Tag: mormon anxiety

“One of the Worst Ways to Die”…Why would God let this happen?

    Recently while reading the Book of Mormon—Alma chapter 14 specifically—something new hit me that I had never realized before. It’s always really cool when that happens, so I’m going to share it! In this chapter, missionaries Alma and Amulek are thrown into prison for nothing more than preaching the word of God. Even worse, anyone who believed in their words—women and children mostly—were burned alive while Alma and Amulek were forced to watch. Alma 14:10-11 says, “And when Amulek saw the pains of the women and children who were consuming in the fire, he also was pained; and he said unto Alma: How can we witness this awful scene? Therefore let us stretch forth our hands, and exercise the power of God which is in us, and save them from the flames. But Alma said unto him: The Spirit constraineth me that I must not stretch forth mine hand; for behold the Lord receiveth them up unto himself, in glory; and he doth suffer that they may do this thing, or that the people may do this thing unto them, according to the hardness of their hearts, that the judgments which he shall exercise upon them in his wrath may be just; and the blood of the innocent shall stand as a witness against them, yea, and cry mightily against them at the last day.” That’s a bit intense…Okay, IT’S VERY INTENSE.
Quick story (and this might be just as intense…fair warning): I’ve briefly mentioned before that when I was in preschool, my mentally handicapped, very sweet & pure, beautiful neighbor…was murdered in her own home by somebody she barely knew, but had trusted. I will not go into details, and I never will in a public setting/online. It is not my story to tell. However, I will say this: the doctor who did her autopsy and examinations said that, even after everything he has seen professionally, my neighbor was killed in what he (AN EXPERT) believed must have been “one of the worst ways to die.” As a young girl, I trembled at the sound of those words. Still, that phrase sends shivers down my spine. We know horrible things can happen to good people. But to know somebody who was so pure and innocent, and know they suffered like only few others would understand and it led to her death…that’s something you hold onto for the rest of your life. I learned what real evil was at only 3 years old. Maleficent, Ursula, Captain Hook, and any other fictitious villains in my world at that time were nothing compared to what I learned real evil was capable of. As a child, I would ask my mom about this a lot. I would ask her, “she (our neighbor) wasn’t even capable of making a lot of her own decisions, she wasn’t capable of living alone (she lived with her parents, even well into adulthood), she never did anything wrong EVER, she was almost a perfect person, she loved us and we loved her so much. Why would Heavenly Father let something like that happen to her? And why would He let it be THAT BAD…as in ‘one of the worst ways to die?’” I’m not sure if my mother’s answer was just to comfort me or if this is what she really believed. Her response was always something along the lines of, “Heavenly Father loves her more than we can ever imagine. I’m sure He really hates what happened to her. I don’t think He let her suffer too much before taking her home to be with Him.” While that could very well be true, after reading Alma 14, I realized that Heavenly Father probably did let her suffer through EVERYTHING she was put through. Weirdly, it makes sense to me now that I understand better. Hear me out. Her killer is behind bars for the rest of his life without parole, thank heaven. Heavenly Father knows all and He is very just. But order to be completely just, He needs the heavyweight evidence—the full suffering ‘testimonies’ of the victims. Once that criminal is judged, Heavenly Father will be able to judge him perfectly because God refused to cut any corners even when my amazing neighbor was suffering horribly. Today, she is in paradise with God, her biological father, and many others she loved and cared about. She is not suffering anymore and never will have to again. She is also no longer handicapped either and is so happy. I know it. It warms my heart.
It’s easy for us to think to ourselves, “why me? I’ve done everything God has asked me to do and I’m still going through this horrible trial” [‘fire,’ if you will]. It can be even worse when that trial is brought upon us by the choices and actions of other people. “Why would God let them do this to me, and let me suffer so much, when I’ve done nothing wrong?” I often find myself wondering if Heavenly Father doesn’t love me as much if He let’s me suffer significantly, or I think He must be picking favorites and I am just NOT one of them.
It’s just not true. Heavenly Father’s love is unconditional, eternal, and indescribable for every. single. one of us. His love is unconditional, eternal, and tremendous for YOU. He doesn’t pick favorites. There is nothing in this world we can’t accomplish, no matter how hard it is…or even despite the outcome. Death is not the end. His plan is perfect. Even our worst trials are part of an eternal plan of justice, mercy, love, and most importantly: everlasting happiness. As we go through the trials of life, let’s not forget His plan. Remember that “all these things shall give thee experience and shall be for thy good…fear not what man can do, for God shall be with you forever and ever.” 💕

My Experience with Mental Illness in the LDS Church | Part 1

    Some of you–especially if you have seen a few of my youtube videos–may know about my struggles with mental health, while the rest of you probably have no clue. Around the same time I started getting sick with my chronic physical illnesses, I also became afflicted with anxiety and depression. At first it was easiest to deny it, pretend it wasn’t there. Eventually, after one of my first pair attacks in front of my new husband, he was scared and confused. He could see my struggles and I knew I could not hide it from anyone, especially myself, any longer.  I finally said to him, “Something is wrong with me, with my mind. I cannot control it. I need help.”

