so hurt by so many people in my life, and even by myself, that it was difficult to trust anyone. So I went at my pace.

I started to feel small amounts of joy. I started to feel the Spirit more and more. I started praying more often and sometimes would share personal things — going beyond the safe limits of just praying over my food and for safety. I started looking outside myself and serving others in small ways. I was testing the waters, and they were proving to be calm and still and safe. Eventually, I started going to the temple again. I was so afraid of going there — the one place on earth that is the epitome of peace. What would the Lord tell me there? How would I feel? I went in with total faith… and came out with complete relief, peace, and gratitude. And I kept going. And I haven’t stopped! I feel complete safety there. I know Heavenly Father is safe. I know He loves me. Each time I go to the temple, I feel extremely proud of myself and completely aware of the miracle that it is that I am even there by choice. After all I had been through I never thought I could find peace and joy there ever again.

For years I felt certain that Heavenly Father and the Savior had abandoned me. In some very dark times, I would yell and shout at Them about how I felt. I blamed Them. I didn’t want Them. But now I can see that They never left me — that was how much They loved me. I hadn’t turned to Them for years and I had even blamed Them… but They never left my side. They waited. Lovingly. And when I finally pleaded for help, They immediately came and showed me love and joy.

While I still am a work in progress and struggle with many things, I have learned a few things through all of this. I know that your brokenness can be made beautiful through the Atonement of Jesus Christ. He truly can take our broken heart, if we offer it to Him, and make us strong in our weak places. He can enter us in our brokenness and show us what true love is. He can help us see ourselves as He does, and we can feel greater self-compassion. He can take away the sting of the past.

There are so many things that can leave us feeling broken in this life — even beyond repair. We will all experience sorrow and regret and heartbreak in this life. But God has more in store for us than that — He created us to feel joy! No matter what you have been through, or are going through now, know that it is not yours forever. Know that whatever has happened to you, is not who you are. You are more than the pain that comes to you in this life. You are a literal child of a living God. He is there for you — always. And He will wait for you and be ready to help you heal when you are ready, at whatever pace you can handle.

I am learning more and more that the Atonement of the Savior Jesus Christ is real and all-encompassing. It is the only way to healing, and it is the only way to peace. We don’t have to forget our pains, or try to avoid them our entire lives, to find peace — there is a better way, and it is found through the Prince of Peace. Turn to Him. I know that as you do, you will find peace and you will find healing. He is safe. He is loving. And He is there for you. Always.

When Life Doesn’t Go As Planned: Karlee

Karlee and I played soccer together growing up. She was always very kind and I am grateful she was willing to write about her divorce. I haven’t experienced divorce for myself, but I FEEL that these people are too often judged too quickly, or assumptions are made when they shouldn’t be. I hope this can help us be slow to judgment and quick to show forth love.

Karlee and her husband have been married for about 3.5 years. They have a two-year-old son and a three-month-old daughter that bring them more joy than anything. They are a Utah Utes loving family and love going to the football games together. She enjoys diet coke, sushi, naps, and warm weather.

Photo by Alicia Bass

I remember, as a teenager, making a list of qualities I wanted in my future husband. I wanted him to be respectful, kind, have a sense of humor, have a strong testimony, take me to the temple, among many other qualities on a long list. I had high expectations for my future husband! But the truth is, I doubted I would ever find someone who met my expectations who could ever truly love me completely. I was insecure and didn’t see my worth. I hoped I would find a good man to marry someday, but didn’t really see that happening for me. This caused me to base a lot of my thoughts about myself on the way guys treated me. If I wasn’t getting asked on dates, I filled my mind with lies about myself; I must not be pretty enough, smart enough, funny enough, and so on.

After graduating high school, I moved to St. George to attend what was then Dixie State College. I had recently updated my “future husband list” and had it hanging in my room as a reminder of the type of guy I wanted to date and the type of guy I hoped would want to date me. I didn’t date much my first semester there, but at the end of that first semester I reconnected with and began dating an acquaintance from high school.

This acquaintance and I had one class together when I was a sophomore and he was a senior in high school. The extent of our friendship at the time was being friends in class, me attending his mission farewell, and writing back and forth a little bit while he was on his mission. He was always the funny, outgoing guy. He was well known, a student body officer, he was smart, and he was intriguing to me. When he got home from his mission he showed interest in me, and I thrived on the positive attention he gave me. On paper, everything seemed perfect. He checked off many, if not all, of the qualities I had listed and hanging in my room. We were married just shy of a year later.

