Category: Overcoming Trials

5 Things I Learned from Cutting Ties With a Toxic Family Member

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I believe that the family is the most divine institution on the face of this Earth. It is through the trials that we endure with, and sometimes because of, our family members that we become more refined and more like the people our Father in Heaven intended us to be. Clearly, family means the world to me.

This is why I recently had to make one of the most painful decisions of my life when I decided to completely cut ties with a certain family member. It isn’t something I take lightly and it isn’t something that happened over night. 

On the contrary, it was something that built up from the time I was very small and didn’t actually come to a climax until I had my own children and realized that I was responsible for more than myself now. I had to pick a side, essentially. Was I going to continue to work toward making amends and trying to help this person, or was I going to protect my children? It sounds like an easy decision but letting go of a family member, no matter how toxic, is a very difficult process. 

I have learned a few things throughout this process. I am nowhere near an expert in this field and if anything, I’m probably the poster-child for what NOT to do when it comes to toxic family members. All of the mistakes I made throughout my life in respect to my relationship with this person have accumulated into a reservoir of thoughts and hopefully warnings for people who may be struggling with something similar. 

1. Recognize manipulation for what it is

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I like to give people the benefit of the doubt. I think most of us do. It’s easy to make excuses for someone if you love them. However, it’s important to know the warning signs of manipulation and not to excuse people for using these tactics to get what they want. 

Some common warning signs of a Master Manipulator include:

  1. They offer help with the intention of “holding it over your head.” They continually remind you of all they have done for you. This tactic is to guilt-trip you into complying and giving them what they want.
  2. They make you feel guilty for things they have done. Master manipulators are good at transferring blame and always being the victim.
  3. They’re only sorry when they believe it will get them what they want. If it doesn’t, their state of remorse quickly morphs into a fit of anger. 
  4. They completely lack accountability. It is never really their fault and they will find whatever way they can to convince you of that. Lying is second-nature to them to the point that they often genuinely convince themselves of their own false story. 
  5. Conversations often turn to their problems, amplifying their role as the victim at all times. They are always worse off than other people.
  6. If you find yourself apologizing to and/or for this person more often that you do for anyone else, you are most likely being manipulated. 
  7. If you go against your better judgement to help this person when you don’t feel good about it, you are most likely being manipulated. 

 2. Remember that your responsibility lies with your own family now

Growing up, I always felt responsible for this person. I felt like I was their only chance. The only one who would listen, help, or encourage them. I was sure I could convince this person to get help. Now I can see how I was manipulated into feeling that way. 

The truth is, if you are anyone’s last chance at a loving relationship, there’s a reason for that and it’s not your fault or your responsibility. You can’t help someone who doesn’t want help.

I finally realized that if I were to allow this person to be in our lives continually, I was putting my own children at risk for being manipulated just as I had been my entire life. Not only that, but I wasn’t emotionally able to handle the relationship which wasn’t allowing me to be the mother I wanted to be.

Before I had children, I vowed I would never allow this person to be part of their lives because I knew how much damage they had created in mine. However, manipulation can be very powerful and most of the time we don’t even know it is happening. 

My loyalty lies with my husband and my children now. I had to step back, with the help of my husband, to see how long I had allowed myself to be controlled by this person without even knowing it. Together, we made the decision that we were not going to allow our children to grow up the same way. 

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3. It’s much easier to prevent a relationship than to end it

Looking back, my biggest regret is allowing my children to become attached to this person. It is extremely difficult to explain to a child why someone they love might make really bad choices. How do you explain the dangers of manipulation? The emotional trauma that comes from being around unpredictable and volatile people?

I have to remember that no relationship is better than a bad one. Even if that relationship seems fine now, I know the inevitable damage that continually follows in the wake of this toxic person. My kids have plenty of good people in their lives, family members who love and adore them and would never put their own happiness or desires ahead of my children’s. 

4. You can forgive and still learn from the past

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My mother and I discuss this topic all of the time. How do you forgive someone who has caused so much heartache and pain in your life? She has much more warrant to hate this person than even I do. But we are taught to forgive and forget. Seventy times seven times. How do you do that and still prevent yourself from continually being hurt?

