Look Inward, Then Look Upward

man-person-people-trainOn one of my many trips to Utah, I sat on a delayed airplane outside the Denver International Airport.  A storm was pushing through and there was no way that plane was going to get in the air any time soon.  Sitting there on the tarmac for what seemed like hours, I had an experience that I know now, was not a coincidence.  I chose the window seat (I always fly SouthWest so I get to choose), and a young man about the age of my oldest son sat down next to me.  We didn’t converse much at first, he seemed to be exhausted and wanting to sleep.  But after the captain came on for about the third time to let us know that we would not be getting off the plane or in the air for at least another 45 minutes, he struck up a conversation with me.  He started by asking questions.  And in a round about way we began to talk about marriage.  I think I must have told him that I’d just visited my boyfriend in Nashville and was going home to UT.

When I told him I had 4 children, he asked what happened with my previous marriage.  I explained the situation as best I could, and then he started to tell me about his family and how his parents had divorced.  He was not so long married himself, I think about 10 years, and he wanted to find a way to stay married to his wife and not let that happen to him.  So we discussed various reasons why divorce happens.  And so the conversation went….then the captain came on and said we’d be in the air soon.  We’d already sat on the tarmac for over an hour and half.  I watched out my window as the storm clouds rolled in, menacing and gray.  And thought about this chance encounter with a young man half my age, who seemed to know more about life than I did.  And I realized that is was not by chance.  You see, I believe that God places people in our paths for a reason.  And depending on where we are at spiritually or otherwise we can see those encounters for what they truly are.

Before I knew it, he was telling me about his life long use of drugs and his road back to the LDS church.  THE church, that I was in the process of leaving.  He told me of an experiences that he’d had with God.  Mind you, during this time in my life, I didn’t really want much to do with any church.  I was perfectly happy where I was.  He asked me about my boyfriend and we talked about him not being a member of the LDS church and that I was currently not active.  It wasn’t until much later that I realized this young man was a messenger  sent by God and he was there to give me a message.  I began to listen intently to what he was telling me.  It was incredible, the life he’d been through at such a young age.  But what he’d learned and was able to share was truly extraordinary.  After telling me pretty much his whole life story, he said that one conclusion that he’d come to after being at rock bottom and then working his way back up, is how important CPR is.  Not the traditional CPR but CHURCH, PRAY, READ.   EVERY DAY!  He said that he felt like he’d found the solution to most of life’s ups and downs and that was CPR.  I thought, ok I can see how that has worked for you in your life and I’m happy for you.  But, I tried that and it didn’t work for me.  And that was that.  We had arrived in Salt Lake City and we said our goodbyes.

When I got home, I pondered on that conversation several times.  I began to think, maybe I didn’t use CPR like I should have. Was I attending CHURCH ever single week (well yes, but was I REALLY doing the best I could to get everything out of it…probably not)?  Was I really PRAYING?  Or had my prayers become routine and repetitive?  Probably somewhat.  Was I really READING my scriptures every single day? No.   Did I have a lot of work to do?  YES!  And slowly….. VERY SLOWLY…. my heart began to turn back toward God.

Now, it was a super slow process turning my heart back.  It really took me getting to MY rock bottom, before I realized what a big part that chance encounter had played in my life.  And this past 2 years since I came back to the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter Day Saints, has been 2 years of extreme spiritual growth.  We have gone through temporal trials that have caused us to look inward and upward.  We have struggled with questions like, why did this happen?   And how long will it take to get through?  And what did we do to get here?  And where do we go from here?  Questions that I think many of us struggle with.  And I certainly don’t claim to have any of the answers to those questions.  All of our trials are different, with different time frames, and different variables.  But I do believe that they all have one thing in common.  God knows us!  God LOVES us and He knows, HE KNOWS what is best for us.  Whatever we think is good for us in our life, God’s plan is better!  It’s so important for us to look at where are hearts are and then to look upward.  To look to God, He knows the way!  His hand is in every facet of our lives and all He asks of us is to “remember HIM”.  “Jesus saith unto him, I am the way, the truth, and the life: no man cometh unto the Father, but by me.” John 14:6

Remembering him when our hearts are hard is not easy.   When our hearts are hard we are far from him.  We look to the world for our answers and not to our Loving Father in Heaven.  It is only when our hearts become softened that we are able to hear and heed the voice of the Lord and remember Him always.

