Questions about Mental Illness

I am absolutely amazed at the goodness of the people I come in contact with all the time.  It warms my heart to no end to have someone ask me questions about mental illness in hopes that they can be more understanding or helpful to others.  It just gives me so much hope that people really want to know how to help, and it means so much to me that they reach out to ask me what I think.

Obviously, everyone is different, so these answers may not be applicable to everyone, but hopefully they can help others as well.
  1. What are the best things people have done for you that have lifted your spirits, given you hope, or helped you feel loved?  
    • Some of the moments that have been absolute miracles through this process are when people have given their time to listen.  Often times, that is the most helpful thing someone can do for me, because nothing can really make it all better, so talking about it relieves some of the intensity.  And it really helps when someone asks specific enough questions ("How are you feeling emotionally?" or "Was this a good week or a difficult week for you?") that allow me to know that they want real answers, not just the artificial, "I'm doing great" answers.
    • Having people invite me to do things helps a lot, because it gets me out of the house and sometimes pulls me out of my darkness for hours after.
    • I have a few friends who text me once or twice a week just to ask how I'm doing.  This really helps, because I can respond on my own time, and it gives me the option to talk to someone about what I'm feeling if I need to.
    • Hugs.  Lots of hugs.  :)
    • Someone made phone calls for me when that was too difficult for me to do on my own or someone else went to some appointments with me to help me feel more comfortable and get the help I needed.  These were great helps, because they allowed me to get help and progress toward overcoming my disorder.
    • Random surprises have helped me at different times, like someone sent me flowers randomly or someone made a CD of some of their favorite songs and gave it to me to lift my spirits.  Those random acts of kindness have boosted me up and made me feel very loved and cared about.  Sometimes they have come at a critical time, which I believe was someone listening to the Spirit to know that I needed a boost.
  2. What are the worst kinds of things that people do that make you slump downward?
    • I really struggle when people say things like, "You just have to choose to be happy" or "All you have to do is _____ and then you'll feel better."  I realize these are meant to help, but most often, they hurt rather than help, because what is going on inside of me is not my choice and it doesn't have a simple solution, which is what I feel like these two statements imply.
    • Most of the time, I feel a literal emotional sting in my heart when someone says, "I understand what you're going through."  I realize that they are trying to help me feel less alone, but often the opposite happens, because there is no way for them to really understand what I experience on a daily basis.  It would be more helpful for someone to say, "I've felt something similar before.  I'd love to talk about my experiences if you want to know that someone is here for you."
    • Anytime someone says something to the effect of, "It can't be that bad" or "You're exaggerating," I plunge into darkness, and it takes days to pull myself back up.  PLEASE believe me that what I am telling you is true and is how I perceive things at that time.
  3. Does it make you feel worse when you have a responsibility or better?  Does it depend on certain factors?  How can you tell if the person needs more or less responsibility?
    • This is such a hard question to answer, because it changes all the time it seems.  Sometimes I can handle more responsibility and it even pulls me out of the darkness, but other times it is completely overwhelming and impossible to handle more.  Honestly, you can just ask.  I recognize that I must be an advocate for myself, and if something is going to be too difficult, then I need to have the courage to speak up about it.  
  4. Do you ever dislike it when people offer to help because you want to feel like you can do things, not have things done for you?
    • I haven't felt that way at all when someone has offered to help.  I have declined help sometimes when people have offered if I really don't need it, but only because I want to do what I can for myself before accepting help.  I appreciate any help that is offered, and the love I feel from someone offering to help goes a long way.


It's Not "Fair"

It's not fair.  

No matter how much I know I shouldn't let myself go there, I have thought these three simple words countless times, and even vocally expressed them a few times.

