Just Keep Swimming

Is it just me or is Dory one of the most loveable cartoon characters ever? Something about her carefree, naive, and adorable personality makes me fall in love with her character more and more every time my daughter asks to watch "Finding Dory."

But recently, Dory's character has somewhat inspired me through her cute, catchy phrase, "Just keep swimming."

You see, these last few weeks have been really rough with only short, intermittent moments of light, and I have felt as though I have been sinking deeper and deeper into​ the ocean of my sorrow, to the point where I feel like I have continuously reached a new depth I didn't know existed. I would have days of light, but then when the darkness returned, it felt like it started back where it left off, and continued redefining my view of what it meant to experience darkness.

I kept wondering how I could go on like this, and why I kept trying to feel better when the inevitable darkness would only overshadow my whole world time and time again. The discouragement grew, and I continually questioned how much more I had to offer.

And then in church today, something snapped. I was sitting there in Relief Society, when something in my brain broke. I couldn't stay there. I couldn't face anyone. I couldn't explain or talk or listen or accept help. I simply had to run. First, I went to the bathroom, but I couldn't stay there. I had to get farther away. So I quickly left church, got in my van, and drove. Tears were streaming down my face as I prayed and told God that I was done. I did not have another ounce left to give, and I was deeply angry that I had no way out, that dying wasn't an option, even though the thought of it plagues my mind almost daily, several times a day.

I was gripping the steering wheel so tight and clenching my teeth even tighter as I experienced a depth of emotional pain that I had never before reached. I swore to myself that I would never go to church again, I would never eat because then I could starve, I would never let myself see anyone again, and I would never let light back into my life. I didn't want to experience light ever again, because it's always followed by the indescribable discouragement of penetrating darkness once again. I wasn't going to go there even one more time, let alone a hundred or thousand more times throughout the rest of my life.

I called my friend sobbing. She was the only one I wanted to talk to and the only one who had​ a chance of making me feel better. I talked, she listened, and she talked a little too. My mind could not comprehend trying again, getting back up again, or wanting to get better ever again.

But as we talked and some clarity returned to my mind, I remembered that I just have to keep swimming, through the whirlwinds, the darkness, the terror, and the pain. I just have to keep swimming.

I still don't see light right now, and I don't feel goodness or happiness or purpose to any of this, but I do see that I have to keep swimming. I have to keep trying and hoping and finding joy. I have to give whatever I have to offer as far as my understanding of what the deepest parts of the ocean look and feel like, views that I may actually be blessed to see because of their potential to mold my life and allow me to influence others.

It's true that light and darkness will continue to be opposing forces in my life, and often times the dark will consume more of my experiences because of this terrible condition, but it's also true that every moment of light, goodness, and happiness will only add to the beautiful vista I get to experience as part of my unique life.

The darkness will not destroy me or define me. It will only refine me into something better than what I could be without it. I will keep trying with whatever I have in me to find joy through the darkness and the light. I just have to keep swimming.


Crappy Friend-Itis

Let me just put something out there.  Depression should be called "Crappy Friend-Itis," because it makes me a crappy friend.  I shouldn't say it makes me a crappy friend, because I know that I am responsible for my actions, but I feel like it somewhat "makes" me, for several reasons:

  1. I am forced to take my list of 100 things I have to, need to, want to, and should do and condense it down into about 3 things.  Really, that's all I can handle.  That's all my broken brain can comprehend and do without becoming completely overwhelmed.  Since I have to simplify so much, I have to choose my priorities very carefully, and honestly, my family is my top priority.  If I have leftover time, energy, or desire to be with friends, then I can, but I have to keep my family at the top and so many other things have to go most days, including but not limited to, spending time with friends.
  2. Every day feels like this intense battle for my desire to keep going.  I hate admitting that every time I do, but really, every day is this battle to not give up, to keep pushing, and to keep trying, even when I feel like there is no purpose to anything I do, that this will never get better, and that it would be so much better if it could all be done.  Somehow in this raging storm, I don't have the mental capacity to think about very many other things.  I always remember to feed, clothe, and take care of my daughter, but taking care of anyone else (including myself sometimes) or reaching out to anyone is basically off my radar.  Sometimes I literally forget that I could text, call, or invite someone to do something, because I spend so much of my day trying to survive, trying to focus on finding joy in anything I can, and trying to not get overwhelmed about the very little I do.
  3. I really do love being with people for short periods of time, but I get so exhausted now.  I'm not sure if it's that I feel like I have to pretend or that I would rather be laying in bed, but spending time with people takes so much effort and feels completely zapping after.  This is why I want to do things with friends, but I almost always wait for someone else to reach out.  I find it very difficult to scrounge up the motivation and the energy to reach out and ask someone to do something that I already know will be very exhausting, so I have stepped back from taking that role.  I try occasionally, but it is very hard, and I very rarely think of it.
  4. I'm different now.  I've changed.  And I realize that not all of these changes have been for the better.  I don't reciprocate love the way I would if this wasn't a part of my life.  In fact, most of the time, I don't feel loving, caring emotions at all.  I hardly ever have the desire to put forth the energy and effort to have fun or to be a fun person.  Thus, I'm probably not a very good person to have as a friend while these issues are ever-present.
  5. I never know when I am going to have a moment of light that breaks through the ubiquitous darkness, so I never know when to plan as a good time to spend time with people.  I wish I could predict and know, but I can't.  And because I want to be someone who is responsible and trustworthy, I really struggle with making a commitment to do something and then having to change it later due to how I am feeling that day.  So I don't reach out.  I just can't most of the time.  It doesn't make sense, but it is very real!
I'm sure these sound like excuses, but I PROMISE that they aren't.  I promise that I am trying my best.  I promise that what looks like very little effort is actually a pretty large effort.  I promise that I will continue working on being the kind of friend I know I should be, but sometimes certain things are beyond my control for the time being, and I have to learn to accept that.

