How Do You Do It?

How do you do it?  How do you move somewhere far, far away surrounded by complete strangers and attempt to help them get to know you for who you really are when who you really are isn't quite there at the moment?  How do you tell someone that at the moment you have this dark, gloomy cloud hanging over your head, but it isn't you, and it's just this small and sometimes large piece of who you are called depression?

I keep thinking about this, especially as it seems that my dark cloud is intruding more of my day, not just the evenings like it has been the last several weeks.  I know I'll be okay; I just don't know how I'll do it yet.

How do you tell that first person that this is your struggle?  How do you know who is "safe" to tell and who just won't get it?  How do you know who else is silently struggling and wishing for someone to understand, someone to be a friend, when all of this is such a hidden pain?

My mind keeps turning back to when we first moved to Iowa.  It was such a hard move on me.  I was convinced that I was the only person in the whole state who struggled with depression.  (Yes, I really did think that ridiculous thought.)  Come to find out there were people all around me who understood and had felt the same pain, but I didn't know that at first.  So I hid it, kept it to myself, and attempted to bury it deep, but it got worse and led to the very first time when I really thought there was no hope.  It was a terrifying, exhausting time that I don't want to repeat.

In some ways, things are different now.  I've opened up way more now than I ever did before we moved to Iowa, mostly thanks to this blog which has allowed me to write freely and openly with less fear of how I'll be received.  I've learned to not be ashamed of mental illness, as it is a struggle just like any physical struggle.  My eyes have been opened to just how many people struggle with this darkness, even people I never would have expected.  I've learned that speaking up blesses me as well as those around me who need to know that they are not alone.

But how do you do it?  How do you take that first big, scary step of telling someone?  How do you swallow the fear that they might judge you for it or think it's your husband's fault or never see past it to who you really are?  How do you bring up something that so many people feel awkward talking about, including me sometimes when I realize that the other person feels uncomfortable?

I don't have any answers, and the thought of leaving all the wonderful people who understand and love all of me seems overwhelming.  I know I'll be fine somehow.  I just wish I didn't have to start over.


Finding Joy in Brokenness

There's this piece of me that is broken.  So broken that time and time and time again, the bandaid over this unhealed wound is suddenly torn off and the raw, damaged patch of hurt is exposed once again.  It doesn't make sense, this brokenness.  But it is there, and I continually try to make sense of it.  Sometimes I cry out in desperate loneliness, realizing that no one in the world can possibly understand this piece of me that even I don't understand.  I often pray that it can be healed, taken away, made better, or at least made understandable to me.  But it remains.  And it might always remain until my broken brain is made whole someday. 

At times when the hurt seems unmanageable and the pain feels like it will engulf me, God answers my prayers, not by taking away the hurt or the pain, and not even by helping me to understand it (I'm not sure there is much to understand about it), but by giving me someone to sit with me in that dark moment until I can find a portion of light again.  Most often, this is my angel husband, the man who loves, cares, and comforts me like no one else can. 

I usually try to avoid telling him why I can't stop the tears from falling, because it hurts to admit that I'm no more healed at that moment than the last time this happened, but when he wraps me in his perfectly loving arms, I know that he is my safe place, and that no amount of frustrating sorrow can come between me and him. 

Over the last six years, five of which have been years of struggling with depression, I have learned so much about joy.  That finding joy is possible, even in the darkest times.  That joy is not about my circumstances but about my perspective.  That joy is a matter of faith in God's perfect plan, even if that plan includes many, many evenings with a splotchy face and puffy, red eyes.  That finding joy takes effort, but the result of increased faith and an overwhelming sense of God's mindfulness of me is so worth that effort.  That joy somehow turns my feelings of bitterness into feelings of gratitude.

I had one of those broken moments tonight, but what started out as a desperate prayer filled with hurt and tears later turned into a prayer of gratitude for the wonderful man God has given me to help me find joy, even in my brokenness.  And once again, I am reminded that finding joy is always possible.


8 Good Months

I have had 8 glorious, beautiful, wonderful, light-filled months.  That's honestly the longest I have gone without struggling with depression in the last 6 years.  Before that, my record was 4 months.  And that's about it.  1 year in the last 6 years has been good and depression-free. 

