You’re Not Going to Feel Like This Forever

A couple weeks ago I took Milo to the aquarium with some family. I dare say it was the happiest day of his life (he is only two, after all). He was fascinated and thrilled by everything he saw, especially the penguins. I forgot how adorable those chubby little birds are.

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“I so excited! I so excited!” He squealed from one exhibit to the next. When you experience something through your child’s eyes, it becomes that much more magical.

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It was the perfect day.

Until it wasn’t.

All at once on the drive home, and for no apparent reason, all the happiness and gratitude I felt that day was swallowed up by this tsunami of sadness. It hit so unexpectedly and with such force that I literally felt sick to my stomach. My head started to spin and darkness consumed me. I was completely blindsided by these feelings of despair and discouragement that weren’t there just seconds before. It didn’t make any sense.

Oh no, I thought. I’m spiraling into a depression. I can’t do this again.

Once we got home, I still couldn’t shake the feelings. I felt anxious and paranoid and fearful all night. After I got Milo to bed, I paced around the house, dwelling on my thoughts, sending silent please heavenward for relief and the ability to calm down.

I fell asleep feeling like the world—my world—was ending…..and nothing had even happened!

The very second I gained consciousness the next morning, I remembered my wave-of-sadness-for-no-apparent-reason incident from the day before, and it felt like all of those emotions were hovering over me, just waiting to taunt me.

Again, I prayed for some relief and for the blanket of sadness to just lift. Later in the day while folding laundry, I had the thought, You’re not going to feel like this forever.

I believe that was Heavenly Father’s answer to my prayers. He was reminding me that the darkness and unexplainable sorrow (the beginnings of another bout of depression) WOULD pass and that everything would be okay. Even though that thought didn’t necessarily change how I felt in that moment, it did give me something I hadn’t had the night before. It gave me HOPE.

It has been almost fourteen days since the onset of that all-consuming darkness. My brain has felt foggy yet my heart has felt poignantly sad and discouraged. But I keep telling myself that I won’t feel like this forever, and clinging to that thought has truly been an act of faith.

There’s a poem by Nayyirah Waheed that I love:

i don’t pay attention to the
world ending.
it has ended for me
many times
and began again in the morning.

That is exactly how I’ve felt over the past two weeks—that my world is ending. Is this irrational? Of course. Depression is illogical. But is it real and terrifying in my mind? Absolutely. I love Waheed’s poem though. While “the morning” might not literally mean tomorrow morning, because of the Gospel and because of Jesus Christ, we can someday have that bright new beginning free of darkness that we so long for. The Savior is our metaphorical sunrise; He disperses the darkness in our lives with His infinite light.

Sister Sharon Eubank gave an amazing talk about Christ’s light last weekend. She quoted the Savior Himself, who said, “I am the light [that] shineth in darkness, and the darkness comprehendeth it not.” And then she added, “That means no matter how hard it tries, the darkness cannot put out that light. Ever. You can trust that His light will be there for you.”

A full standing portrait of Christ in white robes, seen from the side, gesturing to the left in front of a wash of orange and yellow colors.

When it comes to depression, I believe that every time someone who suffers is willing to share about it, someone else feels a little less lonely. My goal with this blog has always been to be completely candid about my struggles, but to simultaneously offer hope to anyone who might feel like I do. I was worried when I started writing this particular post that I wouldn’t have anything comforting to say. But even as I type this, I can truly feel Christ’s light enter my life, easing, ever so slightly, the burden I’ve carried this month. Those words I felt from on high—You’re not going to feel like this forever—ring true in this very moment. I can feel the darkness starting to lift.

May this be a message of hope for anyone who wonders if they are doomed to forever feel what they are feeling right now. I can say with all of the energy of my heart that I know I’m not going to feel like this forever…..and neither are you!

 

So Human & So Holy

688CA6FC-995E-472A-92FA-DA1B428664D2.jpegLast weekend, Milo was sitting across from me in the living room when he chucked his monster truck in my direction. I don’t think he intended to hit me, but when the heavy plastic on that little truck bounced off the back of my hand, I was frustrated. It hurt, ya know?

So I picked up his monster truck and threw it to the side of me and stated firmly, “We DO NOT throw monster trucks!”

The irony of that moment caught up to me and I couldn’t help but laugh at my obvious parenting fail. Here I was telling my toddler to not throw monster trucks while I was in the very act of doing so.

