6.22.2017

Remembering the Good

I wrote this yesterday:
Last week, we went on vacation, and it was oh so good for me.  It was exactly everything I needed.  It wasn't perfect, as far as my emotions went, and I did spend a couple nights crying myself to sleep, but somehow, I could hold it in almost perfectly for the whole week.  It didn't take over my days with my family.  I could enjoy and love and feel.  It was heavenly and definitely a beautiful tender mercy.  That precious time I spent with my family is sacred in my mind, and I get somewhat teary-eyed when I think about it.  It was just everything I needed. 
We're home now, and the happiness from our vacation is still here.  I was worried and overwhelmed the night before coming home that all the difficulties would return as soon as we walked through the front door of our cute little apartment.  I couldn't go back to that.  I couldn't go back to the darkness, the guilt, the deep emotions.  I wanted to stay on this sacred vacation forever and let things continue the way they could be.  Of course, we had to go home, but by the goodness of God, I still feel great.  These last few days, I have felt like I can finally be the wife and mom I dream of being everyday and just can't be most days.  I still feel the tender emotions of love and happiness, and the light is so bright and refreshing in my life right now.  I hope it stays for a very long time!
I didn't share it yet, because I didn't have time to finish writing before needing to do something else, but I intended on sharing it later with some kind of positive, uplifting quote attached to the end of it.  I really thought the light might last forever.  Surely, if I felt so good for a few days, then nothing could stop the light from flowing into my life and the love from filling my whole heart.  Nothing but bipolar disorder.

Last night, things quickly changed.  Suddenly the light was gone.  I had no warning this was coming.  And in place of the light, all of the terrifying emotions returned.  I was so scared.  I wanted to be angry.  Why can't the good last forever?  Why can't I just be the wife and mom I desperately want to be?  Why does this have to be a part of my life?  I knew anger wouldn't get me anywhere, but I really wanted to be bitter.  It just didn't feel fair.  And it hurt.  I sat in the same room as my husband, but hid under a blanket and cried.  I couldn't tell him that these dreadful emotions were back and that I didn't know when they would leave again.  I couldn't tell him that the perfect life we had lived for a week and a half was over, and that things weren't good again.  I cried, prayed, texted a friend, and tried to read uplifting conference talks on my phone for the span of an entire movie.  I was going to tell my husband about how I was feeling, but I decided to go to bed instead.

Today I feel a little better.  I'm trying to remember and cherish those precious moments with my family.  I have once again decided that being bitter is not an option for me and that I'll keep fighting with all the strength I have in me.  Things will get better sometime, and my heart will feel peace again.  I just have to patiently wait for that time to come.

I consider it a tender mercy that I sat down to write a few words about how good things were just before the goodness left.  It still hurts that the light is gone, and there's nothing I can do to get it back except wait for this storm to pass, but I am so thankful for the light that I had for a few days, the light that reminded me of who I can be without this and that gave me a refreshing break from the darkness.

6.20.2017

That We Might Have Joy: Kaitlynn's Story

My name is Kaitlynn Mena. My husband and I have been trying to have a baby for a little under 2 years, and it has been a roller coaster ride.

After one month I was sure I was pregnant, but nothing. I figured, “Oh... well sometimes it takes a couple months after coming off of birth control,” so every month I patiently waited for that pregnancy test to somehow be positive, even though I was irregular and wasn’t even having periods. I figured some miracle would happen, because I was supposed to be pregnant. I just knew it. I prayed, I fasted, I went to the temple, and I did everything I was supposed to be doing. I would be rewarded for being so good, right? Wrong! Or at least not in the way that I was wanting. I was doing what I was commanded to do (multiply and replenish the earth) right? The greatest calling is motherhood, right? All of these things I figured would finally work out in my favor, and the Lord would bless me with a baby. Months went by, and nothing was changing. I wasn’t getting pregnant. My body was not even working to get me near having a baby.

After months and months of nothing, I started to get bitter. I started to feel the Lord did not care about me. No one was there listening to my prayers, my begging. Why would a Father listen to someone cry all night, praying, bargaining, and pleading for a child, only to do nothing for them? You could say that I grew to hate Him for a time. I didn’t want anything to do with Him. After all, it seemed He wanted nothing to do with me, so why should I care? I was tired of seeing all my friends and family with their ability to become pregnant by just sneezing. I was tired of the Facebook posts where people complained about being pregnant when that is all I could cry to Mark about. That was all I ever thought about. I couldn’t go 10 minutes without somehow thinking of a baby, or seeing a baby post, or something.

After a week or two of being bitter and angry, I finally came back to the Lord. I knew that I had left Him. I knew He loved me and that everything He does is for my best interest. I knew that He understood the greater plan. After each negative test, I grew stronger in my testimony and relationship with the Lord. It wasn’t easy, but I could see that I was growing from this time of trial. I can’t say that I always kept this positive attitude, but it was getting easier each time, except for one time, but I will get to that later.

So come March 2016, with Mark’s help, love, and support, I finally decided to go into an OB/GYN to see if something was wrong. After all, in about 5-6 months of trying, I had only had one period. So we went in and talked to a doctor. They said, “Well obviously, you are not having periods, and when you do, you are not ovulating, you are just cleaning your system out.” So we got prescribed Provera to start my period, and then Clomid to make me ovulate. Round one, nothing. That was pretty difficult, but I still had two more chances to go; it would work! Round two, my levels were higher, but still not high enough to know for a fact that I ovulated. So we waited to see if I was pregnant. Nope, nothing.

Round 3 started in July of 2016-- let’s try this whole thing one last time. It worked! I ovulated! I knew I had, so on day 21 I went to the doctor and had a blood test (man am I sick of blood tests after getting 2 every round). Results came back, and I ovulated! I was ecstatic. It worked this time. I was going to be a mom! I started planning how Mark and I were going to tell our families, and eventually the world, that we were pregnant. Mark and I had our names picked out and were ready for a boy or a girl. But ultimately, we had to wait for another 10 days to see if I was pregnant.

In those 10 days I had so many pregnancy symptoms. You may think, “You were only 3 maybe 4 weeks along, how could you possibly know what pregnancy feels like?” After you have googled every “pregnancy symptom” known to man, and googled multiple times “first pregnancy symptoms,” you know what to look for. Anyways, these ones were legit. I told my mom and my sister-in-law what I felt and they assured me by saying that yes, this was stuff that they felt or similar. I was elated! So come day 7 after finding out I ovulated, I started spotting. I thought to myself, “Ok this is the last sign I needed. I just know for sure now.” Then day 8, still a little spotting. Day 9, the flood gates opened. This was not spotting. This is a full-fledged heavy period. Oh boy, did I cry.