In the last couple of weeks, I have felt the darkness of depression creeping back into my life.  I'm sure it's partly the weather-- dark, cold, and depression seem to go hand-in-hand.  I'm sure it's also partly the fact that I'm still not getting as much sleep as I need with a baby who needs me in the night.  And then, of course, there's the fact that my baby is difficult and cries on and off most of the day.  It's wearing and exhausting.  But whatever the cause, I have felt the darkness creeping back in, slowly and steadily.

First, it was a night when my husband was gone, and I cried for a couple of hours about how I was sure that I was a terrible wife and mom, and he deserves better than me.  Thankfully, he came home, wrapped me in his arms, and reassured me that he loves me and needs me. 

Then, it was another night when I had made a mistake, and I was positive that my husband would stop loving me and would leave me if I told him.  Once again, thankfully, he wrapped me in his arms and helped me see things clearly.

And finally, it was another night (hmm... notice a pattern?) when I was at church for the women's session of General Conference.  I was already feeling the emotion filling inside of me when one speaker started talking about how mothers are primarily responsible for gospel teaching in the home.  Suddenly, the tears started flowing as I felt so much inadequacy, fear, and panic.  As soon as he was done talking, I ran out of the room and cried in the bathroom until the meeting was over.  I was positive that I was not cut out for the task and was failing.  This time, I knew what to do.  After some hugs and comforting words from friends, I hurried home, melted into my husband's arms, and felt his calm reassurance that I am not failing at this.  Once he started listing off things I have done/am doing, my mind could see clearer and my heart felt some peace. 

All of these times, the depression was so deceptive.  I was 100%, positively, unmistakably sure that what I felt was true.  It didn't seem like there could be any other way.  It wasn't until my husband acted as my eyes for truth that I could see clearly. 

I'm not sure that I'm ready for this again.  The last few times I have struggled, it has been at least a year before things improved.  That's such a long time to look ahead and see struggle.  But I've done it before, and I can do it again.  I'm guessing more writing about joy is coming in the future.  I think I'm going to need it.

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Finding Joy in the Good Days

I haven't written on here in a while, because honestly, things have been so good.  I haven't had much to write and haven't needed to write, because I've simply been enjoying this good time.  But in the last several weeks, I have felt the burning impression to write a little bit about this good period for a few reasons: 1) I don't know what the future holds for me emotionally, and writing about this good time could help me to look back on it someday if I really struggle again.  2) This is part of my story, and I want to have it written down.  3) This time has been such a testimony builder for me that Heavenly Father truly knows what is best and sees perfectly.

To make a long story short, in September of 2015, we started trying to have baby #2.  This was later than what we had wanted to start trying, but we didn't have much of a choice because some complications from Brooklyn's birth needed to heal before we could have another baby.  I was excited to start trying and was very good at convincing myself that we were pregnant multiple times, only to later realize that we weren't.

Fast forward to a year later, and I was starting to get a little bit frustrated, because we still weren't pregnant.  Why wasn't this working?!  I was ready, and we weren't having success or really any chance of success yet.

The next month, I started to experience the new emotional symptoms (the ones that I've written about on this blog) that suddenly shifted my whole world.  Everything crumbled beneath me, and I literally thanked Heavenly Father every day that I wasn't pregnant or didn't have a newborn at that time, because if everything would have worked according to my plan, that would have been the case, and there was no way I could have handled that at that time.

Suddenly, I didn't want to hold a baby, see a baby, hear a baby, etc. because the thought of ever having another baby seemed impossible and completely overwhelming to me.  I was already convinced that I was failing my one child, so the thought of bringing another child into our home was not a possibility in my mind.  I could do it again if all of this emotional struggle stopped, but otherwise, we would have to be done and appreciate the one sweet little girl we were blessed with.  Those seemed like the only two options.