It's true.  It's not fair that being a wife and a mom is a difficult daily struggle for me, more than it ever needs to be.  It's not fair that I have to work extra hard to find joy, to feel love, and to search for small rays of light in the midst of overpowering darkness.  It's not fair that simple tasks make me feel completely overwhelmed and that what I have to offer is so much smaller than what I desire to give.  It's not fair that every day brings a new set of challenges, often challenges that I feel completely unequipped to face.  It's not fair that the will to live is a constant battle I must fight.  It's simply not fair.

But I often ask myself, "What in this life is fair?"  Is it fair that the people who have shared stories on this blog have lost children or spouses or parents or siblings?  Is it fair that they have struggled to get pregnant with the child they've wished and dreamed for or that they lost their baby to miscarriage before ever getting to know anything about that precious child?  Is it fair that people face insurmountable health challenges or that their children face health challenges that make daily living a daunting struggle?

No, nothing about this life is "fair."

Whenever I can tell that I am beginning to sink into the sorrows of my selfish nature, I think about the Savior.  Was it fair that He was rejected, beaten, and crucified after living a sinless and selfless life of service and sacrifice?  Is it fair that time and time again I make choices contrary to what I believe and temporarily turn away from the truest friend I'll ever have?

No, it's not fair to Him in any way.  And yet, He is unwavering and unconditionally loving.

The more I ponder what makes something seem fair or unfair, the more I realize that we are each living lives of "unfairness."  But I have learned that looking at things as being "unfair" is choosing to focus on the things I don't have, whereas finding JOY comes from choosing to focus on the things I do have.  I may struggle with mental illness, but I have a very good marriage, my daughter is healthy, and all my needs are being provided for with more to spare.  Surely, I have plenty of reasons to think that my life is fair and to find joy in those reasons.

Above all, I know that my challenges are unique to me, allowed by a God who knows all and sees all and only wants what is very best for me.  And I can rest assured that all of the "unfair" things about this life will be made fair someday.


That We Might Have Joy: Rhonda's Story

I am a 43 year old wife and mother to six children.  I was recently diagnosed with a very aggressive form of breast cancer called Triple Negative Invasive Ductal Carcinoma. It’s a cancer that reoccurs in other parts of the body, so just dealing with the cancer in my breasts isn’t enough. I went through a bilateral mastectomy and a second surgery to deal with complications from the first.  I have to be given the very most aggressive chemotherapies, and I have a long road ahead of me. When treatment is done, it’s a waiting game to see if it comes back.  They say if I make it five years, then my prognosis is very good, but many women who are triple negative get recurrences well before that.

In the beginning, I was devastated. I have kids I need to finish raising. I want to be there for their prom dates, their weddings, I want to watch them grow up and turn into the men and women I’ve raised them to be! I deserve to see that after all my work in raising them!  I want more time with my family. I’m young and want to experience more life. I want to travel and see beautiful places. There is so much I have yet to experience, and this illness could steal it all away from me.

I also have witnessed and know the suffering that comes with cancer.  Of course, I don’t want to suffer or be in pain. I didn’t want to lose my breasts or hair either! What a bum deal I’m getting here!  I definitely was down in the dumps the first few weeks. I cried. I couldn’t sleep. I worried about my family and my future and how in the world we would manage all these surgeries and cancer treatments for so long. 

I joined some breast cancer pages and saw other women with my same diagnosis, and they gave me hope.  A few in particular were very positive, and while they were honest about how tough the road is, they showed me it could be done…and often times even with a smile on their face!  This was my first glimpse of hope and I wanted to be like them, even though at the time I was so devastated that I was unsure I had it in me.  But that first glimmer of hope is when I started to get well.  Mentally, spiritually, even physically…..I had to find that hope before I had the strength to fight.   There is an old proverb that says, “To know the road ahead, ask those coming back.”  That’s what I did.  These women, who were so strong and were getting through these horrific treatments, were my lifeline.  They told me that the diagnosis was the worst it got. Once I finally got all of the information, tests out of the way, told what stage I was, learned if the cancer had spread, etc, then I could accept it, learn what I needed to learn, and get going on fighting this beast.  They showed me what the lurking monsters were (side effects, symptoms of metastasis, etc.), and I was able to do everything in my power to suit up and be ready to prevent and combat them.  I read in a book somewhere that the word CANCER might just be the one word in the entire English language that the mind sees in all capital letters….but wouldn’t it be great if we could change the case of it, diminish the power of it?  HOPE is the word we should see in all capital letters.  It’s the most vital human emotion when you are fighting against whatever is trying to get you. For, me it’s cancer.  For others it can be depression, other health issues, relationship problems, infertility. It doesn’t matter what the struggle is, having that hope is imperative to the fight, to getting past it, and getting healthy.  

