Saturday, July 28, 2012

Breaking Rules

I am writing this post via invitation from my wife Melissa. As all of you who have been reading this blog know, Melissa has suffered through a long period of heightened anxiety and deep depression. She had been through depression before, and it had been very difficult for her, so she warned me a lot during the first year of our marriage that one day I would have to deal with her and her depression. I knew this was most likely the case, but neither of us knew how difficult this particular time would be.

To give you a little idea of where this is going, let me explain to you that I am a man of rules. There are certain situations in which specific actions need to be taken; my rule is to always do them. If I make an appointment I keep it. If I enroll in a class I attend. If someone holds out their hand I shake it. If I make big plans I stick to them. If I am unable to keep my rules I struggle a lot.

The first real difficult situation for me was when we were supposed to head to Utah for Christmas. We had made a plan that we would drive with Melissa's parents to BYU-Idaho for Brittany's graduation and then make it down to Utah from there. We then had plane tickets after Christmas back to Portland where we would again be picked up by the Riries (Melissa's parents). It seemed like a good way to go to Utah for Christmas. But then Melissa refused. She just could not make the long trip in the car with her anxiety levels as high as they were. It wasn't really her fault, but she became a stubborn mule. We ended up getting emergency tickets to fly out instead since the Riries were now driving off without us. This arrangement was more expensive for both us and my parents, but it was worth it to go to Utah for Christmas. Then Melissa got very anxious about this as well, and we almost didn't even fly over even after having already bought the tickets. Being a man of rules this was very hard for me. Fortunately we did make it to Utah and had a wonderful trip. Melissa's anxiety and depression seemed to ease somewhat while we were there, and that was very helpful. Her anxiety would likely have been a lot higher if we had driven out instead, so flying really was a huge blessing for her and for us.

Back in Eugene at the beginning of January things started getting worse again for Melissa. One day we decided to take her to the ER. The visit took forever. Mathematically this is an exaggeration, but many of you have been to the ER and know exactly what I mean. I was to teach a class at the University that day. Showing up to class when I am supposed to teach it is definitely one of my rules. I could have left early. I knew what time to catch the bus to make it in time, and I could have easily done that. Melissa, however, was more important to me. I had to break a very difficult rule of mine. I called my office-mate and very good friend Chris who agreed to substitute for me while I stayed with Melissa the rest of the day.

Through the rest of January and the fist half of February things got perpetually worse. I began to be exceedingly worried about Melissa. I was even more worried about leaving her alone, (and for good reason which I need not explain). I had to ask Chris a couple more times to cover my class for me. He was teaching the same course, so that made it a little easier for him, but I am still deeply indebted to him. I had to stop trying to do research. This was also breaking a rule since that is the main thing I am supposed to be doing at the University. I had to temporarily quit Taco Bell. This was breaking a rule since I knew our expenses were at an all-time high due to Melissa's condition. I was doing a lot of things that I was very uncomfortable with, but I thought it was worth it in order to help my wife and keep her safe. Sometimes however, I didn't know whether my sacrifices were even making a difference.

During this hardship Melissa's mother Sandy, Melissa's sister Brittany and my mother spent much time here in Eugene to help me take care of Melissa. In this way I was able to begin again on my research and working at Taco Bell. About a week after my mother left Melissa started showing real signs of improvement. Now I didn't have to worry quite as much as I had.

I had to break a lot of my own rules in order to help Melissa. I'm not saying my rules were bad or unjustified. However, I am saying that when you put your priorities straight the Lord will help you out. Chris is now an even better friend to both me and Melissa, and we go biking and on other activities with him a few times each week. As soon as I started back up on the research I started to get good results where I hadn't had much at all in the previous few years. At Taco Bell, the managers I work with and those at the above-store-level all understood the situation and were glad to take me back when I was ready to start up again. I had an enormous outpouring of love and sympathy from many members of my family, Melissa's family, those we know from Church and those I know at the university. Many people told me that 'people usually forget how hard this is for the primary care-giver,' but in my case they did not forget. Everyone was very supportive of me as well as of Melissa, and for this I am grateful.

Melissa's condition is improved, but this trial is surely not over. I still continue to struggle at the times when Melissa is the most depressed, but I know the Lord will help her and me, and I am sure of the continued love and support from those we love. Thank you for all your help.

Wednesday, July 18, 2012

The Wind Beneath My Wings

Little did I know that when my family moved from California to Washington State when I was 11 how much it would change my life. I was very opposed to the move at first and threatened to stay behind. Well my parents, brother, and I flew up to Washington and got to see the house my parents were buying, the schools we would be attending, and even visited what would be our new ward. I got to meet my Merry Miss teacher Sister Anderson. I was warming up to the idea of moving. Plus I would get five acres to explore with my siblings, and the house was coming with some outdoor cats!

The move brought many challenges as well. Having lived my entire life up to that point in the city and now finding myself living in the country was different to say the least. Even phrases were different. Not everyone used proper grammar. It felt at times that we had moved to the middle of no where. What should have taken us fifteen minutes to get somewhere would take us an hour. Our ward boundaries were huge, and we got lost a few times before we started getting a feel for where things were and driving on country roads. We also didn't have blacktop to bike on. We now lived on a gravel road. In many ways it was like moving to a foreign land. Unfamiliar and different.

But the move brought a person to into my life who has remained a big important part of it 19 years later. There wasn't a moment that took place where Kari and I decided to be friends; it just happened. We never attended the same schools. I am a little over a year older than Kari, so when we entered Young Women's we would be together a year and then a year apart and then a year together and so on. So how did we forge such a lasting relationship?