Here is the other part I talked about when I became angry with the Lord. He had tricked me. He had given me hope, watched me get excited, let me spot, and then cruelly released the flood gates. I was bitter. I never wanted to do anything for Him again. I didn’t want to go to church, I didn’t want to go to the temple, I didn’t want to pray, and ultimately, I laid in bed having a bitter pity party. My mom instantly decided that she needed to make a road trip to ensure that I was ok after I told her I started my period. A mother always knows, right? And mine knew that I was not ok. She came here and made me get up and do things and go places. I didn’t want to though. I didn’t want her to know how far gone I was, how far gone my testimony was, or how angry I was with the Lord. I remember one night taking a drive with Mark while my mom was out for a bit. I just drove, and cried. We drove up to the hills in silence, other than my crying. Poor Mark had no idea what to do to make me feel better. I finally pulled over after driving for about 20 minutes and just bawled. I told Mark about everything I was feeling, even though he had heard it a million times over and could probably recite my own feelings to me, as well as I could. He sat there and patiently listened, then he offered his spiritually guided words, which at the moment, let’s be honest, was the last thing I wanted to hear. It actually kind of irritated me that it seemed Mark was on “His” side. The side of the Father who I so strongly felt had abandoned me and mocked me in my time of need. Of course, I knew in the back of my mind that I was overreacting. Give it time and I would be back to myself. I was just mad at that time.

Like I said, I just needed time, and eventually I came back around. I repented of all that I had said in anger to the Lord. I had to put my faith back in Him that things would work out in his time. But oh man, when people would tell me to “just wait, it’s all in God’s time,” “just relax,” “I know what you are going through,” or “you are still young, you have time,” I would get livid. I would try to be polite, because I know it is an awkward situation and that really nothing can be said to make me feel better. But I didn't want them to tell me it would happen; they didn’t know that for sure. I didn’t need them to tell me how they went through this years ago, because surely they didn’t remember what it is like. I know these feelings of mine were expressions of anger, but I felt like no one could relate to me unless they were going through it at this very moment.

Mark and I had tried our 3 rounds, but when they failed, we decided to take a little break. Well that didn’t last long. I just hated being stagnant or at least that is how I felt I was being. When Mark and I went home to visit my family, my mom set up an appointment with my previous OB/GYN from before I was married. She visited with me and Mark. She looked over what had already happened and decided on 3 more rounds of Provera and Clomid. She also told me that she thought I might have PCOS (Poly Cystic Ovarian Syndrome, a hormonal imbalance that disrupts regular ovulation) so she put me on a low carb diet to help fix this. I thought that would be so easy, but I didn’t realize how many carbs I ate and how much I loved them. I’ll be honest, I still haven’t mastered this whole low carb diet thing yet, but I am getting better.

After we got back from our trip to visit my family I got sick with a cold, but that was ok, because I was starting my Provera, and things were right in the world. Then, at the end of that week, I had a visit to the ER. Lucky me, I had a stomach ulcer. I was sure this wouldn’t cause any problems with me taking my Clomid, but I figured that I’d better call my doctor and ask before I started taking it. So I called, and the nurse told me she didn’t know why it would be a problem taking the Clomid. I was so excited, but then I got a call back from her about 10 minutes later where she told me that she had talked to a doctor and that it would be best if I waited a month or two to ensure my stomach had healed (just in case I got pregnant and got very sick and threw up a lot). I was so sad. My hope of having a kid was stolen from me again. I was just sad this time though, not bitter, hich is what I have told myself is an acceptable response. I can be sad that I am not pregnant, but I am not allowed to be bitter anymore. I need to keep my head up and believe in the Lord and His plan and timing for me.

Our break after the stomach ulcer ended up lasting much longer than expected. The ulcer happened in September 2016, and we decided to go back to an OB/GYN in our area where we lived in February in 2017. As much as I didn’t want to take that break, it was much needed. I grew so much in that time and became stronger. I could now better stand on my own two feet. So we went to the doctor, and this doctor was amazing. He sat down with us and described everything that should be happening in my body that isn’t. Next, he went over all the options we had to get us pregnant and what order we would try them in. He decided to go with Femera (another thing like Clomid) and Provera. He gave us a couple months of trying this again before moving on to more expensive options. So we have been doing those rounds. Things are moving in the right direction. My body is responding better, I haven’t taken provera since the first round, and I’m on my 3rd. My body isn’t quite to a regular cycle time frame yet, but it is getting closer each time.

I still don’t know when I will get pregnant. I do know my strength though. I am strong after going through this. I can do hard things. I can be happy in the middle of trials. It’s not easy. Some weeks are better than others, especially when I have medicine messing with my hormones. I choose to be happy though. I hate being a negative person. I also have learned that I have experiences to share. I have friends and family that are going through similar experiences that I went through, and when they turn to me, I can give them advice or answer questions for them. That honestly lately has been the biggest thing for me-- helping others going through this. I will always choose joy. I will choose to be happy and help other people.

6.07.2017

Understanding Suicide

I have a very dear friend, whose husband committed suicide a couple years ago.  This was a tragedy for me, particularly because I was very deeply and silently struggling with depression at the time, and I had experienced my own times of deep darkness when it seemed that suicide might be the only option for me.  But seeing how this tragedy has very tenderly affected his sweet family, I have been able to realize time and time again why I need to hold on through the darkest of dark times for my husband and daughter.

This man is one of the inspirations for this blog, and I continue to think of him often when I write.  What if he could have known he wasn't alone?  What if he could have read someone's story, maybe even my story, and known that there was hope?  Would things have turned out differently?  Of course, there is no way to know if there could have been an alternative outcome, but one of my greatest hopes is that maybe what I write could help a family avoid such a devastating tragedy in the future.

One day, I was talking to my remarkable friend (seriously I wish everyone could know her because her faith and strength inspire me every time I get the chance to talk to her), and I told her about some of the thoughts I have had during my dark times.  She said that knowing these things brought her some comfort and peace in thinking about the darkness her husband must have been facing before taking his own life.

Soooo... I want to bravely, vulnerably, and fearfully share those same thoughts here with the hope that they can provide some comfort and peace to someone else facing the tragic suicide of a family member.  I know my experiences may be very different, so I'm not trying to make light of this at all or to say that I understand completely.  I'm just hoping my humble words can bring light and understanding to this dark and often unspoken subject.