About six months later, I was still in the depths of emotional struggle, when I felt the very distinct feeling that we needed to start trying to have a baby again.  I was taken back by this feeling because 1) I hadn't felt the Spirit or anything like this in months, 2) I wasn't "better" yet like I thought I had to be before we could have another baby, and 3) I was terrified!  Literally nothing scared me more than having a newborn and taking on more in my life, when simple things like doing the dishes and staying out of bed seemed impossibly difficult tasks to accomplish every day.  It was especially difficult to imagine, because my last pregnancy, I was an emotional wreck and cried nearly every day for the whole 9 months.  I couldn't imagine adding more emotions to what I was already experiencing on a daily basis.

I prayed harder than I had ever prayed before that Heavenly Father would show me how this would work out.  If I could just see what was to come, then I could do it.  I knew I could if things were going to get better, but otherwise, I couldn't.  I didn't know how.  It seemed impossible.  I kept praying, but I didn't get any kind of confirmation that things would be okay or that I would be able to handle it.  All I felt over and over and over again was that I needed to move forward in faith and trust in the things I couldn't see or understand at the time.

With more fear than I've ever felt in my life and with the love and support and strength of my husband holding me up, I made an appointment with an infertility specialist to help us get pregnant.  I still couldn't comprehend how this was going to work, but I moved forward, hoping and praying (and crying every day) that it would all be okay.

Six months after that, we were finally able to try a procedure for the first time, which ended in more emotional pain and turmoil than I have ever experienced and more than I hope to ever experience again.  I wanted to take a long, healthy break from all of this, but I knew that I should at least give it one more chance before waiting a while to try again.

The next month, we tried again, skipping the infertility medication this time that had caused so much trouble the time before.  The morning of the procedure, I was still somewhat afraid, but I also felt peace.  Somehow, I was going to be okay.

Two weeks later, we found out that the procedure had worked, and I honestly cried the happiest of tears that over two years after we started trying, things had finally worked.  But even more, I cried happy tears that I was genuinely excited and happy to welcome this sweet baby into our family, a feeling that I had been so conflicted about in the previous months.

Suddenly, the weight that had burdened my shoulders so heavily was gone.  At first, I thought it was simply because of the excitement that this new change brought into my life.  But it stayed.  It didn't leave.  There were moments of fear or sadness, but they were so fleeting, and I felt fully capable of talking myself through them until I felt better.  I struggled physically in the first trimester and that led to some emotional struggle for a few weeks, but for the most part, I was okay, and peace filled my heart.

While I would say that I have struggled much more physically this entire pregnancy, I have been doing so well emotionally, and for that, I am very very thankful!

For so long, I dreamed of getting to the point of feeling emotionally stable and healthy for long enough that I didn't really even think about mental illness anymore.  I dreamed of feeling peace and light for so long that happiness seemed like my normal, not sadness and darkness.  I dreamed of reaching the day when I would no longer fear making plans or adding more to my day, because the worry of ending up not feeling well and cancelling would be obsolete.

That day is here, and I could never be more thankful!  Not a day goes by that I don't thank Heavenly Father in my prayers for giving me this time of peace and joy.

Quite honestly, reading back through some of my most difficult experiences in the last several years brings me to tears and feels like a dream or another life.  Surely I didn't struggle that much.  Surely that must be someone else's story, not mine.  But it is mine, and I will never ever forget it!

So while this beautiful time of light and peace and joy is here, I want to write a few things that I can hold onto if things get tough again:

  • Right now, I am in a very blessed place of being able to serve and give so much to others.  It feels wonderful and so so fulfilling!  But should I have to cut back again, should I have to simplify my life to the very basics again, including how much and what capacities I am able to serve, it's okay!  It's okay to have my best and everything I have to offer be less than what it is right now.  It's okay to have to say "no" to take care of myself and my own family first.  It's okay to have to be the one asking for and receiving help for a time.  That's the beautiful part of life.  Sometimes we are on the giving end and sometimes we are on the receiving end, and both are okay!
  • I am a good mom.  One of the most wonderful and cherished parts of feeling well is recognizing that I am not a failure of a mom.  I'm definitely not perfect, but I fully realize that I don't need to be perfect.  I'm trying and who I am and what I have to give is enough.  My daughter (and now my son coming soon) need me, not some other mom.  
  • Things always get better.  They really do.  No matter what kind of pain I may have to experience again in the future or for how long, the light will come again, and it is more than worth it to hold on!  This time has been glorious, and I'm so thankful that I'm here to experience it.
  • Heavenly Father truly knows what is best.  I never thought that I could feel so blessed and emotionally well while being pregnant, especially when the months leading up to getting pregnant were harder than I had ever imagined possible, but Heavenly Father knew what I was capable of and knew that everything would be alright when He gave me that first feeling that it was time to start trying to have a baby again.  I would like to say that it won't be hard to trust in the future because of this experience, but I'm sure it will still be difficult when the next struggle comes along.  I do hope to remember this experience though and to let it carry me when I am unsure of what Heavenly Father is asking me to do.


