Losing Yourself to Find Yourself

I heard this song on FM 100 on a Sunday while driving to or from something and it inspired me to write this blog post.

I had been looking, it’s true
I just didn’t know I was looking for You
You introduced me to me,
By showing me glimpses of who I could be
Yes, I found You then I found me

Let’s stay together, always
You bring out the best in me
I know I’ll never be lost again,
Now that I found You

I found You
I found You then I found me
– I Found Me by Hilary Weeks

In the MTC I decided to pick a scripture to be a constant theme and reminder throughout my whole mission. The one I chose was Matthew 10:39:

He that findeth his life shall lose it: and he that loseth his life for my sake shall find it.

Looking back now I kind of find this to be ironic because I feel like I definitely lost my life, but not in the way the scripture suggests and not in the way I planned to.

Photo by Moments by Ally Photography

People tend to throw out the “Sunday school answers” when you’re going through a trial/difficult time in life. Are you praying? Are you reading your scriptures? Are you going to church? Are you serving others and forgetting about yourself? Are you exercising your faith? Are you really trying? I was a missionary. I prayed more times a day than I can count. I read my scriptures every morning for hours and then shared them with others throughout the day. I went to at least 6 hours of church every week, sometimes more. I left my family, friends, schooling, job, home, comfort zone, ways to communicate (besides E-mail once a week and letters), etc. so that I could share a message with God’s children – I think that counts as service and forgetting myself? I had enough faith to leave everything I just mentioned to go live with people I’d never met, in a place I’d never been. I felt like I was trying: I’d get up and go to bed on time, I’d knock on door after door trying to find someone who’d listen, I dedicated time and energy to learning a new language, I quickly learned how to do everything (including ride a bike) in a skirt. And yet… I suffered.

Yes, I was being the best version of myself and living the best life when the worst trial I’ve ever gone through hit me. I know I’m not the only one who’s had that happen. And I’ve been guilty of asking why, why when I was a representative of Jesus Christ did this happen to me? I’ll let Elder Holland answer that one, cause he’s only an Apostle…

“Every one of us, in one way or another, great or small, dramatic or incidental, is going to spend a little time in Liberty Jail – spiritually speaking. We will face things we do not want to face for reasons that may not have been our fault. Indeed, we may face difficult circumstances for reasons that were absolutely right and proper, reasons that came because we were trying to keep the commandments of the Lord. But when we promise to follow the Savior, to walk in His footsteps and be His disciples, we are promising to go where that divine path leads us. And the path of salvation has always led one way or another through Gethsemane.”
– Jeffrey R. Holland

And there it is. I needed to go through Gethsemane. I needed to spend time in Liberty Jail. Why? Because I needed to lose myself to find myself. As good as I like to think the old Ally was, the Hermana Harris who was serving in McAllen, Texas, she wasn’t good enough. She needed more understanding, more humility, more submission, more patience, more love, more faith.

Again, looking back I am grateful this experience happened while I was a missionary. I was forced to get the help I didn’t know I needed. Heavenly Father placed me with companions and a mission president who would care for me and make sure I got better. I know it would have taken a lot longer to diagnose my illness if I had been anywhere else, which also means it would have taken longer to get better and start healing. I was actually one of the lucky ones. And trust me, I never thought that was something I would say.

Life can be funny. I think Heavenly Father and I are going to have a good laugh about my choice in mission scripture one day. And that is one day I really look forward to.

When Life Doesn’t Go As Planned: Kennedy

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

Beautiful Heartbreaks 

August 10, 2017

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Feature Friday: Joan

Joan and I have known each other since elementary school and played with each other in those years. Later, during high school, we worked at Cherry Hill together. She has always been a fun person to be around. When I came home from my mission I remember she sent me a message saying she was there if I needed to talk because she had come home early too. Back then I wasn’t really ready to talk about it, but I was so grateful she was thinking of me and cared enough to let me know.
One thing I love about Joan’s story is that she knew herself well enough to demand what was necessary to feel better. I don’t think enough of us do that. It’s ok to put yourself first sometimes and do what you need to take care of yourself!
Joan was born and raised in Kaysville, UT attended BYU Idaho where she got her degree in Public Relations. She uses her degree to fulfill the best and worst career she could possibly think of, motherhood. She is married to Tyler Brough and has two little spitfire girls. Life seems to be going by so fast Joan tries very hard to never blink as not to miss a thing. Keep on reading for her story.

