1.10.2018

That We Might Have Joy: Jennifer's Story

I used to be a singer, dancer, & actress.  Previous to college, I travelled Europe and sang in the cathedrals. I also performed on the Disney stage at Walt Disney World.  Later, I went to BYU and received a bachelor's degree in elementary education with a minor in music. While at BYU, I was on the Ballroom Dance Team, in the Women's Chorus, and in an A Capella Group. After BYU, I was an elementary teacher for 1st grade, 2nd grade, K-5 music, I subbed all the grades in the elementary classrooms and in P.E., and I was a K-12 math tutor.

By 2004, I was married and had 3 kids, 1 boy & 2 girls.   I was a very active mom.  I was 30 years old when I had a severe brainstem stroke in 2004, losing the ability to speak or move.   (I am in a wheelchair, I have double vision, I no longer have control of my emotions, my left side doesn't move, and I barely move on my right side.)  My kids were 2, 4, & 6. Naturally, I was devastated!

While it hurt to be unable to sing or dance, the stroke has helped me to simplify my life & re-arrange some of my life priorities. My family brings me the greatest joy in life, & the gospel allows us to be a forever family!

I continue to enjoy life & find ways to still do the things I love.  I love to scrapbook, & I have taught both digital & traditional scrapbooking.  (There will always be a "teacher" in me!) I even had a digital scrapbook page published! I still love music, but  I find enjoyment in other ways--like learning to play the guitar, piano, and autoharp (though I still attempt to sing)!  I love to write, & I also have had an article published in The Ensign, a church magazine. I would like to publish a book someday. A website was started in 2004, to share my stroke recovery with friends & family.   You can read all about me there!

1.02.2018

That We Might Have Joy: Anonymous Story

Two years ago, right before Christmas, I lost all hope. I felt so emotionally broken that everything hurt physically. It felt as if it took all my strength and effort to even breathe. My will to live had vanished. It was an impulsive decision. I had not planned it. I didn't say any goodbyes.

That evening, alone, I attempted suicide.

A friend brought me to the hospital. I was admitted and stayed for one week. There I was diagnosed with Bipolar disorder type II. I was started on medication, but it was a long road to stability.

When I first came home from the hospital, I felt like things would never be okay. I was scared. Scared that my life had changed forever. People treated me like I was made of glass. I just wanted to be normal. I wanted to be treated like me, not as if I could break or snap at any moment.

Slowly, I began to get my spark back. I went to therapist appointments weekly. I saw my psychiatrist once a month. We adjusted medication. Changed medication. We worked hard to find a combination and a dosage that worked. I still see my psychiatrist every three months; I see my therapist every other week. I work hard at home by exercising and trying to find other healthy outlets for my emotions.

I still have bad days. I have days where I am frustrated, days where I am sick of feeling different from everyone else. I am scared of the judgment from other people. I am not like everyone else. I take three pills a day just to feel okay.

But, after two long years, I have finally reached a feeling of stability. The suicidal thoughts that used to invade my thoughts daily are rare and fleeting. I don't spend all day everyday worrying about how I will feel tomorrow or if I will want to hurt myself again. I feel more stable than I have ever felt.

I hit rock bottom. But with the help of friends, medical professionals, and hard work, I feel okay again. It takes time and work, but I promise that you will climb back up. Rock bottom isn't forever. It's a place to start over.

12.29.2017

Walk in Faith Part 2

To read Part 1, go HERE.



November 14, 2017

No, we're not pregnant yet.  At least not that I know yet.  But I need to write.  There are so many thoughts swirling around in my brain, and I need to organize them and make sense of them as I write about the last couple of months.

First, we went to an infertility specialist.  After confirming that everything seemed to be alright, we moved forward with trying to do an IUI along with taking clomid.  As I wrote HERE and HERE and HERE, that was an AWFUL experience, and the fact that I lived through it is a miracle to me.  We skipped that month of doing an IUI, because I needed to recover from the terrible difficulties the clomid had caused me to experience.  I was just fine with skipping that month, because I was sure that the news of being pregnant would not settle well with my very broken brain and hurt heart at that time.

The next month (November), we decided to try again, except without the clomid this time.  The days and weeks leading up to our next attempt at an IUI, I felt so peaceful and even quite excited.  This was going to be a very good thing.  I could hardly stop thinking about ideas of how we could announce that we were pregnant and how my daughter would be so giddy at this news.

