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.
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.