Feature Friday: Sue

Sue has been following this blog for about a year now and I have loved and appreciated her comments. One of her more recent ones made me wonder why I hadn’t asked her to write her story, so I finally did. I love her unique perspective and bravery. I hope what she shares helps us be slow to judgment when we see someone leave after Sacrament Meeting or when someone says no to a certain calling, giving a talk, or saying a prayer.
Sue Wilson lives in Carlsbad, California with her husband Ed. They’ve been married for 37 years. Her husband recently retired from the Fire Department and they are loving the retirement life! They run a motocross racing business for firefighters and police officers. They love to travel in their motorhome and visit all the beautiful places this country has to offer. They have one son who is married to the most amazing girl and they have three daughters. Being a grandmother is the absolute best thing in the entire world. She would spend every moment with her granddaughters if I could! She loves it so much. She serves as a family history consultant, Activity Days leader, and ward newsletter editor in her ward. Some of her favorite hobbies are walking on the beach, doing family history, camping, and crafting.


“Don’t you quit. You keep walking. You keep trying. There is help and happiness ahead.”

That is one of my favorite quotes by Jeffrey R. Holland and it’s something I tell myself during those really hard moments. If you are tempted to quit trying, to quit going to church, or even quit at our most precious gift, which is life, then I hope you’ll read my story and find hope to keep on trying. I am so honored to be able to share my story. This blog has meant so much to me. It was here that I discovered that there are many kindred spirits out there. I’m not alone!

My journey with anxiety and panic attacks began 50 years ago. I was seven-years-old when I first began having panic attacks and I would literally become sick every morning because I didn’t want to go to school, where I was being bullied by my second-grade teacher. As soon as the school year was over so were my panic attacks. But they would come back on and off throughout my childhood and I would just “white knuckle” those episodes. All of those frightening experiences developed into an anxiety disorder because I lived in fear of the next panic attack. The fact that this journey has been 50 years in the making sort of blows my mind.

The hardest part of this whole experience is that it has taken so long for mental health issues to become more accepted and not something of which we should be ashamed. I hid my anxiety and panic attack issues for so long because the few times I did try and explain my struggles I would get this bewildered look from people. If you’re like me, you probably know the look I’m talking about. The only one who knew the true extent of my condition was my husband, and I didn’t even share with him all that I was experiencing. Mental health issues can isolate us and make us feel very alone and scared. Not many knew what anxiety or panic attacks were back in the 1960’s so I was never correctly diagnosed until 1996. I tried medication (which didn’t help me) and read many books that taught me relaxation methods but all of those treatments were just band-aids. It wasn’t until, after many prayers, in 2012 I came across a program called DARE that was developed by a man who had suffered anxiety and panic attacks. This program taught me how to diffuse those anxious thoughts and feelings and accept the physical sensations. As soon as you do that the grip of anxiety loses its power.

Though I experienced times of anxiety in my teen years and in my 20’s my anxiety/panic issues really began to be constant in my life when I was in my early 30’s. I had joined the church when I was 19 years old and loved everything about the church. I was always called to serve in the Young Women’s Program and loved working with the young women. It wasn’t until I was called to be Young Women President in my ward that I was forced to step way outside my comfort zone. I did that for three years and then soon after was called to teach early morning seminary for three years. I loved working with the youth but these callings stretched me to my limit.

I have a personality which is hard even for me to understand. I am good at carrying on conversations with people I don’t know well but I don’t always enjoy it. I really only enjoy talking to people I know well and feel comfortable with. So I am an extroverted introvert if that makes any sense. Standing before a group of people and teaching or speaking is one of the very hardest things for me to do. If you’re the president of an organization or a seminary teacher, it’s pretty hard to avoid standing in front of groups of people. I believe with anxiety that every bad experience you have builds upon itself and you eventually crack under the weight of those experiences if you don’t deal with it. But instead of being honest with my Bishop or my friends or those I served with I would hide how I was feeling. That only made the situation worse. I was scared of what they would think of me. I didn’t want to be known as weak, crazy, or lazy. It’s hard to admit that you have a weakness. Even as a young convert I quickly saw that there was this “Mormon mold” that you should try and fit in to. We were often taught that you don’t say no to a calling or to any assignment. I fought hard to fit that mold and do everything I was asked to do and do it to the best of my ability. That’s great in theory but if you suffer from a mental disorder that could be more harmful than helpful. And since mental health issues weren’t talked about or those in leadership had little knowledge of them it was hard to try and explain why certain things were so difficult for me. The stress from the anxiety began to take a toll on my physical health.

For years I thought I must be a weak person and lacking in faith. I would pray and fast for help but still struggled immensely. I finally decided enough was enough and I wasn’t going to hide my struggles anymore. I began to confide in my friends and to my Bishop and found everyone to be way more compassionate than critical. It began to free me from the heavy burden I was carrying. Before I began being honest I would go to church filled with so much anxiety that I would literally be shaking. I sat in the back row of every meeting, just in case I needed to run out. I was always afraid of what someone at church might ask me to do. Would they ask me to speak, or pray or teach a class or serve in a calling that I was sure would finally push me over the cliff into insanity? That’s how my mind worked. Once I was honest with my Bishop, the Relief Society President, etc. that fear began to dissipate because they were aware of my situation and began to ask me to serve in callings that were a good fit for me. I never thought of leaving the church because of my fears. In fact, my testimony became firm because of it. If I still wanted to go to church every week feeling the way I felt then this church HAD to be true, right?!

