Monday, June 1, 2015

When bad things happen...

Bad things happen. Trials hit. The saying is always true "when it rains it pours..." And where we don't always get to choose our trials or hardships along the way, we can choose 1) our reaction towards the trials 2) our attitude towards the trials and 3) we can choose to accept responsibility over the trial... I don't know if responsibility is the right word; I guess, you can choose to own the trial or deny it.

These are 3 things we can choose after our trials hit, and we know they will. Maybe they already have, maybe you are saying "I cannot take one more thing." Maybe you are saying, "how much longer is this going to last?" Maybe you are wondering "what did I do wrong to deserve this?" Maybe you are faced with a tough decision and you aren't good at change and either way is hard. Maybe you feel completely helpless. Maybe you are stuck in limbo. I don't know, but I do know that I have learned some key things through my own trials that I think might help others...

The Reaction

How we react when the trial first hits. No matter how big or how small I find that my first reaction is "Why"? And it's not always a "why me" but it's more of a "why now..." As if I'm telling God, or just someone in general... "This is a very inconvenient time to be experiencing this certain trial I have been given." I've learned that when I say "why" that is more what I'm asking. I've had to realize, and ask myself is, is there ever a time that this would be convinent?

To give and example I was told I had Depression 6 months into my mission... 4 or 5 months after that I was told I was borderline bipolar and manic. And my thoughts were "why now?" But I learned that it doesn't help the situation, God doesn't send explanations, that's faithless to expect God to answer that way. There is no action on my part, only the demand to know "why" something is happening that I don't like.

Asking "why me?" is no better. Because, again, God isn't going to send an explanation to every trial that comes our way. I realized that every time I asked "why me?" It was selfish... It was as if I demanded that it be taken away and given to someone else. I would not want to wish depression on my worst enemy! Asking the "why" questions brings no comfort, only more frustration.

If you look in the scriptures, all the great stories of trials show not a single person or prophet saying "why now?" Or "why me?" 

Job lost his whole family, got sick and lost all of his property, but not once did he say "this was really bad timing Lord." (Job 42)

Abinadi was burned at the stake I don't think he ever asked "why me, why do I have to be the one to preach to people that won't listen and then be burned because of it?" (Mosiah 17:7-20)

Ruth from the Old Testament never said "Wow this is so inconvinet and such bad timing, not only did my husband die and I have to take care of my mother-in-law now, but there is also a famine in the land, this is literally the worst timing!" (Ruth 1)

Instead of asking "Why" I think I have found a better thing to pray for. And I switched my prayers and it helped me feel better. And I felt like Heavenly Father was more willing to answer me this way as well. What I changed my prayers to was "Help me understand thy (God's will) better." I found that where I didn't always get a direct answer, I was able to receive a greater understanding, learn more, and I was aligning my will with Gods.

Another reaction that I have noticed I do is I turn away from others... I hide that I have this problem. I hide that there is even a trial in my life. Now that I have had depression over a year now, I understand more about the timing that I got it. I was serving in South Carolina. 

If you haven't been to the south and experienced southern hospitality for yourself I highly recommend it. But something that southern people are not afraid to do os voice their problems. And its not that they are complaining! But if you ask a person who is checking out your groceries how they are doing, it wouldn't be uncommon for them to say "oh my mama is sick, will y'all pray for her and for me as well?"

That might sound strange but after living among that you realize the faith and the trust they have in voicing a problem and requesting a prayer is very powerful. I felt like I left one culture extremity and came home to another, a culture that believes the key to happiness is "faking it until you make it." Putting on that brave smile. Not wanting to be a burden to anyone so not sharing the hard things that are happeneing. And there are many extremes within the culture, but that is how I felt coming home. And this ties right into my next point.


Once we have gotten over the initial shock of a trial hitting, we can choose our attitude not only towards the trial itself, but also our attitude towards others during our trial. That's where turning outward instead of inward comes in... 

Elder Bednar once said:

"Character is revealed, for example, in the power to discern the suffering of other people when we ourselves are suffering; in the ability to detect the hunger of others when we are hungry; and in the power to reach out and extend compassion for the spiritual agony of others when we are in the midst of our own spiritual distress. Thus, character is demonstrated by looking and reaching outward when the natural and instinctive response is to be self-absorbed and turn inward." ("THE CHARACTER OF CHRIST" Brigham Young University-Idaho Religion Symposium January 25, 2003 Elder David A. Bednar)

If you turn inward you choose to have a more negative attitude, not always a bad attitude, but it's not as good if you chose to turn outward during your trial of adversity. Your attitude towards others during a trial will greatly be affected by you turning inward than other wise would be the case.

