Thursday, November 24, 2016

Thankful for Him

"All things denote there is a God; yea, even the earth, and all things that are upon the face of it, yea, and its motion, yea, and also all the planets which move in their regular form do witness that there is a Supreme Creator."

A week ago today, I heard the voice of God.

Rest eternal grant them,
Lord our God,
we pray to thee:
and light perpetual forever shine on them

It came to me in a concert hall, during a dress rehearsal for my chamber group.  Dancers, singers, orchestra, and soloists, had all prepared for weeks and months, and as I found, lifetimes for this night.  I hoped that it would be enough, hoped that the music would be done justice.

The orchestra was good!  My heart went out in gratitude to them for the countless hours of preparation they invested to master their instruments. The amount of time and talent and God-given goodness sitting in those chairs blew me away.  

Lord Jesus Christ, thou that rulest in majesty,
O free the souls of they faithful departed
out of the lion's jaw...
Grant them, Lord, 
Grant them deliverance from death unto life,
We pray thee, as of old thou has promised to our fathers

The vocal soloists were masterful, tender, fervent, and sweetly floated their voices fifty feet to the ceiling on their own power.  My heart soared with those voices in the praise of Him who made them.

Light perpetual shine upon them, shine upon them, Lord, we pray.
With all thy saints in endless glory, for thy tender mercy's sake

My favorite piece of the work, "Sanctus," features a violin obbligato of such tender sweetness, words completely fail.  Give it a listen:

I was overjoyed that the violinist did it absolute justice.  How could I be so lucky, to be sitting in a room with so much beauty, all devoted to the Master of the universe?  It was as if He was there in the harmony, there in the dance, there in the perfect sweetness of the violin and the voice.  It was as if He was showing me His greatness through all this beauty.  

Heaven and earth are full, 
Full of thy glory, O Lord.  
Hosanna in the highest!

Hosanna, indeed!  The God of creation has endowed this earth more beauty than can be seen, more loveliness than can be heard or felt.  He is in the taste of a perfect mango.  He is in the joy of a happy marriage.  He is in the great bodies of knowledge to be found in libraries all over the world.  He is in the majestic power of waves breaking on the shore.  He is in the works of masters like Gabriel Faure, and he is in the work of the musicians who work to bring it to life.

I am grateful for who He is.  I am grateful for what He has done for me.  I am grateful I can see and hear him when I'm looking and listening.  Not only is he the Great Creator, but he loves me enough to make himself known to me.  

Tuesday, November 1, 2016

Bedtime Battleground

Image result for frazzled mom meme

You might say my house resembles a battleground all day.  There is deafening noise.  There are piles of rubble and debris everywhere.  There are blood-curdling screams.  There are projectiles.  There are strange smells.  There are displaced persons on occasion.  Sometimes there is even violence.

Here the forces of order and wisdom battle the forces of confusion and anarchy.  Here I am a lone soldier striving to overcome the noise and disorder of a large family.

The first skirmish of the day sees me fighting to get four kids out the door with lunches in hand-- without letting them completely destroy the house.  Sometimes we start with a clean house, most of the time not, and sometimes I win this first battle.  Either way it's only the beginning, because people come and go all day, gleefully scattering personal possessions like Tinkerbell flinging pixie dust.

I do that early cleanup, the after-lunch cleanup, and an after-dinner cleanup if I'm on my A game.  In between times, I nag, cajole, remind, plead, and threaten my kids in order to get them to clean up.  I dream of the peace and quiet and cleanliness that will come once my darlings are all packed off to bed.  I fight valiantly through dinner, through dishes, through stories and sometimes even through baths.  I get sooooo close.

And here is where I typically fall apart, because lately I have been fleeing the battleground as the kids get ready for bed.  I barricade myself in my bedroom with a good book and smuggled brownies while TJ sings the two youngest to sleep.  After about a half hour of haranguing the oldest four to go to bed, he, too retreats, knocking pitifully until I'm sure it's him and that he's alone so I can unlock the door and let him in.   We cower in there together, shouting bribery and threats from the room to get our older kids to pipe down and go to sleep.  They pretend to be contrite for about two seconds before the raucous victory party continues.  We pass out at some point and hopefully they are kind and don't wake us up.  And in the morning?  Big surprise!  The house I fought so hard to get clean before bedtime was reclaimed by the enemy while I slept.

