That We Might Have Joy: Devree's Story

When I was 14, I was diagnosed with a brain cancer called medulloblastoma. This cancerous tumor was located on the nerve bundle that controls the hearing and facial movement on my right side. The cancer had also spread to my spine. They said it was like a sugarcoating. I had 33 rounds of the highest radiation used to treat cancer on both my head and the length of my spine, followed by 4 rounds of chemotherapy where I was an inpatient for almost a month each round. I lost over 40 pounds while I was in treatment, as well as the hearing in my right ear and the movement on the right side of my face. Because all my feminine parts had been radiated, I was told there was a very small chance I will ever be able to become pregnant. I also developed neuropathy in my feet, so the nerves did not respond to my brain, and I couldn’t lift up my toes. I had to wear leg braces and use a walker for more than 6 months after my treatment had completed. I was in treatment from the end of January of 2009 to the beginning of August 2009.

There are still some sad things I face today, like the small chance of ever conceiving, which brings tears to my eyes today. Although I am cancer free, there are still some things I have to fight. The facial paralysis left me mostly blind in my right eye, and I’m completely deaf in my right ear. I can’t really run or hop or skip, but I can walk and very rarely fall down.

How have I found joy through this challenge? While I was in treatment, my mom and I would play the glad game. It’s a game where everyday, no matter how awful it was, we would find something to be glad about. Some days, it was that the most adorable kid was in the waiting room. Some days, it was that I didn’t throw up for several hours. Other days, it was that my white blood cell count was up by 5 or that there was a good flavor of gelato available. It didn’t have to be big things, like the circus came to town or that I was miraculously healed. Everyday, I found some tender mercy that let me know that God was looking out for me, and even though it was an awful trial I had to endure, there was still beauty and wonder all around me. I am now cancer free, going on 8 years. After some facial reconstructive surgeries, I can move my whole face. I can walk without leg braces or a walker. I still don’t have a full head of hair, and never will, but I have several wigs and get to change my hairstyle whenever I feel like it. That’s another thing that helped me is finding all the pros and cons. Radiation and chemo were awful, but I have completely clear skin now. Mosquitoes didn’t bite me for a while after treatment. I’m a lovely pale color which I’m convinced will come back into fashion. Anything can be seen as awful when we only look at in that way. Look for sunshine in your life as well as the silver lining of your woes.


During treatment


I'm learning how to cope with everything, and it feels so good.

I'm learning that Tuesday is the start of "mania,"
and Friday or Saturday is the start of "depression,"
so I can just expect that and plan around it.

I'm learning how to explain what I feel, so that others can understand.

I'm learning to be patient with myself on my bad days
and use my good days to their fullest.

I'm learning that I can listen to my scriptures on "mania" days,
instead of attempting to read them, so that I can get more out of them.

I'm learning to laugh on this journey by making "crazy" jokes with my husband.  :)
"I love you like crazy" has a whole new meaning now!

I'm learning to plan on writing every day during my daughter's nap time,
so that I am busy and so that I have time set aside to work through things.

I'm learning how to find joy, even on the hardest days.

I'm learning that everyone has trials and struggles,
and that we're here to help each other, regardless of what those struggles are.

I'm learning that there is so much mental illness in this world,
more than you would ever imagine.
I feel blessed that God is giving me the opportunity
to shed some light on all the silent suffering.

I'm learning that life is filled with challenges and blessings, but mostly blessings.

I'm learning to be submissive and humble,
so that God can mold me into something greater than I ever imagined.

I'm simply learning.


She's Learning Compassion

Yesterday, somewhere between 90 and 95% of my day was spent crying or being on the verge of tears. I even asked my husband to leave for a little while, so I could be alone and cry. I just needed to get it all out. Sometimes my sadness and crying is for no cause, but yesterday all of it was centered around one very troubling thought: How is all of this mental illness affecting my daughter, and how will it affect her in the future?

You see, when the worst of the mania comes, I can't concentrate, because I feel completely enveloped by a darkness that racks my mind with an inexpressible torment. It takes everything in my power just to hold on, just to do the very simplest things that have to be done (feed my daughter, change her diapers, make sure she is safe, etc.), and just to patiently endure. I definitely can't function enough to color with my daughter, play playdoh, bake cookies, or do any of the extras that I want to do with her, when I feel something so powerful and intense. I basically just survive doing the most basic things, and that feels like an accomplishment.

Then, when I switch to the depressive phase, I feel so overcome with sadness, hopelessness, and guilt that all I want is to be left alone. I feel very easily agitated, overwhelmed, and impatient, and I have to put all my energy toward making sure that my daughter's most basic needs are met, instead of doing the other fun things I want to do with her.

Needless to say, my daughter and I watch a lot of movies together, and that's ok for now.

But this weekend, all the pain, guilt, and fear of how this is affecting her came to a high peak. What if my life is like this forever, and I forever feel like a terrible mom, one who only does the absolute basics? What if my daughter doesn't understand what it's like to experience so much mental anguish, and she becomes angry with me for not doing more? Will she know that I love her and that I want more than anything for her to be happy? Will she know that I fought the good fight to do everything I could, everything that seems so pathetic and little compared to what I could do if this wasn't part of my life?

Yesterday, in the height of my worry, I was able to connect with a friend of a family member whose mom has struggled with depression and anxiety for years. I asked her about her experiences from the perspective of a child with a mom who has a mental illness.

Was it hard on her? Did she feel loved? How did her mom show love, even through the really hard times? Was she upset with her mom for not being able to do more? How did all of her mom's struggles affect her?

At first, her answers stung. It was hard. She had to grow up fast. Sometimes others had to fill the place for her mom, when her mom couldn't function. Sometimes she had to forgive her mom for the hurt that her mom's mental illness caused her. But did she feel loved? Yes. How did her mom do it? She took advantage of those times when she felt well to do special things to help her kids feel loved. Then when the storms hit again, her kids were better able to weather the storms, because they felt her love when she was able to give it.

Through my sobbing tears, I explained how sometimes I wish my daughter could have a different mom so that she can have everything I want for her.

My friend knew just what to say in that moment: She loves her mom. She wouldn't trade having her mom for anything. She would gladly live through the hard times so that her mom can be a part of her life. Her mom is her mom, and she wouldn't want it to be any other way.

Suddenly, my sad tears turned to happy tears.  My heart was no longer completely shattered.  I had hope and knew that somehow my daughter will be alright.

Then, this morning, something wonderful happened.  We were at church.  The family behind us was sad due to the death of a family member.  My daughter saw them crying and started giving them stickers out of her sticker book.  When she had sufficiently shared her stickers, she wanted to do more.  She asked me if she could go give them a hug.  I agreed, and she timidly walked down the pew to the end, walked around to the pew behind, and gave one of the sad family members a hug.  When she was done, she walked back to our row beaming.  But it wasn't enough for her.  She asked if she could give them a kiss, too.  I agreed, and she timidly walked over to this family again to give a kiss.

I got to witness all of this as it happened, and my heart was completely touched.  My daughter has seen me with tear-stained eyes more times than I ever want to admit, and she always gives me hugs when I am crying, because she wants to help me feel better.  She has learned that mom hugs work miracles, so little girl hugs must work miracles too.

But what touched my heart the most was the thought that maybe my daughter wouldn't have been so aware, maybe she wouldn't have thought to offer stickers, a hug, and a kiss, if she hadn't learned about sadness from right in her own home.  She is learning compassion through my struggles, and she is learning how to bind up a broken heart.  That gives me hope.


