My "Miracle" Week

Sometimes I like to jokingly tell my husband that I am the proof that miracles still happen when I do something extra spectacular for the day, like deep clean the bathroom or wash, fold, and put away the laundry all in one day.  I know, super impressive!  But seriously, some days when I am struggling, this seems like as good of a miracle as healing the blind.  This week has been an entire miracle week.  Do you want to know why?  Drum roll please....

I went to the gym and worked out EVERY SINGLE DAY!!!

Now before you think that I'm pathetic (ok I probably am pathetic, but hear me out), I have to tell you this.  I know exercising is good, especially for mental health, but it has been one of the very hardest things to do in the last year.  I mean, some days getting out of bed and eating is hard, so working out seems completely impossible.

After last week kicking me down, I decided that I needed to do something.  I couldn't let myself stay as far down as I had fallen.  So... I got a membership to the YMCA.  Several people at my church have one and go regularly, so I figured they could help push me and encourage me to follow through with my goal to exercise.

This week has been a good week.  For the first few days, I didn't have the weight of darkness making everything difficult.  Later in the week, I had some very thick darkness again, but I still managed to exercise (even when Kyle was traveling for work!)  Now I have officially worked out more in this last week than I have in the whole last year... I know it's terrible!  But I'm not going to focus on how long it has been that I have been trying and failing.  I'm going to focus on my miracle for this week.  I did something that would have seemed impossible even a month ago.  I finally did it, and now next week I can do it again!

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Keeping the Faith through Mental Illness

There was a time when I seriously wondered if my mental illness was going to destroy my faith.  It seemed that everything in my life was falling apart, and none of the "church answers" were relieving my pain.  I felt completely disconnected from God.  I prayed, but all I felt was what I thought was His disappointment in me.  I read my scriptures, but all I felt was anxiety and inadequacy with every word I read.  I went to church, but all I felt was sadness and fear.  I didn't know what I had done wrong, but I was sure that it was something very very wrong, because nothing else would bring such intense feelings of sadness and guilt. 

Since I had just gotten married, I began to think that I had made the wrong decision in marrying my husband.  I told him that more times than I would ever like to admit (I still wish I could go back in time and somehow erase those words and feelings), but he patiently reassured me over and over again that God was not asking me to leave him in order to feel the Spirit again. 

I had never and have never since felt so much confusion, exhaustion from crying, heartbreaking sadness, paralyzing fear, and devastating guilt in my life.  I thought it was somehow my fault that I was feeling all of these things, and the only way to make it better would be to repent of the terrible sin I had committed (once I figured out what that sin was).

After a whole year of feeling all of this nearly every day, I finally went to talk to my bishop.  He was the only one I trusted to tell me that I had not done something grievously wrong to cause this pain.  He was so patient and kind with me as he reassured and encouraged me that this was not my fault.  I left his office feeling more energy and peace than I had felt in months, but that only lasted a day before I was back to where I had been. 

I remember sitting on the couch for FHE with my husband after a terrible day of anxiety and depression.  He asked me to give the lesson.  I was reading an article from the Ensign out loud, when I was suddenly overcome with fear.  I started to cry and told him that I couldn't do this anymore.  God was angry at me for some reason, and I was losing my faith.  I didn't know how to reach God, and I didn't know how to make things right.  I was slipping, and everything I used to know was slipping too.  I was lost and beyond confused.

My husband hugged me and reassured me, and then I went back to talk to my bishop again and again and again, until I could finally believe with confidence that I was not in trouble or disappointing God.  It wasn't until I started opening up about what I was feeling though that I began to realize that my feelings were not a result of sin.  There was something physically wrong in my brain, and I couldn't fix it by applying spiritual principles like repenting or reading scriptures or going to church, although those things are important.  It wasn't my fault, and I didn't have to equate how I was feeling to a lack of love or concern from Heavenly Father.  He wasn't disappointed in me.  I was broken, but I could be repaired.

While there have been times that I have still questioned or felt unsure about things, there are some things I have learned about how to keep my faith through the devastation of mental illness:

  1. Not being able to feel the Spirit is an unfortunate but very real side affect of depression.  It doesn't mean that I've done something wrong.  It just means that my heart is broken, so the tender feelings of the Spirit can't be contained or felt like normal.  When I do feel the Spirit, even if it is for a fleeting moment, I write it down so that I can remember that moment and hold onto it when the Spirit is not able to be a tangibly evident in my life for an extended period of time.  I have also learned to recognize other ways the Spirit speaks to me, besides speaking to me through feelings in my heart.
  2. I have accepted that it's okay to continue reading scriptures, praying, and going to church, while I hardly feel the desire to do those things.  Sometimes I worry that I'm just going through the motions, and the truth is, sometimes I am.  But I'm doing it, and I'm trying, even though it's hard.  I'm staying in the habit and giving what I can, and God is pleased with my offering of what I have to give, no matter how small it is on some of my most difficult days.
  3. I can change the way I do things to help make them easier to do.  For example, I listen to my scriptures now, because I can't even open them without getting very overwhelmed and discouraged.  Also, I usually do initiatories when I go to the temple instead of endowments now, because that is what I can handle.  
  4. When I can tell that I am getting overwhelmed with guilt at church by all of the things that I should be doing better, I stop listening for a minute and mentally repeat to myself all of the things that I am doing, while praying for God to help me feel His love and acceptance of my effort.
  5. When I am feeling discouraged, I go back to a few of my favorite talks that bring me comfort and reassurance.  One of these is "Like a Broken Vessel" by Elder Holland.  I cry every time I read or listen to this talk, because it says everything my broken brain needs to hear and remember.
  6. I look for joy.  This has become my greatest lifeline to feeling connected to God.  I may not feel Him near me very often, but when I see the little and big things He has placed in my life to bring me joy through my sadness, I know He is near, I know He loves me, I know He has not left me alone, I know He is aware of me, and I know He will allow me to feel His comfort in time.