I believe more than anything, that this is a matter between you and God. I can’t tell you the cumulative hours I have spent throughout my life, on my knees with uncontrollable tears trying to forgive and forget what this person has done and continues to do. True mortal forgiveness rarely helps the perpetrator. I believe the healing magic of forgiveness is for the victim. 

I finally believe myself to be at a point where I don’t hate this person anymore. I feel more of a pity and sadness for them than anything. I can’t imagine waking up in the life this person has created and possibly finding a reason to get out of bed. It is sad, but it isn’t my fault or my responsibility. I put forth the effort I could to help this person and now have turned my energy and focus on raising my kids, not helping a grown adult find their way in life.

So I believe I can forgive without having to allow myself, or anyone else in my family, to be hurt anymore. It has been a matter of prayer and I feel good about the decision I have made. In fact, for the first time in my life, I have felt relief when it comes to my relationship with this person. We are probably both better people when we are apart. I could attend this person’s funeral someday with sincere sadness and grief even if I won’t allow him to be in my or my family’s presence. 

5. Seek legal and/or professional help when necessary

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If the toxic family member in your life has broken the law or tried to harm you or your family, it is vital that you seek out the proper authority to take care of the situation. I had to get over my embarrassment and guilt that I felt about this person’s behavior and go to my local authorities for help.

The other person may find a way to jump through hoops and avoid consequences. Even if you believe that will happen, do your part to get it documented. The more documentation you have of the potential harm this person can cause, the more protection you will receive. Save messages, voicemails, letters, and any other kinds of evidence. File police reports when necessary and if you need to get a restraining or protection order, find out what it will take.

You may also want to consider getting therapy to find out how you can break free from the years of manipulation of this person. 

Remember that you are not required by any law, both earthly or Heavenly, to allow people in your life who hurt you, even if that person is a family member. If a person is toxic to you, you have the choice to remove yourself from their circle of influence. It is easier said than done but it is vital that you recognize a damaging relationship when you see one and to protect your children from harm both physically and emotionally.

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Have you tried to cut ties with a toxic person? How did you do it?

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Depression: 10 Do’s and Don’ts to Help Someone Drowning In It

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Empathy can be difficult when you’re trying to understand something you have no experience with. We can understand lots of things intuitively and still have no real comprehension of what it’s like or how to deal with it in real life.

Depression is no different. While so many of us struggle with it, an added struggle is trying to explain it to people who have never experienced it. They just assume it’s about perspective and it doesn’t seem that serious. “Life is all about ups and downs you know?” “Just try a little harder,” they say. 

I’m going to attempt an analogy that seems appropriate for my experience with depression and hope it might resonate with some of you who have never struggled with it. 

I know all too well that rising feeling of drowning in depression. It’s like floating in a large lake where there isn’t a sidewall to grab ahold of, the boat is far away in the distance, and you’re sinking. Not quickly, but slowly, giving you time to think about why you didn’t just grab ahold of the boat, or why you didn’t bring a life jacket, or why you can’t just kick your legs so that you can at least stay above water a little longer.

The feeling of the water starting to trickle in your ears causes you to snap your mouth shut tightly. You start to feel the water approaching your nose and you instinctively hold your breath. At the same time you’re thinking, “Swim you idiot!” But for some reason your legs and arms won’t work. You know how to swim, you’ve done it in the past, but your limbs are full of lead and you just can’t today. It’s incredibly frustrating to try to convince yourself to do something you just can’t do, even though you know intuitively that you should be able to.

There are people on the banks of the lake who are genuinely worried and they’re shouting to you, “Just swim! Kick your legs!” And you’re sarcastically thinking, “No, really?” You’re so ashamed that you just can’t pull it together and get your dead legs to move. So you frantically look around for anything or anyone that might be able to help you and you realize, everyone else is too far away and they’re on land. You’re alone in the lake. Alone and drowning. You give one last mental push to get your legs to move. Nothing. After glancing around one more time, you just can’t take letting down all these people who want you to swim and you can’t make yourself do it. So you close your eyes and let yourself sink. 

You might totally identify with this. I know some of you are nodding your heads, while others are scratching theirs. It’s so difficult to understand something like depression unless you’ve lived it. People who don’t understand it might think it’s an immature way of getting people’s attention or a lack of positive thinking. Maybe depression comes from a lack of faith in God or in His power to heal. I’ll tell you what it is. It’s a real feeling of being totally incapable. It’s feeling guilty about being incapable. It’s being ashamed that you can’t make yourself do anything or even care that you can’t. It’s a neurological problem.

