8/23/17

If You Pray Hard Enough, Your Mental Illness Will Go Away

I found myself on my knees, tears streaming down my face, hands clenched so tightly together that my knuckles turned white. My room was dark, and my legs were starting to ache from how long I'd been kneeling. I kept repeating the same thing, "Please take it away. Please take it away. I can't do this anymore." The darkness of my depression felt unbearable. It seemed as though gravity had taken it upon itself to work extra hard on me that night. I felt dragged down, futher and futher. I grasped for God, begging for my burdens to disappear. But they didn't.




This was not the first time that this scene had happened. Quite frequently, I found myself in the same position, doing the same thing. I kept telling myself, "If you pray hard enough, your mental illness will go away." It has been almost four years now of highs and lows, panic attacks and despair. I've gone through a dozen medication changes, two doctors, three counselors, and a lot of sleepless nights. I am often exhausted from it all, and at times it feels all too much to bear. Needless to say, my illness has not gone away.

I think that often we blindly rely on prayer to solve everything. We expect answers to come packaged up nicely, exactly the way we want them to. President Monson once said, "Heavenly Father does answer prayers in His own time and in His own way."

As I have gone through what I have, I have come to say a different prayer. Instead of asking for my mental illness to go away, I ask for the strength to face it. God gives me strength through angel friends and family to comfort and uplift me. Words of church leaders edify and encourage me. (Like a Broken Vessel by Elder Holland for example) Books and resources for mental illness sufferers educate and inspire me. Strength to face my challenges comes in so many ways that it is hard to name them all.

I am still struggling. I am still trying. I fall down lots and it sometimes takes awhile to get back up. Praying hard has not made my mental illness go away, but it has given me the strength I need to carry on.





6/22/17

What to do When You're Depressed

Whether you are diagnosed with Major Depressive Disorder (MDD), or going through a personal crisis, or honestly if you're just human--you'll be depressed at times. The depression may range from mild blues to not being able to get out of bed. So, what do you do when you find yourself in a position where everything seems gray and like nothing will ever get better? I have a few tips today that might help you out. Everyone experiences depression in different ways, so these won't necessarily apply to everyone. However, I truly believe that at least one of these tips can help you out in a time of depression.





What to do When You're Depressed:

Step 1. Rate your symptoms. I usually do this on a "1 to 10" scale, one being the worst, ten being the best:

      10. Things are perfectly awesome. No need to worry.
        9. Things are pretty great. Not everything is perfect, but you're getting along just fine.
        8. Things are pretty good. Not too much to complain about, though nothing is perfect.
        7. Things are good, but getting closer to the "meh" side of things. You're trudging along and having a pretty good time for the most part.
        6. Things aren't necessarily the best. They aren't bad, but they aren't good. Things aren't quite going your way and you're a bit discouraged at times.
        5. Things are "meh". You don't really want to do much, but you go about your daily routine out of necessity, hoping things will get better.
        4. Things aren't very good. You consider calling in sick to work because you're just not feeling up to handling life today. You follow most of routine, but it is extremely difficult.
        3. You call in sick to work and to all of your obligations. You can't seem to get out of bed. You have a constant stream of negative thoughts that you can't seem to push away. Everything that usually sounds good doesn't sound good at all. Your body feels heavy and you mind feels sluggish. If you go to a psychiatrist, now might be a good time to call your doctor, or to call your therapist.
        2. You are extremely low. All of the symptoms of 3 plus suicidal thoughts and feelings. You almost feel numb at times. You definitely should call your doctor and/or therapist.If you don't have a psychiatrist, call your normal general physician.
        1. You are making suicide plans. At this point, you should call you doctor and go into the hospital.

(Now, I am no medical or psychiatric professional. This scale is based on my own personal experiences, so please keep that in mind.)

Step 2. Now that you have rated where you're at, you'll be able to make the necessary adjustments to start feeling better. For the next steps 3-9, I'm going to address ratings 5 through 3. If you can't move past a step, congratulate yourself for making it to that step and rest. If later on you can keep pushing forward to the next step, great! If not, stay proud of yourself for accomplishing what you have.