Please, PLEASE try to understand.  I'm trying my best, I do care, but I have so little to offer right now.  And I'm just holding fast to the hope that things won't always be this way.


That We Might Have Joy: El'ayne's Story

I have always wanted to be a mother. I wasn’t one to play with dolls very much or anything, but I always did want to be a mom. When I met my husband and we decided to get married, we didn’t even bother to try any kind of birth control, even though he was still getting his bachelor’s, and we were struggling for money. We just always believed that God would provide what we needed for our little ones, whenever they came.

It took longer than I expected to get pregnant, although it wasn’t a full year. We were ecstatic and anticipated having a baby in early December 2014, but it wasn’t meant to be. We lost the baby at ten weeks, which seems to be later than most miscarry. This was a terrifying experience for me and Jacob. Not only was it an emotional upheaval, but it was physically excruciating as well. We went to the hospital to confirm that I had had a miscarriage and stayed there for about four hours so that we could be monitored. The pain medications they gave me just made me throw up, so there was nothing the nurses could do. I just remember feeling the death of my unborn child keenly, like a sharp knife to the heart over and over with every contraction. My husband was upset at our loss, but he was more worried about me than anything else. 

I had no idea how mentally and emotionally taxing losing a baby could be. When my sister lost one, I really had no real understanding of what she had gone through. Now I did through my own experience. It was a hard trial to go through. I feel the pain of it still from time to time. I still remember the day that child would have been born. I still wonder if it would have been a girl or a boy.

However, I saw some blessings come from this as well. Jacob and I grew closer. We realized more fully how much we meant to each other. Also, I met several women who were struggling from their own miscarriages but didn’t know anyone who had ever had one. I was a friend to them, and we were able to help each other overcome the grief. I started to see the "why" to my loss, and it helped in my healing process. 

Three months later, I was pregnant again, and I was able to carry my son Indigo to full term. Since then, he has literally been both the greatest joy and the greatest anguish of our lives, as any parent can tell you. When he was about 18 months, we were pregnant again. And at 11 weeks, we lost another precious baby.

We had woken up very early in the morning to care for our son, and I used the restroom. I discovered that I was covered in blood and I knew from experience what it was. I cleaned up, numbly grabbed some pads, and went back to bed to wait for Jacob and the onset of contractions to start. In that dark, solitary moment, I reached out to God in my heart. I felt very clearly an impression that God loves me, that this was not my fault, and that there wasn’t anything that I could do. I suddenly had a surge of gratitude in my heart for the time that I was able to carry this child. I was just grateful to be this child’s mother and that he or she is part of our family. Now I have two little ones in heaven, and I am honored to have them in my life. 

When I told Jacob, he took it much harder than the first time. We now knew what happiness one child could bring and had high hopes for this pregnancy that had lasted longer than the first miscarriage. I had already been comforted for the time being, so I could comfort my husband. In the following days, I would feel the loss and cry myself to sleep, but the initial answer to my prayer stayed with me. In the most difficult of times, Heavenly Father would place special people in my path who were able to give me the warm embrace, kind advice, and comforting smile I needed.

There are a lot of difficult aspects to experiencing a miscarriage, but it is normal and okay to feel like you have lost a loved one. You may even experience postpartum depression. The important thing to remember is that all experience is for our good, even if you can’t see it at the time, and it’s okay to ask for help when you need it. I know that my miscarriages have helped me to come closer to my spouse and my Father in Heaven. I have grown as a woman and progressed more as a mother. I appreciate my son more, because I have had to pleasure of seeing his face, holding him in my arms, and watching him grow up. I may miscarry again, but that doesn’t mean that I can’t find joy even in that. I rely upon my testimony of a living Savior, who died and then rose on the third day. Through Him, I will rise, and so will my husband and our children. In this I find my greatest comfort. If I can always have that eternal perspective in mind, I know that I can overcome anything.


Forgive Them

This last weekend, I had one of those moments.  You know... the ones where you say or text something and then 20 seconds after the words leave your mouth or fingertips you realize that they could have been hurtful?  Yeah one of those moments.  Great, right?

So after texting the original message and recognizing how it might have come across, I texted back and apologized for my seeming insensitivity.  And I was so glad I texted back when I got the reply stating that the particular subject was a somewhat sensitive one to this person.  She wasn't offended or hurt by my moment of unthoughtfulness, but I continued apologizing anyway.  I couldn't believe I had been so dumb.

And then she said something that changed me:

Immediately, I thought of the very difficult times in these last few months, when someone has said something, and it hurt.  Sometimes it literally stung to hear people say things like, "Are you sure it isn't something else?" (in my mind implying that a mental illness is not an acceptable diagnosis), "If you would or wouldn't have done __________, then this might not have happened," or "I know someone who had that and they didn't have to take medication because they learned how to be happy on their own."  Ouch.

There have been so many moments that have seemed insensitive, but it was all because people didn't know.  They didn't understand enough about bipolar disorder to realize that their words hurt, and I was part to blame, because I didn't help them understand better.  But through these last few months, I have learned that, ultimately, I am the one that has to choose whether or not I will get offended.  I must choose to keep the perspective that people are inherently good and that what they say is only meant to help.  I might be wrong, but I like to believe that everyone has good intentions, that they simply don't understand the pain that their innocent words can cause, and that if they did understand the pain, then surely they wouldn't say what they intended to say.