That We Might Have Joy: T'mara's Story

Shantelle asked me for this story a while ago, and I’m not sure it’s all that inspiring or even, you know… finished. But, I’ve always felt that hard things in life are worth it if you can help someone else on their journey, which is why I’ve decided maybe this would help make my experiences worth it. It’s not all that grand or horrible, just life.
I grew up in a military family, typical dad away and atypical sick mother. Most of my early memories of my sweet mother were just of her in bed. She had depressive bipolar disorder among several other health issues. It was normal to me that my mom would have meltdowns and also made me sad that when I wanted to play she was mostly lethargic. Going to high school, I feel I had depressive and OCD tendencies, but probably not an actual disorder. I always had a hard time communicating. Going to college was amazing and also incredibly difficult socially. 
My first semester, I truly felt happy most of the time, and it was best time of my life despite having basically no friends (at first) and little contact with my family. I had roommates who were also right out of high school, and while they didn’t mean to, they were highly degrading in their language and treatment of me. I don’t harbor any hard feelings anymore. However, it was because of these poor circumstances in my apartment that I journeyed outward to “find joy” and met the adorable boy I would marry. He was the greatest blessing in my life at that time, aside from my faith. He and I parted ways after that semester, when he left to serve a full-time church mission in Mexico with no promises other than to write. We hadn’t even been dating.
Luckily for me, my next roommates were what I would describe as some of the best people to live with as a single student. I continued on-- happy, optimistic and full of vigor for learning and my faith. My roommates this time around needed to be patient with me as my odd tendencies and communication issues arose. They were amazing and sweet. 
The end of this semester began what I would call the first truly negative turning point in my life. I knew, by this point, that I had someone I wanted to marry, and while some might say that’s crazy since I was 18, I had never met anyone so amazing and inspiring, someone who truly helped me see false things I believed without being rude or condescending, just by being him. So, with that in mind, I had a few other suitors lining up that I “friend-zoned” as soon as I could.  Not that they weren’t cool people, but many I had known before and they just didn’t compare in my mind. One boy in particular, I had to refuse many times. When I first started being friends with him, I didn’t have any particular motives in mind other than being friends and having fun. 
The first sign I should have stopped seeing him was when my brother and roommate were in the room. Somehow the boy and I had started a tickle fight and the boy had tickled me off the couch and was on top of me on the ground. I suddenly felt very vulnerable and violated as I struggled to get him off me and said, “Stop” a few times. I looked at my brother. He had a stone face and seemed rigid. I said, “Help please!” Finally, I screamed for him to get off me, pushing against him. He stopped and got up. He apologized and thought I said I liked being tickled. I had said that. That is a phrase I have never spoken since. Dramatic, but true. Haha. My brother and roommate excused themselves shortly thereafter. Apparently my brother had wanted to punch this boy and was doing everything not to start a fight. He felt awful for wanting to do it. Honestly, I wish he had punched him. The boy really wanted to date me. I told him no and explained that I liked someone else. He kept pressing and pressuring me, saying he was sure I’d come to like him better. I prayed and prayed about it, because I didn’t want to lose him as a friend. I really wanted to be of help to him, because he also had a poor situation growing up, and I knew he was a good kid that needed a friend. 
I prayed and got a clear "no" many times, and finally the boy started getting manipulative and I felt the Spirit say, “You can, but be careful and get out when I tell you.” So I started to date the young man. The relationship might have been okay, if it weren’t for the constant manipulation. I did feel the Spirit several times telling me to just cut off contact. I even had a few people express the same message. I was slowly becoming a different person. I truly had become someone with a tendency toward depression to someone with full-blown depression, unable to function. I learned that most people think your relationship is good if you look good together. I had people who were close to me encouraging me to stay in the relationship despite the things I was telling them were happening. I don’t blame those people, but it did make it that much harder to leave the situation and follow the Spirit when only a few people agreed with the idea. In the end, the boy got better and ready for marriage, while I sunk deeper into depression and despair. He was the one to call it off in the end, because I had no strength left. My roommates at the time (different ones) were concerned for me, and I feel bad for them now. I had days where I was in bed all day just crying and sometimes screaming, while they counseled together on what to do for me. 
A few semesters passed, some with more excitement than others, but none were worse than that summer and early fall. I went to counseling once, but ultimately thought I was just ridiculous and tried to get better on my own. I did feel cut off from God many times, but mostly I was being healed by His power. Very slowly, I began to heal from the wounds of the relationship, but not necessarily from the depression, anxiety, and even anger. 
When David returned from Mexico, he knew a little about what had happened. I was ashamed about it, and I wished very desperately nothing had happened. While it still had an effect on me, David’s quiet influence began to overpower it. When we started dating, bless his amazing heart, I went back into my shell. I came to associate horrible things and feelings with dating. David, miraculously, did not take advantage of or abuse or manipulate me, even though I basically made much of our relationship into an easy way for him to do so. David was so angelic about it. I was able to finally have a real relationship with God again and use the Atonement more freely. David is my angel. I wasn’t totally better or even diagnosed with depression at this point, but we dated for about a year before we got married. There were other options I know that could have been better if I had more faith and trust at that point, but I was scared that waiting to get married would mean David would not like me anymore or that I would get into a dark place again and make the mistake of breaking up with him. Ultimately though, getting married was the right thing to do, even if it was harder than it probably would have been had we waited. Our first year of marriage was still a continuation of our courtship, but my healing and progress advanced much quicker, not without more aches and growing pain though. The year of dating before had been harder, on me at least, so being married was incredible.
