Disappointing News

Last Friday, I got a text from my doctor with some bad news. We weren’t going to be able to move forward with the treatment we were planning to try, because the specialist he had consulted advised him not to. Immediately when I read this message, my eyes began to fill with tears. I hurried to my closet to hide away from Brooklyn, when all the strength left my body, and I fell to my knees in broken sobs. My heart hurt with such intensity that I could only gasp for air between the bursts of tears that seemed to overcome me. It felt like every last bit of hope I had in me washed away with each warm tear that streamed down my face. I didn’t think I would be able to find the strength to get up or stop crying ever again. I called my husband and messaged a few close friends to share my devastation. There was nothing they could say to make it better, but I felt love as they mourned with me in my moment of great hurt. I continued crying as I wished that my husband could be there to wrap me in his loving arms.

And then something so beautiful happened. My snuggly baby boy army crawled to my closet to find me. When he had finally made his way to me, he reached up for me, and I picked him up. He then laid his head on me and stayed there looking up at me and saying, “Aww” for the next 20 minutes! I didn’t immediately feel better, and I’m pretty sure I soaked his cute blonde hair with my tears that continued to fall, but I did feel the immediate goodness of God through this sweet boy as he wrapped my broken heart in love. It was such a tender moment, one that I will never forget, and one that will forever remind me that God knows me and is so mindful of me.

We do have a plan moving forward, so we will continue on this journey hoping and trusting in better days to come. It’s hard knowing that this struggle isn’t over yet, and I do have some anxiety about the days ahead, but I know that there will always be miracles to accompany the most difficult days, just as there have been SO MANY miracles in the past.

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Feeling Hope

Things have suddenly taken a turn for the better for me emotionally, and I am so thankful. On April 27th, I reached the lowest I have ever reached before. I had no hope left in me. I felt broken beyond repair. I thought healing was beyond reach for me. I thought there was no reason to go on. And for the first time, I really could have been gone. It seemed like nothing could help me stay. Thankfully, I found the last of the strength I had in me to reach out for help, someone responded to my urgent plea, and I didn’t act on the feelings and thoughts that were so pressing at the time. After this traumatic, scary experience though, I decided that I needed a break from medicine for a while. Since my medications weren’t helping at all and were only making things worse, I decided with my doctor to stop taking them for the time being. I’m open to trying again in the future if we think that is necessary, but for now, I’m taking a much needed break. At the same time, my doctor discovered something that he thinks is the cause for all of this emotional turmoil. We’re still in the process of beginning a new, quite unconventional treatment option, so I won’t share the details until we see if it works 🤞🤞🤞 but just knowing that this might help me, that I might get better, that my heart has a chance to heal, has brought so much hope into my world. I still cry. I still struggle with getting overwhelmed by small tasks. I still have daily thoughts of dying. I know I still have a looooong way to go to heal from these years of struggle, but for the first time in a very long time, I have a tangible feeling of hope for a bright future ahead for my life. It’s finally my own feeling, not just me trusting in the hope that others have for me. It brings immediate tears to my eyes to think of all the people who have been there for me along this wild ride and who have saved me when the darkness seemed all-consuming and was literally impossible to fight on my own. My life is forever changed by the Christ-like ministering and love I have seen through my darkest days.

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Mental Health Awareness Month

Supposedly, this month is Mental Health Awareness Month, but I feel completely unqualified to say anything about it. I guess it's because I feel like I don't know anything about mental HEALTH anymore, only mental ILLNESS with my brain being so sick right now. 😜 This last weekend, I experienced a level of darkness that has left me scarred, wounded, and changed forever. It hurts that there is something so powerful and so painful that it has changed me in such a drastic way. Thanks to my incredible husband, wonderful friends, supportive church leaders, and an amazing doctor, I'm holding onto a few things they have repeated to me during this difficult time that give me glimmers of hope. While I don't feel these things for myself yet (which makes me feel raw, vulnerable, and slightly hypocritical sharing them), I can trust that they are true, because I trust that the people who say they love me or care about me really do.

1. My life is never too broken to heal.
2. Asking for help is not weak. In fact, it's one of the strongest things I can do.
3. I am not defined by my lowest points.
4. I may never be the same again after what I've experienced. But isn't that the point of the struggles we face-- to change us, to open our hearts, to give us new compassionate perspectives, and to show us how to help others?
5. I don't have to escape if I can heal, and I CAN heal.
6. It's okay to not feel hope for myself at the moment but to trust in the hope that others see and feel for my future.

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My Crazy Tracker Charts

Once upon a time, my cool, nerdy, amazingly supportive husband Kyle made me an excel sheet we lovingly call my "crazy tracker charts." Yesterday I had my first collaborative care appointment, which means that my doctor, a counselor, and a psychiatrist all work together on my care. I brought my charts, and they made it very obvious that I have rapid cycling bipolar 2. I've spent a lot of time in very deep depression this month, but there is hope and healing ahead. It's going to take time and work and figuring out more things medically first, but we will get there. Someday, I hope my charts will be small waves with lots of time spent at 0 (normal). But until then, I'll keep plugging in the data and enjoy seeing the craziness of my brain on my awesome charts.



I know I've shared a lot recently, and I won't share so much in the future, but my hope is that sharing can bring light and hope to someone else who is fighting similar battles.

Yesterday was a day of hellish darkness. When I woke up, I immediately knew that I was in the fight for my life. But this time, I couldn't find it in myself to try to be patient and submissive. I was angry that this darkness persists and so very tired of fighting. As tears soaked my face and as my heart crumbled, this thought came into my mind, "Be prepared to see miracles today." Every time the darkness is this thick, every time I don't know how I can survive one more storm, every time I wonder how a heart can endure so much pain and keep beating, I see miracles. Not miracles of healing, but miracles of strength and love, and yesterday was no different.

First, it was a good friend who listened as I cried and who spoke comforting words of encouragement. Then, it was two people who texted one right after the other saying that I was on their mind that morning and asked how I was doing. One of them also told me about an article in the Ensign which I read right away and it touched my heart. Next, it was a friend who dropped anything she may have had going to come and sit with me. She let me explain my darkness, she told me about her struggles, and our hearts connected on a level that can only come through struggle. After that, it was a sweet card that came in the mail from a dear friend with a package that I ordered from her. She didn't have to do that, but it couldn't have been better timing. Finally, it was a friend who sent me a picture of two Dove chocolate wrappers with sweet quotes that she said made her think of me.

None of these acts took away my darkness, and it stubbornly persists today. But they wrapped my broken heart in love. They buoyed me up and strengthened me. They carried me through the darkness and helped me once again find the will to win.

I am thankful for the "immediate goodness of God" that I see and feel through the wonderful people all around me. I'm thankful that I don't have to face this struggle alone, as I'm positive I wouldn't still be here if that were the case. I'm thankful that I am able to experience miracles, even if they aren't the miracles I sometimes desire. I'm thankful for the love that binds together the broken pieces of my heart until they can heal someday. Someday I hope to be the one to let someone else see God's goodness through me as so many have done in my life.

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A few weeks ago, I was driving to take a picture of the foundation on our new house. I had been feeling alright that day, but as soon as I was alone, I began to cry and couldn't hold back the tears no matter how hard I tried. At first, they were tears of confusion and frustration as I wondered what had just happened and why my mood had crashed so quickly. After just a few minutes though, my thoughts spiraled downward, and I desperately wanted to die. I thought of my husband and kids and knew that I needed to hold on for them, but the pain was so great as I wondered how I could ever survive crash after crash after crash in the future. It hurt in a way that I feel few people could ever understand unless they have been there, and pretty soon the warm, angry, sorrowful tears steadily streamed down my face.

I got home, parked my car in the back corner of the parking lot, and sobbed. I felt all alone and weak in this moment of great hurting, and I wondered how I would ever find the strength to pull myself together and go inside my house.