I'm sure I've said more things than I am aware of that have hurt someone else, and I wish I could go back to make them all right.  But since I can't, I hope that the people I've hurt have had forgiveness in their hearts for my ignorance.  I don't understand what every person is going through, so I try to be sensitive, but I am far from perfect, and sometimes my words reflect that.

So just as I hope others will find it in their heart to forgive me for not knowing better, I need to forgive others for the things they say "when they just don't know."


That We Might Have Joy: Jean's Story

April 7, 2017

I have felt prompted to sit down and write my experiences over the past 8 months.  In September 2016, my husband confessed to an affair with a co-worker.  We had been married 21 years in July.  When we married, it was for “time and all eternity,” so marriage was not entered into lightly.  The last year has been tumultuous, to say the least, but what I want to share is how I have felt the Lord’s love through this whole process.  I don’t think my husband could have done anything more hurtful or vengeful than what he did, bringing her into our home, a place I have always treasured and tried so hard to protect. There were so many lies, so much deceit, anger, and sneakiness; essentially he became a whole different person.  He lost interest in the boys and everything else that was good in his life.  He started drinking, which from the very beginning when we were dating was something I didn’t tolerate, and he was aware of that.  I grew up with an alcoholic dad, and alcoholism runs in his family.  I was determined to keep it out of mine.  Unprotected sex (on his part) exposed me to elements against my will I avoided my whole life.  I lived a clean life and lived it for the person I would marry one day.  To me a sexual relationship is sacred and should only be shared with your spouse.  I think one of the hardest things for me to understand is how easy it was for him to throw it all away.

Through this process I have not been bitter, or wanted to seek revenge, or felt overly angry.  I have experienced a complete and utter sorrow that I’ve never experienced before.  However, because of the gospel, because of my faith in Jesus Christ and his Atonement, because of people in my life who have listened to the spirit and acted on promptings to reach out to me, I have been able to get through this.
I have been blessed as Alma and his people were in Mosiah 24:14: “And I will also ease the burdens which are put upon your shoulders, that even you cannot feel them upon your backs, even while you are in bondage: and this will I do that ye may stand as witnesses for me hereafter, and that ye may know of a surety that I, the Lord God, do visit my people in their afflictions.” I know it’s because I have lived a worthy life and built my foundation on Jesus Christ that my personal burden has felt lighter.

Helaman 5:12 “And now my sons, remember, remember that is it upon the rock of our Redeemer, who is Christ the Son of God, that ye must build your foundation; that when the devil shall send forth his mighty winds, yea, his shafts in the whirlwind, yea, when all his hail and his mighty storm shall beat upon you, it shall have no power over you to drag you down to the gulf of misery and endless wo, because of the rock upon which ye are built, which is a sure foundation, a foundation whereon if men build they cannot fall.”

I have complete faith in what I have been taught just as the young men in the army of Helaman did: Alma 56:47-48 “…they had been taught by their mothers, that if they did not doubt, God would deliver them..." ”...we do not doubt our mothers knew it.”  I was raised by a strong, faithful mother who taught and showed me how to live the gospel of Jesus Christ.  She taught me to have faith, she taught me to serve, she taught me to pray, and she taught me to read the scriptures.  As imperfect as our lives were, she exposed us to a gift more valuable than anything, the gospel of Jesus Christ.

There have been more prayers uttered on our behalf, our names have been added to temple prayer rolls across the country, and people have fasted for us.  I have had friends take me out to lunch, friends randomly mail me packages, treats show up on my doorstep, friends bring me flowers, friends just stop by to see how I am doing, friends have brought in dinner and given my kids rides to and from church.  I have had people text me or call me just to see how I am doing.  This is almost a daily occurrence.  I have felt the love of Heavenly Father through my friends and family.

One night when I was inconsolable, my mom felt prompted to share with me my grandma (who passed away when I was 2) was with me.  Doctrine and Covenants 84:87 “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.” I believe there are angels around us both seen and unseen ministering to us.  One of my all time favorite quotes by Spencer W Kimball is: “God does notice us, and he watches over us.  But it is usually through another person that he meets our needs.  Therefore, it is vital that we serve each other in the kingdom.”

I have received blessings from my dad and a member of the bishopric.  In those, the words that stuck out to me were to serve, that this would be over quickly, and I would continue to be a light and example to those in my ward.  When I told the bishop what had happened, I asked not to be released as young women’s president.  The youth and the leaders I serve with bring such a spirit of joy into my life.  They are a support and a light to me.  The kids’ teachers at school have been supportive, many of them telling me they are praying for us.  My hope with this experience is that I will be able to help someone else someday.  I had a friend stop by one day, and she told me I would be asked to “succor” someone someday.

I have gained such a deeper understanding for the Atonement through this process.  I attended a youth “face to face” event with Elder Holland and President Eyring, and they talked about the Atonement and how it qualified the Savior to change our hearts through the gift of the Holy Ghost and how that can give us the ability to perceive our situations differently.  So many people have asked me how I have handled this situation so well and have been so strong.  So many people have asked why I considered letting my husband come back after all he has put me through.  I have made it through the last year because of the gift of the Holy Ghost, because of my Savior.  Moroni 8:26 “And the remission of sins bringeth meekness, and lowliness of heart; and because of meekness and lowliness of heart cometh the visitation of the Holy Ghost, which Comforter filleth with hope and perfect love, which love endureth by diligence unto prayer until the end shall come, when all the saints shall dwell with God.”

