The Power of Forgiveness

Mental illness is a heavy topic. Sometimes it can get overwhelming and depressing. So I thought I’d take a break today and write about another topic that is important to me.

Many years ago I was asked to give a talk in church about forgiveness. Several years after that I had to give a lesson on it in Relief Society, a class where some of the women at my church meet to learn about and discuss the gospel. Think God was trying to tell me something? I know He was. Forgiveness is something I struggle with—being able to get over the pain or hurt others have caused me. I know I struggle with it, and it is something I’m constantly working on and praying for help with. When I was asked to give a talk on it all those years ago, a story from my past popped into my head—one I thought about often, but it was the first time I realized that it truly was a story about the power of forgiveness. A story about me and a girl named Sarah.


Sarah was pink. For those of you who knew her, you know what I’m talking about! She was pink, frilly, girly, outgoing, flirtatious—nothing like me. We were as different as two people possibly could be. The only thing we had in common was that we were both girls, and we both played the flute. So it wasn’t surprising that we quickly became rivals in our junior high band class. One year I sat first chair, Sarah sat second. The next year, she got to play the piccolo, and I didn’t. Our dislike of each other only grew, and before long we weren’t just rivals. We were enemies.

I remember how happy—like giddy happy—I was when my sophomore year of high school came because it meant one year in band without Sarah; she was a year younger than me. Unfortunately, she wasn’t as far away as I thought. Sometime that year, I discovered some flute players I had met and made friends with, who had gone to a different junior high, took from the same private teacher as Sarah. Apparently, she had told their flute teacher bad things about me who had, in turn, told them.

“We thought you were going to be a horrible flute player, and that we wouldn’t like you,” they said. “But now we know Sarah didn’t know what she was talking about. You’re a good flute player, and we do like you!”

I was glad they hadn’t let their flute teacher’s assessment of someone she had never met before influence them, that they had decided to be friends with me anyway, but it was not cool that that’s how they had found out about me. Rather than being mature and just brushing it off, I hypocritically went and trashed-talked Sarah to some of my other friends.

My junior year of high school came, and Sarah came with it. We were in band together again, and the truth was that she was a better flute player than me. She sat first chair, I sat second. It was a blow to my ego and just another difficulty for me to deal with in the midst of my horrible depression. One day that year I got to school to find a note tucked into my band locker. The writer of the note said they had seen me crying the day before, and it made them sad because they hated seeing other people sad. It said they hoped I felt better, and if I ever needed to vent or just needed a hug they would be there for me. It was signed from Sarah. And just like that, years of distrust, dislike, and rivalry completely washed away. Sarah was still pink, and we were still as different as two people could be, but we became good friends.

girlfriends-2213259_1920We never hung out outside of school because we had very different kinds of friends, but at school, we were always there for each other. If I ever needed a kind word or a little boost to help me out on a rough day, I would go to Sarah. Likewise, if she ever felt down or was having a problem, she came to me. Sarah became someone I grew to love and always felt grateful for. She was a light in my life.

Three years after graduating high school, when I was away at college, my mom called me. It was finals week, and I had just completed my last test. My mom told me that Sarah had been killed in a car accident. I’ll never forget the way my heart plummeted, the way my blood turned to ice. After I got off the phone I just started balling. I couldn’t believe Sarah was gone. She had meant so much to me. She still means so much to me.

I’ve often thought about Sarah, about our story, since high school. And it was when I had to give that talk in church that I truly understood that ours was a story of forgiveness. I had never looked at it that way before, but I realized if she hadn’t been able to forgive me, she would never have given me that note in the first place. And had I not been able to forgive her, I never would have trusted her and probably would have just thrown her note away without a second thought. We’d both behaved in a non-Christ-like attitude towards each other, but luckily, we had both been able to forgive each other, and look what came of it! Two people who were so different, who disliked each other so much and had became bitter enemies, became very good friends who loved and cared about each other.

While I still struggle at times with forgiveness I’m so grateful for the lesson in my own life about what powerful things can happen when we do follow Christ’s example and commandment to forgive.