Very shortly after our honeymoon, I expressed a desire to start trying to have children. We talked a lot about it and went for it. Good thing God knows what he’s doing. A year later, nothing had happened, except learning my period was totally wacko. I had no insurance during that year, so I couldn’t go into the doctor. During this time though, David and I learned how to become closer in adversity and how to continue to work on our relationship and truly become a family in God. I was incredibly sad about the baby situation, but so hopeful. I started talking to Mikko (my future baby), especially when I could feel him nearby, and praying more sincerely. I learned how to magnify my calling in primary, study scriptures consistently, have family home evening, and do other things to truly make me more fit to be the mother I always wanted to be. 
Finally, over a year after the first negative pregnancy test, I had insurance! I started treatment and my hope burned brighter. The first few doses of medication I took made me realize what it felt like to be a normal human. I was amazed at how plagued I was with hormone imbalance. I wanted to feel like this all the time! The dose was too small for me. I went back to being hormonal when my dosage increased, although I did not feel it was as bad as it had been. I had to be grateful for this opportunity to become a mom. I wanted nothing more out of life than to be a homemaker disciple since I was three years old.
Near the end of the second year, I was noticing everyone around me getting pregnant and having children. I started to despair again. My thoughts became clouded with feelings I didn’t like. “She didn’t want a baby, so why her?” “All they do is complain about their children, why them instead of me?” Or the worst: “They got married ___ months after we started trying, and now they’re pregnant.” I stopped getting on Facebook. It was torture to see it online over and over again. However, I lived in a place where people are getting married every week, then start having children so seemingly easily. I couldn’t escape it, even outside social media. 
I was very blessed at this point in my life to learn how to more fully rely on God and have faith in His plan. We finally told our family about the fertility issue, and I started speaking more and more about it. Because of this, I learned about others' stories to support me. I still had to work on some envious feelings, but it seemed as though the strength of the poison inside was being diluted and flushed out. I found work to do and people to love and finally a therapist to see. I was exercising and eating better and that seemed to help with the depression. We did have one miscarriage two years after trying, and my doctor was incredible to call me about it on Sunday and encourage me. There was only one problem. He recommended we stop trying for 3 months. 
By the end of three months, we felt I should take a position down in Utah, even though David still had school left. I felt such peace about it, even though I knew it meant delaying even more. That job really helped me learn and grow so much. I grew closer to my husband’s family, and for the first time, I actually wondered if I wanted kids at this point. 
But by the time David and I were back together again, I felt the desire return. I had been continuing treatment with a different doctor in Utah, and it seemed a little like things were once again going to take a long time. 
Then I got really sick. I had bilateral pneumonia and should have been hospitalized, but was not (of my own choosing). I really wanted to get back to work, but of course, it got worse again, and after a month, I was starting to speak with my boss about leaving because of how much time this was taking off. I was also sad I had to once again put baby on hold. 
After one night of being unable to breathe, David came out to find me in the living room at 2 AM. We had to go to the emergency room. The line ended up being really short! In fact, I was the only one, so that was a plus of the night. The doctor came and asked the routine questions, including, “Is there a chance you could be pregnant?” For the first time in 3 years, I told the doctor there was no way I could be pregnant, so we did an x-ray, took blood, gave me meds, and the ER doc came back and said, "Well, you actually are pregnant." 
David and I stared at this guy blankly and listened while he told us about the pregnancy test and how they would test to see how long I had been pregnant. After he walked out, David and I just laughed. How did that happen? It was truly a miracle from Heaven. Luckily I had hardly gotten pregnant, so nothing we did would affect the baby. Now I am in my third trimester with a boy due in December. I did have to quit my job for various reasons. I had to make sacrifices. This wasn’t perfect or what I had at all envisioned, but by this time, my heart was so softened and full that nothing really mattered aside from getting my life long wish.
I don’t doubt I will still have struggles, and that many days I will feel like I’m not being the mom I want to be. But I know who is looking out for me and my little family, so I will not despair.
God knows you, He knows your struggles, He knows what you most desperately desire, and He will give you what you most need. For anyone else struggling in this arena, I can't say your prayers will be answered exactly like mine, but I can promise that God is preparing something marvelous for his broken-hearted children.


A Jumble of Thoughts

Today was my third appointment with the counselor.  Last week, we left off talking about the possibility of this being a hormone imbalance instead of bipolar.  This week, we kept heading in that direction.  While my situation is complex because of an anatomic anomaly affecting my hormones, and I don't completely fit the criteria for PMDD, it seems that a hormone imbalance is much more probable than bipolar at this point.