We spoke about it all night, he stayed home from work the next day, and we made an appointment to speak with our Bishop about reaching out to LDS Family Services for counseling. I started going to therapy for about a year (until I started medication, but I still go to therapy because I work best with help from both.) I got better and was equipped with the tools I needed to help manage my mental state. Regardless, it was still an emotional rollercoaster where I occasionally found myself engulfed in scary and even life-threatening thoughts and situations. I would be fine one moment, then something would happen to upset me and I was rapidly spiraling into darkness. I was eventually hospitalized and I was not allowed to be discharged until I had an appointment with a psychiatrist to receive medication for my condition. I was avoiding medication like the plague. It was another attempt to deny what was going on inside my head, to pretend I did not need help. I also feared a new medication would make my physical ailments worse.

About a month later, I was sitting in the room with my new psychiatrist while I explained my situation. I realized at that moment how lucky I truly was and how God’s hand is really in all things–even when I felt unworthy of His love and help. I told her my stomach was paralyzed (normally much easier that saying I have gastroparesis and then have to explain that my stomach was paralyzed anyway…just easier to skip the name and give the explanation first.) She responded “Oh! I have a few patients with gastroparesis!” *Reminder: I hadn’t said the name of my condition, but she knew what was going on already, something that was very rare for me…even with medical professionals.* She then told me that her patients with gastroparesis normally do well with the specific medication she later prescribed to me. She warned me that it would likely take me a month or two to actually feel the effects of the medication. However, I was one of those very lucky, rare people who felt the effects almost immediately. After about two days after taking the medication, the dark cloud above my head was lifted. My almost uncontrollable, seemingly instinctive pessimisn (abnormal for the real “Alexa”) was gone. It was replaced by my true attitude of positivity, love, and happiness. I was compassionate again. I was truly happy.

Everybody’s experience with mental health is different. Most people’s bodies really do take a few trial months with several different medications until they find what works best for them. Some do not even need medication and need only a few sessions of therapy. However, regardless of the path, mental illness can always get better and be managed with the proper care and help. It is probably one of the most difficult things to go through sometimes, even now with medication. There are some days where I genuinely think to myself, “I will never be happy again,” “Everyone would be better off without me,” “I am a waste of space.” It is one of the most challenging things to overcome, when it feels physically impossible to make myself believe otherwise. The day following one of my worst nights, I wrote

A Letter to Myself, When I am Not Myself

  Last night was the worst I have ever felt up to this point. Because of my illness, I just feel like I wake up, sit in pain and discomfort, then go to sleep, then repeat the next day. Then, last night my feelings were royally hurt at a family get together. (Turns out it was just a simple misunderstanding, but at the time it felt like the world was ending.) I thought for sure that my family members would never want to speak with me again. I literally felt like I had nothing and nobody to live for except my husband. However, I felt like I was just a large burden on him with all my health issues. I was sure that I was going to end my life that night. I do not want to go into much detail, it will only give you (talking to myself) ammonition for later on when you might feel this way again. Dalyn laid in bed with me trying to comfort me, as I stared at the wall, completely numb to anything he could possibly tell me. All the sudden, I caught a glimpse of one of the photos on the wall of he and I at Disneyland. I thought about how much I wished things would be better in my life: my relationships, my illnesses, if I could get pregnant and carry the baby to term without health scares, and raise a healthy baby and take them with my family and friends to Disneyland and have a ‘normal’ life like everyone else. I was not sure how (I am still not completely sure how) I could ever have any of those things. But I was reminded of Heavenly Father’s plan. I felt the Spirit tell me that those things, those blessings, are in store for me. Even if my illness never gets better, I do believe (even though it seemed impossible at the time) that my life will get better in other ways. So as Dalyn sat there, trying to comfort me but still oblivious to the depth of the situation and my plan to end my life, I decided to come clean. It was scary and extremely tough to do. I will never forget the look on his face of pure terror and sadness. It sounds weird but his face reminded me that he did love me, and regardless of how bad I feel about being sick when he does so much, he still wanted me there and to take care of me however necessary. I also told Dalyn about my new plan: to get better, to mend the relationships with family members that I thought were over forever, and to look forward to that vision I saw in my head…of me, Dalyn, my whole family, and our future children, enjoying a vacation at the Happiest Place on Earth. It is a small dream to accomplish, but it will mean the absolute world. It is a representation of a better life.