From a young age, I knew I never wanted to serve a mission. I was the one in Young Women’s who never raised their hand when asked who wanted to go on a mission. I knew what I wanted, and it was to get married. In college, I still held firm to the idea of never wanting to serve a mission. It’s not that I didn’t believe in the Gospel, or love God I just didn’t want to leave my family for 18 months.

After many failed attempts at serious dating, and two years into my degree, in the month of November 2011, I got an overwhelming feeling that I needed to go on a mission and all I could think was “oh no, no, no, no….I don’t want to.” I battled with God, but as usual, God knows better than I do, in all things. I started my papers that weekend and had them submitted by Christmas of that year.

In January 2012 I received my call, with family gathered around I opened my call and was devastated that I was called to Minneapolis, Minnesota. I pulled up my big girl pants and I packed my bags for the Provo, MTC the end of March 2012. From the very beginning I felt off, I remember I would write a family email and then write a “mom” email where I would tell my mom things didn’t feel right, but I pushed on.

I entered the mission field and in my entrance interview with my mission president the only words I seemed to remember “I hope you brought good running shoes because you’ll be hitting the ground running in this area. It’s our busiest area in the mission.” That first transfer I killed off my trainer (she completed her mission and went home after six weeks) so I wasn’t fully trained and right after her, I got a companion who was, in my mission presidents words “a hard sister who needs love.” It was not what I was expecting.

I became so overworked and stressed my body started shutting down. I was becoming depressed and I wanted to go home. After several meetings with my mission president, I would leave his office feeling more overwhelmed as his response was essentially “no you can’t go home, you need to batten down the hatch and forget yourself.” I tried that, but anyone who has experienced depression will know that it can make you numb to almost everything. During very spiritual lessons I would feel nothing. The desire to be out and see people whom I absolutely loved was gone. After months of going back and forth and my depression became worse I knew that the next transfer I was going to tell President C. I was going home. The Sunday before transfers I got a call from President C., who called me to be a trainer. I was heartbroken and felt completely trapped.

Being called as a trainer could not have been more of a Godsend. All my companions before my trainee had some form of anxiety or depression. My trainee was ready to work and so happy to be out in the field. I finally felt that this was God saying, “I have found someone who can handle this area and the people you so dearly love and have worked for these past few months.”

Two weeks into the transfer I broke mission rules and called my Dad. I needed to talk to a man who was by no means emotional and very calming in these situations. I was struggling with the idea of coming home early. I was so embarrassed and afraid of what people would think. I felt that if I came home early God would surely punish me and not bless me with a husband. (Irrational fears.) I called my dad and poured my heart out to him, his response was directly from my Father in Heaven. He said “Joan, I could never be disappointed in you, so no matter what you choose I will always love you…..” after a small pause he said, “and Joan, God will always love you too, and He will always be there to bless you.”

That day I called the President and I said, “You’re sending me home on the next flight.” I went home that next Wednesday. My exit interview with my mission president made me feel small and like I was breaking covenants and that God was not pleased with my efforts. Thankfully when I was released from my mission, my Stake President told me “Sister Johnson, when people ask you if you’ve served you tell them you served a full mission. Time does not matter, all that matters is you went and served.”

The next Sunday I got asked all the stupid questions, “Why are you home early?”…. “Wait a minute, you’re not supposed to be home, are you?” I felt the only way to respond was to be honest. So my response was always “Yes, I’m home, I have been diagnosed with stress-induced depression.” I even announced it over the pulpit, because even though it’s no one’s business, I felt people are too curious for their own good and this would maybe help them be a little more kind/cautious when asking questions to others who come home early.