So what brings me joy in the midst of this awful cancer diagnosis?  Hope is the first thing. Support and love shown from others is right behind it.  I have said before that every time an act of kindness is done for me or my family, I feel love from that person and from my Heavenly Father.  I know He loves me because he sends people to help me and to be there for me.  How can I feel negative and hopeless when angels are surrounding me and wanting to help ease my challenges? I can’t! This happened as I started being public about my illness, People came out of the word works to show support… friends, neighbors and family.  People have shown up to walk through the darkness with me, not because they are ill or have to, but because they choose to.  I was drafted into this, but they enlisted. Words cannot express the gratitude I have for these people.

Sometimes, though, when life delivers a tough blow, people scatter.  They don’t know how to handle it or handle it differently than you would have wished.  Every one going through a huge life change experiences a bit of this.  I’ve seen some women totally abandoned and left to fight alone, whether it be family, friends, boyfriends, or spouses.  How devastating to go through the fight of your life and see people that you love walk away instead of toward you! But I have learned that it’s okay; they weren’t meant for you then.  Maybe they never loved you or maybe they did and just don’t know how to react to such a huge life change or can’t seem to make the sacrifice to support you the way you need to be supported.  Count on those that ARE there for you.  Let go and forgive those who couldn’t be up to the task.  You need strength to surround you, not weakness.  It’s okay to grieve the losses, but don’t live there too long.  Move on and find peace in those who do surround you with the love and support you need.

I’m 1/5 of the way through my treatments right now. I’m just beginning, and yet, I’m already so sick some days. I feel really good just before the next chemo starts, and then it’s rough again for several days. But I can still find joy every day.  I feel so much happiness when my body will cooperate and I can exercise, even if it’s just a little bit. When I have the energy to make a quick box of macaroni and cheese for my kids, I feel happy I could manage it. When my head hurts so bad that I can’t read, my little 11 year old daughter will come in and hold my hand and read to me.  When I can handle the tv on a low volume, we will watch Anne of Green Gables together.  These things make my heart happy. My other kids send me jokes to make me laugh, bring me water when I am too weak to get up, or someone in my family will quickly make me a dish of food that might sound good for a fleeting moment. They are learning to serve me after all this time of it being the other way around.  That is definitely a blessing, and I find joy in their willingness to do it, and it’s always delivered with a soft hug.

My two biggest takeaways from this experience are that:

1. I’m a much stronger woman than I’ve ever given myself credit for. I believe most of us ARE stronger than we imagined, we just don’t know it until we’ve had to rely on it through a life-changing circumstance.

2. I’ve learned that a person doesn’t have to be “cured” of whatever ails us to be well or joyful.  We can be joyful all along the way.  Isn’t it much more pleasant to be hopeful and look for the good in each day? I do have hope in getting well, but the harsh reality is that I may never be cured, and how miserable my remaining life would be if I didn’t find ways to be happy HERE and NOW.  

I would like to challenge anyone reading this to look for the good in whatever circumstance you find yourself.  Find joy in the warm sunshine, the refreshing pool, the time you get to play with your children, the days you are able to go to work, or have the energy to clean your house.  Beauty is in the mundane.  Joy is in the everyday things you do and experience.  Recognize it and celebrate it every minute you can!