This brings a whole slew of thoughts and feelings:

  1. I'm beyond excited to think that this difficulty could have an end and that it could be coming very soon!  
  2. I'm amazed at where this journey has taken me and thankful for the many people who have been placed in my life to get me to this point.
  3. I honestly feel slightly uneasy and unsure about how to move forward.  This has been such a long time (almost 5 years since my last big bout of depression started), and it's hard knowing who I am without this heavy weight in my life.  That might sound weird that it makes me feel uneasy, but it has become such a big part of my life that I'm not sure what it will be like without it.
  4. I feel really hopeful.  It may only be a matter of months before I can return to being the wife, mom, disciple, friend, and woman I want to be.  The light at the end of my dark tunnel is coming faster than I ever imagined possible.
  5. I feel some guilt about possibly finding out what is causing all of this trouble and being able to get rid of it, when so many of the people I have met since starting this blog will have to continue battling, but I know that I will forever be an advocate for mental illness!
  6. I hope that the treatment for this hormone imbalance will help and not hinder my ability to have another baby in the near future, as it is unsure at this point how the treatment options will affect my body or how long it will take to figure everything out.
  7. I pray that this is really what is going on and that some treatment will work.  I can't imagine how hard it would be if I found out that things are different than they look at this point.
  8. I feel joy.  Not just the joy that comes from seeing an end to this pain, but the joy that comes from knowing that I am a changed, different, stronger, hopefully better person because of these last several years and especially this last year.  I find joy in knowing that God's plan is perfect for me, even the plan that included a year of pain beyond anything I knew was possible, all so that I can someday become the best version of me possible.  This year has been God's gift to me "that I might have joy," true joy.
As of right now, things are still hard.  I still feel the gaping hole in my heart of depression followed by the deep pain of what I used to call "mania" (I'm not sure what to call it now).  Some days I wonder, even with this exciting new discovery, how it will be possible to get through some of the most painful days.  But I am moving forward and upward, constantly reminding myself to seek for the joy that is all around me and asking for encouragement and love when I need it.  I will not give up on finding joy in this journey.

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That We Might Help

Several times in the last few months, this idea has come to my mind of extending my project and creating a branch called "That We Might Help."  Basically the thought that I've had repeatedly is that so many people have shared stories about infertility, death of a loved one, various health issues, etc, many of which I have not personally faced.  Often times when someone around me is facing something difficult that I've never experienced before, I don't know what to do or say, so I either do or say nothing at all because I don't know what would be helpful, or I try to do something but I end up doing and saying all the wrong things.  As a result, I want to finally launch this secondary project as a way of gaining understanding from those who experience different challenges than mine of how I can help someone else going through a trial similar to theirs.  I'm not sure how often I will share posts of this nature, because my primary focus is still sharing stories of finding joy through the challenges of this life, but I hope this secondary project will help us all have a better understanding of what we can do to help someone facing a challenge that is beyond anything we have experienced for ourselves.


Hope for Healing

Yesterday was the most hopeful day I've had in a very long time.  It started out with me going to a counseling appointment.

The last counseling appointment left me in tears as the counselor questioned if this is really bipolar disorder or just depression with the mania being normal.  I was crushed.  I knew it wasn't normal; none of it is normal.  And surely it is more than depression.  I cried much of that day as I desperately wished that someone could feel what I feel and understand.  I felt hopeless.  I questioned, if this is normal, then why am I not handling it?  Why is it so hard for me and manageable for other people?  If this is normal, then do I really want to keep trying and keep going with something so awful in my life?  If this is normal, will I feel like this forever?  

I cried to my husband, begging him to believe me that this is real and that it is not normal.  I didn't have to do much begging, of course, because he knows.  He sees how much it has affected me and how hard it gets.  He held me as I sobbed telling him that I am so thankful for the Savior, because He knows.  He knows everything I feel, and He is the reason I know that I'm not alone.

I didn't know what to do.  That counseling appointment surely left me worse off than I was before I went in, but I had waited 4 months to get in, and this counselor was highly recommended by 3 different people.  I needed help, and I didn't want to wait another 4 months to get it.  So I decided that I'd stick with this counselor and hope and pray that things would get better, that she would understand how hard this is and that it is nothing near normal.

Yesterday was my second counseling appointment.  I felt so apprehensive going in.  I cried the whole way there and prayed with all my heart that I could explain things right and that she could just understand.  We started talking about my week and the mood/sleep chart she gave me to fill out.  I told her about my 3 hours of sleep one night and 1 hour of sleep another night while in "mania."  She asked me to draw out my cycles and explain them.  I drew and told her as much detail as I could.  When I got done, she said, "This definitely isn't just depression.  I think it is bipolar disorder.  I'm sorry.  I wish it wasn't."  I felt so much love from her as she sincerely expressed how she wished I didn't have to deal with this.

We continued talking, and my heart was overflowing with sorrow as I told her about how this is "ruining my life," how I value being a wife and a mom so much and how this is simply getting in my way of being what I want to be.  She was so sympathetic and understanding.  I told her that this is purely physical, not thought-related, and it's so uncontrollable, so I don't know how to manage it.  She understood, and once again expressed her sorrow for me having to face something like this.

