That We Might Have Joy: Julianne's Story

“He’s dead.  He's dead.”  Those were the only words combined with sobbing that I heard on the other end of the line. It was 8:30am, and I was 2 weeks postpartum with my third son. What was going on? I was in shock. “Who is dead?” and “What is going on?”

My husband continued sobbing, “I am so sorry.  I'm so sorry he is dead.” I tried to calm him down explaining that it would be ok. It was then I heard the rest of the story. Our 22 month old son Carder was just run over by a van in our friend's driveway.  He died instantly, and to top it off, our 3 year old son witnessed the entire accident. Now I am not only dealing with a deceased son, I am also dealing with a son who has post traumatic stress from the accident, and a husband who is distraught and caught with bad images engraved in his mind.

He then proceeded to tell me they had to wait for the medical examiner and crime scene investigator to rule that it was indeed an accident. The police had to take everyone's statements, and I needed to call and figure out all the details.  My 3 year old son was caught at a crime scene, unable to leave, and I was home to call the funeral home.  Thankfully, my husband had 2 brothers with him and 4 nephews who were able to occupy my son's mind with fun.

It was 1 in the afternoon when they allowed my son to leave, and he went with his cousins to play.  It was 2:30 in the afternoon when the Sheriff finally brought my husband home and reality sunk in. It was true; Carder was dead.

I thought to myself this kind of thing does not happen to me. I read about this on the news.  And why did my 3 year old have to witness the accident? Why did this happen?

In a sudden event as this, it is easy to get caught up in the “what if’s” and “why's,” questioning  yourself, "What could I have done differently?"  This is Satan's plan.  He wants us to have doubts and to fear the unknown. There is only one thing to do during our trials-- turn to the Lord. “Come unto me, all ye that labour and are heavy laden” the Savior said, “and I will give you rest” (Mathew 11:28)

We were in pain, grieving the sudden earthly loss of our son. But, put the pain of my son in perspective.  He was only 14 months older than his brother. They would wake each other up every morning. They always made sure they knew where each other were, never getting out of sight of one another. If I gave one son a popsicle, he was sure I handed him another one for his brother. He lost his best friend, and he doesn't understand death. It was hard and still is.  We have good and bad days.

Just a few days ago I was watching a video with my now 3 1/2 year old son Dee, and he was wrestling his brother Carder. Half way through the video, he said, “Mom, I have to go to the castle.” I said, “You mean the temple?” His reply, “Yes mom, I need to go inside so I can wrestle Carder.” Since my son Dee has no concept of death, he thinks his brother is just gone and with Jesus, so he had figured it out in his mind. If the temple is the Lord's house, then Carder must be in there. Things like this happen all the time. I will be driving down the road and my baby is sleeping, the next thing I hear is Dee slapping his baby brother, “Wake up, wake up.  Mom, Ethan is dead.  He needs to wake up.” After countless tries, his brother finally wakes up, and I hear a sigh of relief from Dee, “He was just sleeping.” Just the other day, my brother-in-law was getting something out of our van. Dee asked what he was doing and teasing Dee, he said, “I'm stealing your van.” Dee broke down in sobs. He had an unexplainable loss, so he believes that he will lose whatever you tell him you are taking. It truly breaks his heart. This is something we will have to deal with for years, until he understands what really occurred.

A few comments I often hear are “You are handing this so well" or "You look happy.” Let me tell you, we had thousands of people praying for us, and we felt the prayers. We received hundreds of cards and messages.  We had over 400 people at his funeral. We received peace from it all. The Lord promises us this peace, and we received it. If you listened to the LDS General Women's broadcast Elder Eyring focused his TALK on peace.  The peace that we often want to feel, the Holy Ghost will provide. We received countless tender mercies through the process of this event. We were reassured that we would see our son again. We knew it was his time to work on the other side of the veil. We have had spiritual experiences as we attend the temple. And we were blessed with his smile and memories that will be with us forever.

Our Heavenly Father wants us to be happy. Although there may be days we are saddened by the trials that are before us, He is here to help us.  “I will go before your face. I will be on your right hand and on your left, and my Spirit shall be in your hearts, and mine angels round about you, to bear you up” (D&C 84:88) He is here for us. He experienced all my pains 10 fold, so I can handle this temporary trial. The Atonement of Jesus Christ is the most important event that occurred. It brings us peace and joy. We have to utilize it, have faith, and trust in it and in Him. Alma 7:12  “And he will take upon him death, that he may loose the bands of death which bind his people; and he will take upon him their infirmities, that his bowels may be filled with mercy, according to the flesh, that he may know according to the flesh how to succor his people according to their infirmities.”