Snacks on the counter.  Shoes on the floor.  Cushions scattered all over the living room.  Backpacks, papers, journals, pencils, clothing, hairbrushes, toothbrushes, towels!!!  How is it possible to do so much damage in less than an hour?

I blame myself for being such a coward.

But recently I realized that some of my younger siblings still do bedtime the old-fashioned way.  You know, the parents tell the kids to go to bed, and the kids go to bed?  I have faint memories of when my kids were smaller and less intimidating.  Glorious memories of driving the enemy out of my territory.  I remember when every night I proudly retained the battleground of my living room.

And so I have taken courage, and with the promise of self-respect lighting my way, I tell my older kids that they are welcome to stay awake for an extra half hour after family prayers--if they would like to quietly read their scriptures in the living room.  During this time I fight the urge to flee to the security and peace of my room, and instead enforce peace or drive out the unpeaceful.  Too much noise and they're off to bed, shoes and clothing and books in tow.  Somehow, under my watchful eye, they just don't have the courage to produce new mounds of detritus.

Victory is sweet.

Sunday, September 18, 2016

Humble Pie, Part II

As my marvelous cousin said, "Eat organic, take your meds!"  This is my new motto, and since it's such a reversal for me, I'm glad that humble pie goes down easier with a good antidepressant.   

I've been thinking about all the reasons that have prevented me from taking an anti-depressant all these years.  I started the excavation of all those ideas in my first Humble Pie post, but there were a lot more.  They were always so nebulous, but a phone conversation with a trusted friend helped me crystallize my thinking and I came out feeling that I knew myself better.  I'll share my thoughts with you if you promise not to laugh at me for being a weirdo.


I'm starting with this one because it's probably the one that startled me the most when I heard it coming out of my mouth.  I've been dealing with the illness so long and have been so open about it, that I have really started to identify myself as a depressed person who makes the best of it.  The love and positive feedback I get from friends about how bravely I face this challenge has become a bit of an addiction.  My inner martyr just loves the attention.  Could it be, I wondered, that I'm so content with the counterfeit happiness of praise, that I'm actually not willing so seek healing anymore?  I know.  It's so sick.  

My second identity question has a little more credence.  There have been so many real and wonderful compensatory blessings flowing from this disease.  As Ether 12:27 teaches, this weakness brings me to my knees over and over, teaches me humility every day, gives me gratitude for those who help me, and keeps me from forgetting how pathetically dependent I am on the Lord's grace.  I wondered where all those blessings would go if my struggle with depression ended. In the end, I had faith in the adversary to present me with plenty of opportunities for humility and growth.  That's his job, not mine.  


"There should be a blood test," my friend told me, and she's absolutely right.  Depression is such a subjective thing.  I was diagnosed with depression after a couple of sessions with an LCSW.  I told my doctor, who will prescribe anything I ask him for, that I wanted an antidepressant, and he really didn't even ask me any questions before scribbling my prescription.  What if I'm not really depressed?  What if I'm too lazy to create lasting happiness, or too negative and ungrateful to see my blessings?  

I grew up laughing at people who need a pill to feel good, at a society that over-prescribes pharmaceuticals.  Doesn't everyone suffer?  Why should I be different?

I believe this paradygm has kept some of my dearest loved ones from seeking treatment, and I've thought all these years I was smarter than that--truthfully it's been influencing me anyway.  

But when I'm honest with myself, if a doctor told me I was not depressed, that I was just too lazy or too negative--I would know he was wrong.  I know the truth about who I am and what I struggle with.  And that's enough for me now.  I don't have to prove myself to anyone.


"Existential" being the only one-word title I could come up with that conveys the idea that I'm depressed because I deserve to be depressed. 

This one was tough to pinpoint, because it goes against everything Jesus Christ wants me to know about myself.  But it's been there all the time anyway, subtly and constantly influencing my decisions for my whole life.  

I don't remember ever feeling like I was good enough, even when I was very, very young.  I've only ever seen my failings and weaknesses, and so when things go wrong in my life, I'm not really surprised.  It kind of seems like if I could just be a better person, I'd be happier.  And so I try harder, I run faster, I pray longer, and when I'm still unhappy it's just another failure.

