When Life Doesn’t Go As Planned: Stephanie

Stephanie and I “met” through Instagram and have become friends through messaging each other back and forth. She is amazing and I respect her so much. I finally asked her if she would share her story (I don’t know why it took me so long), and I am so glad I did. It is a story that has gone on for her entire life and hasn’t ended yet.
Stephanie is a wife, mother of two boys, and 3 guardian angels. She is passionate about sharing her struggle with depression and anxiety in hopes of being a light in someone else’s life and to be a voice to end the mental health stigma. Cheerwine soda and peanut M&Ms are the way to her heart.


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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

The Question

Since finishing An Impossible Life, I haven’t been able to stop thinking about a question, that has led to more questions, that came to mind while reading a specific part of Sonja’s story. Her sister Allyson gets diagnosed with terminal cancer and Sonja is there when her sister’s Doctor tells Allyson that, “this is going to be a nasty fight, but you can decide when you’re done.”

Why is it acceptable for physically ill patients to decide when they want to be done but not for mentally ill patients? Why can physically ill patients stop fighting but mentally ill patients are frowned upon if they stop? One is physical, one is mental, and I believe they both have some overlap but why is there such a difference?

I cannot stop thinking about this. And I believe that part of it is because of the stigma that still revolves around mental health. I know a lot of has to do with the fact that physical illness can literally kill and attacks your body. I get that. I get that physically ill patients can be dying. They are fighting for their lives, but so are some of the mentally ill.

Jane Clayson Johnson also talks about this in her book, Silent Souls Weeping. She tells a tale about two sisters – one struggled with mental illness to the point she has been hospitalized, and the other was diagnosed with stage-four cancer. For the sister with cancer, there has been nothing but love, support, donations, and thoughtful phone calls and messages. For the sister with depression, there hasn’t been anything close to that reaction. Instead, there is frustration, judgment, and harsh comments. The sister with depression wishes she could be in the shoes of the sister with cancer. Then she could die in an acceptable way, no one would judge her, and her kids and family would be taken care of.

How twisted is this?!

Why don’t we take meals to those working through seasonal affective disorder during the winter? We do when someone has their appendix or gall bladder removed. Why don’t we offer to help watch someone’s kids when their depression makes it hard to get out of bed? We do when someone has a broken arm or leg and can’t do as much. Why don’t we offer to hang out with someone whose anxiety makes them nervous to be alone? We hang out with friends and family all the time.

I have never made an attempt to take my life, but I have thought about it ending it. (Did you just judge me for admitting that?) And not because I feel that the world or my family and friends would be better off without me, no, because I just want to escape my mind. I want to escape the panic attacks that make me think I am going to die. I want to escape the depression that consumes me to the point that I can hardly bring myself to get out of bed at the beginning of each day and causes me to wonder what my purpose is. I want to escape the fear that I constantly live with. I just want relief.

I’m not downplaying physical illness and the nightmare that it is, I’m asking you not to downplay mental illness and the living Hell it is. They are BOTH illnesses, so why are the people that suffer from them not treated the same?