What more could we want?  We are blessed. Of course, life is hard, and we will continue to be faced with daily challenges, but I hope we may never forget why we are here and that we are never alone. “Through your faith and righteousness and through his atoning sacrifice, all the iniquities, injuries, and pains of this life can be fully compensated for and made right. Blessings denied in this life will be given in the eternities. And although He many not relieve all your suffering now, He will bless you with comfort and understanding and with strength to “bear up (your) burdens with ease” Mosiah 24:15

This is the relief that I have felt.  I still have my burdens and pain, but I have peace, joy, and comfort that have provided me with happiness amidst the trials. May will mark one year since my son's passing.  Some days it still feels unreal, some days we cry, and sometimes I lift others. But through it all, the Savior has been by my side. The Savior is our best friend, and as we focus on his life and teachings, He will bless us. He is here for us. Seek Him.


My Journey of JOY

This last weekend brought so much reflection and peace into my heart.  I went to the General Women's Session of conference and was reminded of how much has changed in the last 6 months.

It was at the last Women's Session of conference 6 months ago that I heard this quote and was filled with an overwhelming and powerful desire to write and share my story of depression.

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I got home and started writing immediately.  I just couldn't stop the words from flowing into my mind.  It took several emotional hours to complete my story, but it was healing and comforting to finally accept my journey with mental illness.  

The next morning, I bravely shared my story on social media.  I have never felt so scared to do something in my life, but it ended up being a beautiful thing.  So many people commented, texted, called, private messaged, etc. to tell me about their experiences with mental illness and how my story had touched them.  And amazingly, I wasn't afraid anymore.  I wasn't afraid to have depression or to admit it.  It was now a part of me that I didn't have to feel ashamed about or hide.  In fact, I felt this strong desire to make it a beautiful part of me.

So after sharing my story and seeing the wonderful response to it, I decided to start this blog to open the dialogue among my friends about mental illness.  I wasn't experiencing depression any more at the time, so I wasn't quite sure what I would write about, but I trusted that God would help me know as I tried to help others through their painful journeys.  

I didn't know what to call the blog, but I was inspired by President Nelson's talk in General Conference the next week to call it "That We Might Have Joy" with the URL "Finding Joy Through Depression."  It was not what I had intended on calling it at all, but I did it and started on this new journey.

Then at the end of that month, I started experiencing the symptoms of bipolar disorder.  By the miracle of the burning feelings I had to start a blog, I now had a place to write about this new mental illness journey I was beginning.  And because of the blog title God had inspired me to use, I was able to focus my mind and my heart on finding JOY through the sorrow and pain I was experiencing.

About a month later, God told me that I had more work to do, and He literally laid out in my mind what I needed to do for my "That We Might Have Joy" project.  It was so far out of my comfort zone to do something like this.  What if no one wanted to share stories?  What if no one wanted to read these stories?  What would people think of me?  But I went forward in faith anyway.  So what if it failed?  So what if no one read the stories but me?  Did it really matter?

So I started asking for stories, and surprisingly, people wrote them!  And then also surprisingly, people wanted to read them, sometimes over 1000 people.  Suddenly, my broken mind was being inspired by people I knew, hardly knew, or didn't know at all to find JOY through my raging storms.  And suddenly, my darkness felt like it had a purpose, like God could use it for something good.   

I'm not writing this to bring any attention to myself, because really I haven't done much.  I'm writing this to show how God can take something ugly and turn it into something wonderful, how He truly knows what we need and how to help us, and how He always sees the steps ahead that we can't see.

I never would have known 6 months ago that I would be here writing this.  I never would have imagined it, but now that I'm here looking back, I feel so much JOY that God has taken me on this beautiful journey that has changed my life forever.  