There have been two specific times in my life when I thought all hope was lost, and I was sure that I would not and could not go on.  One of these times was in the fall of 2015 after we first moved to Iowa, and the other time was just over a month ago.  There have been other times of fairly deep darkness where I considered the possibility that I might not be able to continue on, but those times were less severe and less frightening.  Both of these more serious times, I had certain thoughts and feelings that continued to propel me further into the darkness, until it seemed that there was no reason to keep fighting.

(Side note for my own sake: I know it may seem appropriate to say, "You just have to stop thinking that way" or to ask, "Why didn't you do something to pull yourself out?" but I want to make it clear that I was not choosing to feel this way.  It was something very real and chemically wrong that was making me feel this way.  PLEASE recognize that, and please refrain from judging me based on something you don't understand.  I promise if I could have chosen to never have faced a darkness like this, I would most definitely have chosen that option.)

These thoughts included:
  • "It would be so much better for my family if I was gone."  I couldn't shake the thought I had that my husband and daughter deserved someone better than me, and I would only be doing them a service by taking my own life.
  • "My family would be so happy if I was gone."  I really thought this.  I pictured them being so happy and giddy about finding out that I was never coming back.  
  • "There is no way out."  I felt trapped and could not comprehend with my very broken mind that there was another way to escape the pervasive darkness that surrounded my heart.
  • "I don't want to feel better again."  I really thought that I didn't want to feel better, because feeling better would include feeling terrible again later, and I couldn't face the reality at that time that going back up would only mean crashing down sometime in the future.  It seemed like it would be better to stay low forever or to end things altogether, so I wouldn't have to face that devastation ever again.
In my stable mind right now, I recognize that these are not valid thoughts in any way, but in my times of darkness, these thoughts were so real and so intrusive.  I was not thinking about how hurt and devastated and lost my family would be without me.  I couldn't comprehend that.  I was not thinking that I wanted to be selfish at all.  In fact, I thought I would be doing what was best for them.

If you have lost a family member to suicide, please know that there is a darkness so deep that there seems like no way out.  Suicide is not a selfish act; rather it is an act of hopelessness and confusion.  I'm positive that your family member could not comprehend in their dark moment that what they were doing would hurt you so much, and if they did, I'm sure they would have reached out and held on longer.  Don't feel that you are to blame for the decision they made.  It's not your fault at all.  You did everything you could, and what they were going through was something too great for them to comprehend that it was possible to see light again.

If you are in darkness and are contemplating taking your own life, PLEASE reach out for help, as terribly difficult as that is.  Please keep believing in future light and know that things will get better, no matter how dark they seem right now.  Don't believe the lie that your family doesn't need you or that they want you gone.  It's not true.  They need you and would be completely devastated without you in their lives, even with the darkness you continually face.

I don't know why such awful feelings exist as a part of this mortal life, but I know they are real and very serious.  I never thought I would be someone to face a darkness like this, but now that I have, I know that part of my life mission is to be a voice for others facing similar darkness.  This is my small way of using my difficult experiences to shed some light on the thick darkness that accompanies mental illness.

6.05.2017

So Much Depression But Still Joy

This last month (since switching to a new medication), I have been stuck in depression much more than before.  This is good and bad.  It means that I haven't had hardly any of the shaking or not sleeping or unbearably heavy chest of mania.  But it does mean that I have slipped into a darkness that seems like it will never end, even when some of the symptoms of mania return.  With the mania, as unbearable as some of the physical symptoms are, I am able to keep a clearer mind about things.  It seems so much easier to keep an eternal perspective, to see that this is for my good, and to find joy in everything around me.  With the depression, I feel like I can no longer see that there is good in this, and it is so incredibly difficult to find joy in anything.  I just want to lay in bed and sleep until the pain of my broken heart magically heals, and I can wake up feeling like my normal, cheery self.  

My "Crazy Tracker Chart" for May

Also, the depression makes me question every part of my life.  I constantly feel that what I am doing with this blog is worthless and a waste of time (unlike the mania episodes when I love writing on here), so I constantly go back to read old comments or messages to remind myself that there is worth in this.  I feel so afraid and nauseous every time I post anything, because it feels almost impossible to be vulnerable anymore.  But I try to hope and have faith that what I write can help someone somewhere, even when I can't see clearly that it is doing anything but making me feel very exposed.

Honestly, this battle is so hard, and I wonder every day if I will eventually overcome the darkness, but I am trying my best to find joy in anything possible.  Here are some of the things I have found joy in this weekend:

  • Yesterday, I felt the very unmistakable and clear impression that I NEEDED to bear my testimony about an experience I had the day before.  I didn't want to share, because it meant being vulnerable about my depression and my heavy darkness, but I did it anyway.  Later, several people told me that what I had said was exactly what they needed to hear.  I was so glad to have yet another reminder that I can use my experiences to help others and that the Spirit can still influence my life, even when I struggle feeling the Spirit in a normal way.
  • My aunt and cousins got to visit us at church yesterday.  It was so good to see them and to feel their love.  They could not have come on a better week, because I needed that extra love, even though it meant lots of crying and hugging  :)
  • In Relief Society, we had a lesson about service.  One thing that stuck out to me is that I can serve in small ways without even leaving my house by sending a kind text or writing a letter on the days when the darkness is too great to leave the safe haven of my home.  
  • Also, at the end of Relief Society, my wonderful friend, the Relief Society president who taught the lesson, gave me a big, warm hug and expressed that she knows I am trying and that she hoped the lesson wasn't super overwhelming or difficult to hear given my current situation.  I so appreciated her thoughtfulness in making sure that I was doing alright and that the lesson didn't make me feel discouraged or upset.
  • I have had several small moments spending time laughing with friends that have momentarily pulled me out of my darkness.  It has been a welcomed relief every time and has given me so much hope to hold on through the darkness when it has returned each time.
  • I got to go camping and spend time with family and friends in nature taking pictures.  It can't get much better than that.  And an extra little tender mercy, I only got a few bug bites.  Yay!



  • My daughter has been obsessed with drawing smiley faces on everything.  It's like she knows what I need to see everywhere I turn.  She is so full of joy and brings me so much joy!

  • I'm learning to accept that it's okay if I don't know how I will go on, because the Savior will provide me with the necessary strength every single step I take.  He will always give me the ability to find joy in my life through any of the challenges that come my way.  He is the one that makes it possible to keep wading through darkness every day, knowing that light is coming soon.