My Comfort Playlist

When I am struggling with depression, I struggle to feel the comfort of the Spirit or to feel Heavenly Father's love for me.  It has taken many months and years to recognize that this is simply a part of depression and is in no way a reflection of anything I have done wrong or how Heavenly Father actually feels about me.

Although I cannot feel normal, good, happy emotions at these times, sometimes I can feel a little bit of something, or at least I can remember what those good feelings feel like, when I listen to music.  It's usually the same several songs that play on repeat in my playlist until the darkness lifts, as each of these songs contain little gems that give me hope and peace in the midst of struggle.

So I thought I'd share my "comfort playlist" with you (in no particular order):

#1: "It Is Well with my Soul" by Vocal Point

This song is such a good reminder for me to not become bitter or angry at the struggles when they come.  It reminds me to find joy, to be patient, and to trust in Heavenly Father, as He really is in charge of my life and is simply preparing me for better things to come.

#2: "He Will Not Let Go" by Laura Story

This short and simple but very touching song has brought so much comfort when my heart has been the most broken.  It brings into my mind the beautiful image of being in the arms of the Savior who can heal all of my brokenness and make it into something beautiful.

#3: "If the Way Be Full of Trial, Weary Not" by the Mormon Tabernacle Choir

This beautiful song gives me the strength and hope to keep going on even when things are so difficult.  It reminds me of all of the remarkable people who have faced much more difficult things than I have who have not given up and who have remained faithful.  It literally brings energy and motivation into my heart as I strive to be someone who patiently and bravely faces whatever comes my way.

#4: "Beautiful Heartbreak" by Hilary Weeks

This song is my motivation for writing this blog and for finding joy, as I strive to turn my heartbreaks into something beautiful and purposeful.  It makes me think of all the beautiful people who have become they amazing people they are today because of the many struggles and heartbreaks they have faced with faith and courage.  It also gives me a greater perspective on my trials, that even though I would rather not face so much sadness and darkness, it is worth it for the wonderful experiences I get to have as a result of facing pain.

#5: "My Kindness Shall Not Depart from Thee" by Rob Gardner

This masterpiece of a song is the perfect reminder that Heavenly Father is really not far away like it feels when I cannot feel Him near for weeks or months at a time.  It also reminds me that these painful feelings only last for a period of time before they pass and good days come again.

#6: "Just Let Me Cry" by Hilary Weeks

This song is sometimes just the right song when I need to remember that it's okay to cry instead of trying to be strong all the time.  It reminds me that it's okay to feel the emotions as they come, while still keeping the faith in God's perfect plan.  My favorite line is: "When I agreed that God could put this heart inside me, I understood that there would be a chance that it would break."  For some reason, this brings me so much comfort as I recognize that it's okay for my heart to be broken.

#7: "Falling Slowly" by 92 Keys

While this song doesn't have lyrics, I turn to this song when I need to remember to breath and just hold on.  It brings hope and peace to my heart as I listen to the beautiful violin and piano and see the beautiful scenery.  It's almost like this song takes me away from the current struggle for just a moment.


That We Might Have Joy: Sarah's Story

Today at church we discussed what our “hard” is. What do we struggle with? What can we learn from it? I listened intently, reflecting on my entire life, my hardships. It actually wasn’t till later that week that I realized my hearing loss is a hardship. I’m astonished. I have finally arrived! It takes a level of acceptance and embrace to not view your “hard” as hard anymore.