There are many other practices that we need to be doing to stay close to the Lord and keep our hearts soft.  But CPR, CHURCH, PRAY, READ, is a pretty good recipe for success in the process of softening our hearts and learning to look inward and upward.

Search diligently, pray always, and be believing, and all things shall work together for your good…  Doctrine and Covenants 90:24

When we are struggling, when we are having success, when we have doubts, when we have joy, our God ALWAYS, ALWAYS remembers us!  Is it too much for Him to ask that we ALWAYS remember Him? Look inward and then ALWAYS remember to look up to that God that LOVES you!

I will be forever grateful for young man on a plane, that took the time to tell me about his life and his struggle to find life’s meaning.  For having a soft heart and the courage to listen and act on the Spirit’s prompting, to teach a total stranger about CPR!

 

Adversity and the Adversary

Note:  This post is referenced in this previous post where I said I would share the story about finding my Doctor.

praying hands

It has been almost two years to the day that I lay on my living room sofa in a complete pile of tears.  I had all but given up on finding the right medication and a good Dr. to take me on my journey to wellness.  I had been put on waiting list after waiting list to get in to see a psychiatrist.  I had a scheduled appointment, and the day before I was to see the Doctor I ended up back in the hospital following another manic episode.  The Dr. I was supposed to have seen said that since I was unable to make that appointment,  that I would be scheduled for another 6 weeks out.  I felt so beaten down and forgotten.  Why was God not helping me in this? Where was He when I needed Him the most?  And why am I so broken?  These were the questions that I asked myself over and over again.

My husband Joe, had come home to check on me during his lunch break.  He gave me the news that he was finally able to land me an appointment with a strongly referred psychiatrist…. for 6 weeks from that day!  I was torn, I knew this was a good thing but I was completely devastated that I had to wait so long.  I am not going to make it another 6 weeks I cried, I’ll end up in the hospital again, I just knew it.  Joe could see that I was near my breaking point.  We were both at a loss of what to do.  The adversary was working so hard on us, trying to break us down.  I think he knew that we were nearing the fork in the road where we would be required to make the choice of whether to try and do this all on our own or put our trust in the Savior  and let him carry us.

The Savior said: “Come unto me, all ye that labour and are heavy laden, and I will give you rest.  “Take my yoke upon you, and learn of me; for I am meek and lowly in heart: and ye shall find rest unto your souls. “For my yoke is easy, and my burden is light” (Matthew 11:28–30)

I know I’ve used that scripture previously but it describes so perfectly what I was experiencing, and what I needed to know.  And although at the time I was probably further from God than I had ever been, I also knew that he would hear my cries.  I think the important point to remember is that we all have our loads to bear.  Each one of us goes through hard things, each of us experience opposition and trials that can lead us away from God.  Or they can build and strengthen us if we will trust in His plan for us.

Elder David A. Bednar of the quorum of the twelve Apostles once stated, “Sometimes we mistakenly may believe that happiness is the absence of a load. But bearing a load is a necessary and essential part of the plan of happiness.”  Adversity, then, is essential to our success!

Joe calmly took my hand, and said I think we need to ask God for some help on this.  Can we pray? (This is my non-religious husband whom I had never seen pray before).  Of course, I said a resounding “yes, please pray for us!”  He then poured out his heart right there in front of our sofa.  I don’t really remember the exact words he used but I know that he truly pleaded with a true and honest heart that God would exercise his hand in our situation and somehow bring us peace and comfort and help us get through this hard trial that we were experiencing.  He closed the prayer and I felt a peaceful calm settle over me.  Joe went back to work and I fell into a deep sleep, which was unusual during that time because of my condition.  I awoke to my phone ringing about an hour or so later.  The woman on the line explained who she was, the receptionist of the highly referred Doctor that Joe had spoken with earlier, she explained that they had had a cancelation and knew that I was in desperate need to get in to see him.  “Could you be here at 8:30am tomorrow morning?”  “YES!”  I exclaimed, “I’ll be there.”  I hung up the phone and dropped to my knees,  I knew this was truly God’s hand working a miracle in our lives!