My family didn't have family in Battle Ground, and Kari's family became our family. Our mother's got together every week. There were slumber parties. There were nights of playing Sardines. Though Kari stopped playing when my mom came out wearing a sheet. Kari almost ripped my arm out of it's socket. There were trips to the drive-in theater in Oregon. Girl's camp where we would make sure we were always in the same group. It wasn't hard to do since our mother's were leaders in YW most if not all of the time we were in YW. I was included in many of Kari's family trips camping and to Sun River. We connected, and it seemed as though we were always meant to be friends.

Kari was a huge blessing to my family as well. I had a strict childhood, and there were many rules. Kari had the guts to break a lot of them. My dad wasn't too happy about it, but our home became a more relaxed one. There were still rules, and compared to many families mine was a strict one, but there was now room to make our own decisions.

Kari was the outgoing one, and I was the quiet supportive one. I hate being the center of attention, so I was more than happy to let Kari take lead. We both got our Young Womanhood Awards the same night. She was there when I graduated from high school where I had to give a speech in front of more people than I care to even think about. I don't think Kari and I knew what my move to Provo would mean to our friendship. We hoped that we would still be close. Every time I made a trip home I saw her.

The following year Kari moved to Rexburg to start at BYU-Idaho. That is where she was when I got my mission call and when I was set apart as a missionary. But her family was present. I will never forget that night. Her father cried saying that he could never have picked a better friend for his daughter. I don't think there were many dry eyes after that. I talked to Kari one last time that evening before my family made the trip out to Provo. Kari sent me a teddy bear while I was at the MTC, one that still sits on a shelf. She wasn't physically present as I came to the realization that I was struggling with depression, but she was a constant source of encouragement.

From that point on it seemed that I would be home and she would be at school. Then she would find herself at home struggling with a health issue and I would be back at school. It became apparent that Kari and I both shared the same struggle with depression. And that was just the beginning of health problems Kari began to face and is still facing today.

Since Tom and I got engaged quickly and were planning on getting married a couple of months later I decided I didn't need to have bridesmaids. Kari would have none of that. It was something she had planned on for years, so she went with my sisters and they picked out the pattern and material. She wasn't only there on my wedding day, but she also made the trip out to the Open House in Provo.

I'm not sure when it exactly happened, but eventually Kari was not considered just a friend but a member of the family. She doesn't need to knock on the door. She just walks in just like the rest of us. If any of us are home for a visit you can count on it that Kari will be there. Our families share Thanksgiving and always have an Anderson/Ririe Christmas party.

I recently took a trip to California with Kari. We went to Disneyland and California Adventure with her dad. We had a blast. We bought matching Minnie Ears our first day. She bought the picture of us going down Splash Mountain because I raised my arms for the first time. The last time we had gone (2006) you could only see my knees in the photo. We bought matching Minnie T-shirts to wear our last day of our trip. It will be a trip that will always have a special place in my heart.

With the new change that has taken place in my life that side swiped me, Kari offered to come down to spend the weekend with me to offer her support. At first I was hesitant because I didn't want to spend the whole weekend venting, but I couldn't pass up the opportunity to have Kari's support. It was greatly appreciated. I'm not sure how I would have made it through sacrament meeting without her sitting there beside me.

On the way to church we had a conversation that we have had before about how I'm supposed to sing at her funeral. She is guessing that she will pass away before me. Now I can't even read music let alone sing well. I always tell Kari I better die first because she has a much better voice than me. The song to be sung was chosen years ago. I guess you could call it our song and that would be "The Wind Beneath My Wings."

As I listened to it for the first time in a long time I almost started crying. Because it is true that Kari in many ways has been the wind beneath my wings. We may not get to see each other as often as we would like, but we know we can count on the other person to be there for us in the best way that they can be.

Kari did you ever know that you are my hero? You are everything I wish I could be. You have proven to be a woman of strength and courage. You are a fighter. Even during the times where it seems like everything is against you, you charge forward not giving up. My life would have been so different if you had not been a part of it. There are too many memories that include you to even list. You are not only my friend, kindred spirit, but you are my sister. I love you!









Tuesday, July 17, 2012

Weight Loss

I never imagined that I would find myself blogging about weight. I know that it can be a touchy subject for many people, but I feel that if I don't blog about it a part of my story would be missing.

It has always been a goal of mine to not be married to my scale. I beat myself up for too many things (weight included) as it is and didn't want there to be a number to back up my insecurities when it comes to my weight. You will most likely find my scale put away in the bathroom cupboard. This year I have probably weighed myself once every month. That is atypical for me. I usually weigh myself only a couple of times a year.

When I was little I was skinny. Both my parents at the time were skinny as well. I didn't give much thought to weight at all. My first memory of someone mentioning my weight was my fourth grade teacher. I can't remember her exact words, but I remember that it had to do with the fact that my skinny days wouldn't last forever and she was right. Puberty hit and I learned that I had inherited my grandmother's body type, or as many people call it, I was pear shaped.

I still didn't give much thought to my weight. In sixth grade my metabolism decreased quite a bit. I would go to school, come home and take a nap, wake up in time for dinner and to do homework and then I was back to bed. I was tired all of the time! Sixth grade is when I also formed a new friendship and came to the realization that a person could get straight A's. For some reason that thought had never entered my head. I think I just always assumed that math would be a difficult subject and grades didn't matter much. So I found myself working harder and pushing myself even with the lack of energy. And so my drive for straight A's began and continued until college.

My weight did become an insecurity as it does for many young women. We are inundated with media telling us what the perfect body type is without taking into consideration our genes, health issues, etc. that can play into how much we weigh. It didn't help that both my youngest sister and a young cousin told me that I had a big rear end. I became very self conscious of my thighs and rear end. It also didn't help that my dad told me I needed to become more active or else I would begin to put the weight on. The days of eating anything and not gaining weight were over.

