Coming home from vacation

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I love almost everything about vacation. I love the euphoric anticipation I feel before visiting a foreign place and the instant familiarity of a destination that calls me back time and time again. I love living inside days filled with exploration and relaxation, and I adore watching sunlight paint the ocean red in the evenings. I even love setting my alarm clock to hit the road at an early hour.

I do not like coming home.

When I was in elementary school, my family returned home from one of our biennial vacations to San Clemente, California, a sunny spot of the world that holds a sacred place inside my soul. It was and still is one of my family’s regular vacation spots, and there wasn’t anything more magical as a kid than spending a week with the beach as my front yard and having unlimited access to cable TV. After we got home, an unidentifiable emotion took up residence in my heart. As I explained to my dad how I was feeling, he told me I was feeling “melancholy.”

I still think about that story when coming home from vacation. Recently, my husband and I celebrated the end of an intense school year (for him) by packing our bags and making the delightful journey to Southern California. We spent days with the sand and saltwater for company, we ate perfected cuisine and we devoured our novels while the waves danced close to us. It was blissful. As the end of our much-needed vacation crept nearer, I dreaded the melancholy that would soon take over my life.

I began thinking about why I was sad to come home from the beach as a child. Sure, swapping the ocean for the mountains I was accustomed to was no fun, but all I was coming home to was more fun. My summers were filled with trips to Yellowstone and Snowbird, swimming, day camps, play groups and ice cream. The worst thing I was facing after a trip to the beach was weeding the garden and burnt almond fudge.

This time, I was coming home to much more responsibility, the very same responsibility I had been so anxious to leave. I was tired of waking up at 5:30 a.m. to drive Caleb to school, working long, stress-filled days and facing adult responsibilities even after the workday was through. I dreaded setting my alarm again. I started thinking about how silly my dad probably thought I was as a kid for abhorring my return home to freedom when he was facing another week at the office and the burden of supporting a family of five without complaint.

I suppose coming home is never easy. No matter our circumstance, we all seek reprieve from time to time. Someone braver than I might look at the tasks that make up my daily grind and deem them child’s play.

I had to make a choice.

Instead of allowing myself to grieve my vacation for a full month like I did on our cruise, I chose to embrace home. I’m choosing to find beauty in my own surroundings, to find excitement in the summer ahead and to find the challenge of the daily grind rewarding. The choice wasn’t as hard to make as I thought it was. Because if I had the ocean all the time, it means I wouldn’t have my family, I wouldn’t progress at my job and I wouldn’t have the Utah mountains. Vacation is great, but home is too. And as hard as the daily grind can be, I wouldn’t trade working alongside my husband to build a future for our family for anything. Because you better believe I want to take them to San Clemente, too.

 

“Hello from the outside”

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“Hello. It’s me.”

It’s been forever and a half since I last spewed my immeasurable wisdom (wink) upon the rabbit hole you now find yourself in, and for that, I have no excuse. 

I originally started this blog for two reasons. 1. I found myself swallowed in the muddy waters of a merciless depression and 2. It was the pretty bow I was required to tie at the conclusion of my college education.

I’m sorry to admit that once I was no longer required to devote a specific amount of hours to this baby, that dirty old Netflix seduced me into spending my time with her instead.

The truth is, I’ve thought about this blog. A lot. I’ve scripted drafts, composed titles and made vague goals about developing a proper writing schedule. But I haven’t quite known what I wanted to say.

At some point, the depression that bunked with me for a few years decided to pack her bags. She noticed I was getting a little more settled into my post-grad life and she got jealous. Of course, she lets anxiety visit me on extended vacations, and they fight over who is a better roommate. Spoiler alert: they both suck.

I think I felt a little guilty admitting this to you. I finally felt a peace in my own life that I hadn’t experienced in years, but I knew others were still suffering. I knew that “situational” for me could be swapped with “clinical” for others, and I couldn’t shoulder the guilt.

But there’s a phrase that keeps coming to me, reminding me that there’s more to this blog than exclusively buoying up the depressed and the anxious: “Are we not all beggars?”

Are each of us not quietly or openly shouldering burdens that demand we extricate bravery from warped insecurities or tragic truths housed in our own minds?

I may not be in the throes of depression that I was two years ago, but I’ve continually faced challenges coming in assorted sizes and colors.