While I was doing grocery shopping the day before the IUI, I felt so much gratitude in my heart as I looked back on the long journey of the last 2 years trying to conceive and everything that has transpired in that time.  I thought about how God had planted the thought in my mind to start trying again to have a baby at a time when things were so awful, but maybe that was because He knew it would take time, and by the time it would work, I would be feeling somewhat better about things.  I wanted to cry happy tears as I reflected on how blessed my little family is and how we are experiencing so many miracles along with the difficult storms.

The next day, a Sunday, we woke up to snowflakes falling for the first time this season.  It was so beautiful, and it felt like a celebration of what was about to happen.  I started to feel a little nervous, but I tried to push those nervous feelings aside and remember how much peace I had been feeling.  Sparing any details, we did the IUI, I headed to church, and everything felt so good.  I held someone else's baby all through Relief Society and imagined how I would have one of my own to hold soon enough!  My heart felt calm, and I was thankful.

Unfortunately, that calm didn't last very long.  After church, I started to feel some sadness, but I pushed it away.  This was a happy day, and no depression was going to steal the happiness I was feeling.  I was determined to keep my spirits high.  But the depression wouldn't listen, and by evening, it had overtaken me.  I tried to feel good emotions, but all I could feel was sadness.  I was so overwhelmed.  What if this works and I do have another baby?  How will I do that, when I'm often unsure how I will even survive this long, dark, cold winter?  I'm failing my daughter already.  How will I add another one to that?  Why can't I just be healed, so I can be the kind of mom I want to be again?  What if I don't feel excited when I find out I'm pregnant?  What if I don't love my baby?  How will my brain react to pregnancy?  

I felt so much doubt that it was the right thing to try to get pregnant, and I was so afraid of what was to come.  No effort on my part could dispel these fears, but thankfully my husband recognized that there was a storm raging inside of me.  As we got ready for bed, he asked how I was feeling.  I told him that I was sad, but I didn't expound, because I didn't want to admit that I had fallen so far from where I was.  I had been so excited, and now, that excitement was nowhere to be found.  Without pausing, my husband asked if I was sad about having a baby.  I was so thankful that somehow he knew, and I didn't have to say it, only admit to it.  He hugged me as I broke down and told him that I just want to be made whole.  I want all of this pain to be taken away.  I want to go back to the way things used to be.

I cried more as I told him all the things I used to do as a mom and how those things just aren't possible anymore.  I wanted to feel better, be back to normal, and then have a baby, but it didn't seem that was God's plan.  I was hurt and felt so alone.  My husband held me and repeated that he is so sorry this is my challenge and that we will get through this together.  I don't have to do it alone, because he will always be there to help me.

While his words were comforting, and while I did feel safe in his arms, the tears didn't stop for a few more hours.  I went out to our couch, so my husband could sleep, and kept sobbing.  Nothing I tried could bring peace to my soul.  Finally, I went back to bed and drifted off to sleep.  Sleep was my escape for that night.

I still feel so much fear at how unqualified I am for this task given the challenges I continue to face every day, but I am praying hard that I will feel some peace and genuine happiness when I find out we're pregnant (whenever that happens), so those happy emotions can carry me through the struggles to come.



November 28, 2017

The last time I wrote, I was so sad.  That sadness continued for a whole week, and I cried every single day.  It was so much to take in and handle.  I was beyond afraid and doubtful of my own abilities.  The week after (last week), I started to feel an enormous feeling of peace.  The darkness passed, and I knew and felt that everything would be alright.  I kept praying to feel peace and happiness, and God definitely answered those sincere prayers!

At the start of the week, I began to have some very early symptoms of pregnancy.  I was excited and nervous, but only nervous that I was imagining it, since it had been two long years of trying and tricking myself nearly every month.  By the middle of the week, I started to feel nauseous and very sensitive to smells.  I couldn't believe I was already feeling that, because I didn't start to feel that way with Brooklyn until I was about 6 weeks pregnant (I would have only been about 3 1/2 weeks pregnant at this point).  I continued to feel excitement and happiness, but I also tried to push away those feelings some, because I didn't want to feel disappointment if I wasn't pregnant.