The Switch

Yesterday, I experienced the harsh switch between mania and depression. I was sitting on the couch, still feeling the dull effects of mania, my heart and my thoughts still somewhat racing, but nothing like the three days before.  I knew I would be switching soon.  Usually I experience mania from Tuesday to Friday, numbness on Saturday, and depression on Sunday and Monday.  But it's not like clock work.  Sometimes the switch happens randomly during the middle of the day, instead of when I wake up in the morning.  And I know when it feels like my heart is slowing down, that the mania is washing away, and the next phase is coming soon.

So I was sitting there texting on my phone, when suddenly, the misplaced energy in my heart fled, and a huge bag of darkness was dumped on my shoulders.  My eyes immediately filled with tears.  I couldn't control it.  I couldn't stop it.  I just had to cry.  I went to the bathroom and let it go.  I needed to get it out.  I texted one of my amazing old roommates and asked her to pray for me.  I explained to her what I felt, and how, suddenly I switched, suddenly my mind went dark, suddenly I felt like I couldn't remember what it felt like to be happy, and suddenly it felt like I would never be happy again.  I felt lost in the darkness and oh so scared that I would never see the light again.

After a few minutes of crying, I came out of the bathroom and melted into my husband's arms.  He asked what was wrong, and I explained what had happened.  I explained how it was uncontrollable, how the feelings weren't gently placed on me, but they were forced into my heart and shoved into my brain.

This time around, I skipped the numbness and went straight into depression.  That hasn't happened before.  I feel completely unable to process these emotions right now, because it has only been 5 weeks of experiencing this.  I have no coping skills yet.  I feel like I am just enduring and surviving, because I'm still not completely sure what is happening at any given moment.

I'm writing this for a few reasons:
1. I need to write so that I can help my brain process all of the intensity I am experiencing.
2. I know I'm not alone.  Someone right now is going through this same thing, and they need to know that someone understands.
3. Someday, I will have a whole collection of these entries, and I can watch my progress, as well as give hope to someone who has a new diagnosis that someday everything will be alright.  I know it will be, even though it is incredibly difficult and confusing right now.


He Didn't Agree to This

This isn't fair for my husband. He didn't agree to this when he married me.

This has been an awful, recurring thought in my mind for the last few weeks.  It feels so unfair that my husband didn't get to choose this life of mental illness, since I didn't know what was going on until after we were married, and the worst of it just started.  It's not fair to him that my mind is broken and that my heart is often broken too, despite how hard he tries to make my life perfect.  It's not fair to him that this illness steals my happiness, that it makes him do double the work since I don't carry my own weight, that it is unpredictable, and that it brings out the worst in me, the worst that only he gets to see.

It's not fair.  But I would never hear those words from his mouth.  Instead, I hear him constantly praising me for doing the smallest things, constantly telling me how much he loves me, constantly asking what more he can do to make life bearable (and then doing it), constantly saying that he loves to have opportunities to serve me, constantly encouraging me and helping me see the good in myself, and constantly reminding me that he gets to see the very best of me, along with the worst.  And as if this wasn't enough, he also constantly reminds me that this isn't fair to me either, so I should stop worrying about him.

Ever since I started experiencing depression, and especially now that I know it's not just depression, I have prayed to God every day thanking Him for the wonderful gift of my husband and also asking Him to give my husband the strength to help me bear my burdens.   I know it's not easy on him, but he does a remarkable job!

Often when I am upset and weighed down about how unfair this life is for my good husband, I remember this part of Elder Holland's talk "Like a Broken Vessel":
I bear witness of that day when loved ones whom we knew to have disabilities in mortality will stand before us glorified and grand, breathtakingly perfect in body and mind. What a thrilling moment that will be! I do not know whether we will be happier for ourselves that we have witnessed such a miracle or happier for them that they are fully perfect and finally “free at last.”
I hold onto this message so tightly, and it gives me incredible hope.  It carries me and helps me continue trying to find joy through this pain.

No, this life isn't fair.  But isn't that the point?  Isn't this life supposed to bring heartache, pain, and sorrow, all so that we can know joy?  Isn't that what faith is, moving forward not knowing what trials or challenges lie ahead, but trusting that whatever happens is in God's hands?

I think so.  And I think that my husband is the best example of faith that I know.  He didn't choose mental illness, but he chose me, and he reassures me every day that he will stick with his choice.  No matter what challenges we are called to face, we have each other, and we will face them together!


That We Might Have Joy: Britt's Story

My husband and I always wanted children. From the very start of our marriage, we hoped and prayed for children. However, we experienced 3 miscarriages in the first 1 ½ years of our marriage, followed by 3 ½ years of complete infertility. Both the miscarriages and infertility were very painful challenges for me, but I learned so much and grew immensely from these experiences. I believe that these challenges prepared me spiritually, emotionally, and mentally for the plan Heavenly Father has for me.

After 5 years, we figured we wouldn’t be able to have children naturally, so we decided that eventually we would adopt. However, adoption is usually very expensive, so we figured we would wait until we were more settled in our careers. In the meantime, I went back to school to get my Master’s degree.

Part way into my graduate program, I discovered I was pregnant. We were overjoyed. 9 months later, I gave birth to a baby girl. I was so excited and grateful to become a mother. My daughter brings me immeasurable joy and makes me smile every day.

Because of the nature of my labor and delivery, my husband and I had concerns that I would not be able to give birth again.  We talked about adopting our next child, but not for another four or five years, because I wanted to have the time to be able to savor and enjoy every single moment with my daughter.

When my daughter was a couple of months old, we visited my husband’s family. One evening, we watched a film that ended with two births. Suddenly, my heart was overwhelmed with an intense feeling that I wanted another baby. I didn’t know where the feeling came from, but now I know it was from Heavenly Father to prepare me for what was soon to happen in the next few months.

The very next morning, my sister texted me with the news that my cousin was pregnant from being drugged and raped.

Immediately, I had the thought that I should adopt her baby. But I told myself the idea was crazy because I already had a very young baby. I was worried people would think I was selfish for adopting a baby when I already had a baby, when there were so many childless couples. So I tried to push the thought from my mind.

A couple of months later, as I was rocking my daughter to sleep and pondering on the scriptures to prepare for my Sunday School lesson, I received a strong impression that it was time to have another baby. I asked the Lord how that was possible, as I had not yet recovered from my c-section enough and was physically unable to have another baby yet. The answer was that I needed to adopt my cousin’s baby.

I talked to my husband about the idea, and he felt that it was a good thing to do. We contacted my cousin to ask her to consider us as an adoptive family for her baby. We knew there were many families who wanted to adopt her baby, so we prayed that if it was the right thing for us to do, that she would feel inspired as well.

Shortly thereafter, my cousin let us know that she chose us as the adoptive family for her son. We were so excited but nervous as well. Because we lived in different states, it would be a long, complex, and expensive legal process. We got to work on everything as quickly as we could, because we only had a few months to prepare.

At times, it was extremely stressful and overwhelming. We experienced intense opposition as we tried to arrange everything, and many unexpected challenges arose. However, as we kept praying and exercising faith, we ultimately experienced countless miracles, and everything worked out.

When Alex was born, it was one of the most sacred days of my life. Words cannot describe the joy I felt as I looked at Alex for the first time.  My heart was filled with so much love for him.  When I held him in my arms, Heaven felt very near, and I knew he was a miracle.

Before adopting Alex, one of my biggest worries was about how close he and my daughter would be in age. I worried about the challenges of being a mother to both a newborn and a young baby. However, God has been with me every step of the way, and He has strengthened me.  I have been very blessed by the many friends and family members who have been supportive and have helped me out in so many ways.