I was able to stand up and bear my testimony last month at church and testify that families are forever.  I know with all my heart that I was meant to be a wife and a mother.  I know my boys were meant to be mine.  I feel like I have been blessed with the gift of obedience and made good choices all my life.  When I finally decided I wasn’t going to change my husband’s behaviors or make him want to choose his family, I felt such a relief and knew I would be O.K. regardless of what my future with or without him held.  A friend who is a parent of one of my kid’s friends from school stopped by one day, and she said she was impressed with how I “knew” I would be O.K. regardless of what the outcome was. She had been through a similar experience and stopped to check on me to see how I was doing one afternoon.

I know we have a Heavenly Father who loves us and knows us by name.  I know we have a Savior who died for us.  I know families are meant to be forever, and we need to do all we can in this life to protect and love them. I know comfort comes through prayer, reading the scriptures, serving and the Holy Ghost.  I know if we do what is right, we will be blessed.  We won’t be exempt from trials as they are our refining process.   I have learned to share my burden with others and not suffer alone.  I am a private, self-reliant person who rarely asks for help.  I have been so blessed by all the acts of kindness shown to me over the last several months. I have also had people open up and share their personal struggles with me.  I know the best thing I can do for my boys is to help them build their faith and gain an unshakable testimony. I know the adversary is real and is doing all he can to destroy families.  I am thankful for good parents, siblings and extended family who would do anything for me.  I know miracles still occur today, I know some things only come through fasting.  There have been so many tender mercies in my life this past year.


That We Might Have Joy: Tracy's Story

The pivotal moment when my life forever changed was on May 31, 2011.

It was after 7:00 pm. The whole day I felt as if something was wrong.  Leading up to this, I had had many premonitions preparing me for the tsunami of what was coming.  Looking back, I knew something was wrong, but I couldn't put my finger on it.

I was 38 years old raising 4 young children at home and married to the man of my dreams.  Life was great.  We were so happy, and I had everything I had ever wanted or dreamed of.

It was late at night, when two police officers knocked on my door. They gave me the devastating news that my husband and best friend of 20 years had been killed in a car accident. I couldn't breathe.  My world crumbled, and I felt hollow and empty inside. I broke. I felt like I was free-falling off a cliff. In a room full of people, I felt so alone. I was scared, lost, and alone. My worst fear came true, and I was a wreck.

After the funeral and as the weeks turned into months, I fell into a deep depression.  I felt hopeless, and it was hard to go on without him. I was in a fog and a pit I couldn't get out of.  It was hard to wrap my head around everything that was happening. I went through a period where I lost literally everything. I hit rock bottom. I spent years trying to come to grips with everything that happened.  The first year was a blur, but over time it started to get better, although the hole and loss were always there.

I decided it was time to let it all go and that I needed to move on and find the happiness I knew my husband would want for me. I took a journey inward on a path of what many call a spiritual awakening and found within me a deep sense of self and love of my Maker and that God loves us and allows us to have these challenges so we can grow.

I have found joy in the journey and have turned a corner.  It is my desire to help others who also struggle with trials in their life.

I have turned my pain into the fuel for my new project. I desire to help other singles like me.

When I decided it was time to start dating again, and after I felt whole, I began the daunting process. After I began dating again. I ran into catfish, bots, scams, impostors, creepers, sex offenders, and convicted felons. I kept saying there has to be something better out there! No one had the security I was looking for an online dating site.  No other dating site was addressing the problems or offering any real solutions. I was fed up, to put it mildly, so I came up with a solution.

I needed to be that someone! I closed my late husband's business and partnered up with some industry leaders to launch www.DatingUp.net.  We screen for scammers, cat-fishing, robots, sex offenders, and convicted felons, while confirming each person's identity.

This is my short video of the story behind my why behind starting this project.

It is my mission to help single parents with safety and secure online dating, so they can focus on love, finding a companion, and not playing detective each time they want to go out on a date. We are a site focused on real people and real relationships. I took control of the situation and desire to make it better for others who want and desire to find love again. The real kind.


What If I Didn't Have a Savior?

Today was a very hard day to say the least, and I'm sure no one around me knew it.  On the outside, I probably seemed calm and collected, bubbly and friendly, but inside a storm was raging, a storm that I wished I could succumb to.  It hurt so intensely, and yet, no one knew.

I sat in church with an aching heart, and it seemed as though the aching grew with each passing moment.  I wanted more than anything to tell someone of the intensity inside my broken heart or to give up, but I couldn't bring myself to do either, so I just sat and wished with all my heart that I could make it through these few difficult hours.

At one point, I looked around the room and tried to think of someone I could talk to, someone I could tell about the awful, painful feelings in my heart.  I thought of several people, but I couldn't think of what to say.  I mean, how do you start the conversation of telling someone that your deepest desire is to give up, to be done with all of this pain and heartache and dreadful fear and loneliness?  You can't.  There aren't words for it.  So I stayed silent.

It became excruciating.  I really don't know how I held it together.  I wanted to scream out in pain that what I was feeling should never be a feeling someone should have to endure.  I wanted to pull someone close to me and break down into sobs in their arms.  I wanted to run away and hope that running away would somehow allow me to outrun these problems.  But I continued sitting, bottling up the intensity that felt like it was burning me from the inside out.

The lesson in Relief Society was all about the Savior, and I could hardly focus on it.  I was just in such an awful place and overloaded with darkness that I couldn't feel anything good or happy or spiritual.  I was sinking, slipping deeper and deeper into this hole that I was already trapped in.  It didn't seem like there would be any way out.