I was actually focused on a different hard, my 5 years of struggling with infertility. Sometimes the hardest trials are when we have righteous desires, but the things we desire are outside of our control.

When life beats down on you, how do you stay positive? How can you have joy in the depths of darkness? I believe it’s important to learn from the hard times! You can do this by learning to identify things to be grateful for, things you CAN control instead of what you can not. It’s important to remain positive! This comes more easily with a grateful heart.

When I was about 3 years into the process of trying to get pregnant. I decided to stop sulking! I was done being sad. It wasn’t that simple; I was still sad! However, I shifted my thinking to a more positive outlet. I decided to start doing things that my pregnant friends couldn’t! I made a “Cradle List” of things to do before kids came along. I tried several new things like sushi, rock climbing, and even bungee jumping! We also planned a trip to San Francisco. These things were fun and distracting.  They did not cure my heartache, but they helped me climb out of the black hole of despair and rejuvenate my marriage and focus on being happy.

While struggling with infertility, I learned many lessons. I learned EMPATHY. There are many stigmas and ignorant comments that occur when trying to get pregnant. I learned to put aside judgments and criticism. There is enough anger and hate in the world. What we need is the benefit of the doubt that each of us, MOST of us, are only trying to have the best of intentions. I’ve learned to not judge the man who mumbles or the child that stutters or avoids eye contact or the mother with rambunctious kids. Only God knows what the story is behind the curtain.

Most importantly, I have learned not to be easily offended. I have learned that most comments have more to do with the person offending than the person who it’s intended to offend. In other words, it’s not ME they have an issue with. It’s usually an insecurity of their own. Instead of being offended or mad (and sometimes I still was), I tried to ignore it or figure out why they would say or do hurtful things. Almost always, it is unintentional.

Most importantly, what carries me through any and all of my heartaches is my solid belief in my Savior, Jesus Christ.

“Jesus Christ is the source of peace…Whether they are personal struggles, family troubles, or community crises, peace will come as we trust that God’s Only Begotten Son has power to soothe our aching souls.” ~Jean Bingham

To follow more of Sarah's story, visit her blog HERE.


That We Might Have Joy: Anonymous Story

As a child, I was a victim of abuse and neglect. My own mother raped me when I was seven and again when I was in sixth grade. She would physically abuse me – hitting, slapping, kicking, choking, beating me all over my body with belts (sometimes metal embellished), throwing me around and into furniture. I’ve been made to sleep in dog feces. I’ve been stripped down naked for the sole purpose of her making fun of my physical flaws. I’ve been forbidden to see a doctor, even when I was very ill. I’ve been kept awake for three days without being allowed any rest. She did a number of other cruel things that were a bit less traumatic. My mom was also an extreme hoarder, and I had to deal with what that meant in my life.

When I was fifteen years old, the abuse was escalating, and I knew that if I stayed, I would likely either end up killed or be forced to kill in self-defense. I knew I needed to escape. I knew of the potential for abuse if I entered the foster care system and that I may not have the option I had in that moment to leave. I decided to keep my autonomy instead, and I ran away a few weeks before my sixteenth birthday. I lived with six families in two years. Some of them I knew would be temporary until I found something else. Some of them made me feel like part of their family until they changed their mind and kicked me to the curb.

Saying that this affected my mental health would be a gross understatement. Throughout the following years, I have suffered from Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder and severe episodes of Depression. At one time, when my child was only a few months old, I spent a week in-patient, because I just couldn’t endure my unceasing suicidal urges any longer. I spent years trying out different cocktails of antidepressants, anti-anxiety meds, and mood stabilizers while working through my trauma in therapy, until I got to a point where I was functional despite still having some lingering emotional issues.

I began to plan for a future and eventually found myself where I am now, a senior in college studying psychology and also working part time in a psychology research laboratory. Through this lab, I discovered the research being done on Adverse Childhood Experiences (ACEs) and their impact on so many of the issues that plague our society. And I discovered Trauma Informed Care, the response to all of the research on ACEs. Learning about the impact of trauma in this context and the efforts being done to treat it was music to my ears. I was so glad to hear that this work was being done, but I didn’t quite understand it yet.