Depression is so very difficult to distinguish from spiritual problems.  We talk every week in church about how unhappy we are when we're not living gospel principles.  And so if happiness is not a good yardstick for worthiness, then what is?  

I'm working on this one, and I don't have all the answers yet.  But I'm trying to take my worthiness on the word of those who know me best: my bishop, my parents, my siblings, my friends, my wonderful husband.  Heavenly Father, too, makes contact once every ten years or so to tell me what I'm really worth to Him--and I treasure those experiences with all my heart.

And what if my depression does stem in some part from some of my own bad choices?  Does Heavenly Father want me to punish myself by not seeking treatment?  Of course He doesn't.  He wants me to repent. He wants me to trust in Christ's grace to make me clean.  He wants me to be as happy as I can.

If my sister were in my shoes, I'd tell her to be nice to herself.  So I finally decided to cut myself some slack.  I decided to assume the best about myself and to get the treatment that might just lift my burden.  I finally decided to be kind to myself.

And for those of you still reading and just dying to know how my medication is working--haha!--it's working great.  It took five whole weeks to kick in, and then one Sunday, I felt normal and cautiously optimistic.  Then I had a normal Monday, Tuesday, Wednesday and so on until today.  I feel whole and well.

I still cry sometimes--my family is still in turmoil and there's still grieving to get through--but I only cry for good reasons now, and I don't carry the constant weight of despair.  I feel emotionally sound and strong.  And that's way more valuable than my pride, any day.  

Monday, August 29, 2016

2016 can die.

And don't tell me about the law of attraction, because this year was a disaster right out of the gate.  I gave it plenty of chances to reform itself, but it continues to break my heart.  Every couple of weeks brings a new crisis, and I've pretty much stopped fighting it.  2016 is a black-hearted villain.  This year our extended family has dealt with serious illness, abuse, loss of faith, addiction, betrayal and divorce, and depression.

Lately more than ever I have felt that my "adversary the devil, as a roaring lion, walketh about, seeking whom he may devour."  And I have had the deep grief of seeing him rip and tear at my family.  He is the master of chaos, filth, and despair, and he has surrounded me in a whirlwind of his finest work.  I have seen so much evil this year that I never wanted to know about, and sometimes it has threatened to extinguish my hope.

But you know what?  Bring it.

I am not afraid of the darkness anymore, because the darker it gets, the more Christ shines by contrast. All the ugliness and pain of this year have given me a clearer view of the One who has already conquered it all.

"The future of this world has long been declared; the final outcome between good and evil is already known.  There is absolutely no question as to who wins because the victory has already been posted on the scoreboard.  The only really strange thing in all of this is that we are still down here on the field trying to decide which team's jersey we want to wear!"  -Jeffrey R. Holland

I don't know Him as well as I someday will.  I have been showered with evidences of His love for me all my life.  But this year, when other helpers fail and comforts flee, I am amazed to find I believe in Him even more.  I don't see Him in the light, I see Him in the dark, fighting my battles and vanquishing my foes.  And the darker it gets, the more I marvel at his might.

Evil as the world is, He is that good.
Disloyal as the world is, He is that faithful.
Brutal as the world is, He is that tender.
Selfish as the world is, He is that generous.
Hurtful as the world is, He is that healing.

The louder the lion roars, and the more power he displays, the more I glory that my Lord has already defeated him.  Christ must be pretty amazing if he has already conquered 2016 for me.  I praise Him.

Sunday, July 17, 2016

Wellbutrin Tastes like Humble Pie

I hope you like the title, because I'm pretty in love with it myself.  It doesn't match the tone of this post, though, so if you're in the mood for witty observations, I'm not your girl.  In fact, I want to take this moment to say that I'm sorry for being a little too chipper sometimes.  To be perfectly clear: I'm messed up.  What you read here is the healthiest, most positive, shining version of Kari, cheerleading her sad little heart to the finish line--and it's funny that I chose that metaphor, because I find cheerleaders annoying.  The nature of blogging is such that you see me on my best days and not my worst. The idea that anyone might think I have all the answers is too ridiculous for words, especially given the awful state I've been in lately.

Even accounting for the grief I'm still going through, which I consider a separate matter, I'm in pretty tough shape.  Anxiety, hopelessness, frustration, guilt, and deep inadequacy are my constant companions these days.  I spend a lot of time crying, avoiding, hiding, being mean, begging for forgiveness, and watching lame Youtube videos.