I felt very human in that moment.

My utter humanness comes out a lot actually. I struggle daily with intrusive thoughts. I’m horribly inconsistent. Just the other day I legitimately struggled to feel happy for a friend who received a blessing that for me is still pending—and I hated myself for the envy that was brewing inside of me.

I’m not very good at managing money. I get discouraged a lot. I’m too sensitive at times and often take things way too personally. I am always tired—literally always, no matter how much sleep I get.

Let’s see, what else?

There is currently an alarming number of Cheerios under my couch cushions. Milo ate a chocolate chip cookie for breakfast. I can’t remember the last time I shaved my legs. There’s a basket of miscellaneous dirty laundry sitting in my laundry room from 6+ months ago that I keep avoiding.

Little things like this, though insignificant, also make me feel very human.

But occasionally, all of my humanness is interrupted by these little moments of holiness. Moments that remind me that I do in fact have a spark of godliness within me. Moments that remind me that perfection, though distant, may not be an impossible feat after all.

One of these “caught-in-the-act-of-holiness” moments occurred last week in a way I didn’t expect.

Milo is prone to ear infections. Last week he ran a high fever off and on for a few days, and nights proved to be especially agonizing for him as his body struggled to fight off the impending infection.

I held him close all three nights, stroked his hair, checked his temperature like clockwork, refilled sippy cup after sippy cup, engaged in the battle of forcing Tylenol down, and told him countless times how sorry I was he felt so crappy.

By the time the fever came and went, I was exhausted (remember I said I am always tired no matter how little or how much sleep I get?). I don’t think I would have thought twice about this experience had Heavenly Father not whispered to my soul, “See! You are a good mom. Look how much you love your child.”

I guess so, I agreed in my head. Then I stopped to really think less about what I did to help Milo when he was suffering and more about how I felt.

I felt pure, sacrificial love. I would have done anything to assuage Milo’s pain. I felt deeply sad that he was the one suffering and not me. I felt frustrated I couldn’t do more to help. I felt a sense of urgency to address his every need.

Simply put, I felt almost…..holy.

I don’t think I’m like saintly for caring for my sick child. That’s what mothers do. But the same feelings I had toward Milo are the same God has for me—always and unconditionally.

Because we are the offspring of God, His spiritual DNA runs through us, and every once in a while when we tap into the reservoirs of goodness within, we act and think like He would.

We are human, yes, but we are also holy. While our personal moments of holiness don’t necessarily cancel out our moments of humanness, I do think they balance them out.

That same person who lost her cool when her two-year-old threw his monster truck is the same person who held her child close and loved him and hurt for him and prayed for him with an intensity I can’t even begin to describe.

We are so human, but that doesn’t mean we aren’t also holy.

 

A Soul’s Supernova

Last year, a friend I hadn’t seen in a while lost her child in a tragic, unexpected way. She demonstrated this amazing strength and inspiring faith as she posted about what happened.

Person after person wrote a message of love and sympathy, including me. And while I was typing and wondering what I could possibly say to be of any comfort whatsoever, it occurred to me in that very moment that someday too soon the notes of sympathy, the flowers, the tight hugs when words just weren’t enough—they would come to an end.

I can’t pretend for a moment to know what it’s like to lose a child, but I hate to think about how this friend of mine must have felt when the sympathy texts faded out and people no longer checked in with her to see how she was coping. It must have been soul-crushing for her as everyone else snapped back into their regular routines when her world would never be the same again.

I hope no one reading this right now has had to bury a child. It’s in the realm of unimaginable trials. But no matter what it is you have faced before, or currently face, or will face in the future, at one time or another we will encounter that one trial that divides our lives in two:  life before it happened and life after.

I know there are many out there who are, right now in this exact moment, treading the waters of unspeakable grief.

Perhaps for you the grief is so poignant you wonder if any other emotions even exist—and if you’ll ever feel any of them again.

Perhaps you feel frustrated as you watch the rest of the world just move on and keep living when it feels your universe has literally stopped.

Perhaps if feels impossible to exist and simply be when you figuratively see the life you once loved in broken pieces on the floor.  

Occasionally, a star will end its life in a massive explosion called a supernova. This occurs when there is so much pressure on the core of the star that it literally collapses, sending debris and creating an incomparable explosion. In some cases, a once brilliantly bright star becomes but a black hole.