Fast forward five years and who knew that coming home after only five months in the mission field I would meet my eternal companion in the sealing room of the wedding of my two high school friends. Only God knows what’s going to happen, and if I put all my trust in him, everything will work out. Even when the path flips, and curves in very uncomfortable ways the Gospel is always straight, God is always constant. We must always trust he knows better than us.

When Life Doesn’t Go As Planned: Ally

I have recently talked to some people who are very near and dear to me about righteous desires not always being granted, being put on hold, or not going as planned; be it infertility, divorce, coming home early from a mission, being single, and those who live with/are married to someone who suffers from a mental illness. So I decided that I would expand this blog a little bit to include those things and share from those who have gone through such moments in their lives.

“In the quiet heart is hidden sorrow that the eye can’t see.”
– Hymn 220

I apologize if you are sick of hearing from me about my experience, but I wanted to go first and share my two cents on the topic. Because even though we all have gone through different experiences, we can relate to one another by not getting what we want(ed).

Photo by Moments by Ally Photography
The Texas McAllen Mission was bilingual so I got to teach in both English and Spanish.

I had a desire to serve a mission since I was in primary. I used my Mom’s mission scriptures and I thought it was the coolest thing ever to see her notes and know that she had the set I was now using as a missionary. I decided way back then that it was something I wanted to do. Before I received my Patriarchal Blessing I was told that if there was something that I desired to know or hear during this blessing that I could ask for it, remembering to keep in mind the will of God. Immediately serving a mission came to mind. I prayed that Heavenly Father would let me know about this desire in my blessing, and He did. I was told that I would serve a mission… “when the time is right.” I was 17 at the time and so I was a little confused about what that could mean. Did it mean that I’d have to wait ’til I was older and go with my husband? Or did it mean something that I couldn’t comprehend yet? Well FINALLY, about 6 months before I turned 21 I started working on my papers and submitted them 4 months before my birthday.

I received my mission call on July 6, 2011, and was called to serve in the Texas McAllen Mission preaching in the Spanish language. I reported to the MTC on November 16. I can now see that I started developing some early signs and symptoms of anxiety and depression in the MTC but they didn’t fully rear their ugly heads until my second and third transfers.

(I’m going to skip over the details of what happened after I was diagnosed with anxiety and depression since I’ve already written about them, and focus more on how I was feeling as I went through the remainder of my mission and coming home.)

After I was diagnosed I was not a very good missionary. I couldn’t sleep very well at night anymore so when 6:30 AM rolled around I wouldn’t always get out of bed. I would have to stay in the apartment sometimes for part of the day or the whole day because I felt so sick and so exhausted and I had no motivation or care to do anything. Little things like this made me feel even worse. What was I doing here? I had this righteous desire for more than half my life and here I was struggling with it, failing at it, having moments of not even caring about it.

That’s when I started thinking about going home. Cause honestly, what was the point anymore?! So eventually it was decided that’s what was going to be best for me. Home. I felt a relief at first but that didn’t last very long. Because once I was back home I was constantly reminded of my failure – from other return missionaries, from people asking about why I came home, from this new illness I was still trying to understand and resolve.

I became bitter and resentful. Why was this happening to me? Why did Heavenly Father instill in me such a strong aspiration, this life goal, to serve a mission and then take it away? I know that’s not really what happened, but that’s how it felt. And it hurt. It hurt badly. I stopped reading my scriptures, and the only “prayers” I said were angry ones. I didn’t want to get out of bed in the morning. I didn’t want to do anything. I didn’t want to be around people. I hated life. I hated my body and all the crap it was going through. I was in a horrible place and I had no idea how I was going to get out. But somehow I did.

It took a lot of time (we’re talking years) and prayer and reflection and learning and therapy and love to turn my wound into a scar. Looking back at your trials is usually easier than going through them because in the midst of them it’s the worst thing ever and it’s hard to always remember that eternal perspective. I can now understand a little bit of the why and I never would have created this blog if it wasn’t for the burden of mental illness, and this blog has been a huge blessing to me so I’m grateful for what has come from what I went through. I am grateful for the new perspective I have gained and a better understanding of mental illnesses. I am grateful for those who have shared and will share their stories, you have changed my life and the lives of others.

