Tag Archives: Mormon Church

Hard day/Good day

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face-640435_640Today has not been a good day. I don’t know if it’s because I found out yesterday that a friend (who was young) passed away unexpectedly, but I wasn’t able to wake up completely until about 5:30 pm and had nightmares all day long and last night. They woke me up partway into the night. I was twitching most of the day while asleep and it feels like my body just won’t stop shaking. I was going to go to a Relief Society activity (women’s group at church) tonight that I’ve been looking forward to, but I’m not sure I feel up to it. Every noise outside my bedroom door makes me jump, no matter how normal. My roommate spent a lot of the morning singing, and it was helpful because it was happy, but it didn’t stop the shaking or the nightmares that I went in and out of. I did manage to get up in the early morning and turn on a BYU Devotional. General Conference talks and devotionals help calm me down and feel more connected to hope and reality. I also listen to scriptures, but I wish there was an easier way to listen to each chapter one after the other without having to get up. You know, like back when I owned a cassette player.
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So, I ended up going to the activity after all. I threw something on, didn’t have on any makeup (not the end of the world, I learned a long time ago) and went with a couple of friends. One of them has a nice, big loud voice, but it didn’t bother me. Always grateful for the small things. Maybe I’m making progress in some areas. When we got there, my shaking hadn’t stopped or even let up at all. My head was still bobbing. I’m not sure I’ve actually left the house on purpose with that still going on, but I was hoping that it would stop. Eventually it did, but it took a while. I hadn’t even told a friend that I wasn’t feeling well, but she leaned over to me and said, “Do you need me to take you home? Are you sure?” When my body is doing this, I feel a bit like I’m 93 instead of 43. Tonight that thought was a little humorous to me.

We shared books (fiction or non-fiction, children’s or young adult or for adults, etc.) and I was near the end of the order because of where I was sitting in the circle. I managed okay. I had sort of hoped that I could go earlier so that I didn’t have to sit there worrying about my ability to be able to speak, but I was okay. Afterwards, though, I struggled. One person was having a hard time hearing me, which meant that my anxiety was making it hard to speak up. Another time I was able to speak up, but my ability to come up with the right very simple words just left me.

So was it a good idea to go? I don’t know. It was wonderful to be out and to get to talk about one of my favorite things with others (books, reading). Seeing the slightly uncomfortable looks on the faces of people who don’t know me as well and haven’t been around me much, when I struggled with speaking etc., brought back bad memories of when I was so terrified to be around other people when even the smallest things with my health went wrong in public. But tonight they rallied back and talked with me again anyway. I did sit down when I knew that my ability to concentrate and function was getting worse. I don’t mind sitting by myself when I need to recover, and I don’t mind it in general, but it was a little embarrassing when someone else thought that maybe I needed some company. But isn’t it amazing that I’m around so many people who want to worry whether others need company or not?

chapel north salt lakeI don’t know if I’ll try this again very often (going out when I’m really, really unsure of my ability to function). I definitely wouldn’t try it when I’m by myself. If I hadn’t been with a good friend who is familiar with my symptoms and what I’m like, there’s no way I would have gone. I did the same thing on Sunday and went to church and had to sit in the hall for everything but our nice and small Sunday School class. (Our ward has multiple small Sunday School classes rather than one or two large ones.) I felt like I didn’t get much out of it doctrinally, but hey, I got to take the sacrament, and I felt the Spirit. I really felt like I got less out of it than the years spent chasing my kids around the building when they were small. Concentrating on much of anything was just pretty much impossible. But, a couple of people I confided in said, “yes, but you were here! Wasn’t that great?” So, I’d prefer that every Sunday I would be there and that I’d be feeling well, able to participate, help others out, and maybe even get something out of it….which I usually do. But feeling the Spirit ain’t bad.

Fixing the Thinking

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***PLEASE NOTE: I am not trained or qualified to diagnose or give medical advice on any type of psychological or psychiatric condition.*** The purpose of this blog is simply for me to share my experiences.
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I always experience a downer when I come back from visiting my kids. I live in Utah because I came here to try to finish my degree, which didn’t work out due to my health: then I ended up staying because my parents are helping me out until I get disability (hopefully) and Utah is cheaper than California. It is quieter here than the L.A./Orange County area, and the pace of life is blessedly slower, but….my kids aren’t here.

Not getting to spend Christmas with them thanks to the flu has given me the opportunity to work harder on my thinking patterns. Now, as a warning, I’ve heard several different terms applied to what I’m going to talk about: and not being a professional, I don’t think I can adequately distinguish between them. Years ago I was taught “Cognitive Behavioral Therapy,” then about 8 years ago “Dialectical Behavioral Therapy,” or “DBT,” and I have a friend who is a therapist who refers to it as cognitive distortions, or thinking distortions. I’ll have to ask him again.