Step 3. Stand up. It sounds silly, but just do it. Stand up and walk into a different room. Getting your blood flowing will surprisingly help your mood.

Step 4. Take a shower or change your clothes. Taking a shower always helps me clear my head a bit and relax. If you aren't up to a shower, change your clothes. Changing your clothes helps your mind recognize that you're trying to change up your perspective.

Step 5. Get ready for the day, even if you aren't going to leave your bed. Feeling ready can help you feel accomplished and better about yourself. Whenever I'm having a bad day, I try to make it to this step. If I make it to this step, I feel somewhat better, even if I don't move onto step 6.

Step 6. Get outside. Even if you just step out onto your porch, get outside for just a minute. Cabin fever is a real thing, my friends. Getting a tiny bit of fresh air for just a minute can do wonders.

Step 7. Go somewhere. Go on a walk. Go on a drive. One of my favorite things to do is to go to Sonic and grab a Diet Coke. Not necessarily a "healthy" habit, but it gets me out of my house and helps me feel better.

Step 8. Try to do one act of service. Text a friend you know is having a hard time. Call a family member and tell them you love them. Don't yell at the person who cuts you off. (That's my kind of service) Give a dollar or two to that person on the corner. Do something. Do something for someone, no matter how small.

Step 9. Move on to doing what obligations you can for the rest of the day. Do what you can, then get some rest. Sleep is important for mental health, especially for those who suffer from MDD or other disorders.

Now, for ratings 2-1:

Step 3. Call a trusted friend or family member and alert them to what is going on. Even if you're afraid to or don't want to "bug them". Please just call them. It is important to have a support system. (If you feel like you don't have anyone to turn to, you can email me! yellowinthegray@gmail.com)

Step 4. Call your doctor, therapist, and/or the suicide hotline. 1-800-273-8255. Don't stay dwelling on suicidal thoughts and feelings. Now is the time to get help. Be brave enough to pick up the phone and get the help you need.

Step 5. Follow the directions of your friend/family member, doctor, therapist, or other professional you got in touch with.

Now, I'm not a professional when it comes to these things. However, I do have a lot of experience. I have a lot of experience with not being able to get out of bed. I am well versed in negative thoughts that hold me back from being happy. I know what it's like to feel like gravity is dragging me down and that nothing will ever get better. But I also know that these steps help! They have helped me overcome depression day to day, and I think they'll help you too.





Do you have any other tips? Comment them below!

6/6/17

Get Happy

When I was a senior in high school, my English teacher invited us all to write a letter to our future selves. She promised to hold onto those letters, and to then mail them to us after five years had passed. I had forgotten all about this, until I received the letter today.




As I went to open the envelope, I admittedly did so trepidatiously. What expectations did I have for myself back then as an 18 year old? I almost didn't want to find out. But of course, curiousity got the best of me and I ripped the envelope open.


Dear Rachel,

    What's it like being twenty three? Honestly, this is really hard for me to write because I can't picture where I will be in five years. Five years is not a long time, but a lot of changes are going to happen in those five years.

    So. Life right now. I'm a week and two days away from graduation. I am so sick of school. I'm hoping that I can get my C- up to a B in my CE1050 class so that I can get six thousand dollars from Regents Scholars. I'm going to BYU in the fall. Right now things that are popular are Pinterest, Twitter, Facebook, hipsters, and the Avengers. I'm listening to Codex by Radiohead. It's 8:44 p.m. and I'm tired. My mom is in Texas spending time with Granny Jan and Grandpa Ron. Grandpa is sick, we think he might have pancreatic cancer. My dad is in Boise on a business trip. Small, inconsequential things that I won't remember five years from now.

    Who did you marry? I'm super curious about that. Did you go into English? I'm really interested in English right now. I love writing. You can't tell from this letter, but I really do. And I suspect you do too. If you didn't go into English, what did you go into? Where are you working? You don't have kids do you?! Holy cow.