I also worried that it might be hard for my daughter (as she was still a baby herself) to have a baby brother so close in age. However, my daughter absolutely adores Alex. He has been so good for her in many unexpected ways. Every morning, the first thing she wants to do is play with him. She loves him so much, and it is obvious that he brings great joy to her as well. When I see them smiling at each other, my heart bursts with happiness and gratitude.

I’m so grateful for the courage and selfless sacrifice of my cousin. She has given me such a beautiful gift. Every day since his birth, Alex has brought such great joy to my life.

July 19, 2016

"Today was the first legal step in the adoption of Alex. It is hard to describe my feelings. My heart breaks and I have shed many tears because of all his birth mother has suffered and because of the grief and pain I know is inherent in this process for her.

As I have tried to find a way to describe this ultimate act of love and sacrifice, the only similar thing to which I can compare it is the passion of Christ. His sorrow and sufferings in the garden and on the cross were immeasurable, yet the joy that His sacrifice brought to the world are infinite and eternal. It was a beautiful selfless act that brings both sorrow and joy- sorrow at Christ's pain and joy at all the blessings it makes available to us.

So too, this adoption is a bittersweet process wrought with both incomprehensible sorrow and joy. I am in awe of the selfless love and courage Alex's birth mother has.

When I hold Alex in my arms, I know that I am accountable not only to God for how I parent Alex, but I am also accountable to his birth angel. I pray I may give him the life she wants for him to have. I pray that each day I may live up to the solemn and sacred responsibility and honor of mothering Alex, an honor made even more holy by the sacred love and selfless sacrifice of his birth mother."


I'm Not Always Positive But I'm Honest :)

Well, I slept from midnight to 2am last night, and that's about it. That's all my body would let me rest. It might be enjoyable to be somewhat superhuman for a night and only need a couple hours of sleep if my body didn't feel taken over by what feels like the most awful thing anyone should ever have to endure. I know that's not true; there is much worse out there, but it's definitely the worst I've ever had to face. I laid awake for hours shaking, not being able to read or watch a movie due to lack of concentration, constantly getting up and walking around but not having anywhere to go, anyone to talk to, or anything to do. The misplaced energy inside of me is so misplaced that I can't do anything while it flows through my body. I wish I could put it to use, and maybe I will figure out how to someday, but for now, I just wait for the climactic peak of suffering to come, so that it can pass, only to return again in a few days. I can't do anything but patiently endure and hope that I can endure well.

Last night, everything started settling in, which only made the mania worse. I started realizing that what I used to think was the most difficult mental anguish possible, and what I thought must only be temporary because of its severity, might be a new normal for me. I'm accepting that I don't know what medicine can help with, that maybe how I feel right now can't be taken away, and that I shouldn't put all my hope in a medicine relieving my pain, only to feel my hope dashed and frustration to follow. I'm facing the fact that, if this continues in the same way, I might not have many more kids because I can't handle very much (and I absolutely dread getting pregnant right now when everything is so unstable), my days of attempting to be a supermom might be thrown out the window (like really they already are but I hope those days can return), people might not get to know the me that is trapped inside my broken brain (I will fight to break the awful stigma about mental illness), and I might be judged harshly for things people simply don't understand (PLEASE be kind!). I hope this isn't the case, but I couldn't help but go there for a minute in the middle of the night, before forcing myself to fight the negativity again.

I'm fighting, and I will never give up the fight!  I can already tell that this is going to make me so strong, and that if I can find the courage to keep sharing, God will give me the ability to help others.  I know that joy is possible, even in the depth of pain and sorrow, and I will keep working to find that joy.


More As I Promised

I hardly know where to start in writing this.  I promised I would explain more, but I don't know how.  I guess I'll just start wherever I want and hope that it's not too jumbled or confusing in the end.  :)

As I mentioned in the last post, the psychiatrist I went to see suspects bipolar disorder.  In fact, she is convinced it is that as long as there is nothing physical making me feel the way I've been feeling.  This might come as a surprise to some people, but I agree with her completely, not only because of the way I've been feeling, but also because of the constant thought to research more about bipolar disorder in the last few weeks.  It was a persistent thought, and the more I researched, the more my mind was opened to the possibility of this being more than just depression.

Before doing my own research, I was very uneducated about bipolar disorder.  All I knew was that it included manic episodes (highs) and depressive episodes (lows).  I always pictured the highs and lows having to be the most extreme highs and lows possible.  I guess my mind might have been influenced by the media, because I didn't think someone could function at all with this disorder.  I thought it expressed itself in crazy ways, was always severe, and required lots of treatment.

To say that I am functioning right now is kind of a lie, but I am able to meet the basic needs of my daughter and some of my basic needs too.  I'm not crazy, at least not in the way that I thought of mental illness craziness when I was younger  :)  This is just a chemical imbalance that manifests itself in different ways and will require treatment just like any other physical illness.  It's not something that will stop me from reaching my potential.  It's not something to be ashamed of.  I didn't do anything wrong.  It's just God's way of helping me grow and influence others.  Maybe I can play a part in dissolving the stigma of mental illness, and this is just a tool to doing that.  Who knows what good will come out of this, but I know without a doubt that this has a wonderful purpose.

So I want to explain my manic and depressive episodes, because I'm sure that's something confusing and needing explanation.

The manic episodes manifest themselves in the feelings of anxiety without actually experiencing anxiety.  It's not anxiety at all, but that's the best way to describe what it feels like, so that's why I use that word.  It's like a misplaced energy that lasts for 4 or 5 days and my heart feels like it's racing (even though it's not), I feel completely restless and can't get comfortable sitting in one position, my chest feels heavy, I can't breath very well, I can't focus, I can't process words when reading (my scripture study is basically useless but I let my eyes scan over the words anyway), my thoughts race constantly, my legs shake, I don't have an appetite, sometimes I throw up or at least I just feel really nauseous, I feel very impulsive, I can't remember things, I can't sleep sometimes, my muscles feel tense, and I want to do things like speed or pull really close next to a car when parking because it feels like I wouldn't actually hit it.  I don't know if that last part makes sense at all, but basically I just feel kind of risky.  This time isn't all bad though.  It's during this period that I feel like I can change the world through sharing my experiences with depression.  It's during this time that I want to be open about how I am feeling, and I have a strong desire to help others through my trials.

Then, like the flipping of a switch, the depressive episode starts.  I begin feeling numb to all emotion and very frustrated.  Some of the frustration is because it feels like the manic episode never existed and that I'm making it all up.  The manic time feels so foggy that it just seems like it couldn't have been real.  I also feel frustrated and somewhat angry at the fact that I can't cry.  The emotion builds for a whole day without the ability to let any of it out, all while feeling like I don't care about anyone or anything.  I feel very bothered that I can't feel love for my family.  After a day of this, I begin crying and can hardly stop crying for a couple of days.  I will cry several times a day with or without a reason.  Everything in my life feels like it slows down, including my driving  :)  This lasts for about two days before suddenly switching back to the manic episode.

I feel pretty overwhelmed and unproductive no matter the episode I am in.  I also spend too much time on the computer, because it distracts me and dulls some of the pain.  I'm hoping to get better with this as I get more help dealing with how I feel.

So basically, this started in October, about a month ago.  I have already gone through 4 complete cycles and am on the fifth.  That's why it would be rapid cycling bipolar disorder, because each cycle only lasts about a week.

It's a lot to try to wrap my mind around right now, but I'm hopeful that the psychiatrist can do more to help me as time goes on.

This isn't something I can control.  I can't make myself feel better, at least not with the things I've tried so far.  It's like the feelings are thrust on me and stay until they choose to leave.  Some days are worse than others.  Some days, the "anxiety" feels less extreme so I can do some things.  Other days, it feels so awful that I curl up in a ball and shake, while praying that it will pass quickly.  Some days, I just feel sad, but I don't actually cry all day long.  Other days, I can't really control crying.  It feels like the only way to release the tension inside my body.