We kept talking, until we got onto the topic of our current infertility struggles.  While discussing this, a light bulb went off in her mind.  Maybe this isn't bipolar disorder at all.  Maybe it is PMDD (premenstrual dysphoric disorder).  Apparently PMDD is often misdiagnosed in women as rapid cycling bipolar disorder.  It deals with a hormone imbalance that causes so many symptoms mirroring those of bipolar.  We continued talking, and things continued to click with her.  She explained to me that if this is PMDD, then it is treatable and totally manageable.  It's easy to control and could be better almost instantly after getting the right help.

My heart felt so much instant relief.  Maybe this won't be a part of my life forever like I've thought for the last 11 months.  Maybe my healing is coming sooner than I ever thought possible.  Maybe I will be normal again and can move on past these 11 months of pain to find light and hope and peace for my heart again.

She asked if I would mind if she brought up my situation with the board of counselors and psychiatrists at their weekly meeting.  Of course, I didn't mind at all.  She told me some things to watch for and to document, so we can figure this out quickly and find relief.

I left feeling hope, like maybe I can finally live and dream again; maybe it's all going to be okay soon; maybe this nightmare will end and I can go back to being myself.

It's going to take some time before we know if this is really what's going on or not.  While I feel a lot of excitement about this new possibility, my currently depressed mind also feels some fear of the devastation I will face if this is really bipolar and I have to continue fighting this debilitating disorder for the rest of my life, especially after seeing this ray of light and feeling this wave of hope.

Right now, I am praying that we will know more soon, that my heart will be okay with the outcome, and that if it is God's will, everything can resolve itself quickly.

That We Might Have Joy: Alicia's Story

My story is simple-- I love my life!  I grew up in a split family and not in the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-Day Saints.  Regardless of whether or not we grew up in the gospel, we always have to go through something that builds our testimony of the truthfulness of it.  Mine started as a teenager.  I had friends that were part of the gang, and I thought about joining.  That didn't happen.  I moved to a small town and kind of discovered who I was.  This is when I found the gospel after discovering that I had a Heavenly Father and a Brother who died for me. This was all new to me.

When I joined the church, I had a goal of marrying in the temple and living my life the best that I could.  Now that doesn't mean I do everything right, but the good thing is that I try every day to be better than the day before.

I served a church mission in the United States after being a member of the LDS church for 5 years. I loved my mission, but where I served, everything is legal.  I thought to myself, "My goodness.  How can the Lord trust me so much to teach the gospel that I still felt new in?"

I soon learned that it's not necessarily about the knowledge but about listening to the Spirit in gaining understanding of what you're supposed to say or do or think or act.  That is the most important thing!  So I taught prostitutes about the law of chastity and drug addicts and drug dealers about the word of wisdom.  I served the best I could.  That was when I really learned how much each soul is worth to our Father in Heaven!  Words cannot describe the feeling of watching someone accept the truthfulness of the gospel.

When I found my eternal companion, I never thought that within the first two years I would get the impression that he would die early.  Four years into our marriage, my eternal companion suffered an epileptic grand mal seizure leading us to the ER very early in the morning and completely changing our lives.  It was there that we discovered an avocado size brain tumor!  We spent one month in the hospital.  Luckily I had taken so many classes and fallen in love with medical terminology, illnesses, etc. so I was able to understand what the doctors were telling me and our family. We didn't have kids at this time.  We actually had problems getting pregnant and were in the adoption process of being selected.  This all ended that morning.  There's a lot of other stuff that I don't feel comfortable sharing about the family around us at that time.

There was a lot of sadness and joy in my husband's family in a week and a half time.  One brother's family fell apart, my husband had a massive cancerous brain tumor, and the other brother found out his wife was pregnant with her first child.

During that process, I was mostly concentrating on my husband and the possibility of the voice of warning that had happened a couple of years prior to coming to fruition.

It was a scary thought, but I had to trust the Lord and the blessings that my husband and I received during this process.  The doctor sent him home to die after a month in the hospital.  They originally wanted to send him into a nursing home, but we said, "No, if he's going to die, it's going to be at home with his family."  He didn't die though!  He got healthier and healthier.  As he was going through radiation and some of the chemo, he was told that he had 1 to 1 1/2 years to live.  He was also told that with this radiation treatment, if he lived 10 years, he would have a secondary cancer caused by the radiation. His mom and I were there when we got that information, and we asked, "Why in the world would we do it then?" But you also come to an understanding that it's a last hope.
You have an understanding that we all die, some people just die a little earlier than others. So when my sweet husband lived eight years longer than they ever thought would happen, I was overjoyed and extremely grateful. During the 8 years, we owned our own business and worked with each other 24/7, we adopted our niece, we spent lots of time at the temple, and we didn't take things for granted. We were in love!

It was very difficult to go through, but I knew my Heavenly Father loved me, and I knew He would never give me anything I could not handle. I knew my hubby's time was up, when it was finally here, and I wouldn't change that. His body was so done. And sometimes watching somebody go through that is enough to be so grateful for the life you had with them and look forward to the one you will have with them. I have been directed in so many ways by my Father in Heaven that I could never forsake the goodness that He has done. Life is hard, but it's supposed to be. Otherwise we would never return to God the way we're supposed to, the way that He planned it, the way that He knew it would happen. There is so much joy in a life of sadness or heartache or difficulty or challenge. The most beautiful thing that we can do to show gratitude to our Heavenly Father for giving us this life is to find joy.