My therapist recommended medication, which idea I rejected out of hand.  The whole idea behind seeking counseling in the first place, was to do the cognitive work that would help me heal without the use of antidepressants.  After all, I am the cheerleader of drug-free depression here.  Please don't stop reading.  I hate what I just wrote, too.

I experienced a lot of relief when I took Zoloft about ten years ago.  After awhile, it started losing its effectiveness, and the side effects were bugging, so I went off and tried one or two other medications with no success.  Finally I sought out other options, such as light therapy and exercise, which have been huge for me.  So huge that I write about them here all the time.  But back to why I didn't like my counselor's suggestion that I start on an antidepressant while continuing my cognitive therapy--why was my goal to heal without the use of antidepressants?  Shouldn't my goal just be to heal?

So I've been digging into all my reasons for not taking an antidepressant, and finding most of them to be irrational.  I've found so much food for thought that I'm sure this post is just the first of many.  But I think one of my biggest obstacles to taking medication is my perception that it would just mask my symptoms without addressing the underlying causes of the disease.  To consider the possibility that medication may just be my very best method of treatment for the rest of my life, feels like giving up on real healing.  But here's the thing: all these years I've been trying to get to the root or cause of the depression and fix it.  It must be that my body needs more light in the winter.  It must be that I have unresolved issues from my childhood.  It must be that I need more exercise.  All these things are probably true, but years of attacking the problem from that angle have brought only limited success.  Maybe the "root" really is the chemical imbalance, and I'll be better-equipped to address peripheral attacks on my sanity if I can just get the baseline right.

I started Wellbutrin yesterday.  After all I've written here about beating depression the hard way, I feel like you deserve to be the first to know.  I believe in the easy way, too, if it can be called that.  Facing the very real stigmas still associated with antidepressants isn't easy.  The exhaustive search for the medication that will work for your body isn't easy.  Dealing with side effects isn't easy.  Really, out of all the steps I've taken to beat depression, this may end up being the hardest.  Isn't that just classic depressed thinking--I'll seek medical attention only after I've exhausted every other possible hope for healing.

So here I go, trying another option.  I really hope you find me here in a few weeks telling you how well it's working.  I remember the way the world's weight rolled off my shoulders when I started Zoloft, and I long for that relief.  I remember feeling truly myself for the first time in years: like I didn't have to fake being me anymore. I know that finding the right medication can be a journey.  In fact, from my experience and observations I may well be dealing with this illness for the rest of my life.  Oh, how I long for the permanent healing that will come when I arise to meet the Lord!  Until then, it's my job to cope and to hope.  Maybe I won't have to wait that long.  

Sunday, June 26, 2016

Bearing Depression...Cheerfully

I know my title is hilarious.  In fact, the whole premise of this post is a little outlandish, so if you're not able to stomach it today, I totally respect that.  But this is something I've been thinking of a lot for the past few months, and I'm excited to explore it here with you.

Just about every time adversity comes up in the church, it comes with the exhortation to "bear it well" or to "endure cheerfully."  Our beloved President Hinckley used to tell us to "cultivate an attitude of happiness."  And strangely, if you suffer from clinical depression, these words of encouragement can sound like rebukes, and can even exacerbate classic symptoms, such as low self-worth, hopelessness, inadequacy, and guilt.

What is the meaning of bearing your trial cheerfully when the very definition of your trial is a clinical inability to feel cheer?  Does it mean pulling yourself up by your boostraps each day?  Because most of us have done plenty of that.  And to tell the truth, that's where this blog post was headed originally, because I consider myself pretty good at "bootstrapping."  After all, the dark thoughts and feelings I struggle with would alienate me from most people in the world if I shared them as constantly as I felt them.  This disease requires a good filter or it will spread. 

But there's a difference between putting on a happy face--which is actually an essential skill whether you suffer from mental illness or not--and showing true cheer.

First, let's look carefully at what cheer means in an LDS context, because when I think of cheer, I tend to think of skipping down the road singing "Zippidee Doo Dah."  (And to be clear, I think we could all use a lot more of that song in our lives.)