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Recently there was a great tragedy in our community when a loving wife and mother, battling postpartum depression and anxiety, gave up her life, leaving behind an adoring husband and 5 precious children. It literally eats at my soul how devastating this is and how real the feeling is, whether rational or not. We can look at it from the perspective of the people on the banks of the lake and say, “How tragic! How could she just give up? A little perspective could have changed it all. Had she realized how much she had going for her, maybe she wouldn’t have given up.” 

It is easy, and natural, as people from the banks to say this. However, for this precious daughter of God, it wasn’t that easy. 

This woman’s family has started a Facebook page called Nurture the Light that is aimed at raising awareness and helping others to understand how to help victims of depression and other mental illnesses.

One in seven women experience depression in the year after they give birth. This is frightening. For those of us who have experienced it, it might be a little comforting. We aren’t the only ones in the lake.

Some of these women have battled depression, or other mental health issues, for years. It is sometimes worsened after childbirth. Others have never had an episode until after having children. There are some women who also experience it during pregnancy. Depression rears its ugly head in so many different ways and seasons in life. It is different for everybody. What is similar though, are the feelings of helplessness and shame.

As the people on the banks, there are a few things we can do to try and help the drowning people in the lake. There are also some things we should definitely not do. Here are 10 Do’s and Don’ts for helping loved ones with depression.

1. Don’t place judgement

As illustrated in the analogy above, one of the worst things you can do is place more shame or guilt upon someone struggling with depression. If you make snide comments about how they look, act, are raising their kids, how ungrateful they are, or anything else about their life you are only dumping buckets of water on this person’s head. You may think you’re trying to get them to “wake up” but I assure you, you’re making the situation worse.

2. Do learn about depression and be compassionate

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A little compassion can go a long way for someone with depression. Compassion will not come if you do not try to understand the illness. There are a million resources out there, from reputable people and organizations that are offering information about depression and how you can help. As soon as you lose the belief that this person can snap out of this fog on their own, you will be in a place to help.

3. Don’t make them feel like a project or burden

As people drowning in depression, the next worse thing you can do is focus so much attention on us that you make us feel like a project you are trying to fix. This just makes us feel like a burden because in our heads, there really isn’t any fixing. We start to feel guilty that you’re worrying so much so we try to shrink away in the hopes that you will focus on something else and move on with your life. 

4. Do offer hope

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One of the scariest things about depression is the belief that it will never end. Sometimes, instead of judgement, what a depressed person really needs to hear is that there is hope for them, a genuine reassurance that this will not last forever. 

Encourage them to get professional help. Explain that you wish there was something you could do but you know even if you can’t, there are definitely professionals that are helping to treat depression in millions of other people everyday. There is no reason why those professionals can’t help them.

5. Don’t abandon them

Depressed people are hard to be around. Don’t think we don’t know it. That’s one of the hardest parts of depression. This simultaneous feeling of not wanting to burden anyone but also wanting companionship. When someone close to us says they just can’t handle our negativity it makes us feel like there is literally no one who can handle us. It’s hard to explain how alone that makes us feel. 

6. Do love them

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Never let them doubt of your love for them. Offer your encouragement in their choice of treatment, offer a listening ear, offer your hope for the future and your determination to stick by their side no matter what. Ask them what they really need, if they need you to stay or if they really just want to be alone. Offer help with mundane tasks and do it with complete and total selflessness. Any hint of grudge will heap on more guilt and shame for the depressed person. If you truly love them, you will continue to love them and make sure they’re aware of that.

7. Don’t ever take suicide lightly

If you get even a whiff that this person may be suicidal, do not take it lightly. It’s hard to do sometimes when people are constantly crying wolf and we sometimes interpret suicide threats as cries for attention. However, just remember you would never forgive yourself if you didn’t do something when you could have. The old adage, “Better safe than sorry” is the overarching belief we should all have when it comes to suicide.

8. Do take every precaution when it comes to suicide

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I found this to be an excellent resource for recognizing a suicidal person or situation and how to deal with it. Get help and offer love, encouragement and hope in the meantime. Let them know that you are taking this seriously and that you are there for them.