I laughed and I cried about this letter. I got my C- up to a B and got the scholarship. My grandpa passed away from pancreatic cancer two years later. I'm not married. I did go into English, and I do love writing. And no, I definitely do not have kids. 

The questions that I asked myself in the letter were full of expectations. It wasn't, "Hey, are you married?" It was "Who did you marry?" The unfulfilled expectation of marriage felt like a punch to my stomach. The letter is full of expectations of having the perfect, planned little life. Graduate high school. Go to college. Meet a nice boy and marry him in the temple. Graduate from college. Get a job and start having babies. 

Where am I at now?

Single. Still in college, trying not to flunk out. No little family of my own. Lonely at times. Struggling with self-worth. Not where I wanted to be.

I pushed aside the disappointment and kept reading. I'm glad I did. The part of the letter that got me the most was the last paragraph. As I read it, a lump formed in my throat. I felt as though past Rachel knew what needed to be said, though I don't know how I could've known back then how much I would need it now:


Well, I hope life is great. I hope you've done the best you can and that you've become what I want to be in five years. I hope you are strong in your testimony. I hope you work hard. I hope you live like every day was your last. I hope you are happy. And if you're not, get your act together, girlfriend. Get happy.

Love, Rach

*Letter edited a bit for names and content*


Get your act together, girlfriend. Get happy.

Truly, how often in our lives do we end up where we thought we should be? How often do our picture perfect plans come to pass? If that all happens for you, props my friend. For me, and I'm guessing most others, life is not like that. We don't end up where we thought we should be. Our picture perfect plans get erased and re-sketched all the time. Our great expectations are rarely fulfilled. But you know what never changes for anyone? Our ability to get happy.



We all have our challenges. My biggest challenge is having bipolar disorder. It causes some really, really dark days. But those dark days don't prevent me from getting happy. I can go out there and get it! Happiness is out there, and it starts with getting your act together. For me, that means getting rid of the word "but". "But" is usually followed by "I have bipolar disorder" or "I'm not myself right now." To get happy, I have to get rid of but. 

That is just one thing of many that I can work on to get happy. The question is, What are you going to do to get happy? What changes do you need to make? What relationships need strengthening? In short, get your act together, girlfriend.

Get happy.

5/5/17

Guest Post: Suicide and Self-Harm

Intro:
This guest post was authored by Kendra Dawson. We were in a ward together our freshman year of college. One day, I saw that she had written a Facebook post about her experiences with suicide attempts and self-harm. I was blown away by her candor as I read through the post, and extremely grateful for her willingness to be so open about something so taboo. Suicide and self-harm aren't things I necessarily have experience with, so I reached out to her and aske if she would be willing to share a post for my blog. I am grateful that she accepted, and for her post. I've learned a lot more about these topics from her, and I hope you will too. If you or someone you know is considering suicide, please talk to someone you trust or call the national suicide hotline at: 1-800-273-8255




Imagine, if you will, that you’re catching up with an acquaintance and they tell you they’re a little tired because they were sick all weekend. You would ask how they’re doing and might inquire about some of their symptoms: does their throat hurt? Is their nosed stuffed? How does their stomach feel? Did they throw up at all? The one symptom of being sick you’re not as likely to ask about, however, is diarrhea because it’s an uncomfortable topic, you wouldn’t know how to react if they started talking about it, and you know it’s not a constant symptom of common illnesses. Well folks, suicide and self-harm are kind of like the diarrhea of the mental health world. We can address the other aspects of mental illness but the truth is these two topics seem to remain uncomfortable to talk about, hard to empathize and react to, and not everybody who struggles with mental illness will attempt suicide or hurt themselves so maybe it would be better if we just ignored them.

To quote a popular character from The Office: FALSE. 