Despite all of this recent struggle, I have more blessings than I can count, and God has made them incredibly obvious to me.  From the people babysitting Brooklyn or bringing dinner to the people helping change our two flat tires (in one day!) to the million texts of well wishes on the day of my appointment to there not being frost on my window one morning because all the parking spots were gone the night before and we had to park in another spot.  These are all tender mercies that I can only recognize because of the struggle.

I am hopeful and full of faith.  I'm not scared or worried.  I feel peace.  Surely, that's the greatest gift God could give me at this time!


A Probable Diagnosis

I'm writing this to update everyone at once, since I am exhausted and in great pain, and since many people have asked me to tell them how things went today.

Today I went to a psychiatrist to get the help I need. The fact that I'm admitting this out in the open shows just how far I've come in not being ashamed of mental illness (since there really is nothing to be ashamed of!) While at my appointment, I was given the probable diagnosis of rapid cycling bipolar disorder, with a follow-up of a complete physical exam to rule out any other physical conditions, such as a thyroid disorder.  I have had many suspicions about bipolar disorder in the last few weeks, and I find hope and healing in finally having my questions answered and my concerns validated.

I will be able to have a Gene Site done soon which will allow the doctors to know for sure what is going on and what medications will best help alleviate my pain by swabbing the inside of my mouth.  Isn't that so cool?!  I'm so thankful for the technology of our day that allows us to receive more help than ever before possible.

This is the hardest thing I've ever been through, especially because it seems as though the random shaking has thrown my back out of place and my back is in an awful "s" curve now.  I've never experienced so much physical, mental, and emotional pain, but I've also never felt like I've seen the goodness of others and God's hand in my life so much as I do now.  I'm literally being strengthened and uplifted through what would otherwise seem impossible to me.

I know this isn't very detailed, but I need to rest my back and my mind.  I will explain more later.  Thanks for all the love and support.  I am one blessed girl!


That We Might Have Joy: Rachel's Story

I was drugged and raped last year and got pregnant as a result. When I found out I was pregnant, I was planning on keeping him, but as I got farther along in my pregnancy, I realized I would struggle raising him, even if I would have had a support system. There were many things I wanted him to have that I wasn't able to give him, like two parents and a stable environment to grow up in, so when I was 17 weeks pregnant, I decided to put him up for adoption. I started to worry that I wouldn't be able to find a good family for him in time. I looked around for families for my little one, and I prayed about each family that I looked at, but none stuck out to me, and none seemed right.

My cousin (who I barely knew) messaged me one night and said that, if I wanted a family open adoption, they would be more than happy to adopt him. I prayed about it and felt good about that right away. They have another baby that took them 5 years to have who just turned 1, and they knew they wouldn't be able to have another one, so they were going to look into adoption later down the road when their first one was a little older. But the opportunity came up sooner than expected, so after I made the decision to place my baby with them, I made a trip to New Mexico (where they live) to get to know them a little better and to start the paperwork for the adoption.

This has been one of the hardest challenges for me in my life, but I have found joy through my challenge, because I know I did what was best for him, I can watch him grow up, and I am able to get to know him throughout his whole life. I knew I would be blessed for putting him first. I lost friends from this choice I made, because people didn't understand why I gave him up.  I realized that Heavenly Father was watching over me and was aware of my needs, and He was with me every single step of the way during my pregnancy. After Alex was born, He was with me. When I made the huge decision to put Alex up for adoption, He was there. When it came to picking the family for Alex, He was there. The joy that I find from putting Alex up for adoption is that he has a father and a mother, an eternal family, and a stable environment. That’s everything I wanted him to have.


That We Might Have Joy: Mary's Story

Emery was first diagnosed with congenital heart disease at our 18 week gender ultrasound. Ty and I went in very excited to find out if we were having a boy or girl. The appointment went like any other; we were told we were having a little girl. Ty and I were so excited. The ultrasound tech was kind of quiet as she kept looking for what seemed like forever. She was having me roll over to each side saying that she needed to make sure she was seeing everything she needed to see. After what seemed like forever she excused herself, and a couple minutes later, she came back with our doctor. He started looking very intently, so we asked him what they were looking at. The doctor told us they were looking at her heart and wanted to make sure that everything was okay and that he was having trouble seeing everything because of the way she was positioned. After a while, the doctor put down the wand and told us that our daughter had a hole in her heart. He told us that we would need to go see the pediatric cardiologist the following week and that our baby girl would have to have surgery on her heart 3-6 months after she was born. He drew us a picture and explained that she had an atrioventricular septal defect meaning that the hole was positioned evenly between all 4 chambers of her heart and that she had one common av valve instead of the right and left like a normal heart has. He also told us that heart defects are a marker for Down Syndrome and that they wanted to do further testing. Ty and I agreed, so I had blood drawn from my arm. They were able to look at Emery's DNA that way. We left the appointment devastated and went home not knowing what to think. The day before we went to see the pediatric cardiologist we got a phone call where we were told our daughter's test had come back 99% positive for having Down Syndrome. I hoped and prayed that she would not have Down Syndrome because that wasn't something we could "fix", her heart could be "fixed," but she'd have to live with Down Syndrome forever.

The rest of my pregnancy was consumed with doctors appointments (I had 3 appointments a week for the last 8 weeks of my pregnancy) and brochures, paperwork, stress tests, and loads of information ranging from Google searches to blog posts to advice from other moms whose kids had a similar diagnosis. Although it was stressful, once the initial shock wore off, I allowed myself to get very excited to meet our little girl. We had named her Emery shortly after she was diagnosed, because we needed a way to hold onto hope that she would be okay, and giving her a name seemed like a good place to start.

When Emery was born I was shocked at how perfect she was. The doctors had warned me of what could happen. I was induced only because we needed to have a full NICU staff ready to step in if she was in distress once she was born. She wasn't. We spent the whole day with her. They took her to the NICU at 8 pm that evening because she needed some supplemental oxygen to assist in closing the PDA (All babies are born with it; once they breath in oxygen it closes. With Emery's other defect, hers did not close on it's own.) 

Emery only spent 5 days in the NICU, and then she came home. Even after we got her home, we had special appointments and obligations because of her health. We couldn't take her to church or into public places, because it was and is very dangerous for her to get sick. I was okay with that, because after her surgery, we would be able to move on with life and visit family and get back to normal or at least normal with the 3 of us. Emery had her open heart surgery the day she turned 12 weeks old. There are certain days in your life that you have a picture perfect memory of. Some things are so significant that the rawness of it never really wears off. Before Emery's surgery I remember just sitting on the couch holding her and crying because it was getting closer and I was so scared to send her back with strangers that would stop her walnut sized heart and cut it open in hopes of repairing it and giving her a future. The day of her surgery started too early. We had to be at the hospital at 5 am so we got up and 3:45 (I had gotten to bed just over an hour before it was time to get up, because I had to make sure I had everything in order). Emery was not impressed, but we let her stay in her pjs, and once she was put in her carseat she went straight back to sleep. We got to the pre-op area and I was surprised there were so many people waiting to send their children back to get operated on. Emery was the only one waiting for open heart surgery out of the crowd. 