9. Don’t give them treatment advice unless you are qualified to do so

Telling someone who is depressed that your great aunt’s brother cured his depression by drinking the blood of a skunk while standing on his head under the light of a full moon is not going to offer hope. While there are natural remedies that some people have found success with, it is more important to encourage someone to get professional help. Depression can be a complex problem that requires a complex solution. Professional treatment programs including medication, therapy, and lifestyle changes have proven over and over to be the most effective treatment for people with severe depression. 

10. Do offer to help to find treatment

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Sometimes the idea of setting up an appointment and doing all the little things required to actually make the appointment can be overwhelming for someone with depression. A little help from a loved one could make the difference between getting treatment and continually wallowing in the lake of depression. If you are willing to help search out a doctor, set up an appointment, and even take this person to their appointment, you may have done the most helpful thing anyone could do.

If you know someone who is struggling with depression I hope you realize how much influence you can have on them, either for better or worse. Sometimes it can make us feel helpless when someone we love is struggling with something we don’t understand. Have patience, have faith that the Lord can help you know the best way to help this person, and don’t give up. 

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What are your suggestions for being there for someone with depression?

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Depression: 4 Ways to Boost Your Physical Health

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**As always, these ideas are merely suggestions and if you feel you might have depression, talk to your doctor. I am not qualified to diagnose or treat any kind of mental or physical illness. 

Don’t you hate it when you go to the doctor, for anything really, and the answer they give you is: diet and exercise? I swear every single doctor I saw during my “dark days” told me to exercise and eat right. I would stare at them blankly like, “What? You want me to workout and meal plan when I can’t even muster the strength to get out of bed to go to work or school?”

I wish I could tell you that I found a way to get myself to exercise and eat right when I was deeply depressed but I can’t. Even though I knew, intuitively, that those things would make me feel better I literally felt incapable of making myself do it. However, hindsight is 20/20 and now that I’m out of the “black hole” I can see some options and ideas that I didn’t try. I have used these ideas to prevent me from getting depressed.

It took the right medication to pull me out of that dark place in order for me to feel capable of making changes to my diet and movement. But if you find yourself starting to slip into that dark place, these few ideas might be your first line of defense. Don’t ever forget how very connected your mind and body are. Taking care of your body will in turn, help take care of your mind.

1. Exercise

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I have had to consciously work on my attitude toward exercise. For a long time I didn’t count it as exercise unless it was a long run or an exhausting trip to the gym.

My new definition is “moving with motivation.” This means, hoofing it up and down my stairs to do my laundry totally counts. I love to take walks even though I didn’t use to consider it exercise. I don’t necessarily sweat that much and it doesn’t usually make me sore afterwards but it absolutely gives life to my body. Being out in the sunshine and fresh air is a definite plus. 

If you can find a buddy to just walk with you, it will give you even more reason to get out. Just be careful you don’t ask someone who is going to make you feel worse than you already do. Instead, think about someone you know who could be compassionate and if you try to bail on a walk, that will be helpful and encouraging instead of critical and judgmental. 

2. Healthy Eating

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Eating healthy is extremely difficult for someone who feels depressed because again, if you can’t hardly get out of bed how are you going to prepare a meal? The pressure to take care of our families can bring with it an added layer of failure that we feel when instead of cooking healthy meals at home, we resort to McDonalds or pizza just about every night of the week.

Instead of spending that money on take out or expensive pre-made meals at the store that are mostly junk, what if you just hired someone for a little while to cook for you and your family until you’re able to feel a little better? I doubt it would cost as much as you think it would. I’m positive it will cost less than eating out every night.

You could put up a quick ad on Facebook, KSL, craigslist, etc. Or, if that seems like too much work, ask a friend or family member if you could hire them to cook twice the amount they would for dinner to help you care for your family while you’re going through this tough time.

Chances are, they’ll want to do it out of the kindness of their hearts but if there is any way for you to afford it, I would suggest you insist on paying them. Paying them will get you around that feeling of being a burden and help you offer work to someone who could benefit from the extra money. As a bonus, hopefully the healthier food will help you work your way out of a slump. 

3. Sufficient Sleep

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Everybody responds to depression differently. Some don’t get enough sleep while others oversleep. The trick is getting sufficient sleep, not too little and not too much.

