Wednesday, April 16, 2014

#BecauseofHim


In this week before Easter, many LDS bloggers are sharing their testimonies of Jesus Christ and His sacrifice. I am including myself among these voices.

One of my favorite parts of the video I share with this post is the quote "despair becomes hope." As someone who has been battling depression and anxiety for most of my life, I can attest to this. Of course, those who know my story probably wonder how it is possible for me to continue having faith through my battle with mental illness. Let me tell you: it hasn't been easy.

In fact, there have been times when I've very nearly given up. There were times when my pain was so unbearable that I did not think I could go on, where there was even a part of me that wished to die so I could be free of the pain of my depression and anxiety. I felt alone, so very alone. I even came to a point where I was convinced that no one would care if something bad happened to me. I felt like no one understood.

When no one else knows the pain we suffer, Christ does. He knows each and every one of our pains intimately because he experienced them in the Garden of Gethsemane. Not just the pain of sin, but the pain of illness both physical and mental. He knows my pain, and has always been there to help me through it...all I have to do is ask.

My testimony of the Atonement has grown stronger during my battle. I have not been cured of my depression, but the burden has been made lighter. Christ does not always promise instantaneous healing, but he promises that his "yoke is easy, and [his] burden is light." The yoke mentioned in this scripture is symbolic. Think about it: a yoke is what holds two oxen together while pulling a heavy load. Two oxen, not one.



Christ shoulders the burden with us, so we don't have to do it alone. "We'll get through this together," He says.

As I've mentioned before, I was diagnosed with depression and anxiety in the fall of 2007, and it was by far one of the hardest times in my life. I was going to therapy, and I felt like my life was falling apart all around me. Sometimes, I cried for seemingly no reason. My prayers for healing were fervent, and because I didn't have instant relief, I thought they were going unanswered.

But tender mercies were sent my way to help me bear the burden. Just before the semester started, a cousin moved to Provo so her husband could attend graduate school. In exchange for letting me do my laundry at her house, I watched her two young, adorable children (later three). Those kids gave me a reason to keep going, with their smiles, giggles, tender hugs, and sweet kisses. My cousin offered a sympathetic ear, and she was always so upbeat.

There were other tender mercies, in the form of an apartment of girls in my ward who were happy to listen to me gripe about life, and included me in their activities, and a friend from my home stake who lived across the street. I also had a wonderful roommate who talked sense into me, even if I scowled.

While I didn't get the miraculous healing that I so wanted, and still want, the Lord was with me and helped me through these people and others. I would rather forget the pain I went through, but I never want to forget the blessings I gained through the trials I faced.

Because of Him, my despair has become hope. For the first time in many years, I have hope that I will be healed. My healing has been gradual, but it is happening. I may not be completely healed in this life, but I know it will happen.

But Laura, isn't it the therapy and medication that has brought about this healing? Yes, but I firmly believe that I was guided to my therapist and to do the therapy she specializes in. My decision to go on medication came after praying extensively about it and receiving confirmation that it would help me.

I share my testimony not in an attempt to convert everyone or to force my beliefs down everyone's throat, but merely to share my own experience to help bring hope to anyone who may need/want it.

I hope everyone has a joyful, inspiring Easter :)

Friday, April 4, 2014

Five passions I have (#8 for 30 things my kids should know about me)

Remember that series I started last year called "30 things my kids should know about me"? Yeah, that got put on the back burner. I think I'll start again.

So, five passions I have in no particular order...

(1) Mental health awareness. Depression, anxiety, etc. are all very real and detrimental. They are illnesses just like cancer, diabetes, autoimmune disorders and should be regarded as such. Acting like they are character failings or telling someone to "snap out of it" only serves to perpetuate the stigma, thus preventing people with mental health issues from seeking the help they need.

(2) ICP awareness. Intrahepatic Cholestasis of Pregnancy is a rare liver disorder that can cause stillbirth, among other things. Too many medical professionals don't know about it, and many women have to fight to even get tested for it. I didn't have to fight for a diagnosis, luckily. ICP also runs strongly in my family, and it is my hope that by the time my daughter reaches childbearing age, doctors will know more about it and have better treatments for it.