I closed my eyes and tried to think of anything that could pull me up just a little bit, anything that could help me remember what it is like to see light and feel goodness in my life.  I was holding on, grasping firmly to a figurative rope of light and hope and future happiness, hoping that my grip was strong enough to keep holding until the extreme intensity passed.

Then the teacher asked us to ponder what our life would be like without the Savior, and I lost it.  Every emotion that I had been trying to hold inside of me for the last three hours came out following one single question.  What if I didn't have the Savior?

Well, I wouldn't have the companionship of the only person who can truly understand what I feel in my lonely, agonizing moments of darkness.  I wouldn't have someone who loves me perfectly, even when I wish that I could give up on everything and never have to endure such difficult things.  I wouldn't feel His strength in my life, when I do not know how it is possible to go on.  I wouldn't have any hope for a bright future or for days of light to come.  I wouldn't feel His warm, loving embrace that allows me to take just one more step forward.

My whole life would be different, but especially the experiences of the last 6 months (I can't believe it's been that long!)  I never could have kept going.  I never could have received the comfort, miracles, blessings, and strength I have received, without the Savior.

I keep these two quotes in my phone and think of them often.  I love the promises they offer, that through the Savior, I can do everything that God has given me to do in my life's mission.  The darkness will not be able to conquer me, because I will always have Christ with me to break through my darkness with glorious light.  I know that is true, and this knowledge is what allows me to get through the days like today.


That We Might Have Joy: Trisha's Story

I remember the day that we found out we were expecting. I had taken my temperatures for the last 18 days, and it continued to stay high. I was pretty sure that it was a positive when I took the test, but I was still shocked. I went with a friend of mine to the doctor's a few weeks later to see the heart beat, only there wasn’t just one, there were 2. I was so shocked. I kept telling myself out loud that I only wanted one. The doctor told me, "Well you are going to have 2."

So this is when my friend and I decided to go get 2 twin boy and girl outfits. We didn’t know the sexes yet.  As the months went by, I started to get things ready for them to come. I was wondering all sorts of things, like how I was going to feed them and how much sleep I would or would not get. I knew that life was going to be very different. I didn’t know if I was quite up to the challenge, but at this point, I didn’t have much of a choice. We understood that they were going to be fraternal twins, and I was happy about that.

I don’t remember at what point we found out what the sex was, but we were going to have 2 boys. They were identical. We found this out when I went to a special hospital . We were going in for what we thought would be a regular visit. We were told that the boys had “Twin to Twin Syndrome.” For those of you who don’t know what this is, it is where they both share the same placenta. One of the twins has a decreased amount of blood volume. I didn’t know at the time how serious this was.  I was put on bed rest at 27ish weeks. I spent a week at home and then I went into the hospital, and they took some amniotic fluid out of my belly. At that time I got to see my boys move. That was a heart warming moment. One of the boys decided to go up and see what was invading their space. The doctor had poked a needle inside of me and that was how he was releasing the fluid. My little boy felt the tip of the needle and quickly moved his hand away. It was funny to watch. I ended up staying for 7 days after that. It was mainly because I was having contractions. That was very hard to not have my husband with me. He would call everyday and sometimes even come and see me. Where I was staying was an hour away from where we lived. I was so glad that it wasn’t further. I was able to finally go home.

I wasn’t home for very long before I hadn’t felt the boys move. Jeff and his sister Tami had just come home from church, and I had mentioned that I hadn’t felt movement for a little while. We ended up going back to the hospital that was in our little town.  We were there for an hour before my doctor had called the other hospital to life flight me. We had 2 heart beats going so I wasn’t nervous. I was a little afraid to go without Jeff. I heard the helicopter come and that is when I felt more afraid. It was so loud in the helicopter that they put earmuff-like things on my ears. Once I got to the hospital they put all the monitors back on my belly. Jeff was able to get there soon after.  I think that we were there no longer than 45 minutes, when my whole world changed.

My regular special doctor came in to look for heart beats and couldn’t find one of them. He gave us the news right there and then that we had a baby that had died, and they needed to get the other one out quickly. I remember asking him if this was a joke, and he said he would never joke about something like this. I was really hoping it was a joke deep inside.

To make my long story short, our living son Kaden was in the NICU for 6 weeks. He had issues galore.  We brought him home knowing he would pass at any time. We named the still born Jordan.  My parents came from Utah to Illinois to take Jordan back with them to bury him.  I really wished that we were able to go back with them and be there, but we were still hoping for good things with Kaden.  We had Kaden home for a week with us and enjoyed our moments with him.  We sang primary songs to him and took pictures of him and with him. We had a group of ward members with us as Kaden went to a Heavenly world.

We never got angry with God.  We didn’t understand for a long time why this had to happen.  I am just so grateful that we were able to be blessed with having 2 sons that were perfect enough to get bodies and go back to a lot of love.  We have missed them for the past 16 years.  We have grown in wisdom and knowledge that the plan of our Heavenly Father is so perfect and that we are to grow from each challenge that we face.  We can’t wait until we get to see them again!


My Update of Joy

Well, it's been a while since I've written.  I have some posts all written out and even proofread, but I'm not ready to share them yet.  I really believe that certain experiences aren't meant to be shared right away or at all, and my recent experiences fall into that category.  I will share them eventually.  I just have to wait until the time is right.

A lot has changed since the last time I wrote.  Last time, I shared how things were getting better, how I was feeling some light and motivation back in my life.  Unfortunately, soon after I shared that post, the darkness returned with a full vengeance, and along with it came the devastation of wishing that the light could stay in my life just a little bit longer.  It may have felt so devastating, because it came back as depression first, but I seriously felt defeated.