Remembering the Good

I wrote this yesterday:
Last week, we went on vacation, and it was oh so good for me.  It was exactly everything I needed.  It wasn't perfect, as far as my emotions went, and I did spend a couple nights crying myself to sleep, but somehow, I could hold it in almost perfectly for the whole week.  It didn't take over my days with my family.  I could enjoy and love and feel.  It was heavenly and definitely a beautiful tender mercy.  That precious time I spent with my family is sacred in my mind, and I get somewhat teary-eyed when I think about it.  It was just everything I needed. 
We're home now, and the happiness from our vacation is still here.  I was worried and overwhelmed the night before coming home that all the difficulties would return as soon as we walked through the front door of our cute little apartment.  I couldn't go back to that.  I couldn't go back to the darkness, the guilt, the deep emotions.  I wanted to stay on this sacred vacation forever and let things continue the way they could be.  Of course, we had to go home, but by the goodness of God, I still feel great.  These last few days, I have felt like I can finally be the wife and mom I dream of being everyday and just can't be most days.  I still feel the tender emotions of love and happiness, and the light is so bright and refreshing in my life right now.  I hope it stays for a very long time!
I didn't share it yet, because I didn't have time to finish writing before needing to do something else, but I intended on sharing it later with some kind of positive, uplifting quote attached to the end of it.  I really thought the light might last forever.  Surely, if I felt so good for a few days, then nothing could stop the light from flowing into my life and the love from filling my whole heart.  Nothing but bipolar disorder.

Last night, things quickly changed.  Suddenly the light was gone.  I had no warning this was coming.  And in place of the light, all of the terrifying emotions returned.  I was so scared.  I wanted to be angry.  Why can't the good last forever?  Why can't I just be the wife and mom I desperately want to be?  Why does this have to be a part of my life?  I knew anger wouldn't get me anywhere, but I really wanted to be bitter.  It just didn't feel fair.  And it hurt.  I sat in the same room as my husband, but hid under a blanket and cried.  I couldn't tell him that these dreadful emotions were back and that I didn't know when they would leave again.  I couldn't tell him that the perfect life we had lived for a week and a half was over, and that things weren't good again.  I cried, prayed, texted a friend, and tried to read uplifting conference talks on my phone for the span of an entire movie.  I was going to tell my husband about how I was feeling, but I decided to go to bed instead.

Today I feel a little better.  I'm trying to remember and cherish those precious moments with my family.  I have once again decided that being bitter is not an option for me and that I'll keep fighting with all the strength I have in me.  Things will get better sometime, and my heart will feel peace again.  I just have to patiently wait for that time to come.

I consider it a tender mercy that I sat down to write a few words about how good things were just before the goodness left.  It still hurts that the light is gone, and there's nothing I can do to get it back except wait for this storm to pass, but I am so thankful for the light that I had for a few days, the light that reminded me of who I can be without this and that gave me a refreshing break from the darkness.


That We Might Have Joy: Kaitlynn's Story

My name is Kaitlynn Mena. My husband and I have been trying to have a baby for a little under 2 years, and it has been a roller coaster ride.

After one month I was sure I was pregnant, but nothing. I figured, “Oh... well sometimes it takes a couple months after coming off of birth control,” so every month I patiently waited for that pregnancy test to somehow be positive, even though I was irregular and wasn’t even having periods. I figured some miracle would happen, because I was supposed to be pregnant. I just knew it. I prayed, I fasted, I went to the temple, and I did everything I was supposed to be doing. I would be rewarded for being so good, right? Wrong! Or at least not in the way that I was wanting. I was doing what I was commanded to do (multiply and replenish the earth) right? The greatest calling is motherhood, right? All of these things I figured would finally work out in my favor, and the Lord would bless me with a baby. Months went by, and nothing was changing. I wasn’t getting pregnant. My body was not even working to get me near having a baby.