I made up with my family members later that night, it was really not as big of a deal as I had made it out to be in my head. Then I decided to write this letter only 24 hours later. Life is still hard, but I already feel a million, zillion times better. Things would still be better even if I wasn’t able to mend the fight with my family members. It would have been better because I remembered my Heavenly Father. I am very grateful to have mended the wounds with my family though.

What I ask and plead of you (myself, or you…reading this…) is this: just give it another 24 hours and then see how you feel, just talk to somebody, spend time with the people you love, give it one more shot. This too shall pass and you will win this fight and live the BEST GOSH DANG life Heavenly Father has to offer! Just give it one more shot, I promise you will feel better. Pray, even when you feel so focused on your plan, feeling so low that you really don’t want to talk to God.   

I wrote this letter only a few weeks before I started taking medication, which made a world of a difference, as mentioned before. I also would receive the revelation to write 1,001 Facts about the Prophet Joseph Smith only about a week or so after writing this letter as well. Looking back, yes, things today ARE SO MUCH BETTER ALREADY. Yes, I still struggle with mental health. Yes, I still struggle with physical health. No, I still haven’t been able to have children yet. However, I have my amazing and thrilling career now. I have built new and/or stronger relationships with my friends and family. If my life would have ended then, I would have never had these experiences. I know it is just the beginning. Heavenly Father still has great things in store for me to experience and blessings left for me to receive. His plan would not be complete if I decided to end my life on my own terms.

I have a lot more to say on this matter, which I will continue in the next blog or two. For now, I wanted to focus mostly on the fact that is does get better. REALLY! I swear it. If necessary, try writing a letter to yourself when you’re not yourself…or you can use mine ( seriously, that’s why I decided to post it in the first place.) Create a safety plan and practice it and know it by heart, like a school student knows what to do during a fire drill. As soon as you notice the triggers, take action before the spiral. Communicate to those you love about what is going through your mind. Speak with a therapist, psychiatrist, or even a Bishop. You can fight and win. My battle, like yours and everyone else’s, is not yet won. However, with God’s help and the help of others, I can summon the strength that I never knew I had before to overthrow my mental illness…and win in the war. 

 

We will NEVER stop running.

Every summer my entire family–grandparents, aunts, uncles, cousins, siblings, everyone–goes on vacation to Coronado Island off the coast of San Diego. The beach is beautiful, the weather is amazing, and the best part is relaxing with the whole family. One morning, my mom and I decided to go for a run on the beach. That year there were huge sand dunes scattered along the beach. Each were about 5-8 feet tall and maybe 6 feet wide. We had no clue why they had randomly popped up this summer, but we ran around them regardless.

We ran along the water as the sun rose on the horizon (think Lion King-“Circle of Life” kind of stuff). It was magnificent and beautiful. All the sudden, we hear a stampede behind us and loud chanting. Startled, we looked to see what the noise was coming from. We discovered a group of Navy Seals running straight towards us (again, think Lion King). Coronado Island houses a large Naval base. It is not uncommon to see them going through rigorous training late at night or early in the morning.  They caught up to us very quickly. We like to brag that we “ran with the Navy Seals” like super fit, cool people. Before we knew it, they sped passed us without any hesitation or difficulty. We were not “running with the Navy Seals” for very long! Now that they were in front of us, we got to observe their training methods as we ran. We noticed several of the Navy Seals were carrying heavy loads on their backs and shoulders. Some carried small boats, some carried sandbags, others even carried fellow Navy Seals! These specific Seals seemed especially exhausted, sweating profusely and breathing heavily. We also noticed the Navy Seals did not avoid the mountainous sand dunes like we did. They ran full speed up and over them without skipping a beat, whether they carried heavy loads or not.

We watched in amazement. We were running at a slower speed, without heavy loads on our backs, and avoiding all obstacles. Yet, we seemed even more exhausted than most of them. Their military leader (I am so sorry, I am not familiar with the proper term and I do not want to mess it up…so I will just refer to this person as the “military leader”) was leading their chant. He would start by yelling, “Did you stop running?” They would reply, “We did not stop running.” He would chant again, “Did you stop running? I believe you stopped running.” They would chant in reply, “We did not stop running.” Finally, the military leader would chant, “Will you ever stop running?” And in perfect unison, they replied, “We did not stop running. We will NEVER stop running.”

