That We Might Have Joy: Whitney's Story

Flashback to 2012…. You see before your eyes a girl who is so happy, so sure of herself, and so confident. A girl who was living her dream of being an EFY counselor to many wonderful youth and about to start her junior year of college. A girl who finally found her niche in her major and was excited about what the future would hold. One that was so involved in every school club that she could find the time for and who, as the saying goes, “flew by the seat of her pants.”

All of that flying must come to an end though, right? On November 25th, 2012 on a normal drive home from Montana with a few of my roommates, I was starting to get drowsy at the wheel. I kept telling myself that I could make it to the next town and then take a nap. Pulling in to the next town, finally ready to fill up with gas and to take a much-needed nap, the drowsiness set in.  As I came around the corner toward the stoplight, and in the blink of an eye, I went from being 100 yards from a semi to 30 yards.  Hitting the brakes didn’t matter as the gravel I skidded on made its own decision to have me not fully make the “out of accident” territory turn, and I smashed into the back of a semi-truck.

The airbags went off, a piece of the seat belt flew back and hit one of my roommates, breaking her sinus bone under her eye. Another swore and said that she couldn’t feel her legs. My first thought was, “how could I have been so stupid.?” I always tried to be the safest, most aware.  This was not who I was. After being rushed to the hospital in Dillon, Montana, watching 2 roommates and another passenger being treated, refusing medical attention because of adrenaline, and being interviewed by the sheriff and receiving a ticket for inattentive driving, my passengers were cleared to go, we were picked up by my best friend and her parents and were on our way back to Rexburg.

I tried to continue as my normal, happy, outgoing self, but something was different. I wasn’t that same girl anymore. I didn’t want to go out.  I didn’t want to do anything with anyone anymore. I was essentially a hollow shell of myself. After a whole year of feeling this way and 3 of my best friends telling me that they felt something was off with me, and after receiving many promptings that I should talk to someone about it, I decided to act upon those feelings. I went to the counseling center on the BYU-Idaho campus, and I did their evaluation questionnaire and then met with a counselor. I was diagnosed with situational depression, anxiety, and mild anger. Being a psychology major, I couldn’t believe what I was hearing, because from what I had learned, everyone had some depression, anxiety, and anger, among other things, and so I immediately wanted to tell the therapist that she was wrong. She told me that she wanted to be able to meet with me, but right now till the end of the semester they had no openings except for a group therapy session. I chose to attend that and I learned many different things about myself, especially about how to take more control in my life. The following semester, they had openings for me to meet with a counselor, and I began seeing a therapist once a week. At first, I was apprehensive to talk to her about anything. It’s a weird feeling sitting across from someone you don’t know to discuss your internal self that you don’t share with anyone except those closest to you.

As time went on though, I learned to let go of that fear of opening up. I learned where some of my anger stemmed from, I learned how to recognize my anxiety and how to control it, and I learned what situational depression meant and how to recognize and defeat the effects of it. Most importantly though is that I learned about how to use the Atonement in my life in regards to my situation. I learned that I NEED help and that it’s okay for me to ASK for help from others and from my Father in Heaven. I learned that I am not alone through this, and that even though it’s hard to want to do things sometimes, the fact that I’m trying is what’s important.

Finding joy in this trial is not always easy. I continually get frustrated with myself when I see how being my old self would help in certain situations. I have to force myself sometimes to go out and do things. However, despite all of this, I have been able to find joy in who I’ve become now. I have learned to except my limitations and learned how to flourish in my strengths. I have found joy in knowing that my Savior and my Father in Heaven are aware of me in my needs and that they love me so much. I have found joy in learning how to open up to others and let people in, where before I would push people away. I find joy in accomplishing the tasks that I set out to do, despite depression telling me to not try. It is still a daily struggle, and I am still growing and trying to progress but I find hope and joy in knowing that I have grown so much in the last 4 years since my accident. I’m not who I was, but I feel like I am progressing into who God needs me to be, and because of that, I have learned to be grateful in my trials.

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