"Crazy Tracker Charts"

Thanks to my wonderful, somewhat nerdy husband, I have these charts, formally known as my "crazy tracker charts" (he named them, not me haha) to track my moods.  Every morning and evening when I take my medicine, I write down a number that represents how I have felt in the last 12 hours.  Numbers 1 to 10 represent mania and numbers -1 to -10 represent depression.  Positive 10 means a terrible peak of intensity occurred within the last 12 hours, one that makes my whole body shake.  Negative 10 means that I spent the last 12 hours holding on for dear life (literally) as I wanted everything besides living.

Once there are a couple of weeks of numbers on my paper chart, my husband enters them into Excel and creates a more formal chart to show the influx in my mood.

This first chart is the end of January and entire month of February.  As you can see, my moods were crazy up and down (no pun intended).  My cycles were extremely fast and intense, and I didn't really know how to cope.

This second chart is the month of March so far.  The beginning of March was about the time that the increased dose of my medicine was supposed to start working.  It didn't seem like it was doing much at the time, and I was so tired.  But then, all of a sudden, it started helping!  My daily recordings of 8 and -8 turned into 3 and -3.  I could tell things were really beginning to improve, and I felt my mind and body beginning to heal from the last few months of awfulness.

Here are some of the things that are better and the same in these last couple of weeks.

  • I am silly again.  My goofy personality is back, and my husband and daughter can definitely tell.  I laugh and joke with them again, and I do all the weird things I can to make my daughter laugh.  This makes me so happy, especially when I see how happy it makes my family to have the real me back.
  • The cycling has slowed down in a very wonderful way.  Each cycle used to last anywhere from 4-7 days and now they last 10-12 days.  This is great, because I don't feel so exhausted from the super rapid cycling.
  • I don't struggle with sleep at all.  In fact, the medications make me pretty sleepy, so I sleep all through the night and then some.  :)
  • The mania and depression is definitely not as intense, and I am able to work through it rather than have it take over my day.
  • I have held a few babies and felt a little bit of warmth and love and even a desire to have another one sometime in the future.  All of the warmth leaves immediately when I think about what it takes to care for a newborn, but at least it's a baby step in the right direction.
  • I don't have a lot of motivation to do anything, and everything still seems pointless to me, but some days I get a surge of motivation, so that is nice.  Better than nothing, right?

  • This is terrible, but I honestly still have many moments where I get very overwhelmed and think that it would be better if I could just die, but I am trying to work through these daily thoughts.  I think it's just going to take a lot of time and healing before this is better.
  • I still struggle getting out of the house and doing things.  I never feel like I want to go anywhere or be around anyone, but I push myself to do it anyway.  I am awaiting the day when I do things because I want to do them, not just because I "have" to.
  • I still do very little during the day, because I get overwhelmed quite easily.  This is another thing that will simply take time to improve, because I am still fragile and broken, but I know it will get better someday.
Although this journey is far from being over, it is getting better.  I feel some real hope again.  I wish everything could be made better immediately and that my broken heart could be healed forever, but every day and every step in the right direction makes me thankful for progress and for the ability to see how far I've come, how much I've learned, and who I am becoming.


My Piano Miracle

This last Sunday, I accompanied someone who sang a song in church.  Easy, right?  Not anymore.

You see, last month, I was asked to play a piano solo in church.  I knew the song very well and was more than ready to play it.  The morning of the performance, I was feeling some mania, but not too much.  As I sat in the chapel with my family, waiting for my turn to play, the stress and anxiety made the mania much worse.  By the time I got up to play, I was completely overwhelmed and surrounded by thick darkness.  I sat down on the piano bench and could hardly remember anything I was about to play (I didn't bring music because I had it memorized), but I started anyway, hoping that God would guide my fingers to the right notes, since my brain was so clouded and confused.

As soon as I started playing, my toes and fingers started shaking.  This was fairly normal for me to shake a little when I get nervous, so I knew how to handle it.  After a little while though, the shaking spread to my feet and hands, then my legs and arms.  My legs were shaking so much that I was making a knocking noise with the pedal as I tried my very hardest to hold it down.  At one point, I stopped using the pedal, because I didn't want anyone to notice all of my shaking, while I attempted to hold it all together.