Molehills and Mountains


I have anxiety. It probably first manifested along with my depression in high school, but it wasn’t that bad. It wasn’t until after I had my first baby that it became more potent. There were times when my daughter was little—one or two—that my anxiety grew so bad as to throw me into panic attacks. One minute I was sitting next to her on the couch, uncontrollably nervous and anxious about something, the next I was hyperventilating and completely unaware of my surroundings. Eventually, I would come out of it to find myself still there next to her, but without any idea how long I’d been going through this panic attack. It was terrifying. My daughter could have gotten up and walked out of our home, and I would have had no clue.

Another time, I came out of my panic attack to find her in front of my face saying, “Mommy, Mommy, Mommy,” over and over again. I had no idea how long she’d been there or how many times she had said my name. Circumstances like this happened several times—because that’s life with anxiety.

Everyone has heard the idiom, Don’t make a mountain out of a molehill.

Well, that’s exactly what anxiety does to a person. When I look at a pile of dishes that needs to be done, I don’t see a pile of dishes, I see a mountain of dishes that will take hours to do, energy I don’t have, time away from my kids, and my heart pounds, my pulse races, my breathing becomes labored … yeah, life with anxiety. I can’t see the one dish I could start with and go from there. I just see the mountain, and I panic.

A friend told me a story about her anxiety and a gym membership. She joined the gym in 1998, went a few times in the next year, then stopped going. Like many monthly payments nowadays, her membership fee was automatically withdrawn from her bank account. She continued to make these payments even though she had stopped going. Six or seven years later, she wrote a letter asking to cancel her membership, which unfortunately didn’t work. Meanwhile, the gym had been bought out by a larger gym, changes had occurred, and she was still making those monthly payments, though not going to the gym. It took a few more years before she finally got her fingers to dial the number, make the call, cancel her membership. All that time she had been making payments for a membership she wasn’t using. Because she couldn’t pick up the phone! It sounds crazy, right? I would think so, too, if I didn’t know what anxiety was like—or if I hadn’t had a very similar experience myself. I, too, get extreme anxiety when it comes to calling people. I, too, had a gym membership I needed to cancel, but just couldn’t do it. Every time I thought about it I would panic. Heart pounding, pulse racing, stomach clenching, throat constricting. And I just couldn’t do it. Luckily for me, my then-husband (now ex) who knew how bad my anxiety was and knew how hard it was for me to make a phone call, did it for me. He called the gym a few months after I had stopped going and canceled my membership for me. But I get it! And those of you with anxiety get it. It’s not that we want to be this way or that we’re weak or just don’t care. Sometimes I don’t do those dishes or I don’t make that call just to avoid a panic attack.

So what can you do to help your anxiety? I know people who have done very well on medication—it has really helped calm their anxiety. Medication helped with my depression a lot, but not anxiety as much. One thing that helps me are reminders. A friend recently posted a picture of a temporary tattoo she put on her arm that simply said, “Breathe.” I could totally relate to that! I honestly do have to remind myself to breathe sometimes. When I feel like I’m about to panic, I close my eyes and focus on my breathing. Such a simple thing really does help to calm and refocus me.

Yoga and meditation are also huge for me. Give yourself time, distraction free, to meditate and relax.

Lists can help, as well. This doesn’t work for me because I am not a list person. I already wrote a post talking about that. But I know, for others, being able to physically mark something off a list helps.

Even though I’m not a list person, I am a planner. Sometimes I can be spontaneous, but for the most part, spontaneity garners anxiety and panic. If you need to plan things out, plan them out and don’t let anyone stop you!

Now to those who know or live with someone who has anxiety—like always, I can only speak from my own experience, so that being said, one of the worst things you can do to someone with anxiety is pressure or try to force them into something. Years ago, someone close to me, who didn’t fully understand what I was going through, often did this, and it only made my anxiety even worse. It built up walls between us, between me and everyone, really, and damaged our relationship.

I also, again, advise to be loving and compassionate. Instead of getting upset when things don’t get done, be understanding. Know that it isn’t because they are lazy or don’t want to try. Instead, offer encouragement, a listening ear, and offer to help them with the tasks that seem so monumental to them.

