My Story

How I Became Acquainted with My Mental Illness:

    When I was sixteen years old, I started struggling emotionally and mentally. I was extremely irritable all the time, I would lock myself in my room, and I started losing motivation to do anything. My mother recognized these symptoms as more than just teenage moodiness and suggested that I go to a doctor to see what was going on. 
    We started with a normal physical exam, just to make sure that there wasn't an illness I might have been struggling with. When the doctor ruled out thyroid, mono, etc. my mom took me to a counselor. My counselor determined that I was struggling with Major Depressive Disorder--or in other words--depression. I went to that counselor on and off for the rest of high school. It helped a lot to be able to talk about what I was struggling with and to be able to recognize some bad patterns of thinking.
    Counseling was great and it definitely helped, but after a couple years I decided to try medication to treat my depression. At eighteen, I started a low dosage of Prozac. That dosage and the kind of medication I take has changed over the years because in April of 2015, I got rediagnosed as Bipolar type 2. I now take a mood stabilizer instead of an anti-depressant. Adjusting to and dealing with my mental illness is a work in progress.

Mental Illness on my Mission:

    In October 2012, President Thomas S. Monson announced that worthy young women, ages 19 and older, would now be allowed to serve missions. (To read the whole story, click here) I was 18 at the time, and was ecstatic when I heard the news. I had been thinking about serving a mission and about how I could serve the Lord, and this announcement answered my prayers. I filled out the necessary paperwork, which included a disclosure of known health issues. I was open and honest about my depression and the challenges that it sometimes posed for me. In due time, my paperwork was turned in and I was called to serve in the Washington Seattle mission, starting on April 24, 2013. 
    I didn't know what to expect as a missionary, but I loved it. I loved being able to meet new people and share the truth that I knew. My testimony grew and my love of the gospel of Jesus Christ increased. I met incredible people with incredible stories who changed my life. However, missionary life was not very conducive to my depression.
    After being in the field for three months, I recognized that I was really struggling. I was having a hard time keeping to the missionary schedule and I was very, very low emotionally. I reached out to my new mission president (the mission split and I joined a new mission, the Washington Federal Way mission, on July 1st, 2013) and told him of my struggles. He got me connected with LDS Family Services where counseling services were provided for missionaries. However, after a few visits, I knew that my issues were deeper than what mere counseling could provide.
    I fought hard to stay out in the field, but my mental health was spiraling out of control. I started thinking about ways that I could end my life, and I knew that was a huge problem. I had never been suicidal before, and it was a very scary, very dark time in my life.
    I reached out again to my mission president and to my parents. After a couple days of deliberation, doctor visits, and mental evaluations, it was decided that it would be best for me to go home. So after being a missionary for six months instead of eighteen, I found myself on a flight back home to Utah.

My Mission Now:

    On the flight home from Seattle to Salt Lake City, I made a conscious decision. I knew that people were going to ask questions about why I was home early, and I knew I could respond in many different ways. I could be very vague and private about why I came home, or I could be open. I felt prompted to be open about why I came home early, and that is what I have done ever since. 
     My hope is that by being open about my mental illness, I might be able to help others--people who are struggling with mental illness, missionaries who came home early, loved ones of those with mental illnesses, and anyone in general. I want to increase the general understanding of mental illnesses and decrease the stigma surrounding it. With an increased understanding of mental illnesses, people will be able to help themselves and those they love. 
     I am not perfect. My mental illness is still a challenge for me. However, my message to everyone is the same: don't give up. 


Love, 
     The Optimist in Progress


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