At the end of the week, I took the pregnancy test.  I was going to wait until Sunday, but it seemed pretty obvious what the result would be, so I took it a couple days early.  It immediately showed a positive result.  Tears filled my eyes as I walked out of the bathroom all but shaking with excitement as I showed my husband.  We hugged, and I'm pretty sure there were some tears in his eyes too.  It worked.  It actually worked!  It felt like some huge miracle had just taken place in our lives, but perhaps the greatest miracle was that I felt so much happiness, peace, and JOY in the midst of finding out about our miracle baby.

I still feel somewhat shocked that it worked and that it's real, but the sickness I've been experiencing has been a sweet and tender reminder of the miracle forming inside of me.  The sickness has also been a huge tender mercy at helping to ease my fears of losing this baby, which would be a sure way to send me into a very long depression.  I have already experienced much more anxiety this pregnancy, but being sick has helped calm some of those fears and has been a big blessing.



November 30, 2017

I am a big ball of anxiety right now.  Like seriously, every second I am overcome with fear and worry.  What if this baby is stillborn?  What if I miscarry?  What if something ends up being wrong?  And will it all be my fault?  These thoughts constantly cycle through my brain causing so many frightening feelings.  The worst of them all is that I really feel like anything that goes wrong will be my fault.  I forgot to take a vitamin a couple of days, and those could have been the critical days when my baby needed that specific vitamin.  I took a bath, and maybe it was too hot.  I've just recently been getting on a better schedule reading my scriptures regularly, so maybe I don't deserve this blessing.  It goes on and on.  You wouldn't believe the things my brain can imagine when I have anxiety running through my system.

I think one thing thing that is causing this struggle is the fact that we have been trying for so long to have a baby, and I am honestly so afraid that it won't last, that it's not here forever, and then we'll have to start over.  I'm sure my first appointment in January will help me to feel some peace as I have an ultrasound and can see my precious baby's perfect little body.

These last few days have reminded me of a few years ago when I really really struggled with anxiety.  I remember how I kept telling my husband what I was feeling, and I kept repeating the word "fear" or "scared" or "worried."  Finally, after patiently listening, he suggested that I read talks and scriptures about the character of God, so that I could find out if those feelings came from God or from somewhere else.  I found great comfort in this gem of a scripture, and the truths it contains:

Image result for god hath not given us the spirit of fear lds

I continue referring to this scripture in my mind, as I remember that feelings of fear and anxiety don't come from God.  If this was a prompting from the Spirit telling me of something that is to come, I would feel an overwhelming feeling of peace accompanying this prompting.  I can find comfort in knowing that God does not want me to feel afraid, and He does not instill fear in me.

One of the big blessings that has come from this anxiety is how it has helped me to realize how much love I have for this sweet baby.  This has been a concern of mine for the last year, because of my lack of good emotions most of the time, but feeling anxiety and sadness when I think about how difficult it would be to lose this sweet baby has brought me peace and overwhelming feelings of love.



December 7, 2017

I am so sick this pregnancy!  All day.  Every day.  It has really eased my anxiety feeling sick, and I'm sure hoping the nausea and vomiting is a sign that everything is going well in growing this baby.

I'm so excited to be pregnant at Christmas time, as we celebrate the perfect baby born so many years ago who changed all of our lives.  Every nativity I see brings tears to my eyes as I think about what it will be like to hold my own precious baby soon enough.  This is a very, very good thing!

I have been doing relatively well emotionally these last few weeks, which has been a very welcomed and appreciated relief.  I am already a little bit worried about how my body will react after having this baby since that was such a hard time after having Brooklyn, but I know I am surrounded by wonderful family and friends who love me and will help me if that happens to be a difficult time.

Overall, I am thankful and happy to have this miracle taking place in my life.  I am very blessed and filled with JOY!



December 27, 2017

These last couple days have been very emotional.  The tears won't stop flowing, and once again, I'm so afraid.  In the moments when the fear seems overwhelming and like it's too much to handle, I remind myself that things are going to get better soon.  Once this baby is born, we will continue trying to find a medication to help me.  It's going to be okay.  This is just one very wonderful step in the process!  I remind myself that I have a wonderful husband and daughter who love me and are so patient with me.  We are going to get through this together!  Sometimes I think that, as a mom, I shouldn't feel these sorts of emotions.  Pregnant moms should just be happy and excited all the time, but I'm re-learning that emotions are real and that there isn't really a should or should not when it comes to emotions.  I have probably experienced every single emotion possible in these last 2 months, but that's okay.  It's real, and it doesn't mean that I'm any less thankful for this miracle or less in love with my baby.  I have seen God's hand working in my life in tremendous ways over the last two years, and that isn't going to stop now.  I will continue to walk in faith, and I know God will continue to bless my family.

