In recent years I have been able to more fully accept myself for who I am–struggles, negative experiences and all. I have come to realize that I cannot allow them to define me. I wish to share my story. I want to help others, especially those who have struggled or continue to struggle with the same issues.
So I’ll dive right in…I had a pretty normal LDS childhood and feel like I was well-adjusted, but as I grew older we moved a lot, I entered adolescence, and began to feel a great deal of anxiety. To be more specific, I was experiencing social phobia. It affected me so much that I was having regular chest pain and stomach aches, although there was nothing physically wrong with me. I found it increasingly difficult to make friends and attend school. So, I actually quit high school, despite doing well academically, and took the GED.
Before this time I developed chronic depression. I was often encouraged by family members to seek help, in the form of medication or counseling, or both if necessary. Did I want to accept the fact that something was “wrong” with me? Absolutely NOT! In fact, back then I probably thought that my family was crazy and what I was feeling was normal (whatever normal is). I thought “this is me…this is who I am…Why can’t you accept me…I am fine.” But I wasn’t fine. I didn’t really realize this until serving a mission.
At this point you’re probably thinking, “Why would she serve a mission if her anxiety was so bad that it brought on depression?” A legit thought. I wondered myself and frequently said that I’d rather light myself on fire and run around the house a few times! Really, I did. I was terrified of the prospect of talking to people about anything, not just the gospel. However, from a young age I always had the desire to serve a mission. So I did what one does and prayed about it. To my surprise and horror, I felt like it was the right thing for me to do.
Fast forward to January 2006 and the day I entered the Missionary Training Center (MTC). I said my goodbyes to mom and dad and did so without shedding a tear. Everyone around me was crying, even the elders. Why am I telling you this? Well because although I knew I’d miss my family I knew I’d see them soon enough (what was 18 months anyway), but maybe more than that I was afraid of what I had gotten myself into. In this state of shock I was unable to cry.
In the MTC I began to struggle yet again with depression. My anxiety was in overdrive as we were expected to teach missionary lessons to our teacher and group of missionaries, called a district–a group! NO BUENO! I had a hard time coping with the anxiety and depression and was sent to one of the counselors in the MTC. For some reason they had me walk to the counseling office alone. A missionary walking around alone…Needless to say I got looks from others. For various reasons rules have been set that state each missionary is to remain with their companion. I know these people didn’t know why I was walking around alone, but I couldn’t help but feel judged (even though I knew I wasn’t doing anything wrong).
This wasn’t my first time meeting with a counselor, nor would it be my last. You can guess how it went the first time, considering the fact that I didn’t think I needed help and most definitely didn’t want help. I believe this fact is vitally important for anyone who is seeking support, as well as with any struggle in life, not just depression. I’ll also note that during the years before my mission I consented to try an antidepressant medication, which is used to treat depression as well as anxiety. While taking it I felt fake. That is the best and only way I can explain it. Sometimes I wonder if I was so used to the feelings, both mental and physical, that I had with anxiety and depression that this feeling, this sense of ”fakeness” was how I truly was supposed to feel. In other words, maybe fake was normal in reality. So what did I do? I stopped taking the drug.
PART 2 COMING SOON