While depressed, I was naive enough to feel that what I was going through was the worst trial, that I couldn’t handle anything beyond that, because that would just be cruel.

After gaining some perspective, I realized my own life was a picnic compared to some of those around me.

I am a storyteller by profession, and almost daily I encounter the bravest souls I think I will ever have the pleasure of speaking with.

I listen to mothers who are watching their precious babies learn the words “chemotherapy” and “bone marrow transplant” at far too young an age. I speak with wives who will soon say an earthly farewell to the men they love most.

Again, I must reiterate, “are we not all beggars?”

So I would like to propose a toast. To those of you still rooming with mental illness, here’s to you. I hope I haven’t infantilized your struggle, because you’re also some of the bravest people I know. Keep making the choice to continue on with a brave heart and punch that depression in its ugly face!

To the new mother who doesn’t think she’s quite enough: You are. No question. Just tell yourself you are and keep going, because that baby idolizes you and needs you and also they’re really hungry right now.

To the widows, the grieving parents, the trodden upon: I applaud you. I can’t begin to comprehend your pain, and yet, you’re still impressing me with your grace and perseverance.

Here’s to you, sweet reader, for doing life. It wouldn’t be the same without you.

 

Run, Forrest, Run

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In the seventh grade, I joined the track team.

I didn’t do it to make friends, to get into shape or even to see the ninth grade boys run with their shirts off.

No, I sold my soul to the Titan track team for a yearbook picture and a free T-shirt.

I hoped that I could exchange several lost hours and a bad knee for a picture that would catalyze my children to say in the future “Wow, Mom, I didn’t know you were on the track team in Jr. High!” I could then feed them lies about winning the state title, and my husband would reply “Haven’t you always wondered why your mom has such a great body after all those pregnancies?” #wishfulthinking

I had a fetish for getting involved in Jr. High, but my since my hand-eye coordination was as horrifying as a hippogriff walking on a tightrope and there weren’t any Harry Potter reference making clubs, my options were scarce.

I soon experienced afternoons adorned with sweat and weeks accompanied by performance anxiety.

I was constantly tired, I had to make up math tests and my farmers tan was on display for the school to see.

It was hard work, and there were several days I wanted to quit, but the support of my equally inept teammates and the promise of that yearbook picture kept me trudging through the tar-like terrain.

But through the perspire-laden days, I found strength in successful track meets, hilarity in friends getting hit with near-fatal paintballs and comfort in the softest warm-up sweats known to man.

I also discovered the runner’s high, which I had previously thought was as mystical as the nargle.

I didn’t understand how stripping my body of all its strength could fortify me, and yet, every time I ran the last lap of a race, I felt a renewed energy and determination enter my being as I’d fly through the finish line….

Last week, my sister told me something that really resonated with me.

She said there comes a moment when she’s giving birth and when she’s running that her body feels like it can’t go on.

But in those moments, she said, her spirituality takes over, willing her body to press forward and connecting her with God in a unique and rare way.

And that, my friends, is the definition of the runner’s high.

It’s the moment when, after months of pain and practice, we are filled with a divine strength that makes the hurt worthwhile.

Life is often so full of pain that we don’t know how we can possibly continue.

But how can we taste the sweet if we do not know the bitter?

Because the sweet will come.

Brief as it may be, it comes in doses thick with God’s pure love, and allows us to inch closer to Christ’s heart.

And when it’s all over, the sweet moments seem to outweigh the bitter.

Looking back, I have great memories of being on the track team.

The yearbook picture was atrocious and I outgrew the T-shirt, but I have lasting memories of discovering a new talent and spending time with friends.

This morning, I went running.

98% of the time, it was grueling, and I really wanted to quit.

But I kept going.

I mentally whipped myself into shape, telling myself I was stronger than I thought, that not only could I finish that race, but I could finish life’s race, and do so successfully.

I turned my thoughts to the Savior, thinking of how desperately I needed to feel his presence to carry me through life as of late.

And then, miracle of miracles, I experienced the sweetest two-minute runner’s high that I have had in a long time.

I couldn’t help but think, “Well done, thou good and faithful servant.”