The scriptures teach us that we can turn our weaknesses into strengths and one of my strengths is now my testimony. I’ve seen the Lord’s hand in my life more prominently because of my weaknesses. I have been blessed with Bishops who are kind and compassionate. They have been inspired to call me to positions where I can serve and know the service I give is of importance and feel like I still contribute well to my ward. I have had many experiences that taught me we are all different and we shouldn’t compare ourselves to anyone else. We don’t have to fit into any mold. We can follow the promptings of the Spirit and be of great service in His Church.

I have no doubt that many people leave the church not because they don’t believe it to be true, but because of mental health issues and that makes me so sad. There is no reason that should happen. If all they are capable of doing is to come to church and sitting through a Sacrament meeting, then that is good enough. They shouldn’t be made to feel like it’s all or nothing. And I know, from experience, that people can be treated that way. Nobody said these words to me and I wish someone would have so I am saying this for all of you who struggle as I did. It’s okay if you can’t speak in church or serve as Relief Society President or serve a full term mission! You will not be kept out of the Celestial Kingdom because of these things! Just don’t quit. Keep trying your best and allow God to help you.

I will say that the acceptance of mental health issues among church members has gotten so much better in the last 10 years. Talks “Like A Broken Vessel” by Jeffrey R. Holland have done so much to change the way we think about mental health issues! But, also, those of us who struggle need to come out of the shadows and share our stories. This has been what has finally freed me. I can now go to church without a ton of anxiety. I feel so much stronger and better equipped to be honest if I am asked to do something that I know would not be good for my mental health. We have to become our own advocates.

Having a mental illness is no different than a physical illness and people are not ashamed to share their physical limitations so we should never be ashamed to share our mental limitations. It’s a trial we are given to learn and grow from and become a stronger version of ourselves. Every trial I now experience I look for the beautiful blessings that come from that struggle. The blessings are many and if you look for them you will be amazed. Nobody says its better than Jeffrey R. Holland:

“Don’t you quit. You keep walking. You keep trying. There is help and happiness ahead. Some blessings come soon, some come late, and some don’t come until heaven; but for those who embrace the gospel of Jesus Christ, they come. It will be all right in the end. Trust God and believe in good things to come.”

Here is a link to the DARE program that has helped me the most:


Feature Friday: Sarah

Sarah and I were in the same ward growing up, and then we got called to the same mission within about a month. She has always been very wise and down to earth and I admire her for that. I love her story because I feel like admitting to ourselves that there’s a bigger problem is sometimes half the struggle.

The first real memories I have of depression are from high school. When I got really stressed out with my load I would start to feel down and depressed. I guess I just figured that it was normal to feel this way from time to time. I would try my best to make changes and avoid things like procrastination so I wouldn’t get so stressed out. My mom was always one of my biggest supporters in helping me get through it. She has also struggled with depression and taken antidepressants since before I was born.  She always had the right things to say. I always just coped. I thought that’s just what you did. I hadn’t been able to admit to myself yet that I struggled with a mental illness.

So I continued like this through college and my mission. Sometimes I did pretty well and other times I struggled. Whenever it was really tough I remember asking for a priesthood blessing. It was like feeling like you were in a deep dark pit and someone suddenly shines a flashlight and throws you a rope, and you feel loved and you know everything is going to be okay.

I remember putting in my application papers to serve a mission and I was afraid that it would keep me from being able to serve, or would limit me on where I could go. I kept telling myself that it really wasn’t that bad and that I could manage. I think part of me was in denial, and yet also I do think that it has gotten progressively worse and harder to deal with over time.

When I returned home from my mission, everything was going great – I started up school again, got a job, and within a few weeks met and started dating seriously the man who is now my husband. Then my depression returned.  After crying and talking with my mom, she suggested that I try getting on medication. At first I was resistant. I had coped for so long on my own. The argument that convinced me was that with getting married I had to think of my husband. It wasn’t fair to him to “just cope” and not truly get the help that I needed so I could better support him. This wasn’t just about me anymore, I had a future family to think about and how it would affect them. So the next day we went to the doctor.

That decision was a turning point in my life, that’s when I was able to actually admit to myself that I suffered from a mental illness. By doing so I was able to start being able to talk about it more openly and has helped me to recognize things that trigger my depression and things that help me overcome it. The more I am able to talk about my depression with others the stronger I feel. By communicating about it with my husband more, he is better able to support me. Being on medication has not taken my depression away, but it has mellowed it out so it is not so severe.

Being a mom while dealing with depression can be a challenge. Some days their laugh and smiles lift my spirits and are just what I need. Other days their tantrums and crying make me want to hide in my room all day. But that’s motherhood, right?

Feature Friday: Taylor

Taylor posted her story on Facebook, and our mutual friend tagged me in it because she thought it would be a good idea to share it on here. How cool, right?! So I messaged Taylor and she thought it was a good idea too. And here we are.

Taylor Devuyst is 19 years old. She was born and raised in Mission, British Columbia until she moved to Cardston, Alberta when she was 17. She’s a convert to the LDS church and was baptized when she was 16. It changed her life forever, and she is so grateful for that. She’s currently attending the University of Lethbridge, and she’s majoring in Neuroscience. She absolutely loves to write, and she hopes to one day be able to share her story on a bigger scale. She also plays the piano and some sports in her free time. She loves this life and the Gospel of Jesus Christ with all of her heart! She owes everything to Him.