I remember my attitude went back and forth a lot when I was told I had depression... I instinctively turned inward, it wasn't that I was feeling sorry for myself or that I was throwing a pitty party, it's just that I wanted to be alone. I felt like I had to carry it and face it alone (again the not voicing it reaction, so you see how they are connected?).

This is something I learned from back home. I said "I'm fine." But I wasn't. I feared being a burden. I feared that my problems, if shared aloud would then become someone elses... This is wrong. If, as a member of the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-Day Saints, I believed, as well as everyone else, that our problems were a burden on someone else, we would not be helping each other keep our baptismal covenants to "bear one another burdens". (Mosiah 8:18)

As I hid my depression, I distanced myself from my companion, who was my only source of understanding, outside of Heavenly Father and Jesus Christ. Turning inward is a selfish act. And I did just that. When I said "I'm fine." I was being selfish, and prideful. We might try and justify it, I know I did. But when we turn inward all we think about is ourselves. I started to get even more down as I turned inward because I was only focusing on me, and "me" was in pretty bad shape, so I got more and more depressed. It was like a downward spiral that kept getting more and more dark and made the depression, my trial, much more hard and much more big.


I still don't know if that is the right word, but when a trial comes we can choose to accept that it is ours, or we can try and look at it from every angle and think of something we could have done different to avoid the trial. 

After suffering with depression, anxiety and other symptoms for 6 months I was sent home early from my mission... Those 6 months prior I had blamed everything in the book for my depression. I had blamed the fact that I was transferred out of an awesome area. I had blamed the guy at the library that had tried to anti me and my companion. I even had started to blame my parents because every time I went to the doctor for some medication they asked if I was ever abused, if my home life growing up had caused me depression. This was wrong. Never had I been abused, I was completely fine being transferred, and I knew in my heart the things the anti people would tell us were not true. I knew my depression was sudden and inexplainable, but still I wanted a reason, I couldn't accept that I was depressed let alone that there was no explanation.

I blamed my depression on the lack of baptisms in my area. I even had the nerve to blame my Great Grandma for dying while I was out... Then I blamed myself for not writing my grandma before she passed away.

 I blamed the depression my family for not sending me enough letters through out the week. I blamed my cousin for getting married while I was gone and then emailing me and telling me she is pregnant 6 months later.

All these things just made it worse. Not only would I not accept that maybe no one was to blame, but I also couldn't accept responsibility and move on. I was stuck in this rut for a long time... And it seemed to spiral down ward too, but it never ended. 

And then I got sent home early... And that was a whole other trial all by itself. I blamed the doctors back in South Carolina, saying they didn't do enough for me. I blamed my LDS counselor saying she could have done more. But when I came down to it all I blamed myself. I had got myself sent home. 

At this point I was taking on too much. I wasn't just accepting that the trial was mine, and that it was there... Nope I went as far as to blame myself, and that made things even more worse (I didn't think it was possible, but it was).

Then 3 months after being home I was diagnosed with Lyme Disease... It imitates 300+ diseases and was causing depression, anxiety, as well as many other huge problems on my mission. I was so relieved! I knew I wasn't truly depressed! It was the disease that was causing it, and since it wasn't real depression the medicine would only work for a little and then the disease would replicate and fight against it and the meds would stop working.

Everything made sense in my head. I had something to blame! I came up with my favorite hashtag #blamethetick as well as the name for this blog. This trial had a source... But now what? I had spent so much of my energy trying to find the "why" and the "how" it had made me so bad that I was suicidal. I had self blamed myself for everything. And where at that point the tick was to blame for the depression, I still blamed myself for being sent home.

I couldn't agree more with Dr. Maraboli
Being sent home was a seperate trial from the depression/Lyme Disease. They didn't help each other but they were 2 seperate things because I blame myself for coming home... I cut myself. And cutting yourself in the mission field is a plane ticket home. I made the cut. Nobody else. I chose that, and dealt with so much shame that it was unbearable.

And as I kept up with my #blamethetick, way of thinking, I started to find myself if a vicious circle that I think lots of Lyme patients experience. I started to say, "am I depressed because of Lyme? Or do I have depression because I have been sick so long, and I'm miserable being home early, therefore I have depression...?" I would go back and forth with this argument and it was maddening. To say "is this Lyme? Or me?" Am I depressed because I've been sick so long or is Lyme making me depressed?

Back and forth I would go and in the end it just made me more depressed! What I realize now, almost 1 year of being sent home and 1 and a half years of depression, is that I need to just accept that the trial is mine. It doesn't matter who's to blame. Or whose fault it is. It's my trial, that I can choose to share with others, and that I can choose to ask for strength instead of "why me?" And that goes for any trial as well. I think we can all implement these steps somehow in our lives, and it may not make the trials go away, it may not make it easier. But I know it will help you, because once you do these three steps, the less big and demanding your trial will feel... At least, that is how it is for me.

-The Lyme Warrior