At first, I thought we had a good marriage. In hindsight, I can see how immature our marriage was (on both ends) and how many red flags I pretended not to see. It wasn’t until one night when we had been married for just over a year that the spirit led me to find things that were happening that I hadn’t been aware of that was very damaging to my self-esteem and to our marriage. For the next year, we met with our bishop and attended counseling weekly, trying to save our marriage. For a long time, I struggled to know if I should stay married. We had made covenants in the temple and I didn’t think Heavenly Father would let me feel like divorce was the right thing for us. Eventually, though, more things came to light that made reconciliation nearly impossible. It was then that I finally got my answer, and we both agreed that we needed to get divorced.

There were times I struggled with understanding why Heavenly Father let me feel like getting married was the right decision in the first place, or why it took as long as it did to get the answer to get divorced if that’s what was meant to happen anyway. There were times I felt so alone. I was so young, many of my friends hadn’t even gotten married yet, and here I was, married AND divorced. I found comfort in praying, surrounding myself with loving, nonjudgmental friends, and attending the temple. It didn’t come immediately, but soon I realized that I was never alone. Heavenly Father had been with me throughout this whole experience. He knew I had a lot to learn, especially about myself.

This experience, although so challenging at the time, has become a huge blessing in my life in so many ways. I learned that if I was single forever, I would be ok. I could choose to be happy regardless of my situation. I learned that good people struggle with addictions or other hardships and it’s what they do with their experiences that really matter. I became less judgmental of those who struggle with addictions. I got a glimpse of myself as a wife. I was able to make changes I wanted to make in myself, but also realize I was a good wife that gave my marriage 100%. I gained a stronger testimony of, specifically, the Holy Ghost, prayer, and the Atonement. I realized the Atonement isn’t just for those who sin, it’s there for everyone who experiences sadness, pain, or any affliction. It ironically made me realize what I deserved. I became less critical of myself, which is a huge blessing in itself. I learned to trust in Heavenly Father’s timing. He had a plan for me, and this was all part of His plan.

When I moved home from where we had been living, I needed to find a new job. It was at that job that I met a girl who is now my sister-in-law. She eventually lined me up with her brother, Sam, who is now my husband. This was another blessing in disguise. Sam was different in many ways in the most refreshing way. He is quiet and reserved. He’s an avid sports fan and he especially loves his Utah Utes. He never, not even once, judged me for my situation. He is a wonderful dad to our two beautiful children. His testimony strengthens mine. Our marriage isn’t perfect, but it’s a happy, healthy marriage. When I look at my little family, I thank Heavenly Father for blessing me with that trial. It led me to something so, so good. He lovingly allowed me to experience something so hard, something I never would have chosen to experience, to help me grow in personal and spiritual ways that I am forever grateful for.

When Life Doesn’t Go As Planned: Kathryn

Kathryn and I served in the same mission (kind of a common theme lately). She and I were never companions but lived in the same apartment. She was a huge blessing to me in a moment of struggle and need. I didn’t even know her that well and she listened and loved.

Kathryn is currently a 2nd-grade teacher in Orem and absolutely loves the littles! When she happens to drag herself away from school, she likes to be in nature, hiking, taking pictures, star gazing, etc, or at the gym learning some mad kickboxing skills! She’s the 4th of 5 children and her siblings are her best friends.

I came home from serving a mission in June. I got set up on a blind date in September. We immediately started dating, got engaged in March, and we got married in the Manti temple in May. It was the fairytale story. He was the man of my dreams. He was exactly what I was looking for. He and I were going to make a happy life together and work through difficult situations together and those would bring us closer together. We would raise a family together. We would make traditions together. We would have a friend group. Through our time of being engaged, we established strong communication skills, we set goals, we helped each other become stronger. We were referred to as the “dynamic duo.” Love was on our side. It was us against the world. We were ready to take it on together.

Then something changed. We didn’t have each other’s backs anymore. We didn’t make our relationship a priority. We developed our own dreams, instead of developing dreams together. We set goals, but neither one of us followed through with them. Our priorities changed, and they weren’t changed together. We each had our own priorities and we were unable to compromise.

Eventually, our relationship came to a crossroad. A choice had to be made. Neither one of us were happy. We either needed to part ways, or we needed serious intervention. We didn’t feel that trust could ever be healed, and we weren’t sure if the other would put in the work and time to make our relationship healthy again. We didn’t feel like we would ever be completely honest and open with each other.

So, the difficult decision was made. We parted ways. It was the hardest thing I ever had to do. I thought the mission was, and would always be, the hardest thing I had to go through. It was only preparing me for what was to come. I married the man of my dreams. I loved him. He was my world. I devoted everything to him. I tried so hard to make things work, but I knew that parting ways was the only way both of us would be truly happy in the end. It was torturous. It physically hurt. There was physical pain- excruciating pain. We made promises to Heavenly Father that we were going to be a family forever, and now, we were breaking that promise. I didn’t know if I would ever find someone who compared to the man I fell in love with.