5.30.2017

Peace

Sometimes as the emotional pain of this disorder begins to enter my heart, I become overwhelmed and feel incredibly alone knowing that, even if I try my best to explain what it feels like, no one can really know or understand.  It's paralyzing and so frightening.  It's like this terrifying nightmare of facing something so difficult and painful, but suddenly not being able to talk or make sense of it, almost not even being able to think clearly enough to utter a simple prayer asking for help.  And then the fear intensifies and multiplies every second until it literally seems unbearable, like it is engulfing me.

Tonight, this happened.  I'm not sure what started it, but all of a sudden, I felt like I could hardly breath.  My emotional heart hurt, and I didn't know what to do.  I tried praying, but nothing came out.  I knew God could decipher the thoughts and feelings of my broken mind, but I was so scared.  I couldn't even think clearly enough to ask Him to help me.  With thoughts swirling around in my mind so quickly and my heart wishing that it could find relief in any way possible, I texted a friend asking her to pray for me.  I'm so blessed to have friends in Idaho who are an hour behind, so they have a greater chance of still being awake even when it's late at night.

I felt so desperate.  I just needed someone to pray for me.  She quickly texted back, and a bit of the intensity lifted knowing that someone was praying the words that I wanted to say but couldn't.  We continued texting back and forth as I tried to distract myself from the awful feelings knowing that I could be up all night facing them, when suddenly, the most beautiful, relieving, calming feeling of peace washed over me.  I didn't feel alone or afraid anymore, I didn't feel overwhelmed about how I was going to manage to get up in the morning, and I didn't feel like my heart was heavy with sorrow.  All of that was lifted.  And in its place was peace.

It breaks my heart knowing that this nightmare will continue to visit over and over again, but my heart feels so much JOY in knowing that the feelings of peace that replace the sorrow, terror, and fear will wash over me time and time again.  Sometimes it takes a long time for the peace to come, but it always does.  Always.

In some ways, I am very blessed to get to go through this, because the greater the struggle I have, the more meaningful and powerful the peace when it comes.  It's like I get to experience these mighty miracles nearly every week as I fight to survive and find joy through this indescribable pain.  I get to feel firsthand the peace of God that passes all understanding, the peace that allows my heart to find joy through my brokenness.  I'm sure I will always wish that this wasn't a reality in my life, but right now, I truly feel blessed to see God's hand working so intimately in my life in my desperate moments of need.

That We Might Have Joy: Sarah's Story

When I was about 10 years old, my parents got divorced. From then on, my childhood consisted of flying back and forth to spend time with each parent, splitting up holidays, and trying to avoid “picking sides.” My dad lived on the west coast, and my mom lived in Missouri. I lived with my mom up until the summer after my eighth grade year. It was then that I decided I wanted to try out living with my dad. I had friends where he was, and it was nice to have a fresh start. It worked out really well... until the middle of my sophomore year. I’m not going to go into very much detail, because to be completely honest, it’s painful to revisit those years. I’ve moved on, and it’s not fun to go back there. It was a living hell. I ended up hating my mom. Don’t worry, she knows how I felt back then, and we’ve had some good chats about it since. But to make a long story short, my dad was married to a woman, she started telling lies about my dad, my mom got word and believed said lies, and I got stuck in the middle. I struggled a lot during that time of my life. I felt like I lost everything. I questioned a lot of things-- things I knew to be true, relationships, and just life in general. I didn’t think there was any way to be happy.

It was an EFY counselor that helped me realize that Heavenly Father loves me, cares about me, and hears my prayers, and that was what helped me slip out of my depressive state. I was 15. My mom sent me to EFY thinking it would help me. It did, but at the time I was not about to admit that to her. While I was there, I got word that my grandpa was not doing so hot and probably didn’t have much time left. I wasn’t very close to my grandpa, but for some reason, I was struggling with that. My counselor was talking to me the night I found out trying to comfort me. I can’t remember what exactly happened that night so many years ago, but I will never forget the feelings that I had. It was as if Heavenly Father Himself had wrapped His arms around me and was giving me a hug, telling me that everything would be okay. I knew that the feeling wasn’t just referring to my grandpa’s situation. I knew that the Spirit was comforting me in all the aspects of my life at that time, including everything that was going on with my mom. That feeling was so strong that it was undeniable that it came from God. I will never forget it. I have felt that feeling so many other times in my life since as well.

Fast forward to now… I can look back on those experiences I had in my teenage years and know that I would not be the person I am right now had I not gone through that. I’ve had many struggles. I still, even to this day, have fears of marriage and worry about ever being in any position where my kids or anyone I love is put through anything like that. I’ve struggled with the thought of getting married, then finding out the man I married is not the man I thought he was. I’ve struggled with the thought of never getting married at all. I’ve struggled with the unintentional pressure that people have put on me when it comes to the topic of marriage. I’ve come so close more times than I would like to admit to “settling.” I’m not perfect, but I know what my weaknesses are. I’ve been working on them. That’s all that is really asked of us-- that we try our hardest.

I had a dream a few weeks back where a really good friend that I haven’t seen in years was asking me how I deal with everything. I don’t remember what specifically we were talking about, but I remember replying to their inquiry with, “I just choose to be happy.” And it’s as simple as that! I’ve had to learn this over and over in my life that being happy is an internal choice every single moment of every single day. Yeah, crappy things happen all the time to people, but if you choose to focus on the good things and stay positive, your life is so much better! And not only that, but you attract people that are also happy, and life is so much better!

Another thing that has helped me find joy is the atonement of Jesus Christ. It was definitely not the easiest thing to not only forgive my mom, but to forgive other people that were involved in that situation. But I know, through the power of prayer, that Jesus Christ suffered for me. He suffered for everyone that has ever sinned or done wrong. And the amazing thing about the atonement is that it doesn’t just cover our sins. It covers our grief, it covers our loneliness, it covers our hurt and our pain, it covers every single thing that we have and will ever go through! Christ know us perfectly. He is the one that helped me get through that hard time in my life, He is the one that has helped me find peace through forgiveness, and He is the one that helps me fight my fears every single day!

5.26.2017

Moments of JOY

So much has happened since I last wrote.  Sometimes when the darkness is so intense and the pain in my heart and mind so real, I wonder if I've lied and it's not really possible to find joy in everything like I say it is.  I wonder if I've asked for stories of finding joy and pretended to be on my own joyful journey, when really I'm just a hypocrite.  It's in these moments of pervasive, all-encompassing darkness that I feel completely lost and simply hold on until even a bit of light returns.  In these moments, I can't comprehend that anything but darkness exists, and the thought of never seeing light again feels so real and overwhelming.  But I wait, gripping onto anything that tangibly represents light, and try to hope that just surviving counts for something until the worst of the pain passes.