But does the Lord require skipping and singing on the toughest days of our lives, even figuratively? President Thomas S. Monson's 2009 talk, "Be of Good Cheer," provides a window to our answer.
How might we have joy in our lives, despite all we may face...'Wherefore, be of good cheer, and do not fear, for I the Lord am with you, and will stand by you.'  The history of the Church in this, the dispensation of the fullness of times, is replete with the experiences of those who have struggled and yet who have remained steadfast and of good cheer as they have made the gospel of Jesus Christ the center of their lives. This attitude is what will pull us through whatever comes our way.  It will not remove our troubles from us but rather will enable us to face our challenges, to meet them head on, and to emerge victorious.  Too numerous to mention are the examples of all the individuals who have faced difficult circumstances and yet who have prevailed because their faith in the gospel and in the Savior has given them the strength they have needed.  (Emphasis added.) 
President Monson goes on to describe the harrowing experience of a German mother who mourned the loss of her husband and her home, and who walked many miles in the freezing cold with her four small children, whom she lost to starvation and cold, one by one.  Her despair almost drove her to take her own life.

Does this sound like good cheer to you?  Then why on earth did our prophet and seer even bring it up?  Look again at the quote.  He defines cheer a little differently.  He defines cheer as an attitude of faith that allows us to face great challenges and emerge victorious.  And our German sister did exemplify this cheer, this faith, in just the way that we can, yes, even those of us whose minds aren't working quite right.  President Monson shares her conversation with God during that terrible time:
Dear Heavenly Father, I do not know how I can go on.  I have nothing left--except my faith in Thee.  I feel, Father, amidst the desolation of my soul, an overwhelming gratitude for the atoning sacrifice of Thy Son, Jesus Christ.  I cannot express adequately my love for Him.  I know that because He suffered and died, I shall live again with my family; that because He broke the chains of death, I shall see my children again and will have the joy of raising them.  Though I do not at this moment wish to live, I will do so, that we may be reunited as a family and return--together--to Thee.
Not too many days later, while still in the advanced stages of starvation, this amazing woman bore testimony that she was the happiest of the exiles because Christ gave her hope for a glorious reunion with her loved ones.

So cheer looks a little different in the toughest times: if it wore a grin, truth would revolt and the Spirit would flee.  When there is death and despair, or when mental illness makes you feel like there is, cheer will look more like sincere and honest prayer.  It will look like reaching, believing, hoping for better times, because Christ is still leading the way.

Let us cultivate faith and hope in Jesus Christ every day.  It might look like "bootstrapping" to people who don't understand, and that's okay.  Because when we let our faith move us out the door to help others in spite of our own pain; when we let hope put smiles on our faces even on tough days; when we keep our hearts open to the possibility of joy--then Christ can do miracles. 

Sunday, May 8, 2016

Praise God For Hope

This picture used to be my pride and joy, but the past six months or so, I've tried not to look at it too much.  This family of mine has been through a pretty rough period, and it's not over.  

I never knew before that one I loved so much was capable of causing so much pain.  

But the healing process has begun.  We are rebuilding.  And would you believe it, we're already celebrating.  Tonight for Mother's day some of the siblings and their families went to Mom and Dad's house.  We had great food.  We shared laughter and memories.  We talked to Elder Monnett via Skype.  And when the guys were cleaning up in the kitchen, they randomly paused to serenade me in the living room.  Dad got Youtube to play accompaniment while Kendall sang the Philippino national anthem and Spencer danced the River Dance.  It took me straight back to the good old days. Growing up in a family of entertainers, there is never a dull moment.

And the truth is, the good old days weren't as good as I thought they were.  There was pain I couldn't see.  And now that pain is out in the open where the sun will dry it up once and for all.  We are moving forward and there is hope.  

Praise God for hope.  

Sunday, April 24, 2016

The Breakup

Home school and I have decided to see other people.  It feels like a breakup to me, the kind where you say it's mutual to save face, but you're really being dumped and you're still pathetically in love.

TJ and I have decided to put the younger kids in a Montessori charter school this fall.  Ezra is too old for the charter school and anyway, he loves his online school, so he'll be continuing at home.  Isaiah is old enough for kindergarten, so he'll be going for a half day.  I began exploring the idea of this school mostly because Maria Montessori's ideals line up so closely with my own--but also because my depression has been harder to manage this spring than ever.  The decision was pretty much clinched when I asked the kids if they would like to go to school with their cousins, and they jumped at the idea.