I got very angry with God. I was angry that He allowed me to get married to someone He knew I wouldn’t end up with. I was angry that He allowed me to go through so much pain and suffering. I felt like I was always the girl that made the right choices in High School. I studied the scriptures every night. I prayed. I went to early morning seminary and even did assignments over the summer. I did the Personal Progress Program multiple times. I was constantly preparing to serve a mission.I served faithfully and with all my heart and strength. I married in the temple. I did everything right. I followed the commandments the best I could.

I got on social media and saw my friends who didn’t have the same standards as I did, and they were happily married with children. I was angry because I didn’t understand why God would take away a happy marriage and a family from me when I did everything I was supposed to. Why would He give that opportunity to those who I felt didn’t have the same standards?

I was bitter, cynical. I hated everything and everyone. I had constant anger with me all the time, and no one, not even me, knew when I would explode. Sometimes, it was in my car when I was alone, sometimes it was at my family members who were trying to support me, and sometimes it was in my classroom full of children.

Eventually, I started to see miracles and tender mercies from Heavenly Father. I was humbled because of all the things He was doing for me to carry me through this trial. I got a renter for our apartment within a couple days. I got a check in the mail that I wasn’t expecting that covered the termination fee, and the debt we had accrued together. I had an amazing work family that was so supportive and always willing to help out in any way possible. I had a class full of wonderful, tender, and understanding kids, who gave me hugs all day long. I truly believe that angels in Heaven were working through those kids. I can’t help but believe that Heavenly Father gave me that specific group of kids because He knew they would take care of me.

I started to see all these little things that let me know Heavenly Father does love me. He is looking out for me even if I am having a hard time. I saw a counselor who told me that she felt Heavenly Father was understanding of those feelings and that He wasn’t going to judge or condemn me for having them. That changed everything. I felt better about being angry, which made it less intense.

I learned to do things I loved again. I learned to lean on my Savior again. I learned to appreciate Him and that He felt what I feel. I was humbled, immensely, knowing that Heavenly Father loves me even if I was mad at Him, and blamed Him for everything that went wrong.
I am still working through this change, but I can always see my Savior’s guidance, and I can always tell that I’m not alone, that at times, I am being carried. We can see our Savior’s love if we look for it. We can also see hatred and anger if we look for it. Our emotions reflect what we are focusing on. Thankfully, I was at a point where I had no one else to turn to for help or guidance or a soundboard, then my Heavenly Father.

When Life Doesn’t Go As Planned: Bre

I have known Bre since we were little kids – she and my sister were pretty good friends growing up, and we were in the same ward. I have always admired her beauty, inside and out, and think she looks a little like Olivia Newton John ha. Since this series is a little different than my “Feature Fridays” I was a little hesitant to ask her if she’d be willing to write about her divorce, but she is an angel and told me that she had been thinking about asking if she could write something. The Spirit works in wondrous ways! Throughout her divorce she would post and share amazing, deep, beautiful insights to life and I was blown away by her love and wisdom. You’re going to want to keep reading for her story.

Bre is 24 years and currently trying to find a way to pack up everything she owns and haul it across the country to Massachusetts (which was now few weeks ago). She eats more junk food than real food, spends most nights watching Parks and Rec, and spends every other free minute painting. She got married when she was 21 but was divorced 2 years later. She was engaged to the man of her dreams just 5 months after her divorce was finalized. “I know, I know, totally insane and completely stupid. But who cares?” She’s now been married to her best friend for 6 months and she’s seriously the most blessed girl in the world because of it. All of it. The ups and the downs and the great and the hard.

I didn’t always feel this way. When my marriage was coming to an end I was completely devastated. I was more hurt than I knew was possible. My whole world was crashing and burning right in front of my eyes and I didn’t know how to stop it. But mostly I was confused. Why? Why is this happening? Why do I have to go through all this pain and heartache? Why wasn’t my marriage working? I obviously wasn’t perfect, I had made mistakes and done things to make things harder. But I truly had a desire to make things work. I didn’t WANT to get divorced. I didn’t WANT to give up on a commitment that was supposed to be eternal. Yet it seemed like every effort I made to try to mend the relationship and save our marriage made things worse and pushed us towards divorce. The more I prayed about it, the more I fasted, the more conference talks I read, the more time I spent in the temple, the more time I spent trying, the clearer it became that my marriage wasn’t going to work. But even after coming to terms with the fact that my marriage was ending and seeing that become a reality, I was still left with the hardest question: why?