I wanted to stop playing, run out of the chapel, and leave church, hoping that I would never see anyone again.  The intensity kept building until EVERYTHING was shaking.  I couldn't keep playing.  I stopped, took a deep breath, and then started going again, reminding myself that I was so close to being done with this song, and then I would never have to do this again.  I was sure that everyone saw what happened to my body in that moment, and I was deeply embarrassed.  I wanted to hide and never come out.  I somehow finished the song, only by God literally taking over for my fingers, but I vowed that I would NEVER play piano in church again, at least not with these issues.

But then I remembered that I had already agreed to accompany someone the next month, and the song had 4 sharps, something I would normally never agree to play.  I was terrified at the thought of facing something so awful again.  Even though it seemed that hardly anyone noticed the intense battle I fought while playing, I knew the next time would only be worse, because I would be more stressed about the possibility of the shaking happening again.  I couldn't do it.  I just couldn't.

I wanted to back out, but I knew that I had already committed, and I didn't want to be flaky.  I wanted to get "sick" that weekend, so I couldn't be there.  Or I thought several times about how I could get out of it if I died.  I was that afraid.

I practiced the song nearly every day and tried to come up with ways to maybe control the shaking if it happened again.  But I knew it was something I couldn't control, so my techniques would be useless.  Every time I got together with the singer to practice, my mind felt intense fear about the upcoming performance.  I couldn't do it.

The weekend of the performance came.  Almost every second of every day I spent worrying and begging God to help me.  I kept crying and pleading and asking God to take away my mental illness just for the weekend.  I cannot begin to explain everything that I felt and endured in the days leading up to Sunday.  It was almost unbearable.  I wanted a way out.

Sunday morning, I prayed again.  Please, PLEASE help me do this.  Please help me not to shake.  Please help my mind to have clarity.  Please help me to remember all that I've practiced.  PLEASE.

I felt nothing.  Nothing but fear, that is.  I wanted to scream it so loud so that I could make sure God heard me.  I needed Him.  I could not do this alone.  He was the only way I would make it through.  I desperately needed a miracle.

I had asked my husband to pray for me too, but I needed even more.  So I asked him for a blessing.  He said several things in the blessing, but one of them was just what my mind and body needed, "I bless your body to be calm."  As he said those words, I felt peace pour over me.  Yes.  That was just what I needed.  Now I can do it without shaking, I thought.

I got to church and still felt some fear, but repeating to myself the words of my blessing made the fear wash away immediately.  The speaker right before the musical number talked about the enabling power of the atonement and said something along the lines of, "You will be blessed with strength beyond your own as you use your talents to bless others."  I felt even more peace.  I could do this, because the Savior's atonement would give me the strength and power to overcome the weaknesses of my mortal body as I attempted to use the talents God has given me to bless others.

She finished her talk, and I got up.  With every step toward the stand, I repeated to myself, "I bless your body to be calm."  It was a blessing, a promise.  Everything would be alright.

I sat down, took a deep breath, and started playing.  My fingers and toes didn't shake!  I could think perfectly clearly.  I remember looking at the music and thinking what a miracle it was that God was allowing me to remember what those symbols on the page meant.  I felt so calm, so collected, so peaceful.  It was a beautiful, remarkable feeling.

A few times while I was playing, I started to feel some anxiety, but then I remembered my blessing and the atonement and kept playing.

The song was called "One by One" and was all about the ways that the Savior reaches us one by one.  It was such a powerful testament to me in that moment that the Savior had reached out to me, one of God's children, in that moment of great need.  I especially loved this part of the song:

As soon as I got done, the feelings of my mental illness returned, but in my moment of need, I was healed.  I was given strength.  I was given the ability to play with confidence and without embarrassment.  It was a miracle, one that I will never forget, because I was strengthened by the Savior, one by one. And He is the greatest source of my joy!


That We Might Have Joy: Emalee's Story

Tuesday, August 30th, 2016. The day started out like any other-- my husband left for work, I made breakfast for my 1.5 year old daughter, and then struggled to nurse my 3 week old son for 30 minutes. I was exhausted. I was in a lot of pain. My son had a slight top lip tie that somehow everyone had missed, and it made breastfeeding very difficult and, at times, impossible. Emotionally, I didn’t feel like myself. I never wanted to leave the house, unless my husband or my mom was with me. I couldn’t talk to my friends. I couldn’t answer the phone or even text anyone. I didn’t know what was wrong. I chalked it up to baby blues and just exhaustion. 