Another suggestion is to remember that just because we have mental illness doesn’t mean we are completely incompetent. It’s okay to offer suggestions, but it’s even better to ask someone with anxiety what they need and let them tell you. At least that’s how it worked for me. Sometimes I really didn’t know what I needed, so there may be times where you’re at a standstill. But there were times I knew I couldn’t do certain things or knew how I needed help with other things, and what a world of difference it makes when someone actually listens to that and treats me like a competent adult instead of a child who needs coddling or chastisement.

It’s not that I believe those of us with mental illness deserve to get off scot-free. I do believe in personal responsibility, but that is a subject that deserves its own post, and one I will get to eventually! For now, I hope some of what I have written has helped.

Depression is Darkness


I’d like to dedicate some posts talking about the specifics of mental illness. This isn’t about self-pity or pointing fingers. It’s about trying to give those who don’t know mental illness a better understanding of what it really is, and letting those who do suffer from it know they are not alone.

Let’s start with depression. Depression is darkness. That has always been the best way for me to describe it. If you’ve never experienced depression, try spending an entire day living in a completely dark house. Try to do all of your normal daily activities without a shred of light. This is how living with depression feels, only it is an even deeper darkness, one that sinks into your stomach, one that carves a big, hollow pit out inside your chest, your heart. It is hopelessness.

When I first started experiencing depression as a sophomore in high school, I didn’t understand it. I just knew how different I felt, how lonely, how sad. I wasn’t entirely sure why I was so sad, I just was. And it’s not that I didn’t try. I tried so damn hard! So hard to be good, to do what was right, to be what I was expected to be. Yet the walls of happiness and hope turned black and closed in on me. I remember the agony of walking to school each day. I’d leave my house hoping it would be a good day, but with each step I took, the sicker I got. Yes, I would become physically ill to the point I could barely walk, barely talk, I always felt as if I were going to throw up. There was this particularly rough time my junior year of high school where I was so depressed and so sick that I barely ate anything. I lost ten pounds in two weeks. For a tall, thin girl, that was a lot to lose. It took months of regular eating to get it back.


It’s easy for others to think that you can just get over depression, to think, “Just try harder.” Believe me, we do try. Mental illness warps your sense of reality, though. It makes you do things a healthy person wouldn’t do. Things like contemplating suicide, self-harming, telling yourself over and over again how worthless you are. This behavior is normal for someone with depression. It’s lonely, and it’s exhausting. There have been times I’ve looked at other women who have four, five, six children and wonder how in the world they do it. When my depression was at its worst, I could barely handle my two. I just felt so exhausted all the time. Even when I would get a good night’s sleep, I felt like a zombie all the time during the day. Another good experiment for those who don’t know what depression is like would be to strap heavy weights to your ankles and wrists. Try spending an entire day like this. Go to work, make the bed, do dishes, do laundry, play with your kids, spend time with your spouse all day and night like this. That’s how it feels doing these things with depression—all day, every day for weeks, months, years. But you can’t just unstrap the weights attached to your mind and your emotions. Yes, there are things you can do to help. I talked about it in a previous post. But just like there is no one set cure for cancer, there is no one set cure for depression.

So for those of you living with depression, you are not alone. I know it’s so hard to open up and allow yourselves to be vulnerable, but if you do, you will be surprised at how many others you find that are like you. And for those of you who don’t have depression, but know or live with someone who does, please be compassionate. Be patient and understanding. No, you don’t have to just let a depressed person get away with everything, but be gentle and helpful. If there is a task they need to accomplish, offer to help them with it. I remember one time the kitchen was a huge mess, and I just couldn’t bring myself to clean it. I could tell it would give me a panic attack. So my ex-husband suggested we do it together. He said he would do the dishes if I cleaned off the table. Suddenly that monumental task seemed a bit smaller—small enough that I could do it. Listen to what someone with depression has to say. Don’t assume you know what’s best for them. Let them tell you. And just be there for them. I know it can be hard. I’ve seen both sides of the coin. I have lived with mental illness myself, and I have lived with someone who has it. Neither is easy. But if we all had a bit more understanding, compassion and empathy, what a world of difference it could make!