The pain I experienced these last few days doesn't have adequate words of description or explanation.  Just darkness.  So. Much. Darkness.  But every time I thought it was not possible for my fragile heart to endure any more of this intense refining fire, something would happen that would lift me up just enough to keep me going, just enough to help me know that joy was still within my reach.

--One day, it was a friend who took the time to talk to me on the phone.  I finally found the courage to reach out and ask for help, and this kind friend was there, ready to listen and to help me know that everything was somehow going to be alright.  She helped me find the courage to reach out for more help and reaffirmed to me that I am loved.

--The next day, it was another friend, a friend who simply said, "I'm sorry you're struggling" and let me explain once again the pain that was swallowing me.  She didn't try to tell me how to fix it, but just listened and felt my pain with me.

--That same day, it was my husband, the wonderful man God has given me, who got home from working all day to find the dishes, laundry, and dinner undone and a terribly messy house with his wife curled up in bed, where I had been for the last 4 hours crying, and patiently listened while I explained how I didn't know how to go on.  As I repeated over and over again that he deserved better and that I couldn't keep moving forward, he repeated over and over again how much he loves me, brokenness and all.  I apologized for taking too much time to crochet instead of serving him and working hard around the house.  He kindly, gently, and genuinely expressed that it's okay because it helps me hold on and find joy, and he wants that for me.  How I ended up marrying a man who is so patient and understanding of my struggles is beyond me.  He is everything I need and more.

--Another day, it was a friend who wrote a post on her blog with me in mind, a post in response to my last post, all about her struggles and how it's okay to not be okay.  Her light, bravery, and example gave me the strength to want to keep fighting, which is sometimes the hardest part of my battle.

--God continually brought to my remembrance something that happened last week that could help me remember that everything hadn't always been so dark.  Last Wednesday, I had 6 things planned for the day, and for one reason or another, each of the 6 things ended up being cancelled.  Normally, this would have been way too much for my mind to handle, and I would have spent the next few days trying to get back up from even one of these things changing.  But that time, I was just fine.  It didn't even bother me at all.  Knowing that this had only happened one week before, I could hold onto the hope that my currently broken brain would find peace again.

--Yesterday, while sitting around the dinner table, my husband told me about a conversation he had with his co-workers earlier that day.  One guy started talking about his neighbor with a mental illness and how she should be taken away and put in an institution.  My husband could have sat back and listened to this conversation, not saying a word, but he didn't.  Instead, he educated them about mental illness and the exhausting process it takes to find the right medication to help.  He shared some of my experiences and quickly softened the hearts of his co-workers toward those struggling with these challenges.  This really lifted my heart knowing that my husband was willing to defend me and all others who face difficult mental illnesses to anyone who just didn't understand because they hadn't experienced it for themselves or with a loved one.

Although things are not quite back to normal yet (I'm not even sure what normal is for me anymore), things are not completely dark and hopeless like they were for a few days either.  I once again believe with all my heart that it is possible to find joy in all things, even in the darkest of situations, and that even when things seem completely hopeless, there is always hope.

Image result for quotes about joy

5.23.2017

7 Months Later...

These last couple of weeks, I have pulled back a lot.  I haven't wanted to share anything on here or with anyone in person.  When someone asks how I'm doing, I just say that I'm fine, even though I'm not.  I smile in front of everyone and pretend that everything is better, but it's not.

Some days, I tell myself that this is my new normal, so I can't keep asking for help 7 months later.  Some days, I'm simply too tired to ask for help, because I'd rather just sleep until it's better.  Some days, I wish someone knew how hard it is, but I can't bring myself to tell anyone.  It's just too much and too hard.  So I hold it in every day.  I usually don't even cry anymore.  I hold everything in and hope that it will go away if I don't acknowledge it.

I know this isn't healthy.  I know asking for help doesn't expire and that I have wonderful friends who would drop anything to come help me.  I know it's okay to cry and not to be alright.  I know all of these things, but it doesn't change what I do.

I've never felt more alone in my life than I have the last few weeks.  It's not anyone's fault but my own.  I just don't know how to handle something that isn't short-term, something that doesn't resolve itself right away or in the near future, something that is long and hard and emotional and tiring, something that requires asking for help and crying in front of people over and over and over again.

Lately, I have to constantly remind myself that this blog is not dumb or annoying to people, and if it is, that they can just scroll past the links if they don't want to read what I write.  I have to remind myself that this is real and that what I write is real, not someone asking for attention or sympathy.  I have to remember that people need vulnerability and honesty, especially people walking the same road, so it's okay if my life is not perfectly wrapped up and tied with a bow yet, even 7 months later.

I guess I've just hit a really rough patch of having to learn how to live with something that may never get fully better or may require me receiving help often.  How I feel right now will get better, and hopefully I can navigate through this and help someone else, but until then, I will do my best to share when I feel like I can share and pull back when I need some of my own space.

I CAN FIND JOY EVEN THROUGH THIS!  (I say this to myself about 10,000 times a day right now)

5.22.2017

That We Might Have Joy: Natalie's Story

Shantelle reached out to me a long time ago, asking if I would be willing to share my story. I am a teacher, a coach, and in grad school, so that was my excuse for not doing it at the time. I think the real reason: it wasn't time. 

Long story short:  I am 29 years old, single, never married, with zero kids.  (For the LONG story, you can go HERE)

And most important: my life never has, and probably never will, work out the way I envision or plan it. Ever.

Now being single and not having kids, is not for not wanting those things or not trying.  They are by far the deepest desires of my heart.  And there is always a part of me that feels incomplete or unfulfilled. There’s a piece of me that is missing.  So here is how I find joy in the journey while feeling like a partial version of myself.

My prescription seems simple, but can be difficult to maintain.