Sonja’s Story

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Authors Note: This post is part of a series I’m writing about other people’s experience with mental illness. I so appreciate Sonja, her brave heart and her willingness to share her story with fellow sufferers. If you’d like to share your story, email me at megcrish@gmail.com, and we can set up an interview.

There is nothing more awkward than being fourteen years old.

Unless you’re a 14-year-old homeschooled redhead with clinical depression.

And while I’m completely kidding about the redheaded-homeschool part, Sonja Carlson possessed all four traits.

Sonja was at a campout with her private homeschool friends when her mom, who was a chaperone on the trip, noticed she was behaving differently.

“There was no good way to explain how I was feeling, but my mom took me out to the car and said ‘What’s going on? I think you’re depressed,'” Sonja said. “I felt sad and I felt different but I didn’t want to admit there was something wrong.”

It took two years before Sonja admitted she should go to the doctor.

And from the moment her doctor informed her the chemicals in her brain were imbalanced, a variety of medicine flew on and off the shelves in her bathroom, though none of them seemed to work.

At age 17, her depression worsened.

It was days before her high school graduation and her friend Isaac had just asked her to be his girlfriend.

But the elated feeling of being somebody’s girlfriend quickly wore off when Isaac’s brother and his best friend were killed in a car accident that night.

“The next few months were really hard,” Sonja said. “We had a lot of friends that were affected by it, and a lot of them grew up together for a long time.”

A few days after the accident, several of those friends gathered together to talk and lean on each other for strength.

Sonja recalls one of her friends mothers telling them “you are all having to grow up really quickly.”

“She was so right,” Sonja said. “That’s when I realized I was growing up. That’s not something every teenager has to go through.”

Sonja was scheduled to start college at BYU-Idaho that fall.

“I was all set to go,” Sonja said. “But I was 17. I graduated a year early, so I was already feeling like I wasn’t prepared to go. I was signing up for classes and couldn’t get what I wanted. I was feeling uneasy.”

When summer turned to autumn, Sonja decided to defer from college for one semester so she could continue therapy and stabilize her mental condition.

“I started therapy, which I hated really bad,” Sonja said. “I was so far [emotionally] gone I was like this wall. I hated my therapist, so at least there was some emotion.”

Sonja’s days were blurred together and resulted in her and Isaac breaking up and a struggle with a borderline eating disorder.

To this day, she barely remembers her therapy sessions, apart from two.

“At one point, she told me if I kept living like I was I’d end up in the hospital. But I didn’t really care,” Sonja said. “At another point, she told me I needed to become more spiritual. I was upset, but it hit me like a ton of bricks. I knew that’s what i needed to hear, but it was hard to hear it from someone who wasn’t my bishop or my mom.”

When January came, Sonja was cleared by her therapist and her parents to move from Portland, Oregon to Rexburg, Idaho for school.

Although she still wasn’t thriving, they decided the best medicine would be to send her out into the world to be independent.

“At school, I was blessed with a fantastic group of roommates who I’m still close with to this day,” Sonja said. “I loved school and BYU-I and the people I was meeting. It was exactly what I needed.”

The same year Sonja started college, her close friend Risa was diagnosed with cancer.

Risa hosted cancer in her body for most of her life, but it went undetected until 2010.

Her cancer was so advanced that when she had a PET scan the doctors couldn’t tell what was and wasn’t cancer in her abdomen.

“I was up at school the entire time she was going through the whole process,” Sonja said. My grandpa had passed away ten years before with cancer, so I’d known since a child that cancer wasn’t something you mess around with.”

Early on, Sonja prepared herself for another friend’s death. And although it made her feel like she didn’t have enough faith, she didn’t feel like she could handle being shocked again.

“It was really hard not to be with her like my other friends were,” Sonja said.

Less than one year after Risa’s diagnosis, Sonja ran into one of her Oregon friends at school.

“She sat me down in a practice room in the music building and told me Risa’s liver was failing and that the doctors said she had about one week.”

On March 31, 2011 Risa returned to her father in heaven.

It was during finals week at BYU-Idaho that Sonja received the news.

“During that week and a half when she was dying, I remember having a conversation with my mom on the phone and I was beside myself,” Sonja said. “I told her ‘Mom, I can’t go through this again. It’s going to ruin me.’ She said, ‘Sonja, you’ve been through this before, shouldn’t it be easier this time?’ Of course she meant well by that, but in that moment, I realized it was going to be harder. Gabe and Grant had passed away two years before so I almost felt like I could expect it every two years.”

