A Rough Year So Far…

Let’s just get all of this out on the table, okay? Last October, I was given a crippling diagnosis in the mental health world. I do have Post Traumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD) and have had for the last 21 years, but the additional diagnosis really threw me for a loop. It turns out one year later, in October of 2021, that the previous diagnosis of Recurrent Major Depressive Disorder is most likely the right diagnosis and the diagnosis given last year was based on a one-time bad medication reaction. Next, my psychiatrist/therapist announced to me on 25 January 2021 that he was retiring on Memorial Day of this year. Devastating. Absolutely devastating. That led to a series of hospitalizations that caused me to have to do an Emergency Medical Withdrawal from my almost-completed linguistics class at Southern New Hampshire University (SNHU) online. I also had to asked to be released from my calling of Ward Missionary at church. Then came the new therapist and the new psychiatrist. Both are okay, but they’re not my doctor/therapist, if you know what I mean. There, I think I got all of the stuff out that I had bottled up.

Now I have a lot of changes going on in my life beyond all of the above. The new psychiatrist and I have changed my medications (not a fun process, but necessary), and we are seeing improvement. I have been doing equine therapy since mid-summer and enjoying it. I work with a Percheron cross (draft horse) named Chief. Big guy, but a gentle giant. I am learning to play the saxophone. I would be climbing, but I broke my toe, so that’s on hold for the moment. I am starting the Master of Fine Arts (MFA) in Creative Writing Program at SNHU on Monday, 11 October 2021. I’m anxious about that—I won’t lie. I am excited, too, though. This should teach me to write better.

Why am I telling you all of this? Well, because I want you to know that sometimes life can be great and sometimes it can be tough—really tough. It’s not always rainbows and unicorns, and just because you know the truth of the Restored Gospel of Jesus Christ and are a member of His Church doesn’t mean that you’re immune to the woes of this broken world that we live in. We can still find small miracles (and sometimes big ones) in our lives despite the circumstances we find ourselves in.

For months, I couldn’t pick up my Scriptures. I still had a strong testimony and believed in Heavenly Father, Jesus Christ, the Holy Ghost, and the Scriptures, but I couldn’t bring myself to read about any of it. I am still a teacher at church, but I told them at the beginning of the year that I wouldn’t be able to teach until after Memorial Day due to the circumstances I was dealing with. There was no way that I could put a lesson together if I couldn’t even look at the Scriptures. I felt lost. I felt alone, even though I knew I wasn’t alone. I felt destitute. Satan had ahold of me and I was letting him win.

I am recovering from the depression as we speak, but it has been a hard road. This past year has been intense, and although I have had good interspersed with the bad, I have been focusing too much on the negative things that have happened. I realize that now that I am coming to my senses. I teach a lesson at church tomorrow based on Elder Uchtdorf’s Conference Talk from April 2021 titled “God Among Us”.

God is among us. He is right there, waiting to take your pain from you if you’ll let him. Our mortal experiences are to teach us and to bring us to perfection one step at a time. Not all of our experiences will be good. We have to have the opposition, though, in order to know joy from sorrow, and happiness from sadness. All of our experiences are beneficial to our learning curve as human beings on this earth, and they prepare us for eternity. We have only to ask for help, and we will receive it. Sometimes we have to wait, but divine help will come in due time. Keep believing. God is among us always.

A happy member of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints

I have to say that I’m rather happy in my ward and I’m happy with my situation in general as a member of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints. I’m attending Sacrament and my other meetings as regularly as is possible for me and our Bishop happens to be a good friend of mine and my Ministering Brother. I’m good friends with his wife, who teaches Seminary. She’s awesome, too! She plays the organ and the piano. Very talented couple. Great to have them in leadership positions! Our Bishop truly cares for everyone in our ward and his counselors are great, too. We have a cool group of ladies in the Relief Society Presidency and I am both a Relief Society Teacher and a Ward Missionary. I love both of my callings and try to magnify both of them. I have a current Temple Recommend, but have yet to return to the Temple because I don’t fit into my Temple garb anymore and can’t afford a new set. One of these days. Soon! I haven’t been to the Temple since they changed the format of the Endowment sessions, so I really want to go! Chaos has ensued in my life lately, but I know it is an experience (or set of experiences) that I need to have in mortality, whether I like it or not. I have strong ties to my ward family, though, so I’m thankful for that!