I never thought the day would come where I would be telling the world about my darkest trial. But, I think it’s time. I’m talking about this so that maybe I can help just one person feel a little less alone in the world. If I can accomplish just that, this will all be worth it. There is a huge stigma against mental illness, and each time that we talk about it, we free people from suffering in silence.

We all face challenges in our lives, trials, and hard times. We live in a fallen world, where we are not immune to pain and heartache. In honor of Bell Let’s Talk Day, I want to share a bit of my experience with mental illnesses.

It started 7 years ago. I have suffered from Severe Depression, and Major Anxiety Disorder since I was 12 years old. I was diagnosed officially when I was 14. Then when I was 18, I was also diagnosed with Borderline Personality Disorder. It’s a lot, but it’s not all of me.

Having severe depression for me, never really consisted of not being able to get out of bed. I have always been very high functioning. I wake up, get ready, eat, go to school, hang out with friends. I take my responsibilities very seriously because I don’t like to disappoint myself, or others. My depression has always been silent and hidden. What really happened, was that I lost purpose. For as long as I can remember, I didn’t understand the meaning of life. I lost myself, and I lost hope. It got worse over the years, and at 12 years old, I started having suicidal thoughts. I became someone that I didn’t recognize. I lost the little girl who once loved herself.

Having an anxiety disorder is the worst. I had my first panic attack when I was 12 years old, and I still have them to this day. It’s not funny, it’s terrifying. Nothing triggers them for me. I could be eating lunch, or sitting in my room doing homework, or trying to go to sleep, and I will have a full-blown panic attack. They are horrifying. More than that, having an anxiety disorder means struggling to make your own appointments, or call a friend. It means not being able to stay in the mall for too long. It also means having a panic attack, because you’re afraid of having another panic attack. It’s a vicious cycle.

Borderline Personality Disorder. This is a tricky one. I guess I would describe it as living in the extremes. I am either on cloud 9 or at rock bottom. My emotions are intense in the way that a house fire is, a plane crash, or an earthquake. They are life-changing, earth-shattering, and most of all painful. I cannot experience “kind of happy, kind of sad, kind of bored, kind of angry.” My emotions have one level, and that level is catastrophic. The smallest events can trigger the hugest feelings, and those huge feelings demand huge reactions.

I believe that the scariest part of all of this is that I can honestly say that I have an amazing life, and yet I still have suicidal thoughts. It makes zero sense. I have a good family, lots of friends. I have many opportunities, I get to go to university. I have the Gospel of Jesus Christ in my life. I am physically healthy, and I love life. But apart of me is constantly trying to destroy all of this. It is a fight. A battle every single day, against myself. A war to stay alive.

Now, recovery. It is a lifelong process. I have been on medications now for 2 years and in therapy every week for 3 years. I have been to countless doctors and psychiatrists. I have been admitted to the hospital 4 times in the last 2 years. It’s hard. It’s hard to talk about. It’s hard to say that I have an “appointment,” when that really means that I’m going to therapy, again. It’s hard to say that I’m “going away for a few days,” when that really means that I’m going to the hospital. It’s all hard. It’s hard to fight for months at a time with what feels like little success. It’s hard to want to die, and yet continue to get out of bed anyway. It’s painful.

But that’s not the point. The point isn’t the pain. The point is that there is hope. There is always hope. I used to not believe that, but then I learned about God. I learned that He has a plan for all of us, and that “the sufferings of this present time, are not worthy to be compared with the glory which shall be revealed in us (Romans 8:18).” At times it becomes too much, but I just try and hold on to hope with every last piece of me. I am still learning to rely on my Savior’s promise. The promise that as I come unto Him, He will give me rest and strengthen me. I am so in need of His strength because on my own I am weak. This life is a beautiful struggle, one that I wouldn’t trade for anything. I am grateful, for everyday that I get to spend on this earth, becoming the person that God needs me to be.

To the one out there who is struggling. To the one who feels like they are losing the war against their demons, I promise that it gets better. Please hold on. Please don’t give up just yet. One day you will look back on your life, and see why everything had to happen the way that it did. You’ll cry with tears of joy as you fall at the feet of your Maker and Savior, knowing that you did all that you could. So for now, hold tight to your faith, whatever it may be. Don’t be afraid, “but have patience, and bear with those afflictions, with a firm hope that ye shall one day rest from all your afflictions (Alma 34:41).” I promise you that the darkness doesn’t last forever, and that the small moments of joy in between, are worth more than you could ever comprehend. You are worth more than you could ever comprehend. You are so loved.

I hope you know that there is always someone there for you. Don’t be afraid to seek help. Don’t be scared to reach out, there are people waiting to catch you when you fall. I didn’t used to believe that. I used to think that I was all alone in the world, but then I worked up enough courage to reach out. I suffered in silence for far too long, talking about it gave me the freedom that I desperately needed. There have been so many people along my journey who have saved me. Little by little, they have saved me. I would not be here today without them. So please, talk about it. Reach out, and let the light of recovery into your life. I promise that you won’t regret it. God is so good, and He has provided us with resources to help us make it home to Him. Don’t be ashamed, there is nothing to be ashamed of.

Life isn’t easy, but it really is beautiful. I wouldn’t be who I am today without the darkness that has consumed me at times, and still does. And I’m really starting to like who I am. I have learned some of my greatest lessons amidst the storms of life. It’s a good life. Don’t give up on it too soon. You will be okay. You will have a happy life. You will make it. You will be free. I just know it. You’ve got Jesus Christ, the Savior of the world fighting with you, and you’ve got me too.