During that time, Sonja experienced something special.

After Risa’s death, she felt closer to God than she ever had.

“She was the most perfect person I have ever met on this earth,” Sonja said. “I believe it was her time to go because she was ready for it and that kind of helped.”

Though the years succeeding Risa’s death brought heartache and depression, Sonja learned to rely more on her faith for comfort.

Last October, Sonja’s life was rocked even harder when her uncle passed away from a disease he’d been sick with for a long time.

She had just started her final semester of college, she was living with her best friends and she had a top position at the school paper.

Suddenly the semester she had looked forward to most turned into the worst of her college career.

“My uncle treated me like his own daughter,” Sonja said. “He would message me on Facebook just to tell me how proud he was of me.”

To date, her uncle’s death has been the hardest thing she’s experienced in her life.

“I know without a doubt that I will be able to see my loved ones again somebody,” Sonja said. “But knowing that is really hard, because I’m still on this earth and have to go through each and everyday without them here.”

Sonja said she constantly worried that her friends at school were judging her for not coping as well as she should have.

“The pain wasn’t what I had experienced before, it was just intensified,” Sonja said. “The only way I’ve been able to pull out of it is the Savior and the Atonement and knowing that the Atonement works for them and for me too.”

Although Sonja still struggles with her uncle’s death and her depression, she has found strength in the Gospel of Jesus Christ.

“I literally do not know how people who have depression and don’t have faith in the Gospel or don’t know the Gospel exists even get on with their lives,” Sonja said. “I know I’ll be healed eventually, and if it’s not tomorrow, it’s still eventually.”

Sonja would like to encourage others who have depression to doubt not the importance of their own diagnosis.

“There is opposition in all things,” Sonja said. “I know Risa will be able to dance again someday without pain because she will have a perfect body. My uncle will be able to walk on a regular basis. Gabe and Grant have probably been doing so much missionary work.”

Faith, trust and a little bit of pixie dust

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“Happiness is a choice….you’re as happy as you choose to be.”

This mantra does not sit well with me.

It seems to litter social media with the frequency of cat videos, yet it doesn’t seem to warrant any success for the humans who sugarcoat their lives with an Instagram filter.  

I’d like to preface this post by saying that while, yes, I do believe attitude is the catalyst of what might be a good or bad day, I do not cast the blame on an individual for simply “choosing to be depressed.”

Why would anybody willingly choose depression when happiness is (apparently) just one positive thought away?

These thoughts have been tethered to my brain all summer, but it wasn’t until last month that I discovered another choice that may seem just as impossible to make, but delivers far more promising results.

It was August 4th.

I had just returned from a vacation that was mandatory to my sanity, and I was feeling equal parts sun-dried and exfoliated. 

For the past few months, I’d felt like a science experiment with a grim hypothesis. In every equation, I was the dependent variable. Dependent on the world to lift and love my authenticity. But I didn’t love myself. 

And yet, on the fourth day of the eighth month, I no longer felt this way.

I entered my workplace with a vigorous energy, willing my inner Christiane Amanpour to the surface to properly produce news stories to one and all. 

Although I was feeling melancholy upon returning from my own personal Kokomo, I was filled with the desire to live more fully and to make a difference in the world.

I felt free, happy even.

It was as if the depression that had plagued my soul for two years had vanished. 

Was I still on my vacation high?

Was it the non-stop dosage of Rainbow Rowell books the weekend before?

I quickly discarded the suspicious inquiry as to why I felt this strange new feeling of utter contentedness and decided to embrace it.

The ensuing days were tacked with the kind of happiness and gratitude that require no filter.

It was Thursday, August 7th, when my happiness hit a peak.

I was concluding a successful work day and waiting for my family to pick me up to go hang out with Sir Paul McCartney live in concert when I stopped for a moment to inhale the sweet blessing that was my life.

I had a great family, great friends and I felt like strapping on a flapper’s dress and bursting into melodic chorus, for who could ask for anything more?

As I headed out of work for the night, I carried a silent prayer of thanks, awestruck for the lucky lady I was.

Minutes later, my family pulled up to the curb to pick me up, and I felt a palpable shift from singsong to somber as I entered the car.