After months and months of nothing, I started to get bitter. I started to feel the Lord did not care about me. No one was there listening to my prayers, my begging. Why would a Father listen to someone cry all night, praying, bargaining, and pleading for a child, only to do nothing for them? You could say that I grew to hate Him for a time. I didn’t want anything to do with Him. After all, it seemed He wanted nothing to do with me, so why should I care? I was tired of seeing all my friends and family with their ability to become pregnant by just sneezing. I was tired of the Facebook posts where people complained about being pregnant when that is all I could cry to Mark about. That was all I ever thought about. I couldn’t go 10 minutes without somehow thinking of a baby, or seeing a baby post, or something.

After a week or two of being bitter and angry, I finally came back to the Lord. I knew that I had left Him. I knew He loved me and that everything He does is for my best interest. I knew that He understood the greater plan. After each negative test, I grew stronger in my testimony and relationship with the Lord. It wasn’t easy, but I could see that I was growing from this time of trial. I can’t say that I always kept this positive attitude, but it was getting easier each time, except for one time, but I will get to that later.

So come March 2016, with Mark’s help, love, and support, I finally decided to go into an OB/GYN to see if something was wrong. After all, in about 5-6 months of trying, I had only had one period. So we went in and talked to a doctor. They said, “Well obviously, you are not having periods, and when you do, you are not ovulating, you are just cleaning your system out.” So we got prescribed Provera to start my period, and then Clomid to make me ovulate. Round one, nothing. That was pretty difficult, but I still had two more chances to go; it would work! Round two, my levels were higher, but still not high enough to know for a fact that I ovulated. So we waited to see if I was pregnant. Nope, nothing.

Round 3 started in July of 2016-- let’s try this whole thing one last time. It worked! I ovulated! I knew I had, so on day 21 I went to the doctor and had a blood test (man am I sick of blood tests after getting 2 every round). Results came back, and I ovulated! I was ecstatic. It worked this time. I was going to be a mom! I started planning how Mark and I were going to tell our families, and eventually the world, that we were pregnant. Mark and I had our names picked out and were ready for a boy or a girl. But ultimately, we had to wait for another 10 days to see if I was pregnant.

In those 10 days I had so many pregnancy symptoms. You may think, “You were only 3 maybe 4 weeks along, how could you possibly know what pregnancy feels like?” After you have googled every “pregnancy symptom” known to man, and googled multiple times “first pregnancy symptoms,” you know what to look for. Anyways, these ones were legit. I told my mom and my sister-in-law what I felt and they assured me by saying that yes, this was stuff that they felt or similar. I was elated! So come day 7 after finding out I ovulated, I started spotting. I thought to myself, “Ok this is the last sign I needed. I just know for sure now.” Then day 8, still a little spotting. Day 9, the flood gates opened. This was not spotting. This is a full-fledged heavy period. Oh boy, did I cry.

Here is the other part I talked about when I became angry with the Lord. He had tricked me. He had given me hope, watched me get excited, let me spot, and then cruelly released the flood gates. I was bitter. I never wanted to do anything for Him again. I didn’t want to go to church, I didn’t want to go to the temple, I didn’t want to pray, and ultimately, I laid in bed having a bitter pity party. My mom instantly decided that she needed to make a road trip to ensure that I was ok after I told her I started my period. A mother always knows, right? And mine knew that I was not ok. She came here and made me get up and do things and go places. I didn’t want to though. I didn’t want her to know how far gone I was, how far gone my testimony was, or how angry I was with the Lord. I remember one night taking a drive with Mark while my mom was out for a bit. I just drove, and cried. We drove up to the hills in silence, other than my crying. Poor Mark had no idea what to do to make me feel better. I finally pulled over after driving for about 20 minutes and just bawled. I told Mark about everything I was feeling, even though he had heard it a million times over and could probably recite my own feelings to me, as well as I could. He sat there and patiently listened, then he offered his spiritually guided words, which at the moment, let’s be honest, was the last thing I wanted to hear. It actually kind of irritated me that it seemed Mark was on “His” side. The side of the Father who I so strongly felt had abandoned me and mocked me in my time of need. Of course, I knew in the back of my mind that I was overreacting. Give it time and I would be back to myself. I was just mad at that time.