I feel that God is leading me in this new direction: I hope that by lightening my load I can heal and be a happier, better mom and wife.  Paradoxically, the thought of no more home school in my life depresses me beyond all reason.  True to my usual form, I've been indulging in all kinds of what-ifs about how good a job I've been doing at teaching the kids, all kinds of pity parties about the fact that the kids want to leave me, and all kinds of willy-nilly waffling about whether or not I can go through with it. Thankfully and sadly, the kids are still in love with the idea, and they keep me accountable.

Friends and loved ones have been trying to show support during this change, but because in my heart I'm still truly a home school mom, it's hard for me to hear them without feeling judged one way or another.  I end up irrationally defending the institution like a girl who still loves her ex.  Some people express admiration that I tried so hard and for so long to do something that they consider nearly impossible.  They say funny things like "it's good that your kids will get some socialization now," or, "it's just healthy for a mom to have some time to herself every day."  And I listen to the love instead of listening to the words.  Other friends might feel in their hearts that I'm making a mistake--I'm not sure--but they're kind and show support anyway.  And still others have the amazing balanced view that I'm just following the Lord's will for my family as best I can figure it out. It is this self-image, and not the Hero Who Attempted the Impossible, and not the Failure Who Burned Out and Gave Up, that I'm trying to embrace.

I am struggling to reconcile my gospel ideals of fortitude, patience, and perseverance with my current situation.  I feel very much like I'm betraying my home school sisters in this community by walking away.  We stick to it, through thick and through thin--we cheer each other on, confident that if we can just get through the rough patches that occur in all of our lives, our families will thrive and be blessed.  All these past four years I've had so much positive direction from the Lord on my efforts in our home school, and we've had so much joy and success.  It is difficult to believe that he would direct me away from this fertile ground.

I was surprised and uplifted by relevant counsel for my life coming out of dreary old Jacob 5.  As we discussed the olive tree allegory in Sunday School, I was impressed that the Lord grafts his children where he wants them, for their growth and for the growth of the Kingdom.  Callings change, life circumstances change, relationships change, all whether or not we want them to.  The Master Gardener surely has directed this change, and therefore I trust we will still have a bountiful harvest.  

Tuesday, April 12, 2016

Cry More

This is a sacred space for me.  Just looking at my blog brings peace to my heart.  I have always tried hard to follow Mrs. Nielsen's example by only writing when there is something uplifting to say.  This is why you haven't heard from me a lot lately.

Unlike most of the tortured artists of the 21st century, I find my depression dampens creativity instead of fueling it.    But I've also found creativity to be a powerful antidote, and so here I am.

Last week I finally made it in to see a therapist, and we talked about a few things that have been troubling me.  My big takeaway, though, was that I am grieving and I need to honor that process more.  I literally need to schedule more time for crying.

I have gotten into the habit over the years of crying for a few minutes with TJ at the end or beginning of a hard day, and then drying my tears so that I can sleep or get moving.  Crying for too long, I thought, was just a waste of time.  But grief is different from depression, and lately I have felt those accumulated tears as heavy and unwieldy as a completely full, five-gallon bucket.  Every time I made a wrong move, tears spilled everywhere.  In church.  In yoga.  During home school.  I have often felt that I could cry for days and weeks straight and never, never run out of tears.  But never having given myself the freedom to find out how many tears were in there, I just didn't know.

My therapist encouraged me to take as much time as I need to periodically just cry until I can't cry any longer.  So I came home, and when I had taken care of everyone's needs, I locked the bedroom door, went into the closet and began to pray.  I poured out my heart the Heavenly Father, enumerating every weight and every pain in my heart, and then I sobbed and sobbed.   I cried my way through half a roll of toilet paper, and then I felt done.

The relief I felt was powerful and lasting, truly as if I had dumped a hundred pounds of tears.  I went about my daily activities with a sense of lightness and even well-being.  I can't believe how healing it was for me to cry it all out.

My bucket fills up more slowly than I would have thought, but I've cried in the closet twice this week and at other times to a lesser extent.

I don't know what exactly my Heavenly Father has in mind for me at this time.  It is hard to find purpose in suffering.  I hope that by acknowledging and truly expressing my grief, it will pass more quickly. 