And on top of the darkness came some changes in my life that brought more sadness and heaviness and fear than I thought I could bear.  I literally felt like I was crumbling, and everything was so overwhelming that I didn't know how I would go on.  But after praying A LOT, talking to my husband, talking to a few close friends, crying several times a day for days, and having some special experiences, peace has returned to my life, and I know that everything will be okay.  (I'll share more about this later.)

On Monday, I had a doctor's appointment, and I switched medications.  I am no longer on the lithium or the zoloft, and I am now taking latuda.  It didn't seem that the lithium or zoloft were doing much to help, and I kept getting UTIs since I started the lithium too, so I was glad to switch.  We'll see how this new medication works with my brain and my body.  I'm hoping it will work well and quickly!

Although things have been somewhat difficult in the last few weeks, I have been able to find JOY through so many different things:

  • The weather has been warm some days, and the trees are blossoming.  Not only does this kind of weather lift my spirits, it also brings me the joy of taking pictures  :)  Because who wouldn't find joy in taking pictures of pretty flowers?!

  • I got to watch General Conference with my family, which brought me so much peace and direction into my life.
  • Having bipolar disorder means that my moods cycle.  Since I have rapid cycling, they cycle rapidly (bet you couldn't have guessed that...)  This brings me so much joy though in knowing that my current mood will not last forever.  Although the alternative isn't usually very pleasant either, at least the awful feelings I have one day will pass soon.  I know that, and I can count on it every time.  It's such a huge blessing to me.
  • My husband was able to go to my appointment with me, even though it wasn't a very convenient time for him with his job.  It was so nice having him there and feeling his support and love.
  • I've really enjoyed crocheting again.  It's so nice to have a hobby that I want to do and doesn't just feel like a chore.
  • I have also enjoyed planning a trip for this summer.  It has given me something to look forward to and to feel excited about.  And now I'm just praying that I will feel good during that time.
  • People have been submitting more beautiful stories that have propelled me forward, inspired me, and proven to me time and time again that finding joy is possible in any circumstance.
I'm sure there are more things that have brought me joy, but these are just the ones I can think of right now.  Finding joy through my experiences has taught me that this life is a beautiful gift, including the difficult times of struggle that allow us to see our blessings in a new light and with more gratitude.  Without the darkness, my blessings wouldn't shine like they do right now.  And that is really what brings me JOY!


That We Might Have Joy: Cathy's Story

God's Plan for Us

God works in His own time and in His own way. A friend from church posted on facebook:

As we grow up we dream of how wonderful our lives will be. We dream of the perfect husband and how we are going to be the perfect parents and how many perfect children we want to have. Our husbands will have the perfect job and me as the perfect wife will be a stay at home wife and mother. I will create the perfect meals and keep the perfect house, and I WILL NEVER EVER RAISE MY VOICE! We grow up watching these fairy tale stories where all we have to do is find our perfect prince, and then we live happily ever after. SO SIMPLE!


Our lives can go somewhat how we dreamed.  However, there has to be adversity in all things. DARN IT! There are so many factors that we have no control over. Our husband’s jobs have their ups and downs, many women have to work, the car will break down when we need it most, time gets the best of us and we fall behind on this or that, our kids have agency and they are allowed to have thoughts and make decisions for themselves, and our dreams for the future turn into a reality where we pray (PLEAD) for the best and least painful path God can give us.

I have always loved kids.  I grew up in a large family and just knew that God had a plan for me to have a large family. I was married young and had no plans of even waiting to have children. From the time that I met my to-be husband, I wanted to have a baby as soon as possible.  Shortly after I was married, I started having symptoms of being pregnant. I was very tired all of the sudden. Within a month, my tummy had started to grow. I thought, “Wow!  I did not know my tummy would grow this fast, but okay,” but then I spiked a high temperature. I told Dave that a fever is not a symptom of pregnancy, so maybe there was something else wrong. We had some money from the wedding that we decided we could use, so we decided to take me to the doctor. We found out I was not pregnant, but I had Mono so bad that I was on my death bed. The fatigue was so bad and the mono and the swollen tummy was my liver and spleen that where ready to rupture. I had always been so healthy besides the 3 month kidney infection I had while I was engaged. The Mono took me over a year to rest and recover, and it seemed to have left me unable to have children. We went to several doctors over the years and that was the only vague thing they could come up with. There was really nothing wrong with me, but the doctor's attempts to help us have a baby all failed. I had gained weight during the recovery, mostly because I had been so active before and I had slept from a year recovering, which was an extreme change in routine.

I had known forever that I was to be a mother, and the few times I was sure I was pregnant, I would lose the baby before I could confirm anything. My hormones over the next many years were all over the place and so was my weight. After 3 years of this, I was finally able to talk my husband into adopting. We started the process of foster care, and 6 months later, we had our first placement. After watching my parents, aunt, and grandparents do foster care, it just seemed that it was the right thing to do. I knew that foster kids had problems and that they were difficult, but I was a strong women, and I could handle it, and this could give me a child now…

Anna, age 2 ½, was our first placement and was so medically complex that I learned that I was even stronger than I ever knew. Anna suffered from internal bleeding and some paralysis. She was not able to walk, mostly unable to talk, and required medical intervention just to feed her. God’s plan for me was never ever what I had thought.

We then took on a sibling group that was to be an adoption placement. However, the mom did the little that was asked and a return goal was put in place. After the kids had been with us for a year, the kids were too attached, and the state removed them from our home. I DISCOVERED I WAS NOT AS STRONG AS I THOUGHT!