That night changed everything. We needed to go to the store, so I told my husband I would meet him there after he got off work. I started the grocery shopping before he got there, justifying that we could get it done faster if I didn’t wait for him to get there. This was the first time I had been to the store on my own since my son was born, I was so stressed out, but I kept telling myself that I needed to suck it up, because we needed groceries. Halfway through the trip, our toddler was in full meltdown mode, I couldn’t think straight, our son was getting fussy, and everyone kept looking at us. I was getting so flustered. My husband was saying something to me, and I couldn’t even process what he was saying. I just snapped at him. I told him to just leave me alone. So he did, and I don’t blame him for it. 

20 minutes later, I’m standing in the middle of the freezer section, fussy baby wrapped on my chest, crying because I can’t read my list, I can’t remember anything from my list, and there are people staring at me. I don’t even remember calling my mom to be honest; I just remember her answering and telling me to breath. After a few minutes, I was able to calm down enough to check out. Checking out was its own nightmare. The register wasn’t working right, and I was starting to panic. After what seemed like forever, I was checked out and in my car. My mom called me again to check on me, and after a short conversation, she told me something that would change not only my present and future, but would add a lot of clarity to my past. “Emalee, I think you might have postpartum anxiety….” That night my husband held me while I cried, I apologized, and we worked through what this all meant.

The next couple of weeks were all about doing research and trying to understand what was going on with me. My husband was right by my side the whole time, helping me figure out how to explain what I was feeling and helping me get out of the house more. At my 6 week postpartum checkup, I broke down and cried to my OB telling her what had happened in the past 6 weeks and my fears. We talked for about an hour; she talked over options, gave me a lot of information, and just listened. Come to find out, I have had anxiety my entire life but I never said anything, because I thought that everyone was like me. We decided I would try to work through my anxiety without medication until my postpartum hormones leveled out, and then we would see how I was feeling. I felt like a huge weight had been lifted off my shoulders. 

Now 6 months later, I’m doing a lot better-- I work out 6 times a week, I meditate and pray daily, and I’m completely open with my husband about my thoughts and worries without (unnecessary) anxiety. I have decided not to take any medication and have found that the steps I do take help me immensely.  I have also found a few other moms who have gone/are going through the same things as me, and they have helped me build a village of love, support, and understanding. I still have a hard time leaving the house some days, and sometimes I won’t answer my phone for anyone except my husband. I still make up scenarios in my head and psych myself out before things happen. I have become more socially awkward in some situations, and most of our date nights are going to the store for groceries. Sometimes even posting things on social media can stress me out. I still have bad days, but that is part of life. It will not always be sunny, but I know that after the storm, the sun will shine again. 

My children and my husband have helped me find joy in this trial. They have been there to help me at my lowest and cheer with me at my highest. My children remind me to find joy in the little things even when I feel like the world is crashing around me. My husband will talk me through any scenario I work up in my head, cheers me on when I step outside my comfort zone, and helps me when I can’t. It is still a constant trial with me just about every day. My family gives me great strength, and I’m able to feel their love and concern for me when we talk through my anxiousness. I know as I work through this trial I will grow closer to my husband, the Lord, and my family.  I know that God does not give us a trial that we cannot overcome. I have to keep reminding myself of that, but as I do, I regain the strength I need to press on and endure. 


That We Might Have Joy: Sarah's Story

There are so many lessons and truths that I have learned through my present trial that I have a hard time sorting which I should share. My mind can’t quite find one theme just yet, perhaps because this particular trial is a long one. I am still within the metaphorical forest, looking closely at each tree that I keep bumping into and each tangled root I lose my footing on that takes me to my knees. so with tattered and bruised flesh, an injured brain, and weary soul, it is on angel wings that I am lifted to move forward, and with the Savior walking beside me, that I will find my way into the light of the clear meadow once again. 

Just over one year ago, on a cold winter morning, I decided to check on a friend whom I had not seen for a few weeks. Her home was only one block from my own so although the winter air was brisk, it would make for a quick and refreshing pick-me-up. Greeting me at their front door, her father told me that she had already left for work. Discouraged, I returned to the sidewalk that would take me back to my house. I had gotten no further than one house away from hers when it happened; sometimes lightning strikes! A newly licensed teen driver, distracted and in a hurry, hit my body with his car. 