Friday, April 1, 2016

So often when I'm in the midst of depression, I feel that I am defined by it--that this is the new me that everyone is going to have to get used to.  And I fight against that perception.  I fight by trying to be cheerful.  I fight by holding on to the things that used to be important to me, even when I'm not feeling it.  

But today I realized that when Jesus Christ introduced himself to the Nephites, some of the first words out of his mouth were to recount the agony he had passed through on their behalf: it had become one of his chief defining characteristics.

"And it came to pass that he stretched forth his hand and spake unto the people, saying,
Behold, I am Jesus Christ, whom the prophets testified shall come into the world.
And behold, I am the light and the life of the world; and I have drunk out of that bitter cup which the Father hath given me, and have glorified the Father in taking upon me the sins of the world, in the which I have suffered the will of the Father in all things from the beginning."  3 Nephi, 11: 9-11
Of course, he exemplified bearing burdens in the best way; he became refined by them, and he used them to glorify the Father.

I'm trying to be like Jesus.  And that means that the weight I'm bearing is defining me in a way.  A good way.

Sunday, March 20, 2016

I'm not going to lie, this week was harder, and next week looks even worse.  But Thursday was a bright spot for me.

I went to yoga for the first time this year.  The New Years' Resolutioners clogging up the yoga room for the first couple months of every year make it way less fun, so I stayed away completely until this week.  I was surprised by how much peace and relief I got from practicing again.  I wasn't aware of how much my body and mind missed yoga.

Thursday nights TJ and I go to sing with the St. George Chamber Singers.  Usually rehearsals are fun, but we're getting closer to our concert date and the pieces are really starting to come together. Chamber music feels like heaven when it's done right, and we did a lot right this week.  Very healing and soothing to my soul.

Several loving friends have reached out this week with love and prayers.  Thank you so much.

Monday, March 14, 2016

I try to make this a whine-free zone, but today I just need to share where I'm at.

My depression has gone from manageable to unmanageable.  My tricks and hacks and boosts are not getting me above water anymore.  My eyelids are swollen from crying all the time.  I can't sleep.  I can't focus.

I'm going in to see a good therapist sometime soon, to help me manage grief over my recent loss and the attending feelings of stress, anger, and despair.  It feels like a step back, since I felt I graduated from therapy about ten years ago, having sorted out all my negative patterns and beliefs.  And I'm not excited about the work ahead.  Cognitive therapy is a lot like physical therapy after a traumatic injury.  You have to go through a lot of extra pain to ensure proper and permanent healing.

But I know it's a step forward.  I choose healing and hope.  I choose not to hide my condition and let it fester.  I have learned from experience that pain, like Lanston Hughes' "dream deferred," can be a dangerous thing:

What happens to a dream deferred? 
Does it dry up
like a raisin in the sun?
Or fester like a sore--
And then run?
Does it stink like rotten meat?
Or crust and sugar over--
like a syrupy sweet?
Maybe it just sags
like a heavy load
or does it explode?
If you can spare a moment, please pray for me and my loved ones.  And let me know when I can return the favor.  

Tuesday, March 8, 2016

Blogging my Way Whole

Guys!  My blog just topped 10,000 views, most of them in the past year!

Some of you big-time bloggers out there will laugh, but I need you to keep in mind that I'm not a big-time blogger.  A year ago I was lucky to get one or two views per month.

I felt inspired to take my blog public so that I could use it to share my testimony and my experiences. I would still blog about my family and my faith, but I started to be more open about my struggle with depression. I wanted to liberate others to talk about the battles they fight and I wanted to give them support and hopefully some practical advice.

Mostly I wanted to give credit where it's due.  My Heavenly Father has helped me to rise above my disease in very real ways in the past ten years, and I wanted to share that wonder and that hope.  I just didn't know it was part of his plan to use this blog to help me yet again.

I began by writing about how my faith and my depression coexist in He Gives Me Hope.  I was blown away that people liked what they read and wanted to share it.  It gave me so much joy that my miserable experiences could be turned into blessings for others.  I kept writing.

Surprisingly, opening up about my condition has really alleviated my symptoms.  I think this is because this blog has been an opportunity for me to serve and also to create.