My insecurities followed me through high school and college. Now it wasn't something that I dwelled on all of the time, but it was something I struggled with. I came to hate shopping for clothes. I preferred to shop for shoes and purses. They do not make you feel fat. I don't actually remember how much I weighed during that time, but I was probably considered at a somewhat healthy weight for my height. But even so I wished that I was skinnier.

I developed an intolerance to lactose my freshman year of college, and that began my love/hate relationship with food. Mostly hate. I came to learn that stress made my body even more sensitive to milk products. I wasn't too sad to give up milk because I never really was a big milk drinker. Interestingly enough I could still eat ice cream. Lactose intolerance can develop at anytime, and it doesn't always include all milk products. It varies from person to person.

One sign of depression is either an increase or a decrease in appetite. While in the MTC I found myself not eating very much. I was stressed and experiencing the darkness for the first time. I was also working out while trying to memorize the discussions. I also wasn't sure what food my body would tolerate. As I was packing for my trip back home my companion mentioned how she wished she was my size. Once I arrived back home a couple of people mentioned my weight loss. I had only been gone three weeks (I believe) and I had lost a bit of weight. I don't remember really focusing on my weight loss. I had more important things to deal with. I did eventually gain the weight back.

My second experience with depression definitely brought a decrease in appetite. I literally almost only drank apple juice. Why apple juice? I have no idea. And I did lose weight. When I returned to Provo almost two months later I was skinnier. My brother even made the comment that I should get depressed more often because I looked great. From then on I fluctuated within five pounds or so. I came to accept that as my weight. I still hated shopping for clothes and still felt insecure. My roommates were worried that I was becoming anorexic, so they were always cooking for me. I didn't eat much because I just never knew what food was going to make me sick. And after being sick I really wasn't in the mood to eat. But through all of this I worked at The Malt Shoppe and ate plenty of shakes. You would think I would have gained weight, but I didn't.

I then came to marry Tom. For Tom school and work became the same thing. School and work were separate for me, and I also had a lot of night classes because my professors were therapists during the day. Tom did most of the cooking. Now Tom loves food. He would snack on it all day if he could. When I married him he was a stick. He was also a fast eater. I found myself trying to keep up with him subconsciously, and therefore I started to eat more. I also wasn't walking to campus as often because I could drive and park in the graduate parking lot (Tom was working on his masters). Both Tom and I were also heading into our mid 20's. My metabolism lowered even more. Tom couldn't eat anything with no effect anymore. Our weight increased and decreased together. But there was a big difference because Tom is a foot taller than me. So he was starting to actually fill out and look healthy while I was becoming bigger. I didn't enjoy being the shortest and largest on both sides of our families (not that I could do anything about being the shortest).

I do know what my highest weight was, but since we are all different I don't think there is a need to share what it was. I kept making goals to become more healthy. I wanted to focus on living more healthy instead of just focusing on losing weight. I made goal after goal but never found the motivation to stick with them. I did lose some weight, but I pretty much came to accept that I would never reach the weight I was when I got married. Through all of this I started to wear tops that were a little too big. I stopped caring about what I wore, and I also developed an allergy to makeup so I rarely wore it. I can't say that I was happy with my outward appearance.

As some of you may know I chose the word Light to be my One Little Word. Instead of making a long list of resolutions you pick one word that you want to focus on. For example I wanted to get outside more often and feel the physical Light. I also wanted to improve my scripture study which would provide me with more Light. I also wanted to become more Light in body. I wanted to seek after Light in whatever ways I could. I was thinking that the Light in body would be my biggest challenge.

This time around I noticed my lack of appetite and for some reason thought it was the first sign that I was heading into depression. I found myself craving apple juice but wasn't really in the mood to eat much else. Later that night it hit me that I was depressed. This realization was followed by a panic attack which led to very high anxiety levels. There were days when I would only have a glass of orange juice or maybe some string cheese. I was also walking a lot because it was one way to cope with the anxiety. I began to stay away from anything that I thought would cause me to become more anxious, and that included food. Eating probably made me anxious because of my previous experiences with hating food and the problems it had caused my body in the past.

One evening it hit me that maybe I would get more calories if I drank them. That started me drinking fruit juice smoothies (bought not made). I also could get myself to eat string cheese. However during the Christmas break I ate pretty normal at my in-laws, so when I headed back to Eugene I was pretty optimistic that food wouldn't be a problem. Then my grandfather passed away. I guess you could say that was the last straw on the camel's back. I headed downhill from there. I went back to drinking fruit juice smoothies and eating string cheese. Tom was at a loss as what to do. I did eventually add Zoi Honey Greek Yogurt with cereal or berries to my diet. Even in the Johnson Psychiatric Unit I was put on calorie count. I didn't eat much. I even met with a dietitian because they became concerned. It was obvious that I was weak and had to move slowly around and use the handrails. The dietitian put me on carnation breakfast supplement with soy milk and fruit smoothies made with soy milk for the other two meals. They said I needed to try to eat at least 25% of my meals. What did I do? I just ordered less food.

I left the Johnson Unit pretty weak. My sister came out for a visit, and we did some shopping. I had to lean on the cart to help me stay standing. Eventually I would just have to sit down because I didn't have any strength left. My psych nurse became concerned and put me on a medication that would increase my appetite and cause weight gain. I did become more hungry and eventually added Cliff Bars to my diet. I made the goal to eat three times a day. It didn't matter how much; I just needed to eat and regain my strength.