It’s incredibly important talk about suicide and self-harm ESPECIALLY for those reasons. As I start talking about some of my own personal experiences with Generalized Anxiety Disorder, Depressive Disorder NOS, and Borderline Personality Disorder,  I just want to clarify that this post isn’t a feel-good and leave inspired post (although maybe you will), it’s just a post that shares my story in order to raise awareness. Additionally, please keep in mind that everyone has individual experiences and I am in no way the spokesperson for all mental illness, I’m a spokesperson for myself...and even then it’s a little questionable on how good of a job I’m doing. 

For context, here’s a super long excerpt from a post I wrote a few weeks ago on my life-long struggle:

“As a wee child, I controlled my emotions by throwing outrageous tantrums and around first grade, my parents started noticing definite signs that something might not be right. When I was six, my mom took me for a drive as I threw a tantrum and I told her there was something inside of me that I couldn’t control no matter how hard I tried (AKA hey parents, I sound like I’m possessed). Around 8 or 9 I remember threatening to light myself on fire when my sister was babysitting me (nobody else remembers this so maybe it didn’t happen, idk) which just goes to show that even as a child, I wanted to die. At age 9 I was diagnosed with Dysthymia which “is defined as a low mood occurring for at least two years, along with at least two other symptoms of depression” …thanks, Google search and Mayo Clinic for that definition. At age 10 I was diagnosed with Major Depressive Disorder and Generalized Anxiety. I’m 23 right now which means I’ve been trying multiple med combinations and attending therapy for 14 years with no lift in my mood (if anything, a steady decline)…*understanding of course, that meds and therapy wouldn’t do everything for me but we have yet to find a place that I can function well enough to do the rest myself.* *Anyone can benefit from therapy and if you have the slightest inkling that you should go, please, please, please do. It doesn’t matter how you’re categorizing your struggle, your pain is valid. * Around the age of 12 I remember laying in my bed in the middle of winter with the window open and fan on, hoping I would freeze to death. At age 15 I spent my first week in a mental hospital. In high school, I occasionally cut and found solace in writing suicide notes, imagining how nice it would be to go. I was outgoing and appeared confident but would go to the nurse’s office to cry in between classes. Some days I would stay home because, although the phrase hadn’t been popularized yet, I couldn’t even. During my teenage years, therapists played around with the idea of BPD but everybody seemed hesitant to come out and diagnose me. There were considerations of having me go to a residential high school. College seemed pretty out of reach.

My freshman year of college I coped with my pain by sleeping…ALL THE TIME. In 2015 I spent a week in a mental hospital after a suicide attempt. A month later, I spent 4 weeks in a different hospital as they shocked my brain 13 times (ECT). Not only did this method (often very helpful for treatment-resistant mental illness) not help, but I lost a lot of my memory, especially of my college years. Memory loss isn’t fun but I’m grateful bits and pieces have come back. After this, a doctor finally diagnosed me with BPD. Later that year I tried to kill myself again but after it failed, I didn’t tell anybody and moved on. For a bit, I got by knowing that I was graduating soon (this summer…woo!) and that this would be the perfect chapter to close (proving to myself and others that I could do it) before killing myself. In January (this year), waiting for graduation seemed less and less important and on January 31st I was admitted to another mental hospital. I stayed there for 9 days where I was put on one-on-one watch practically the entire stay (AKA someone had to be within arm’s reach of me at all times) after they found I had snuck a knife and was using it to scratch. They then transferred me to a different hospital where I stayed until February 23rd. I couldn’t contract to keep myself safe so I was put on the acute unit. What an experience. After getting out, I received Ketamine treatments (this pic is before they started it!) which the doctors told me probably wouldn’t work but that it might keep me from killing myself at least for a little bit. Not only did these treatments do nothing for me, I also had a terrible reaction. Normally recipients sleep and relax but I screamed and I cried and I laughed SO LOUD. They had to move me to my own room. I was awake the whole time and quite honestly, it was like living a comedy, drama, and horror movie all in one. As they would flush it out of my system, they had to call extra staff to come and hold my arms and legs down, the second time they had to tie me to the bed because I wouldn’t stop trying to get away.



