Saturday, February 28, 2015

The calm after an awesome storm

Since November I have been an assistant coach for the girls basketball team at my old high school. I have loved it. It has been so much fun and I've learned a lot more about the the greatest game ever invented by coaching. It's a whole different angle than playing! But it has been quite a storm too.

When I started coaching back in November I never thought once about how Lyme Disease would effect coaching. But it impacted a lot of how I coached. 

I'm competitive. I like to win. I used to thrive off of intense games. But our first away game the Sophomore and JV games were both super close and after the first one I had to go outside and breathe. I was having the heart racing, gut wrenching, hyperventilating panic attack. I walked out to the schools football field shaking and crying over a game that we won by just a few points. I couldn't calm down, and I was late for the JV game trying to get a grip.

The term "too close for comfort" brought new meaning to me. My comfort was not an option while coaching. As soon as the ball was tipped up into the air I felt like I could hardly breath until we were at least 15-20 points ahead, which hardly ever happened. We had a tough preseason, and an even tougher region ahead.

I started to wonder if I could handle coaching. Not because the practices were rigorous or the girls were too hard to coach, the girls were great! But I couldn't handle a close game. I knew I couldn't expect us to blow out teams by 30 points each game. That isn't basketball at all. So I just decided that I had to hold all that anxiety in. I was calm and quiet outside, but inside, most games (especially the close intense ones), I was a terror! After games I was exhausted. During pre season we had a lot of ups and downs and I chewed my fingernails like they were bubble gum. They bled and hurt really bad because I was just paranoid and freaking out so bad. 

Part of the problem was my thought process. At the beginning I wanted to grab my old uniform and jump out on the court and help the girls get the win. It was sorta a rude wake up call for me when I realized that 1) I don't have a prayer of playing a game with the girls! I probably couldn't even find the energy to play a half court pick up game. And 2) number 32 belongs to a different girl now. I had to change my thought process to realize those two things and it took me pretty much all preseason to get over it.

Then region started and boy howdy was our region tough! But I did feel like I was getting a handle on the anxiety. I wasn't as exhausted after games. I wasn't completely wasted the next day from so much emotional exhaustion. I was pretty proud of myself for holding up. I couldn't get too riled up though. And I always seemed to shut down when things got exciting. When my dad (the other assistant coach) started to yell at the refs it was my job to make sure he didn't get a Technical Foul. But when things got crazy like that I had to shut down and just focus on breathing. Those were some of my least favorite and most exhausting games. But I controlled myself in most games.

Then we went to state. I was so proud of the girls! I went to state my Jr. And Senior year and I was so happy for them. We got on the bus to drive to Salt Lake and as soon as we pulled into the parking lot of SLCC I felt so sick. I was breathing fast again. I had to go to the bathroom and tell myself to breath and calm down. I was angry at myself. How could I be this anxious? I wasn't even this nervous when I was playing! I was frustrated and new I needed to control myself before going into the locker room with the other coaches. I couldn't say anything in the locker room. It was taking every ounce of me to just breath and not cry. 

After our win (in OT, which practically did me in) I was so emotionally exhausted. That night I went to Texas Roadhouse with my family and broke down crying when I looked at the menu because I was so overwhelmed by the choices and the game that had just happened that I came unglued. I didn't know how I was going to be able to handle another game at state.

Two to back to back games later and we lose in the Semifinals. I was proud of the girls for making it that far. But so emotionally spent. After the locker room I went and sat by my mom and just wanted to pass out. I was done. And I was bumbed, I loved coaching, I wanted them to go to the finals. But I also couldn't help feeling a little bit relieved that it was over, and I feel ashamed that I felt that way. I feel really bad about that, because I know it's not me, but it's these limitations that I have that come with this disease. 

Anxiety is crippling. It's not just first day of school butterflies or when you go on a date with a guy you really like. It is mentally, emotionally and physically enabling. The pressure I had on me from coaching is gone but I loved it. I want to keep doing it because u know as I continue to get better I won't be as anxious over close games, or noisy fans. It was a killer storm to ride these last couple months, but totally worth it.

-The Lyme Warrior

Saturday, February 21, 2015

Faith to not be healed

I wrote this post a little while ago after reading Elder Bednar's talk again. It's just a different perspective on how being sent home and my diagnosis went.

“Do you have the faith to not be healed?”

Elder David A. Bednar posed this question to a man that had an aggressive cancer, before giving him a priesthood blessing. I remember when I heard Elder Bednar tell this story in his CES Devotional “That we might not shrink.” I was a freshman at BYUIdaho, and had just received my mission call to the South Carolina, Columbia Mission. I felt the spirit in that talk very strong and it left an imprint on me that I couldn’t forget. And now almost 2 years since his talk was given, I still find myself going back to this talk often…

January 2014 I was 6 months into my mission for The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-Day Saints. I was working hard. I was being obedient. And I was loving the people. 3 things that my mission president said were 3 keys to a successful mission. But mid January in my second area I started to feel really down on myself. I thought it was because of lack of success in baptisms and told myself to suck it up. But it soon became apparent that the harder I tried the more down I got. My companion confronted me about it in a loving way and I shut her down. I told her I just needed to work harder. "Forget myself and go to work!" That's what President Hinckley did. That's what I was going to do.