Needless to say that I lost weight. It is the most weight I have ever lost. It didn't really hit me until I had to start wearing a belt with my jeans so they wouldn't fall off. I started needing to wear heels with my skirts because they were hanging lower on my hips. I was aware that I was loosing weight, but it was definitely not my top concern, and most people didn't comment about it. If someone did comment I told them that they didn't need to worry about it because I always gain the weight back.

Slowly overtime I regained my strength. My diet did not change. Maybe the amount I was eating but not what I was eating. It is still what I am eating. Yes I am aware that I'm not eating any vegetables except for an occasional cucumber or plate of broccoli. If I'm visiting someone else I will eat whatever they offer. It really isn't about the food but my emotions tied to food. My levels of anxiety have increased over the last few weeks, so with that my aversion to most food has increased.

People that haven't seen me for a month or so will comment about how great I look and how much bike riding must agree with me. Now I'm not saying that the bike riding hasn't been beneficial, but it isn't what got me to the weight that I find myself at now. I have gained a little weight, and the bike riding is probably what is helping maintain my weight this time around. I've decided that I went through Hell, and if I am going to make the most of that experience then I'm going to do my best to try to stay around the weight I find myself at and hopefully over time come to eat a more balanced diet (I do have to admit that I'm getting tired of string cheese and Cliff Bars).

But one thing I have learned over and over again is that it doesn't really matter what other people think. It matters what you think about yourself. In my mind I still view myself the way I looked last September though there is a big difference between then and now. I'm working on coming to accept myself just the way I am. I am taking more interest in the clothes I buy and put more effort into wearing make-up more often. Overall I am liking my outward appearance more than I have in a long time. But that doesn't even come close to the importance of liking who I am on the inside. Our loving Heavenly Father cares more about our hearts than he does about our size or what we wear. I know many of us have heard that time and again. But the big question is do we believe it and do the things we say and do show that we believe that our Heavenly Father loves us for who we are?

Wednesday, July 11, 2012


I'm sure we have all heard the quote that the only constant in life is change. I can't say that change and I are the best of friends. Especially right now. Back in September my life seemed to be for the most part to be going smoothly. Sure it had its little bumps and stress, but overall I was happy with my life. I had a loving husband who was working hard in school but still put me first. I had a loving and supportive family. I had friends near and far. I was on a scrapbook design team that was a perfect fit for me. I was pushed to create but to create things my own way, and I got to keep what I made. I got to spend at least one day a week with Josalyn who has brought so much joy to my life. I enjoyed my calling in Primary even though I would get stressed every time it was my turn to teach Sharing Time. But you know what? I still enjoyed it. It seemed to me that I was leaving my 20's feeling good about life. I felt that it had meaning and that I was making a difference. Now of course if I really examine it my life wasn't perfect. I had my personal struggles and worried about the struggles of those close to me. But all of it I was able to handle. To be honest I was a little worried about what was waiting for me around the corner because it seemed in many ways that life was going too smoothly.

Change seemed to envelop me at the end of October and continued on. Losing three family members hasn't been easy. Losing the scrapbook design team that I enjoyed much has been hard. Knowing that I have caused much hurt to family and friends while I was in my darkest hours pierces my heart. Having "my" kids move miles away continues to be tough. Not being able to get a full night of sleep has intensified it all. That doesn't even begin to describe my experience with depression and anxiety that at some level continues on. These are all changes that I didn't choose for myself. There is a quote by Elder Richard G. Scott that really moved me. He says, "Just when all seems to be going right, challenges often come in multiple doses applied simultaneously. When those trials are not consequences of your disobedience, they are evidence that the Lord feels you are prepared to grow more (see Proverbs 3:11-12). He therefore gives you experiences that stimulate growth, understanding, and compassion which polish you for your everlasting benefit. To get you from where you are to where He wants you to be requires a lot of stretching and that generally entails discomfort and pain...This life is an experience in profound trust - trust in Jesus Christ."

While biking I find myself doing a lot of thinking. No one can come through depression and anxiety not changed. I consider myself in that transitional period. How have I been changed or how am I changing? Am I really that different of a person than I was in September? I don't really have an answer to those questions. Most people talk about the change of having a more compassionate heart and becoming a stronger individual. I was already a compassionate person but my experiences have deepened my understanding of depression and anxiety. Am I a stronger person? Definitely stronger than I was a couple of months ago but stronger than I was in September? I don't know.

Yesterday I found myself facing another change not of my choosing. A change that has rocked what seems to be my very foundation. I find myself questioning my abilities to be a good friend. I question my abilities to be a good listener. I question 'who am I?' Maybe I am not as compassionate as I thought. What I considered a loving and supportive email that I sent was then turned on me and used as ammunition from someone who I trusted and loved. I feel as though I've been stabbed in the back. I now question my relationship with God. I have done what I believed was my best to turn to Him and follow through with what He asked of me. Even in my moments of misery.

Now I knew that the fact that I was changing (in whatever ways that is) would also cause changes in most areas of my life. Now of course it doesn't mean that those changes have to be negative. I consider this most recent change to be negative. I have been extremely hurt, and it brings back memories of when the guy I loved dumped me New Year's Day. Someone that I loved and had invested a lot of my time and effort into the relationship. I just didn't lose my boyfriend and potential husband, but I also lost my friend. Was I shocked that our relationship came to an end? Not completely, but I was shocked the way that it ended. We had reached that place where we either get married or break up. I couldn't really picture myself entering the temple with him on our wedding day, but I loved him. I put a lot of prayer into what to do and nothing came. So I decided to take a step towards the road of marriage. I knew if I was heading down the wrong road that Heavenly Father would know. I put my trust in Him. That He knew what was best for both of us. And He did. But that change hurt because the moment my boyfriend let me know he was planning on breaking up with me it was like poof he was gone. I felt like he had disappeared and had taken my heart with him. With time I came to forgive him and moved on. I was then blessed with finding someone amazing to share my life with. Someone who has stuck by my side through the hardest moments. Someone who has been more patient than I thought was possible of anyone. Someone who reassures me as I go through changes.