Feature Friday: Kayla

It has been a while since I’ve posted a Feature Friday, so I posted about my blog in a Facebook group I’m part of and Kayla was willing to share her story. I love her sweet testimony.

Kayla grew up on the east coast in Florida her entire life but when she moved to Utah, she became interested in the concept of blogging. 4 years later, she started her website and knew she always wanted to talk about fashion. Throughout the year, it slowly evolved into more lifestyle topics surrounding her main goal: to help women embrace natural beauty while feeling comfortable in their own skin.

Faith over Fear: How I Live with Anxiety

I never realized how faith was the opposition of fear until a doctor diagnosed me with anxiety last week. I know I am completely new at all of this, but my entire life I knew I was more anxious than most people were, but growing up in the LDS (Mormon) faith, has definitely been an integral part in how I cope with everything. My journey is a lot different from most and I hope to be able to relay my experience on how I live with anxiety.

My Experience 

When I describe my anxiety, the only way I can explain it is that it is paralyzing fear over trivial things. There are times where it is over something huge, but I finally started realizing it when my husband started school. I worked full-time and he was a full-time student with a part-time job. Since I was further away from home, I took our only car and he biked everywhere. When I say everywhere, I mean EVERYWHERE! Knowing the behaviors of most drivers in the area, I was petrified! Every morning when he would kiss me goodbye, I thought that was the last time I would ever see him again because I was terrified a car would hit him. A few months later, I went off my birth control because of other health concerns I was having and it got 1,000 times worse. That is when I knew I had to change.

It all began with the October General Conference session. My husband and I were lucky enough to score some tickets. We went and with a prayer in my heart, I pleaded with God on what I could do to erase these thoughts from my mind. It was not until the next couple of days that I got my answer. During our Family Home Evening, my husband received a strong prompting after we listened to President Russell M. Nelson’s talk that we needed to read the Book of Mormon… by the end of the month! We were only in 1 Nephi (along with most it seems) and I had zero faith that we could do it. I assured him I would try my best but probably would not make it. My husband said he had faith that we would finish on our desired date. I was not so sure.

I began listening to it every second that I had and over time, I slowly realized that my fear was fading. I started to feel at peace and that was not a feeling I have experienced in a long time. It made me want to listen to be able to tear my mind away from the things of the world. By the end of the month, I already finished and started listening to it for a second time.

I have a huge testimony of the power of the Book of Mormon and the peace it brings into my life. I know the words in it are true and if we are diligent in our study, our faith will destroy our fear. I cannot say it took away my anxiety for good, but it became an aid for me to turn to during my times of despair. For that, I am eternally grateful.

Feature Friday: Aly

I met Aly at a dinner event with Munchin’ with Moguls. She made a comment about her job and blog and so after the dinner was over I asked her if she’d be willing to share her story here, and she said yes! Her blog and Instagram account are amazing. She radiates beauty, on the inside and the outside. Plus she seems perfect for the job she has, she goes into more detail below.

Aly is a 23-year-old Brigham Young University graduate who currently lives in Salt Lake City, Utah. She enjoys cooking, traveling, spending time with family and friends, and being adventurous. She works as a Recreational Therapist and is also the creator of Build Your Beautiful— a blog focused on self-love and holistic health.

Hi! My name is Aly. I’m a health fanatic, a recreational therapist, and a blogger.

My three titles have something in common. I became these three things after a difficult challenge I faced in high school. I’ll get into the details here in just a moment.

First and foremost, I’ll tell you about therapeutic recreation. Therapeutic recreation is a holistic process that uses recreation and leisure of all different kinds to bring about a positive change, emotionally, physically, intellectually, spiritually, and socially in an effort to maintain and improve quality of life. I currently work with children and teens ages 6-18 in a behavioral health facility. Most of the patients I work with suffer from anxiety, depression, post-traumatic stress disorder, chemical dependency, or intermittent explosive disorder. Although these are the most common diagnoses, I do work with patients who have other challenges as well.

As a recreational therapist, I facilitate group therapy sessions to teach patients skills they can use to improve their lives. For instance, sometimes I do activities based on social skills to teach my patients how to interact appropriately with others. Sometimes I do activities involving physical sports to teach patients appropriate ways to use their leisure time. Other times I do activities based on mindfulness to help patients recognize their personal feelings and emotions.

I love my job and feel so blessed to do something that has the potential to literally change the lives of others. I decided to become a recreational therapist after I used therapy and recreational activities to help me through one of the most challenging times of my life. This is where the “health fanatic” and “blogger” titles come into play.

My story goes like this:

After a difficult experience in high school, I began to see myself as everything I was not instead of everything I was. At the time, I thought “I should do something about my challenge… something to make me feel better about myself.”

This “something” turned into eating healthier, exercising more, and focusing on myself. Seems great, right? It was great until it went too far and I became obsessed with accomplishing those goals. It all went downhill from there.

My obsession turned into an eating disorder. I suffered from anorexia nervosa for years.

What most people don’t understand about an eating disorder is that the disorder is about so much more than just food. Yes, the disorder manifests itself through food, but it’s not like someone can just start eating more and POOF they’re all better. I only wish it were that easy.

I suffered physically, mentally, emotionally, socially, and spiritually. Some of these consequences are completely out of my control and may haunt me forever. I had an extremely low self-esteem, I had a disturbed body-image, and I was constantly self-conscious. I isolated myself from the world, I felt undeserving of love and acceptance, and I completely rejected myself. I was irritable, anxious, and terribly confused.