That phone call changed everything for me and for us.  We were now at least “on the journey” towards me becoming healthy again.  The Doctor turned out to be exactly who I needed and has helped me throughout the past couple of years to get and stay well.  However it has been, and continues to be, fraught with many obstacles along the way.  Once we chose to lean on God and get on the right path in that fork in the road the adversary started throwing fiery darts, it seemed, at every turn.  We are told in the Book of Mormon that there is opposition in all things  “It must needs be, that there is an opposition in all things. If not so, … righteousness could not be brought to pass, neither wickedness, neither holiness nor misery, neither good nor bad” (2 Nephi 2:11; see also verse 15).

Although trials come, we must remember that opposition permits us to grow, it strengthens us it helps us to learn to trust God even more and to …lean not unto our own understanding Proverbs 3:5.  And let Him direct our path!  Because even though we may think we have a great plan.  He sees more and His plan is better for us!

President Henry B. Eyring stated in the October 2017 General Conference address “… as much as we have already built faith and courage in our hearts, the Lord expects more from us—and from the generations after us. They will need to be stronger and braver because they will do even greater and harder things than we have done. And they will face increasing opposition from the enemy of our souls.”

So we see that the obstacles that the adversary throws at us our necessary so far as we are leaning toward and trusting in the Lord to guide us through these obstacles.  Life is not easy, it was not meant to be easy.  As Elder Bednar stated. “Happiness is not the absence of a load…”.  It’s what and how we deal with that load that really matters.

Joe and I were recently commenting about the length of this trial and how we just didn’t think it would take “so long” haha.  But I can honestly say that without experiencing the ups and downs of these past few years, we would not have grown so close to our Savior.  We would not know God the way we do now.  We would be floundering wondering which way to turn and how to move forward.  But through the strength of our Savior and  Redeemer we have learned that we CAN have happiness even amongst the loads!

It Takes Courage to have Balance

I have been thinking a lot about balance lately.  Being diagnosed with Bi-Polar almost 2 years ago now, has definitely been a learning and growing process.  I used to just try to be Super Woman all the time.  I would throw more and more things on my plate and if someone asked me to do something else, I couldn’t say no (can you say mania? haha).  If my plate was loaded and I had no extra seconds in the day then I wouldn’t have to deal with the down side of my life.  I would try to stay so busy that I didn’t have time to think about it…

balance

I have been thinking a lot about balance lately.  Being diagnosed with Bi-Polar almost 2 years ago now, has definitely been a learning and growing process.  I used to just try to be Super Woman all the time.  I would throw more and more things on my plate and if someone asked me to do something else, I couldn’t say no (can you say mania? haha).  If my plate was loaded and I had no extra seconds in the day then I wouldn’t have to deal with the down side of my life.  I would try to stay so busy that I didn’t have time to think about it.

I was always running way faster than I had the strength to do.  I was afraid, yes afraid, of what might happen if I let my guard down for half a second.  Where would I be?  How would things work out?  If I didn’t do it, who would etc., etc….. And then I crashed…. and it wasn’t pretty or fun for me or my family or anyone else.  It was scary and foreign and something that unfortunately, would happen again.  Luckily, not too often, but I have had to go through that process several times.  And it has definitely been a learning and growing process.  Finally being diagnosed (and accepting that diagnosis), was a major step forward for me.  And I giant leap towards achieving balance in my life.

One of the things that I have realized about Bi-Polar and, it makes sense really, is that you have to maintain a pretty steady balance.  You don’t want too get to far to the high, energetic, motivational, hyper, side.  And yet you want to stay away from the low, depressed, bored, emotional side.  And apparently, from my experience it takes a lot of courage to do that.  Especially in today’s world of social media mania!  It’s crazy how we are programmed to think, through social media, that we have to do all, be all, make all, spend all, and not drive ourselves crazy while doing it.  Because…. everybody is doing  it right?  So why shouldn’t we?

I have to think about this from a Bi-Polar stand point.  But as I examined it more closely, I realized that it is not just a Bi-Polar problem.  Yes, it is a bit harder for me to find my balance and stay there, and medication is required.  However, you can be completely normal (not mentally ill, lol) to suffer from this “condition” of having to overload your plate and not have any down time.  But down time is good! It is really, really good! Haha, who knew?  I was so busy trying to stay busy that I didn’t even know how to do down time!