My emotions about this recent change are still pretty raw. I woke up in the night a couple of times and it hit me all over again. My therapist wants me to write down two positives from this experience everyday. That is going to be hard. I did come up with two yesterday but I don't remember what they were. So far today I have come up with one. At least I won't have to clean my apartment for her every week for her weekly visits. Does that bring me a lot of comfort? Not really. Now this change may not be permanent, but I'm not sure since I can't ask her some questions that would help me make an important decision. So I find myself once again trusting my Heavenly Father and that He knows best. He knows her and loves her. He knows her heart better than I do. He knows me better than I know myself. Maybe this change will bring something into my life I never would have imagined.

I still would like to know what Heavenly Father is trying to prepare me for with all of these changes and challenges. But then again if I knew maybe I would make unwise choices and put my trust in man instead of our loving Heavenly Father.

Monday, July 9, 2012

You Can Run But You Can't Hide

Starting in December my family and friends have done their best to filter what I would watch, read, or hear. I really haven't watched much of anything for the past seven months and I have only read three books so that wasn't really hard for them to do. Now filtering what I would hear was a little hard. Tom has been filtering the news for a few years for me now so that wasn't anything new. I can have horrible nightmares so I decided it was just best to not hear the negative things going on in the world. Sometimes Tom would wait a certain amount of time until he shared something he felt that was important. But as we have all learned you can't filter out everything in this age of technology.

Now what were they trying to filter? Anything to do with death or committing suicide. In the beginning I was so deep in over my head that I'm not sure I would have really taken in what was being said. But they also didn't want to give me any ideas for future episodes. As I became more mentally aware of my surroundings I would find myself also trying my best to filter. For example I went to the library to pick up a book that I had put on hold (one that I never read) and decided to check out the movies. I noticed "The Secret Life of Bees" and picked it up. I have seen it before and it didn't take long for me to remember that one of the characters commits suicide. Back on the shelf it went. Or the day I heard Whitney Houston died. I did hear that she was found face down in the bathtub. I would be lying if I said it didn't get me thinking. In the past when I was struggling with depression I did have thoughts of drowning in the bathtub. But honestly I knew I wouldn't be able to pull it off. But, let's say, if I got drunk (which wouldn't be hard to do since I've never tasted alcohol) maybe it would be possible. Don't worry; I never tried. Now when anyone would start to bring up how Whitney Houston died I would shut them down. It just wasn't something I needed to dwell on.

It has been weeks since I have had an episode. Maybe even longer than that. When I think back to the harder times I can sometimes separate that person and myself. I have come a long ways. One thing I learned quickly from the beginning is that you get asked a lot what is your number. I was asked it in the ER, in the Johnson Unit everyday, by my psych nurse, and by my therapist. What number would that be? On a scale from one to ten how focused was I on committing suicide. If it reached to seven I was to call my therapist. It fluctuated over the months. It definitely passed seven a number of times. But I haven't been asked that question in sometime. I was recently asked by my psych nurse if I was having suicidal thoughts. My answer was a big fat no!

But I have quickly learned that even though I have come so far that the subject of committing suicide is an emotional one. Not that it comes up often. But I have come face to face with it out of the blue, and it is like a kick in the gut. A reminder of what was that seems so foreign to me now. My first time actually took place in Primary of all places. I am the 1st Counselor in the Primary Presidency (though for about seven months I only taught Sharing Time three times and pretty much was absentee). My second time teaching Sharing Time was about repentance and forgiveness. Now I tend to get a little carried away when it comes to teaching. I try my best to make it fun and use lots of object lessons. I figure if I'm bored preparing it the kids are going to be bored hearing it. I asked the kids the simple question of what are some sins that we may commit that makes Heavenly Father sad. Well at least I thought it would be simple. I was teaching the older children and they came up with some good answers. I noticed that a visitor was raising her hand, and since I try my best to make everyone feel welcome I called on her. She said two words. Two words that caused me to freeze in place. Two words that many of the other kids didn't even understand what it meant. I saw many kids turning to their teachers with questioning eyes. Now there weren't any adults in the room that I'm aware of that were aware of what I had been struggling with. But those two words was like getting a kick in the gut. Yes those two words were committing suicide. What did I do? I said yes committing suicide makes our Heavenly Father very sad and also our families. I then moved on, but it continued to be on my mind the rest of the day.

I have already shared the example of where a guy on Glee tries to commit suicide and my reaction to that. It was like another kick in the gut. And as I wrote before, the hardest part of that episode for me was at the end when the Glee Club was discussing how they could never imagine getting to a place where they would want to commit suicide. Of course I hope people don't reach that place because it isn't a fun place to be and can be quite terrifying. There have been times when I have been so close, and as I stared at what could end my anguish in this life I would crumple to the floor sobbing. The subject of suicide has been forever changed for me. I have a feeling that no matter how much time goes by it will always be a subject that may sting a little or remind me of where I've been.