We waited for what seemed like forever before we were pulled back into a pre-op room, where we put her in a greenish gown and white socks. She wasn't allowed to eat, and she was really fussy, so they allowed a pacifier with some sugar water stuff on it. That calmed her down enough to go back to sleep. They sent us to the room that Ty and I would wait in while she was being operated on, and then about a half hour later, they came to pick up Emery and take her to the operating room. I gave her one quick kiss and laid her in the nurses arms, because I knew if I held on any longer I would never let go. I told her that someone would be there the whole time to hold her hand, and that when her heart was whole, they'd bring her right back to us. The beginning of surgery went really well, in fact, the whole surgery went perfectly as planned, until she was to come off of the bypass machine. Emery's heart was not strong enough after her surgery to come off of the life support; they tried 3 times. The nurses came in and told us that she wasn't stable and that she needed all of the prayers we could get and that we needed to research what an ECMO machine was because she'd be coming out of surgery on it. Ty and I did our research and waited for what seemed like forever. It was about an hour later that we still hadn't heard, so we went on a little walk just down to grab something to eat. We walked down the hall, and when we came back, Emery was in the hallway, and they were trying to get her onto the elevator to go up to the PICU, but she didn't fit in the elevator with all of her equipmen,t so they had to go to a different one. 

We practically ran into her and about 10 people who were working on her while they were walking her down the hall to the PICU. There were alarms sounding and it was very hectic. We weren't able to see Emery for at least another hour following that, because they had to get her all settled in her room with all of her equipment. While she was on ECMO, she had 2 nurses in her room at all times. One nurse had to be facing her at all times. For the first 3 days Emery got a blood transfusion at least every 2 hours. Her chest was open for 6 days. They tried to take her off of ECMO on day 4, but she was not ready. It was extremely scary, because she was ice cold, pale and her feet and hands were turning purple and black. We knew she couldn't stay on ECMO much longer and on the 6th day she was successfully weaned.  They closed her chest the next day. 

She was doing very well, and they were hopeful to remove her breathing tube. On the 11th day post surgery, they took her breathing tube out, and they had to put it back in 20 minutes later, because she was in distress. We got to hear her cry that day. That was the last time we heard her cry, until she got her speaking valve on June 17th.

I won't go into all of the details of Emery's hospital stay because it's exhausting. She had X-rays, medicines, blood draws, and therapies daily. She got very sick following the first time they tried to remove her breathing tube while in the hospital. Emery was septic twice, had to be put on an oscillator, developed chylothorax, had 4 chest tubes, 3 central lines, 3 art lines, 7 pic lines, and too many IVs, She was intubated until January 14th when we decided to send her back into the operating room to have a trach and g-tube placed. Ty held her once and I held her twice between November 19th and January 21st.

While the trach was never planned, we anxiously accepted it, because it was what Emery needed to be able to be held, to wake up, and to start being a baby. She did it so well! Despite withdrawals, pain, and countless other life size hurdles for a tiny baby she woke up every day and fought; so I woke up everyday and fought with her. We had so much support and love from our new friends in the PICU. The nurses, doctors, RT's, and everyone else made me feel like they came to work everyday to take care of us. Despite everything else that goes on in a PICU, I never once felt like they didn't go above and beyond everyday to make us feel loved and at home. They truly loved my daughter and fought right along side her every step of the way. They truly believed in her. They gave me the hope each day that I needed to keep my spirits up. They are our angels.

We started sprints off of the ventilator at the end of February. We started very slowly at first, 30 minutes a day. We worked up to 2 hours, then we went for 2 hours twice a day, then to 3 times a day, and so on. By the time Emery left the PICU, she was sprinting 3 hours 3 times a day! We went to another hospital for rehabilitation, because she was not ready to come home yet. Today, Emery has been off of the ventilator completely for almost 2 months. She's eating by mouth, saying "mama" and "daddy," sitting, and standing. She came home about a week ago, just 11 days short of a year in the hospital.

Currently, with Emery, we are still dealing with effects of her open heart surgery in the form of mitral valve regurgitation, different degrees of chronic heart failure, pulmonary hypertension, chronic lung disease, stage 2-3 kidney disease, and hypothyroidism. 

I am so unbelievably proud of Emery for the demons she has overcome this past year. It's an overwhelming feeling. I could not do what she has done. She has overcome challenge after challenge with grace and composure. I share this story, because I get asked all the time how I am so happy and how I can keep going after all that we have been through. I really don't understand it completely myself, because sometimes I am overwhelmed, discouraged, tired, and selfish, but I have seen others that are going through far worse than I can ever imagine. I see how blessed we have been. I can see how Emery has blessed my life and many others as well. I can see that she has a purpose. I can see how much she is loved, and going through all of this, I have developed an unbelievably strong bond with my daughter. Through this, I have been able to see that I have a purpose and the unbelievably strong bond that Heavenly Father has with me and with each one of his children. I have learned that people matter and that everyone has a cross to bear, and no one's cross is any less significant than another just because they are not the same. I know that Heavenly Father wants to help make our burdens lighter and that if we lean on Him and allow His peace and love into our lives, then we can find happiness, even in the midst of our worst days. Emery shows me this everyday by waking up with a smile on her face ready to greet whatever her day has in store for her. Happiness shouldn't evolve from things or places, so we should be able to find happiness everyday no matter what we have or where we are just by being with the people we care about most.

Life isn't always perfect; it can be scary and dark at times, but the hard times help us appreciate more fully the light that comes. I found joy this past year by not focusing on the dark, but paying more attention to the good in each day. Although Emery is sick, she is still growing up and I find joy in being here with her, helping her live the life she has been given.

"Focus on the journey, not the destination. Joy is found not in finishing an activity but in doing it."
Greg Anderson


That We Might Have Joy: Brittany's Story

My husband, McKay, and I got married in August 2013. Just 6 months later, we were ready to start our family and bring beautiful children into this world. We were nervous, but so happy. As a woman, I was excited to become a partner with our Heavenly Father in creating a body for one of His precious spirit children. I knew what a sacred experience this would be and, although pregnancy is difficult, I knew the Lord would see me through. Each month our anticipation and excitement grew, as we waited for the time to take the pregnancy tests. Each month, our hopes were dashed and our hearts broken as we got negative after negative.

It has been a journey of almost 3 years and no successes. As depressing as that sounds, we have found JOY in our journey. Our Father knows us 100% and wants the best for us. Because of this, He knows when to give us blessings. I know that my desire for a child is a righteous desire, and Heavenly Father will grant it. I also know that, although I want a child now, Heavenly Father knows the right time for a child to come into my life. This trial of infertility has blessed me with an increase in faith and trust in our loving Father in Heaven.

Along with this increase of faith and trust has come a greater understanding of His love for us. Our Father knows us personally. He knows what joys and trials we experience, and He knows how to help us through the hard times. Heavenly Father has blessed me with patience, which has been the only way I have been able to endure these past years.

It is not easy to find JOY in trials. Heartache and pain make it very difficult. However, there is JOY in my trial. I have found JOY in coming to know my Heavenly Father better. I have found JOY in learning to rely on His power. I have found JOY in feeling blessings of patience from my Father. I have found JOY in His love, compassion, and patience for me, when I have doubts. I have found JOY in discovering more about myself. I have found JOY in growing closer to my sweet husband. I have found JOY in the time McKay and I have been given to strengthen our relationship before we are blessed with children. I have found JOY in loving my cute pup that takes care of me. I have found JOY in being the best aunt I can be to my 15 (almost 16) nieces and nephews. I have found JOY in reaching out to others experiencing similar trials. I have found JOY in infertility.

Beth's Story (*Name Changed)

By way of anonymous introduction, I'm a stay at home, homeschooling mom, member of the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints, and wife to a wonderful husband. I’m grateful to Shantelle for asking be to write this because it’s been very helpful to me. I hope I can help someone else too!