So, how to make this short…

22 years ago I was loaned a copy of the book Feeling Good: The New Mood Therapy by David Burns. I highly recommend it if you have issues with anxiety or depression, or really just for anyone. He talks about distorted thoughts and shows a method to work on getting rid of them by writing them down and then identifying what types of “distortion” they are according to a list he made (which was very handy) and then writing next to each thought what the reality really is, which is almost always better. It helped a great deal, once I stopped beating myself every time I caught a “distorted thought.” I was pretty much the queen of hard on myself at the time. I’m a lot better at it now, but I still struggle.

Just after my divorce, I became a patient at an anxiety clinic at a university that I love, but won’t name here, due to a bad experience I’m mentioning.  I would see a resident there (who was great) and then one of several supervising psychiatrists. One of the doctors didn’t seem happy that I was seeing my own therapist (who had specialized in anxiety for her dissertation), and seemed a bit upset when I mentioned my religion, and that my therapist was also that same religion, and that someone close to me had been addicted to pornography. He didn’t seem to think that certain addiction was possible. It had been the source of a great deal of trauma to me and my kids, mostly because of how this family member had acted because of it: increased temper and less of an ability to be aware of the feelings of those around him.

Anyway, they insisted that I do “DBT” (which is good) but in a way that was just like the lists I’d done from the book years before. They had the resident sit next to me and go through it slowly, and make me think of things to write down. They were already feelings I was aware of and had been working on a long time. I don’t know how to explain why, but it was extremely traumatizing. They weren’t things I needed to work on, and it felt like they were twisting a screw in my back psychologically. I ended up leaving in tears one day. The one doctor that I’d had a bad vibe from, I found out later (when I wasn’t supposed to, but certain people had a feeling it would be helpful to me emotionally/mentally) was dropped from my case. Years later, when I heard that “DBT” was found to be helpful to those with PTSD, I felt discouraged, as if it was yet another things to check off my list of things that I’d “already done.”
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Then last year I was blessed to be assigned to a therapist who had specialized in trauma, and to be able to attend a trauma support group. The therapist explained to me that there is now more to DBT than “just” those lists. In the group we learned quite a few techniques that were different from the lists, and quite a bit more helpful to me at this point. Also, up until about two years ago, when my anxiety would be at its worst and I was struggling (like I still do) to talk and function and think clearly, I could name, perhaps, the trigger that got me there, and the overall larger problems I was dealing with, but I couldn’t tell you what was bothering me. Sometimes I could sit and write down what was going on, but more frequently I felt extremely confused and like I just needed some sleep so I could function again.

As the time is getting closer that (hopefully) my disability hearing will come, and has winter has set in, I’ve been having a lot more problems with deep depression than I usually do. I ran into my friend who is a therapist (but not my therapist) and he asked me if I was doing my positive thinking exercises, and I realized that that weekend I hadn’t been. I took it as an important reminder. At first, I realized, the thought came into my head that “but I don’t know what’s bothering me….” but unlike in the more distant past, when I got home and sat down to write, I kept going and going. It just came out. I’m taking this as a good sign that, just maybe, some of this depression is the old emotions, stuffed in down deep, finally coming out and being dealt with. It’s not that I haven’t had to deal with things before, but these are things that came in too much at a time, that I wasn’t ready to deal with, due to trauma, and perhaps this is another step in filing those thoughts and emotions in their proper places in my mind, and healing more.

A few weeks ago, someone also randomly posted on Facebook a link to a BYU devotional by Elaine Marshall, of the school of nursing, several years ago. I really needed this quote and saw it as a blessing that I noticed the link and happened to click on it:

I have learned that healing is a process of restoring and becoming whole. This morning I would like to share six lessons I have learned about the healer’s art.

First, healing hurts. When I was a young nurse in the hospital, hardly a day went by that a patient did not ask, “Will it hurt?” If I had been truthful, the whispered answer would nearly always have been, “Yes, it will hurt.” I have learned that healing hurts. Life hurts. Healing really only begins when we face the hurt in its full force and then grow through it with all the strength of our soul. For every reward of learning and growing, some degree of pain is always the price. Author M. Scott Peck reminds us that if you do not want love or pain, you “must do without many things” (M. Scott Peck, The Road Less Traveled [New York: Simon and Schuster, 1978]: 133). I think you would do without dating, graduating, getting married, or having children.

Sometime in your life you will know a crashing crisis or heavy heartache that will threaten all sense of logic or hope or certainty—from which, no matter how you emerge, nothing will ever be the same. Hurts come as unique losses, unwelcome surprises, fading hope, or grief.

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“Hope Ya Know, We Had a Hard Time”

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The challenges we face today are in their own way comparable to challenges of the past. … Employment and financial problems are not unusual. Many people have physical and mental health challenges. Others deal with marital problems or wayward children. Some have lost loved ones. Addictions and inappropriate or harmful propensities cause heartache. Whatever the source of the trials, they cause significant pain and suffering for individuals and those who love them.

