Light Breaking through the Darkness

These last few days, I was surrounded by darkness, a darkness so thick and so intense that I was sure I would be defeated.  I was sure that it would never let up and that I would never see the light again or live to tell the story of my darkness.  I held on with all my might as the mania/panic/whatever-else-it-could-be coursed through my veins like poison.  And I cried.  The tears flowed freely through the pain and confusion.

A large part of the pain was the fact that my diagnosis was removed and that the name for the awful feelings was removed with it.  Was I feeling panic?  Was I feeling mania?  Was it something completely different from those two things?  How would anyone begin to understand all the frightening feelings I was experiencing if they didn't even have a name?  It shouldn't have mattered if they had a name or not, but for some reason it did, and it weighed on my mind and heart so heavily.  I was filled with loneliness and fear.

Then thoughts of death began to enter my mind, but they weren't my own thoughts.  They would come suddenly, randomly, and uncontrollably, but I knew for a fact that I didn't invite them in.  I fought to remove them, but I was so tired and so weak.  So I cried and I slept a lot.  Crying helped relieve some of the intense pain, and sleeping acted as an escape from the terror.

I tried serving others to see if that would bring some light into my life, but the darkness was stubborn and wouldn't go away, so I cried as I served.  I bore my testimony on Sunday, because I knew that I needed to hear myself say what I know.  It felt like the only bit of strength I could hold onto.

Yesterday, I was supposed to go grocery shopping.  I woke up in the morning feeling an overwhelming weight of stress about going shopping.  How would I ever figure out the menus, make a shopping list, go to two stores, find everything, buy it, load it in the car, come home, bring some of it up (Kyle does most of that part), and put it away?  I couldn't fathom it.  Not to mention the overwhelming thought of having to prepare that food for the next two weeks.  I probably could have told Kyle how I felt and I'm sure he would have helped, but I didn't want to burden him with yet another thing that I couldn't do.  I was busy in the morning with something, but coming home, I cried.  I couldn't do it.  I just couldn't do it.

I came inside my apartment and went to my room to take a nap.  I needed to escape again.  But first, I cried some more.  I felt like I was stuck living in a nightmare, and I didn't know how I would ever be strong enough to endure until I could feel some relief.  These were the thoughts on my mind as I drifted off to sleep.

After who knows how long, I woke up to hear my phone vibrating.  It was a text.  It read:
My wife, Mary, has always loved sunflowers. She rejoices when they, in quite improbable places, appear on the roadside. There is a dirt road that leads to the home where my grandparents lived. When we started down that road, Mary would often exclaim, “Do you think we will see those amazing sunflowers today?” We were surprised that sunflowers flourish in soil which has been impacted by farm and snow removal equipment and the accumulation of materials that would not be considered ideal soil for wildflowers to grow. One of the remarkable characteristics of young wild sunflowers, in addition to growing in soil that is not hospitable, is how the young flower bud follows the sun across the sky. In doing so, it receives life-sustaining energy before bursting forth in its glorious yellow color. Like the young sunflower, when we follow the Savior of the world, the Son of God, we flourish and become glorious despite the many terrible circumstances that surround us. He truly is our light and life.
Just as soon as I had read the text, I got a call from a local florist asking if it was a good time to deliver flowers.  I answered that it was, and she said that she would come by sometime in the next hour.

Feeling a surge of energy from imagining myself as a sunflower flourishing despite the darkness of mental illness, I got up and started the shopping list.  I still didn't know how I would manage to do everything required to complete the grocery shopping, but I knew I could at least make the list.  When the list was done, there was a knock at the door.  I answered it and was greeted by a florist holding a beautiful bouquet of yellow flowers.

My eyes immediately filled with happy, thankful tears as I took this beautiful bouquet of light into my kitchen.  It filled me with the light and joy that had been missing from my life the last few days.  It filled me with energy and gave me hope.  I couldn't help but smile as I looked at these beautiful flowers!

I left to go shopping and cried the whole way to the store as I reflected on how a dear friend had followed the Spirit and had blessed my life in a way that only God could have known I needed.  I thanked Heavenly Father for this tender gift of service and felt an overwhelming feeling of His mindfulness of me.

And then...

I GOT THE GROCERY SHOPPING DONE!!!  That doesn't sound like a miracle, but it was literally a miracle!  The whole time I was shopping, I thought about this experience with the flowers and felt the strength of the Savior helping me to keep going and lifting the darkness that had filled my heart and mind for a few days.  I knew that I had won one more battle, and I was one step closer to winning the war.

When I got home, my husband commented that I was being silly, goofy, and energetic.  I couldn't help but thank God again for how this courageous act of following the Spirit had transformed my day and my weekend, so that I could enjoy the evening with my husband before he had to go back to work.

From this experience, I learned:

  • Light is always there!  It will always return, even when it leaves for a time.
  • Do not give up when the darkness fills your life.  There is always hope and always a reason to live.
  • God often meets our needs through other people.
  • Never forego following a prompting from the Spirit.  You never know how much that person needs it!
  • We can grow and flourish through all of the most difficult circumstances.
  • We can do hard things!

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