And then something miraculous happened. I was parked in an area that didn't have an outlet, so no one would come over there unless they were parking there as well or lost. There were several parking spots open next to me and no one was around, so I felt like I could get my tears out without anyone seeing. After a few minutes, an older man came and parked next to me. When he saw my face, I'm positive he could see that I had been crying. Without saying a word, he smiled the most genuine and heartfelt smile I've ever seen. The look in his eyes was as if he were comforting me and saying, "It's okay. You're going to be okay." In that moment, I felt an overwhelming feeling of God's love for me. I felt that I was not alone, that God was so mindful of me, that He cared about me and hurt to see me hurt, and that I really would be okay. The man backed out of the parking spot almost as quickly as he had parked and drove away.

Immediately, my tears stopped flowing, I dried my face, and I returned to the safety of my home and family. All because a kind man took the time to smile at me.

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Faith in God

I try to be vulnerable and share my experiences with depression for two reasons-- 1) to help those who experience similar things to know that they are not alone and 2) to help others who don't experience these things to have more understanding and love for those who do.

Since beginning to write, I have had a lot of comments and opinions shared, some that brighten my day and lighten my load and others that aren't very helpful or kind.  I have reached the point where I am able to disregard these and they have very little affect on me, but I've been thinking about some of them recently. One of the most frequent opinions that has been shared with me is that if I just had enough faith, then this problem would be healed.

At first, this was devastating to think that I was being judged as not having enough faith because I experienced an ongoing struggle with depression. Over time, the comments about my apparent "lack of faith" have stopped bothering me, but in listening to the recent General Conference talk by Elder Brook Hales, I have appreciated this part of his talk: "Sometimes our prayers are answered quickly with the outcome we hope for. Sometimes our prayers are not answered in the way we hope for, yet with time we learn that God had greater blessings prepared for us than we initially anticipated. And sometimes our righteous petitions to God will not be granted in this life. As Elder Neal A. Maxwell said, 'Faith also includes trust in God’s timing.'"

I believe that I have the faith to be healed. I really do. But that has not been God's will for my life. It hasn't even been His will for me to find a medication that can relieve the burden yet. That does not mean that I don't have faith. It simply means that God has greater plans in store for my life than what I can understand right now. I will never stop praying for my miracle or praying for relief, but even if that prayer is never answered in this life, I have faith that someday my mind and heart WILL be made whole, never to be broken in this way again.

I'm not trying to direct this at anyone or make anyone feel bad, and I truly believe that people mean well. I simply want to point out that some things are less helpful or even harmful to say.

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Rock Bottom

I am moved to tears today, but for the first time in a very long time, they are happy tears. After 15 days of a darkness so thick that it once again redefined my definition of what it means to experience darkness, I feel the tangible feeling of hope again. My doctor has a new treatment plan that is unconventional but seems to have a very probable chance of helping (I'll tell more about that later). I have family and friends and church leaders who love and support me through my darkest days. And most of all, I have a firm testimony of the Savior and of His ability to comfort, love, sustain, strengthen, and bless. Though this struggle has beaten me down to what feels like a rock bottom, I find comfort in knowing that the only direction to go from rock bottom is up.

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Inspired Quote

Why not take advantage of not being able to sleep to post an uplifting quote? 😜 There were two talks in general conference this last weekend that particularly touched my heart. One was the beautiful talk by Sister Eubank about Christ being the light that shines in darkness. I've already listened to that talk twice more this week and it continues to reach the parts of my heart that need comfort and light. Out of all the inspired words of her talk, this part brought instant tears to my eyes as I felt like she was talking directly to me. I feel the truth of these uplifting words, and they continue to bring light to my darkness.

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What if the Greatest Good...

I've thought about sharing this post for a few weeks now, but I've hesitated because I don't want it to draw attention to myself. I finally decided to in case it can help someone else, but just know that this simply meant to uplift anyone who feels that their current circumstances limit their ability to bless the lives of others.

I've honestly prayed many times in the last several years for this struggle with depression to be taken away. Of course, I want relief for my broken heart and mind, but sometimes there is this more pressing concern that I could do so much more good in this world if this wasn't an ongoing struggle in my life. I would be so much more available to serve and give of my time and energy to bless others if this struggle was miraculously healed.

Recently when I've prayed and tried to explain to Heavenly Father my desires to serve that feel impossible to fulfill at this time, this thought has come into my mind, "You want to be healed to do good, but what if the greatest good you can do comes through having this struggle?"

This took me back at first, as I confusedly wondered how a life that feels broken into so many tiny pieces can still be used to do good. But slowly, my eyes have been opened, as I have recognized the beautiful opportunities my broken heart has been given to connect with other broken hearts in ways that I know it couldn't have otherwise. I have been humbled to witness how God can take my small offering and multiply it to make it so much more. I have been able to see ways that I can serve within my own capacities that still do good in the world, even if they're different from what I desire to do.

I still want to be healed, and I always will. I will never stop trying to find relief and I'll never stop hoping in better days ahead, but I find joy in moments when I can see things from a different perspective and know that whatever happens in my life is truly best for me and for those around me.

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Medication Update

People frequently ask me for medication updates, and this is the best way to update everyone at once, so here's for anyone who's interested in knowing.

Two weeks ago, I started a new mood stabilizer after I was basically not functional on the last one. After the first week, I had a few good days in a row, and I was feeling hopeful. Things still weren't near normal yet, but I figured with some dose increases and periodic tweaking, we'd get it all figured out and these terribly difficult years could be placed behind me forever. Maybe I shouldn't have been so hopeful, but I desperately want this heartache to leave, so I couldn't help but find hope in normal days ahead.

Last Sunday, we doubled the dose. I had some anxiety about this, because of some of the terrible experiences I've had with medication things in the past, and I worried this one would follow those same tracks. I tried to push the fears away, as I continued to hope in better days to come.

Tuesday evening, I was at the church for youth activities. When the activity was done (thankfully it was done and not during!!) I started to react to the dose increase. I can't really describe it as there are not adequate words for a depth of pain such as this, but my worst fears were coming true, as I began reacting very similarly to the worst medication reaction I've ever had. I could barely make it home from the church as my legs were shaking so terribly and my mind was so burdened with anxiety that I didn't know if I could even remember how to get home. I called my husband and he talked to me on the drive home (all 1 mile of it) and reminded me to breath. I was overcome with panic and I so desperately wished that I could escape the pain that squeezed my heart and paralyzed my mind.

Through a priesthood blessing, lots of help from my husband, lots of help from wonderful friends, and more prayers than I ever thought it possible to pray in a 24 hour period, the medication darkness lifted and my heart found relief in getting back to how I normally feel.

To say that I am discouraged is an understatement. My heart is broken. I need some time before we do anything else medication-wise. I've gone back down to the dose I was at before all of this happened, and I'll probably stay there for a long time until I am ready to pick myself up and fight some more. I don't know why things happen the way they do. I don't know why this struggle persists and won't respond to medications the way I wish it would. I don't know why my heart has felt so much pain and why there is no end in sight yet. But what I do know is that I won't give up, I'm incredibly blessed to have the supportive people I have around me, there is always a reason to have hope, this struggle has softened my heart in beautiful ways, and better days really are coming, just maybe farther out than what I thought a week ago.

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But I Was Wrong

I feel so passionate about breaking the silence of suicide. I know it's uncomfortable to talk about. I know it's not something people want to discuss. But I have seen too many miracles, too many perfectly-timed blessings that have saved my own life, that I can't help but share some of my experiences with the hope that sharing can be a lifeline of hope to someone else.

Several months ago, I saw this video about a man who attempted suicide by jumping off the Golden Gate Bridge. By some very real miracle, he lived, and now he is a motivational speaker who shares his story with thousands of people around the world. At the beginning of this video, he said something that has stuck with me ever since. He said, "I thought I had to die. But I was wrong."

Fast forward to the past two weekends. Sometimes it feels like something in my brain snaps, and suddenly it seems like the only option for me is to die. It's scary and so real, and it has happened the last two weekends. I've managed to overcome these moments by reaching out for help and by thinking of my beautiful family and how much they need me, and I'm okay now. I really am okay.

Just the day after both of these times, we were doing something together as a family, and I felt joy. Both times, I remembered this video I had seen and what the man said. I, too, thought I had to die. But I was wrong. I thought there was no hope. But I was wrong. I thought there was no reason to keep going. But I was wrong. The light DOES come again. I AM loved and needed and stronger than the darkness of depression. Please, if you are feeling any of these things, reach out for help. You are loved and needed and so strong. Your light will come again!!!