Why me?”

At first I asked Heavenly Father, "Why me?" I thought maybe he's trying to humble me? Maybe I'm doing something wrong? I started having self-doubts, and started getting really down on myself. I started to drag deeper and deeper into what I can only describe as a deep pit. And the harder I tried to climb out, the deeper I fell. And the deeper down I got, the farther away I felt from the spirit, which I knew I needed to teach. My prayers were earnest pleadings asking my Heavenly Father to help me get over myself. To help me stay focused.

Finally my dear companion, out of love and worry, insisted that I call the mission president. His wife answered and the first thing she said after I described my problem to her was "Well Sister, it sounds like you are depressed." I broke down sobbing on the phone. A part of me knew she was right, but for me, admitting it felt like I was giving into it too. I didn’t understand depression, I had no history, and my family had no history of depression. How could it suddenly just pop up while I was in the middle of something so glorious? Why would Heavenly Father allow that? I must be doing something wrong, I would often think to myself.

I was told to go to the doctor and get put on an antidepressant. Meanwhile I would chat on the phone with an LDS counselor every other week. I loathed taking that antidepressant. It was making me gain even more weight than the southern fried food. And I didn't like how it worked for a couple weeks and then it stopped and I got worse and had to get put on a higher dose.
Eventually it was time for a companion change and I was so sure I was going to get better after getting my new companion. She understood depression better than I did, and I was the one that had it, she didn’t! I could tell that we were going to work so hard and get things done and I was going to finally get over what I thought was just a “phase."

The “natural man” takes over and I “shrink”

But things kept getting worse. I started having restless sleep, nightmares, and mood swings like none other. One minute I'd be laughing hysterically for no reason, and 5 minutes later I'm crying. I became so frustrated I stopped taking the medicine; it wasn't working so why take it? Plus, I was embarrassed about taking I stopped. After a couple of really hard days my companion asked if I needed to change medicine again and I told her I had stopped. It became a nightly chore for her to get me to take my medicine. It usually involved me yelling and crying. And her begging me, sometimes until midnight, until I would give in and take it.

My prayers at night became longer; I would go into our little kitchen and beg, sometimes for 45 minutes, pleading with Heavenly Father to just help me be happy. “I just want to be happy.” I would repeat as I sobbed on the floor, imploring for a miracle of healing, which I felt I deserved. When saying my prayers I would sometimes feel a little rejected. I knew I was supposed to be on a mission, I recalled the words that my stake president had promised me in my setting apart blessing: “You will have no sickness or illness mar your service…” I felt like Heavenly Father had gone back on his promise, because I was suffering from depression and it was effecting my work, how I taught, how I felt the spirit. I was deeply frustrated.

June 2014 just under a year of service, I was sent home for depression.

I can’t describe the shame I felt and the hurt and confusion that followed, I didn’t want to give a homecoming talk, didn’t want to see family, I wanted more than anything to be back on a mission. I prayed for a quick recovery, so I could get back out, but when I found out that I had to be depression free for 6 months before I could get back out. I knew then that I wasn’t supposed to be going back.

His Will not mine

One night, after being home about a month, while I was looking at old study journals I found my notes from Elder Bednar’s talk, and I went to my computer and read the talk. I was deeply touched, and humbled in some ways at these specific words:

“No pain that we suffer, no trial that we experience is wasted. It ministers to our education, to the development of such qualities as patience, faith, fortitude and humility. All that we suffer and all that we endure, especially when we endure patiently, builds up our characters, purifies our hearts, expands our souls, and makes us more tender and charitable, more worthy to be called the children of God … and it is through sorrow and suffering, toil and tribulation, that we gain the education that we come here to acquire” (quoted in Spencer W. Kimball, Faith Precedes the Miracle [1972], 98).

After reading this part I got down on my knees and talked with my Heavenly Father. I didn’t ask for relief, I didn’t ask “Why?” I just talked to Him. I explained how I felt and I finally felt that bitter resentment lift. And little by little as I read more of this talk, understanding came to me. Like the sun rising I gradually felt like Heavenly Father was telling me everything was going to be ok. That this was His will, and that I needed to accept it as His.

As Elder Bednar quotes Elder Maxwell, I needed to remember that “Not shrinking is much more important than surviving! Moreover, partaking of a bitter cup without becoming bitter…” I had said on my mission “Thy will be done.” But I couldn’t accept it. For some reason I couldn’t grasp the thought of me going home early as Heavenly Fathers will. But reading the words “Do you have the faith to not be healed?” I realized that not all the priesthood blessings in the world would work if I didn’t believe this first.