Image result for walk in faith lds

12.26.2017

I'm Back...

I haven't written in a while for several reasons:

  1. How was I supposed to write anything about me or my life when we weren't telling anyone yet about our huge, two-year anticipated secret of being pregnant?  I just couldn't find any words, so I didn't write anything.
  2. I have been doing relatively well emotionally since getting pregnant.  I was so worried about this a few months ago when we started trying again, and so far, it has been really good.  Yay!  (Therefore, I haven't had much to write in terms of why this blog is here.)
  3. I have been feeling unusually discouraged about writing.  It just feels like everything I write is dumb, not helpful, or annoying.  I have gone back to read the sweet messages people have sent to me about how the things I have written have helped them, so I have decided that I will continue writing, even though it is often a scary thing to put myself out there so openly.  
  4. I have been incredibly sick this pregnancy, and most of my days are spent just trying to get through the day.  It's kind of funny, because the result of being physically sick has been almost the same as being emotionally sick, laying in bed for hours during the day trying to find the motivation to do anything.  I'm sure hoping this part gets better soon!
In the coming days, I will have lots to share, including some very inspiring stories for my "That We Might Have Joy" project.  But for now, check out this collage of the JOYful things I found or that people sent pictures of this month in the beautiful celebration of Christmas.

12.05.2017

Finding Joy in Christmas Celebrations

Yesterday was honestly the worst day I've had in a long time.  I had been doing so well for almost 3 weeks with very minimal emotional struggle, and then this last weekend, it all piled up on me, and yesterday it came out in continuous tears for literally hours straight.  I hurt so much, even more than normal, because it's Christmas, and I felt like I was ruining my daughter's life.  I felt like I was failing at making Christmas a magical, beautiful time for her.  Instead of making cookies, doing big things for the "Light the World" campaign, making ornaments, or going to fun events, I was laying in bed crying, still wondering how I would get the dishes and laundry done, let alone anything beyond that.

I couldn't stop thinking about all the wonderful Christmas traditions different families have and how my daughter must deserve someone better than me.  Surely, she needed some other mom who could fill her life with warm memories and sweet traditions, something that I simply can't give her much of right now.

But as I was wallowing in my own self-pity and allowing my mind to follow a destructive course of thoughts, I remembered that Christmas isn't really about cookies or ornaments or those other fun things.  It's about the Savior and His incredibly simple birth that changed the world forever.  So while there is nothing wrong with having big or fun traditions, there's also nothing wrong with making Christmas a simple time focused on the perfect baby born in the humblest of circumstances and the JOY that His birth brought to this world.

While I still wished that I could do more, I also felt joy reflecting on how this darkness can be overcome by the Savior and how it's the weight and the burden of mental illness that has allowed me to see the light of Christ shining brighter in my life, especially at this special time of year. 

And then I thought of an idea.  I wanted to look for the word "JOY" in the many decorations used to remember the reason for this season and focus on that joy that can come through Christ.

First, I saw the new nativity we bought this year.  I am so in love with it, and the simple message it displays so perfectly.


Then, my daughter and I saw two more joyful decorations on the way to our friend Betty's house and outside of her room.



After that, we went to the store and found joy all around!




When we got home, I saw the two beautiful gifts that people gave me last year to help me remember JOY, including the bag that I used as our church bag last Sunday.



By this time, I still had tears in my eyes from the difficult day I had experienced, and I still needed my husband to come home early and hold me while he repeated to me the truths that my broken brain had forgotten, but I also felt peace and JOY swelling in my heart.  It suddenly felt okay that I can't do everything I want to do this Christmas.  It felt okay that I have to simplify my celebrations, which is blessing me to have a more focused celebration.  It felt okay that my daughter doesn't have another mom, because she loves and needs me, despite what I can't do at this time.

And then this morning, I received a beautiful, thoughtful, kind gift that warmed my heart and brought a smile to my face.  Someone sent me this shirt that says "Joy to the World."  She didn't know what an awful day I had yesterday.  She didn't know that I was on a quest to literally find "joy" to get me through the sorrows that wanted to take over my heart.  It was perfect and filled my heart with joy to the very top!  There really is joy in the world and in my life because of Christmas.