I was an over-sleeper. I could sometimes sleep for 14-16 hours a day. That’s equivalent to the amount of time we should be awake in a day! The result was constantly feeling groggy and wanting to escape my life by going back to sleep. Now that I have kids, that would never be an option. Although I have at times, gone through the day half asleep and hardly moved from the couch. 

Just like any other habit, creating a routine and sticking to it is key. Explain to your family how important it is for you to get to bed at a certain time and enlist the help of everybody to make it happen. Follow good sleep habits to ensure you get to bed and have the best chance of falling asleep on time. Then create a morning routine and give yourself an appealing reason to get up on time.

My new favorite alarm is an app called Kiwake and it literally makes it impossible for you to miss it, skip it, snooze it, or otherwise ignore it. It makes sure you’re totally awake and annoys you to the point that you have to be. Works for me!

If you can get out of bed before anyone else, try doing something you love during that alone time. Savor it to take care of you emotionally. Whether this is when you take your walk, read, write, paint, or dance around the kitchen, it doesn’t matter. Just pick something that excites you and makes getting out of bed easier.

4. Light Therapy

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Sometimes all we need to feel a little better is to head outside and let the sun’s rays boost our mood. For me, nothing brightens my day more than just being outside for a little while. It is proven that sunlight boosts our serotonin levels which helps lift our mood.

For some of us, the struggle with depression worsens during the winter months when the days are shorter and the amount of sunlight in a day drops significantly. Especially in a place like Utah where the sub-freezing temperatures keep us from heading outside most days. I know for me, cold temperatures exacerbate my anxiety which can lead me to hunker down indoors during the winter as much as possible. This doesn’t do much for my mood though and has a tendency to lead to depression.

When I returned to Utah after living in Texas for a couple of years, it was a huge climate change. I came home and went straight to the coldest place in Utah to go to school, probably a 70 degree drop in temperature from the sunny Texas weather. Clearly I didn’t think about this ahead of time.

I noticed myself slowly slipping back into the attitude of wanting to stay in bed instead of walk the five blocks to school in the snow and ice. One day after grocery shopping I saw an advertisement for a tanning salon and it occurred to me that all I wanted in the world in that moment was to be warm and to feel the sun on my skin. Against my better judgement I signed up for a punch card.

Let me be clear that I do not advocate tanning beds, we all know they can ruin our skin and give us cancer. But let me tell you, those tanning bed sessions that winter were like a healing salve to my anxious-ridden soul. It was a combination of the warmth and the light that saved me.

Since then, I have done some research and found a much healthier option. I had heard of light therapy for people with SAD (seasonal affective disorder) but didn’t realize you can buy these light boxes and have one in your home. Basically, it is a small-ish box that you can place on a table and sit in front of it for 30 minutes while it fills your eyes with light. You aren’t supposed to actually look into it but rather do something else while sitting there such as get ready, read, write, crochet, whatever. 

They don’t emit the harmful UV rays but have been proven to lift people’s mood, especially during the darker months. I haven’t tried one yet but I told my husband this is a must have for next winter. 

When our bodies are taken care of it is much easier for the mind to think rationally and to pull ourselves out of a slump. Sometimes we need medication or other therapy to get us to that point. If we consciously take care of ourselves by moving regularly, eating healthy, getting sufficient sleep, and getting outside (or at least in front of a light) we can strengthen our mind/body connection and hopefully avoid some of those traps that lead us down the rabbit hole of depression. 

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Have you seen a difference in your mood when you take care of your body in these 4 ways? Which one affects you the most and how do you make it a priority even when you don’t feel like it?

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Depression: My Story

Depression My Story

There are some demons we fight that never leave bruises, cuts, broken bones, or other physical signs of struggle. These are sometimes the most difficult to overcome. They usually leave us feeling alone, inside our own minds, with nothing and no one to comfort us.

As a young child, I witnessed some things that I pray my children never have to see. Some of those images cannot be erased from my memory. I still have nightmares about them. I still find myself having to catch my breath when I see or hear something that reminds me of those experiences. I cannot write about this without getting emotional because it is something that has so deeply affected my mind and heart.

I have decided to share these experiences not to scare people, convince them to feel sorry for me, or make them feel uncomfortable around me. I share them with the hope of raising awareness about the reality of mental illness and hopefully offer some comfort to those currently in the trenches, fighting to get help.