1.       Trust Heavenly Father completely.
2.       Forget myself and serve others.
3.       Count my blessings.

1.       Trust Heavenly Father completely.
   This has taken me over 25 years to master.  Through countless priesthood blessings I have received, and many tender mercies I’ve recognized, I have finally figured out that Heavenly Father is aware of me.  That He knows me, loves me, has high expectations for me, and that He has a plan for me.  As I have grown in my relationship with Him, I have finally been able to give Him my trust.  I am no longer worried if everything will work out or not.  I know it will.  After countless things not working out the way I want them, I have learned that He knows what really is best for me and I trust that.  I know without a shadow of a doubt that I am going to receive all the things I have been promised, as I continue to be obedient and do my best at holding up my end of the deal.  Life has gotten so much happier since FINALLY learning and accepting that.  I highly recommend it to anyone.  And will gladly share the process if anyone is unsure how to get there.
2.       Forget myself or use myself to serve others.
   This is always the norm response when it comes to feeling happier and finding joy.  I am pretty busy and cannot physically serve a lot of people.  But I have been able to find joy in the journey as I recognize that the things I am learning along the way are for the benefit and learning of those with whom I come in contact.  I love listening to others about their hardships.  And I love sharing the lessons I’ve learned with them.  No, it doesn’t always solve their problem…But it helps so much when you know there is someone there who can empathize, understand, or just let you be you with whatever you are struggling with.  And I pride myself in having a judge-free zone, ALWAYS.  Again, it makes life so much happier when other people can feel like themselves with you.  And it makes it easier for you to feel like you can be yourself around others. 
3.       Count my blessings.
   This one is pretty self-explanatory.  I do want to share some of my blessings that I’ve counted over the past few years:
    I have been able to travel and take part in the lives of my nieces and nephews.
    I have been able to explore the world and see things others may never get an opportunity to see.
    If someone ever needs anything, I can always drop what I am doing to serve them.
    I have a career.
    I’ve been able to work on a Master's Degree without too many interruptions.
    I’ve been able to decide what I want to do with my life and work toward those goals.
    I have been able to draw closer to most of my family members.
    I have drawn so much closer to Heavenly Father
    I have become more aware of my mental health.
    I have learned how to travel the uneasy waters of emotional and mental health.
    I have been able to serve so many people
    I have served a mission.
    I have met people who have impacted my life for the better.
    I am able to sit and take in all of General Conference.
    I have grown in my faith.
    I am financially independent.
    I can handle all medical issues and insurance questions.
    I can be an adult and do it successfully.
    I have formed opinions and views that are mine. 
    I have been filing away stories and learning opportunities for future Little Natalies that may grace the world with their presence.
    I have become happy and proud with who I am as a person and am at peace with the choices I make. 

[Side Bar: Please, please as a single woman, I urge anyone that knows singles to stop treating them as a sub citizen in society.  We are human beings, there is nothing wrong with us, and we really are trying.  We know you mean well, but our marital status does not define us.  Who we are as people and what we accomplish in our daily lives does. We are aware of our status and we are doing the best we know how.]

I am still single.  I am still childless.  I still feel like a part of me is incomplete. This is not one of those posts where the time and patience I’ve put into this journey has brought a fruitful “happy ending.”  There are still days where I hurt and ache so badly that I feel like I’m going to break into pieces again.  There are still days where joy is hard to grasp and I feel myself falling into the bottomless pit of pain and hopelessness.  But I survive.  I find joy in the journey and grasp as tightly as I can to the truth that Heavenly Father loves me and His plan will work out in the end. 

Because I am a daughter of Heavenly Father and that makes me pretty great. 

5.20.2017

Patience

I'm not sure that a low after a high will ever be any less devastating.  When I'm on the high, I'm always sure that I will handle the low better than I have in the past, that I'll suddenly be more faithful and patient this time around, but that has yet to happen.  Instead, I still just endure and wait and pray for it to go away, all while wondering if everyone else could handle this so much better than I do.

But as I sit here and can hardly see the screen through my wet eyes, I repeat the same thing that I repeat to myself nearly every week when this happens-- the light will come again, it's so worth it to hold on, don't give up, you are loved, you are needed, you're doing better than you think you are.

I have nothing wise or profound to say, no advice or things I've learned, only the simple faith that this will pass, somehow I'll keep growing stronger, and someday I'll see that wonderful light again.  Until then, I'm holding on and trying to work on cultivating true patience, something that will most likely take a whole eternity to master.

5.17.2017

Happy Half Birthday Project!

It has been 6 months since I started my "That We Might Have Joy" project, and it has changed my life forever.

These are the things I've learned so far:
  • Everyone struggles with something, even though our struggles may be very different and we may seem to have it all together on the outside.
  • Finding joy is a difficulty everyone faces, and yet, it is possible to find joy in every circumstance.
  • Sharing our stories of triumph over struggle helps others to find joy and strength through their own trials.
  • We are stronger than we ever knew possible, and we find our strength when we go through difficult things.
  • We can do hard things!  Especially when we are doing hard things together.
Of course, the number of people reading these stories means nothing as far as how inspiring and uplifting they are compared to others, but I wanted to share the Top 10 Most-Read Stories, in case some people haven't been able to read all of them and want to go back to read some of the most-read ones.  



  1. Julianne's Story-- finding joy through the death of her two year old son who was hit by a car
  2. Rachel's Story-- finding joy through putting her baby up for adoption
  3. Tiffany's Story-- finding joy through the death of her two year old son who drowned in the washing machine
  4. Marion's Story-- finding joy through the death of her baby girl who was shaken by her husband
  5. Emalee's Story-- finding joy through postpartum anxiety
  6. Olivia's Story-- finding joy through miscarriage
  7. Britt's Story-- finding joy through adoption (the other side of Rachel's story)
  8. Cathy's Story-- finding joy through infertility and adoption
  9. Lindsay's Story-- finding joy through infertility
  10. April's Story-- finding joy through the death of her premature daughter


P.S.  Yesterday was a day for the books!  I felt like myself for an entire day!!!!  I wanted to do things and to be productive.  I felt so much love and other good, positive emotions.  I remembered that I used to make to do lists (haven't done that in 7 months), and I wanted to make one, because I actually wanted to fit more into my day.  I got quite a bit done during the day and didn't feel overwhelmed about any of it.  I acted silly and weird with my husband (always a sign that things are going well).  I remembered how journal writing used to be a thing for me, and I wanted to start doing that again soon.  I wanted to take my medicine (huge thing!!!), because I felt great hope that life can be good again, and I will want to experience it.  I made a plan for baking with my daughter this week, something we have not done in months.  I felt like I truly love being a mom and want to be the best mom I can be.  I felt happy-- real, genuine happiness.  Now, I know it will be a long time before I can get back to where I was, because I have lots of healing/recovering to do and I have to take things slow, but yesterday was a breath of fresh air in helping me realize that I will get there again.  I'm determined to overcome this monster, and I really believe that will happen.

5.16.2017

Thom's Story

Not all mothers are created equal.

This isn’t a set up to tell you my mama is better than your mama. It’s an intro to a long post discussing the reality that mothering isn’t the same for all women - my mother being case in point.