There have been so many other times I should have ended up in the hospital; although I open up and share a lot of things with close friends and family, there are some things only I know. I self-harm fairly regularly, mostly on my stomach and upper legs where I know very few people will see. I see no problem with it. I dissociate; I don’t think I’m Kendra Dawson, I don’t think my body is mine, I feel like an empty space traveling through a world where real people are, but I’m not one of them. It’s hard to explain dissociation but it’s not super fun or anything. There’s a kind of therapy called DBT that is supposedly very helpful and I’ve done bits and pieces here and there and am currently working through it but the other week the thought came very strongly to me that therapy and my support system may help, but ultimately it is up to me (with help from Christ and Heavenly Father) to stay alive. It’s a frightening thing to realize that you’re the one who has to keep yourself alive but you’re also the only one who wants you dead. Sometimes I pray, begging and pleading for my life to be taken. I think about and picture suicide every day but obviously, none of my attempts have worked and for some reason, I’m supposed to be here. So I live, every single day making the decision not to go through with the thoughts that constantly haunt me. Imagine being allergic to peanut butter (maybe you don’t have to imagine and you are in which case I’m super sorry) but being forced to eat it 24/7…it’s a little like that. I live in a lot of fear and most of that fear is fear of myself and not knowing what directions my mood swings will take. I don’t just wish I didn’t exist or wish I didn’t wake up each day, I want to kill myself. I do. And it’s okay that I feel that way because I’m doing all that I can- I go to class, I take care of myself physically, I do the spiritual/religious things that are important to me, I go to two different therapies every week, I take my meds. And it’s frustrating that no matter what I do, nothing changes but that’s the way the cookie crumbles (sorry if you want cookies now, my bad). My mind is constantly foggy and I feel like I’m losing control of it…I don’t think it’s my own brain and I feel like I can’t think. I am always one move away from ceasing to exist. I cannot fathom liking myself because I never have. I cannot fathom not wanting to die because that’s all I remember. I cannot fathom a life not feeling how I do because it’s gone on for so long.”

My brain has worked this way for such a long time that it’s almost become a comfort. I get through the day because I know I can go home and cut if I need to or I start to calm down emotionally when I picture killing myself. It’s not a healthy way to live but right now, it’s the only way I know how. 

These thoughts and actions come because I hate myself, because I’m fed up and frustrated with not seeing results, because I’m not even sure I’m alive right now in the first place, because I don’t think anybody cares, because I feel like (despite the fact that I used to be a lifeguard) I’m drowning, because etc etc. For me, it’s not always the idea that dying would be easier than living but it’s just the only logical response to how I’m feeling. Honestly it’s kind of hard to explain why I want to kill myself as much as I do.

Suicidality is a little like puberty. It’s apparent that it’s happening so you get braces (meds) and go see the Dermatologist (therapist) and do everything else in your power to soften the blow but it still comes and wreaks constant havoc in your life (if you knew me in high school, you’ll know this puberty thing is true). The only difference is that puberty stopped for me at some point. And who knows, maybe this will too. But the fact remains that I don’t know when that will be. So I’m just going to keep doing what I can until it does. And if it doesn’t, that’s okay too. 

There’s not a huge part of me that can understand what it would be like to want to continue living so I’d imagine it’s just as hard for people to wrap their minds around the idea of wanting to take action against yourself. I wish I had more answers and better explanations so we could all gather around the campfire of life, sing “Kumbaya,” and be able to perfectly empathize with one another. But I don’t so we can’t. I do, however, have the ability to share my individual story in hopes of spreading just a little bit of knowledge on the topic. And the cool thing is, no matter what’s happened in your life, you have that very same ability. Mental illness or not, the more we share, the more we open doors for greater understanding. I believe Schoolhouse Rock! sums it up best when telling us that “knowledge is power.”