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How Does Depression Fit into the Gospel of Jesus Christ?

I've asked this question so many times.  I've never doubted that there is a place for depression in the church, because I know there's a place for everyone and every struggle in Christ's church, but sometimes I wonder where I fit or how living the gospel is possible with severe depression.  As I've pondered this question for several weeks, I've gained some new insights that I want to share as a way of offering hope and peace to someone else who may wonder where they fit.

As a member of the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-Day Saints, there is a lot that is asked of me, and I desperately want to do it, because I have seen in the past how these things have blessed my life.  But in moments of severe depression, it is very difficult to keep up with anything, let alone the many, many things that are expected of me in the church.  I've continually tried to keep up or do all the right things, and lately, I've had to modify or let some things go, because I simply cannot do it all.  So here is what I've found that can work for me:

  1. Scripture study-- For the last several years, scripture study has been one of the most difficult things I've had to do.  This frustrates me so much, because I used to really enjoy studying and learning.  I felt like it was a very uplifting experience every day, and I miss that.  But I can still have a good, non-destructive experience studying if I change how I do it.  Honestly, it doesn't make sense, but I can't open the scriptures.  I know it sounds ridiculous, but for some reason, that is super overwhelming to me.  It's like I can't stay in the present, because doing it today makes me remember that I have to do it tomorrow and the next day and the next day, and I simply cannot do it today without feeling very overwhelmed about all the days to follow that I have to do it again and again and again.  I can't read from the pages without spending the rest of the day either crying or feeling very negative things about myself.  But what I can do is listen to conference talks.  So you know what I do?  I listen to a conference talk every day.  Is it wrong?  No, not at all, because it's what I can handle to still obey and do what I need to do.  I think I can handle this because it has a very clear beginning and end, so I don't have to worry about the next chapter after the one I'm already studying.  Some days I even find talks that are specifically applicable to depression, because I finally realized that the point of studying the scriptures is to help me come closer to the Savior and to bring the Spirit into my life.  If that means studying the same talk about depression every single day for the rest of my life, then that's okay if that's what I need to feel closer to Heavenly Father and to endure the challenges that I have been given in this life.
  2. Temple attendance-- This is another thing that has become nearly impossible when I am severely depressed.  Not only is it overwhelming to find a babysitter and to organize how we can actually go, but then the time spent in the temple is very difficult for me, and I usually struggle greatly for days after.  Once again, it doesn't make sense, but it is very real and debilitating.  One thing I have accepted is that it's okay to not always be able to go as long as I am trying to go as often as I can with the circumstances and stage of life I am in.  Another thing I've accepted is that I cannot do an endowment session in my current state.  It's not worth it to go when the days after are honestly hellish.  But I've found that I can do sealings or initiatories without these terrible after effects, so that's what I do now.  I simply try my best and allow myself to feel that Heavenly Father understands me perfectly and recognizes how hard I am trying, even though things look much different now than they used to.
  3. Church attendance-- I love going to church, but it is also a struggle almost every week.  I struggle listening to the talks, because I get very overwhelmed thinking about all the things I should be doing and am not doing perfectly.  It's like my brain can't choose just one thing to work on, and pretty soon it is flooded with thoughts of how I'm not good enough or not worthy.  I know it would seem easy to say that I just have to stop thinking like that, but my brain is sick, so that's not always possible.  I can see a very real difference in my thinking when I feel better, so I know it is the brain sickness that causes this difficulty.  Often times, my emotions are very near the surface on Sundays.  This frequently causes me to panic, because I can't hold in the emotion anymore, but I desperately want to hide it from everyone.  I've learned first and foremost that it is okay to cry!  It's okay to not hold it altogether.  It's okay to "lose it" in front of everyone.  It's okay to let others comfort me and hold me close in those times when my heart is breaking.  It's okay to let others see my hurt and to let them know that I am a very real person with a very real struggle.  All of this is okay, and it has blessed my life tremendously to let go of the desire to hide from everyone when my heart is in pain.
  4. Service-- As you can imagine, struggling to even get out of the house has made serving others a nearly impossible task.  I used to do so much-- babysit, take meals, visit people, give rides, etc.  It was the thing that brought me so much joy.  But just because most of my days are filled with struggle now does not mean that I can't serve.  I just have to serve in different ways than I used to.  One thing I have found that I can do is text people.  I can send a short message letting someone know that I am thinking about them or love them.  I can ask how people are doing or try to remember special things going on in their lives to check back on.  I can compliment people and offer words of encouragement and love.  The best part is, I don't have to leave the comfort of my own home to do this.  I can serve from my bed or from the couch on the days when I spend most of my time in those two places.  I also try to take advantage of the days when I am feeling better to do the other things that I cannot do on my depression days.  It boosts my spirits when people allow me to serve them, because it makes me feel more a part of my ward family.
  5. Callings-- I'm sure I sound like a whiny broken record by now, but callings have presented a real struggle in my life the last few years.  A few things I have learned is that I can talk with my bishop to let him know about my circumstances so that I am not asked to do more than I am capable of.  I have also learned that it's okay to simplify my calling to the very basics.  It's okay to have to say "no" when there are things I simply cannot do and it's okay to need to ask for help to be able to do my calling without having it affect my mental health too greatly.
I'm thankful for where I am at now in the things I have learned and the ways I have found that I can still be a part of Christ's church while struggling, even struggling greatly at times.  I'm not perfect (obviously!) but I try, and I know that Heavenly Father sees that and accepts my broken offerings.  I know that the things I do in the church have grown in meaning and purpose through the difficulty in doing them, and I'm thankful for those who have stood by me to comfort and help me realize my place in God's plan.  

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Image result for lds everyone has a place quote

Image result for lds everyone has a place quote


Medication Update

Several people have asked me for a medication update. I'm usually super hesitant to answer one way or the other, because it takes some time to tell for sure. But... I guess I can update how things are now and hope that they don't change.

This last weekend was scary with a darkness so threatening, I thought I wouldn't make it this time. It hurt terribly, and I really thought I was going to lose against it. As with every time in the past that the darkness seemed too pervasive to make it out, there were beautiful tender mercies that once again saved me from my broken mind and heart. I told my doctor after the fact, and he immediately increased my mood stabilizer with the hope of being able to increase the anti-depressant soon as well.

Yesterday, things started to turn around. I was up to a 7 on my friend's made up "happy scale," and it was wonderful. I walked to the park with my kids and biked a couple miles in the evening. I had energy and even the desire to do some things for the first time in a very long time.

Today is the same, only better (like a 9 or 10 on the happy scale). I think I'm somewhat manic again, but it is a very welcomed relief after the terrible depression crash I had this last weekend. As with nearly all medications, there are side effects (this one makes me nauseous, have a headache, and feel dizzy/lightheaded), but all the side effects are very manageable right now and definitely worth it to feel better emotionally.

I can't tell you how long it's been since I've felt this hopeful, like maybe there really is something out there that can help me, and we finally found it! I still hesitate to feel too hopeful, because the disappointment of finding out that a medication is not a good match for me is devastating, but either way, I'm thankful for this good period I can experience. After facing such a deep darkness, the light is oh so sweet, no matter how fleeting it may be.


God Answers Prayers

The couple of months before we moved here, I was very afraid. I prayed harder than I've ever prayed before for two very specific things 1) that people here would be prepared to know how to help and love me through this struggle and 2) that I would be able to use my experiences to bless others. I prayed for it every single day, even multiple times a day.

Now almost 4 months later, I can say that my prayers have truly been answered! Not only have I been able to connect with the most incredible, loving, kind, selfless friends and find a wonderful doctor who have all changed and saved my life, but tonight I have the third opportunity since moving here to share my experiences with depression and to hopefully offer strength and comfort to those going through similar circumstances.

I still wish every day that this was not a struggle in my life and that the brokenness of my mind and heart can be made whole, but I'm thankful that God has answered my prayers, not with healing yet, but with the people I've needed and the people who maybe need me. Being a part of God's perfect plan is a humbling experience.