We know from the scriptures that some trials are for our good and are suited for our own personal development. We also know that the rain falls on the just and the unjust. It is also true that every cloud we see doesn’t result in rain. Regardless of the challenges, trials, and hardships we endure, the reassuring doctrine of the Atonement wrought by Jesus Christ includes Alma’s teaching that the Savior would take upon Him our infirmities and “succor his people according to their infirmities.” …Elder Quentin L. Cook, of the Quorum of the Twelve Apostles

When our beloved prophet, President Thomas S. Monson, was asked on his birthday this past August what would be the ideal gift that members worldwide could give him, he said without a moment’s hesitation, “Find someone who is having a hard time, … and do something for them.”

I, with you, am eternally grateful to Jesus Christ, the rescuer of mankind. I bear witness that He is the Savior and Redeemer of the world. In the name of Jesus Christ, amen.

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LDS links on Mental Illness: President Packer

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Jesus shows compassion and heals the man who has been waiting in vain at the pool of Bethesda.

Jesus shows compassion and heals the man who has been waiting in vain at the pool of Bethesda.

President Packer, of The Quorum of the Twelve Apostles (then Elder Packer) gave this classic talk in 1991 entitled “The Moving of the Water.” I quote only a portion, but you can read the rest here or I will place the video at the bottom of the post. (Video currently only available via this link)

 

There has always been in all of humanity a sprinkling of those who are described in the scriptures as the blind, the halt, the lame, the deaf, the withered, the dumb, the impotent folk. We refer to them as having learning or communication disorders, as the hearing or visually impaired, as those with motor or orthopedic limitations. We speak of intellectual or emotional impairment, of retardation, and mental illness. Some suffer from a combination of these, and all of them cannot function without some help.

I speak to the families of those who, at birth or as the result of accident or disease, must live with an impaired body or mind. I desire to bring comfort to those to whom the words handicapped or disability have very personal meaning.

I must first, and with emphasis, clarify this point: It is natural for parents with handicapped children to ask themselves, “What did we do wrong?” The idea that all suffering is somehow the direct result of sin has been taught since ancient times. It is false doctrine. That notion was even accepted by some of the early disciples until the Lord corrected them.

“As Jesus passed by, he saw a man which was blind from his birth.

“And his disciples asked him, saying, Master, who did sin, this man, or his parents, that he was born blind?

“Jesus answered, Neither hath this man sinned, nor his parents: but that the works of God should be made manifest in him.” (John 9:1–3.)

There is little room for feelings of guilt in connection with handicaps. Some handicaps may result from carelessness or abuse, and some through addiction of parents. But most of them do not. Afflictions come to the innocent.

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The very purpose for which the world was created, and man introduced to live upon it, requires that the laws of nature operate in cold disregard for human feelings. We must work out our salvation without expecting the laws of nature to be exempted for us. Natural law is, on rare occasions, suspended in a miracle. But mostly our handicapped, like the lame man at the pool of Bethesda, wait endlessly for the moving of the water.

 

The Moving of the Waters

Sacrament Water Spills, and other shaky things

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“I pledge my commitment to the Blog for Mental Health 2014 Project. I will blog about mental health topics not only for myself, but for others. By displaying this badge, I show my pride, dedication, and acceptance for mental health. I use this to promote mental health education in the struggle to erase stigma.”  

 

Before I begin, there is no sin (that I’m aware of) in accidentally spilling the water from your sacrament cup in the LDS Church (more commonly known as the Mormon Church). (Yes, I’m Mormon.) But when I was already feeling anxious, and clutching my multi-colored “Koosh” ball as a “mindfulness” technique most of the rest of the time, finding out that my tremors had gotten bad enough that I couldn’t hold the tiny clear plastic cup of sacramental water without causing a mini earthquake and spilling 10-15 water droplets all over my dress and hands mortified me. Me, the one who is not usually concerned with what other people think in so many areas of my life after over 20 years of dealing with Post Traumatic Stress Syndrome, severe anxiety, severe fatigue, and depression in some form or another. The spilled water ran down my fingers and chin as I managed to place at least half the water from the small cup into my mouth and down my throat, at which point I placed the empty cup back in the tray, felt the small feeling of peace that comes back to be every now and then these past weeks where my anxiety level has risen a great deal, (ups and downs) and keeps me from falling headlong tumbling with my hands covering my eyes and other sensitive parts into a big, dark, deep black pit lined with who knows what.

It’s the friends I’ve know who have also dealt with mental health issues, both more and less severe than mine, who help keep me feeling sane and reminded that I’m not “odd,” just sick. In other ways, I may enjoy the “odd” appellation. I haven’t quite embraced it in this sense.

It’s the circles I’ve been in in various places I’ve lived who are accepting and even rather open that some of them deal with depression or anxiety or bipolar disorder, or have a family member with schizophrenia: or other “less accepted” or “less well known” trials in general. As if we’re empowered to be able to say, “I can’t do certain things anymore. I need help. How can I get through this again?”

But I remember this oft quoted phrase in mental health circles: “Your current survival rate of getting through hard times is 100%.”

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