My story with depression is a long and kind of complicated one. I've had lots of relatively little bouts of it and a couple dangerously difficult ones. My biggest struggles originated with the traumatic loss of family. Instead of focusing on the timeline of events that transpired, which are, well depressing, maybe I can be more helpful to others by sharing the variety of methods I've chosen to deal with it. These are my experiences only and I can't speak for what will or won't work for anyone else, but I hope there's something helpful in here for someone.

Primarily I think the biggest tool in dealing with depression is perspective. That's a hard thing to say and to hear when you’re grappling with an illness that changes the very way you think and feel at even the most basic level. Depression alters even the strongest person's perception of reality and leaves crippling feelings of loneliness, isolation, hopelessness, deep despair, grief and exhaustion, so to tell someone to "be happy" or "look on the bright side" is almost like a slap in the face. I would if I could, and sometimes, even when I can find some silver lining, it doesn't seem to do much good. Those feelings are very real and often mostly outside my control, but I can still influence them some. I can still remind myself that as very real as these emotions feel, they're still just in my head. I'm not actually alone or worthless or hopeless to the people that matter. It does help to be reminded of that from others too. Depression is not something someone can just "snap out of" with enough effort, but it is something that can be dealt with. That perspective doesn't happen overnight. It takes time and practice, and it's a lot easier to talk about on a good day than on a hard one!

To me, how I choose to define depression and myself makes a difference. I am not depressed. I am a mom, a wife, and a child of God who happens to deal with depression, but I don't want that diagnosis to define who I am as a person. I try not to even own it or call it "mine," although sometimes I do slip. Depression isn't a choice, it's an event and for me, like most people, it will pass. It's not my fault or anyone else’s, so it's not a punishment either.  I'm not a victim, but I am an active participant in how I chose to deal with it. Depression is a challenge that I am faced with, but I don't have to face it alone, even though sometimes it feels like it. How I choose to frame my life experiences and handle depression can have positive or negative effects on my ability to live up to the potential God created me for. We can't control the events or circumstances that come to us in life, at least not all of them. But we can control how we want to choose to deal with them. So that's the framework from which I'll address my other points.

The thing that offers the most peace and comfort to me is the atonement of Jesus Christ. Until I began this battle, I primarily viewed the atonement as Christ's sacrifice for sin, and it definitely is, but it's so much more! Yes we need to repent of our sins and forsake them and doing so brings us closer to our Savior, but we also need to remind ourselves that because of the atonement we are never alone. We might feel like it, but we are not ever actually beyond the Lord's love, or his protection, or his mercy or his compassion. No matter how alone I feel, I can remember that even Christ called out, "My God, my God, why hast thou forsaken me?" -Matthew 27:46. This reminds me that Christ knows how I feel, even at my lowest.

Even in this example I had to learn to choose what to focus on. Not only the difference between the redeeming and the enabling aspects of the atonement, but I had to choose how to feel about them. For a long time, every time I heard the story of Christ in the Garden of Gethsemane, or on the cross, I felt horribly guilty. I felt guilty that I had caused that magnitude of suffering for someone I dearly loved. I felt completely ashamed that I would ever need such an awful burden for redemption (even though the scriptures say that we all do.) That guilt kept me from my Savior. Over time, I've learned to focus on the aspects of Christ's life and atonement that I can relate to, because those aspects teach me how he can relate to me. I choose to remember that Christ knew he would suffer in his life, but he chose to come anyway. At any point Christ had the power to say "On second thought, I don't think I'm up for this. It's not worth it," but he didn't. He didn't say that, because he loves me. He didn't say that, because he loves you. We are worth it. He chose to do what he did so that he would be able to understand each of us, to walk with us or sit beside us in our darkest hours, to say, "I understand what you're going through," and actually mean it. He does understand because he's been there. He walked this path before I did, and understands it deeper than I probably ever will. I can choose to focus on gratitude for his friendship and for his love instead of feeling ashamed.

Becoming a mother has helped me understand this also. Before, I often felt as if I was the exception, like God could and should and did love everyone else, but not me. I was sure I was unlovable. Now that I have several wonderful little children, I see how ridiculous that is. I could never love all my kids except one. They're all different, unique, and sometimes quirky but they're all mine and I love each of them individually. My love is not in spite of those individual quirks, but because of them, and because I get to watch them learn and grow and overcome their struggles. As I've started to overcome my depression, my children bring me great joy and a sense of pride and because of that I know I can bring joy to my Heavenly Father and to my Savior as well. That brings me to my next point.

Actively recognizing the ways that depression influences my thoughts and feelings helps me keep it in check. There are truths that I can understand and appreciate on my good days that are completely beyond my ability to feel or comprehend on my bad days. So when I am feeling well, I try to build a firm testimony of the reality of the good things like loving relationships, happy events, hope etc. That way, when I fall into that deep, deep darkness I can remind myself that my brain plays tricks on me and the light at the end of the tunnel does exist even when I can't see it. A perfect example of this is my kids.

The truth is, my kids didn't (ok, don't) always bring me joy. There have been times my children have said or done things about which I knew I should have been immensely proud and genuinely happy but I just couldn't feel it. Times when I logically knew I should appreciate their energy and enthusiasm for life, their compassion and innocence but instead I felt numb, or irritated, or downright frustrated. Then of course the thoughts would come, "what kind of mother feels this way about her own children?" Not helpful! In those times I have to consciously remind myself that my depression changes the way my brain works and giving in to those feelings gives my illness more power over me and my family. I can choose to acknowledge that I feel grouchy and then choose to acknowledge that that's not their fault. I try to see their words and actions from their perspective. They're just being kids. They're just trying to help. They're just excited. They're not trying to be x, y or z that is really getting under my skin. This practice of getting out of my own head and into theirs helps me to act more patient than I feel. It’s not easy, but with time it does help.

Service is another very therapeutic tool. I find that it's really hard to get motivated for myself. I no longer have hobbies to speak of. None of the crafts, books or activities I used to enjoy brings any happiness when I'm depressed. Check lists, routines, reward systems, things that motivate most people, tend to make me feel trapped. Then when I don't accomplish what I hope to, I feel like a failure, so I'm less likely to even make an effort to begin with. However, I can do lots of things for others. I'm relatively sure that if I didn't tell anyone, no one outside my family would even know I struggle with depression, because helping other people is one of the few things that provides relief. Even if I feel like a miserable excuse for a waste of space on the inside, I can bring a smile or comfort to others and somehow that makes my burden a little lighter and my problems a little smaller. Serving in church callings helps, but I have also asked my Relief Society president, Bishop and the missionaries if they knew about people I could help. Attending temple services as often as I can makes a big difference too. Somehow, no matter what I'm struggling with, the temple puts it in perspective and gives me the strength and inspiration I need to get through a little while longer.

Recognizing things that trigger depression helps me control it. Everyone’s triggers are different: grief, loss, disappointment, and for a lot of people, stress. I’m strange in that area. I know I can step up to the plate when someone else needs me. When I really fall apart is after the stress is over. I had a councilor once who noticed a pattern. She compared my stress response to witnessing a car wreck. She says its all tension and adrenaline getting through the stressful situation and taking care of everything and everyone that needs me, but then when it's over and everyone can relax, the trauma starts to really sink in. Everyone else moves on but I can't because all the anxiety hormones melt into depression. I'm still re-living what I should or could have done differently to influence the outcome. Then I spend too much time in my own head and I have a hard time getting out.

I'm starting to be able to see it coming though. When I can predict that stress-letdown-depression cycle I can prepare for it. Most recently I made an appointment with the bishop for right after I knew a semi stressful situation would be over and asked him for a service project, which he was happy to give me. I was able to transition from the higher stress level to a lower one with less of a problem. Elder David A. Bednar gave a Conference talk about spiritual traction and compared it to a pickup truck needing enough weight to be able to get through the mountain snow. I'm like that truck. If I don't have just the right weight at the right time, I get stuck and have a terrible time getting out. Planning ahead to pick up the extra weight where I'll need it, helps me in my journey.