While I could take you down the deep, dark, terrible, isolating road of the horrific and unimaginable experiences that I have gone through this past year that come from brain and neck injury, I won’t. Nor will I do so for my own emotional sake. Instead, my message is to share light, hope, and the joy that we can find, even in places and times that leave us feeling stranded, isolated, helpless, and begging for sweet mercy. 

Nearly five months after that fateful day that changed my life forever, I could finally walk outside and embark on the beginnings of my new existence. However, it was only in the darkness and silence that I felt most physically comfortable, and it was there that I came to know the breadth of the Savior’s Atonement in a more deeply personal way than I ever had before. This was the frail beginnings of my journey back to life and where I will begin my story for you, the reader. 

The cool spring air nipped at my cheeks as I snuggled the blanket closer to my chin. Lying on my back in the bed of our tent-trailer, which had been deliberately parked in the driveway, I looked up at the silent sky lit with thousands of twinkling stars. I had the perfect view from where I lay at this early hour while everyone else slept. The world was all mine.  The motionless, silent, and darkened world was a perfect setting for me, because there was limited stimulation to overturn my now wrecked and taxed nervous system. But, to me, to be able and to be privileged to feel the chill air on my skin and endure the light of the stars was life itself.  While my sensory system was heightened, it was not because of this that I could feel everything so much more deeply in my soul this particular morning. It was as if I finally knew the reason why the caged bird sings. I was a prisoner tortured in my own body, and yet, slowly, ever so painstakingly slowly, I was gaining my freedom. It was estimated that I slept on my back twenty hours a day in a nearly blackened room with as little stimulation as possible for those first few months. I felt as if I was neither living nor dead, only floating somewhere in the great in between, listening to the rest of the world going on around me, and I was not allowed to be a part of it. 

Lying in that little tent-trailer in the wee hours of morning gave me freedom to be outside and feel alive again. Although my now damaged and unfocused eyes could see only to the stars, my spiritual eyes saw far beyond to the very One who placed each of those shining lights so perfectly into their place. He was the One who also made the sun to rise in its precise timing.  The very One who the Apostles of old proclaimed in amazement that even the winds and sea obeyed. And yes, He was the One who was holding me, also. A phrase from a church hymn titled, “Testimony” says, “As testimony fills my heart, it dulls the pain of days. For one brief moment, heaven’s view appears before my gaze.”

While many doctors were and still are unable to assist in my healing, leaving me feeling, at times, stranded to heal on my own, it is this same One, even the Savior Jesus Christ Himself who directs His Heavenly and Earthly angels to run to my side, nursing, guiding, and reassuring me with gentle whispers to my ears that I am not alone. He is a Master physician who can heal not only my body, but my wounded spirit as well.  It has been during the times when I was begging for sweet mercy, weary in my trial, and faint because of the heat of this refining fire, that He stands with arms open wide, beckoning me to let go of the struggle, and press as deeply and tightly into Him as I need and want.

D&C 121:7 says that afflictions will be consecrated to our gain.  In the beginning, I had asked for this to be miraculously and instantly taken away. It is within the trial that may be long, and in the refining fires that feel so intensely hot, that we feel we cannot possibly bear that we find our Savior standing there. We learn of Him in ways we could perhaps not ever have known Him before. He invites us with arms open wide to press into Him. We cannot walk through these trials alone. Only through His power can we endure the heat of the fire that transforms us into diamonds. Only through these fires can we come to know of Him and the breadth of His Atonement in such a deep and intimate way.  In these fires that tear and tatter our flesh, stretch our faith beyond any measure, kick us when we are down, and leave us begging for sweet mercy, we find the miraculous healing power of the Great Master Physician himself, even our Savior Jesus Christ. It is there, lifted by his nursing angels and held by the Master, that I find my refuge.  

It has been said, no shoulders have ever borne as much as those of Jesus Christ. By descending below all things, Jesus put Himself in a position to lift our burdens. His great Atonement was not merely for transgression, but for infirmities as well. Was He not our greatest example while bearing the Cross of Calvary? Hebrews 12:2 tells us,”…who for the joy that was set before him endured the cross.” To endure all that was taken upon himself, He looked past the pain and fixed his eyes to Heaven and the glory of this great and marvelous act. Just as my thoughts were guided past my pain that spring morning, to instead focus on Him, He once looked past His afflictions to take upon Himself the pains of the world so that grace and sweet mercy could reach each of us. As we learn to divert our attention away from our personal afflictions and fiery furnaces and look to Him, our burdens are lightened and we come to know that we are never alone. This very One who set the stars in the sky knows each of us by name and certainly our individual circumstances. Even so, we are held and carried through. He is healing our tired and weary souls, He is making us more, He is perfecting us to be even as He is, and He is with us every step of the way. In Jesus Christ, I find joy. 