***I'm still on my search for joy, so if you see any joyful decorations, make sure to send a picture my way!!! 

11.21.2017

Good Days!

These last few days have been heavenly. I have felt so good, so much like myself again. I've thought several times, "I won't go back to where I was at. I won't let myself fall from this good place." But I know better than to believe that. It's not that I don't have hope or optimism or faith. It's that I know from experience that it's not healthy for me to think that I have somehow overcome this beast. The darkness will come again, and it's better for me to accept that rather than try to deny it. So instead of thinking that I've beat this once and for all, I'm simply savoring, thoroughly enjoying, and relentlessly giving thanks for every good day, hour, and moment while this lasts.

It's days like this when I am able to remember that good days always come after the darkness. It's worth holding on through the deepest pain. I'm doing better than I often think I am. I am loved and needed by my family. I can be a mom to another child in the future. All those lies (I'm not worthy, I'm worthless, I'm failing, I'm unlovable, I'm dumb) are indeed lies, and I can't let myself believe them when they scream at me for days or weeks at a time again.

I'm in such a good place right now, and I can see how much growth and progress has taken place in my life in the last year. This is a good thing, a very, very good thing! And it will continue to be a good thing, even when I am overcome with the burdens of mental illness again.

Image result for good days will come elder holland

11.16.2017

Finding Joy Through "Beating the Blues"

When I am depressed, I struggle doing anything.  Partly because I have no motivation or energy to be productive, and partly because there's no feeling behind anything I do.  I feel like I'm constantly wandering around with no purpose or direction on those down days.  I try to do something, but as soon as I start, I wish that I could be done and go back to bed.  I try to check a few things off of my to-do list, but that's all they are-- checks.  I don't feel happy during or accomplished after.  There's no feeling at all, except sadness of course. 

It feels like eating food and not being able to taste it, watching a movie of my life instead of experiencing it myself, or being alive but not actually living.  There's nothing satisfying about it, which eventually makes it seem pointless to even try. 

This is how I've felt the last few weeks since it has started getting cold outside, but especially this last week, because of some other circumstances.  When it started getting cold and I could feel myself slipping into a winter darkness, I decided that I needed to come up with some things that could help me "beat the blues."  My rules for these activities were that they had to be things that could bring me a feeling of accomplishment when I completed them, and they had to be things that I could find a way to enjoy, even when there's not much feeling to be felt in anything.

I got to work setting goals for myself, and this is what I came up with:

  1. Make as many crocheted nativities as people order.  Seriously, doing this has helped me beat the blues so much, because it is relaxing, it feels good to get each piece done, it makes me push myself, and I get to see the joy it brings to other people when they receive them.  
  2. Practice and learn more about photography.  Every time I take advantage of an opportunity to take pictures, it brings me joy.  I feel good seeing myself improve, and I enjoy having the chance to be creative in a way that isn't stressful for me.
  3. Work up to swimming a mile.  I have grown to love swimming in the last while since I started going to the gym.  I started out being able to only swim a few laps before feeling completely exhausted, but I have seen myself grow stronger and push myself harder to do more.  I love the feeling of accomplishment when I get done swimming farther than I thought would ever be possible and finding the power within myself to overcome the heavy weight of depression.  It feels freeing, like I have finally found something that doesn't let the depression win over me.
  4. Sew spring dresses.  I don't always love sewing, but I do love making little dresses.  Lately, I have enjoyed looking for discount fabric in the scrap bins at the store and using the cute fabrics I find to make lots of little girl dresses.  Something about making a piece of clothing and then seeing a little girl wear it fills me with joy!
I still have days where I struggle so much doing even these things, and I am learning by force how to be more flexible and patient with myself, but I am finding so much joy in doing what I can to overcome the beast that mental illness is.  I will make it through this winter, and I will beat the blues!!

11.10.2017

That We Might Have Joy: Brad's Story


I'm Brad Jones.

I have tourettes, autism, obsessive compulsive disorder, non-verbal learning disorder, bipolar, and I am very shy.

I feel extremely awkward in almost all social settings, regardless of big group settings or small group settings. I function the best one-on-one, focused talking back and forth to just one person. I am used to being bullied directly, from a distance without even being spoken to, and behind my back in venues where I'm not present.

I'm that guy no girl is willing to date or marry, because my illnesses make 99% of LDS girls that know me or know of me consider me an embarrassment to be seen with, despite how I am high functioning and have have dramatically refined my social skills, despite still struggling in them. They see dating and marrying me as a lot of babysitting, where marrying me would be an eternal babysitting job.