I was young so I don’t remember if it was 1978 or 1979 when my mother had a “nervous breakdown”. She was diagnosed with manic depression. It is more commonly referred to today as bipolar disorder. Since then, she’s struggled to fill the traditional role of what a mother is “supposed to be” as she’s battled this mental illness.

As a result of her challenges with bipolar disorder, our family situation has been unique to say the least. She’s never been able to truly manage her mental illness. Because of this, mama didn’t do things that many “traditional” mothers did. She just couldn’t. And as a child, I struggled with this. I wondered why my mama wasn’t like everyone else’s. She didn’t drive me to soccer practice or make little star-shaped sandwiches for my lunch. Although, I’m sure she wanted to. She didn’t help me pick my homecoming date’s corsage or make sure I practiced the piano. That wasn’t how she functioned. I’m not going to lie - I didn’t accept the limitations of her illness and hospitalizations in my youth. It was hard for me to see how my mama was versus how everyone else’s mothers were. For years I longed to have a different type of mother.

But one day, my heart changed.

I remember clearly maybe 15 years ago driving mama to a mental health facility after she had an episode. When things got out of control for her, it was best to take her to the psychiatric unit to get her out of potentially dangerous situations at home and to alter her medications to get her functional again. On this particular drive, I witnessed before my very eyes how her mind succumbed to the effects of the chemical imbalance in her brain. It was as if she became a different person right before my eyes - a product of her disease. In that moment, God came. He helped me know that my mother wasn’t this illness. Unfortunately she was suffering the effects of her mortal condition. She was not the person bipolar disorder made her appear to be. In an instant, I saw her in a different light. I saw the beauty of her soul. God gave me a glimpse of who she was before the illness and who she was inside despite the illness. And in that moment, I knew one thing for sure - my mother loved me. She has always loved my sister and I with all the capacity she can love as our mother.

Now, when I look back on the hard times we endured as a family, I realize the one constant that the disorder has never taken away is my mother’s love. Although she still struggles today, she is managing the best she can.

I take this day, Mother’s Day 2017, to salute all the mothers who struggle to be the type of mother they envisioned themselves being. I extend an arm of understanding to all the children who feel like their mother wasn't what they wanted them to be.

Not all mothers are created equal. But Laura Emma Reed is the best mother for me!

Love you, mama!

5.15.2017

That We Might Have Joy: Sadee's Story

My name is Sadee Carney. I am a mom of two crazy little kids with one on the way. This is my story.

My husband and I were in a hard spot this time last year with a recent job loss after 4 years of diligent service. We didn't know what our next step was, and as my husband searched for jobs, I attended the temple one day. I asked if we were meant to add any other children to our family and let God know that we were willing to do His will. Well, I kept getting strong promptings every time I went that we needed to have a baby. I knew it wouldn't take us long because we have been very fortunate to be so fertile. I was so scared. We couldn't even pay our rent, let alone add another baby to the mix.

But we were diligent and decided to go forward with this new trial. This was just the beginning. When we got pregnant, my husband had been accepted into school and had a job that could work along with his school schedule. BUT, we were still struggling to pay our bills. So, we tried another job. This job was the complete opposite of what we were looking for. Like, he had a desk job at a tech company for four years and all the sudden we were looking at manual labor working in oil business. Plus it was a cross country move! We felt like it was the right move and everything lined up for us to move within a week. My husband left first, and we joined him a month later.

By this time we were getting close to finding out what we were having. Mind you, not a soul knew we were pregnant (I was lucky and didn't have morning sickness or really show at all until I hit 20 weeks, but that was well after we had moved from all family and support). We went in to meet our new doctor, and we did the basic overview of this pregnancy. We then went in for our anatomy scan, when we learned the devastating news. Our baby girl had a fatal diagnosis of anencephaly. Anencephaly is where the brain and skull do not fully form, meaning that she would not be a viable baby. We also learned, along with anencephaly, she had other genetic issues that we could have been at fault for. My husband immediately told me that this pregnancy was still a trial of our faith. I was so....scared, sad, guilt-ridden....you name it. How, if we were listening to the Lord and doing what he had asked, would He allow this to happen?

I immediately started talking to moms on Facebook and looking for support groups. There are two women that really stuck out. One had already lost her son to something else, and the other was a mom of one, soon to be two, angels. Her little girl had the same diagnosis, and she was much further along. I saw that, even through all this hardship, she was so full of light! She is religious but not LDS, and she had such a strong light about her that I wanted to befriend her so I could feel that warmth.

We had a ton of family and friends and strangers praying for us, and those prayers brought such comfort during the hard days, the days I didn't feel like I could even get out of bed or see because my eyes were so tear-stained.

I had moments of joy though. I knew that my daughter was so special that she didn't need to stay on this Earth long to gain a spot in the celestial kingdom. The first mom I mentioned helped me with the eternal perspective on things. She mentioned that our sweet babies were already so perfect, and as parents, our goal is to raise our children so they can obtain a celestial being. How great it is to already have one waiting there! This has helped me on my hardest days, because I have come so close to angels who are building me up daily, holding my hand, and walking me through this. I am so important and special, because my daughter chose our family. She chose me to be her mother and to carry her so she could gain a body. That is all she needs, and then she will be on the other side waiting for us to come be with her!

Through such sadness and difficulty with going through loss, there is joy. The gospel brings me joy in knowing that this life is so short, and this is not the end. We will get to raise our daughter; we just need to be worthy. So in a sense, it makes the celestial kingdom more tangible.

I find joy in my two kids, the sensitive sweet spirits they are, and the knowledge they have about the gospel. We have really good days and then we have hard ones. On the hard ones, they let me know how much they love me with their funny personalities and tender hugs and kisses, wanting to just sit and snuggle and talk to their little sister. They know that she is going to die, but they also know that Jesus will take care of our little lamb just like the the picture by Greg Olsen.

I am a firm believer in the ripple affect. I find such joy when I hear how Eva's journey has helped another family come closer into the gospel. My cousin recently told me that she has had such a strong desire since Eva's diagnosis to get herself and her family ready to have a temple/celestial marriage because she doesn't want to leave this world and not be sealed to them.

So yes, this journey has been hard, but as I approach my due date and prepare to say goodbye to our sweet little girl, I know that goodbye isn't forever. Weatherford Clayton spoke about death on the Saturday morning General Conference session this past April, and it hit me hard. I will get to witness such a special sweet peace as we say goodbye to this world and as angels welcome her into heaven. It's hard to say that I look forward to that day, but I do. I want to feel that my baby won't hurt. She won't be in pain, and she will be welcomed by the family that have been walking me through all these hard times. I know that my Great Grandma Eva has been with me during all the moments, and she will be there for our sweet little Eva to welcome her home. And Jesus will be there to take care of her just like her big sister says.