Heavenly Father loves me, even though His plan for my mission wasn’t different than my own. He loves His children, even when He doesn’t grant the desires of their hearts. One day all the questions will be answered and everything that was unfair about this life will be made right. Until then, I try to have faith and remember that He, my Savior and Redeemer, knows exactly how I feel. And that is all that matters in the end.

Love, Ally


P.S. I am really excited to be able to relate to more people who need it and hopefully bless more lives. In the past week, I met some amazing people who are willing to share so please feel free to follow my blog and keep an eye out for those future experiences!

Feature Friday: Madi

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

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

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

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

Q & A

First of all, I just want to thank those of you who gave me questions to answer! Obviously, this would not have been possible if it wasn’t for those questions, so I am really appreciative and grateful that you took the time to think of one and ask. If any of my answers inspire further questions please feel free to comment and ask, I am more than happy to answer more!

Second, these are the opinions and experiences that I have/had, but I am going to do my best to answer how I feel would best help others too, that is the overall goal of this post after all.
Q: Is there a specific thing you have changed or done differently to help with anxiety or depression?
A: One thing that helps me with my anxiety and depression is trying to let myself feel what I’m feeling and not feel guilty about it. If I feel sad and need to cry when I try and let it out. If I feel anxious when I try and figure out why and if there is a reason then I try and solve it, if not then I try to focus on my breathing or distract myself from thinking about it anymore. Also, learning to recognize my symptoms and use cognitive therapy, which I learned by seeing a counselor, really helped me as well.
Q: Does the lack of strict routine after coming home increase symptom triggers?
A: For the most part, yes. Yes because, depending on when you come home, school may not start right away and you may not have a job lined up, etc. and so you go from being busy all day long to coming home and having not much to do. So it’s hard to fill your time with valuable things and feel useful, needed, successful, etc. – things you felt as a missionary. And I would also say no because you are finally able to do what you want when you want, and that can be somewhat of a relief and time for you to breathe and get the help you need. You can finally focus on you.
Q: After coming home, were your Ward and Stake members compassionate and loving towards your situation?
A: My Stake President had known about my situation for months, I had to get his permission to start taking medication when I did, and so he was very compassionate and understanding about it all. In my interview with him the night I got released he told me to be proud of myself and that my mission was acceptable to the Lord. My Bishop was the same way. When I reported to the High Council about my mission I don’t think they knew I was honorably released so it wasn’t any different than the other missionaries who reported with me.
Q: Did anyone seem to be judgmental, and if so, how did you handle it?
A: There were definitely people who were surprised that I was home early, I had wanted to serve a mission since primary and lots of people knew that, so I think they didn’t know what to say or do when they found out. Thankfully, the first weekend I came home was General Conference so I didn’t have to go to church, I wasn’t ready for that. And then my family and I went on a cruise so the first time I was back in my ward was the day I spoke about my mission in Sacrament Meeting. I didn’t say why I came home, it took me a while to openly say the why, and I could tell there were questions/speculations. For the most part, I felt loved and welcome back, but there were a few who I expected that from that didn’t give it to me. That was hard, having people who I thought would be very open and understanding about it to not be there when I needed them most. At first, it made me very upset and I was hurt, but in time I kind of realized that it wasn’t necessarily their fault, they just didn’t know what to say or do.
Q: What is helpful? What is not helpful? Are you in favor of balloons and banners for early returned missionaries, just like for “full term” ones? What about speaking in sacrament meeting? A big welcome home with friends and family? Or a quiet private ride home from the airport?
A: I think this totally depends on the missionary and their circumstances. My mom had a banner and an inflatable air dancer for me and it made me happy because I felt like she wasn’t ashamed for me and was still proud of my service. Over the next few days I saw people who I wanted to see that knew I was coming home, and some neighbors who expressed their love and concern for me, but I was grateful there wasn’t a big party. I don’t think I could have handled that and I’m not sure how others would have either, i.e. if they would have known what to say or do. My situation was maybe a little different because my family had known for 2 weeks I was coming home, and some families find out the day before. My family also knew about my situation the whole time I was going through it, and I know some missionaries don’t share that they are struggling with their families so it in that situation it may be best to wait to celebrate until things can be sorted out and the families know what is really going on. I would suggest talking to your missionary about it, if possible.
Q: Does it help or hurt when people ask you about why you came home early? Would you prefer that people just didn’t mention it at all or did it help you to be able to talk about it?
A: In the beginning, it definitely stung a little when MOST people would ask about it or when it would come up, there were some that I felt surprisingly comfortable with. And I honestly don’t remember that many people bluntly asking me why I came home early. If it came up from other questions being asked about my mission (i.e. When did you leave and when did you come home? November 2011 & October 2012, easy to deduce that I didn’t serve for 18 months) then depending on the person I was talking to I’d either give a brief or more detailed explanation. It was definitely hard and a little embarrassing for me to talk about it in the beginning (several months), but as the years have gone by it helps me to talk about it and I have gotten to the point where I think I can turn it into something that helps others as well. In the beginning, I was very closed off about it and avoided it so my advice would be to pay attention to the way someone is discussing their mission and do your best to respect that.