Finding My Place…

Well, the last few months have been rough.  Really rough.  I will not go into all of the detailed specifics on why, but I will say that I had some very close friends move away, I have had a really hard time with my PTSD and Depression, and college is not easy when you are trying to figure out where to go with your life (and apply to programs to get you there).  I have not been magnifying my church callings at all.  I feel really bad about that.  I am on power-save to take care of myself right now, so as to manage the best I can with what I have at the moment.  Bare bones emotional survival is what some may call it.  People at church say ridiculous things to me because they do not know what to say.  For example, I had one woman walk up to me after not seeing me for a few weeks and say, “Oh, my, you look just terrible.  What’s wrong?”  Like I would tell her after that comment?  Thanks for telling me I look terrible, Lady.  I was angry with that comment and I did not react well.  Who would?  That is not how you greet someone that is having a hard time!  Then she asked if she could sit with me…  She ended up not sitting with me, by the way.  I wish people would pray for the words and the ways to approach those who are or might be hurting before they open their mouths and say something harmful.  It is hard to find a response to irresponsible comments like the one I just mentioned without hurting someone’s feelings in return.  I wanted to just walk away and get in my truck and leave before the service even began.  If you find yourself being concerned about someone, be concerned enough to pray about how to approach them.  Please.  I have a testimony of the fact that if you do pray about how to deal with things, Heavenly Father will respond and give you the tools you need when you need them.  Do not forget to pray!!!

Well-Intentioned, Yet Damaging Words

Everyone has heard the words, “Oh, just get over it,” or, “Oh, just leave it behind you,” or, “Oh, don’t let it bother you,” or, “Oh, you should (or shouldn’t) feel that way…” at least once, if not hundreds of times. These words are poisonous. They are toxic to the soul. Especially an already-tortured one. I have had friends say these things to me recently. Let me make something clear from my vantage point: I have Major Depression and Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder – “Snap out of it,” is not something I can just do on command. If I could, I would have a long time ago. Also, well-meaning people of the world, I do not respond well or appreciate someone else telling me how I should or should not feel. If you are fortunate enough that I open up at all and talk to you about something difficult that is bothering me, know that those kinds of comments convey the message, “I liked it better when I didn’t know you.” And if I get that message from you, trust me, I will never trust you with the real me again. I cannot speak for anyone else, but those are my personal feelings on these types of comments. I have never met anyone who takes them well, so I am going to guess that others might feel the same way about them. Sometimes I just need somebody to listen. Not to judge me. Not to tell me how things should be. Not to tell me that their world is all sunshine and rainbows, so mine should be, too. Just to LISTEN. Simply acknowledging the way I feel is enough, if speaking is even necessary. I find the comment, “Oh, I can see that you are hurting,” much more productive and comforting than, “Oh, just get over it.” So, if you have a friend who needs to talk, PLEASE consider that they need someone to listen, not to judge them. And PLEASE do not tell them how they should or should not feel. People feel the way that they do. Period. Feelings are not something that you carefully pick and choose. They just come. They happen. You are somewhat (depending on your illness or lack thereof) in control of your actions following the feelings, but the feelings themselves are not within your control. Do not blame your friend for their feelings by judging them for their feelings. If you do, you are just dealing out more damage, more hurt, more pain. And I seriously doubt that your friend came to you to get more of THAT.

Which Way Do I Go?

Well, I am still feeling tempest-tossed as far as my future goes. Do I continue to pursue medicine? Do I pursue psychology? Do I pursue neuroscience? Ultimately, I feel that I will end up being a professor or a counselor of some sort. Will that be in the form of a psychiatrist (M.D.), or a psychologist (Ph.D.), or a neuroscientist (Ph.D.), or a researcher, or a mental health counselor, or… You see all the things that swirl about me right now. I am a good teacher. The discernment and talent for explanation that I have been gifted with are strong. I just do not know which way I am supposed to go! I am praying and asking for revelation from the Holy Ghost… Soon, I hope. Soon.