Fast forward to September, where the doctor reads me my 28-vials-worth-of-bloodwork and tells me I have Lyme Disease.  Lyme Disease is known as "The Great Imitator" because it imitates so many different kinds of diseases, and that is why it is so hard to diagnose. For example, if you would have asked me in July or August of 2014 why I got sent home, I would have told everyone it was because of depression. But the fact is that Lyme Disease imitates depression, or MDD. It can also imitate Fibromyalgia, MS, Bipolar, CFS (chronic fatigue syndrome), Alzheimer’s, and also arthritis. It can effect basically anything in the brain, joints, nervous system, heart and muscles. The bacteria infested my brain, caused depression, anxiety, mood swings, suicidal thoughts, insomnia and many other issues. It had infested my brain for 9 months before I could even begin antibiotic treatments. I was bit by a tick in December of 2012 without even knowing, and now I am on treatment that will last up to 2 years to get the bacteria all out of my system.

I felt a sense of relief when I was told I had Lyme Disease. At first I thought it was because it meant that the depression really wasn’t me, like I felt all along. But as I think more about it, I feel like the relief was from Heavenly Father, because I accepted the diagnosis, and I understood I was being blessed with the capacity to “not shrink.”

As I battle this Disease I keep in mind Elder Bednar’s question, “Do I have the faith to not be healed?” As I do this my prayers have change from, “Please heal me.” To, “Please increase my faith and stamina so I can bear this Disease today. Or I’ll ask for strength. And I always end my pray that I may be open and understanding to my Heavenly Fathers will.

Sunday, February 8, 2015

6 lies early return missionaries tell themselves

These are things that I have told myself so I know they are real. These are pertaining to missionaries who were honorably released before their 18 or 24 months were up. If you feel like there are more, feel free to add them.

1) I don't get the same blessings of full service return missionaries.

This is something I didn't know I felt until I was sitting a couple weeks ago with my Stake President explaining my situation, and he said that I should not feel like I do not get the blessings that full time missionaries get upon returning. He said that if these were my thoughts, to stop because it's not true. I was released honorably and therefore am entitled to be blessed as if I came home like any other sister that served 18 months. The relief I felt form his statement was so satisfying. I didn't realize I felt that way. And to hear someone say that was very uplifting.

2) I can't do hard things.

This is something that I said probably everyday after my mission for a long time. Our mission motto in South Carolina was "I love tough things!" I said that all the time. And we were reminded that our missions were one of the hardest things we would ever do, and I couldn't do it. That's what I said. I had failed. But in reality I was doing something even harder. I was leaving the mission to come home, to get better. It is even harder to do. And therefore I was still doing hard things, and whether I realized it or not, I was making it.

3) I could have done more to stay out.

This is a thought that still comes to my mind a lot. I still think this. I wonder if I would have been more open with my companion, and mission president if I could have stayed. I think of every possible angle. If I would have just prayed and fasted more. If I would have trusted Heavenly Father more He would have let me stay. I think this is a trap that everyone falls in that has come home early. What I needed to realize and accept is that this was God's Will. Neal A Maxwell once said "Faith in God includes faith in His timing as well." Coming to grips with the idea that this was all in God's plan for me was impossible for me to accept at one point in the early months being home. I didn't want to think that was an option. But we can't think this way, it is a lie and a torturous one at that. I have spent so many nights thinking about how I could have stayed out. It doesn't help the healing. Yes, of course it hurts, but I had to accept that it was God's Will for me.

4) I have let God down.

Now this is a serious lie I said countless times as well! What I felt like was that I had sinned by coming home early and by so doing I had let God down. I was wrong to think this way. I was honorably released and sent home for health reasons, I had not violated and commandments or covenants that I had made with God. Yet I felt what I thought was guilt. When really I was feeling shame, and it took me a while to know what the difference of those 2 emotions are. I thought I was feeling guilty for letting God down. When really I was just ashamed to be home early. And again I was not accepting of God's Will.

5) I can't go on with my life now

This is a lie I used as an excuse for a while. Missionaries who finish their full service have a hard time getting back into "real life", but try being home early from the mission. Now, part of it was the Lyme Disease, but I did not want to think about my life moving on because I was so upset over being home early. it was an excuse I used to mope and try and figure a way I could have stayed out longer. 

6) People will judge me from now on

I remember feeling shame when in my new ward people would ask about me and I would say I just got back from my mission. Whether they knew it was an early release or not I felt like they already knew and they were already judging me. What actually was happening is I was judging myself, and then thinking everyone else was judging me the same way. If they do know and judge, it's not my problem. I have had to come to realize that I did my best and once again, it was God's Will. And I have found that most people are not judging. after all, you are you're own worst critique.

I have to remember that these lies are not from God, they are from Satan "the father of all lies" who wants "all men that they may be miserable like unto himself." If Satan can get me to think that I was an awful missionary for coming home, that God is ashamed of me for letting Him down. If he can get me to think these long enough, or any of us, then we could lose hope in the gospel and fall away. It is one of Satan's cunning ways. We can't give the devil any place to "destroy [our] peace or afflict [our] soul." And it has taken me a long time to figure that out.

-The Lyme Warrior