I've learned that the best thing for me to do is make attainable but challenging goals and promise myself and others I'll do them. I told myself when I came to college that I would graduate and now that I have I have moved onto my next goal of getting work. I've learned to focus on my relationships with those who truly care for me. I've learned that asking for help and being vulnerable is okay and does not make me an unwanted burden on those who love me. Growing closer to my Savior has helped me give my struggles to Him and realize it's okay to feel how I do. I'm far from the perfect example of staying completely safe but I'm doing my best. Above all, I believe that there is no shame in checking yourself into a hospital if you believe you are a danger to yourself. If a physical illness put your health at risk, nobody would blame you for going to the ER and  although some people might not understand this, the same is true of mental illnesses.

So yes, I want to and have tried to kill myself. Yes, I self-harm. It’s not fun but it’s nothing I should be afraid of talking about. It means nothing about myself as a person. It means nothing about decisions I’ve made. It means I’ve been dealt these cards and I’m going to continue learning how to best play them. No matter your cards, you can too. 

4/3/17

What Are You Going to Do?

*The painting featured in this post was beautifully created by an artist from Recreate, a company that specializes in capturing moments that just can't be captured in photos. I was able to share this special moment of mine with a Recreate artist, who then beautifully illustrated it. Now, I have something to remind me every day when I wake up of the most important moment in my life. To find out more, visit their website www.recreatememories.com*



I'm a big believer of important moments in our lives. Not always life changing per se, but big moments. However, sometimes those moments can be life changing. I have three of those big life changing moments in my life, and they all link together. 1. Deciding to go to BYU (which led to going on a mission) 2. Deciding to go on a mission (Which led to #3) 3. Sitting on a plane from Seattle to Salt Lake City. That third and crucial moment has been the biggest life changing event of my life so far.

When I decided to go on a mission at age 19, I wasn't prepared for the challenges ahead. Sure, I knew that missions are hard, but I couldn't have known that I would face the dark days that I did. God had a lot more in store for me than an 18 month mission in Federal Way, Washington. I just couldn't have ever known it or seen coming. 

If you're familiar with this blog and my story, you'll know that I only served for six months on my mission instead of the traditional eighteen. During those six months, I was constantly pummeled by devastating depression and anxiety. I fought well...for awhile. Eventually, I started to crumble under the weight of those mental illnesses. I fell further and further down into a pit of loneliness and despair. At a breaking point, I felt like nothing was ever going to change and that I was just going to be depressed forever. My mission president was aware of the challenges I was facing, and he and his wife fought with me and for me. In the end, they recognized something that I couldn't recognize: going home was really the only way for me to heal. 

I was on a plane home to Utah within two days of that decision being made. The night that the decision was made, I was allowed to call home. It was surreal dialing the numbers, and hearing my mom's voice on the other end. She told me that my dad would be at the airport in Seattle, waiting to take me home. I don't think I cried much after the call, even though I wanted to. I was too in shock, too numb. Honestly, being numb was the best way for me to fight the pain. 

In that surreal state of mind, I met my dad at the airport in Seattle. Hugging him felt foreign, everything felt foreign. After we went through security, he asked me what I wanted. We both knew what he really meant, "What can I possibly do to take the pain away?" Well, it's easier to get food than to cure depression, so I asked for a pumpkin spice hot chocolate from Starbucks. 

As we sat at our gate, we talked and we didn't. I sipped my hot chocolate as my dad did a great job of making me laugh and making me feel loved. It didn't solve the problem, but it sure helped. Once on the plane, he continued to tell me stories, trying to make me smile. Once in the air, he asked a question that created the biggest moment of my life: 

"Rach, what are you going to do?"

What was I going to do? I think I might've mumbled an "I don't know." off the bat, but as soon as those words came out, I received a powerful prompting. It was the calmest I'd felt in months. All of a sudden, the pain and the darkness made sense. I didn't quite know why or how it made sense, all I knew was that it did. 

"I'm going to be open about this. I'm going to tell people my story and help those with mental illnesses like me."