Somewhat Lost…

Well, my most recent plans have included continuing to apply for medical school, applying for a Ph.D. in Clinical Psychology, applying for a Ph.D. in Neuroscience, and a host of other things. I am going to take college classes in the Fall here to fill in some gaps and give my life some structure while I am sorting out what I am going to do with the rest of my life. I am also contemplating taking the new MCAT when it comes out next year, which has a new section that I know I can blow away with a good score. All in Heavenly Father’s time, I guess. I am trying to be optimistic and open-minded about all of this, but it is difficult. I want to be a doctor – a psychiatrist, to be exact. I feel with all of my being that that is what I should do with my life. Difficult? Of course. Doable? I believe so. I still believe I can do it with God’s help. I am thinking now of President Thomas S. Monson’s talk on daring to stand alone. It is a heart-wrenching thing when those around you who have believed in you and your potential stop believing in you. Heavenly Father, though, knows my potential. He is helping me to know my potential right now. I just have to endure to the end in all things. That is the hard part. Although I know I am never alone, it sure gets lonely here on the earth without the support that I once had. I have the Holy Ghost as my constant companion, though – the Comforter – and that makes all the difference in the world. To have those close to you give up or change their minds about what they think you are capable of is a source of excruciating pain, especially after years of support. It feels like a betrayal of trust, though it is simply their expression of honesty, which is based on trust. It is a hard emotional set to sort out. I do not know whether to be angry or not. I am certainly upset. That is something I can say without a doubt. I do not like these emotions. Growing pains, I guess you could call them, though. Without trial, no growth would occur, and growth and experience are what we are here on the earth with a mortal body for. I just feel a little bit lost right now.

Dead Dreams are Stinky…(Did You Know That?)

So, now that I have had a few days, I am better able to talk about this business that my last post ended with.  Dying dreams.  The friend I spoke of in my last post is, due to some details that I will not share, uniquely qualified to give such an opinion.  I want to make that clear first.  And he is not evil for doing so.  He is trying to help me.  Now, on the other hand, that does not mean that I cannot be or was not, very angry at him.  That was appropriate, too.  But that anger covered something much deeper – a perceived betrayal of trust.  We have since discussed and patched that up.  So now I have a dead dream on my hands.  Dead dreams are quite malodorous, if you know what I mean.  It now lives in my memory – rest in peace – and now I have to figure out what to do.  Bury it, I suppose…  Beyond that, I have to figure out what to do with my future.  I have had much support from various people on this, and I appreciate all of you who took of your time to extend comfort in any way.  Thank you.

So, I have to come up with ten things that I could do instead of doctoring, based on my education and talents.  I have a B.S. in Biology, a B.S. in Psychology, and a M.S. in Psychology.  My friend suggested a Ph.D. right away.  This is hard to think about.  I am still grieving over my recently deceased dream of becoming an M.D.  This could take some time.  He also suggested teaching classes at a university.  On my end, I am still deciding whether or not to get rid of my beloved library of science and medicine books…  Dead dreams are stinky…did you know that?

The Pain of a Dying Dream…

Yesterday, I had a close and trusted friend who has encouraged me, believed in me, and supported me in my endeavor to become a doctor for ten years (that is a almost a third of my life) as I have worked incredibly hard to get the education to get me there for eleven years (that is fully one-third of my life) tell me that I should work toward something else.

It was a dream, right, so how bad could it hurt?  Well, that depends if you have ever had the one person who was with you through thick and thin, even when nobody else believed in you, tell you that what you have been working for for a third of your life is not going to happen for you and to work on something else that will not make you as happy in life and will cause you to have to start over to an extent on all that hard work (that requires money, too).  If you have, then you know that that is an absolutely bone-crushing, paralyzing, heart-breaking blow.  If you have not, I hope you never do.  I hope you realize your goals and dreams that you have worked so hard for (or will end up working so hard for), and that no one will take them away and that nothing will stop you.  I know.  You are thinking that life is not fair and that stuff happens.  I think the same thing right now.  Life is not fair.  Stuff does happen.  That does not mean that it hurts any less.  That means it hurts more.  Especially when you were not expecting it.  Forgive me if the next few lines are garbled – I have to take my glasses off and I cannot see through the tears.

So, part of the pain is shock.  How could my friend think that?  Well, he has the difficult job of telling me the truth.  That leads to another part of the pain – anger.  But who do you take the anger out on?  Not my friend.  He is being a good and trusted friend by doing his job and telling me the truth.  So I end up taking the anger out on myself.  Not the best strategy, I know, but I do not know what else to do with it.  I think the pain at this point could be called grief.  Something died.  Me, I think.  At least that is what it feels like.  I can look in the mirror now and ask, “Who are you?” because I no longer know.  That is unfortunate, because I thought I had an identity.  Evidently dead people do not.  Since I cannot see the screen at all, now, through the waterworks, I will continue this later…