That’s where the courage comes in! That may sound trite, but it’s true.  If you are so busy all the time and you never make time for down time.  Or you feel like you have to be a certain way to be “enough”.  Then being thrown into a whole new way of life that just doesn’t feel “right”, that takes a lot of courage.  So then, to not be thrown in to it, and to stop looking around at others and what they are doing, to try and gauge what your life should look like, well that takes courage too.  To let the calm be ok.  To be able to “be still” and be ok with that.  That takes courage!  And what we find therein is the “balance”.  We have to have down time to match the busy.  We have to have calm to recognize the crazy and that’s hard sometimes.  But so necessary to maintaining or finding a balance in our lives.

I guess you could say that I have grown to love this new me.  It’s a lot different from the old one.  And sometimes I feel a little uncomfortable in my own skin.  But I’m definitely liking the feeling of being “enough”.  Crazy that it took a mental illness to make me feel complete.  The Lord works in mysterious ways.  And sometimes we just need to trust that he knows what he’s doing and “be still”.

For my thoughts are not your thoughts, neither are your ways my ways, saith the Lord. 

For as the Heavens are higher than the Earth, so are my ways higher than your ways, and my thoughts, than your thoughts.  Isaiah 55:8-9 

courage

Living with Bi Polar

It’s been over a year since I was admitted to the hospital, in a full on Manic Episode mode. Several days later, I was diagnosed for the second time with Bipolar Disorder. I say for the second time, because I had been diagnosed 10 years earlier, in a similar, but less severe state of manic episode.

It’s been over a year since I was admitted to the hospital, in a full on Manic Episode mode. Several days later, I was diagnosed for the second time with Bipolar Disorder. I say for the second time, because I had been diagnosed 10 years earlier, in a similar, but less severe state of manic episode. However, when all was said and done, I couldn’t accept the diagnosis. I told myself and everyone else that it was a stress related reaction. And I convinced my doctor to believe that theory. She knew my history… it was stress, or depression, or just overdoing it, (or maybe she just wanted to believe that theory too). I didn’t want to admit that I was broken. I didn’t want to admit that I wasn’t normal (whatever that is). And so I lived with this silent monster in my life for all those years, on the wrong medication. A medication that would finally take me to the brink, with my second and more severe manic episode, which would then lead to a second diagnosis and to me finally admitting that yes, I am Bipolar.  And yes, I do have a mental illness.

It’s taken over a year (plus 10 years) for me to be able to talk about this openly. But I know that there are so many people that suffer silently. So many people that may not even know that BiPolar Disorder is what they have. Or like me, maybe they are just lying to themselves about the reality of it in their life. Nobody wants to be broken. Nobody wants to admit that they need medication to make them “normal”. But the reality is that we need to start talking about it. We need to share our experiences with mental illness, so that we can help each other and our loved ones understand these horrible disorders. And that there is hope. There is a path to wholeness again. We must not be afraid to take it. The Lord said…I give unto men weakness that they may be humble; and my grace is sufficient for all men that humble themselves before me; for if they humble themselves before me, and have faith in me, then will I make weak things become strong unto them.” Ether 12:26

It’s taken over a year (plus 10 years) to find the right medications, and it’s still a work in progress because our bodies are ever changing.  But I feel so blessed to have found a Dr. who from the get-go, understood what a hard diagnosis this is to accept, and wouldn’t let me NOT accept it.  A doctor who has helped me work through it,  and listened to me and really knows about mental illness and how to treat it.  I feel like that was divine intervention and I’ll have to share the story about how I found him, sometime, but not today.  Today I just wanted to say, this is where I am in my life right now.  This is why I have not been as active on social media over the past several months.  But it’s time!  It’s time for me to put myself out there… even though it’s scary and I risk having to undergo the judgement of imperfect people.  But this is not for those people.  This is for the people like myself, who suffer in silence. The people who feel broken or not “normal”.  This is for them and their loved ones.  Hopefully we can help each other.  Give each other a voice.  Russell M. Nelson said in the 2015 October conference in his address “A Plea to my sisters“, “… we need women who know how to make important things happen by their faith and who are courageous…. women who teach fearlessly.”

It’s been over a year, and today I am speaking from my heart and mind, full of faith, hoping that the breadth of my influence can help others who are going through what I have been through or a similar mental illness.  I will try to post a couple times a month to talk about this disorder and how I am learning to live with it.  I even have videos of myself (that my husband took as a documentary of that time), that I could possibly share at some point.  I watched them before I sat down to write this and I cried, because some days… many days, I still feel broken.  But I’ve realized, it’s ok to feel broken.