Q: What are the right questions a good friend could/should ask an early returned missionary?
A: I wish more people would have asked me how they could make coming home early easier. I might or might not have always had an answer for them, but just to know that they were thinking of me and wanted to help would have been a huge step in getting me back on my feet. Just having the “what can I do to help?” attitude will go a long way.
Q: What are some things parents can do to support their missionaries who serve less time than expected?
A: For this question, I thought it might be a good idea to ask my parents what they thought. My Dad gave the short and sweet answer, “Love them and support them in their decisions.” My Mom said that they did their best to try and make things normal for me and made sure to get me the medical attention that I needed (visiting my doctor and getting in to see a counselor).
Both my parents served a mission so I never felt like I had anything to hide. I know some missionaries don’t share that they were held at gunpoint or constantly threw up for two years from the food to spare their Mother’s hearts, but I never felt like I needed to do that. Even though I didn’t experience anything life threatening I did tell my parents everything that was going on with my health. My family was able to pray for me and it helped me to know that someone knew what I was going through because I was doing my best to hide it in the field: from members, from other missionaries, from investigators. So my two cents would be to suggest letting your missionaries know that they have nothing to hide from you because you can’t do anything to change their circumstances anyway. If anything you can then pray for them and appreciate what they are sacrificing even more. And that applies if they then come home early too. It’s a balancing act of giving enough space but then being there for them in this dire moment of need. The elephant in the room needs to be acknowledged but how much acknowledgment is going to differ from missionary to missionary. Continue to pray for inspiration and guidance in how to help your child and stay close to them, they need to know that they can always turn to you for help and love.
Q: What about when you don’t know the returned missionary very well? If they’re more of an acquaintance is it best to give them space? Or reach out?
A: This is kind of a tough question because I think it would depend on the missionary, BUT in my opinion, it is always better to reach out than to give space. You never know what kind of influence you can have on someone and they may be exactly what you need. Even if they don’t respond to you or say much to you reaching out it doesn’t mean that you failed or they didn’t need you. I know for me every little text or visit from someone made a difference and helped me feel cared about.
Q: What is the best response to someone coming home early from a mission? What is an appropriate way to show your love and support without making it a negative conversation or bringing out any sense of shame?
A: LOVE. Love is the best response. And an appropriate way to show that will be different for everyone and could depend on how well you know the person, but if you really want to help them and show them that love PRAY to know how and then TRUST THE SPIRIT. Do your best to put yourself in their situation and think about what might help you. Ask them to do things with you, even if it’s just going for a walk or on an errand; keep them busy if you can and if they will let you. Send them a text, write a card, drop off balloons or flowers, or set up a time to go visit. Most importantly, let them tell you about their mission when they feel ready, don’t push or pry or force anything that doesn’t come naturally.
Q: What was one of the hardest things about coming home?
A: Knowing that I would always have to live with being an early return missionary. My mission president told me I’d always have this with me and I knew that, but I didn’t think about how often it would come up and that I’d be reminded of it constantly. It was hard being “different”, not the typical RM with fire and drive you usually see. Also, I kind of thought I would be magically healed when I came home and I was so wrong. I felt better the first few days and then went right back into the hole I thought I’d climbed out of. It was hard realizing that this was something that could be with me for the rest of my life.
Q: What do depression and anxiety look like to you physically/mentally/emotionally on a daily basis?
A: Physically I will occasionally struggle to breathe and/or have panic attacks. I sometimes have little motivation to do anything so nothing gets done and I sit or lay around all day. Mentally I have to constantly consciously think about my thoughts and if they are valid or not. I have to talk myself into doing things or out of thinking the worst. Emotionally there can be a lot of crying. All of it can be very draining and make it hard for me to function. I have bad days and good days but it’s always there and I just try to take it as it comes.
Q: What’s the difference between who you were before and who you are now?
A: The person I was before knew little fear, and now I can’t seem to do half of the stuff I did before because I am so afraid of what could happen to me. I have fears that I didn’t even think about before. Things that didn’t phase me before can now give me loads of stress and cause panic attacks. I am also more insecure. I was very happy with, content with and confident in the person I was. I was happy with where I was in life and the things I had done and accomplished. The things I do/accomplish now are never good enough and I am rarely satisfied/happy with my life. Now I compare myself and worry about what others think more than I should.  Little things that I never would have thought about twice now consume my mind.
Q: How do you feel medication has helped?A: I felt more like my “old self” when I got on the RIGHT medication, the wrong medication is wrong for a reason but that’s another story. I started to see more of the Ally I once knew. I still struggled but the struggle didn’t seem as bad. A little of the weight and difficulty of everything I was going through seemed to be lifted off somewhat. People who have cancer get treatment for their illness and medication helps you get the treatment you need to feel better with this illness. Elder Holland said it well when he said, “If you had appendicitis, God would expect you to seek a priesthood blessing and get the best medical care available. So too with emotional disorders. Our Father in Heaven expects us to use all of the marvelous gifts He has provided in this glorious dispensation.”