I used to prove my worth by the amount of food I ate and the number of calories I burned. I used to prove my worth by my jean size and the number on the scale. I’m here to tell you something I wished someone had told me long ago… those numbers DO NOT reflect your worth!

Abandon the bull crap you’ve been brainwashed to believe about perfection and beauty. Thick eyebrows and a thigh gap cannot buy the freedom that comes when you embrace who you are and your own imperfect journey.

Those strong legs allow you to run, jump, carry heavy things, and explore the world. Those freckles on your skin came from your grandma who also gave you your bright eyes and zest for life. Those intense emotions you feel allow you to connect with other individuals and show how powerful experiences can be.

You can focus on what the world thinks of you, or you can focus on what YOU think of you. The percentage of your time you spend worrying about what the world thinks of you is time wasted. The way you feel about yourself is what matters most.

Though I have come a long way, those unhealthy habits and tendencies haven’t completely vanished. I still feel obligated to check the nutritional information on everything I eat; I still feel guilty sometimes when I eat because I’m hungry instead of at my “scheduled” times; I still feel self-conscious some days when I look in the mirror. Though these things are not innately negative, they can become negative if they are taken too far. I’m working to find that balance in my everyday life.

As a society, we rarely talk about the things that hold us back from becoming the person we want to be. The person I constantly strive to be is someone who is kind, loving, generous, healthy, energetic, and joyful. Keeping my challenge bottled up inside of me helps absolutely no one. It doesn’t help me obtain these desired attributes and it certainly doesn’t help anyone else fight through similar battles to become who they want to be.

It has taken me YEARS to get to the point I’m at now. Looking back, I can honestly say I’m glad I’ve had this experience. I’ve met so many wonderful and inspiring individuals through my struggle. I’ve found who I am and who I want to be. I’ve grown stronger and more confident. I’ve learned how to listen to my body and address my personal needs in a healthy way. I’ve learned how to express myself in positive ways; this blog is one of those ways.

The reason I created my blog, Build Your Beautiful, is to encourage others who have a negative view of themselves to have a more positive self-esteem. I know some of you may feel like that goal is impossible, but I’m living proof it is possible. If you feel like you can’t do it alone, reach out to someone you can trust. I’m always willing to talk to anyone who reaches out to me! Transparency is what has helped me the most through my journey. The moment I started sharing my story, three years ago, is the moment I started making progress.

I know that we each have been given unique gifts in this life. I know that we often face challenges to help us recognize those gifts. While challenges are not easy and trials are not fun, we can learn and grow an extraordinary amount through these processes. One of my biggest challenges has also become one of my biggest blessings. Trust in your own process and be patient with yourself. Sometimes those painful experiences teach us things we never thought we would need to know.

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.

Feature Friday: Alexa

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

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

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

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

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

I suffer from anxiety. What is anxiety?

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Feature Friday: Shantel

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Feature Friday: Anna

Anna and I went to high school together so I saw her post on Facebook from her own blog. I am so grateful for all those people who are brave enough to share their stories on their own and then let me share them on my blog too. Keep reading for Anna’s story.

Life Happens in the Pauses.

I’ve been staring at a blank screen for hours, trying to decide how to start this entry of my very private and vulnerable feelings regarding a recent experience I’ve gone through. I’ve struggled for weeks on whether this information and this part of my life needs to be shared with people. It’s deeply personal to me and it’s an experience that is extremely important to me.

The last seven months have been hard, scratch that, they’ve been unbearable. It’s hard to put into words just how broken and devastated I’ve truly been. The months have been filled with huge life changes that have left me with some big questions and such a noise filled mind. Its left me with some extremely dark thoughts and sad perspectives. I know that in these last few months my faith was truly put to the test. More than it ever has been. It’s hard to think you believe in something so much but when it is truly tested, do you really? For those who know me, I don’t do well with change, especially big changes. I was put to the test through so many changes at once, that I shut down. I became disconnected from my life and from who I am.

It started with small and simple thoughts, does this matter? Do I care about this? Am I happy? Does any of it matter? I found myself taking steps backward for weeks. I changed my mindset from my happy, optimistic self to someone who didn’t really care about anything anymore. It’s like everything had lost its meaning to me. I think the worst part about that was that I knew I was hurting more than I could handle, but I didn’t care. I let myself sink further and further away from this person I thought I always was. It’s like looking in the mirror and not even know who is on the other side. I was a stranger to myself.

I really struggled to get a grasp on my life and what I was going through. It’s like I couldn’t accept that I was in the place that I was in. That was my first mistake. Days would go by and I would feel myself drifting further and further away. I started to think; Am I important? Do I really make a difference? Would anyone notice if I was gone? Am I helping people in my life enough for it to make a real and definite difference? I began to convince myself that people would be fine without me in their life. They would find someone else who fulfilled my spot and that I didn’t matter too much anymore. I honestly was so wrapped up in my own mind and my own thoughts that I believed the lies I told myself. Looking back, I think the part that hurts me the most was that I knew I needed to tell someone, but I was so scared of judgment from anyone and someone being insensitive that instead I quietly suffered. I began to truly understand what it felt like to have no control over my emotions and my thoughts. My heart was aching to be understood and not be told what to do, or how to fix it. I just needed to know that what I was feeling wasn’t anything than that, it was what I was feeling.