Sometimes the trials we face feel like a “soul’s supernova”—when, in a moment it seems, life as we know it crumbles, when there is so much pressure and shock and grief pressing against your heart that you feel it might literally burst, sending the pieces of your soul into the vast abyss of time and space.

And so, like a star that becomes a black hole, you’re left with the tragic remains of a would-be fairytale.

About a year ago, I had my own soul’s supernova. I’m not ready to blast the details of it into cyberspace just yet, but I will say this:  I never thought I’d bounce back from it. My soul, for a time, became a black hole of hopelessness.

It went on for months, this trial I couldn’t really talk about, this sadness so deep it was nearly impossible to even try to explain to anyone else. There were days and moments when it felt the world was mocking me with the happiness everyone else seemed to claim. Everyone else was still moving forward with life when I felt so stuck.

One night, during the worst of it all, I felt the comforting truth that when my universe stops, so does Christ’s.

That’s true for you too.

When we feel engulfed in our own sorrow, the Savior spends time with us there, in that dark place. He’ll come to us when it seems no one else can. He mourns with us. He sends peace. He offers reassurance that some way, somehow, the pieces of our broken hearts can be put back together.

And since this post is kind of about stars, let me draw attention to one of the many titles given to Christ:

The Bright and Morning Star

The Savior is a star that will never stop emitting the light we so desperately need, a star that shines in darkness.

I look at my life now compared to what it was a year ago and everything has changed. That soul-crushing trial is over. It didn’t just magically disappear overnight and it still affects my spirit in some ways, but I’m able to see just how much the Bright and Morning Star has healed me since then.  

It’s as if, in His infinite goodness, Christ reversed this supernova of my soul. He restored happiness and purpose where there was darkness and pain. He undid my heart’s explosion with healing only He can offer.

Elder L. Whitney Clayton said, “All of us will, at some time or another, have to traverse our own spiritual wilderness and undertake our own emotional journeys. In those moments, however dark or seemingly hopeless they may be, if we search for it, there will always be a spiritual light that beckons to us, giving us the hope of rescue and relief. That light shines from the Savior of all mankind, who is the Light of the World.”

Jesus Christ really is the Light of the World. He is the Bright and Morning Star. He is the glorious Savior sent by a loving Father, and He shines unceasingly for us.

A Valentine’s Day Tribute to my Leggings (and my husband)

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I hate wearing jeans. They are leg prison. They are an unnecessary form of oppression. They are stupid.

So I mostly wear leggings. Years ago, my grandma got me the world’s most comfortable leggings ever from White House Black Market. There is not a softer legging in existence, I’m sure of it. I sported those black leggings so much that I wore holes into the knees, and inevitably those once-tiny holes stretched to frisbee-sized ones. Even though they are now unacceptable to wear in public, I still wear them around the house. I’m just not ready to retire those babies.

Months and months ago I voiced my utter sadness over the dwindling leggings. My husband heard and he obviously took note…

Because today for Valentine’s Day Brad surprised me with a package from…you guessed it…White House Black Market.  

A NEW PAIR OF THE WORLD’S MOST COMFORTABLE LEGGINGS!

It’s truly one of the most thoughtful gifts I have ever received. Every time I comfortably lounge in those perfectly crafted leggings, I will thank the heavens for a thoughtful husband who, gesture upon gesture, day after day, has demonstrated his love for me in the purest yet simplest of ways.  

This post isn’t really about leggings; it’s about love. I love you, Brad. I’m one lucky jeans-shunner.

And to my new black leggings:  I promise to love you until you are stretched so thin you barely conceal my booty. 

Tuning out the Negative Voices in my Head

c0bfab5e-4177-465a-8726-9fa8fcdf39c2The negative self-talk has been particularly loud this past week.

Phrases like these have bombarded my mind:

“You’re useless.”

“You’re a bad mom.”

“You’re falling short in every aspect of your life.”

“Why do you even try?”

I’ve given these words way too much power by even listening at all, so the voices—they continue to taunt and harass and demand my attention.

But I hereby vow to tune out all the negative feedback I inadvertently give myself. It isn’t healthy or helpful.

I have a plan and I intend to be proactive about implementing it.

First, I need to replace those negative phrases with uplifting ones.

“You’re doing the best you know how right now.”

“No one can love Milo quite like you can.”

“God is proud of every effort, no matter how small.”