Even though I came home early and have anxiety and depression I don’t have all the answers, but I hope this was helpful! I would love any feedback.XOXO

Feature Friday: Alec

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

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

Do Not Judge

I used to be that person that thought that mental illnesses were just something you could “snap out of.” That you choose to be happy and depression is something anyone can overcome. Little did I know.

I came across this picture a few months after I came home from my mission. It struck a chord with me because I felt like I had been wrongfully judged at times. Yes, I came home from my mission after 11 months because I was diagnosed with anxiety and depression after serving for 5. I came home a completely different person, a broken person. My Mom has said that the girl who came home was not her Al. That’s when I needed love and understanding the most, and I did receive that from others who had mental illnesses and could relate, but from those who didn’t… they didn’t get it. Some would try and get it but sometimes that made things worse because they would try and fix me and find the source of my suffering when there isn’t really one to be found. It’s just there. It just is. It’s part of you. I wish everyone could understand that. I wish I understood it before all this happened to me.

We, as members of the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-Day Saints, are supposed to love unconditionally and lend support when others need it the most. I am sad to say that I didn’t always feel that. And if there is anything you can do for someone who is experiencing what I went through, it is to be there for them and LISTEN. Don’t try and fix them or figure out the reasons behind their behavior. The storm they are walking through is sometimes beyond comprehension. Sometimes it’s beyond our own comprehension and even we don’t understand what’s going on and why. Yes, it’s frustrating. Another reason why we shouldn’t judge.

At times I believe Heavenly Father gave me this trial so I could understand better that this is far from something that can be shrugged off. And I want to believe that He gave me this handful so that I could help others with their handfuls. So that’s what I’m doing, I’m trying. Please let me know how I can help YOU or what you would like to hear/see come from this blog. Thank you.

XOXO, Ally