About a month ago, after years of unbelief, I gained a testimony of God and His power and sovereignty in my life – even through the hard things. I came to understand that this is what it means to live in a truly broken and sinful world, that we’re all broken, and that our brokenness just presents itself in different ways. I learned that the only people who hurt other people are the people who are truly hurting, and that for my mom to do what she did, she must have been through some truly horrific experiences without the opportunities for help and healing that I have been so blessed with in my life. I’ve come to understand, in some small measure, what Jesus Christ must have taken upon himself when He suffered for our sins and afflictions in order to forgive us. I’ve learned that just as He can now empathize with and comfort us in our struggles, I can also reach out and help others find healing, because I know what that kind of despair feels like. I know that I can hurt with them and walk them through it. And being able to help people on that level is the most rewarding experience and is absolutely worth anything and everything I’ve ever had to endure to get me to this point.


It Really is Worth It

Last Thursday, I had the best day I've had in a very long time!  It's not that I haven't had good days, and honestly I've been doing really well emotionally in the last few weeks, but last Thursday was even better than all of those other good days combined.  Last Thursday, we found out the gender of our sweet little baby.  When the ultrasound technician showed me the picture of my cute little baby boy, I started to cry such happy tears.  And for once, in several months, I was so thankful to be alive in that moment. 

Before last Thursday, I had been thinking about these questions on and off for several weeks-- When was the last time that I felt truly thankful to be alive?  When was the last time that I felt like all the pain and sorrow of depression was worth it just to be alive for that one moment? 

I have a very good and blessed life.  I have a wonderful, supportive, loving husband and a beautiful, sweet, spunky daughter with an active little boy on the way.  I have everything anyone could ever want and more, and yet struggling with depression often makes it hard to feel the wonder of those blessings.  It's hard, because I know I'm blessed, but even those many, many blessings can't take away or lessen the darkness that can sometimes last for months at a time.  It's hard, because I often feel guilty that I struggle so much, despite how many wonderful things I have been given.  It's hard, because I want to feel how blessed I am, but those tangible, good, happy feelings often don't come.  And sometimes that leaves me wondering if it's actually worth it, if it's actually worth holding on through so much turmoil just for the little moments of light in between. 

The last time it had felt "worth it" was last June when my little family took a week long vacation together.  That week still feels like sacred time to me.  We did so many fun things and saw so many beautiful places together, but most of all, as we were together, I felt how good my life was.  I felt love and happiness, and I was so thankful to be alive. 

After that, I fell into months of seemingly unending darkness, including the very worst of it when I was trying to get pregnant with my baby boy and wanted nothing more than to be gone forever.  I couldn't comprehend in that dark, terrible week that anything could ever feel "worth it" again.  I couldn't comprehend that I would ever feel thankful that I had held on through such difficulty. 

Later, I found out I was pregnant, and then I got really, really sick, and I continued to wonder if I would ever feel that any of this was "worth it."  I was struggling so much emotionally and physically, and I basically felt like the rest of my life would feel like this, just holding on, waiting to feel good things again.  And I often wondered-- what if that "worth it" moment never came again?  What if I spent the rest of my life enduring and never felt happiness again? 

At moments, the darkness would lift some and things would be better, but for some reason, I still struggled with wondering if those good moments were really worth it for all of the struggle I had gone through for months and months before.  I worried about the future and all the pain that was sure to come, and I was overwhelmed with thinking about all I would have to endure for just small moments of light periodically.

But last Thursday, I felt for the first time in months and months that I was so thankful I had held on in those most difficult times.  I felt so thankful that I hadn't given up and that I was alive for that one moment of feeling such complete happiness.  In that moment, I truly felt that I would have willingly endured ten times the amount of pain I had endured just to feel that kind of happiness in my heart again.  It really was "worth it," and I can cling to the memory of that beautiful moment for months to come.

I don't know if I'll ever understand why the pain of depression must exist in this world.  I don't know if I'll ever understand how something can cause so much hurt and difficulty for seemingly no logical reason at all.  But I do understand that no matter what we have to endure to feel joy is truly "worth it."  I know that no matter how dark the present may seem, someday there will be a moment when all of that pain is swallowed up in the joy of that one beautiful moment when we can see how "worth it" all of the pain was. 