You asked how do you find joy? It's in the little things. It's in the birds chirping after rain. It's the rainbow before and after a rainstorm. It's seeing the light on the other side of that tunnel that seems so dark. It's experiencing watching someone come to Christ, and it's watching someone go to Christ.

One of the most amazing things that has transpired since my husband passed away and becoming a widow at the age of 38 is the fact that my genealogy and his (both of our families are converts) has exploded. I'm talking from having 20 people on my line to now having a thousand and his line having a couple of hundred going to a thousand. These names of our family have connected us in more ways than I ever dreamed would happen. I have struggled so hard to find family members for the last two decades, and I am so grateful that my husband has found them over there and has brought them to me, so we can make that link.  Now that is beautiful!

Yes, I've been through some challenges. This is only within the last 13 years, and there's so much more that I've been through. But these are the main ones that sent me on the path to my Heavenly Father and never forsaking the experiences that I have experienced, good or bad, because all of them have joy.

By all means, I am not perfect. And that is perfectly okay with me, because I am definitely not complete and ready to go back to my Father in Heaven. I am just a daughter of God who is experiencing the joys that my Father wants me to have in order to become the Heavenly queen I am supposed to become. That's my joy!


Walk In Faith

April 3, 2017

These last few weeks, I've had this burning feeling in my heart that we need to have another baby soon, and I have been terrified and completely paralyzed by fear.

What if the one medication I can take with pregnancy doesn't work?
How will the hormones of pregnancy affect my already chemically-imbalanced brain and body?
What if I struggle to bond with this precious child because of my lack of good emotions?
How will I be able to take care of a dependent newborn when every day is such an emotional struggle?

I prayed over and over and over again for God to give me a sure answer that I could do this, but I only had the thought come to my mind over and over and over again that I needed to move forward with faith.  But the fear, the panic, and the overwhelming feelings surrounding this decision completely overtook me as I thought about moving forward.

I knew General Conference was coming up and that it could be a source of peace and calm for my very troubled heart, so I prayed again, this time asking that somehow something someone said would touch my heart and give me reassurance.  I felt some peace knowing that God would answer my prayer, and I anxiously waited for Conference.

Saturday morning came, and my heart was in a deep depression.  Although I was not crying on the outside most of the day, my entire inside was weeping, something I never would have understood unless I felt it myself every time the depression phase comes.  The talks were good, but none of them touched my heart in particular.  Then the Saturday afternoon session came and still nothing specific stood out to me.  I didn't lose hope though.  I knew my answer, my peace, was coming.

That evening, I went to a friend's house during the Priesthood Session.  On the way there, the sadness engulfed me, and I spent the next hour driving around crying.  I felt like I was grieving-- grieving the loss of my old self that loved the thought of having a baby, grieving the fact that my happiness is so fleeting now, and grieving over accepting that things might not return to normal as soon as I thought before (the lithium has not been working anymore).  I prayed again and told God everything about my heartbreaking, upset, and disappointed feelings.  I was all alone, so I talked out loud.  And I said it; I finally said it.  "This doesn't feel fair.  And it hurts.  It hurts in a way that I will never be able to explain.  Sometimes I feel so alone and scared.  It's the hardest thing I've ever had to endure, and I wish it could all go away.  But... I know it has a purpose.  Nothing about life is meant to be fair or easy or happy all the time.  So I will move forward.  I'll trust.  I just need help with every step of this journey.  I can do it if I just have help."

I drove to my friend's house, still feeling uneasy and very emotional, but I felt some healing in saying what I truthfully felt.

The next morning, I listened to Conference again while crocheting.  I was listening, but I wasn't taking notes, so it seemed like some of the talks were going in one ear and out the other.  I wasn't worried, because I knew I could go back and study them again, but then, out of nowhere, one sentence pierced my heart with unmistakable power.  It was exactly what I needed God to tell me:

Immediately I knew this was the answer to my prayers, a gift from God for my stormy mind.

I don't have all of the answers.  I don't know how.  And I don't have the reassurance that everything will be easy just because I am willing to do what God asks.  But I don't have to.  God has made a PROMISE that He will direct my path as I trust in Him, so I just have to move forward in faith (like I kept thinking before but I'm a little slow with these things) and take that first step, and then God WILL provide.

It would be so much easier to know all of the details, and I still wish that I could have a clear vision of the future, but I am learning to have faith, more faith than I've ever been required to have, and I am trying my hardest to trust in God's power to bless me as I strive to raise a righteous family.

April 6, 2017

These last few weeks have been extremely difficult.  I had been doing so well for a couple of weeks, and then it seemed that the medicine stopped working completely, and I was back at the beginning.  The last phase of depression was very difficult and felt like it would never lift.  This was at the time that I was feeling we needed to have another baby soon, so I really could not comprehend it, and I cried about it multiple times every day, even after my spiritual moment of recognizing that God would help me as I exercised the faith to walk.  This morning, I switched to mania, and it has been a welcomed relief this time.  This evening, I was looking through videos of Brooklyn as a baby, and I felt (I actually FELT) good, happy, loving emotions.  My heart was almost overflowing with good feelings.  And then I felt in my heart that everything will be okay.  It's like God needed me to be willing to move forward in faith, and once I decided I would move in that direction, He blessed me with a short, but beautiful, moment of peace and happiness, and I will cherish that precious moment forever!