My parents, brother, and sister-in-law had just come from visiting my grandma, who was diagnosed with an aggressive form of breast cancer earlier in the summer.

Her condition had worsened in greater strides than any of the doctors thought it would, and we knew it wouldn’t be long before she returned to our Father in Heaven.

I asked how she was doing, and though the syllables were vague, my parents and brother’s body language told me she wasn’t doing well.

I tried to swallow the worry and harness the faith that had accompanied me so loyally over the last few days, but my brave face seemed to ride solo.

It was at dinner that we received the sobering news.

My precious Granma had completed her mortal journey.

Reality seemed to stir me harder as the distance closed between our car and my grandparents home. 

I couldn’t imagine a life without my Granma, a world where babies born into wouldn’t know the voice of that Irish lass.

And yet, underneath a thick layer of grief was an even thicker layer of faith.

Of gratitude. Of happiness.

Because I knew where my Granma was.

She wasn’t somewhere over the rainbow, nor was she gone away.

She was, and is, in heaven.

Suddenly, the happiness that trailed my shadow the entire week made sense.

It didn’t come from books.

It didn’t come from “packages, boxes or bags.”

It came from God.

The God I had been so angry with for so many months.

The God whom I thought had forsaken me, had forgotten me.

The God who sent his Son to die for me, to atone for my sins in addition to my grief and my pain, so that I could turn to Him and say “I know you understand how much this hurts.”

The God whom I spoke angry words at just weeks before had sent me the most tangible gift that’s unseen on this earth. 

He sent me The Comforter. 

Heaven felt immeasurably closer that week.

I leaned on His strength through the viewing, the funeral and the insurmountable tears.

Almost immediately following the funeral service, I felt that added strength quietly subside, prodding me to lean upon my newfound faith and press forward.

It’s been over a month and the ease with which The Comforter entered my heart has faded to its usual still small voice, ever reliable when I ask for it.

Though it wasn’t meant for us to feel heaven that close on a daily basis, I know now that God sends us pockets of paradise when we can’t go it alone. 

Because He will not leave us comfortless.

It may be beyond our power to simply choose to be happy.

But we can always choose faith.

For one day we will rest from our labors, and look back laughing, realizing that our adversity was indeed, but a small moment.

 

 

I’ve seen fire and I’ve seen rain

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It’s been awhile.

I’ve been hesitant to come to you with my heart in the keyboard. I didn’t want you to know that I didn’t feel strong enough to be your rock, to be that bold example of the one who’d act as a voice for depression. I didn’t want to lie to you, to tell you that it was going to be OK. Because I wasn’t OK.

I had lost faith.

I walked without a shred of confidence, hoping that no one would notice the fear in my eyes.

I didn’t like the person I was, wanting to rid myself of this anxious personality I live in.

I hit an all-time low.

Worst of all, I felt angry at God.

Why would the King of Kings, the Prince of Peace not take this pain away from me?

Then I heard these words.

“He lives to silence all my fears. He lives to wipe away my tears. He lives to calm my troubled heart. He lives all blessings to impart.”

Face. Palm.

As I drank in each lyric of this beautiful hymn, I was filled with a surge of humility.

Because it turns out, he does live.

He lives in the details of our lives.

My eyes have filled with tears each of the 437 times I’ve listened to that hymn in the last three days.

And for the first time in forever (hashtag subtle “Frozen” reference) I did not dislike myself.

Instead of thinking “You are worthless” I thought, “You are a Child of God.”

For the first time in forever, I saw myself the way He sees me.

I know that my trials won’t disappear. I know that it takes hard work every single day to fight the battle that is depression.

But I also know that I am infinitely blessed.

I am blessed with an incredible husband, who tirelessly listens to my life rants, always spouting off words of love.

I am blessed with wonderful parents, whose example of faith has changed my life.

I am blessed with a good job, a fine education and good friends.

I am blessed with Harry Potter references thrown at me on the daily. #always

But most of all, I am blessed with the true Gospel of Jesus Christ.

With that knowledge, I know that I’m not alone.

Not only do I have a small army behind me, I have a savior who will “plead for me above.”

I’m here to ask for a favor.

I ask that you exercise your faith.

Sometimes, that kind of exertion feels more physical than using your limbs to push up your entire body.