I'm still on a "high" from my wonderful day last week, but I know that whatever awaits me in the future, it will be worth it for the next moment when I feel a joy so complete and pure again.


Winter Always Turns to Spring

Every time winter lets up just a little bit, I realize just how hard winter is and has been for me.  Something about the cold, the lack of being outside as much, and the darkness that comes so early in the evenings really gets me down.  I use a "happy light," take extra vitamin D, and try to exercise, but the winter always seems like it is going to win over me.  I start out strong, but I slowly lose all motivation and most hope.  Every day seems like the same difficult routine of trying to keep myself busy as the hours and days slowly pass by with little purpose and little accomplished by the end of the day.

And then, one day, the sun comes back up, the temperature warms up, the snow melts, and I feel a literal energy flow into my heart.  It always surprises me how just one day of warmth and sunshine can renew the hope that had dwindled to almost nothing over the long winter months.  It's truly rejuvenating and refreshing!

A few weeks ago, we had our first really warm day.  The days and weeks before had been so difficult, filled with many tears, much guilt, and not much motivation to do anything that I "should" be doing.  I honestly didn't know how I was going to make it through this terribly rough patch, as I clung to any little glimmers of hope or joy around me.  It seemed like the winter blues had dragged me down so far that I didn't know how I was going to get back up.

But when the warmth of spring filled the air, I immediately felt the heavy and crushing burden I had been carrying lift off of me.  I had made it!  My long, dark winter had finally turned to spring!  I started to be productive again during the days that followed.  I no longer desired to get back in bed 100 times a day, and none of the little tasks I had to do during the day brought tears to my eyes.  I could be a "good" wife and mom again, I could feel happy again, and I could feel a little more like myself again.  Thankfully, this rejuvenating feeling has stayed with me, even weeks after that one warm day.

I've been thinking about this experience lately, how terrible I felt in the darkness of winter and how my spring was right around the corner and came again when I least expected it.  Sometimes struggling with depression can feel like being stuck in a long winter and not knowing if or when it will ever let up.  It can feel so hopeless, exhausting, and frustrating.  But these last couple weeks have reminded me that winter ALWAYS turns to spring.  There is always light and hope ahead.  I wish I could know when that light will come again, because it would make the painful days much more manageable, but I have been reminded and my hope has been restored that all difficulties come to an end eventually, and darkness will always be replaced with light.  Sometimes it takes months or even years, but that light will come again.

I can almost guarantee that I will experience darkness again in the future, not because I am pessimistic, but because I am realistic and know how these waves of darkness come and go.  But for now, I am basking in the warmth of the spring light I am experiencing and filling up my bucket with all the good, happy things that this life has to offer.

Image result for winter to spring quote

Image result for winter to spring quote


You're Stronger Than You Know

So... I've been MIA for the last few months.

First, I was really sick at the beginning of this pregnancy, so I basically did nothing for over 10 weeks, and it was kind of miserable honestly.

Then, when the sickness lifted some, I got really depressed and discouraged.  I felt like my life was literally in ruins, and it was all my fault.  I felt so guilty for all the days that I had let my daughter watch TV while I laid in bed trying to survive the constant vomiting.  I felt completely overwhelmed at how far behind I was in EVERY part of my life.  I felt the weight of not being able to work out or get out in the sunshine or be productive doing good things, things that usually help lift my spirits.  I felt alone, like there was no one I could tell about how awful I was feeling, especially because I'm pregnant and should be so happy and thankful for this blessing (which I am, but that doesn't take away the difficulties).

When I finally opened up to my husband, I told him that I felt myself essentially giving up.  I didn't care anymore, and I couldn't find a way out of this dark hole.  I didn't know how to try to lift myself up, because I was so tired and so deeply buried in darkness that it seemed like there was no way out.  It really seemed like there was nothing that could help me.  I felt beyond reach and beyond hope, which is not exactly my favorite place to be.  Everything I did or tried to do seemed to distance myself more from where I wanted to be, and I continued to feel that my mind and my spirit were giving up.  I thought I had given all I had to give, and yet, the struggle continued with little relief.

