Sunday, July 31, 2016

Be courageous. Be strong. Part 1.

I got home from girls camp yesterday and I have been thinking a lot about what I learned, and what I got out of it. It was an Olympic based theme (Who is excited for the olympics???), and we based a lot of it off of Nicole Pikus-Pace's book "Focused" - which is all about lessons she learned during her olympic career and how it relates to the gospel and our values. Our motto at camp was "Be Courageous. Be Strong."

For me, the motto was more than just four words. It applied to my life in a much difference way than it applied to the girls and the other leaders that were there. For me, being courageous and being strong means facing a challenge head on, with everything I have left. 

It's a challenge that I've alluded to on and off. I've talked to some friends and confidants recently and I've been told by multiple people, "Your story gives me so much strength, you need to share it more".  

Guys. I'm not a vulnerable person. I hate being vulnerable. I hate the idea of getting emotional in front of people - no matter how much I like you. But - I think about the times that I'm strengthened the most and it's when I see other people who I view as "having it all together" share struggles that they have and how they are conquering them. I'm able to find common ground as they share their struggles and I'm able to learn from them, regardless of their beliefs, their faith, or their lifestyle.

Everyone has their struggles, and everyone has their things they deal with. Everyone's struggles are individual and personalized to them for their learning and growth. 
Some people lose loved ones, sometimes children
Some people deal with miscarriages and infertility
Some people deal with divorce and broken relationships
Some deal with health problems and unanswered questions
Some deal with things that are more inward. Depression, anxiety, loneliness, and other heartache. 

My biggest struggle deals with that last category. Depression, loneliness and anxiety that is at times crippling and overwhelming to the point that functioning in life is a challenge on a daily basis. There are days that getting out of bed is an absolute victory. I'm an incredible wall builder and can put on a great front where most people, unless they are inspired or I show them, don't know that anything is wrong - so 99% of people would have no clue these things are a struggle for me. 

The last year, things have gotten increasingly harder. Part of it is the desire to be a wife and mother. I want that more than anything in this world. Part of it is unreal expectations of perfection and how things "Should" be. Part of it is simply because - like every other human in the universe - sometimes, life is just hard. And part of it, I truly believe, is that it is something that I've just been called to bear.

People say "Be happy". "Try harder". "Choose joy". "Go to a singles ward and you won't be lonely". "Read and pray".

And I hate those answers. Every one of them - because sometimes, those answers aren't the solution. And I say that as a faithful and worthy member of the church. One who knows the strength that comes from being obedient and doing the little things. 

And I say that depression is no joke. You can't just wish it away. You can't just read it or pray it or worship it away. You can't just try harder to be happy. You can be doing everything right, and being the best you can be, and sometimes you just break down and things as simple as cleaning your room or putting gas in your car causes you to have an anxiety attack. 

It hits at the worst possible times. At a social event. Before a huge day at work. In the middle of work. When you are sitting in sacrament. 

It's like a dark cloud that messes up your vision of how things are and how things should be. It is something that at times makes you want to disappear. To not wake up in the morning because you know as soon as you wake up that you are going to have to face it again. 

It's like a voice inside your head making you feel guilty that reading your scriptures and saying your prayers doesn't ease the darkness, and you begin to question your worthiness, even though all is well. It makes you feel like a burden to those you want to confide in and makes you shut out the very people that love you the most and are trying their hardest to help you just make it through the week or sometimes even the hour. 

It's exhausting, and it's challenging and at times it seems never-ending. 

Over the last six months, I've realized more and more that it isn't something that I can fight on my own and it took me getting to my lowest point to finally realize this. I've had to trust priesthood leaders and lean on them for counsel and advice. I've cherished every single second that my parents have been able to come up and visit here in Utah - it keeps me motivated to keep fighting. I take advantage of the days that I have the motivation to go to the gym (which is becoming more frequent!) and the relief it temporarily gives me. I've had to be real with those I serve with and have become dear friends with.

One of my heroes in life is Natalie Norton. She doesn't know I exist, but I hang on to her every word. Her punch line for hard things is "Show Up". When you are there, be all there. Show up for life. Show up for others. And I've learned more than ever before, that I need to show up for me. I need to show up for life every single day so that I can prove that I'm stronger than the depression. That I'm more courageous than the anxiety, and that I'm never ever going to give up. No matter what. 

Sometimes, it feels like giving up is the only answer. I get caught up sometimes with the idea that this is just my lot in life. This is my burden and my struggle that I've been called to bear. And sometimes, that's enough to just do me in. To break me down a little farther.

But, I'm continuing forward, and I'm trying to find my moments of happy right now. 

Some days it's telling myself, "I can make it through the next five minutes, I promise", even when those five minutes seem eternal. 
Some days I go to the bathroom at work, break down and come back out smiling with my walls up again ready to face the next few hours. 
Some days I wake up and the whole day is abso-freakin-lutely incredible. 
Some days I snooze my alarm 10 times and do everything in my power to not get up. 
Some days getting up and blow drying and straightening my hair is a victory worthy of an olympic gold medal. 
Some days I lose myself in service and do everything I can to not focus on me and I do really well. 
Some days are so full of tender mercies that I can't even keep track of them all. 
Some days people are so in tune that I have answers to prayers every where I turn.
Some days I feel help from both sides of the veil. 

But. I've realized that EVERY day - no matter what it brings, I need to be courageous. And EVERY day I need to be strong. And EVERY day, I need only to do my best, regardless of what that looks like. And while I thought at first it was selfish, EVERY day I need to do something for me, to prove to myself that I matter enough to continue fighting. And EVERY single flipping day I need to show up - because showing up is so incredibly important. 

And, as much as I hate it, EVERY day, I need to be able to show the real me, be a little vulnerable, and be okay with it. Because that is what true strength is, and that is what true courage is. And I believe, that's what truly showing up entails.

If this is my big challenge in life, and if this is just something that I've been called to bear, then I will continue to learn to accept it, and I will continue to learn how to deal and cope and face the challenges it poses. And I will continue to be strong, and be courageous. No matter how difficult that is. I'm incredibly stubborn and competitive, and I think in this situation - it is a positive thing, because it keeps me going.

I will keep the faith. 
I will try my best to stay humble and teachable. 
I will never forsake the Savior and His teachings. 
I'll hold on to the testimony that I have and try to keep an eternal perspective. 

I'll be courageous. And I'll be strong. 
No matter what. 


These talks and websites have been my saving grace:
https://www.lds.org/general-conference/2013/10/like-a-broken-vessel?lang=eng
https://www.lds.org/general-conference/2008/04/ask-in-faith?lang=eng
https://speeches.byu.edu/talks/brad-wilcox_his-grace-is-sufficient/
https://www.lds.org/general-conference/2006/10/sunday-will-come?lang=eng
https://www.lds.org/ensign/2000/03/cast-not-away-therefore-your-confidence?lang=eng
https://www.lds.org/ensign/1999/11/an-high-priest-of-good-things-to-come?lang=eng&_r=1
https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=sAl79SyETtE
https://www.lds.org/mentalhealth?lang=eng