“Keep trying! You got this!”  

Second, I need to remember that my worth in the sight of God is not contingent on what I accomplish—or don’t accomplish. His love is so pure and without condition. It is, I dare say, the most constant, steady, unfailing truth in existence.

I need to remember that when I try to talk myself into feeling like a failure.

Elder Bruce C. Hafen said, “We never have more value in the Lord’s sight than when we are feeling completely worthless.”

The Father and His Son are ready to pour out Their love for us the second we are ready to listen.

I’m ready now. I hope you are too.

Celebrating Two Years of Milo & Motherhood

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It is officially birthday month for my Milo, and I can’t believe he will be TWO.

To put into words how much I love this little human really is impossible. He is my purpose, my world, my peace, and my absolute joy. I have learned much (and failed much) these past two years as I’ve navigated my role as mother to this insanely cute wild child.

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I have learned that he who screams loudest is in charge.

I have learned that a spoonful of chocolate syrup helps the medicine go down.

I have learned that there is no such thing as peeing in private anymore.

I have learned that sometimes bribery is the only way.

I have learned that fresh air is good for his soul and good for my sanity.

I have learned all the words to the Paw Patrol theme song. No job’s too big, no pup’s too small!

I have learned that a leak-proof sippy cup is a rare find indeed.

I have learned that bananas are the worst possible car seat snack.

And that you can never have enough baby wipes on hand.

I have learned to embrace the crazy train that is us at church.

I have learned to hide my contact lens case from little pilfering hands.

I have learned that I am ⅛ as patient as Daniel Tiger’s mom.

I have learned that I’m not cut out to be the “strict” parent…and neither is my husband 🙂

I have learned that nothing heals the soul quite like a hug from your toddler.

I have learned that children are forgiving and gracious and close to heaven.

I have learned that I am 100% unqualified for this dream job of mine and also 100% divinely helped.

Most of all, I have learned that God gives us—imperfect mortals—an infinite capacity to love.

A few weeks ago Milo grabbed my face in his hands, looked me in the eyes, and said, “Mommy happy.”

It wasn’t a question; it was a statement. I am happy, and he’s the reason why.

Then he pointed back at himself and said, “Milo happy.”

Happiness will be my forever wish for the boy who made me a mom.

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Why it’s Okay if your Only New Year’s Resolution is to Just Survive

It’s that time of year again. Gym memberships are purchased. Quotes from the best self-help lit circulate. We vow to ourselves (and sometimes to the public) to make big changes.

“This will be my year,” we say.

I am a goal setter myself—and a HUGE dreamer. I always have been. I love making New Year’s resolutions. I love the metaphorical reset. I thrive on the idea of a fresh start.

But the past six weeks have robbed me of all ambition, motivation, and drive.  

I have been stuck in “survival” mode. It’s like I can barely keep my head above water, like I am doing only the bare minimum, and even that sucks all the life out of me. Tell me I’m not alone.

I think we all find ourselves in a place like that at some point. Usually, it’s emotionally or spiritually. Sometimes it’s physically. For me, during the month of December, it was all three.

I have been more physically sick than ever. Despite the festivities of Christmas time, I can count on one hand the number of times I actually got out of bed. I didn’t make gingerbread houses. I didn’t admire the lights at Temple Square. I didn’t play in the snow with my toddler.  I didn’t make it to holiday parties or deliver gifts to neighbors or attend church on the Sunday before Christmas. All I did was survive.

In fact, my daily to-do list for December consisted of these two items only:

1.) Keep my son alive

2.) Keep myself alive

The physical anguish has also taken a toll on me spiritually and emotionally. I have never felt more like a failure. Weird, right? To feel like a failure for being sick. I know it’s not my fault, but I feel too weak to build the mental dam that can block the self-deprecating thoughts from flooding in.

I am wracked with acute guilt for the mother I want to be, but can’t. I want to take Milo outside and together freeze our buns off while building a snowman. I want to chase him around the living room and barely avoid stubbing my toes on his inconveniently placed monster trucks. I want to engage in our daily fight of teeth-brushing—and of course win. But I’m honestly too fatigued.

Also, the realization that I’m not carrying my load in my marriage hurts. My husband is the most celestial degree of patient, and he has lovingly expressed that none of this is my fault, but I’m a bad listener. I feel burdensome and guilty that I cannot do the grocery shopping and certainly not the cooking. You should see the piles of laundry. And what my two-year-old wears in public with his dad. I haven’t been there for my husband like he has been there for me. I hate that.

