The more I face the darkness of this mental illness, the more I realize that it's the darkness that allows me to recognize the very smallest miracles and blessings. Those small miracles and blessings bring me the JOY I need to continue moving forward into the unknown future and to hold on with faith through pain and sorrow.
On Sunday, I received a wonderful miracle, an exact answer to a heartfelt plea. But before I tell about the miracle, I need to give it some context.
I had been in mania/panic for the last few days with all of its shaking, mind racing, chest burning, jaw tightening, little sleeping glory. Part of the racing thoughts is having these dreadful thoughts come into my mind randomly and having to fight to get them out. At first, I can fight them pretty well and rationally think through them. But the more they enter my mind, the more overwhelming they become, to the point where I begin to wonder if they are actually true.
This time, the thoughts started as: You need to be setting goals for this year. Normally, I LOVE setting goals and finding ways to keep them, but this year, I haven't wanted to think about it. I don't want to think about everything I could do last year that I simply can't do right now, and I don't know what I can handle so I don't know what kind of goals to set. I tried to think of some, but anything beyond getting up every day and taking care of my daughter's basic needs felt overwhelming.
Then the thoughts progressed: How will you ever handle having another baby if you can't even set some simple goals? And think about your scripture study. It's severely lacking. Why can't you just do better with that? When are you going to start exercising regularly again? Why can't you just push through this and handle everything?
I picked up a friend on the way to church, which was a great blessing, because I was going alone, so I probably would have ended up crying before even getting inside.
Then, I got to church and figured I would sit in the back by myself, so if I needed to cry, I wouldn't make a scene. But my wonderful friend asked if I wanted to sit by her, so I agreed. I could feel all of the emotion swelling inside of me. And my thoughts were racing around like a bouncy ball bouncing off the walls of my brain, spurring a new thought every time it hit a wall. The darkness in my heart was continually intensifying, and I felt paralyzed by the fear of hitting a peak of intensity at church.
The opening song was "Joseph Smith's First Prayer." As I sang, I pictured the darkness Joseph experienced before seeing the light of God and Jesus Christ, a darkness that might have resembled the darkness I felt in that moment. Then during the sacrament, I read Joseph's account:
After I had retired to the place where I had previously designed to go, having looked around me, and finding myself alone, I kneeled down and began to offer up the desires of my heart to God. I had scarcely done so, when immediately I was seized upon by some power which entirely overcame me, and had such an astonishing influence over me as to bind my tongue so that I could not speak. Thick darkness gathered around me, and it seemed to me for a time as if I were doomed to sudden destruction.
But, exerting all my powers to call upon God to deliver me out of the power of this enemy which had seized upon me, and at the very moment when I was ready to sink into despair and abandon myself to destruction—not to an imaginary ruin, but to the power of some actual being from the unseen world, who had such marvelous power as I had never before felt in any being—just at this moment of great alarm, I saw a pillar of light exactly over my head, above the brightness of the sun, which descended gradually until it fell upon me.The words he used to describe this experience struck me, as they were so closely connected to how I was feeling in that very moment. Seized upon, overcome, tongue bound, thick darkness, doomed to sudden destruction, sinking into despair, abandoned to destruction.
My thoughts turned to after sacrament meeting, how I was going to have to play piano in primary, then sit in Relief Society, and finally drive home. It was too much to process and definitely too much to do. I felt the weight of darkness press down on my body. I couldn't handle it. I had to leave. So I got up, walked out of the chapel, and ran to the bathroom. The tears were coming, so I needed to get there fast. I closed myself into a stall and sobbed. I tried not to let my crying make too much noise, but I wasn't even sure if I cared.
Suddenly, I wanted a hug. I wanted someone to hold my broken heart for just a moment, to squeeze me tight, and to tell me that everything would be alright. My husband was home sick, so I felt incredibly alone. No one else would know to wrap me in their arms while I cried. I felt trapped. So I prayed. I asked God to help someone know to give me a hug, but not just any hug-- a big, tight, warm, healing hug. I knew no one would give me a hug if I sat in the bathroom stall, and the messages being shared might help me, so after finishing my prayer, I left the stall. I had the plan of going back into the chapel, finding a seat in the back, and then finding someone after who could give me the hug I desperately needed. I had it all planned out perfectly.
But just as I was about to open the bathroom door, it opened on its own and in walked my beautiful friend. She saw me, and without saying a word, wrapped her arms around me and hugged me tight. I cried in her arms as she held me. I had felt so broken, so alone, and so afraid, but her hug, the exact answer to my prayer, filled me with joy. The darkness didn't leave, but I felt warmth, love, and support through the overwhelming darkness. She repeated back to me my own words: "This challenge is here to prove to you how strong you are." She genuinely expressed how she wished I didn't have to suffer in this way and that I am strong. After just a few minutes of healing words and hugs, we walked back into the chapel. My heart was not made whole, but the broken pieces were bound up and held together by a friend who listened to the Spirit and served me in God's place.