In a strange way I am almost grateful for my experiences. I have learned some important skills that have turned out to be very useful. Because of that, I have a better understanding of how to teach my children those skills without them having to experience what I did. I also hope that I can be some kind of resource or encouragement for people going through similar struggles. This was a big part of the reason I wanted to start this blog.

I have seen many therapists and been on many different medications throughout my life. Just last year I was working with a therapist who diagnosed me with post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD). One of the many symptoms of this much larger problem is anxiety and depression.

The National Institute of Mental Health (NIMH) shows the results of a survey conducted by the Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration (SAMHSA) in the year 2014. It shows that 15.7 million U.S. adults suffered at least one major depressive episode in the previous year. That is 6.7% of all U.S. adults. When you consider how devastating and even dangerous this disorder can be, that is a huge number of people. 

Looking even deeper, the NIMH states that women are more likely to suffer from depression than men, including an estimated 10-15 percent of women who, after giving birth, experience postpartum depression. This is a serious problem and deserves our attention in order to bring more awareness, understanding, and better treatment for those who suffer from it.

My depression and anxiety started as a young girl with odd, obsessive and compulsive behavior. In my unpredictable and turbulent world I was fighting for some control. As a result, I developed some tendencies that I still struggle with today including compulsive overeating and binge eating, obsessive thoughts and behaviors, a disproportionate desire to please other people, and severe anxiety in situations where I do not feel safe or in control.

I also experienced physical symptoms that were aggravated by anxiety. These included bedwetting, irritable bowel syndrome (IBS), which brought with it a whole slew of digestive problems including extremely painful colon spasms.

I used to think about how much I wished my symptoms showed up as bruises and broken bones because at least people would be aware of my struggle and maybe they would be more understanding and I wouldn’t feel so alone in my own head.

After escaping the dangerous environment of my early childhood, I went through the rest of my young life, being embarrassed about my past and my “issues” but managed to cope enough to get by and live a fairly normal life. I would occasionally go through downtimes and see a therapist for a while, even try different medications but nothing ever seemed to help and most medications caused side effects I couldn’t deal with.

After decent success in high school in my many endeavors I received an excellent scholarship to the college of my choice. I was ecstatic to have the opportunity to attend the university I had dreamed of but knew I could never afford. I set out on my own, with total confidence and thinking I had control over my mind and my life. Little did I know, I was on a straight path to total breakdown.

After some unfortunate and traumatic experiences that brought me back to feeling like a scared child again, hiding in my closet, I barely survived my first year of school. It was suddenly brought to my attention that maybe I had made a bad decision. I was completely and totally overwhelmed and my anxiety was on full force. As a result, the deep depression I fell into was an act in the story of my life I hardly even remember. Most days, I didn’t so much as get out of bed.

My roommates would try to encourage me in different ways. Sometimes they would do it lovingly, other times more direct and offensively. One roommate in particular felt it necessary to add insult to injury when she nonchalantly commented one day while we were all in the kitchen, “I can’t stand people who waste their scholarships. I have to pay my own way through school and so I work hard to get good grades. Yet there are people who have scholarships where someone else is paying for it and they don’t even go to class.”

Of course what she said was true. But that didn’t help motivate me. In fact, it made me feel even more guilty and more worthless and…more tired. So I went back to bed.

I would sometimes wake up hysterical and crying and want to punch myself to wake me up out of this fog I was in. It was incredibly debilitating and frustrating. Some days I lost the will to live but was too exhausted to do anything about it.

As a result of all of this, I lost my scholarship, my acceptance at the school, my job, and my entire identity. I slowly sunk into what felt like a never-ending hole that I would never be able to get out of. I can see, while many people absolutely cannot, how there are people in this world who feel like taking their life is the only way out.

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It is difficult for many to understand why we depressed people just can’t see the brighter side of things. When you’re in the hole of depression, everything looks black. You don’t see the entrance nor do you see the exit. Your biggest fear is that you are stuck in that black hole, with only your own terrifying thoughts, forever. You begin to feel that everyone in your life would be better off if you just weren’t here. They could move on and stop depending on you and being disappointed when you don’t get out of bed and show up. They could stop worrying about how to help you.

Luckily, I have an amazing mother who finally got to the bottom of my aloofness and realized I was in a very dark place. She suggested I move home in order to try to get back on my feet.