I’m frustrated that I can’t contribute more to my church calling. I feel like I’m letting those who matter most to me down.

Social media certainly doesn’t help. We see the highlight reels of others’ lives, the edited, glorified version of everyday moments. Most tuck the bad and the ugly away from the public eye, leaving those of us in “survival mode” wondering why we don’t have it figured out. It’s an easy trap to fall into.

The root of my frustration is that I don’t want to just survive, I want to THRIVE. I wish I could set gargantuan goals that ignite within me a spark of motivation. I want to dream big. But right now, even just surviving feels like too much.  

And so here I am at the start of the new year, face to face with the disheartening truth that this trial of mine will carry over into 2019. It won’t just come to an end simply because 2018 did. No, the internal wrestling match is still in full swing.

For that reason, I am clinging to an experience I had a couple weeks ago, an experience that serves as a powerful reminder that it is okay if my only New Year’s resolution is to just survive.

I think it was a Thursday when it happened. I had, for like the 20th day in a row, been miserably sick all day. My son was with his grandma and my husband was at work. I was alone, thinking too hard about my physical and emotional plight and how much I hated it all. Then my eyes wandered to the Harry Anderson painting of Christ praying in the Garden of Gethsemane hanging in our living room.

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I see this painting every day, but that night the reality of what I was seeing really struck me. Christ really knows what it is like. Every bad, terrible, unfair thing that ever happens to us…He knows. He’s felt it. In the Garden of Gethsemane, He confronted the agony of our every physical pain, the anguish of heartbreak, and the constant ache of wishing you could do more and be more. His atoning sacrifice is infinite and all-encompassing. He knows how draining and even excruciating it sometimes is to just…survive.

With this astonishing reminder of what my Savior did for me came an accompanying reminder of His unconditional love. I felt it so powerfully, so undeniably.      

And then I had this epiphany, courtesy of a God who knew I might soon collapse under the weight of the burden I carried.

It was as if I could hear my Father in Heaven say to me, “Jessica, all of this—what you are doing now—is honorable. I have seen great faith from you.”

What? Really? This is faith? This is honorable?

Heavenly Father helped me to feel that my weeks and weeks of just getting by really were a great demonstration of my faith in Him. I felt not just His approval, but that He was proud of me for hanging on. He was proud of me for putting one foot in front of the other, for moving forward even when it felt impossible. He was proud of me for believing that better days were ahead even when all I could see then was darkness. He was proud of me for surviving.

I’ve decided it’s easy to trust God when things are going right. It’s easy to set big goals and accomplish great things when all is well, or mostly well, around us. Is there really any honor in that?

 I have come to truly know that there is no shame in merely surviving—whether that’s physically, mentally, emotionally, spiritually, or all of the above. It is a noble work to keep trying when we feel taking one more step into the unknown might kill us. I believe it’s when we are simply surviving that we grow the very most, and that growth is permanent. It is in survival mode that we produce unshakable faith and learn just how strong we really are. Surviving means we come to know Christ in a whole new way, at a higher and holier level. Surviving is honorable and admirable and worth celebrating in the eyes of God.  

Let me say that again:  SURVIVING IS HONORABLE AND ADMIRABLE AND WORTH CELEBRATING IN THE EYES OF GOD.

To those feeling like failures amid your goal-setting peers, I am speaking to you.

To those dreading 2019 because your resolutions fall short of your own high expectations for yourself, I am speaking to you.

To those brave enough to continue facing the same trial you have faced for weeks, months, or even years, I am speaking to you.

To those enduring to the end of a trial, I am speaking to you.

To those doing the very best you know how, I am speaking to you.

SURVIVING IS HONORABLE AND ADMIRABLE AND WORTH CELEBRATING IN THE EYES OF GOD.

To my fellow “survivors” out there, I echo these words from Elder Holland:

“Don’t give up…Don’t you quit. You keep walking. You keep trying. There is help and happiness ahead…You keep your chin up. It will be all right in the end. Trust God and believe in good things to come.”

2019 will probably feel like the world’s longest spiritual marathon. I don’t plan to cross the finish line first. I don’t plan on claiming a new personal record. My only goal is to finish the race. And that, according to God, is enough.