At this time, we did get to adopt Anna. Anna, in this year in a half, had learned to walk and talk and eat without help, and she was a stinker. She would tease and tease and tease.  It was that personality that made her so strong. It was also that personality that taught me everything I know as a mom.  Her disabilities were now epilepsy, autistic tendencies, and some behavioral problems.

Then we had a one year old placed with us. Ben had been burned in a bathtub from his waist down. We had intensive medical treatments and exercises that we had to do so that he would not lose the use of his lower legs. Ben was placed with us primarily because of the work I had done with Anna, and Ben’s care was very demanding. His bio mother was six months from having a baby so Ben’s placement was also going to result in another placement shortly thereafter. I was so excited-- A BABY! However, even though this looked like an adoption placement, the bio mom did the little the state asked, and the state started talking about the boys going back. My heart just cried. I could not bear this. Luckily with some divine intervention, the bio mom surrendered her rights to Ben, but at 11 months, I lost the baby to the bio dad. With my family dynamic going up and down all of the time, it was so hard to understand God’s plans for me. It was so hard to understand why these kids needed to go through such pain, not to mention me….

I just could not do foster care anymore. I just could not put my family through any more of this. We had Anna and Ben.  God had given us two children. There are many families that are very happy with 2 kids.  I would make this work for me….. NOT!!! After a year or two of this, I just felt that there were more children that were meant to join our family. About that time, I was made aware of 2 teenage girls that needed help. We adjusted our foster care licenses and welcomed two seventeen year old girls into our home within a week of each other. One was a crises intervention with no state help, and she was pregnant. The other was a foster care placement that went to a different school district. Both girls would be graduating in a few months, and I needed to help them get ready for adulthood overnight. These placements where short and sweet, and they taught me that I needed to make room for more children in my life, even if it meant dealing with the ups and downs of foster care.

I once again changed my license placement to adoption only, and I just looked for kids up for adoption. In 2005, we had two sets of siblings placed in our home and adopted. We finally had that feeling of complete. Kind of.  At least at this point we said no more foster care.  If God had plans for more children He would have to find another way.

These sibling groups had lots of special needs. There were lots of behavioral problems from the abuse and neglect these kids had suffered. One had in his IEP (Individual Education Plan) that he was unteachable. His only goal in school was to sit in his seat. Another one of these kids was clearly in the autism spectrum, and another had depression and learning delays. The youngest, being nine months, was as cute as ever. The Lord had answered my prayer. I wanted children, I needed children, and he gave me six. Six kids with lots of needs-- emotionally, physically and spiritually. They have been so much work, but I would not change it.

After deciding to no longer do foster care, we tried to lead normal lives. The funny thing is, what is a normal life? I have no idea. I started to homeschool my sister, so she moved in with us. When my job was done there and my sister went back into public school, I took on another high school student to offer academic support. She ended up being more a part of our family than I ever dreamed. I have babysat for those that needed help, including a young boy who was not picked up one night, and we took him into our home until the mother came back 3 months later. I then took on another teen that just started sleeping on my couch. He had woven his way into my heart, too. All this time, I was still praying to have a baby. I had 6 kids that I loved, 6 kids that were mine, and many more that had a placed in my heart as if they were mine.

As I drove home from church one Sunday afternoon, the little boy that stayed with us for 3 months answered that prayer for me. He said, “Mom, I love you”. At that moment, the Spirit spoke to me in a way he never had before. I am a mother in Zion. I am the mother here on this earth to those that need a mother most. God NEEDED me to fill this very important role. I was fulfilling my divine role. At that moment I understood, and I was ok. I was doing as the Lord needed me to do. I was much needed, and I was much loved.

After this moment, I stopped praying to have a baby, and I stopped having miscarriages. I was able to focus all of my needed time and attention on the children God had already gave me and placed in my lap. My husband’s job took us to South Carolina and then to Wyoming. I was content with my life and had happily moved forward. I had found that my life's trials and experiences could help others. I felt that God helped others through me.

Life was content and happy. Then I find out about a few health problems of my own after moving to Wyoming, as well as some of my children’s emotional needs.  These took over my life. Heavenly Father seemed to have slowed down on placing needy children in my path so that I could truly focus on the ones that I had in my home. I have a very close relationship with one of my older foster kids and her children hold a huge place in our lives. It just seemed that life was starting to settle and our hearts to feel content.

In addressing my health, I had to travel to Salt Lake City. I saw so many doctors that changed everything for me. The tumor that they had found had stopped growing. The doctors found me in good health. One doctor recommended a new doctor to oversee things and give her analysis of my situation. Dave and I went to this doctor the next day. She was amazing. At the end of the visit, she looked at Dave and me, and she told us she thought we should have a baby. We were shocked! She said she would like to help us, and with medical advances, it would not cost too much. We asked her how much it would cost, and she told us. Dave had just been given a bonus from work for that same amount. God had held my prayer in His heart and was granting it to me 20 years later.

January 18th, 2016 we gave birth to Julia Rose. I truly felt that God said, “You have done well my good and faithful servant; here is your reward.” Julia has brought so much joy to our whole family. I have the perfect family with all of their special needs and all of the extensions to our family dynamics, and now I have a little cherry on top. God has always loved me, and He continues to do so. He has blessed me and many others through me, and His plan is amazing.


Jordan's Story

Warning: This story is as honest as I can make it. Some elements may cause discomfort, worry, or may otherwise affect readers negatively, which is not my goal, but is sometimes a side effect of honesty.