(3) Vaccination. I am very pro-vaccine and hate the anti-vaccine movement with a fiery hot passion. Before you ask, I have researched vaccines, the diseases they are meant to prevent, etc. I was formerly on the fence about vaccines, in case you were wondering. My grandma caught measles twice as a child and cared for my mother when she had measles, and you better believe she was overjoyed the day they announced the measles vaccine. If she were still alive, she would have some very choice things to say to Jenny McCarthy, Dr. Jay Gordon, and their cronies.

(4) Infertility Awareness. My mom struggled with infertility and I know many, many people who have struggled or are struggling with it now and my heart aches for all of them.

(5) Adoption. Three of my mom's siblings were adopted and I have four cousins on my dad's side who were adopted. I also know many others who have adopted children or who were adopted themselves, and I think it is a blessing to those families who are unable to have biological children of their own.

Tuesday, April 1, 2014

Being organized and FLYing (with pictures of my home)

About a month before I graduated from high school, the ward (congregation, for those of you who don't speak Mormon) newsletter specialist called asking about my post-high school plans, so she could put it in the ward newsletter. I gave her the information, and then she said, "Since it's Mother's Day this Sunday, I'm asking people to share the best thing they have learned from their mothers. What's the best thing your mother taught you?"

I thought about it for a minute, and then said:

"The trash can is your friend."

The newsletter specialist laughed hysterically. When the newsletter was distributed the following Sunday, members of our ward got a good laugh out of my quote, and my mom may have been slightly embarrassed.

For those of you who know my mom, you know that she is a very talented woman. She plays piano and organ to a very high degree. She can sew just about anything and taught herself to make jewelry. She sings with the Houston Symphony Chorus...etc. My dad has described her as "omni-competent."

I do not have these talents--I play the violin though not to a professional degree by any means (I'm actually out of practice). I'm getting better at sewing, but I'll probably never be as good a seamstress as she is. I have no patience for jewelry making. I also avoid singing in choirs like the plague, unless it's at a funeral and I am in danger of being haunted by the deceased person the funeral is for if I don't sing in the choir. My brothers and I all have this aversion, which is ironic because both of our parents have served as ward choir directors in the past. Or maybe not so ironic ;)

Seriously, if I hadn't been the only white baby born that day in the little Japanese hospital, I would seriously wonder if I'm really my mom's kid. But I've got her cheekbones and curly hair, so no DNA tests needed.

She made her mother-of-the-bride suit for my wedding. She didn't make my dress (what a scandal that was), but she did do the alterations.

You know what else she's good at?

In case you didn't guess by the opening story: cleaning and de-junking. In fact, she has a reputation for it. If you joke about paying her to come de-junk your house, she'll counter by saying that she'll pay YOU for the opportunity! Go to my parents' house, and you won't find junk. Well, you'll find the "organized junk drawer" but that's just a catch-all for things like pens, Post-It notes, rubber bands, etc. Other than that, there are no rooms dedicated to storing junk.Well, maybe the "garbage room" which is a small room, just outside the kitchen door, that is only big enough to store the big garbage can that goes out on the curb once a week. You get the picture.

Okay, since I didn't inherit her other talents, I inherited this one, right?

Wrong.

What happens when you put depression and anxiety together? Perfectionism. Allow me to explain: when I'm depressed, I have reduced energy levels. However, I see that there's a lot of clutter in the house, and that triggers my anxiety. My anxiety tells me that I have to clean everything up RIGHT NOW while my depression tells me, "Don't do this until you have the energy to DO EVERYTHING PERFECTLY!" These are paralyzing thoughts, and then when can't summon the energy to clean everything perfectly, I feel guilty.