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Faith and Courage

This week, my evenings have been filled with fear. It's like the sun goes down and suddenly fear takes over my heart. I worry about this new medication not working or making things worse, like all the other medications I've tried in the past. I worry about never finding something that can help me. I worry about having to face another day when the one I just finished was already so exhausting and difficult. I worry about being selfish, because I'm at a point of needing help and having very little to offer in terms of service. I worry that the persistent thoughts that I can't do this will never go away. I worry that I'm going to chase away anyone who has ever loved me, because I keep needing to call on the same people to love, encourage, and offer hope.

And then to top it all off, I remember all those times I've heard something along the lines of "faith and fear cannot co-exist" or "fear is the absence of faith," and the anxiety of not having perfect faith seems unbearable.

But yesterday I found this quote by President Monson, and I love it! I love the thought that fear is simply a part of this life, but facing my fears with faith can make me courageous. Honestly, it takes faith trying a new medicine not knowing how it will affect my mind and body. It takes faith to get up every morning and fight through another day. It takes faith to believe in God's love for me, when I rarely feel it. It takes faith to hope for a better future that I cannot presently see. It takes faith to open up and admit I need help again and again and again, because I truly can't do this alone. Even though my faith is far from perfect, I can choose to be courageous by facing my fears and fighting through each new day with faith.

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On Friday, after talking to my doctor and per his instruction, I stopped taking the mood stabilizer I had been prescribed and only continued on the antidepressant. Apparently he meant to call in another mood stabilizer and forgot, probably because all of this happened via text. Saturday morning, I started to feel great-- tons of energy, thoughts racing 400 mph, this feeling of complete invincibility, the thought that I had conquered depression and that I had the ability to make sure it never came back, etc. It felt incredible to finally feel good, but I knew that it was more than a normal feeling of good, especially since it was the starkest contrast from just two days before. Yesterday, I texted my doctor again, he realized that he had forgotten to send in the new prescription, and he confirmed that this was a manic high caused by taking the antidepressant by itself without a mood stabilizer. Unfortunately, this feeling won't be here forever, but we took advantage of its presence to enjoy lots of outdoor time as a family on this beautiful, warm weekend.

I'm so so so thankful for good days, especially when I can enjoy them with my family! I'm thankful that finally after over 3 years of doctors going back and forth and trying to decide what is happening in my brain, it is very clear that this is bipolar. I'm thankful for my doctor who has been so caring, kind, and helpful through this process. I'm thankful for the hope that has gotten me through the hellish days of darkness that have often seemed unrelenting at the time. I'm thankful for sunshine, warmth, fresh air, and beautiful nature. I'm thankful for my life.

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Climbing Mountains

Thank you SO MUCH to everyone who has called, texted, messaged, commented, and served me and my family this week. I feel wrapped in warm love and support, and I know that I am so blessed by all of the wonderful people God has placed in my life these many years.

This morning, I talked to my doctor, and he said that the medication I was taking is definitely not a good match. I couldn't have been more relieved to hear that. Of course that means that we still haven't figured out anything that will work yet, but we know one more that won't work, so that's still progress.

Tonight, Kyle and I were able to go on a date after someone offered to watch our kids. We decided to go on a little hike. Not only was it great to be together and in nature, but it was great to feel the strength that comes from climbing mountains together. It reminded me that we can overcome anything as long as we have each other.

I'm so thankful that I don't have to do this life alone and that I am literally surrounded by people who are willing to talk, listen, hug, uplift, encourage, help with my kids, bring me lunch, and even help me fulfill my assignment to make cupcakes for youth activities when I couldn't do that on my own. My life is forever changed by the goodness I have seen shining through the darkness.

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Depression is a sickness and I am very sick right now. The medication I am on has heightened and magnified every struggle to the point that it is debilitating. Surviving is a daily, hourly battle. I keep fighting, because I love my family, because I have faith in better days to come, and because I want to prove that the hardest struggles can be overcome.

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Finding Hope through the Heartache of Depression

This last Saturday, I had the beautiful privilege of speaking at our stake Relief Society activity.  The theme was finding hope through heartache, and I was asked to speak specifically about finding hope through depression.  Because so much of the purpose of this blog is to offer hope to those going through the heartache of depression, I wanted to share my thoughts on here as well.  

So here it goes, the 10 reasons that I find hope through depression:
  1. Opening up about this struggle-- I didn't open up for so long for 2 reasons, 1) because I thought this struggle made me unlovable and 2) because I thought I was all alone.  When we moved to Davenport, Iowa, I was convinced that I was the only person in the whole state of Iowa who was struggling with depression.  As ridiculous as that sounds now, I thought it was true, so I thought I couldn't open up about something that no one else would understand or love about me.  Our move to Davenport was very hard on me, and eventually, I knew that I had to open up.  I couldn't keep fighting through this struggle by myself anymore.  So one morning, I got on facebook and wrote a short post about how I struggle with depression and what that means for me.  After I clicked "post," I shut off my computer and thought that I would never get on facebook again, because I was so worried about the reaction I would get.  A while later, I checked back and was amazed at the response.  That time and every time since then, I have received two responses to opening up about this struggle in my life.  1) SO MUCH LOVE!!!  What I once thought made me unlovable has turned out to be the thing that has brought the most love into my life.  2) I cannot even count the number of people who have said, "Me too."  I thought I was all alone, but I wasn't.  There were people all around me who were struggling in the same way and feeling just as alone as I felt, but once I had the courage to open up, I was surrounded by people who understood me, and I was no longer alone.
  2. Sharing my story-- Being able to share my story brings me the hope that what I am going through has purpose, because I can use it to bring light to others, even when I myself am in darkness.
  3. Hearing other people's stories-- Regardless of what other people struggle with, I find hope through hearing about their struggles, because it reminds me that I am not alone, and it reminds me that we are literally all walking each other home.
  4. Looking for joy-- Starting this blog about finding joy through depression has brought me so much hope.  I am not often able to feel the Spirit or to feel Heavenly Father near.  It is so devastating to me that at the times when I need Heavenly Father the most, I cannot feel His comfort.  But looking for joy has been my connection to God.  It has allowed me to see all the tender mercies in my life that help me to know that He is very aware and mindful of me.  I have literally seen miracles.  I still struggle with this nearly every day, so I haven't seen the miracle of healing yet, but I have seen countless miracles of strength and love through these years.
  5. Asking for help-- Between 2016 and 2017, I went through a yearlong depression that seemed unrelenting.  After 9 months of this depression, I came home from church one Sunday and cried to my husband, "It has been 9 months and I still don't know how to handle this.  I still don't know how to get through it."  He said something that was so profound and has stuck with me ever since.  He said, "You do know how to handle it.  You know that you need to ask for help."  I remember how this struck me, because up until that point, I thought that I had to do it on my own.  I thought I had to handle it.  When he said this, I realized that it was okay to let others in and to let them be a part of my "handling it."  
  6. The love of my family and friends-- I once read a quote that said, "If you cannot look on the bright side of things, I will sit with you in the dark."  That is what so many people have done for me.  They have sat with me in the dark, offering words of comfort, love, encouragement, and hope.
  7. Seeking professional help-- I find hope through seeking professional help, because it gives me strength to know that someday, I will be able to find relief.  I am currently in this difficult process, but I will never stop seeking this kind of help, because I need the hope that it brings to me that there are better days to come.
  8. Believing in future light-- Before I felt that I could open up about this struggle, church was excruciating.  It felt like 3 long hours that I had to hide.  After one Sunday of hiding, I came home from church, went straight to my room, closed the door, and fell on my face in prayer.  I'm not sure now if I even said any words or just cried, but I remember opening my eyes after several minutes.  Right in front of me was the window to our bedroom and pouring through the window were the brightest rays of sunlight.  I remember hearing almost as audibly as a voice, "Hold on.  Your light will come."  I have faced countless episodes of darkness, but every single one of those episodes has been followed by a period of light.  The light has truly always come again.  I have learned that hope is not always a present feeling, but it can always be a future belief.  I can always keep believing that that feeling of hope will return and that the light will come again.
  9. The Savior-- I find hope through knowing that the Savior truly understands everything I experience.  And He doesn't just understand, because He wants to understand.  He understands, because He chose to experience it, so at those times when I cry out saying, "No one knows what I am feeling," He can say that He does understand.  I find so much comfort in knowing that there is nothing I can experience that He has not experienced it first.
  10. My knowledge of the Resurrection-- I think Elder Holland said it best when he said, "I bear witness of that day when loved ones whom we knew to have disabilities in mortality will stand before us glorified and grand, breathtakingly perfect in body and mind. What a thrilling moment that will be! I do not know whether we will be happier for ourselves that we have witnessed such a miracle or happier for them that they are fully perfect and finally 'free at last.'”  I find hope in knowing that someday, my heart and mind will be made whole, never to be broken in this way again.  