When I was thirteen, I knew something was wrong. I talked to someone who told me it was just a phase and I would grow out of it. So I kept going and tried to forget about it. When I was fifteen, I knew something was wrong. I talked to my doctor who told me I simply did too much stuff and was stressing myself out. I reevaluated my current activity level and tried to move on. When I was seventeen, I knew something was wrong. I went to a different doctor who said two words that pierced my soul with both relief and terror: anxiety and depression. It brought to life the nightmare I had been unconsciously living for years.

What did it mean? What were the symptoms I had been experiencing for so long? For a long time, I had been exhausted, and could do nothing to improve it. I had little motivation to do the things I had enjoyed my whole life. My grades tanked in comparison to what they once were; they weren’t awful, but they were nothing special. All these things, combined with other factors, led me to have terrible problems with self-esteem. From the time I woke up to the time I went to sleep, every day, I criticized myself for everything I did; I believed I could do nothing right. I thought a lot about death and dying. I wondered how my death would impact the people around me. I wrote letters to my loved ones just in case I ever died. Most of all, I hated myself for feeling the way I did all the time for no real reason, when there were so many people in the world who had it much worse than a white Christian girl from suburbia.

The first thing my doctor told me was that this happens a lot to kids my age and that it may or may not go away within the next few months. I assumed, since it did not go away for five years, it was not going to go away anytime soon. He recommended therapy and antidepressants, and I was on my way to getting better, or so I thought.

What nobody told me is that, after you’re diagnosed, everything about depression gets worse before it gets better. I found myself having to come up with good reasons to keep waking up every day; sometimes breathing felt like too heavy a burden. On top of that, I had to force myself to be open with a total stranger at least once a week about deeply personal things that I did not understand myself. In hindsight, I know that I did not use therapy as effectively as I should have: I was unemotional, calculated, and technical in talking about my feelings. I did not trust my therapist. I did not believe she would keep the intimate details of my life confidential. I did not think that talking about my feelings would lift any burden from me.

Though I didn’t like having a counselor and didn’t feel it would help, I found myself in her office unscheduled. Suicidal ideation is an issue that people with depression sometimes encounter, and in my head, it wasn’t as bad as it sounded, but it prompted a big reaction. It means very little more than thinking about suicide, but it can put you in the hospital. Full disclosure, I personally don’t believe that my thoughts ever deserved a trip to the hospital, and I think most depressed people who tell you they haven’t thought about suicide or dying are liars, but that’s not the point. The point is that, after an almost-trip to the hospital, I stopped seeing that counselor.

For the next year, every day was a lifetime to get through. I made it through high school (barely) and thought that college would bring new opportunities for a healthier brain. I was wrong. Over time I dropped out of my first semester and focused on working and healing. It was a battle to learn how to love myself, how to say no to social gatherings when I needed to, how to listen to the people I loved most when they were trying to be helpful, how to reassure myself when they said something with the best of intentions that wound up being hurtful. and how to take care of myself. If I’m honest, I’m still doing most of this, and it’s hard. Anxiety makes it hard to say no and harder to say yes. Depression makes any suggestion sound like a criticism and can cause a spiral of self-pity and hate.

During the last four years since my diagnosis, I have experienced the highest of highs and the lowest of lows. I have sat on my bathroom floor and wondered if anybody would truly miss me if I died. I have sat in my car wondering where I could possibly go to escape myself. I have also met the love of my life, married him, and become a member of the church that truly taught me about Jesus Christ’s love for me, which has brought me so much peace in my personal storm. I’ve gone back to school and proven to myself that I can do it.  I’m on track to do something that really matters, and I’ve never felt that way about anything in my life.

Things are not always better. They’re not always nice. I still struggle with eating too much or too little. I still lie awake for hours on end, or sleep a whole day away. Sometimes I don’t remember the last time I felt happy. Sometimes I don’t remember the last time I felt anything at all. But throughout all the hardships, all the tears, all the things I think are unfair, there is so much joy and peace, and so much to live for. I have laughed so hard and cried so hard and lived so much. No matter how dark my days might be, I know there is a bright sun somewhere on the horizon, and it will rise. I don’t always know when, but I know that it will, and I will better recognize and bask in it because of the darkness.
I am grateful for my life—the good, the bad, and the sad—and I know that is because of my relationship with Jesus Christ. Because of His Atonement, I know that I am covered, both for the things I can control and the things I cannot. I’m so grateful for the opportunity that I have to experience the highest highs and the lowest lows, and to feel God’s grace and love covering me every step of the way.

So, to you, reader: If you’re experiencing some or all of these symptoms, if you’ve had depression or anxiety or both for years, or if you’re recently diagnosed and trying to figure things out, you are not alone. You are important. You are loved. If you’re at a low point, I know that low point ends. I know that things get better. I can promise you, things will get better if you keep holding on. Don’t take for granted the little things that your family or friends do for you. Try to communicate what you need as best you can. Do whatever it takes to take care of yourself in a positive, constructive way. Say no to plans. Sit on the couch with your pet and drown yourself in Netflix (just not for too long. Also, if you need a pet, I’ve got one, and he loves naps and cuddling). Take a walk. Take a break. Take a nap. You’re working hard to fight the hardest thing you can fight—yourself. You deserve simple pleasures. You deserve good things. And if you’re seriously thinking about harming yourself or someone else, or ending your own life—please reach out. Talk to someone. Because life is worth living. I have some very dear friends that tried to take their own lives, and I’m very thankful they never succeeded. Without them, I would not be the person I am. Keep holding on. You have magic in you. You’re going to change lives. Don’t miss out on the beauty the world has to offer.