The most recent experience that has made me think of my past of not so long ago took place this past Saturday. It seemed like a normal Saturday with Tom being home. We had planned to go on a bike ride with a friend and were planning on meeting up with him at the Autzen Bridge. Tom and I hadn't been biking for very long when up ahead the biking path was blocked with an ambulance. I just thought someone had gotten hurt, and I told Tom we would probably have to walk our bikes past to get through, so we dismounted. As we got closer it became apparent that other bikers and walkers were gathered staring in the direction of the river. There was a search and rescue boat in the river holding two men. One was driving the boat while the other took a cone shaped object and looked through it into the water. I'm told that snorkelers who don't like to put their head under water use something similar and that it makes it very easy to see what is under the water.

I found myself frozen in place. Tom kept trying to pull me away. Were they looking for a body? We didn't know. There was a group of girls gathered at the edge of the river, but no one was crying. Tom kept saying how he didn't want me to be there if they did happen to pull a body out of the river. A biker that had been down at the edge of the river came up and told us what was going on. The group of girls were swimming in that area and thought they had seen a skeleton or body in the river. People let out a sigh of relief. Did they ever find anything? I'm not sure. At that point Tom and I continued to bike towards the Autzen bridge, but we did see the boat speed by not much later. We also had to pull our bikes off the bike path to let a cop car drive by.

Now you may be wondering why such an experience would have such a profound hold on me. During the summer months it is not uncommon for people to not realize how deep or swift a river is until it is too late. I'm sure we have all heard sad stories of people drowning or those trying to rescue the one in need drowning too. Lives that are cut short but not by their own choosing. So what was going through my mind? As I stood there watching the two men search the water and seeing those girls stand at the edge of the river painted a different picture in my mind. A picture that included Tom standing at the edge of the water with tears of anguish falling down his cheeks. Maybe even a few choked sobs as those two men were searching for my body. Tom standing there knowing that it was too late. I'm not sure what would be going through his mind, but I can imagine him hoping that they do find my body but at the same time hoping that they don't because maybe just maybe I'm alive somewhere. I know he would be praying with his whole heart that this nightmare wasn't true.

You may be wondering why I would even let such sordid thoughts run through my mind. We got quite a bit of rain this winter, and the river was high. Part of the bike path was flooded and closed. I sometimes felt that the river was calling my name. I am an okay swimmer, but knew I would be no match for such a current. I was frank with the first psych nurse I met with, and just from the few things I said she let Tom and my mother-in-law know that under no circumstances was I allowed near the river alone. Even taking walks with a friend as the river was high I felt that the river was calling my name. You can be rest assured that I never once even touched the water.

As I was biking away from the scene the words 'you can run, but you can't hide' came to mind. My past is my past. I can't change it. In the very beginning of my ordeal Tom gave me a Priesthood Blessing that stated that I would come through this difficult time in my life and that this year would be a year of joy. That I would be healed without a scar. The thought of feeling joy seemed foreign and impossible at the time. And how would I come through all of this without a scar? It is now July and I wouldn't say that this year has been a year of of yet. Have I had my moments of joy? Yes. I would say that my recent trip to California brought me much joy. I was with a beloved friend and a man that I view as a friend and very much like a second father. Hearing Josalyn say my name for the first time. Having a child's eyes light up as I walked into the Primary room for the first time in awhile. Having my youngest sister fly out to spend a week with me. Just me and her. Seeing my nephew love his Grandpa so much. Having a friend hold me and love me and remind me that even though I found myself in Hell that I was still a Daughter of God. The time Tom missed his bus and then when he caught the next one he fell asleep. He woke up when the bus reached near Walmart. He had to jump on a different bus to head back home. Because of those two instances he was where he needed to be as he walked home. He found an Autistic boy crying as he neared our apartment. This young boy had walked all the way from Springfield, and it was cold and dark. Tom brought him home, and we were able to get him back to his family. It was a reminder that Heavenly Father is aware of each and everyone of us including me.

Now my journey is far from over. I do believe that in time that I will be healed without a scar. It doesn't mean that I won't remember what I went through or that it won't change who I am today or tomorrow. So how is that even possible? I have learned a lot about grace this year. I have learned that Jesus Christ's grace is sufficient - "sufficient to cover us, sufficient to transform us and sufficient to help us as long as that transformation process takes" (Brad R. Wilcox). My scars won't be healed overnight. There is a song that Amy Grant and her daughter sing called "Overnight." It talks about how if everything happened overnight we wouldn't know how much it meant. We would never learn to believe those things that we cannot see. We wouldn't learn to trust our Heavenly Father or have faith in Him and His plan for our lives.

I honestly don't know why I find myself heading down this road. I don't know if years from now I will look back and understand. I may not find understanding in this life. It is scary to think that I could find myself on a similar road in the future. But as Brad R. Wilcox wrote, "Grace is not a booster engine that kicks in once our fuel supply is exhausted. Rather, it is our constant energy source. It is not the light at the end of the tunnel, but the light that moves us through the tunnel. Grace is not achieved somewhere down the road. It is received right here and right now. It is not a finishing touch; it is the finisher's touch." That has brought me much comfort over the past few months. I can access Jesus Christ's grace right now. I don't have to wait until I'm perfect or making the right choice every single time.

Elder David A. Bednar writes, "The Savior has suffered not just for our iniquities but also for the inequality, the unfairness, the pain, the anguish, and the emotional distress that so frequently beset us. There is no physical pain, no anguish of soul, no suffering of spirit, no infirmity or weakness that you or I ever experience during our mortal journey that the Savior did not experience first. You and I in a moment of weakness may cry out, 'No one understands. No one knows.' No human being, perhaps, knows. But the Son of God perfectly knows and understands, for He felt and bore our burdens before we ever did. And because He paid the ultimate price and bore that burden, He has perfect empathy and can extend to us His arm of mercy in so many phases of our life. He can reach out, touch, succor-literally run to us-and strengthen us to be more than we could ever be and help us to do that which we could never do through relying only upon our own power."