I have found joy in this huge stack of problems by feeling more appreciative of the people who treat me right than if I were not having struggles.  Also, these constant struggles make me feel very inadequate, and in turn, keep me from becoming arrogant.

11.08.2017

Perspective

Ever since Saturday, I have been thinking about perspective.  Last week was so bleak and dreary every day-- rain, very little sunshine, and lots of depression for me.  I love a good thunderstorm, but days and days of drizzling rain get me down, almost without me recognizing why I feel so awful!  

All day Friday, the drizzling continued.  That evening, my husband gave me an extension tube set for our camera to allow me to take macro pictures.  The next morning, I went outside to try it out.  What would have appeared to be wet dreariness everywhere only the day before transformed right before my eyes into beautiful, delicate little beads of rain on EVERYTHING.  I could hardly contain my excitement as I took pictures of every little drop I could find.  It felt like a whole new world had opened up to me, and I wanted to spend hours capturing it.

The ability to see the world in a new way changed how I felt about the rain.  What used to be dark and gloomy turned into something beautiful and something I could appreciate.  It filled me with joy in a way that I never thought would be possible, but now it is.




Likewise, my personal perspective on bipolar disorder often includes words like "sorrow," "discouragement," "difficult," and even occasionally "unfair."  I try to find joy through it, but sometimes it feels so hard to find the good in this.  It hurts and has changed me in ways that I don't want to change.  I'm different now, and sometimes I just want to go back to how everything used to be.

But recently, some good friends and good experiences have opened my eyes to see this disorder from a different perspective.  What I often see as not being a good enough mom because of this struggle has been explained by several people as an opportunity for my daughter to learn compassion and to realize that hard things happen to everyone and that we keep going without giving up.  What I see as me not being able to keep up with any of the big or little things I used to do has become an opportunity for my husband to appreciate every little thing I am able do now and for me to appreciate his efforts to help me and my good days.  What I see as one hard thing after another in the last year, God sees as a heart that has been softened and that has been opened to the heartaches of others.  What I sometimes see as misery, God is helping me to see as miracles all around me every day!

Whenever I find myself falling into the hole of self-pity, I know that I simply have to change my perspective, which is not easily done but very worth my time.  I have to try to look through different eyes and see things the way they really are, not the way my broken heart and broken brain like to see them.  For me, striving to find joy is my surest way of changing the way things look.  It gives me the ability to see my trials as stepping stones instead of stumbling blocks.  Sometimes I have to look really hard to find joy in what I am experiencing, but it's always there and always possible to find it!

11.05.2017

Next to Normal

Last night, we went to a musical at our local high school called "Next to Normal."  Basically, it's the story of a woman who has bipolar and how she deals with her illness and how it affects her family.  I was very hesitant going to this musical.  I doubted that bipolar could be accurately portrayed on stage, and I was somewhat worried about how I would react to seeing a musical that relates so closely to what I experience.  I wanted to go and see how such a musical would be done, but I was sure that it would have some negative consequences for me.  I didn't think there was any way it couldn't.

But I was blown away!  The acting was incredible, especially for high school students.  The plot was so well-written, and the writers were able to find a way to address some very deep and emotional subjects in a way that was not offensive or inappropriately light.  It was seriously spot-on!  In fact, my husband and I often exchanged glances during the musical when the woman with bipolar would say some of the exact things I have said about how it feels.  It was amazingly well done in every way, and I am so glad I went to see it.