From An Impossible Life

Feature Friday: Aumberly

This is my friend, Aumberly. We have known each other since high school, but we became especially close after both having served missions and those missions not going as we had imagined. She has helped me in ways that others couldn’t and I am so grateful for her strength and example.
Aumberly is an amazing wife and mother of a sweet little boy. She graduated from Weber in Business Administration with a certificate in Medical Coding. She is amazing! Continue reading for her story.
Photo by Camera Shy Photography
This sharing my story thing is pretty recent. It has taken me 4 years and 7 months to feel comfortable enough to be vulnerable with the world, but I finally decided that I could do it. Hopefully, there is someone out there who needs to hear what I have to say. Maybe there is someone struggling with depression, anxiety, or PTSD. Whatever it is, I just want everyone to know that there is hope. That there is a way out, and it is through the Savior.
I had wanted to serve a mission since I was a little girl.
That was my life goal, and I was overjoyed when I got my call and my dreams became a reality. The first year was pretty great, I had a blast teaching and loved my companions. Things changed however when I got transferred to be with a companion who was struggling with some personal and mental issues. There were 4 of us in that apartment and what I didn’t know at the time that the next 6 months would affect me for years to come. Its hard to talk about specific things that went on, but overall that period of time was just one of high stress, high emotion, and feeling all alone while trying to be missionaries at the same time. We weren’t really serving a mission like you would typically think, but we were trying to be mental caretakers, dealing with things that we
never had experienced in our young lives before. We didn’t have the tools or capacities to be dealing with what we were and yet were expected to figure it out. We had to do whatever we could to survive each day, and stay mentally strong. But sometimes being strong isn’t enough, different experiences can affect you in ways that you never
expected.  I and the other 2 seemingly “normal” sisters would be broken and changed forever. I came home a completely different person. That happy, bubbly, girl I left as was gone. I didn’t want to do anything, didn’t want to talk about what happened and I felt like a complete failure. I slipped deeper and deeper into depression, and my anxiety levels were off the charts. I tried to handle it myself for about a year, which in the
meantime I met and married an amazing man. Lucky for me, he was a trooper and
dealt with all my outbursts, and crying fits, and depressive moods.  I would cry for hours at a time, not knowing where emotions were coming from. The littlest things would stress me out, or set me off. I found myself not being able to walk in a church because it
brought back horrible memories of being a missionary and I would have panic attacks during Sacrament Meeting and have to walk out. For the longest time, I was angry at God. I had given up 18 months of my life to serve and spread His gospel, and here I now was broken and ruined. I was angry that the one thing that should be helping me, God, church, and anything church related, was making me hurt even more because it brought back so many horrible things from my mission.
My husband finally suggested that I get some help, and I knew I had to for both of our sakes. I had to let go of my pride, and admit that I really needed help, and for a stubborn girl like me, that was really hard. I met with the Bishop, and he helped me find an amazing counselor. I know God was watching out for me because she just got me. I was diagnosed with PTSD and anxiety disorder and I spent the next year working through many of my issues. Although it didn’t go away, I got to a place where I could attend
church again and I fought so hard to be able to get through daily life. I didn’t want my challenges to define me. I was so mad at Satan because I knew that he was fighting so hard to keep me down and make me feel that this was “me”. That I was a loser, that I wouldn’t be able to handle my life ever again, and that I had failed as a missionary. My anger at him fueled the fire to help me to get back up on my feet and start moving again. 2 years into this journey, I found myself once again dealing with some mental issues, but this time it was different. I started worrying constantly about dying and having an illness. I became a true blue hypochondriac and was obsessed with dying all the time to
the point where it was physically debilitating. I had every form of cancer, disease, whatever, you name it I had it. I was scared to wake up every morning because I didn’t want to die. This all sounds nuts, but to someone who knows how it is, it’s awful! It’s not just something you can “pray away” or “change your attitude” about. Mental illness is a very real thing, and can really affect people’s lives. I went back to my counselor and began working with her again to try and work through some of my issues with anxiety and obsessive-compulsive thoughts. Eventually, I was able to get on some medication for anxiety and OCD and planned with my doctor to use it for a year or so until I could rebalance my chemicals. It made a world of a difference for me and most issues I had
faced in the past have lessened. I have been able to come to a place now where I can live life happily and breathe a little easier.
I still struggle with anxiety, but I can walk into church now like a boss, and own the fact that I have struggles sometimes, but it’s the church that brings me peace.  If there are any of you who are struggling with anxiety or depression, I get it. I know how it feels! If you are considering medication but think you are “weak” if you do, just know I felt the same way, but just like any other illness, sometimes it is necessary for healing and that is okay! I chose not to let this define my life and learned that it is just a part of it. Its been 6 years now since I left to serve my Father in Heaven. There are still days I have panic attacks,
or think I am dying, or fear the future. But Satan wants me to live in that state of fear and I will not let him rule my life! Priesthood blessings became such a source of peace and comfort for me. Going to the temple once a week helped me feel the love my Heavenly Father has for me and helps me to get outside myself and serve those who are
wanting their ordinances done. Family History has also been an amazing comfort to me to help my mind focus on something other than my issues. Something about having to be organized and concentrating on finding records has been really good for my mind. I also made it a goal to read conference talks starting the year I was born, and that has brought me so much comfort and peace. Reading words of the Prophets and heeding their counsel has brought so much healing. I had to learn to just take a day at a time and like Elder Holland said, Don’t assume you can fix everything, but fix what you can. If those are only small victories, be grateful for them and be patient. Patiently enduring some things is part of our mortal education.” This is just a small part of who I am. I am so many more things than my illness, and I know each day that I fight it gets better and better! I have so many happy days, and good days, that when a bad day comes I just have to let it roll off my back and keep going. Ultimately I am a Daughter of God, and look forward to the day when “I can stand glorified and grand, breathtakingly perfect in body and mind.” But until then, I will keep pushing, keep moving, and keep being kind to myself.