Warning: this is real. This is raw. This is me being SUPER vulnerable.
I was reading to a General Conference talk (churchofjesuschrist.org) and read “Your struggles do not define you, but they can refine you. Because of a ‘thorn in the flesh,’ you may have the ability to feel more compassion toward others. As guided by the Holy Ghost, share your story in order to ‘succor the weak, lift up the hands which hang down, and strengthen the feeble knees.’”
For a few weeks that has been on my mind. I have felt prompted to share my story and that is so scary to me.
In NO WAY am I asking for sympathy. I simply want others to know you are not alone and even though life is freaking hard, WE CAN DO IT.
So let’s begin.
Flashback to summer of 2017. I had just graduated high school and went straight to college. A few weeks in, I wanted to drop. I remember finally calling my parents one day and sobbing to them on the phone, wishing that I was done with school and everything honestly. A lot of expectations were not met, and I realized I was not happy with where I was. Anxiety kicked in and I decided to do an online course to reduce my anxiety. I loved it and my anxiety went away. Up to that point, that was the hardest thing I ever had to do. I felt a relief that that stage of my life was done. I had gone through my trial.
I decided to go on a mission for The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-Day Saints and I was called to serve in the Philippines! I loved it so much. People said all the time that their missions were “the hardest thing they’ve ever done” but I remember about 8 months into the mission thinking “wow this isn’t even hard!!!”
I was humbled 🙂
With about 6 months left being in the Philippines, I started getting really bad anxiety. I could never take a deep breath, I constantly was shaking, worried and I didn’t even know what about. I wanted to help everyone around me and in a sense, I forgot to help myself. After a few weeks of talking to friends, I decided to ask to see a counselor. I asked for help and that took so much courage. I recognized my weakness. I went to counseling and went again, and again. I got help in many aspects.
I became expert at “faking it until you make it” (and I am still really good at it haha). When I was out on the streets, I was smiling and talking to everyone. When we got home at 9 pm, I would sit on the ground and break down. I felt like a burden to those around me. I felt hopeless. Yet those around me had hope for me. And I will forever be grateful for that.
I remember sitting in a dark room on my bed one day, sobbing and feeling so trapped in this darkness. I felt as if something had overtaken me and I did not know what to do. I wanted to go home so bad, but knew that I would have such a hard time still if I went home.
I ended up going to the hospital (haha that is fun in the Philippines), getting lots of blood tests done, and ultimately the doctor telling me I had to see a specialist in mental health in order to get help. She couldn’t do anything. However, the mental health doctor wasn’t available for another two months.
At that point I was done. I called my family and I told them I didn’t care anymore. I couldn’t feel happiness. I hadn’t felt actual happiness in a few months. I didn’t feel anything actually. I was numb. I was so tired (only sleeping an hour or so each night, even with loads of medications. That is another story. I slept through only one night my whole mission). I truly was done.
That day things turned. A special doctor from the church headquarters received permission to write me a prescription for medication for depression and anxiety. Relief. Well not quite… it took 5 weeks for me to feel a difference. But here was the amazing, miracle (or so I thought)…
The doctor told me that after 6 months of taking this medicine, I would be ok. I could go off of it, and wouldn’t need to go on it ever again. Basically, he was promising me a new life, or at least it felt like it.
The next 6 months included lots of trials, but happy moments too. Pure, sweet moments of actual joy: something my body wanted so bad. Some moments I would just stop and smile, because I felt good. You don’t quite realize how incredible it is to feel happiness until it is taken away from you for a while. I am grateful to have known the bitter in order to have felt the joy.
I got home from the Philippines and only had a month or so left of the medicine. The end was coming!
Well I got back to college and all of a sudden, I felt worse. Way worse. Where was my moment of peace?? Where was my promise??
I met with another Mental Health Doctor just a week before I was done with medication. I took several tests and talked with her and then the results came. I was severely depressed and also had some social anxiety. I not only needed to stay on my medicine, but I needed to double the dosage- now taking the maximum strength allowed. I also needed an additional medication, and it was recommended I go to a therapist once a week.
That day was hard. Honestly most days are hard. I still am on my medication. I have a love/hate relationship with my therapists. Self-harm is a real and scary thing. Some days I can’t hold in tears, and some days they just won’t come out. I have good days and I have really bad days. I never understood depression until I experienced it.
But I am SO grateful for everything I have learned and am learning. Life is full of ups and downs. We can control our outlook though on life, and we can determine our attitude. We can determine our faith in Christ. We can determine how we want to spend our time living.
I try to stay optimistic. That is why I am here, writing this down. I want you to be happy. I want to be happy. I want everyone to feel the blessings in their lives like I do, even admits the darkness clouds that sometimes gather. There are days where I am knocked to my knees. But that is where I pray and am strengthened. I would never wish for anyone to feel the same way I feel, yet I am beyond grateful for what I go through.
So whoever you are, whatever your story is, know that you are NEVER alone.
Life should be celebrated! Enjoyed! Cherished! And that is what I try to do every day, and that is what I hope to inspire you to do as well.