I hurriedly wrote down the things that I remembered after it got done, so I want to share some of the specifics about this musical that touched my heart.  Spoiler alert!!  I share many details of the plot, so you might not want to read this if you're planning on seeing the musical.
  • Diana, the woman with bipolar, said that relaying her story to a counselor felt like telling someone else's story.  I have said that exact same thing to my husband before.  This doesn't feel like something that actually happens to people.  At least not me, right?  It seems so far from who I really am that surely it must be someone else's story, not mine.
  • At one point, Diana was going to see a psychiatrist for several weeks as he kept changing medications, dosages, and combinations.  She felt frustrated that it wasn't ever a for sure thing that the medication would help, so she felt like an experiment.  Another spot-on moment!  
  • Diana kept telling the psychiatrist about the side effects and how she was feeling.  After several weeks, she said that she no longer felt anything, at which point, he labeled her as stable.  It seems like that is the goal with mental illness often times-- get the person only to the point of feeling no ups or downs anymore, not to actually feeling good.  
  • But as happened in the play and often happens in real life, Diana missed feeling happy and wanted to go back to feeling the ups and downs as opposed to feeling nothing just so she could feel good some of the time.  She got rid of her medications without talking to her husband or doctor.  Unfortunately, I have been there.
  • At another point, her husband says that he understands, and Diana sings a whole song about how he doesn't know.  While I have had conversations similar to this with my husband about how it's impossible to really understand what it's like without experiencing it, I've also felt this same feeling repeatedly when others say that they understand how I'm feeling.  I know this is meant to be a comfort, but often, it does the opposite.  It makes me feel more alone.
  • Diana said that she didn't want to be a shadow anymore, but she wanted to actually live.  Yes, yes, YES!
  • One of the hardest parts about watching the musical was watching how the mother's mental illness affected her teenage daughter.  A couple of times, it made me tear up, and I had to remind myself repeatedly that everything is going to be okay.
  • Diana's son died when he was young, and in the musical, he was her pull to commit suicide, not actually him, but what her brain told her as if it were him.  I thought the pull of suicide was so perfectly represented.
  • Diana gives in to this pull and attempts suicide.  She is then admitted to the hospital for recovery.  The hospital part brought back so many memories of being in the hospital last December and was a very emotional part for me.  In fact, I started to cry just before the intermission started and all the lights went on.  It was great  :)
  • The first part of the play was really hard to watch.  Honestly, it felt like it was rubbing on these super painful, open wounds, and I wanted to unsee and unfeel everything from that first half.  I thought I was going to go home and cry the rest of the night because of everything I felt while watching, but thankfully, it got much better.
  • During the intermission, my husband and I talked about how impressed we were with the acting and the musical in general.  We wondered if other people in the audience were confused about what was going on, because so much of it had become familiar to us over the last year.  We both talked about what we thought would happen next and how it would end.  
  • Diana tries ECT (electro-convulsive therapy) to heal and ends up losing a lot of her memory for a time.  Her and her husband talk about whether the symptoms or the cure are worse.  This is exactly how it feels.  Every treatment option has side effects and sometimes the side effects are worse than the original symptoms, and it's so frustrating!
  • The musical portrayed a lot of marital conflict surrounding Diana's illness.  While we have had our fair share of heartaches surrounding my disorder, we have reached a really good place.  I am so thankful for my husband and for the support and love he gives me as we fight through this together.  He is an incredible gift in my life!
  • One thing that really made my heart sink was when the psychiatrist told Diana that this is a chronic illness, and she would have relapses.  That has been one of the hardest things about this diagnosis is that it won't just go away on its own, even if we find a medication that helps for a time.  But I felt comfort in the doctor and Diana's family saying that they were here for the long run and would continue to help her through her whole life.
  • In the end, I was totally bawling as the mom and daughter had a conversation about how their life was "next to normal" and that was alright.  
  • The last song kept me bawling as there was no happy ending, but they basically sang that the light would come again and good days would be ahead.  I really appreciated there not being a happy, fix-everything ending.  That might sound odd, but in reality, that's not how it is.  It doesn't just go away or improve suddenly, and I feel like that would have given a false hope for handling mental illness.  Instead, I LOVED the message found in these lyrics:
Day after day,
Wishing all our cares away.
Trying to fight the things we feel,
But some hurts never heal.
Some ghosts are never gone,
But we go on,
We still go on.
And you find some way to survive
And you find out you don't have to be happy at all,
To be happy you're alive.

Day after day,
Give me clouds and rain and gray.
Give me pain if that's what's real.
It's the price we pay to feel.
The price of love is loss,
But still we pay.
We love anyway.

And when the night has finally gone.
And when we see the new day dawn.
We'll wonder how we wandered for so long, so blind.
The wasted world we thought we knew,
The light will make it look brand new.

Day after day,
We'll find the will to find our way.
Knowing that the darkest skies will someday see the sun.
When our long night is done, 
There will be light.
Sons and daughters, husbands, wives.
Can fight that fight.
There will be light.


While I'm not sure that I can recommend going to see the Broadway version of this musical as it was made more appropriate for a high school stage and was on the border of inappropriate in some parts, I think this musical has a wonderful message and brings understanding and hope to all.