That We Might Have Joy: Tiffany's Story

My sweet 2 year old, Ollie Kai, tragically drowned in my running washing machine. A year later, from the stress, I had a 2 lb. premature baby who survived.

Finding joy through all of this has been so difficult, but it has been seen and felt all along the way. Watching your child die and saying goodbye for a lifetime does not even seem like the word 'joy' fits into it all. And in the first few months, it doesn't. My husband and I chose from the moment Ollie died to try and find joy each and everyday, even if it was the smallest thing, such as the sun shining. We were not okay or happy about Ollie passing on, but we had to look for something that brought an inkling of joy, because we were still alive for some reason.  We were so heavy in grief in the first few months and years that it was truly a constant struggle to not be consumed with our darkness. We had to wake up every morning and fight to see that joy, and as we did, the light could enter our bodies just a bit and heal our heavy hearts.

Then a year after Ollie died, we had our 2 lb. preemie at 27 weeks gestation, and we wanted to give up all together. Of course that was not an option for either of us, so we again fought to see the tender miracles in our daily life that brought us joy. No one could walk our journey for us, so we had to figure out how to persevere. For me personally it was calling upon something more powerful than myself to help carry my heavy burden. And I had to find strength deep within my soul to push forward one day at a time. I quickly learned to live in the present moment in time, the moment we are all given.  We cannot control the past, and we don't know the future, so we need to find joy in the exact present moment.

Now 5 years later, we are learning to live with our new life and accepting that we can't change things, but we can choose to live a joyful life; we do have that choice. We all have a purpose and won't be taken home until our life has been fulfilled and we have accomplished what we were meant to accomplish, even if it seems cut short.

Find your daily joy!!

To read more details of Tiffany's inspiring story of finding JOY through her struggles, visit her BLOG.  You can also read a more detailed story of Ollie's accident HERE.


Don't Become Bitter

In case you are wondering, I have really good days.  I never write on those days though, because I am too busy enjoying them.  Last week was almost an entire week of goodness!  I couldn't believe it.  I had much more motivation, I had very few thoughts of wanting to give up, I had very manageable mania, and I accomplished more than I have in a long time.  It felt so so good!  It was refreshing and much needed.

This last weekend, we traveled to Indiana for my youngest sister's baptism and another sister's wedding.  While we were there, I felt great.  Like so great that I started to feel the desire to have another baby (that's huge!), I wasn't scared at the thought of moving (also huge), I really wanted to be around my husband and daughter, I felt the touching influence of the Spirit, and I felt the abundance of love for my husband and daughter that I long to feel every day.  I felt like I was in heaven, and I wished with all my heart that these feelings would last forever. 

Last night, the mania returned and brought a heap of darkness and lack of motivation with it.  Gone were the feelings of happiness and normalcy.  This morning, I felt somewhat devastated.  I guess I really just assumed that things were normal now and that the darkness wouldn't return.  So when it did return, I was crushed.  

But last week, I had a quote pop into my mind, and I looked it up right away.  I'm not sure why I thought of it or why I looked to find the exact quote, but I will call it a tender mercy, because it has stayed in my mind since then.  It's this quote:

There are so many times that I want to become bitter.  I want to think it is unfair that all of this darkness is a part of my life, unfair that no one can really understand what my broken heart feels, unfair that I can't just be who I want to be and who I can be otherwise, and unfair that I can't make myself better.  

But the more I have focused on finding joy through this journey, the more it has become my quest to refrain from becoming bitter as I partake of this bitter cup.  And I really believe that seeking to find joy through the darkness has saved my heart from becoming hardened and bitter.