Lately, we have spent a lot of days just surviving. That's not my favorite way to live, but sometimes that's all I can manage. A few mornings ago, I was feeling really down about my lack of ability to do anything more than the bare minimum right now. Brooklyn crept into my room and got under the covers with me to snuggle. I asked her, "Am I a bad mom?" She looked super confused. She said, "No. You're my good mom." I followed up with asking how she knows that I love her. She replied, "Because you snuggle with me while we watch movies together." It brought tears to my eyes that what I saw as us watching way too many movies while the minutes slowly pass by until Kyle gets home, she saw as us snuggling and spending time together. Today is a surviving day, but we've snuggled a lot, so I guess it's a successful day too.

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March 1st

March 1st is one of my favorite days of the year, just behind Christmas and my anniversary. February is always the hardest month for me depression wise, and this February was no exception. In fact, this one was harder than others, because we started trying to figure out medication things again, which only compounded some of the usual struggle. March 1st is my day to celebrate surviving. It's my day to look forward to spring. It's always a day of hope. Things can only get better from here!!

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Medication Increase

Yesterday, this little man was all smiles and giggles and Brooklyn entertained me with some fun games of I-Spy and 20 Questions, while I spent 95% of the day in bed trying to survive a medication dose increase. I really don't like the medication process, but I trust that better days are coming soon, and until then, I have two cute kids and a wonderful husband to make me smile and to help me survive the most difficult days.

Also, I made it out of the house before 8am today, so I already feel accomplished. #WinningAtLife #ICanDoHardThings #FindingJoy

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My Husband's Side of our Journey

For some time, Shantelle has been wanting me (Kyle, her husband) to write something about my side of her struggles. I have been putting it off mostly because I am a pretty closed person who doesn’t like to let anyone in on the mystery that is Kyle’s emotions. This type of post has the smell of probing into my feelings, so I have avoided it, but Shantelle has put together a list of questions that I could answer, so I suppose I can manage that. Just don’t expect me to get all mushy gushy about it. The most personal parts will remain unwritten.

I should also preface this by pointing out that I don’t have all the answers. If I did, I suppose we would cease to have a problem, because I could just solve everything. Unfortunately, I can’t solve all our problems, but I have learned a little from them, so I will share some of what has worked for us and hope that it might help others. Here I go.

How has your perspective on mental health changed?

Before I married Shantelle, I had very little knowledge about mental illness. I think that is the case for many who have never struggled with it personally. We can be kind of oblivious to the internal struggles of others. To describe my way of thinking, I need to describe me. I think I would classify my emotions as logical and steady. Steady, because I rarely deviate from the norm emotionally speaking, and logical, because if I do deviate from the norm, there is always a direct reason. If something gets me down, I simply identify the reason and remedy the problem. Of course, I can’t always fix the problem, but I can at least almost always identify the reason, which makes sadness easier to deal with. 

I assumed that everyone ought to have the same control over their feelings as I did, so it was difficult to understand depression. To be honest, I rarely gave it a thought. I do remember a few times in my early adult life talking about someone who had depression. I was somewhat sympathetic toward their situation, but at the same time, I secretly felt that they must be grossly exaggerating and that they just needed to buck up and get over it. To me, there was always this question, “If something makes you feel that bad, why don’t you just identify the source and then work on solving the problem?” Easy right?

Wrong. I, of course, tried to solve Shantelle’s problems using that method of thinking, and soon realized that there is not always a direct reason for the way she feels. Sadly, that meant that there also was not a direct solution. I have come to understand that thoughts caused by mental illness don’t make sense, so it’s hard to apply a logical solution. I also know now that there is no “just getting over it.” Those who struggle with this trial are not weak or lazy. They have a real illness that requires real strength to get through each day. I don’t think I will ever understand exactly how Shantelle feels, but I at least understand that her trials are real and that she is giving her all in the fight to conquer them.

How do you support her?

  1. Resist the urge to fix it-- Fixing things is what husbands do, but we can’t just fix this and trying usually makes things worse.
  2. Listen-- Shantelle often needs to vent, so always being willing to listen is helpful.
  3. Make her cry-- This sounds counterintuitive, but most of the time when Shantelle is in a real funk, she won’t get out of it without crying. She usually will cry on her own, but sometimes she gets angry with herself. When that happens, she will not cry. She just angrily attacks herself with lies, and it just escalates. I can hear a difference in her voice, and I know that I need to intervene. At those times, I have to pretty firmly tell her in a stern voice that she needs to stop, that she knows what she is saying is not true, and that it’s time to stop. She always melts into my arms, the tension leaves her body, and she just sobs. I typically have to change my tear and booger soaked shirt afterwards, but her mood makes a turn for the better after that.
  4. Hold her close-- Hugs are magic and I have an unlimited supply, so I use them. Also, tying back into making her cry, she doesn’t like me to see her cry, so she needs to bury her face in my chest. (She doesn’t know that I know this about her, so don’t tell her, but the trend suggests that it’s true. She always either hides in another room or sticks her face into me. More boogery shirts. Yuck!)
  5. Help her get some traction-- Even with depression, Shantelle does a pretty good job of keeping up with life. Sometimes, however, she gets a bit behind, and getting caught back up is more than she can handle. For example, Shantelle typically does the dishes while I’m at work. She usually can keep up with the day-to-day dishes, but sometimes she gets a bit behind because of other things in her schedule, extra dishes for a particular meal, or whatever reason. When she isn’t feeling well, a big pile of dishes is just too overwhelming to even start on. I simply do the dishes, I am declared the hero of the kitchen, and she can now keep up with daily tasks again. To sum it up, I try to be a good spouse. If I see something that she usually does that she hasn’t gotten to, I help out. (This may blow everyone’s mind, but this actually is a really good idea even if your spouse doesn’t have a mental illness.)
  6. Make sure her needs are being met-- When Shantelle isn’t feeling well she often neglects her own physical needs like eating, drinking, sleeping, and exercising. I try to notice these things and encourage/make her do them.
  7. Make cheesy jokes-- I am the king of bad jokes, and I distribute them in abundance. Silliness can go a long way in lightening the mood, and laughter is a great medicine. One example is that I call her the depressed super hero-- I hope nobody finds this offensive. I just think it fits because she tries hard to use her depression, AKA her super power, as a means to help others. Anyway, we both get a chuckle out of it and out of many other bad jokes of the like. By the way, nobody else is allowed to call her that. ;)
  8. Remind her how wonderful she is and that she experiences good times too-- Depression is like this filter on her mind that will not let her remember anything but flaws and sorrow. She gets herself down thinking that she is a terrible mother, wife, and person. Also thinking that her life has always been miserable and that she has never experienced anything but sadness makes her believe that sadness is all she has to look forward to in the future. I was so surprised the first time she said negative things about herself. I couldn’t believe that anyone would think that about such an amazing person. Now that I recognize the depression filter I am prepared to argue with her, and this is an argument that I can win. After all, she gives me loads of ammunition. I simply remind her of specific good things that she has done in the recent past and happy moments that she has had. I also try to remind her in the good moments that things are good and that she is good. At good moments I like to just ask, “Are you happy right now?” She kind of gives me a little smile, sometimes without even answering, because by now she knows my purpose is to help her identify happy moments.
What has been hard about her struggles with depression? 
  1. Nothing is logical-- I am very logic-minded, so throwing logic out the window is very difficult to me.
  2. Not being able to fix it-- It’s very hard seeing a loved one suffer without the power to make it better.
  3. Not knowing how she feels-- I don’t think I’ll ever know how she feels, so I can’t really relate. I feel like this limits how much I can help her. In fact, she finds comfort in talking with others who can relate more, which is a little hard also, seeing that she has to go elsewhere to fill a need that I am unable to fill.
How has this affected your marriage?