It’s Okay to Fail


As members of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints, I think we often put a lot of pressure on ourselves to be perfect. We have this religion we believe in, and we want to be good, we want to do the things we know we’re supposed to, so we give ourselves unrealistic expectations. The truth is, we aren’t perfect. We make mistakes. We fail. We fall. And that’s okay. It only means we have somewhere to go. I wrote a single line in a poem about it.

Wanderlust to Roam

My wanderlust to roam
like the cravings of an addict to nicotine,
living high on wind and earth and sky,
free of anchor or root to chain me down,
free to soar and fall and soar again.
My wanderlust to roam.

The poem is twofold. Obviously the main idea is about my desire to wander and explore. But the line free to soar and fall and soar again was about failing. It means that it’s okay to fail because we can succeed again. Falling isn’t the end. We fall, we get up. It reminds me of Imagine Dragon’s On Top of the World. There’s a line toward the end of the song that’s about how hard it is to fall and get up, but get up, anyway.

I can’t even count how many times I’ve fallen or failed in my life—too many to even remember. Depression is something that beats you down, anyway, makes you feel like a failure most of the time. In high school, I beat myself up anytime I didn’t get a 4.0. I felt worthless never finishing college with a Bachelor’s degree. I think women in the LDS church especially feel pressure to be perfect—to have these perfect little (or big) families with perfect children and perfect spouses, and of course we have to be perfect too. And we’re scared to show the world otherwise. Well, through this blog, I’m showing everyone how I’ve fallen, and I’m saying it’s okay.

I think going through a divorce is what has truly taught me what it means to get back up. It is the hardest thing I’ve ever been through, the worst hell I’ve ever experienced. I feel as though divorce is still somewhat of a taboo in my religion. But it happened. I got divorced. The worst panic attacks I’ve ever had were shortly before it was final, as I thought about how my life had come to this, how much it hurt. A couple of times I ended up on my bathroom floor, crying and shaking so hard I literally couldn’t breathe and thought I was about to pass out, thought I might end up in the hospital. Those first couple of weeks after my divorce was final were extremely hard too. I felt like the most epic failure ever, felt so incredibly worthless. Suddenly becoming a single mom was so hard. Yet, I did it. As my routine fell into place I realized how strong I had become—because of the fire I had been through. I failed, and I fell, but I got back up and was stronger and more refined than I’d ever been in my life. After that, I realized I was happier than I had been in years.

Life certainly isn’t perfect. I’m still a divorced woman and a single mom. I still deal with mental illness on a daily basis, yet I’ve learned to get back up when life gets me down because I know it’s okay to get pushed down. It’s okay to make mistakes. It’s okay to fail. It’s okay to fall. Falling isn’t the end. Sometimes it is a beginning—one that leads to knowledge, strength, resolve and refinement. One that can lead us closer to our Heavenly Father and His Son, Jesus Christ.

More Than the Baby Blues (Part Two)

In my last post, I talked about my experience with postpartum depression after my first baby was born. It took around three years before I finally started feeling like myself again. Because of how difficult that time was, my ex-husband and I decided to wait a bit longer before trying to have another baby again. My plan was to wait for our daughter to turn four, and then stop using birth-control. However, a few months before her birthday, I got pregnant. Yes, it was an accident. Don’t worry, I won’t gross anyone out with the details.

When I found out I was pregnant with my first, I was nervous, yet excited. It was a fairly easy pregnancy—so much so that I actually liked being pregnant. Crazy, right? This was not the case the second time around. When I found out I was pregnant, I was not happy. I didn’t want to be pregnant yet. I hadn’t prepared, I wasn’t ready. Finding out I was having a boy was even more depressing. I didn’t want a boy. I wanted another girl. I knew nothing about boys or what to do with them. It was a difficult pregnancy, too. I was sick most of the whole nine months—like violently-throwing-up-all-the-time sick. I had heartburn, indigestion, constipation. And the kid never rested! He was always doing somersaults and jabs and kicks. It was like a constant martial arts competition was going on inside of me! I rarely slept, I was always exhausted, wasn’t active like I was during my first pregnancy. I was miserable. And I was also terrified about getting postpartum again.