I could not help but shed a few tears watching this in the sunrise of the beautiful beach. In life, we are constantly running. Sometimes we are carrying heavy loads. Sometimes we might feel like we are even carrying the burdens other people on our shoulders. Sometimes we feel like we are carrying more than we can handle, all while running through difficult obstacles. Everyday we are tempted to give up. We can feel like stopping, dropping our burdens on the floor, and letting the tide wash us away forever. Unfortunately, we do not always have the option to simply run around our trials and obstacles. We do not always have the choice between running vigorously with a heavy load, or a peaceful walk on the beach. I do not know if a peaceful walk on the beach through life is even possible. We will hear the constant chanting of the world–asking us if we have ever stopped running and if we will ever just give up. We have a responsibility to ourselves to respond, “We did not stop running. We will NEVER stop running.” And to keep our word, and never break that promise. We cannot stop running. The moment we give up the fight against trial, against the adversary, against hate, against negativity, against fear, is the moment we give up on ourselves and our eternal happiness. Do not let that happen. If you are here now, you have never truly given up. Promise yourself that you NEVER will. Promise to keep that promise…and promise to keep that promise.

After the Navy Seals finished their run, they sat and relaxed in the shallow water of the beach. The look of relief on their faces was obvious to anyone watching. For a few minutes they talked and laughed like it was all worth it. They did not at all seem like they regretted their decision to join the Navy. They did not at all seem like their training was too hard for them to handle, at least not while they rested in the water after they finished. They probably knew their intense training was going to prepare them for whatever they might need to accomplish later. No matter how hard we feel our life is, God never gives us ‘training’ that we can’t handle. It sucks, but you keep running up and over obstacles without hesitation. Before you know it, you will find yourself relaxing in the cool water and realize that it was all worth it

 

 

 

 

P.S. This blog post is dedicated to my grandma and grandpa, who helped make this blog a reality. Thank you. I love you guys so much. 

Why is Spreading the Gospel So Important?

Okay, I am going to share a few random stories. By the end though, they will all tie together…I promise! So hear me out.

My first story was actually shared in a previous blog post, titled, “Are you trapped in your own, personal Liberty Jail?” If you haven’t read it, I will give a little summary but more details can be found in that post. Right after I graduated high school, I went on the Church History Tour. It was life-changing in many ways but the most life-changing experience of the trip for me happened on the very first night. At this time, I was feeling the worst I had ever felt about myself, about my life, about God. I felt like God had abandoned me. I had never felt that way before. On the first night of the trip, we read Doctrine and Covenants 121-122, the letters from Joseph Smith in Liberty Jail to the church. Joseph, like me but obviously in a more extreme circumstance, felt like God had abandoned him. As he prayed in agony to God, Heavenly Father responded, “My son, peace be unto thy soul. Thine adversity and thine afflictions shall be but a small moment. And then if thou endure it well, God shall exalt thee on high…” In the next chapter, we read “Therefore, fear not what man can do, for God shall be with you, forever…” As I read those words I physically felt God tell me, “I have NOT forgotten you. I have NEVER left you, and I NEVER will.” The spirit was so strong as I read those words that I knew it was true. I knew The Lord would never leave me. I have never felt that God has abandoned me ever again, even though I have experienced far worse trials since that day. This scripture changed my life. I am much happier and understand–just a little bit more–the love God has for His children.

This next story is about my Grandma and Grandpa, my dad’s parents. My grandfather was a convert to the church, he was baptized after years of witnessing the blessings and happiness of his beloved wife and children in the gospel. They were sealed in the Temple for Time and All Eternity shortly after his baptism. When I was 17 years old, my grandpa passed away from complications with Leukemia combined with a car accident. At his funeral service, my grandmother–his wife–was emotional of course. However, she seemed oddly at peace and almost relieved to know he was with God and free of pain and suffering. She sat next to me on the bench of the chapel and told me a cute story, that also broke my heart. In the few days or so since his passing at the time, there were moments when something interesting, frustrating, or funny would happen. She would think to herself, “Oh! I have to tell Fred (my grandpa) about that!” Then immediately realize she could no longer do so. She told me about how the day prior to his funeral, she just sat in her car and felt the presence of God and my grandfather there with her. She said she just “told him” everything that had happened recently. She said she just “went down the list.” I have always remembered this story. I remember thinking, ‘I cannot imagine losing that person who you have been with everyday, who you told everything to, who you raised children with, who was your eternal companion and best friend.’ I wasn’t even married yet, and I was still heartbroken for her. To my surprise though, she still seemed more at peace than I imagined she would.