There was a particular day in April where I allowed my emotions and my fear drive my mind. I ended up in a place where I was struggling to understand what the point was of going on. I hadn’t shared any of my thoughts or any of my experiences with my family, my roommates or my friends. I felt so alone and was so scared. I knew that my thoughts and my heart were experiencing two different emotions. I knew that what I was feeling was not sent from Heavenly Father and that it was the adversary. In those last few months leading up to April, I knew but didn’t care. It was easier to not care and not to deal with my emotions. That was the smart move, I thought. The adversary sadly, works in so many ways, in ways that are so incredibly personal and fragile to who we are. If we are not careful to discern the difference between the Savior and the adversary, we become trapped. Trapped in a false reality and living within all of your vulnerabilities and insecurities.

I heavily relied on the Savior that day. I had many beautiful, inspiring and perfect moments with Him that day. I didn’t have a lightning bolt answer. I didn’t have a gust of light or see any personages. I simply felt love in a moment that I needed more than ever. I never realized the power in our desires and His ability to truly heal and strengthen us, as His children. I sat weeping and knew that my prayers and my heart had been heard.

Words won’t ever be able to describe the love that I felt in that moment from my Heavenly Father and His son, my best friend, Jesus Christ. My heart and my soul were saved. I understood my importance and my role to play in this life. Most importantly, I knew Heavenly Father loved me, without a doubt. It is something I will never ever question again. I have never been one to doubt the Gospel or its teachings. I have believed and served faithfully in my callings. I always try to be kind to others and exemplify Christ. It was so out of character for me to feel the way I was feeling.

It seems so silly, like how could I not know that, right? I’ve always been with people that I love and felt surrounded growing up. But for some reason, I didn’t feel that, not because of them, because of me. I had convinced myself that everyone would be okay without me. I am so happy that I was wrong and that my thoughts were not truly mine. It was an internal struggle. I had allowed myself to feel horrible instead of fighting back.

I will never be able to describe fully how thankful I am for this day. I am even thankful for the saddest days, where I questioned myself that much. I have gained more compassion, more empathy, more kindness and more love for those in my life than I ever thought possible. I’ll never truly know why I had to suffer for those months. Why I had to feel so alone and feel that I was not cared for or loved by those who love me more deeply than I can comprehend.

I will forever be grateful to you, Brooke. You’ll never know how much you did that day. You were everything. Thank the heavens we decided to become best friends so long ago in eighth grade. I think God knew how much I would need you then and now. What an incredible person you are in my life. I love you.

There are so many things that I did wrong through this process. The first and foremost was not reaching out to my family or my closest friends when I needed it. I kept to myself and chose not to tell anyone for fear that they would act differently, treat me like a child, or simply not even try to understand. Because they hadn’t felt that, that it couldn’t possibly be real. Or that I was feeling that way because I wanted attention. There were a million thoughts that would run through my mind, making me feel more and more closed off from ever telling anyone. I know there were moments I would try to work up the courage, and then silently return to my room. I was scared that everyone would be against me, rather than with me. Instead of trusting in the good, I believed the worst would come out of my loved ones. The power of empathy and understanding has truly helped me to believe that the people in our lives are everything and I’ll admit I took some for granted.

The second, I didn’t admit to myself that I needed help until I was already suffering. I shouldn’t have waited so long to know for myself that something was wrong and that I was off. I am thankful to have a patient and understanding counselor who guided me and helped me. By the simplest of ways of just listening and validating that it was okay for me to feel how I was feeling. She always trusted in me that I would be safe, even when I didn’t. I have since had conversations with her and she has said that she knew all along I would find this and be happy. That I had to feel my emotions and not repress them. Which if you know me, I am pretty good at being emotional, so I never thought I would do that.

I’ve never struggled with any kind of mental illnesses in my life. Not like this, I’ve always just found different ways to cope with my sadness, stress, and experiences. Writing has always been a therapeutic way for me to release my emotions. I have known a lot of people in my life who have struggled and I’ve tried my best to be there for them and their struggles but never quite understood it. I am in no way saying that my seven months of depression compare to someone who has struggled all their life, but it helps me to have a greater insight and more empathy and compassion to others. For me, this was my experience. I know that not everyone has an experience that is like mine or even close to mine. I want to emphasize that this was my experience and a new chapter of my life that I hadn’t discovered. I in no way want to downplay depression or make light of any of this experience. I know that everyone will cope differently and this is just how I was able to cope and become happier with my life.

Looking back, I realize the Lord was always there as He always has been. I was making changes and decisions that would be my foundation and my strength in the months following. At the moment, I needed it the most, my foundation upheld me and strengthened me. My foundation is the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-Day Saints.  I began working as an ordinance worker in March. I started the Book of Mormon over in January and it’s like reading it for the first time. I began doing service for others in my life because I couldn’t sit in silence anymore. I started reading Preach My Gospel, so that if an opportunity ever came I would be ready to teach someone else. I have read over ten books on how to better myself. I was scared to be farther away from my Savior. I could feel myself drifting and clung to what I knew. I didn’t realize how much I already knew about the Gospel until it really mattered.

I can now say that without a doubt, The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-Day Saints and its teachings are what truly save me every day. Heavenly Father has sent so many tools and angels along the way. I see them so clearly now. I have over a million reasons to be happy. I can’t believe that I ever questioned it. I can’t believe that I allowed my heart and my soul to be swayed in thoughts from the adversary. Thoughts that would harm me. I can’t believe that I even went through this experience. It’s hard to put into words because I know it’s the farthest thing from who I truly am. But I am so grateful for it. Because it taught me the meaning of life, and most importantly my life.