In October 2008, I found myself lucky enough to be present in the conference center in Salt Lake City for the Women's Session of General Conference.  I will never forget the power of Dieter F. Uchtdorf's message, "Happiness, Your Heritage." He taught sisters that we will have greater joy if we strive to serve every day and create every day.

"The desire to create is one of the deepest yearnings of the human soul.  No matter our talents, education, backgrounds, or abilities, we each have an inherent wish to create something that did not exist before... 
Creation brings deep satisfaction and fulfillment.  We develop ourselves and others when we take unorganized matter into our hands and mold it into something of beauty... 
You may think you don't have talents, but that is a false assumption, for we all have talents and gifts, every one of us.  The bounds of creativity extend far beyond the limits of a canvas or a sheet of paper and do not require a brush, a pen, or the keys of a piano. Creation means bringing into existence something that did not exist before--colorful gardens, harmonious homes, family memories, flowing laughter."

Okay, I'm in danger of quoting the whole talk right here, so I'll stop.  But the powerful impression Elder Uchtdorf left upon me that day paved the way for this blog.  And this blog has paved the way for deep joy for me.

Journaling is one of the most commonly recommended practices for healing and mental health, but writing a private journal has never been a joyful process for me.  My private journal entries are dull and unpolished.  But knowing that loved ones and even strangers are reading this blog impels me to think more critically, to tap into my creative self, and especially to do the work to get my real personality onto the page.  It is a joy to craft a funny phrase or record a great story in the hope that it can make someone smile.

The joy of creative writing has been the hook that motivated me to write about my experiences.  And writing about my experiences has brought me great peace and healing.  I have felt the Spirit testify to me of my divine worth, of my Father in Heaven's love for me, and of the sanctity of my life.  I have felt gratitude for the struggles that have humbled me and made me seek out my Savior.  And as I have revisited painful memories with the lens of faith, I have been able to see that He never deserted me. That is healing.  And it could not have happened without you, my friends.

My lonely road is now packed with fellow travelers, arms linked together.  Acquaintances who've read the things of my heart have in turn shared the things of their hearts, and now we are acquaintances no longer--we are sisters.  You are the greatest gift this blog has given me.  Thanks for bringing me hope, healing and joy by being a part of this journey.

To celebrate the blessing this blog has been in my life and hopefully in yours, I've added a couple of gadgets to the left.  Check out my most popular posts, and some of the ones that are popular in my own brain.  ;)  And don't forget to share, it seriously makes my day. 

Sunday, February 7, 2016

A Grief Observed

Five weeks ago today I walked in the door after a long meeting at church, heard the worst news of my life, and sobbed my heart out for what turned out to be almost two solid weeks.

Someone very close and very dear to TJ and me has lost his faith--is deep in the grip of pornography addiction--has walked away from his wife and children--and seems to me a only a shell of the man I've known and loved for years.  And the shock could not have been greater, because for all I knew he was fine.  I could not have been more grieved or saddened if he had suddenly died.

If he were to read this, I think he might take offense to that last bit.  But as heart-breaking as it would have been to lose him to death, in that case I would have the comfort of knowing he died in the Lord--I would feel that he still belonged to me in a way.  No such comfort has borne me up in the past five weeks.  He seems separated from me in a way that I never thought possible.

I have been holding off on this blog post because I wasn't sure what to say, and I'm still not.  But I am a compulsive truth-teller, an over-sharer.  And I feel a little bit hypocritical to post happy, smiling pictures here and not tell you the whole truth.  My heart is breaking.

My Savior is at work here, I am sure, saving my loved one.  I have faith that someday he will choose to come back to the warmth and light of the gospel, and I fervently hope that he will find healing from his addiction.  But in the meantime, I am surrounded by broken hearts.  We are all slogging through the grieving process.  Denial, anger, bargaining, depression, and acceptance are hats I seem to alternate between several times a day.  But the Savior is not only working to save our lost one.  He is also working on us.  He is purifying us, giving us more compassion, growing our faith in him.  And He is helping us to bear it.

My faith in God is stronger today than it was a month ago.  Every word of every talk, lesson, and song rings with truth, and I know that my merciful God is using this for my good. I would not have chosen this, not in a million years.  And I'm still not very grateful.  But God is good.  I can trust Him as we walks me through this wilderness--just as I have before--He has never steered me wrong before.