Heavenly Father does not send us trials to be mean or cruel, because honestly, this is a hard trial, and it is unfair anybody has to endure child loss. He does this to strengthen us and make us better, so we can return to Him. So I can return to my daughter and raise her. I never regret this decision of getting pregnant and carrying her to term, because I know she is forever mine, and there is no 'death do us part'. That is Joy. So here I am struggling to say I am the mom of three beautiful children, but I think it is so joyous to know that Eva has a mission, and to know that her mission isn't just on the other side. It is on this side as well. I have had many people tell me how Eva has changed their life for the better as well. To me, that is joy.

My name is Sadee Carney and I am a mom of THREE beautiful children.

To read more of Sadee's story, click HERE.



5.11.2017

My Slow-Leaking Hole

After having a few days of light, I feel like I get a slow-leaking hole, a hole that drains my light little by little until something pops and the remaining light leaves at once.  Usually that "something" is an event, not a huge event that would warrant a pop, but an event nonetheless.  Sometimes it's a small change in plans that my broken brain just can't handle, a bit of criticism that I can't seem to get out of my mind, or the realization that I'm just not keeping up with everything I should be doing.

These last few days have been slow-leaking days.  I can tell that the light is leaving, and something will make my hole pop soon, but it hasn't happened yet.  I can feel the darkness slowly creeping in and filling the places that were once completely occupied with light.

For now, I'm holding strong and trying not to let myself slip into that deep dark hole, but I know I can only keep it up for so long.  I'm still appreciating the light and trying to soak up every last bit of it, but I know it is leaving.  No matter how much I try not to think about it, I can't help but worry about what is coming next.  Will it be like last time?  Will I want nothing more for myself than to be gone forever?  Will I remember that light exists, that I've had light in my life before, and that the light will come again?  Will I remember to just hold on?

There is no saying what is to come or how deep the darkness will get, but I have a firm faith that somehow it will all be okay.  I might not understand next week or next month how I feel right now that it will all be okay, but it really will be.  Somehow all the broken pieces of my heart will be bound together again, just like they have been the last 28 cycles.  This one will be no different.

And just as it is an event that usually makes all the light leave at once, it is also usually an event that allows the light to start coming back in.  The light comes back every time.  Without fail.  That is one thing I can trust.

5.10.2017

That We Might Have Joy: Holley's Story


When I was younger, I read a book called "Harry Potter and The Chamber of Secrets," and I was completely in love. I read about a woman named "J.K. Rowling," and I knew one thing at the age of eleven--I wanted to be J.K. Rowling.

I’m 25 now, and well, that dream hasn’t exactly come true. I really suck at writing fantasy novels, and I honestly don’t think there will ever be another Harry Potter. Not to be so dramatic, I mean, J.K. Rowling was 32 when she published Harry Potter, and so many other authors don’t get big until after their twenties.

Anyway, the book I did publish I am quite proud of. It didn’t make me millions and have Robert Downey Jr. star in the movie, but “The Gift of a Friend’ brought me something that I never thought I could have, and that was joy.

"The Gift of a Friend" is the story of Harper Elias. She was really young when she became popstar "Scarlett Valentine." During this time, Harper starts being sexually abused by her uncle, and she turns to drugs and alcohol to cope. As a result, she spirals out of control, and is pulled out of Hollywood life. Hollywood life led her family to relocate to Utah, and that’s where Harper finds joy in the LDS Church. After Harper graduates high school, she goes back to Hollywood where she has to deal with fame and her new religion.

I knew once I published "The Gift of a Friend" that I wanted to write a sequel, and I was going to entitle it "The Gift of Forgiveness," but no matter how hard I tried, and no matter how outlined my story was, I just could not write it. So I decided to start talking about the issues that "The Gift of a Friend" brought up, including my own.

The day before I picked up Harry Potter, I was raped by someone I trusted. This was one of three instances where I was abused by this man. I wanted to write ‘The Gift of a Friend’ like it was therapy, a way to get out my own pain in writing, but it turned into something more. As soon as I started to tell my own story, people started to tell theirs. Several of my friends started to confess to me what happened to them as a kid. The world changes when someone says to you, "When I was younger, my Dad did this…. You’re the first person I’ve ever told." It made me feel like I was responsible for them. I was their voice, and I was proud of it.

In 2015, I started going to therapy at LDS Family Services, and it turned out to be the best decision that I have ever made. I started sorting out my own issues, and one day, I did something that I thought was impossible--I forgave my abuser. It was so sudden, as I just thought about how I never wanted to see this man again. But, if I was given a chance to do so in the next life, I would ask for forgiveness for him while he is on his judgment seat.

At first I didn’t know how to deal with this new found freedom that forgiveness had given me. I felt so great. Those things that haunted my thoughts were no longer there. I felt so free, and I wanted to share my thoughts with my friends. But my friends did not have the same thoughts. They were furious with me! They treated me like I was evil for forgiving this man. One of my friends, who insisted that she had forgiven her rapist, said that he did not deserve mercy from Heavenly Father for what he had done, and I just cried. Weren’t they happy for me?

I cried for days, until I forgave them too. I knew where they were. A few years ago, I was just like them. I didn’t care one bit if my abuser burned in hell for what he did to me. The idea of a rapist getting forgiveness sounded completely heinous to me! This was around the time that I knew I was ready to write "The Gift of Forgiveness," because I knew what forgiveness was now.

The worst thing that has ever happened to me, and quite possibly the worst thing to happen to me, became a blessing to me. If I could forgive someone for raping me, then I can forgive someone for saying harsh words or stealing my soda in the break room fridge at work. All the little things that happen to me, that can ruin any normal person’s day, didn’t matter at all.

I find joy in my journey. It's rough and hard. I mess up and do things that mock God (even if I don’t mean to). Things happen to me through other people’s indiscretions and my own. I do selfish things, and I think only of myself. But I know the Lord is there, and I know that He can take every single broken piece of us and turn it into something wonderful.

Moroni chapter 7 of the Book of Mormon tells us that "charity never faileth," and I know that is true. I have found my joy in following two of God’s greatest commandments, and that is "love one another" (John 13) and "forgive those who have trespassed against us" (D&C 64:8-11).

In short, I know that joy can be found in the power of the Atonement. By drawing on the most selfless act known to man, we are able to love each other without pause. Love encompasses every heartache we can ever experience. Because He died for us, we can have joy.