That moment is so poignant and so powerful every time I think about it. Suddenly, I realized that my real mission and my real purpose wasn't to go to the Washington, Federal Way mission. It was to share the experiences I had fighting depression and coming home early from that formal mission. Ever since that moment, sitting next to my dad on the plane from Seattle to Salt Lake City, I've known my purpose.

Now, just because I know what I'm supposed to do, doesn't mean I always know how to do it. I've had cool experiences like speaking at a Girl's Camp, being in a documentary about early returned missionaries, guest blogging, etc. I've been able to talk to people and give them dorky "business cards" that I ordered off of VistaPrint for like $4. Those things have been amazing and fulfilling. But other times, I feel lost. I feel like what I do really doesn't matter. There are a lot of people out there with stories almost exactly like mine. At times I've thought, "Well, they're being open and gaining more attention and attraction than me, so it's not worth it to try." Those doubts continuously push me down, adding to feelings of inadequacy I already face. It's hard to remember sometimes my purpose, my mission.

When those times come around, God always sends a gentle reminder of what I'm supposed to be doing. A text from a friend thanking me for being open. An email from someone I've never met telling me that my words made a difference in their life. This painting that sits on my desk that illustrates the most important moment of my life. God, through little ways, helps me remember my purpose.







I believe that we all have a purpose, above and beyond the purposes we are taught at church or in theory. Your purpose might be to smile at those around you, helping them feel loved. Your purpose might be volunteering with the less fortunate. Your purpose might be to lead your community on a city council, etc. And you know what? I believe that we all have multiple purposes. God doesn't just give us one talent. He gives us many to better this world and to better the lives of those around us. Whether we have found those purposes or not, they're there, and we will get to them. Moments lead us there. It took me six months and coming home early from a mission to get to a moment on a plane to realize mine, and I have no doubt that God has other purposes and missions for me in mind. Important moments will often come unexpectedly, and in those moments we need to ask ourselves, 

"What are you going to do?"



2/6/17

I Love My Mental Illnesses

I can't tell you how many times I've gotten furious about having mental illnesses. I've raged at God for giving me this trial. Everyone kept telling me "Hold on! It gets better!" But it didn't. "Three years. Three freaking years." I have thought to myself as I've contemplated how long it's been since I came home from my mission and faced this trial. Three years of pain. Three years of feeling lost. Three years of being filled with anger. 

I've often thought about who I would be and where I would be at in my life if I hadn't gotten sick. Would I be graduated from college by now? Would I have been married by now, with a baby on the way? Would I be happier, kinder, more loving? I thought I would be. Thinking about these things has made me disappointed in myself.

However, very recently I have started to love my mental illnesses. I have come to love these last three years of hurt. But why?



I love my mental illnesses because of the empowerment they bring to me. Embracing them has given me the strength I need to push through other challenges in my life. It has given me purpose as I try to reach out to those around me who have similar struggles. Accepting and loving my mental illnesses has taught me that I am stronger than I think, and experienced in areas that others might not be. I have an amazing life in ways because I have mental illnesses. I am capable. I am tough. I am becoming who I need to be because of them, and I love it.

I think those of us who struggle with  mental illnesses could all probably be better at being thankful for our trials. I'm definitely still working on it. Yes, having a mental illness is more challenging than most could understand. It is draining. It is painful. And sometimes, it is deadly. But in some odd way, mental illnesses are a blessing. You might disagree with me, and I can understand where you're coming from. But I also understand that mental illnesses can help us grow in ways that nothing else could. We have the power of empathy because we've been in dark places. We know how to love broken things because we too, have been broken. We know how to be strong, because there are times we've had to pick ourselves up off the ground. We are amazing, and our mental illnesses have helped us become that way. 

Learning to love my mental illnesses is still a process for me, I promise. I'm not perfect at this at all. I still have moments where I am filled with hatred toward the things that cause me so much pain. But I am thankful for my bipolar disorder. I am thankful for my generalized anxiety disorder. I am thankful for what I am learning. I am thankful for who I am becoming. I may not be where I thought I should be, but man, I sure do have an amazing life because of my mental illnesses.