I sit and think if I had chosen to be impulsive and not waited and listened for my answer, what I would have missed. It’s the first steps and first words of my nieces and nephew. It’s the long talks and long hugs with my mom and the unconditional everything that she provides. The sweet and kind temperament of my sister. The jokes and loving conversations with my brother in law. The patience that Abby teaches me as she goes through her life and Shania Twain dance parties. The real and hilarious moments with the girls and Nate. The advice and love from Alison and Eric. It’s the late-night conversations and laughs with Chantelle and her ability to be my best friend still through it all, the Face-Time conversations with Brooke and Sabra and my nieces from them. The four to five-hour phone conversations with Tan and the love that she radiates. The moments of watching Ashley’s family grow by number each year and her guidance throughout my life. Singing Celine Dion with Bay until our lungs hurt and all the heart to hearts we have. The late-night dance parties in my house with my beautiful roommates. The lessons and experiences that everyone in my ward has taught me. The friends that I made when my world fell apart. It’s my life and I can’t believe for one second that I thought it would be okay to miss it.

I reflect on this experience often since it has happened and feel incredibly sad for this girl. Even reading and writing this has been so painful. I have kept so much inside for too long. Knowing that my heart has changed immensely and I am so far from this girl I am writing about just gives me strength and courage to love myself. It’s okay for me to love myself, even when I was that girl. Like, I can accept all parts of who I am, even when I never suspected I would go through this. It’s not okay or healthy to feel the way that I felt and I knew that throughout my entire process.

I’ve spent a lot of time in my living room staring at a picture of the temple and wondering if I will ever reach my goals and if my life will truly mean something. Waiting for the perfect job, my list of hobbies to grow, my heart to love someone completely, etc. I’ve felt like my life has been on pause mode. As if I am sitting here pressing play but the disc is stuck. I thought that my life was going nowhere and that these past few months have been the worst of my life. That may be true but they have also been the best. I didn’t realize that my life happened in the pauses. My heart was rediscovered in the best way. I am a better person because of the pauses, who knew?

I have learned more in these past seven months about myself than I ever thought I could. I have sat at home a lot and pondered my meaning and the meaning of life. Where we fit, where we don’t. My mind has been given the ability to be clear and think concisely. I understand God’s plan for each and every one us. My testimony is more than a testimony. It is knowledge, undoubtedly that this Gospel is true. I’ve said it before but not like this. It’s like this time, I mean it wholeheartedly and I thought I did before. My heart and my spirit are routed within this Gospel. I love the Lord more than I ever thought I could. I love my Savior more than I thought humanly possible. I trust in Him and His teachings. I love the temple and know that we can be healed and strengthened by attending regularly. People are what make this Church good. I am thankful to have met the best and to have them in my life continually. Kindness and charity have played a huge role in my understanding of how Christ yearns for us to love one another. I know that my family will be together forever. I know that the Book of Mormon is true and that it healed my heart and my soul. I have no doubt that I am here for a reason and that it is great.

In sharing this experience, I think this is the scariest thing I have ever done. I want the message from this post to be “There are a million reasons to be happy and live your life, trust in the Lord and His teachings and your plan.” That is the biggest lesson that I learned, one that I thought I had already learned. It’s interesting how we are constantly refined throughout our lives. Progression, it’s the most beautiful gift that we are given. I know that this post is very invasive of my life and my heart. I hope it is treated with kindness and understanding. I know that it may seem like I am not doing well from this post, but the truth is, I’ve found my happiness. I understand now that it truly was never one thing or one person. It was me all along. I always had the power to be whatever I wanted to be. I hope that someone out there who is struggling and feeling alone knows that they are so deeply loved by our Heavenly Father and His Son. I believe that we go through experiences to teach and help one another. I think that this experience taught me everything about my life that is important. I want someone else to feel that. I felt so strongly that it needed to be shared. Even if it’s just one person, it’s enough. I mean it when I say, the Gospel saved me on April 12. There is so much more to be had in my life, I know that. I love the Lord, I love my family and I love this Gospel, with every single fiber of my being. It is my foundation and my salvation. I have come to know the Savior and trust in Him. This is real, I know it. This is my full and most raw testimony. I know with all my heart, He lives and He heals. Amen.