As I was now spending hours of every day crying and feeling so much weight and darkness, I began to feel some bitterness creeping into my heart.  Why, if I did the right thing by getting pregnant even when that was a very hard decision for me, why was it so hard now?  Why didn't God give me an easy pregnancy as a reward for having so much faith to go off medication, to go forward with our infertility doctor, and to eventually get pregnant when things already felt so hard?  I thought I had done all the right things, and yet, here I was struggling now more than ever-- emotionally, physically, and spiritually.

I was clearly not in a good place and not in a place of finding joy at all through this struggle.  I was exhausted and was sure that there was nothing left for me to do but pray that God would take all of this away.  It seemed like too much to handle, and definitely more than my weak body and spirit were capable of enduring.

So I prayed.  I prayed hard.  I prayed for lots of things that I knew in my heart wouldn't be answered, but I said them anyway.  I knew deep down that things weren't going to get better right away, that asking God to take away all the struggle or to take me away from all of this pain was not going to happen, and I knew that giving up was not an option, as it never is.  But I was beyond the point of praying for strength to get through this struggle, because I felt I had already gone too far, and nothing small or simple could make this better.

As I continued praying every day for the "wrong" things, something happened.

One day, I was feeling so so discouraged about being a mom, and I distinctly felt to reach out to two people.  I didn't know why those two people, but my heart sure hoped that they could offer some peace and comfort to my brokenness.  It turned out those two people knew exactly what my heart needed to hear, one of whom was feeling discouraged herself about similar things, and helping me rise above my discouragement helped her as well.

A few days later, something similar happened.  I was feeling great concern and heaviness about some other things, and a thought came to my mind of who to ask for help.  Once again, I was able to get a little bit more help, and some hope started to return to my heart.

Then, I had the thought to return to writing in a tender mercy journal about all the ways that I see God's hand in my life.  As discouraged as I was, I couldn't commit to lots of writing, so I committed to write down just one thing every day.  My mind could handle that simple task, and slowly my spirit began to soften again as I realized all the little ways that God was blessing me and my family.

One evening, as my husband and I were talking, we decided to start getting up early to read scriptures together again since I wasn't throwing up all morning anymore.  This was something that was impossible to do on my own, but with him at my side, I could do it, and I started to feel little bits of light returning to my life.

One weekend, I went to a baptism for my cousins and was asked to play the piano.  I didn't know beforehand, but they also wanted me to play in the middle while the boys were getting dressed.  As I began to play some arrangements I had written a long time ago, I felt the Spirit for the first time in months, and I knew that I still had so much to offer, even when I felt so broken.

After several weeks of experiencing a series of little miracles, God helped me realize something that I hadn't thought about in too long.  I am stronger than I know.  Each of us are.  We are asked to go through some really difficult things, things that seem impossible to handle, and sometimes they are impossible to handle on our own.  But God sees us for who we can become, and He knows how to help us.  He sees how much we are really capable of handling, and He sees how our growing pains lead us to become someone new, someone we were content with not becoming because of all the pain it would take to get there, but someone that God knows without a doubt that we can become.

I look back at the last couple of years, and I see so much change in myself.  Some of that change is heartbreaking as I realize that I am not carefree or energetic or motivated or happy all the time like I used to be.  But some of the change is breathtaking.  I see how God has taken my broken heart and made it into something greater than what it was-- much more compassionate and loving and caring, much more responsive to the heartaches of others, much stronger and more capable of handling the heartaches that sometimes accompany this life.  And I hope that the breathtaking changes outweigh the heartbreaking ones.

I used to pray that God wouldn't give me any more struggle, because these continuing emotional struggles seem hard enough, but I have come to realize that praying for less struggles just causes me to feel bitter and upset when the additional struggles come.  So instead, I have returned to asking to find and recognize the glimmers of joy through the struggles that are sure to come, because that leads my heart to God and His love instead of away.  Doing this has reaffirmed to my heart that I am stronger than I've ever been able to imagine or see in myself, and that it is far better to feel heartache to become someone better than who I once was than to be content with staying the way I am.

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