And so I take each day at a time and hold on to the hope and faith that Heavenly Father has a plan for me. And if all I can do one day is just breathe that is ok. If all I can do is get on my bike and ride hard that is ok. Even if I can't feel Jesus Christ's presence because the depression has me wrapped in a dark cloud, He is still there and through Him I can step out and hold onto that promise of joy and of healing.

Friday, July 6, 2012

Get It Right

This week has probably been one of the hardest weeks for me in quite sometime. I almost wish that someone had taped my mouth shut and tied my hands behind my back at the beginning of it. I have made so many blunders. I can't remember a time where I had to make so many apologizes in such a short period of time.

When I wrote my blog post titled "Even With My Dark Side" I originally had been inspired by a different song but as I started to write I realized that Kelly Clarkson's song fit with what I was writing better. It is a song that I have identified with for quite a few months. That post was mainly written for my mom and my sister. I wanted to let them know that yes I realized that I had caused them pain but I was thankful that they continued to love me and support me even with my dark side. I'm still at a place that it is draining in so many ways to verbalize my emotions. Writing here on my blog has become a safe place to express my thoughts and feelings as I go down this road I find myself on.

This week I found myself being overcome with anger out of the blue. Poor Tom. There was one evening in particular that no matter what he said I snapped. It became clear to me that no matter what he said I would snap right back at him. I wasn't sure where the anger was coming from and I was too tired to give it much thought. I retreated to my bed. I think he realized that I needed my space and that I was physically exhausted. He entered the room and put the shades down and shut the door. I eventually fell asleep though I wouldn't call it restful.

I haven't had a good night's sleep since I got back from California. I typically wake up sometime between three and five in the morning. I'm not fully awake but from that point forward I'm in and out of sleep. Last Saturday around six I found myself kneeling by my bed. Tom thought I was praying. Maybe that was my intention but I just knelt there. I then moved to the floor and asked for my blanket. I then had a dream that felt so real. I was in the same position on the floor except that I was sobbing uncontrollably. All of a sudden I woke up to find Tom on the floor holding me. I had been panting. It wasn't the first time Tom had awoken with me panting beside him. When I described to my psych nurse my sleeping habits she said it sounded like I was having mini panic attacks in the middle of the night. We made a slight change to my medication but it hasn't made a difference so far.

So needless to say I have been physically exhausted. It also doesn't help that three of the medications I am on cause drowsiness. I always feel tired but most of the time not tired enough to actually fall asleep. So you would think that I would give myself a break and take it easy. I am still biking almost everyday. I remember the days when making it to the Rose Garden and back seemed like such a chore. Now an easy ride for me is to the Autzen bridge and back. I only recently bought an odometer but I think on a typical day I will bike somewhere between 19 and 24 miles unless I do take it easy. Then I just bike 12 miles. Where do I find the energy? I have no idea. It has become somewhat of an obsession. Yesterday I put my biking clothes on eariler in the morning but I didn't actually bike until close to 8pm. All day I kept saying I need to bike but I just couldn't pick myself up off the floor.

I have always said that we each have our choice of drug to escape our lives for a short period of time. We need that. Reading used to be my choice of drug and now it is biking. In the beginning my thighs always cry out, "What the heck are you doing?!". But I push through and get lost in my thoughts or the music that I have blaring in my ears. Biking is my way of dealing with the anxiety that I feel during the day. It helps me cope. But of course it uses up what little energy I do have. Once I make it back home it can take a couple of hours before I start feeling like I can do something besides sitting collapsed on the couch.

One thing about biking that sometimes is hard is that I always pass the White's house where Ben (the father) is now living. It is constant reminder that Paige, Connor, Bryce and Josalyn are not there. It also doesn't help that I see his girlfriend's car there constantly. A friend of mine told me that on the 4th she saw a two year old in the backyard. When I read the text I was too tired to really give it a lot of thought but the next morning I found myself crying. Coming to realize that there is a little girl spending time in that house and it isn't Josalyn. I want to shout at Ben and ask him how could he choose this woman and her kid(s) over his own wife and kids? At times I feel a strong urge to go egg her car. Of course I would never really do that. Paige texted me yesterday morning and I can't say I was in a good frame of mind because I found myself venting to her about Ben and his girlfriend. I know that isn't what she needs or wants to hear. Her reply to all my venting? That his girlfriend is just another lost soul. Throughout the day I kept beating myself up for what I did. I felt a strong need to apologize and so I did. It has almost been a year since Ben asked for a divorce and I have done my best to be there with a listening ear, support and love. As much as I would like to aim all my anger at Ben I can't. Because out of this big mess he is the one losing out. He made his choice and is now paying the consequences of having his kids miles away and I know that he loves them and I know that they love him.

Another blunder I made was actually on the 4th of July. Overall it was a good day. Went on a bike ride with Tom and our friend Chris in the afternoon and then spent the evening with friends. But I found myself distancing myself from a close friend. I didn't purposefully do it at first. But I do have to admit that in some ways I was dreading the evening. If her sister hadn't been visiting there is a good chance I would have not gone at all. I knew I would regret the decision of not going and I can't say that I didn't enjoy myself. But I hurt someone that I love very much. Once again I found myself apologizing. As I am going through the recovering phase I find that so many things are changing. Not just myself. I am having a hard time processing it all. I feel as if I am a time bomb ready to explode at any minute.