Like I said, I just needed time, and eventually I came back around. I repented of all that I had said in anger to the Lord. I had to put my faith back in Him that things would work out in his time. But oh man, when people would tell me to “just wait, it’s all in God’s time,” “just relax,” “I know what you are going through,” or “you are still young, you have time,” I would get livid. I would try to be polite, because I know it is an awkward situation and that really nothing can be said to make me feel better. But I didn't want them to tell me it would happen; they didn’t know that for sure. I didn’t need them to tell me how they went through this years ago, because surely they didn’t remember what it is like. I know these feelings of mine were expressions of anger, but I felt like no one could relate to me unless they were going through it at this very moment.

Mark and I had tried our 3 rounds, but when they failed, we decided to take a little break. Well that didn’t last long. I just hated being stagnant or at least that is how I felt I was being. When Mark and I went home to visit my family, my mom set up an appointment with my previous OB/GYN from before I was married. She visited with me and Mark. She looked over what had already happened and decided on 3 more rounds of Provera and Clomid. She also told me that she thought I might have PCOS (Poly Cystic Ovarian Syndrome, a hormonal imbalance that disrupts regular ovulation) so she put me on a low carb diet to help fix this. I thought that would be so easy, but I didn’t realize how many carbs I ate and how much I loved them. I’ll be honest, I still haven’t mastered this whole low carb diet thing yet, but I am getting better.

After we got back from our trip to visit my family I got sick with a cold, but that was ok, because I was starting my Provera, and things were right in the world. Then, at the end of that week, I had a visit to the ER. Lucky me, I had a stomach ulcer. I was sure this wouldn’t cause any problems with me taking my Clomid, but I figured that I’d better call my doctor and ask before I started taking it. So I called, and the nurse told me she didn’t know why it would be a problem taking the Clomid. I was so excited, but then I got a call back from her about 10 minutes later where she told me that she had talked to a doctor and that it would be best if I waited a month or two to ensure my stomach had healed (just in case I got pregnant and got very sick and threw up a lot). I was so sad. My hope of having a kid was stolen from me again. I was just sad this time though, not bitter, hich is what I have told myself is an acceptable response. I can be sad that I am not pregnant, but I am not allowed to be bitter anymore. I need to keep my head up and believe in the Lord and His plan and timing for me.

Our break after the stomach ulcer ended up lasting much longer than expected. The ulcer happened in September 2016, and we decided to go back to an OB/GYN in our area where we lived in February in 2017. As much as I didn’t want to take that break, it was much needed. I grew so much in that time and became stronger. I could now better stand on my own two feet. So we went to the doctor, and this doctor was amazing. He sat down with us and described everything that should be happening in my body that isn’t. Next, he went over all the options we had to get us pregnant and what order we would try them in. He decided to go with Femera (another thing like Clomid) and Provera. He gave us a couple months of trying this again before moving on to more expensive options. So we have been doing those rounds. Things are moving in the right direction. My body is responding better, I haven’t taken provera since the first round, and I’m on my 3rd. My body isn’t quite to a regular cycle time frame yet, but it is getting closer each time.

I still don’t know when I will get pregnant. I do know my strength though. I am strong after going through this. I can do hard things. I can be happy in the middle of trials. It’s not easy. Some weeks are better than others, especially when I have medicine messing with my hormones. I choose to be happy though. I hate being a negative person. I also have learned that I have experiences to share. I have friends and family that are going through similar experiences that I went through, and when they turn to me, I can give them advice or answer questions for them. That honestly lately has been the biggest thing for me-- helping others going through this. I will always choose joy. I will choose to be happy and help other people.