Besides striving to find joy though, I have found other things that have helped me to not become bitter through this process:
  • Recognizing that everyone has something they have to deal with, so I'm not being picked on or punished.  Really, collecting the stories for my "That We Might Have Joy" project has helped me with this a lot.  We all have our individual trials to go through, and we are here to help each other through our struggles, no matter how different they are.
  • Not being overly sensitive and recognizing that people are trying to help even when it's not helpful.  This is so hard for me sometimes, because people say things that sting, but it is my choice for how I will react, so I can just remember the goodness of people, and let the hurt wash away, knowing that it wasn't meant to hurt.
  • Keeping an eternal perspective.  In the very darkest hours, I feel like I lose all ability to remember that this is for my eternal gain, but I try my hardest to remember that I am growing, learning, and becoming through this process.  It's a good thing to be stretched, even though stretching causes growing pains.
  • Being flexible and setting new, reasonable expectations for myself.  This has allowed me to not be bitter and hardened at the fact that I can't do everything anymore, and it has allowed me to be more patient and forgiving of myself.
  • Holding onto the hope that someday all of this really will be better.  It won't last forever, and someday looking back, the hurt will seem like such a small moment.  I would rather come out of this having a compassionate, loving, softened heart than a bitter, hardened heart.  And that is dependent on my choices and my attitude.
  • Being thankful.  Finding every little thing to be thankful for and to love.  Recognizing the big and small blessings that surround me.  Doing this doesn't take away the pain, but it does make the pain bearable until the sharpness dulls or leaves.

We all have our own bitter cups to drink, but we really do have the choice of whether or not it makes us bitter.  I'm definitely not perfect at this yet, but with time, I hope to be able to choose joy and gratitude perfectly.  


Charity Endureth All Things

A few months ago, I read the scripture Moroni 7:45, and this part of it struck me:

What does it mean to endure all things?  Will we ever really endure all things?  And how does enduring all things relate to charity?

I sat and pondered this for several minutes before I had a brilliant moment of realization-- when we have charity, we really do endure all things, because we endure others' trials with them.  For example, I may never lose a child, but when I feel pure love toward someone who loses a child and endure it with them, then it's almost as though I have endured the loss of a child too.  The same goes for divorce, sickness, disability, infertility, etc.  Now I'm not saying it's the same as going through it myself, because I recognize that there is a very real difference, but our pure love and longing to help gives us the ability to endure our trials together and never have to face them alone.

Ever since having a new light shed on this scripture, I have thought of it several times.  My life has been forever changed by the charity of others enduring this trial of mental illness with me, but it has especially been changed this last week.

This last week was tumultuous to say the least.  Thankfully, the mania was much less severe than the week before, but my mind was stuck in a dark, ferocious storm.  Every single morning, without fail, the first thought that came into my mind when I woke up was that I wanted to die.  Every morning.  And then I would think about getting up, getting ready, and doing the things I had to do that day, and I couldn't help but think that I would rather die than do those things.  And then all day as I would try to get myself to do the dishes, do the laundry, read my scriptures, etc., I continued thinking that I wanted to die.  The thoughts were unrelenting and so distressing.

A few mornings, I skipped showering, because it seemed pointless, and because I just wanted to stay in bed all day and do nothing.  One morning, as I got up, I wondered how anyone found the strength and motivation to do anything when all they wanted was to die.  It seemed like it had to be a normal thing, but for some reason, I wasn't handling it as well as everyone else.

I hardly cried, because I was sucked dry of emotion.  I just wanted to be done.  That's all I wanted.  But little-by-little, I was able to hold on through the absolute darkness because of the kindness and charity of others.

One friend sent me a message telling me how part of my blog helped her.

Another friend sent me a song to listen to that had a beautiful message just for me.

Two friends took the time to remind me that it is NOT normal to want to die every second of every day and that I really wouldn't feel like that forever.

An old teacher from BYU-Idaho reached out to me to share his similar struggles and what he has learned through them.

Friends invited me to do things and helped me get out of the house.

Someone put their arm around me in a church lesson as she saw the tears escape my eyes.

My husband listened to me and held me tight, when I simply hurt.

My daughter told me she loved me every day and that I was the only one she loved.

Most of these family members and friends have not personally felt the pain of bipolar disorder, but their charity, compassion, and selfless service has given them the opportunity to endure it with me.  They may never have to face these struggles themselves, but they are one stop closer to truly enduring all things, because they are enduring with me.  And their charity brings me joy through devastating darkness.