Feature Friday: Alli N

Alli and I have known each other since we were little kids. We were baptized on the same day, Halloween, were friends all through high school and have stayed in touch via social media. She has always been someone I’ve admired.
Alli was born and raised in Utah. She was a happy go lucky kind of girl growing up and was always happy, laughing, and just enjoyed life. She met her best friend and husband during a singles ward activity in 2010 and they were married six months later in the SLC Temple. They have been happily married for six and a half years now and have three beautiful children ages 4, 3, and 1.5. Her family is everything to me. She is a HIGH Fitness instructor and loves being able to help others feel the happiness that comes from a great workout.  She also loves to cook, spend time with her family, shop… for workout clothes… and eat ice cream.
One of my biggest dreams had always been to be a mom. I wanted it more than anything in the world. When my husband and I felt the strong impression to start a family back in 2012 we were ecstatic and spent our time as most soon to be parents do… tracking milestones, assembling nursery furniture, and anxiously awaiting the arrival of our sweet baby. After what seemed to be the longest nine months one could endure, our tiny little girl was born and little did I know at that moment, my life would change forever. Not only as a new mother but as a fighter of Post Partum Depression.
The day our sweet Hadley made her way from Heaven into our arms was one of the happiest I can remember. Joy, Pure Joy! We had a very exciting few weeks following her birth including bringing her home on a crisp snowy Christmas Eve, our first Christmas as a family of three, a visit and help from my mom and mother in law, a break from school for my husband, parental leave, visits from family and friends, and lots of snuggling our little girl. Then…slowly, the excitement started to fade, and ordinary life began to creep in. Christmas decorations were put away, Brad returned to school and work, family returned home (which at the time was three hours away) and there I sat, alone, with our tiny baby, crying and wondering  “what now?” “I should be happy” I would tell myself “I just had a baby, and get to stay home and be a mom just like I have always dreamed!” but deep in the corner of my new mom self, I was sad, desperately sad, and very lonely. I was terrified that I was overcome with such feelings of darkness. I cried, I ate, I slept…anything to distract me from the pain I was feeling but nothing seemed to fill the void within me.
I have always been a strong-willed person. The type of person that struggles to ask for help and believes that I can “fix it all on my own”. Because of the pride of my heart, I hid the struggle I was facing from everyone… even my husband. I thought that if anyone found out they would think that something was wrong with me as a person. I never considered that it was Post Partum Depression. I just thought something was wrong with me and I did my best to live day to day.
In my purist to “fix myself” I found a love for exercise and healthy eating. It helped immensely and after six months of struggle, I was finally feeling hope for healing. That was until my hormones took a terrifying plummet with the pregnancy and delivery of our second beautiful baby girl…a devastating miscarriage… and the pregnancy and delivery of our perfect little boy. I began to torment myself relentlessly by comparing myself to anyone and everyone, especially those close to me whom I view as the most amazingly beautiful and gifted women in the world. I began to dislike myself, my self-confidence was nonexistent, I was constantly consumed with thoughts of self-doubt and no matter what I tried, and they never went away. “You aren’t pretty enough.”, “you aren’t good enough.” “You aren’t skinny or fit enough.” “No one truly loves you.” “You will never be a good enough mom.” “You will never be a good enough wife.” You don’t have any useful skills or talents.” “Your family would be happier and better off without you.”…The self-destructive thoughts were endless. I felt broken. Satan had overcome my mind and I was too weak to fight back. I fully believed every lie that was whispered into my mind.  After our little boy was born I was completely overwhelmed with the thought of raising our three tiny kiddos while my husband continued working and going to school full time. I had some very difficult days. I struggled to get out of bed in the morning most days, but would put on my bravest face and go through the motions of mommying… I spent most of my time however withdrawn from my children and family. I felt like a bystander and an onlooker in my own family and in my own life. A move to a new city caused more stress than I ever thought imaginable and towards the end of July 2016, after a day went wrong and words misunderstood, spending hours sobbing to my sweet husband about how horrible I was. I told him that I wouldn’t mind if I didn’t wake up in the morning. As he held me close while I could hardly breathe a light clicked within me and I knew I needed help.
Throughout the course of my 4-year struggle:
I finally mustered up enough strength to tell my Husband about what I was going through, and even though he suggested I visit the Doctor, again my pride refused.
I turned to my Heavenly Father with desperate pleas at night, begging Him to take this cross away from me. Promising that I would be a better mom and wife If He would just take it away. Like the loving Heavenly Father He is, he did not take it away.  But gave words through Elder Jeffery R Holland in his October 2013 General Conference Talk “Like a Broken Vessel” and through hymns that would enter my mind during times of despair. “Where can I turn for peace…where is my solace… when other sources seem to make me whole…who has the quiet hand to calm my anguish… who, who can understand? He, only one” “Be still my soul, the Lord is on thy side…with patience bear thy cross of grief or pain” “I believe in Christ, so come what may” these words always brought such peace.
Asked for and received more Priesthood blessings of peace and comfort than I have in my entire life, and received loving counsel from my Heavenly Father on how to feel happy.
Put aside my pride and started asking for help. I told my family the struggles I had been facing and started going to a therapist.
My first visit to my therapist, I was diagnosed with severe postpartum depression. I was always completely against medications until my therapist explained what I was going through so vividly after spending an hour with her, she calmly went to the whiteboard that hung on her wall and drew a picture that will forever be engraved in my mind. She drew a picture of the layers of the ocean and a beaming sun. She explained that everyone has waves in their lives, ups and downs, just as there are waves on the sea. When you are dealing with depression, your mind sinks down under the water until that level becomes your new normal and it becomes harder to see the sunshine. She went on to explain that I had allowed myself to sink to the lowest level on her diagram, where it is nearly impossible to see the sunshine. She warned that medication would be the only thing to help get me back to the light, and after her beautiful explanation, I knew she was right. This was an ah-ha moment for me, and I quickly started my medications.
I have been in recovery for a year now. And along with taking my medications daily, I have become a fitness instructor, and love feeling the happiness that a great sweat can bring. Medication has not been a cure-all, and this is a struggle that I will most likely face the rest of my life… but I know that God has a purpose in His divine plan for me to experience what I have gone through. Even though I do not know the reasoning behind it, I will continue to trust in Him and lean on Him as I did in my deepest darkest moments. Because He is the only one who has been with me through this entire journey and carried me when I could not carry myself.
“Don’t you give up. Don’t you quit. You keep walking, you keep trying. There is help and happiness ahead Trust God, and believe in good things to come.”
                                         -Elder Jeffery R. Holland