Understanding Suicide

I have a very dear friend, whose husband committed suicide a couple years ago.  This was a tragedy for me, particularly because I was very deeply and silently struggling with depression at the time, and I had experienced my own times of deep darkness when it seemed that suicide might be the only option for me.  But seeing how this tragedy has very tenderly affected his sweet family, I have been able to realize time and time again why I need to hold on through the darkest of dark times for my husband and daughter.

This man is one of the inspirations for this blog, and I continue to think of him often when I write.  What if he could have known he wasn't alone?  What if he could have read someone's story, maybe even my story, and known that there was hope?  Would things have turned out differently?  Of course, there is no way to know if there could have been an alternative outcome, but one of my greatest hopes is that maybe what I write could help a family avoid such a devastating tragedy in the future.

One day, I was talking to my remarkable friend (seriously I wish everyone could know her because her faith and strength inspire me every time I get the chance to talk to her), and I told her about some of the thoughts I have had during my dark times.  She said that knowing these things brought her some comfort and peace in thinking about the darkness her husband must have been facing before taking his own life.

Soooo... I want to bravely, vulnerably, and fearfully share those same thoughts here with the hope that they can provide some comfort and peace to someone else facing the tragic suicide of a family member.  I know my experiences may be very different, so I'm not trying to make light of this at all or to say that I understand completely.  I'm just hoping my humble words can bring light and understanding to this dark and often unspoken subject.

There have been two specific times in my life when I thought all hope was lost, and I was sure that I would not and could not go on.  One of these times was in the fall of 2015 after we first moved to Iowa, and the other time was just over a month ago.  There have been other times of fairly deep darkness where I considered the possibility that I might not be able to continue on, but those times were less severe and less frightening.  Both of these more serious times, I had certain thoughts and feelings that continued to propel me further into the darkness, until it seemed that there was no reason to keep fighting.

(Side note for my own sake: I know it may seem appropriate to say, "You just have to stop thinking that way" or to ask, "Why didn't you do something to pull yourself out?" but I want to make it clear that I was not choosing to feel this way.  It was something very real and chemically wrong that was making me feel this way.  PLEASE recognize that, and please refrain from judging me based on something you don't understand.  I promise if I could have chosen to never have faced a darkness like this, I would most definitely have chosen that option.)

These thoughts included:
  • "It would be so much better for my family if I was gone."  I couldn't shake the thought I had that my husband and daughter deserved someone better than me, and I would only be doing them a service by taking my own life.
  • "My family would be so happy if I was gone."  I really thought this.  I pictured them being so happy and giddy about finding out that I was never coming back.  
  • "There is no way out."  I felt trapped and could not comprehend with my very broken mind that there was another way to escape the pervasive darkness that surrounded my heart.
  • "I don't want to feel better again."  I really thought that I didn't want to feel better, because feeling better would include feeling terrible again later, and I couldn't face the reality at that time that going back up would only mean crashing down sometime in the future.  It seemed like it would be better to stay low forever or to end things altogether, so I wouldn't have to face that devastation ever again.
In my stable mind right now, I recognize that these are not valid thoughts in any way, but in my times of darkness, these thoughts were so real and so intrusive.  I was not thinking about how hurt and devastated and lost my family would be without me.  I couldn't comprehend that.  I was not thinking that I wanted to be selfish at all.  In fact, I thought I would be doing what was best for them.

If you have lost a family member to suicide, please know that there is a darkness so deep that there seems like no way out.  Suicide is not a selfish act; rather it is an act of hopelessness and confusion.  I'm positive that your family member could not comprehend in their dark moment that what they were doing would hurt you so much, and if they did, I'm sure they would have reached out and held on longer.  Don't feel that you are to blame for the decision they made.  It's not your fault at all.  You did everything you could, and what they were going through was something too great for them to comprehend that it was possible to see light again.