It’s hard work, but it is the only way.

The path is straight, but narrow.

It’s surrounded by darkness, thorns and most likely dementors.

But if you press forward with faith, you will be able to cope.

And that’s a promise.

 

Keep Breathing

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Last night, I went to the Ingrid Michaelson concert. It was 12 shades of awesome.

I’ve been a fan of hers for many years, so seeing her live was a religious experience.

Yet, as I stood there, drowning in a sea of hipsters and sweaty armpits, I suddenly felt alone, even obsolete.

I thought of the younger version of me, the girl who sang every Ingrid lyric with passion and vigor. The girl who had no idea there was a large amount of lonely that waited for her, disguised by a sticky, toxic word. Depression. 

And then, as if Ingrid knew the very thoughts burrowing into my brain cells, she sang these words:

“I want to change the world. Instead, I sleep….all that I know is I’m breathing. All I can do is keep breathing.”

The familiarity of a favorite song suddenly turned into a personal anthem. And then, it was just she and I in the room, as I sang every word with a crescendo to match Sondheim himself.

And I started to feel hope. 

Because sometimes, all life requires of us is our presence.

It sounds simple, and I know that’s not always the case.

I know there are days when you wish you could disappear, perhaps sail away with the lead singer of Styx. 

But sweetheart, the world needs you like the Costco-goers needs samples.

Because you are worth it.

Maybe you’re never going to change the world, but there’s a good chance you can change YOUR world. 

Because people need you.

Whether it’s your mom or your mailman, you have made a lasting impression on those smart enough to realize that you are a gem, and a priceless one at that. 

So go forth, young padowan, with patience and long suffering.

Because you are going to suffer, and at times, it will be long.

But luckily, there’s a man, the King of Kings, your very own big brother, who is going to show up.

Because life required his presence, too. 

In fact, each person requires his presence, and it is because of Him that you are going to be set free from your broken heart, your shattered soul, and your mind will forever be happy.

And that, my friend, is worth showing up for.

 

 

  

#BecauseOfHim

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(Illustration Cred: Caleb Christensen)

As someone with mental illness, I fall victim to a myriad of emotions regularly. 

My day will be going fine, when suddenly something as small as an unorganized bathroom drawer might launch me into anger followed by sadness and concluded by fear. 

Of course, being both a woman and a depressed patient, my mind will have gone from the messy bathroom angst to feeling like I have no friends and no future to wondering if I will ever to be able have children. 

Ain’t life a peach?

In the past few weeks, fear has been the number one emotion ruling my brain and residing in my heart.

I worry my husband might get in a terrible accident or that I won’t be able to live up to the greatness that is expected of one with a college degree.

I worry that I won’t make a good life for my future family or that I won’t attain any of my goals.

Mostly, I worry that my depression with eat at my brain, until one day, it will no longer function properly. 

And although there is scarcely a thought that terrifies me more than actually losing my mind, there is one person whose existence alone turns my fears into faith and my sadness into strength.

His name is Jesus Christ, and He is my Savior.

It is because of Him that I have made it this far in my life.

It is because of Him that despite my daily struggles, I can hold my head high with the confidence that one day, I will be made whole. 

As a child, I sang these words from the Primary hymnal: “I wonder when He comes again, will herald angels sing? Will earth be white with drifted snow, or will the world know spring?”

I don’t know when Christ will come again.

I don’t know how old I’ll be or if I’ll even feel ready.

But I know that He’ll come.

And when He does, there will not be fear.

 

 

 

 

Melissa’s Story

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Author’s note: This is a piece in a series I am writing about other people’s experience with mental illness. I’d like to thank my sister, Melissa, for her brave heart and for her willingness to share her story. If you are interested in sharing your story, email me at meganannmarsden@gmail.com

The summer before her senior year in high school, when her peers were preparing for the best year of their lives thus far, Melissa Turney found herself feeling isolated from society. 

For a year she had been stuck inside an immature situation that completely shattered her self-esteem, and once she broke free of the semi-abusive circumstance, she was left without any friends. 

“I felt invisible and like nobody was paying attention to me. Nobody was hearing me,” Melissa said. “I felt like I was literally going insane.”

Melissa existed inside a world of anguish and detachment for six months, until one day she snapped.

She was going through the motions of her day at school when a former friend began to yell at her. 