April 10, 2017

This morning, I had my doctor's appointment to switch to the medication I can take while pregnant.  Up until this morning, I felt like I kept going up and down about really moving forward with this, and I had been so afraid still.  But this morning, I felt peace and calm.  I felt sure and completely resolved to walk in faith.  Kyle got to go to my doctor's appointment with me.  I really appreciated feeling his support and love through his effort to come to my appointment, even though it was at an inconvenient time with work.  At the beginning of the appointment, the doctor was asking how the medication was working and trying to figure out what to do next.  I couldn't find a time to stop the flow of our conversation and tell her that I wanted to switch to latuda.  But finally, the opportune time came, and she readily agreed that we should switch.  In fact, she said she was hopeful that this medication could really help me, much more hopeful than she was with the lithium and zoloft that I was prescribed at the hospital.  So we switched, and my peace continued.  I honestly have no fear anymore, and I know without a doubt that everything will work out somehow.

July 5, 2017

I've had very good moments these last two months that have reassured me that it's still the right thing to move forward with having a baby, and then I've had moments of great confusion and uneasiness.

The Sunday when I left church and drove around aimlessly while crying and wishing I could die was a moment of great confusion.  How can I be a mom with something so awful plaguing my mind and my life???  Why would God want me to be a mom to another precious child when I am already constantly afraid that I'm failing at being a good mom to my beautiful daughter?  But I moved forward.  I kept going.  I didn't give up.  I didn't let the fear overtake me.

Now we've tried a few times to get pregnant, and it still hasn't worked out.  Every month, I have to prepare myself, remind myself that this is what God wants, and move forward in faith again.  But now I'm even more confused.  Why, if this is what God wants and I am trying to be obedient in something that scares me more than anything, why isn't it working out right away?  I know I shouldn't think like that, but I do.  What I'm doing is hard and scary and requires so much faith, and it's not working.  It's only getting harder and requiring even more faith.

I know it will work sometime, but right now, I feel so discouraged.  I'm trying.  I'm even succeeding at getting myself excited to have another one.  And then my excitement is dashed and turns into very dark depression, when my broken mind has to think about another month of having faith that I can do this hard thing, another month of reassuring myself that God won't give me more than I can handle with His help, that He will be there to help me, that I can still ask for help from others even though I am making the choice to bring another child into this world, and that my child really does need me, not someone else.

In some ways, I just want to be pregnant so that I'm committed and so I can focus my energy on bonding and loving and getting excited to have another one.  But God must have another plan, a better plan.  So I patiently wait and trust and hope that my brokenness can handle the disappointment and continual fear it is facing right now.

August 1, 2017

Still no baby, so we're going to get in to a specialist soon to see what we can do about moving this process along.  I mostly feel peace.  Every time I am in mania, I feel very excited about having a baby and feel completely confident that I can handle it.  When I switch to depression, I feel very scared and unsure about how I will be able to do this.  But every time I feel overwhelmed and doubtful, this scripture comes to my mind:

With the remembrance of this scripture comes a flood of memories and feelings about how God has confirmed to my mind before that it is right to have a baby by giving me peace, and I simply need to continue moving forward in faith.  My daughter is an unmistakable gift from God sent to bring me joy and comfort and peace through my trials, so I can only imagine what amazing gift God has in store with this next baby.

August 22, 2017

Last week, it seemed as if I had started back at the beginning.  I suddenly didn't want to have a baby because of fear, and I begged God to show me how it will all work out and how I will handle it.  Saturday evening, we went to the adult session of stake conference.  Our stake president gave a wonderful talk about being "Go and Do" people and doing without having to see the details of how things will work out.  I once again felt peace in my mind and heart that God will help me, but I need to have the kind of faith to move forward without seeing the ending yet.  I need to have the kind of faith that can trust in God's promises to me, enough to do something scary and unsure, knowing that I won't be alone through this struggle.

September 11, 2017

Today was my appointment with the infertility doctor.  It has been almost 2 years that we have been trying (on and off) to have a baby.  These last couple of weeks have been glorious for me as I have had very little depression or mania.  As a result of this, I have felt very excited about having a baby.  In fact, I have felt the strong desire to hold other people's babies again, and the fear that once seemed overpowering is gone.  I feel like this is the greatest blessing God could be giving me at this time.  I don't know how long this journey will last or when another one of God's precious children will be welcomed into our family, but I do know this-- God is sustaining me, blessing me, and giving me everything I need to succeed in doing His will.  He has blessed me with a wonderfully supportive husband who is already an amazing father and is willing to help me through every struggle I face.  He has blessed me with a loving daughter who makes being a mother a joyful experience, even when it is difficult because of my struggles.  He has blessed me with friends who are willing to talk and listen and help me whenever I need it.  He has blessed me with the patience to wait until His blessings will be fulfilled, the ability to see His hand working in my life, and the perspective to know that this path I am on is a path of JOY!


Enjoying the Good

I haven't written about myself in a couple of weeks, because honestly things have been going really well, and that always creates a writer's block for me.  Nothing to write about is a very good thing.  I've had a few rough times (one evening of crying to my husband about my feelings of being a failure as a mom, another evening crying to him about a difficult counseling appointment, and a few nights of literally no sleep from mania), but these times have passed quickly before my heart has been filled with peace, hope, and sleep again.