An Amazing Opportunity

I had the amazing opportunity to speak on the Holy Ghost at Stake Baptisms yesterday afternoon.  I was so honored when I was asked last Sunday to begin with.  It turned out to be a rough week leading up to this talk.  Things with my family really exploded in a strange twist of events, bad news seemed to be coming from every direction, and I felt weak spiritually.  Satan did not want me to give that talk!  On Friday, I decided, since it was nice outside, to take a break and study some biochemistry.  I know, it does not sound like anyone’s idea of light reading, and it is not, but through reading about the wonders of how the human body works, I was renewed in spirit.  I knew the miracles of Heavenly Father’s power and love again.  I knew that Jesus Christ died for me and that His Atonement makes it possible for me to experience salvation from my sins.  I felt the Holy Ghost working in me, and felt prompted to text a doctor friend of mine and testify of the miracles of our God.  I prayed, and received power from on high to prepare for this talk.  I was led to a scripture reference in the Book of Mormon to read for this occasion.  It all came together as I prayed and studied.  Yesterday, when it was time to give the talk, I prayed that Heavenly Father would fill me with His Holy Spirit, that He would give me the words and the ways to give a message that would be understood by those to whom I was speaking.  And He did.  As always, when I allow the Spirit to guide me and give me the words I need in the moment I need them, amazing things are spoken, leaving me wondering later how such things came to be.  There is only one answer.  The Holy Spirit.  It is the Holy Spirit working in us, because I know that I do not have the words and the ways to speak the message that others need to hear in the way they need to hear it to understand in such ways.  I love opportunities to teach and to testify, because the Holy Ghost gives me the words and the ways to do so for the benefit of others.  I do not have to be scared, anxious, or nervous.  All I have to do is prepare, pray, and allow the Spirit to work in me to bring about the will of God.  I was complimented by many on my talk, and I humbly replied that I always pray that the Holy Spirit will give me the words and the ways, because I do not have them.  It is not me.  It is the Holy Ghost working within me, the Atonement of my Lord and Savior Jesus Christ, and the glory of our Heavenly Father.  Faith is sometimes hard to come by, but when we trust Heavenly Father and give all glory and honor to Him, amazing things happen.  I testify of these things in the name of Jesus Christ, Amen.

Divine Potential

I had a rough patch yesterday.  I let others’ expectations, or what I perceived to be their expectations, cause me great upset spiritually.  I got the idea into my head that I had to be a mother to receive the blessings that Heavenly Father promises.  Well, I am not a mother, as in, I have no children.  I cannot have children and really have no desire to have any.  I do like children, and it does not bother me that others have them or have such joy in them or have dedicated their lives to raising them.  What was bothering me was a certain impression that came upon me that Heavenly Father’s blessings hinged on having children.  As a woman, that is an impression that bears quite a heavy load.  I got upset.  I did not know that my distress was outwardly visible, but evidently it was, as two of my dearest friends came to me and counseled with me after the meeting.  They helped me realize that, although motherhood is a big part of being a woman, that is not all there is by any stretch of the imagination, and that Heavenly Father’s blessings are available to me whether I have children or not.  I was convinced, before my friends helped me understand, that I did not fit in.  That was a terrible feeling.  Through the love of my sisters, though, and the power of the Holy Ghost, I now have a testimony this morning that I do indeed fit in.  I am a unique daughter of God, just as valuable and blessed as any other daughter of God.  I am definitely different, as we all are, but I am learning to appreciate the potential Heavenly Father created in me through those differences.  Heavenly Father created within each one of us marvelous potential, and He looks at that potential – the potential of what we can become!  Trials are part of mortality.  In fact, that is what we came to earth with a mortal body to experience for ourselves.  Heavenly Father is always there.  The Atonement of Jesus Christ can always be in full effect in each of our lives if we allow it to be.  So long as we remain worthy and follow the commandments we have been given and remain true to the covenants we have made with Heavenly Father, we will have His Holy Spirit always to be with us.  I cannot think of a more fantastic gift!  We are never alone.  Never.  I am so thankful to be a daughter of Heavenly Father.  I am thankful for the atoning sacrifice of Jesus Christ, my Lord and Savior.  I am thankful for the gift of the Holy Ghost and the constant guidance I receive through Him.  I have so much to be grateful for.  If you are ever feeling down, or like you do not fit in, pray and ask that Heavenly Father fill you with His Holy Spirit.  Pray for guidance and revelation and comfort.  God will never forsake you.  He is your loving Heavenly Father, and He wants all of His children to return to live with Him and Jesus Christ in the celestial kingdom for all eternity.  Call upon Him.  He is there, and you are His precious child!  I say these things in the name of Jesus Christ, Amen.