Video: https://www.lds.org/media-library/video/2015-04-001-bearing-our-burdens-with-hope?lang=eng
Full talk: https://www.lds.org/general-conference/2014/04/bear-up-their-burdens-with-ease?lang=eng

Knowing how to ask for help. This is really difficult. I have a hard time asking for help; maybe because of my pride, or not wanting to burden others, or not even recognizing how badly I need it, or sometimes because I just can’t. When depression becomes really bad it's actually crippling in a way. I literally can't express my feelings, I can barely breathe! Even the idea of vocalizing any of my struggles out loud to anyone is paralyzing. I almost feel like if I admit it out loud, Satan can hear me and make it worse. (When I'm well, I can totally see how irrational this sounds, because ultimately God is in control, not Satan. But that's hard to remember when I'm really low.) So I ask my husband to watch the movie "What Dreams May Come" with Robin Williams. This is a great film because while I don't agree on all the doctrinal points, it does remind me that the "easy way out" is not going to be easier in the long run for me or for my family. That particular movie also cues my husband into the fact that I'm struggling without me actually having to express it. Warning: it is a fairly intense movie if you've never seen it before.

Dealing with life when it’s too overwhelming. Another common problem with depression is that it makes normal, everyday things really overwhelming. Being busy outside of the house actually seems to help me if I can ever get that far, where for some people it doesn't help at all. However, a big list of chores at home won't even get started because, for me, it's too overwhelming. I find that when I'm struggling, I have to let my standards slide and break things down into more manageable tasks. I can't clean the whole kitchen, some days I can't even clear the counters, but I can get the dishes done. And if I text my hubby and he celebrates a little with me, I might get the toys picked up in the back yard too. I've learned to celebrate little accomplishments for myself and for my family. "Mommy wins!" is a running joke at our house, because I say it a lot. I'm never in competition against my family, but I try to help be part of the team. So if I can find a new dish my kids all like, "Mommy wins!" If I manage to get a whole chore done during nap time, "Mommy wins!" If we can actually get to church on time, "Mommy WINS!"

I also have tried a variety of ways to trick myself into being motivated. I joined an organizing group on FB called "Get Organized Today (with Mary organizes)" that does regular challenges and people all work on the same things in the same days, posting before and after pictures and cheering each other on. Sometimes I can trade with a friend and we can work together on organizing one room in my house and in exchange, I'll babysit for date night. I've paid sisters in our Ward who were struggling financially to come over and clean with me, not for me, but with me, because we both need the fellowship, and somehow that makes me feel more like a person and less like a service project. There are lots of little ways to trick yourself into getting motivated.

I can do my best to minimize the effects of my depression on my family. My kids need me to express an appreciation and interest in them and their activities even when I don't feel it. They are in their early years and they're just developing their life view and a framework for how they will interpret their experiences for the rest of their lives, and they internalize so much of what they experience in these early stages. However; by the grace of God, they don't always perceive everything adults do, so I can totally fake it! The longer I can fake it the more time I can buy for my emotions to catch up. I do this because, if I give in to the temptation to wallow in my feelings I find myself sinking into a pit where it's much harder to climb out. So, "Fake it 'till you make it" and don't give in to the temptation to feel guilty about not being genuine. Yes genuine is good and honest is good, but being genuinely and enthusiastically interested in everything each of my kids wants me to is exhausting! I just. can't. do. it. all. day. long. So, I do what I can and fake the rest.

Instead of beating myself up for all the (many) things I can't do, I focus on simplifying my routine to set myself and my kids up for success. I've noticed that if I can satisfy my kids needs for attention and interaction first thing in the morning (and first thing after nap) they are less demanding throughout the rest of the day. There's less fighting, less misbehaving to get my attention, less whining. Of course, like most people battling depression, mornings are not my best time. So I try to schedule my mornings to be as relaxed and easy going as possible and give them undivided attention. As they get up, they tumble into my bed. Sometimes they bring a book or favorite toy, and we snuggle and talk until we're all ready to face the day. This helps!

I also remind myself that this actively engaged 24/7 parenting style is a relatively recent phenomenon. Somehow kids grew up to be stable, productive adults before helicopter parenting was a thing. Constantly entertaining them isn't helping my kids learn to function independently. I try to encourage independent play every day, preferably outside.

Since I mentioned Facebook, I might as well expand on media in general. I try to limit my screen time to things that are uplifting and encouraging.  So, I don't watch the news. I don't really follow politics. The extra worry just takes so much mental energy I don't have. For Facebook, I either un-friend or un-follow drama and try to have a few positive blogs in my news feed for the days when I really do just need to check out for a little while.

There are also some great apps out there "quality time" is one I use now. I loved "screen time" before they started charging for it. That one is more of a parental control app but I used it to lock myself out of Facebook during hours I really should be focused on more important things.

My Dr., of course, had recommendations. She recommended exercise, which is actually very helpful for some people. Unfortunately, I hate exercise, especially by myself. I've tried exercise videos and I can go 10 minutes max before my kids are climbing on me like a jungle gym. Nothing like a nice yoga workout where you get your balance in a good pose just in time to be bowled over by a three year old and land on top of a six year old! I can sometimes exercise as part of a social thing. I can meet a friend and we can walk around town and end up at a park for our kids. I can join a church volleyball group or exercise group and push my insecurities aside by telling myself "so-and-so organized this activity and she needs the support so I'm going to do my best to be there for her." Exercising with others keeps me from over thinking how I was the only kid in gym class who blacked out running the mile. I have to find a way to put my insecurities aside or exercise just makes me more miserable.

My Dr. also recommended self-massage, which really didn't work until I started adding essential oils. I've found those can take the edge off of the body aches, headaches and the moodiness and help lift some of the emotional weight. I have had more luck doing some deep breathing exercises she recommended with the oils also when I'm anxious or getting that heavy sadness in my chest. I've also had some luck with vitamins and supplements. B complex, D, C, omega 3, St John's wort and turmeric, can sometimes just take the edge off a little.

The only thing that really completely made me feel like a normal happy person again was generic Wellbutrin. My midwife/OB started me on 100 mg once a day as a trial run to make sure I didn't have any adverse reactions. She had the plan to increase it in a month. She said she thought I could take it just long enough to get back on my feet and then wean off. Within a couple weeks I noticed considerable improvement. By a month I felt so much better I kept the same dose for several months until I started to feel the sadness creep back in. I talked to my primary care Dr. and she said that Wellbutrin would not have been her recommendation (she prefers to go the natural, massage, exercise, vitamin/supplement route) but since I was already on it and actually had been borderline suicidal before it, and none of the other recommendations were enough so she agreed to increase the dose to 200mg. That was good enough for a few months, and the darkness came creeping back in. I was hoping to be able to get off the medication eventually and I was afraid that increasing the dose again was pushing me towards lifelong dependency, but I obviously wasn't doing well the way things were. By the time I got up the guts and motivation to go back to the Dr., I was back to feeling like I had without the meds even though I was still taking them faithfully. My Dr. agreed to up the dose again. Unfortunately there was some kind of clerical miscommunication between her office and the pharmacy and they would only fill the RX for the 100mg, which wasn't nearly enough. I called the Dr. office and they wouldn't fix it unless I came back in for another appointment. Between that and the multiple problems I'd had with the Dr. office (this was not their first paperwork mistake) I decided that I was probably better off without the medication so I started gradually weaning off of it. (I have quit an anti-depressant by weaning off too quickly before and that was a rough road! Always follow your Dr.'s schedule recommendation and never rush it or quit cold turkey!)