I believe that it has strengthened our marriage. It has forced Shantelle to rely on me more and forced me to care about her more. It provides us with a common enemy for us to unify us as we fight it, and it also helps us to keep our priorities straight. I think we are much closer than we would have been without it.

What advice would you give to someone going through the same thing with a spouse?

You, your spouse, your relationship, and your family are all very unique, so the way you act must be unique as well. The best you can do is love your spouse, make them and your relationship the highest priority, be selfless and patient, and use trial and error to figure out what works best for you. Others can give suggestions of things that may or may not work, but in the end, your solution will be tailor-made by you, and will likely continuously evolve. 

How do you keep yourself from spiraling into the darkness with her? How do you remain positive through this challenge? When you are feeling down, what do you do to help yourself? How do you stay on top of things (physically, emotionally, and spiritually) when your wife is buried in anxiety and depression? What do you do for self-care?

Like I explained above, I am just naturally pretty steady emotionally, so I have little issue with getting down. I do need regular alone time just to let my thoughts unwind. Shantelle used to always try to ask probing questions to get me to vent my supposed pent up feelings. She was sure that I was just holding them all in and needed to talk about them. She has since learned that I’m not like that. I really don’t need to talk about most things, I just need some alone time to think about them and that’s it. I guess we are a perfect match. She floods me with her emotions, and I just let it all roll off. 

How do you know when to step in and when to let her have time to herself?

I don’t think there is a formula for this. You just have to take the time to get to know your spouse. Like I said when I was talking about making her cry, I sometimes can tell by the tone of her voice, but other times not so much. Asking questions helps and learning the right questions to ask. For example, “How are you?” gets me a “fine” or “good.” It can be better to ask, “How is your day going so far?” “How are you feeling right now?” “Do you want to talk?” “Do you just need some time alone?” Or to determine if you need to step in with meeting physical needs, “Have you eaten today?” “How much water have you drank today?” “Have you taken your medicine/vitamins?” Sometimes I step in when I shouldn’t, and sometimes I wait too long to step in. She has to be patient with me too. She knows I love her and am trying, just like I know she loves me and is trying. In our case, I find it’s better to error on the side of stepping in. If it is done lovingly, it will be appreciated, even when not needed. 

How do you talk to your kids about these challenges? 

I haven’t really talked to them much about it. Brooklyn is getting old enough to start understanding, so we will have to soon. I’m open to suggestions.

What fears do you have about your wife's struggle?

Probing Alert! Probing Alert! This question probes too deep into the inner feelings of a man. A macho-generated answer will be submitted.

  I am fearless.



Yesterday, I saw three comments on three separate posts that pierced my heart. They said:

Suicide is the most selfish thing anyone can do.
People who say they have a mental illness just need to snap out of it.
Depression is for the weak.

After seeing the third comment, I immediately logged out of Facebook and told myself that I would never get on again. My whole body felt like it was crumbling. I couldn't believe that people still thought things like that. It hurt so terribly that this part of me that is already so hard to handle is also misunderstood in a way that makes it seem shameful to experience it. I felt vulnerably shattered that I have shared so much and I have probably been judged and criticized by people who simply don't understand. It stung and made my blood boil all at the same time.

And then I remembered all the times when people have commented or private messaged me saying that they felt all alone until they read what I wrote and realized that they weren't the only one or times when people have said that what I have written has helped them to understand or feel compassion instead of judgement.

People may not understand the deep pain of mental illness, but I don't need to let that stop me from sharing. I simply hope that those who experience this same pain will find the strength to recognize that these misunderstandings aren't true.

I've never had to fight with more strength than I have in the last several years. Mental illness is not something that can be controlled or wished away. It's real and needs so much love and understanding. I'm thankful for all the people who have loved and shown compassion to me, even when it doesn't make sense why some things are so hard.


My Kindness Shall Not Depart From Thee

This beautiful song has been on repeat at our house today, because it brings me so much peace!

After weeks of discouragement because of the deep darkness I was facing and my inability to get an appointment before April, a friend helped me get an appointment for yesterday, and I was able to start on an anti-depressant last Friday morning. This brought so much hope to my heart and lifted my spirits greatly feeling that maybe things will get better soon. Friday evening, I suddenly and randomly started to get this feeling of having a panic attack. It so closely resembled the strong feeling that used to cycle with the depression before getting pregnant with Garrett, but it had been a long time since I had experienced it. I disregarded it thinking that maybe I was anxious, because I was playing a musical number and helping with a discussion at church on Sunday. This feeling of anxiety continued to build, and I thought that maybe I would have to reschedule my musical number, because the fearful feeling was so strong! I went forward with the music and barely made it through the song. I hadn't felt something so powerful in such a long time.

After the music and the discussion on Sunday, the tightening feeling in my chest and throat, my racing heart, the feeling that everything inside my body was moving at such a fast speed, my inability to sleep much at night, and my racing thoughts continued, despite not having anything to be anxious about. At my appointment yesterday, I told the doctor about this feeling. He said that this is a classic, textbook reaction to taking an anti-depressant if you have bipolar. He wants me to keep taking the medication for a few more weeks just to make sure that this isn't circumstantial anxiety, but as long as this feeling continues, he feels clear on the direction to move forward.

I don't like this feeling of constant panic. It's very uncomfortable and exhausting, but I feel so much hope that we are moving in the right direction and that my relief will come soon.


We Can Do Hard Things

So many people have expressed concern after my blog post about some of the struggles I have had recently. I just wanted to update that I am doing better, and I am not struggling at that level right now. I have been blessed with such loving, helpful, kind people in my life who have bent over backward to help me through this experience, and by a wonderful miracle, I was able to start a medication today. I am hoping and praying that this one can help me. I finally feel hopeful again and thankful that things are looking up. It's not very often that I feel this way, so I have to document it when I do, but I am thankful for the experiences I have had that have allowed me to feel so much love and compassion for others and have given me the opportunity to help others through their darkness. I am blessed, and I will make it through this, especially with this good man by my side!

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What to Say

Since my last post (and frequently at other times as well), many people have expressed a desire to help those who struggle with mental illness, but they say that they don't know what to say or don't know how to help, and they are afraid of doing the wrong thing.  I wanted to compile a list of some helpful things to say when someone says that they are struggling with mental illness.  As always, this is my only based on my experiences, but hopefully these could help others too.

Also, before I begin, I just want to clarify that it is very seldom that something someone says has the power to chase away my darkness or actually "make it better."  Rather, the words of comfort and encouragement that others have so often shared with me have given me the strength to hold on until the darkness goes away on its own later.  Don't feel that you have to "fix" the problem, as an easy fix is not often available.  Just being with me in the darkness and sharing genuine words of love mean the world to me when my heart is broken.