Eventually the big day came, and I delivered my baby boy naturally just like I had my first, and it was just as amazing the second time around. I instantly fell in love with my new baby. He gave a single cry when he came out, then promptly fell asleep. He slept all the time! I guess he wore himself out so much inside of me that he had no energy left after he came out. He was an angel baby—so easy-going, so mellow, hardly ever cried. And I didn’t get depressed.

woman-1302674_1280Those first few weeks after he was born were wonderful. My baby slept well, I slept well. He took a bottle so his dad could actually feed him. (My daughter refused a bottle so I had to breastfeed her all the time.) I got through those first few weeks feeling absolutely great. It felt amazing knowing that I didn’t have to suffer the way I had the first time. And then, three weeks to the day after my baby boy was born, I crashed. That overwhelming sense of darkness closed in around me, like all the light and life had been sucked out of me. The next week was hell. I cried all the time, feeling depressed and alone and worthless. When I went in for my four week checkup, I told my midwife what had happened.

“How do you feel about medication?” she asked.

“Give it to me,” I said. This time, I wasn’t going to be stupid. This time, I had learned. My midwife prescribed me an anti-depressant. I could feel the effect within weeks. It didn’t cure me, it didn’t completely take away my depression and make me happy, but it helped so much. So much. It honestly made a world of difference. I was able to function so much better than I had after my daughter was born. I was able to enjoy my new baby in a way I hadn’t been able to before.

After about six months, I slowly tapered myself off of the medication, hoping it would work better than going cold turkey. Yet within weeks after completely going off of it, I was back to that same world of darkness and depression. That’s when I knew it was more than likely that I would have to be on medication the rest of my life. And I was okay with that. If taking medication gave me a fuller, happier life, why shouldn’t I take it?

trees-18509_1920The thing I think people don’t realize, however, is that medication doesn’t always “cure” mental illness. I have a friend who calls her anti-depressants “happy pills” because they do make her happy. She functions like a totally normal person on them—has a job, hobbies, is a wife and mother, a great friend. But it doesn’t work that way for everyone. Being on medication made a huge difference as far as making normal living more doable, helped me enjoy life, my kids, neighbors, friends more easily, but the struggle was still there on a daily basis. My anxiety wasn’t as out of control, but it never completely left me, and my OCD only seems to get worse as time goes by. The winter is especially hard. I have seasonal affective disorder, and those long winter months fought back against the medication, dragging me down.

So, did my postpartum depression ever go away? I think it just flowed into an ongoing, lifelong struggle with mental illness. The difference this time was my willingness to admit that I needed help. I think sometimes, as a society, we view that as a sign of weakness, when really it can take great strength and courage to admit that you can’t do something on your own, then accept help from others. I think the key is experimenting, keeping your mind open to many possibilities, until you find what helps you. And there is help out there!

More Than the Baby Blues (Part One)


Growing up in the LDS church I heard a lot about families, about getting married and having kids. The family is central to our beliefs. All I heard about becoming a mom and having kids from my own mom, from neighbors and friends, was that it was the most wonderful, amazing, happy thing ever. Being young and naive, I believed it. So I was not expecting it when I spiraled into a world of darkness and depression after my own baby was born.

I was supposed to be feeling pure and utter joy at having a baby, at being a mother. I did love my new baby. Giving birth to her was the most amazing experience I’d ever had in my life. Love at first sight is real—it’s when you see your baby for the first time. At least that’s how I felt. And yet, I wasn’t happy. I was sad. I was depressed. I cried all the time and felt so incredibly lonely. My ex-husband couldn’t figure out what was going on—why the house was constantly a mess, baby toys always strewn across the floor, dishes piled up in the sink, meat-crusted pans littering the stove and countertops. I never wanted to go out, never wanted to do anything. It put a lot of stress and tension on our marriage which only made things worse.