But what was the hardest for me was last night. I have been talking Tom's ear off for weeks now. Usually he just sits there patiently listening to me as I try to make sense of what I'm feeling and experiencing outloud. It was getting close to midnight and we were actually talking about a number of different things. I'm not sure how our conversation ended up where it did but it did. Tom didn't really say much but what he did say pierced my heart. In just a couple of sentances he expressed how much I had hurt him at the beginning of the year. Those words with the expression in his eyes broke my heart. I found myself sobbing for the first time in a long time. I found myself wishing I was dead. I was scared that I wouldn't get out of bed this morning. That I would start sliding backwards. That I would skip my appointment with my therapist. I felt so sick inside. I felt that no matter what I did I just kept hurting those that I love most. Tom immediately apologized for voicing his emotions and then went on to mention all the things he loved about me but all I could focus on was that look in his eyes. I have known from the beginning that this year has been a difficult one for him as well as for me. But I never let my thoughts go further than that.

And so this morning I find myself relating to the song "Get it Right". It is actually an orginal song that one of the main characters on Glee sings in a competition that she wrote. I've identified with it for quite some time and it is the song that inspired me to write "Even With My Dark Side". Being a perfectionist I wish I could get it right the first time or at least the second time. But I am human and I am in need of Jesus Christ's grace just like everyone else. I will continue to make mistakes. I will continue to hurt those I love as I try to deal with the jumble of emotions inside. How many times will it take for me to get it right?

Monday, July 2, 2012

Home Sweet Home

If I am in Oregon and you were to ask me where I was from I would say Washington State. I learned at a young age that it is important to say state. Otherwise people ask you more questions or will make their own assumptions. I think half of my fifth grade class thought I was moving to Washington D.C. If I am outside of Oregon and you were to ask me where I was from I would say Oregon. So where is home?

I am actually from California and lived there for the first 11 years of my life. I love Washington more so I never say I'm from California. I had a couple of roommates over the years from California and I would always tease them that California is called the Golden State because it is golden brown. Nothing can compare to the Pacific Northwest. Yes we get more rain but it is the price you pay to live among green.

While attending BYU, Washington was definitely home. I would refer to my parent's ward as my home ward. It is where I spent my teenage years and where I knew most of the ward. Growing up in Washington was a huge blessing and not just because it is green. :o) When we first moved to Battle Ground we were surprised how friendly everyone was. We actually lived 10 minutes away from Battle Ground on five acres. Going from a small yard to acerage was a big jump. It was the perfect place to be. Live out in the country but have Portland not that far away if we wanted some city life.  I also met amazing people and was blessed with amazing friends. Battle Ground is quite a religious community. My closest friends were Methodist, Roman Catholic, some Romanian Denomination, to just name a few. All had high standards like me. A couple of them even had stricter parents than I did! Battle Ground will always hold a special place in my heart.

I lived in Provo off and on over a seven year period. It was my home away from home. I would say that I lived my "teenage" years there. No parents to tell you what to do. Now of course that doesn't mean I went off the deep end. I did most of my dating while going to school. Never had to introduce the guys to my parents. Freedom! I had fun roommates over the years spent in Provo. Good memories were made and new friendships formed. Off course I did do some studying. :o)

Tom and I spent the two first years of our married life in Utah. We attended a family ward. Tom is from Provo, so I really got to know his immediate and some of his extended family during that time. Provo started to feel more like home and not just a stopping place. At that time I felt blessed that I had two homes. We ended up living with his parents for a month once I graduated with my bachelor's degree and Tom with his master's degree. Tom's parents are amazing and I feel so blessed to have such supportive in-laws.

Once we moved from Provo we moved in with my parent's for the rest of the summer. We knew we would be moving to Eugene, but neither of us had been there before and we wanted to actually go and pick out an apartment. It was a fun filled summer! Probably one of my favorites. And we did make a trip to Eugene with my mom and found an apartment. Tom picked our first one in Utah (it was half of a small house), and I fell in love with Creekside/Valley River apartments. There were two that would be available around the time we wanted to move our stuff down. It wasn't a hard choice to make. Being on the third floor gives us the vaulted ceiling and out behind us is a wetlands that is protected. Looking out all of our windows you will find green. It reminds me of my home in Washington.

I do have to admit that I considered Eugene just another stopping point. We thought we would only be here four years at the most. Little did we realize that the program is a six year one. At first the biggest plus of living in Eugene was that my parents were just 2.5 hours away. In the beginning I think I went home every month for a week. It felt so good to be back in the Pacific Northwest. I was worried that I would miss Provo, but since Tom is from there I knew we would return. It wasn't really a goodbye.

Originally Tom and I thought we would probably end up back in Utah after he finished school. I wasn't excited about it, but it would mean being close to family and friends. I have found that the longer I am away from Utah the more I don't want to move there. Yes I love the mountains, but you don't get the natural green like you do in Eugene. Here they encourage wildflowers to bloom, trees to grow (they even cut them in a way that they don't hit the wires) and they are only allowed to cut down so many trees a year. The University of Oregon campus is like walking in my backyard. Ferns, wildflowers, and trees are everywhere. I like it better than BYU's campus. But what can I say? Eugene is known for being a green city.

It has taken a couple of years for Eugene to feel like home. I love our ward. They are so friendly and down to earth. They are always joking that our ward is the best one in the Pacific Northwest. At first I couldn't agree because I still felt more comfortable visiting my parent's ward. But things have changed. I have fallen in love with Eugene. I love the bike paths, the fact that we live so close to a river, that it is so easy to get around. Tom also has come to like Eugene. Tom has only one year of school left and I pray that he finds a job in Eugene. We both aren't ready to leave yet. Eugene is home. I don't think of it as a stopping place anymore. But who knows what the future will hold for us?