Meghann's Story: Postpartum Depression

Meet my friend, Megan.   We miraculously met a few weeks ago on Facebook and immediately connected through our similar challenges.  She is an amazing friend and support, and I love her dearly.  She has bravely decided to start her own BLOG to share her experiences with Postpartum Depression, and I know that her blog will help so many moms out there who are in her same situation.  Here is her story:

I am sharing my story to raise awareness and let you know that you are not alone. 

I was happily a new mother -- AGAIN. My husband and I pray, ponder and plan when to have our babies. Our toddler would be two years old when the next baby came. I had a lot of reasons to be happy: A helpful and loving husband, a calling at church, amazing friends, I'm a stay-at-home mom, I have a beautiful daughter and now pregnant with our second baby girl.

I had my second C Section at 39 weeks on July 18, 2016 and the healing went well. We brought her home and my mother-in-law was there to help. Everything was going fine. My husband was home for the next 6 months of paternity leave. I went through the baby blues and then it ended at about 10 days postpartum. 

Suddenly, out of nowhere one month after giving birth I was feeling so emotional. Not just emotional, but sickly emotional. Anger and tears seemed to be the new me. I was never mad at my baby. I loved her since I got pregnant and even more when I first saw her. But I started crying for hours every single day. I stopped wanting to go out. If we did go out and have fun as soon as we got home it was like it never happened and I crashed. Things I use to think were fun were not enjoyable anymore. I didn't want to get out of bed and I didn't want to take care of anything in the house or anyone. I didn't want anyone to visit. Once I invited the sister missionaries over to dye my hair but was so overcome with sadness that I would cancel. Sisters at church would invite me over for play dates and I didn't want to go. When my husband would do something fun for himself I would cry. I couldn't understand how he could have joy and I couldn't.

I blamed my husband for my feelings of suffering. How awful to think it got to that.
My poor husband had no idea what was going on inside me. I didn't let him see it. I didn't let anyone see it. He would just see my anger (something I now know is called postpartum rage) and emotions. And he wondered why I had changed. He would ask me why I was not the woman he once knew. He would send me videos on how to love your husband again. He thought I didn't love him anymore.

So we were going through all this still not knowing I have Postpartum Depression and anxiety.

I was feeling hopeless. I felt like my family would be better off without me. I thought why would they want someone so useless around them. I didn't realize what was happening to me. 

 I was also stressed while we struggle with our toddlers severe speech delay, waiting for a team of specialists to do a Global Evaluation this December and the neurosurgeon to see how to fix her curved spine. While I expressed this and my feelings of helplessness one day to a friend of mine mentioned Postpartum Depression. I was thinking.. what's that? Me? So I Googled what it was just to see. 


"Postpartum depression is a mood disorder that can affect women after childbirth. Mothers with postpartum depression experience feelings of extreme sadness, anxiety, and exhaustion that may make it difficult for them to complete daily care activities for themselves or for others.

On that website I found what causes postpartum depression, the symptoms, and how to know if you have postpartum depression.

Even after reading this and feeling I related to everything. I still couldn't see that postpartum depression was what is happening to me. We are the hardest on ourselves. 

One day my husband and I went to the Temple and as I sat in the Celestial Room I felt so sad, broken, unfixable. I felt I was drowning. The most peaceful room on this earth and I didn't feel better. Can you imagine? That should of been a red flag, but I still didn't see it.

I was crying every day for hours, angry, wanted to die every day and that consumed my thoughts. My chest felt heavy like a ton of bricks. I was barely hanging on for my 6 week postpartum check up. I asked myself a couple times if it could be Postpartum Depression, but I said no because I don't hate my baby, I don't want to hurt my baby. I just hate me. But I didn't know that was still a red flag. 

On the morning of my 6 week checkup. I was crying on my bedroom floor for about two hours and I felt so awful. The children were with my husband and grandma. I said a prayer and I said, "Heavenly Father, I don't know why I'm crying all the time. I feel horrible. I feel like a horrible wife and mother. Why am I not fun like my other friends who have kids? My heart feels like heavy bricks. If the doctor doesn't give me medication for whatever this suffering is I'm not doing this anymore." 

As I mentioned my husband had no idea what I was going through because I didn't tell him my thoughts.  I tried to hide my pain. And I hid it well on the outside. After I finished my prayer I washed my face and got ready to go. We went to my appointment to see if my C Section was healing fine. My Gynecologist asked me how I was feeling and I broke down crying. I told him everything and he said, "it sounds like you have a wicked Postpartum Depression". He congratulated me for speaking up. I didn't feel courageous. I felt weak and alone. Only 15% of moms get PPD and he said it's not something to hide. It is a very serious mental illness, but it can be treated. 

Within minutes I was sent to meet with a Psychiatrist at the Emergency Section of the Mental Health Hospital as that is the fastest way to see someone my doctor said. My husband drove me over. As my husband and I sat across from the Psychiatrist I told him everything. My husband was in shock. He didn't know. I didn't even know I was depressed. Who? Me? I have Postpartum Depression? I thought you had to hate your baby or want to hurt them. But I don't want to do that so it can't be it.  *Red Flag* The doctor explained the difference between sadness and depression and the difference between worry and anxiety to us. I wondered, "why would I hate me when 3 months ago I loved me?" "where did this come from?" Untreated, and unknown depression could have more deeply affected my Celestial Marriage because we didn't understand why I was an emotional angry crying mess! This was WAY WORSE than pregnancy hormones or anything I've ever been through.   There were days I couldn't even get out of bed and my loving husband had to lift me up and carry me outside to try and do something fun. We went on a few vacations and to Palmyra, New York with the kids to try and have some fun. I had therapy and am on antidepressants now. I never thought I could feel better. But on the medication so far I am feeling better. I hated the idea of medication but the Lord would expect me to get the medical help I need. I know the Savior knows what all our trials feel like. He even  knows what Depression feels like so you and I can rely on him. I also don't know what I'd do without my husband. He is a good man.

What I've learned so far:

*No one would choose depression. No one would choose to suffer like that.
*Men can have postpartum depression too.
*Postpartum rage exists
*Stress is one of my triggers.
*Some of the trials we face are going to be unpredictable and you're not going to know how to handle them.
*I am learning that this isn't about overcoming but about becoming a better person in the furnace of your afflictions.
*It's important to not judge others or people will never be able to talk and get the support they are seeking.
*To have more empathy.
*I've learned the Lord would expect you to get the medical help you need.
*It's okay to be on antidepressants.
*It's nobody's fault. 
*I am loved.
*I am not the only person suffering with Postpartum Depression.
*It can happen to anyone.
*It doesn't care what your social, family, financial or spiritual situation is.
*It's okay to say I feel better on the medication.
*It's okay to share my story in case it can help someone else.
*The Savior could of known our trials by revelation, but he chose to feel them instead, so he would know how to help (succor) us.

"We all experience trauma in this life. It could be the death of a loved one, heartbreak, a physical ailment, or a mental or emotional disorder. Life is hard, and sometimes we forget how difficult it is to be a human being in this world. It is so important that we support each other through these trials and processes. We need to exercise sympathy for those around us.
 Life’s trials and difficulties are overcome with time, patience, and a lot of faith and trust in God. Overnight miracles rarely happen, not because God doesn’t love us or want us to be happy, but because they rob us of the lessons that life’s difficulties have the potential to teach us. Relying on God and placing Him at the center of our lives is much easier in theory than in practice, but the Atonement of Jesus Christ is the ultimate solution to life’s challenges." - Michael Rex