Our living situation didn’t help, either. We were living a small, rural town at the time with no family or friends around. The locals treated us like outcasts because we weren’t from there. It was a constant living hell. Eventually, my ex-husband was offered a job in another city, which he immediately accepted and we moved without looking back.

Our situation did improve. We lived in a great ward where we made a few friends. I got involved with the ward playgroup that met once a week at a park or splash pad where I could have much-needed adult interaction and my then one-year-old could play with other kids. I also found a writing group which was a definite bright spot to look forward to each month. And yet, I was still depressed.

I read some books, did some research and most of what I found split postpartum depression into different categories that lasted different lengths of time. They all seemed to say that within a year, a woman with postpartum would be feeling normal again, back to her old self. It’s sort of funny, really, to think that an illness is going to abide by timelines. It had been over a year and I still felt horrible, like a broken shell of who I used to be.

Part of this was my own fault. I was stubborn and prideful and thought I could conquer it all by myself. I wanted to prove that I could take control of the situation. I did go to counseling for a couple of months, but I needed more—I just wasn’t willing to admit it.

After a year-and-a-half, we moved back to northern Utah, where we were both from. My ex-husband and I hoped that being near family would help, and I think it did. It wasn’t until three years after my daughter was born that I finally started feeling like a normal human-being again. My depression wasn’t completely gone, but I did feel more like my old self and felt as though I had a better handle on my life.

Postpartum is one of those things I believe we need to talk more about. According to the American Psychological Association one in seven women suffer from postpartum depression. So let’s get real—this is a serious illness, and we need to stop pretending that women are supposed to be nothing but elated after the birth of a child. Like all mental illness, it is real. We need to acknowledge it, talk about it, be there for those who are living it, be loving and compassionate instead of condemning and judgmental. Babies are beautiful and wonderful and should be enjoyed. If we could help end the stigma attached to postpartum depression, maybe more women would be able to do this.

Sometimes, You Just Have to Try



I live in a culture of women who love lists. It seems to have been a recurring theme at my church a lot recently—how women love their lists and checking things off of those lists. It’s just one of many reasons why I feel “different” or like I don’t belong. I’m not a list person—at all. Never have been, never will be. Maybe part of it is that I’m not a goal-oriented person. I used to be, when I was younger. I had a goal to sit as first-chair flute in concert band my sophomore year of high school, and I eventually did. I had a goal to be the flute section leader in marching band my senior year, and I was. I had a goal to graduate high school with high honors, and I did. I had a goal to get a scholarship to college, and I did. I had a goal to get married in the temple, and I did. I also had a goal to graduate college, which I did not do. Okay, I did graduate from a two-year college with an Associates Degree, which did come in handy getting me the best job of my life, as a special needs teaching assistant, years later. But not finishing school with a Bachelor’s was probably the first major goal I failed to achieve as a later teen/young adult. And that’s probably when I stopped setting major goals for myself.

These days, I tend to look at goals as a sure way to set myself up for failure. As someone who struggles with mental illness on a daily basis, as someone who just recently got divorced, I already feel like the most epic failure in the world, so why give myself another reason to fail?

When I first talked to my bishop, the religious leader of my church, about getting divorced, he told me he wanted to talk to me more, through the process, to offer support, lend a listening ear and suggested that he could help me set goals for my uncertain future. I nearly panicked right then and there. He wanted me to set goals? It was a horrifying thought. The last big goal I set for myself was to finish writing the novel I was working on by the end of last year. That was the first time I had set any goal for myself in ages. And I failed. I did eventually finish it, just four months later than I had wanted to.

In the weeks that followed my chat with the bishop, my OCD wouldn’t let me stop thinking about goals. It gnawed at the corners of my mind like a dog slowly chewing a bone. So I decided to experiment on a very small scale. I set a goal for myself to be able to sing all the lyrics to the awesome new Imagine Dragon’s song, Believer—something that would be a challenge, but was doable. It took a few days of listening to the song over and over and over until my kids were probably so sick of it, but now I can sing Believer like it’s my song! I sort of feel like it is—especially when it talks about writing poems! (Due to copyright law, I cannot put the lyrics on here, but you should go and look it up!)