This question consumed my mind for months and months after I filed for divorce. It just didn’t make sense to me. Wasn’t staying married the right thing to do? Isn’t it a good thing to do? The righteous thing to do? Wasn’t that what I had been taught to do? So why? Why why why? And how? How was I ever going to get through this? How would I ever feel normal again? How would I be able to hand all the questions or the stares? How would I ever date or even trust someone ever again?! (Dramatic, huh?) Slowly, but surely, I learned. Prayers, fasting, priesthood blessings, meeting with my bishop and seeing a counselor were things that helped me to understand the why.

I learned that God has an amazing plan for each of us. He knows us by name and knows our hearts. In fact, there is no one who knows us better than He does. And most importantly, He wants us to be happy. He doesn’t let us go through trials and hard things to make us miserable, there is always divine reason for our hardships.

Sometimes, when we don’t get what we so badly desire, we learn later that Heavenly Father was just waiting to give us something much, much better. Amidst all the drama and confusion of my divorce I thought every now and then that my life was over. I would always be seen as the “divorced girl” and I would never love or be loved again. (A few months of counseling helped me to see that was totally wrong, but those feelings were so real). I thought my fairy tale was ruined. But lo and behold I was wrong! Heavenly Father had something in store for me and it was way better than anything I could have ever dreamed of. I met Jarron and I was scared to death to be in a relationship. So I did my best to keep things as casual as possible while not completely shutting him out. And as we became closer friends I learned that Jarron had been in a bad relationship much like the one I was in. Our experiences helped us to bond in a way I’ve never had before and for some reason I was able to completely trust him. I knew it was the real deal when he stuck around even after I wouldn’t let him kiss me. And now we’re married! I look at him and could seriously cry tears of joy every single day because of how beautiful and amazing our marriage is. Sometimes I wish I could tell broken Bre that someday she’d be with Jarron and she’d feel pure joy and all the hurt and all the hard would go away. I’d absolutely go through my greatest trial 20 more times if it meant I ended up with Jarron. That’s the amazing thing about God’s plan, He just knows what we need. God knows what He’s doing. And wanna know the coolest part? Now it’s almost as if all of the hard and all of the hurt didn’t even happen. Sure, I learned a ton and became lots stronger through it all, but it seems like all of the negative feelings I had never even existed. The Atonement is so so real and can perfectly heal our hearts.

And sometimes, we just need to go through hard things so we can help others along the way. Going through hard things give us an amazing ability to mourn with those that mourn. We learn how to be sympathetic to things that we wouldn’t otherwise care about. I had confirmation after confirmation that the experiences I had during my toxic marriage and divorce would somehow help someone, someday.  Just a few weeks ago my best friend was having struggles with a relationship and I shared with her some things that I learned from being in a toxic relationship. Her response, “don’t take this the wrong way, but I think you got divorced so you could help me.” Which was basically a dream come true for me. To know that the things I had gone through really could help someone was such a beautiful blessing! A lot of times we probably won’t know how we end up helping people, but we do! And isn’t that what it’s all about? To help others on their way?

Or maybe we aren’t granted the desires of our hearts to gain Christ-like attributes. I think the best way to learn humility, patience, long-suffering, can be through enduring a trial well. Jesus Christ suffered so much more than we can ever imagine, so when we experience suffering we catch a glimpse of what He went through for us. We can grow closer to Him and we can learn to rely on Him. For me, going through divorce strengthened my relationship with my Heavenly Father and my Savior more than anything else I’ve gone through. I had to hit rock bottom to be able to rebuild a solid foundation on something that is constant and strong. Honestly, if that was the only thing I got from going through a divorce I would still view it as a blessing. My relationship with my Savior is the most valuable thing I have.

Life can be hard. Trials are tough. Divorce or infertility or illness of any kind can be devastating. Sometimes these trials don’t make sense. Sometimes we feel like we’re doing everything we’re supposed to do and we STILL aren’t getting anywhere. Wanting to work on a healthy marriage is good. Wanting to have children is good. Wanting to serve a mission is good. But sometimes these good things (and other good things) don’t happen for even the best of people. And a lot of times we don’t get an answer as to why, but I think we can always look around and see what we can learn and what we can become by enduring our trials well. All we can do is continue, keep going even when it’s hard, and do our very best. Rely on Christ and He will make up the difference. When things aren’t working out how you imagined please remember that Heavenly Father’s plan is much, much better, and His timing is perfect. God knows best and He will bless us in unimaginably wonderful ways. And I promise you that somehow, someway, everything will work out in the end.