Normally, I feel pretty hesitant about doing too much when I feel well, because I know it won't last forever, and trying to add certain things back into my life when I feel well will only result in more frustration when I don't feel well anymore.  I think it will take a very long time to completely heal from this, even when things are significantly better all the time, because my heart still has the open wounds and scars from these last 11 months.  I'm sure it will come in time, but sometimes I wonder if there will always be a slight feeling of hesitation, not knowing if I will slip back into darkness again later.

Since it has been a couple of good weeks now, I have been able to do some things that are normally too overwhelming to even think about.  I deep cleaned our bathroom!!  It had been a while, so I finally took a good day to do that difficult task, and it felt so good to be able to do it without any difficulty.  I also wrote a little bit more of the story of my childhood.  I used to work on this every Sunday, but it got to be way too difficult when all of this mental illness struggle started, so it felt good to work on it a little more.  I didn't struggle at church at all yesterday, I have been able to feel so much love for my little family, and I honestly feel like myself in every way right now.

This time around of feeling well, I have been trying to focus on not thinking that I have overcome this forever, and instead focus on simply enjoying these beautiful, happy days that have become precious and very appreciated gifts.

Feeling this happiness and light has been a good reminder for me of who I really am underneath the emotional struggle and what feeling good feels like.  It reminds me that I want to do what it takes to get back to feeling like this when things are hard again.  It is worth fighting for!

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That We Might Have Joy: Adrienne's Story

First I want to say that if you are reading this and are struggling with whatever life has thrown at you, I hope you find comfort in knowing that you are not alone, and that there is always joy to be found. You are doing great. Keep pushing forward.

A little bit of background information: Since the middle of high school, I have dealt with anxiety and depression. These things have been something that have lingered and followed me throughout my journey in life even to this day. The feelings that one experiences during depression and anxiety can be overwhelming, unbearable even. Pain and sorrow drape over the mind, leaving the person feeling hopeless, confused and scared. It has not been easy dealing with depression and anxiety. However, with the help of loved ones and modern medicine, I have been able to make it through these struggles and find joy. 

Recently though, life decided to throw a new curve ball my way. Just this last April my husband and our daughter (who is now 16 months, so hard to believe!) moved from Seattle, Washington to Boise, Idaho. My husband had gotten a new job downtown, and we found a beautiful house to rent in the area. Even though I loved Seattle, I was looking forward to exploring Boise and being closer to my family who live just a few hours away. That first month in Boise was great. I was exercising and eating well, had tons of energy, and took my daughter to all sorts of parks. We got to visit with family who came to stay with us for a while as well. Overall, things were great. I felt happy.

Then over the course of a couple weeks, things went downhill emotionally for me. I started feeling irritated and angry all the time. I had a hard time being patient with my daughter who was going through the tough phase of teething and growth spurts, along with short naps and little sleep at night. I lost my energy and motivation to exercise. I would snap at my husband at the silliest things. It was like I could not feel joy anymore, and I had no idea why this was happening to me. I became depressed, and started to experience something that I had not experienced before-- apathy. Nothing interested me anymore. My desire to do anything was gone. Everything I used to enjoy seemed pointless. It took enormous effort just to go outside to check the mail. All I wanted to do was sit on the couch. I couldn't feel happy even if I wanted to. Now to clarify, I have felt like this in the past with depression, but this time was different. This was a 24/7 deal. All the time. I couldn't snap out of it. 

After a couple months of this, I was finally convinced to see a counselor about my struggles. He suggested switching my medications to see if that would help. And thank goodness, it did help, at least partially. All those feelings of frustration and anger were gone. I was able to get my feelings under control in that sense. My patience returned again. I had my depression under control once more.

However, my feelings of happiness and motivation did not fully return, and that is what I am dealing with today. Indeed, there are times where I can feel happy now, but those times are not as frequent it seems. It still takes great effort to do anything, like doing a load of dishes or going for a walk with my baby. Some days it's all I can do to make sure my daughter is fed and dressed. I find it difficult to find things to do that I enjoy, because nothing seems interesting anymore. I would much rather lay down in bed and do nothing. I don't necessarily feel depressed during these times, just numb. Like I am floating in a void between happy and sad where there is nothing. What's really difficult about all of this is that I WANT to be happy. I WANT to enjoy things. I WANT to have the energy to accomplish the things that I want to in life. And though there are days where I can feel positive and happy, the majority of the time it feels out of reach.

Wow. So where is the joy in all this? How can I find joy when I have a hard time feeling anything at all? Thankfully there are some things that do bring me joy now, and I am ever so thankful for these things. 

One of those things is photography. I currently have my bachelors degree in photography, and taking photos is something that I have a strong passion for. I love to go out and photograph my beautiful daughter, and find new places to go photograph. I love photographing others, and seeing how happy they are when they receive their photos. Seeing others happy makes me happy.

I also feel much joy when my husband plays the piano. It is such a random thing to me honestly, but I am so glad that I am able to feel those positive emotions when he does play. 

Last, prayer brings me joy. There are times where all I want to do is feel something, so I kneel down and I pray to God to help me feel peace. And you know what? He answers me, even if it is just for a brief moment. Sometimes its not right away, but eventually, I can feel peace and His love for me. That right there is proof to me that He is there and that there is a reason to keep journeying through this life with faith that everything will work out. 

We each have our own trials. We each have our own tale to tell. I could go on forever about my own struggles. But there is always one thing in common. One thing that got me through those clouds of darkness-- I found joy. And that joy is what I hold onto until the next storm, where I hope to find joy to guide me through once again.