Even though it was sort of a silly goal to set for myself, and I didn’t feel any gushing sense of accomplishment, I did feel good about it. And I proved to myself that not all goals end in failure.

One other goal I’ve had for many, many years—like since I lost my amazingly high metabolism after having a baby ten years ago—is to lose weight. At first, it was just about being able to fit into old pants or a certain size of pants. Then it was about eating better or eating less. Then, when I was about to turn thirty, I gave myself a certain weight I wanted to get to by my birthday. I came to within half a pound of my goal—half a pound! And then I ate some big birthday feast that never seemed to end. I gained thirty pounds back. One day, a friend/neighbor saw me coming out of restaurant and asked if I was pregnant again. I was not offended at all—because she only saw the truth. I did look pregnant, especially after a huge meal of Mexican food! That was definitely the motivation I needed to start toward that weight goal again.

I’ve been working on it for two to three years now, probably. Sometimes I’ve done well, and other times I haven’t. It’s been a long and slow process, but guess what? I finally accomplished it! This morning, when I got on the scale, I saw that number I’ve been wanting to get to for so long. There were no bells or whistles going off, no confetti shooting out, and not even a single other person around to congratulate me. But, wow! It felt good! It felt so good! I did a little happy dance and bounced up and down on my feet! I did it! After making some changes to my life that included my diet and exercise, after a lot of hard work, some up and down times, I finally did it! I achieved success.

Now, I still don’t think I’m going to become a goal-oriented person and definitely not a list person. When you factor mental illness into the picture, sometimes just getting out of bed is a major accomplishment. Just getting your kids clothed and fed can be a miracle. But even if you can’t do that sometimes, it’s okay. Set small goals for yourself, even if they seem silly. When you achieve them, it feels good, and that can lead to bigger things at a later time. One thing I’ve learned in my life is that you can do hard things—maybe not today, maybe not always, but sometime, in someway, someday, you can.

Time to Talk Religion

achievement-703442_1920Sometimes I’ve thought that religion is a double-edged sword for people with mental illness. It can be a great strength, or it can cause even more damage. Without proper understanding of religion it can make you feel even worse about yourself. For me, however, it has been the former—the greatest source of strength I have. Since I can only speak from my own experience, it would be wrong of me not to talk about the role my beliefs have played in my life.

About a year ago there was a lesson in Relief Society (a class where the women of my church meet to learn more about the gospel of Jesus Christ) about overcoming trials. I almost got up and left before it even started because I knew it would be a struggle to sit through. It’s hard to explain, but for most of my life I have felt different than other members of my religion. It’s not that I don’t believe in it, because I absolutely do. I just tend to have different viewpoints and experiences than most of the things I hear others sharing at church. This was one of those things. It took every ounce of strength I had to keep the tears in, even as my gut clenched and heart ached as I listened to women talking about their experiences in overcoming difficulties in their lives. It was hard because I don’t believe that you do always overcome trials. Sometimes it’s simply about survival—living with or getting through, not over.

The next week, I thought about the greatest trial or difficulty in life—my mental illness. It is not something I have overcome or conquered like a person summiting Mountain Everest. It is something I live with and deal with on a daily basis, and at times, I haven’t been sure I would live through it. It is so difficult and so very, very lonely. So I asked myself how it was that I was still here—still alive to ponder all of these things. The answer was easy. For me, it comes through my religious beliefs. Jesus Christ’s Atonement. The truth is that I’m not alone. When I start thinking about how no one else understands what I’m going through, how no one is there for me the way they are for others, I remember that Christ knows exactly what I’m going through because He has been through it too. His Atoning sacrifice allowed Him to feel everything I feel, to experience everything I experience, to know everything I know. It does not heal me or take my illness away, it doesn’t even make it so that I overcome my trial, but it does bring me comfort, and that is huge. Knowing that He went through all that pain for me as an individual, knowing that He understands, brings me the greatest sense of comfort, and that is what allows me to continue surviving this life and all of its difficulties. Having that peace and comfort keeps me alive. And for that, I am so incredibly grateful.