So with that being said, let's get started.  Things to say to someone struggling with mental illness:
  1. "I love you."  Don't we all need to know that someone loves us, regardless of our struggles?  A heartfelt expression of love has been such a lifeline for me at different times and never ceases to wrap my heart in warmth and comfort.  It reminds me that I need to hold on through the darkest of dark nights, because I am loved and needed by someone.  It also helps me fight the lies depression feeds my brain that I am unlovable or a burden to my family and friends.  Often times, even if someone has said that they love me 100 times before, I always wonder and worry that maybe that love has changed since the last time they said it, so it helps to hear it again and again, even if it seems that I should obviously know by now.
  2. "Your brain is broken."  This may not sound comforting to hear, but it really does help.  It helps me to remember that this is not me; it's this problem inside my brain that is beyond my control.  It also reminds me that however I feel in the moment is temporary, because broken things can be healed.
  3. "This will pass."  I'm pretty sure this one is self-explanatory, but in the moments of greatest pain, my brain cannot comprehend that the hurt will pass.  It seems like I have always felt and will forever feel that way.  Remembering that it will pass gives me strength to hold on, because it reminds me that the light will come again eventually.
  4. "I'm here for you."  It's so hard to reach out, especially in the moments when I am struggling the very most.  I worry that I've asked for help too many times before or that I'm going to push everyone away from me if they feel weighed down by my darkness.  Hearing these four words dispels some of the fears that my brain so often thinks are true.  And just like with expressions of love, even if this has been said before, sometimes I worry that it has changed, so don't be afraid to repeat it.  
  5. "Heavenly Father is pleased with you."  It is beyond heartbreaking to me that every time I am experiencing depression, I am convinced that Heavenly Father is so disappointed in me.  It feels like I must have done something terribly wrong and that I will never get things right in my life.  This has often led to feelings of hopelessness, as I've thought "why would I keep holding on if I'm already too far gone?"  I am not perfect by any means, but I'm also not the awful person that my depressed brain tries to tell me I am, so hearing that my life is not a complete failure means so much to me.
  6. "You did ____________ well recently."  I'm not trying to ask for compliments, but my depressed brain has this special super power that includes blocking out every good thing I've done and focusing on the one or two things I have not done right and then thinking that who I am is based on those one or two things.  For example, if I let my daughter watch more TV one day than I normally would, I suddenly feel like this failure of a mom, like all my daughter does is watch TV all day every day, and then my brain forgets about the moments when I played a game with her or colored with her or snuggled and read a book to her.  My husband has often been able to break my patterns of negative thinking or comparing myself to others by helping me recognize something good I have done.  It always catches me by surprise when he mentions these things, because my brain had wiped those clean from my memory in the moment.  It brings a sudden feeling of peace to my heart to know that I'm doing better than I think I am.
  7. "Do you want to talk about it?"  Sometimes I don't want to talk about what I am feeling, and if not, I just say that, but most often, talking about it allows my brain to make sense of some things.  It allows me to work through the problem rather than pushing it aside to deal with later.  
  8. Ask questions.  Why was it that that situation made you feel that way?  What makes you feel better?  What does it feel like when you are struggling?  Are certain events or times of day worse for you?  These are just some examples of questions to ask that allow me to process some of the thoughts swirling around in my brain.  They show me that the person I am talking to cares, and they also help me to figure out what is going on so that I can make progress in battling this brain sickness.
  9. Advise them to get professional help.  Sometimes the best thing you can do as a friend or a loved one is to make sure that the person is getting the help they need to get better.  You can be supportive and loving and helpful all day long, but ultimately, you can't make the problem better, and until a professional is involved, the progress is very limited.  You can even go a step further and help make phone calls, offer to go with the person to an appointment, or follow up to see how the appointments are going.
I know this is a pretty long list and may seem overwhelming.  Just know that your love and support is needed and appreciated.  I know for myself that I could NEVER do this without my husband and good friends who have loved me through the hardest times.  You can literally save a precious life by being the friend someone else needs.  

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Breaking the Silence

The other day, I saw this headline, and it hit me so hard: "Cancer brings casseroles, suicide brings silence."  As it sunk in more and more, I felt so much sorrow about this simple statement, how suicide is such an uncomfortable, unspoken subject, and yet it plagues the lives of so many individuals and their families every single day.  I never thought I would be in the position I am in, someone who knows all too well the depth of sadness that causes persistent, unrelenting thoughts of dying.  It isn't me.  I know that.  And I pray inside my heart that everyone else knows that too.  But either way, it's so very very real... and scary... and shameful... and that leads to silence.

Part of the silence is because it's not something I can just tell people.  When someone asks, "How are you?" I can't reply with, "Well, I actually want to die right now, and I'm scared, and my heart hurts, and I feel all alone, please help me," so instead I say, "Good," and everyone continues on with their day.  They aren't easy words to speak, let alone easy words for someone to know how to respond to, so they stay inside, and only those who have, for one reason or another, been marked as "safe" get to know those most painful parts of my heart.

At this point, I can't count the number of times I have prayed, begged, pleaded that I wouldn't wake up the next morning.  It has probably reached into the hundreds, if not the thousands by now.  I've even asked my husband to pray for it as well, assuming in those moments, that he must want the same thing for me.  I can't count all the times I have been sure that my husband and kids deserve someone better, or the times I have thought day and night about what it would be like to be gone, or the even scarier times when I have thought about how I could make sure that I was gone forever.  Those must be into the thousands as well.  But I can count the very scariest moments, when the shadow of hopelessness has fallen over me, and I have truly thought that it would overcome me.

Until we moved here, those darkest times could all be counted on one hand-- five desperate, terrifying moments that are seared into my brain for the rest of my life.  Each time, there were such beautiful, timely tender mercies that literally saved me from the darkness that threatened to consume me, and at some point later, I was so thankful that my heart had found enough strength to hold on and keep fighting.

But since moving, that number has increased to eight.  There have been three lonely, unspeakably difficult nights, when I was sure that the light would never shine in my life again, as the sickness in my brain continually fed the darkness.  I've contemplated sharing some of my more recent thoughts about suicide, given how real and terrifying these last couple of months have been, but this is how it has gone in my mind:

No one wants to hear about that.
You've been struggling for too long now.  It's time to pull yourself together and finally be okay.
People will judge you.  This isn't something anyone shares.
It will come across as negative and attention-seeking.
You'll just make everyone feel uncomfortable.

But as this internal battle about sharing weighed on my mind one night, I felt this pull to look at the number of people who have read each post on this blog.  As I was scrolling down and looking at the numbers, I was amazed to see that my #1 most-read blog post is THIS ONE, the very most vulnerable post I've ever written, and yet, it must need to be heard if so many people have taken the time to read it.

So here I am, once again sharing the pieces of my heart that need to be heard, and yet are so very difficult to articulate and then give away.  I won't go into all the details, because that's not why I'm writing this, but I do want to paint an honest picture of what took place and why I'm still holding on now.

First, it was an evening after an incredibly difficult week.  I had just attended a meeting for my new church calling, and I was terrified.  The monster inside my brain would not give up on the unrelenting thought that I would NEVER be good enough at this, and I was beyond overwhelmed.  As I left the meeting, some snow had just started falling, and I thought, I could get in an accident on the way home, and no one would know what happened.  It could all be over right now.  But instead, I gripped onto the steering wheel as tight as I could and prayed with all the strength I had inside my heart that I could somehow endure the pain and make it home.  I got home safely and slowly trudged up the steps to my apartment.  Every second there was a new thought about how I should give up, but I used all my strength to push those dark thoughts away.  I walked inside to find that our kitchen was flooded.  This was such a tender mercy, because it forced me to focus on something else for the next couple of hours until it was a more reasonable time to go to bed.  As soon as I could though, I got into bed and pulled the covers over my head as my whole body began to shake in terror.  I didn't know how I would ever overcome this storm, especially on my own, so I texted two people and asked them to pray for me.  Sending a text to some people you've just met and desperately asking them for prayers is terribly uncomfortable, but I felt it was my only choice if I wanted to find even a sliver of comfort for my broken heart.  One of these people texted me for the next hour, and I held on, second by second.

The next morning, I didn't feel better, but I continued to hold on.  There were a few things that I needed to do for our kitchen flood problem, so I tried to stay busy with those as I continually prayed that this pervasive and painful cloud of darkness would pass.  When my husband got home from work, I gave him the baby and took a shower.  I closed my eyes as the burdens on my mind were too heavy for me to bear.  I went to my room and prayed, "Heavenly Father, I can't take even one more step.  I have to give in..."  I didn't even cry.  I just sat there in numb silence, never finishing that urgent prayer.  At this time, I was sure that I would lay down and never be able to find the physical strength to get up again, until I heard someone talking to my husband in our living room.  I came out of my room to find two of our new friends standing in our doorway.  I must have looked confused as I asked what they were doing there, to which they replied that they were there to babysit our kids so that my husband and I could go on a date.  Suddenly, my heart felt wrapped in love.  The darkness did not lift, and my burdens were not relieved, but I felt love, and the tiniest spark of hope ignited in my heart, as I knew that I could hold on just a little longer.

When we got home from our date that evening, I learned about a sweet, beautiful woman who had committed suicide.  I remember laying there after finding out this news and feeling a complex mix of sadness for her to have been feeling so much pain, sadness for her family for the devastation they must have been experiencing, and an odd feeling of almost jealousy that I was still here with my heart in deep pain.  I tried to get it out of my head, but I couldn't stop thinking about this woman.