If you are in darkness and are contemplating taking your own life, PLEASE reach out for help, as terribly difficult as that is.  Please keep believing in future light and know that things will get better, no matter how dark they seem right now.  Don't believe the lie that your family doesn't need you or that they want you gone.  It's not true.  They need you and would be completely devastated without you in their lives, even with the darkness you continually face.

I don't know why such awful feelings exist as a part of this mortal life, but I know they are real and very serious.  I never thought I would be someone to face a darkness like this, but now that I have, I know that part of my life mission is to be a voice for others facing similar darkness.  This is my small way of using my difficult experiences to shed some light on the thick darkness that accompanies mental illness.


So Much Depression But Still Joy

This last month (since switching to a new medication), I have been stuck in depression much more than before.  This is good and bad.  It means that I haven't had hardly any of the shaking or not sleeping or unbearably heavy chest of mania.  But it does mean that I have slipped into a darkness that seems like it will never end, even when some of the symptoms of mania return.  With the mania, as unbearable as some of the physical symptoms are, I am able to keep a clearer mind about things.  It seems so much easier to keep an eternal perspective, to see that this is for my good, and to find joy in everything around me.  With the depression, I feel like I can no longer see that there is good in this, and it is so incredibly difficult to find joy in anything.  I just want to lay in bed and sleep until the pain of my broken heart magically heals, and I can wake up feeling like my normal, cheery self.  

My "Crazy Tracker Chart" for May

Also, the depression makes me question every part of my life.  I constantly feel that what I am doing with this blog is worthless and a waste of time (unlike the mania episodes when I love writing on here), so I constantly go back to read old comments or messages to remind myself that there is worth in this.  I feel so afraid and nauseous every time I post anything, because it feels almost impossible to be vulnerable anymore.  But I try to hope and have faith that what I write can help someone somewhere, even when I can't see clearly that it is doing anything but making me feel very exposed.

Honestly, this battle is so hard, and I wonder every day if I will eventually overcome the darkness, but I am trying my best to find joy in anything possible.  Here are some of the things I have found joy in this weekend:

  • Yesterday, I felt the very unmistakable and clear impression that I NEEDED to bear my testimony about an experience I had the day before.  I didn't want to share, because it meant being vulnerable about my depression and my heavy darkness, but I did it anyway.  Later, several people told me that what I had said was exactly what they needed to hear.  I was so glad to have yet another reminder that I can use my experiences to help others and that the Spirit can still influence my life, even when I struggle feeling the Spirit in a normal way.
  • My aunt and cousins got to visit us at church yesterday.  It was so good to see them and to feel their love.  They could not have come on a better week, because I needed that extra love, even though it meant lots of crying and hugging  :)
  • In Relief Society, we had a lesson about service.  One thing that stuck out to me is that I can serve in small ways without even leaving my house by sending a kind text or writing a letter on the days when the darkness is too great to leave the safe haven of my home.  
  • Also, at the end of Relief Society, my wonderful friend, the Relief Society president who taught the lesson, gave me a big, warm hug and expressed that she knows I am trying and that she hoped the lesson wasn't super overwhelming or difficult to hear given my current situation.  I so appreciated her thoughtfulness in making sure that I was doing alright and that the lesson didn't make me feel discouraged or upset.
  • I have had several small moments spending time laughing with friends that have momentarily pulled me out of my darkness.  It has been a welcomed relief every time and has given me so much hope to hold on through the darkness when it has returned each time.
  • I got to go camping and spend time with family and friends in nature taking pictures.  It can't get much better than that.  And an extra little tender mercy, I only got a few bug bites.  Yay!

  • My daughter has been obsessed with drawing smiley faces on everything.  It's like she knows what I need to see everywhere I turn.  She is so full of joy and brings me so much joy!

  • I'm learning to accept that it's okay if I don't know how I will go on, because the Savior will provide me with the necessary strength every single step I take.  He will always give me the ability to find joy in my life through any of the challenges that come my way.  He is the one that makes it possible to keep wading through darkness every day, knowing that light is coming soon.