Moving home saved my life. I was once again in my “safety zone” and my anxiety was turned down tremendously. I had to start over essentially. I started over at a different, much smaller school, with good friends from my childhood who buoyed me up and helped me climb out of that black hole.

Turning my focus back to my faith in God was vital in my transformation. Although I had never lost it completely, I relearned how the atonement of Jesus Christ can help us overcome absolutely anything, including climbing out of the black hole of depression.

Through therapy with the right therapist and finally a medication that actually helped, I was able to rebuild my life. Soon after, I graduated with my associate’s degree and decided to serve a full-time mission for The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter Day Saints.

My mission was truly the highlight of my life up to that point. I was extremely apprehensive about my ability to stick it out the entire 18 months because I knew it was another drastic change, taking me out of my “safety zone”. Fortunately, and much to my surprise, I was able to manage my anxiety and depression by continuing with my medication and learning to rely on my Savior. I made many new friends and learned more about my relationship with my Savior and myself than I ever could have otherwise. It was life-changing and prepared me more for the rest of my life than any other experience.

It is also because of my mission that I was able to meet my husband.

Dating had never been a big thing for me. I never really had a steady boyfriend and frankly, trusting men was never something I felt like I could do. I felt incredibly anxious around them and an unhealthy obligation to please them. I enjoyed having guy friends but could never allow them the privilege of holding my heart because I knew how fragile it was, especially in the hands of a man.

Somehow my husband convinced me otherwise. I fell in love with him as a person before I ever fell in love with him as an eternal mate. I respected him in a way I had never respected any other man. All that he had been through made me admire his strength and I felt safe in his presence. He became my new “safety zone.”

Wedding

Since marrying my husband I was able to successfully wean myself off my medication. I am not convinced that I will never need it again but I am committed to going without it as long as I possibly can. I have learned new and more effective coping skills to deal with my anxiety and am more aware of that downward spiral that quickly leads to the black hole of depression. With my excellent support system that includes my husband, my kids, and my close-knit family, I have been mostly successful without depending on medication.

This month I would like to create a series about depression and hopefully offer some help to both the victims of depression and the loved ones of those victims. Depression is kind of a general symptom of many mental illnesses. It is different for everybody and there are all different kinds, causes, and levels of severity.

Please note that I am not qualified, nor would I ever claim to be, to offer advice or treatment for people suffering from mental illness. I only offer my story, strategies that have worked for me, and the always undercurrent counsel to seek professional help. Therapy and medication were what essentially saved me when I was in the depths of depression and I would always encourage anybody I know in similar situations to seek counsel from a doctor or therapist.

The topics I intend to cover this month are warning signs of depression, strategies to keep you from going down that rabbit hole, advice for loved ones trying to help, and hopefully some strategies that might help people who suffer from anxiety that tends to lead to depression. Again, professional therapy and medication are often necessary and very helpful and I am not against them in any way. If you or a loved one is suffering from severe anxiety or depression, please talk to your doctor.

I hope you will join me in the fight against mental illness by being more open in our communication about it. It is scary to talk about our thoughts and what we feel when we are in the depths of these things but it is the most secure way to climb out of it as well. I hope what I share this month will either help encourage you personally or that you will share it with someone you believe might be encouraged by it.

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Do you or someone you know suffer from depression and/or anxiety? What has been your experience and what has helped you?

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Because of Him

Because of Him

My 4-year-old son has become preoccupied with the thought of death lately. He tells me all the time that he doesn’t want me to die and that he doesn’t want to die either. The other night we watched a movie about the death and resurrection of Jesus Christ. I tried to explain the most grandiose and complicated event in all of history to my preschooler, praying that it would give him hope when it came to the thought of death.

I know he has many years ahead of him to try to understand the meaning of that matchless sacrifice. It gives me comfort and deep gratitude to be able to explain to this impressionable little boy that death is not the end. That if we strive, every day, to make good choices in this life, we will be together again.

With Easter coming up, it is always a special time to reflect on the most important part of our lives here on this planet. The most important person who ever lived, and the most important message to share with our children. It is because of Him that all of this is possible.

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Happy Easter everyone! Don’t forget the real reason we celebrate and find a way to share that with your children. It’s more than just a mutant rabbit who lays and hides colorful eggs. 

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