A few days later, I had another meeting for my new calling, and once again, I came home in heartbreaking tears.  My broken brain could not get past these thoughts of impending failure, and I felt myself crumbling, both physically and emotionally.  As the situation continued to get more and more serious and as my mind felt completely focused on escaping this darkness, I asked my husband if he loved me.  I was positive that he would say that he didn't, and then I would have nothing to hold onto, so I would give up.  To my surprise (I was actually surprised to hear this in that moment), he said that he loves me so much as he wrapped his warm, loving arms around my whole body.  I burst into tears as I knew that I had to hold on, because my husband still loved me, and I couldn't bear to hurt him.  A few minutes later, it seemed in my mind like maybe his love had changed, so I asked him again.  He squeezed me tighter and repeated to me that he loves me.  I continued crying as I wanted so badly to escape, but I had to stay.  I had never felt so much threatening darkness before, but if he could love me, then I could hold on somehow.

The next morning, after very little sleep and hours of crying through the night, I felt no better.  I was so weary and emotionally exhausted, but there was still no peace to be found.  My husband urged me to call someone, anyone, and open up to them and spend time with them that day so that I could be okay.  As uncomfortable as I knew this would be, I also knew that he was right.  I had to open up to someone, because I needed to make it through that day.  I called someone I felt I could trust, and I was immediately invited into her home.  We spent a good portion of the day there, until I knew that I would be safe to go home.  I had made it through another very threatening storm, and I prayed that I would never have to go through something so painful again.

But only a week later, I was back in the same place.  I was getting ready to go to the temple with my husband, when the fear and panic associated with this seemed to overcome me.  I still went as planned, but the anxiety and sorrow did not go away, even hours after we came home.  The gripping pain in my heart seemed to get worse by the hour, and I couldn't find any comfort for the brokenness that I was experiencing.  The next day, we celebrated my husband's birthday.  I let him choose his birthday dinner and dessert, both of which took more extensive preparation than I would normally do for the average dinner or dessert.  I wanted to do this for him.  I wanted to show him all the love that he deserves, but my heart was in so much pain that it seemed impossible.  I prayed with every ingredient that I measured or chopped or stirred in that I would have enough strength to do this.  I was literally only able to comprehend doing one thing at a time, so I tried to focus on just the next step of the recipes as to not get overwhelmed and stop doing it.  I made it through that evening of celebration, and I used all the effort I had in me to hide the terror that was penetrating my heart every moment.

The next day, the storm raging inside of me intensified, and I made a decision that reflected just how much I was hurting.  I decided to stop drinking water.  In my mind, I figured that it would only take a few days to get dehydrated, and then I could be free from this darkness.  Finally free.  It didn't seem like there was anything wrong with that at the time, and I wanted an escape, so I continued to not drink any water for two days.  Two long days that seemed like this was the only option.

The next morning, I did something that I NEVER have done or would have done before, and I'm still not sure why I did it.  I opened up to a friend in my "safety circle" and told her that I was not sure it was worth it to live anymore.  She didn't know at the time the details of what was happening, but she sensed the desperation in my voice, and invited me to come over, so we could talk.  I went to her house, and we talked for a while before she suggested that I really needed to get into the doctor again to get help.  I had been putting this off, because the process of trying to get help can be so long and discouraging and frustrating and sometimes more painful than the original darkness, but when she said that, I agreed.  She helped me find some doctors, and we made some phone calls together in her front room.  For the first time in a very long time, I felt a spark of hope.  I remembered this awfulness wouldn't be there forever if I could just get help.  I didn't need to escape; I could heal.  I went home and drank some water.  I had something to hold onto again.  I didn't tangibly feel that it was worth it yet, but I had the hope that it would feel worth it again soon.

The day after that, I opened up to my husband.  I hadn't told him anything in a long time, because I knew that moving was just as hard and stressful on him at first as it was for me, but I needed him to know.  I will never forget how it felt to be wrapped in his arms as he hugged me the tightest he had ever hugged me before and as he expressed his love.  I was so thankful in that moment that I was still there, that I hadn't let the monster of depression consume me.  Immediately, so much light filled my heart, and I knew that we were going to get through this together.  I didn't have to fight alone.

We are still in the process of trying to get help.  I wish it wasn't so difficult and time-consuming and frustrating.  But I am okay for now.  I feel peace.  My depression hasn't gone away by any means, but it is manageable right now, and for that, I am very thankful.

So why am I writing this?  I don't know honestly.  Maybe someone is battling through this same thing right now and needs to know that it will be okay eventually, that they are not alone, and that someday they will be glad they held on.  Maybe there is someone who loves someone with depression and needs to know what they can do to help.  Maybe we all need the reminder to have compassion, love, kindness, understanding, and grace for each other.  But regardless of the reason, I want to break the silence of depression and suicide.  I won't let these experiences be wasted on me.

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How to Become "Safe" to Open up to

For many reasons, depression can be a hard thing to talk about.  Partly because I don't want this to be a label placed on me.  There's so much more to me than this ongoing struggle, and I want people to know me for who I really am.  It's also partly because some people don't understand, and it's devastating and heartbreaking to open up to someone, only to have them tell me that if I had more faith or prayed more that this wouldn't be a problem in my life.  Sometimes it's hard to talk about, because I'm not sure who feels comfortable talking about these things, and I don't want to make anyone feel uncomfortable if they don't know how to respond.  And finally, it can be hard to talk about, because sometimes it gets really bad, and there isn't an easy way to tell someone that I wish I could give up. 

But regardless of the reason that it can be difficult to open up, there are several things that people have done recently and in the far past to mark themselves "safe" in my brain for me to talk to, even when things are at their very worst.  I'm hoping sharing these things could help others know how to help someone they love or care about through the discouraging darkness of depression, because I can guarantee that I wouldn't know without experiencing it for myself. 

  1. "I know this is your struggle."  When we first moved here, I was struggling so much emotionally, but I didn't know who to tell.  I knew I needed support, love, and friendship in this new place, but I didn't know how to start opening up.  Finally, I decided to write a couple of blog posts on here and share them.  I was so nervous when I saw that a few people I had just met "liked" the post, but I also felt relieved that this "secret" of sorts was out there, and I didn't have to hide it anymore.  A little while later, a few people at different times said to me, "I know this is your struggle."  Those 6 words lifted such a heavy burden off of me, because I knew that they were aware of this difficulty in my life, but I also knew that they felt comfortable talking about it, because they were the ones that initiated the conversation.  That, in turn, made me feel comfortable going to them, because they were "safe" to talk to and open up to.
  2. "How are you really doing?" or "How are you doing emotionally?" or "How are you feeling today?"  People, in general, ask each other every day, "How are you doing?" without always wanting to know the answer.  I know I am guilty of it sometimes.  It's like this thing that we do in passing so that we can check it off our list that we did our friendly duty of asking how someone else was doing, but we only expect the answer of "good" or "fine."  Sometimes, I know we do ask this wanting to know the real answer, but it's hard for me to tell those two apart.  I don't want to be that person who divulges their whole life story, when someone asks a simple question expecting a short answer, so making the question just a little bit more specific allows me to know that someone actually wants to know my sometimes loaded answer.
  3. "I struggle with..."  A few posts back, I wrote about vulnerability.  I try so hard to be courageous enough to be vulnerable, but it is so helpful to me, when someone is willing to share their struggle as well, especially if that struggle is mental illness related.  It's like it forms this instant bond and helps me to remember that everyone has struggles, so I'm not alone in needing help or love sometimes.
  4. "Do you feel like you want to give up?"  I know this is a hard question to ask, and it doesn't need to be asked often, but I appreciate more than I can express, when someone asks me this straightforward question at the hardest times, because it allows me to explain the extent of the present darkness without feeling like that's too much to share.  Even if things are good at the time, it allows me to know that I can go to that person on the darkest of dark nights, because they care and want to help.
Hopefully this helps some.  I look forward to the day when talking about depression is as comfortable and as easy for everyone as talking about broken bones or the flu.  I've come so far, and yet, it can still be so challenging.  Thankfully there are so many people in my life who have been willing to help me along this journey and have allowed me to be more open and honest about how I'm doing.  I have such a good tribe of people around me who love and care as the Savior does, and that's the best gift anyone could give me.  

Let our hearts and hands