“I died inside, and then I left,” Melissa said.

She dialed her mother’s phone number, begging her to pick her up from school. 

At first, her mom was reluctant to come get her; she didn’t want her to skip school.

“I told her that I needed to leave, and I don’t know if it was something in my voice or if it was a spiritual prompting, but she told me she’d be there.”

In the short drive from her home to the high school, her mom had booked an appointment with a therapist, and they drove straight there. 

While at the therapists office, Melissa was forced to face reality—she had depression.

It was a difficult diagnoses, but for the first time in a long time she felt like she was going to be OK. 

The healing process was gradual. 

“I was out of school for a week and a half,” Melissa said. “My mom would get my homework every day.”

At one point, her grandmother invited her to stay at their house for the weekend, where she was allowed to just sleep, watch TV and eat treats.

“She didn’t ask any questions, she just took care of me like a grandma would,” Melissa said. 

A few months after her diagnoses, Melissa saw a PBS special on Josh Groban, an up-and-coming singer at the time.

She had never heard his music before, but when she did, her heart was filled with an unspoken beauty that healed its broken bits.

For weeks she listened to his first album on repeat, and after months of what felt like a silent existence, the harmonious sounds began to make her whole. 

Another asset to her healing process was her high school counselor. 

She had to take her medicine at school, so each day she would walk to his office, and he’d make sure she had a safe place to take her medicine, free from judgment.

“Every day he’d sit me down and talk to me,” Melissa said. “He was such an awesome, grandfatherly person, and I really felt his support. He treated me like I was somebody with actual thoughts and feelings and not just hormones.”

Slowly but surely, Melissa overcame her depression.

Although it’s been nearly a decade since she was diagnosed, she said her depression is always at the back of her mind.

After each of her pregnancies, she’s experienced small bouts of anxiety, but she is comforted to know that she’s gained the skills to handle it and that she has a big support system. 

“I feel like my depression has deepened my testimony with how the Lord works in our lives and how we are polished and developed according to Him,” Melissa said. “Unless I’d gone through this emotional ringer, I wouldn’t have been able to be the empathetic person that I am today.”

 

 

 

 

Be grateful.

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This is the first piece in a series I would like to write about President Hinckley’s six original “Be’s.” May we all be grateful in his memory. 

In Jan. 2001, President Gordon B. Hinckley spoke these words to the youth of the church: “Walk with gratitude in your hearts, my dear friends. Be thankful for the wonderful blessings which are yours. Be grateful for the tremendous opportunities that you have.”

Being grateful. I can honestly say this is not something I’m great at. 

Maybe it’s because of the depression, maybe it’s because I’m a part of what we like to call the “millennial generation,” I don’t know. 

I do know, however, that it is something I’d like to change.

I have so much to be grateful for. We all do.

Last weekend, I read a book called “The Giver.” Many of you may have read it, but for those who haven’t, it’s about a communist society that prevents its citizens from experience deep feelings.

Jonah, the main character, becomes the “receiver” of the town, which means he is responsible for holding all of the memories of the past in his head. 

As Jonah receives these memories, he describes the pure joy he feels in discovering life’s simplicities such as watching a sunset or seeing the color red for the first time.

I want to be like Jonah. I want to be grateful for the little things.

I don’t know about you, but I am a big victim of comparing myself to other people.

I do it on a daily basis. “She has better hair than I, he makes more money than I, etc.”

Notice a key word there: better. Why do we never compare ourselves to those who have it worse off than we do?

Next time, instead of comparing my life to others, I’d prefer to think of what I do have instead of what I don’t. 

Be grateful for being you, and for having the life that you do. We were each given unique challenges to help us grow, and I believe that nobody could handle our trials the way we can. God gave us the tools, and it’s up to us to use them. 

Be grateful for the Gospel of Jesus Christ, for it is perfect. I don’t know what I would do without the gospel, but I know I would be lost somewhere in the middle of the streets of Lonely and Deepest Despair. In my very lowest depression, I at least know I can always count on Christ to be there for me. Don’t take that for granted. 

Be grateful for your family. This is a big one. Whether it’s your eternal family or a group of friends that you feel closest to, be grateful for those people who choose to stay present in your life. 

If you focus on these three things, there will always be something to be grateful for.