My best friend in the whole world is a convert to the church. Before she was a member she lost her only sibling, her older brother, to a drug overdose. After losing him, she became bitter and angry. According to her, she despised God. How could He let this happen to her? How could a loving God take away her lifelong best friend and leave her an only child? I remember attending the memorial services of her brother, and watching her shake and cry uncontrollably as she spoke from the pulpit of the funeral home. She could not even physically finish her speech. About a year later, she met the man who would later become her husband and eternal companion. He was a returned missionary of the church. She started taking the missionary lessons. At first she thought they were full of bologna! However, she gave them a chance. Eventually, it was her realization and strong spiritual confirmation from God that her sweet brother was okay and happy, that made her decide the Church was true. She was baptized by her then boyfriend, now husband. Right after she received her endowment in the Temple, she finished the work for her brother, so he can accept the gospel and go to the Celestial Kingdom. 

The final story is about a time when I taught with the sister missionaries. I never went on a mission. I spent years praying and begging the Lord to let me go on a mission, but the answer for me was always ‘no.’ Here’s what I did instead: Before I got married, I went teaching with the sister missionaries in the singles ward ALL THE TIME…I’m talking…around 3-6 times a WEEK! I did this for over a year. I felt that if I was not supposed to serve a full-time mission, I would serve a bunch of mini-missions! I felt as if I was being rebellious and ‘cheating the system’ somehow, I thought “THAT’LL SHOW YOU, HEAVENLY FATHER! HAH!” (; Anyways, we had been teaching this young man for a few weeks. He read the Book of Mormon and said he believed it to be 100% true. However, when we asked him if he wanted to be baptized, he said no. He said he knew the Book of Mormon was true, but he did not want to join the church because he desired to keep living his worldly lifestyle. He said he did not want to change. He claimed to love the gospel and Book of Mormon, but refused to accept it fully by repenting and getting baptized. After a long talk with him and trying to understand him, we realized he would not be coming to church or accepting the gospel fully, at least not at this stage of his life. Normally after teaching with the sisters, I would feel amazing. This time, I felt absolutely drained. I was upset because I knew since he said he knew it was 100% true, he was going to be held accountable for rejecting it now and refusing to repent. It broke my heart. Even though I knew he would NOT likely be considered a ‘son of perdition’ and suffer those extreme consequences, I couldn’t help but feel like it would STILL have been better for him if we had never taught him the gospel at all. 

I knelt down and asked the Lord, “Why do we even teach the gospel if it could mean accountability and suffering for those who leave or reject it? If we all go to some degree of a beautiful heaven anyways, what’s the point of having the gospel on earth?” The Lord answered me in the most beautiful way. I was immediately reminded of the time I received comfort from Heavenly Father through D&C 121-122, how God spoke to me directly, how it changed my life and brought me the most exquisite peace and joy. I would never have had that joy and peace without the scriptures, without the knowledge that we can speak to God and He back to us, without the the gospel. Then I was reminded of my grandmother. How peaceful she was even after losing her lifelong best friend, the person who took care of her, who she told everything to. She knew he was happy, free of suffering, reunited with his parents and family. Most importantly, she knew that she would soon be free from her pain, happy, and reunited with him and God for all eternity. I thought of the happiness she must feel knowing she can one day sit with him again and “just go down the list” and tell him everything. I was finally reminded of my best friend, how she unexpectedly lost her brother in such a tragic manner but is the happiest I have seen her now, knowing her brother is happy and that she will be with him again. I thought of so many times when peace was brought to my life, or the lives of those around me, even in the darkest of times…through the gospel. As I prayed for the answer of my heart-wrenching question, “Why do we teach the gospel at all? What’s the point?” I thought of these stories, and so many more. The answer came to me, “This is why.” Peace, comfort, happiness, knowledge, safety, etc. I mean, what is the other name for the Plan of Salvation? The Plan of Happiness. 

I was also reminded of a quote from the Prophet Joseph Smith in Doctrine and Covenants Section 128: “Now, what do we hear in the gospel which we have received? A voice of gladness! A voice of mercy from heaven; and a voice of truth out of the earth…a voice of gladness for the living and the dead; glad tidings of great joyShall we not go on in so great a cause?” 

Dictionary.com defines the adjective ‘great’ in two ways: “of an extent, amount, or intensity considerably above the normal or average” and “of ability, quality, or eminence considerably above the normal or average.” The cause of spreading peace, comfort, happiness, knowledge, safety, and truth, is great; by all definitions of the word.