Of course, there are those times when I get fed up with the mess and start cleaning RIGHT NOW and start to do everything...then burn out and don't clean for a while because...wait for it...I don't have the energy. Then the house gets messy all over again, thus repeating the depression, anxiety, and perfectionism cycle.

Yeah, living in my head is exhausting sometimes.

Another problem: I tend to attach emotions to things. Yes, I know, that sounds weird. I was afraid of hurting inanimate objects' feelings by throwing them away or donating them. I would like to thank therapy for helping me realize this.

I blame children's TV shows and movies.

Inanimate objects don't come to life when humans aren't around!

Image Credit

Just kidding....mostly.

Enter The FlyLady.



I've talked about her before when I first embarked on doing her "Baby Steps." I stopped after a few days because one of the Baby Steps was "read the FlyLady e-mails." I thought it meant "read FlyLady e-mails and do everything in them" rather than simply getting into the habit of reading the e-mails. Perfectionism struck again, which is ironic, because she is all about getting out of the perfectionism trap.

Last November, I was at my local library and found her book Sink Reflections. I read it, and was inspired, though I did fall into a bit of the perfectionism trap again. But at the beginning of this month, I decided to do the Baby Steps ONE DAY AT A TIME! Fancy that!

I'm nearing the end of the Baby Steps, and I have experienced a 180 in my life. Is my house perfectly clean all the time? No (I have a toddler for goodness sake), but it's getting easier to clean because I have been taking only about 15 minutes a day to de-junk. I'm not always good at this, but hey, I'm making progress. As the FlyLady says, "You can't organize clutter." With the exception of a couple of late nights, my kitchen sink is almost always cleared out and shined before I go to bed. Do you have any idea how good it feels to go to the kitchen first thing in the morning and not have a pile of dirty dishes greeting you?

What's more, I have seen a change in my family. Stephan has always been helpful, but he helps even more now. In fact, just this last Sunday, he finished doing the dishes from dinner, and he made a point of telling me that he cleared the sink out and shined it for me. Kate is more eager to help now--one day at breakfast, she spilled a little milk from her cereal bowl, but rather than playing with the milk splatter, she asked me for a rag and wiped it up herself. I guess she sees that Mommy is happier doing housework, so she wants to help Mommy be happy. I also don't spend as much time cleaning--less time cleaning means more time to play with Katie.

FlyLady isn't just about getting your house clean and organized--it's about developing good habits too, like drinking your water, eating right, getting enough sleep, and just taking care of yourself physically, emotionally, and spiritually. Most of all, overcoming perfectionism. I still struggle with perfectionism, but I am not so hard on myself anymore.

So, check out FlyLady and her Baby Steps. Don't worry about making sure you do each perfectly because "even housework done imperfectly blesses your family."

A few pictures of the condo :)

Enter!

Hallway/Kate's bathroom
Master bedroom, with diaper clad toddler and fully clothed husband
Master bathroom. Please note the sticky note on the mirror. It's some of FlyLady's reminders.
Kate's room.
Laundry room. Still a work in progress, but hey, no piles of clothes on the floor!
My shiny kitchen sink :)

Here are some links to some cleaning/organizing books I've liked:

Sink Reflections  by Marla Cilley

Organizing From the Inside Out by Julie Morgenstern

Is There Life After Housework? by Don Aslett


Tuesday, March 25, 2014

A decision

My posts are somewhat sporadic, and I wish to change that. However, the thought of posting every single day is too overwhelming for me and at the moment, I've run into a bit of writer's block.

Solution? My goal is to post at least once a week. Specifically, on Tuesdays. Why Tuesday, I do not know. When I thought about which day to post, Tuesday just felt right.

I am also going to ask you, my dear readers (however few you might be) for help. What types of posts that I do are your favorite? What would you like to see me write about? What do you want more of from my posts? Any questions about topics I've written about in the past that you want me to answer?

The catch: I would rather not talk about really controversial things. It's not that I don't have my own opinions on certain subjects, it's more that I don't feel like I have the mental wherewithal to tackle them and to handle the varying levels of reaction from others at this point in time.

And.....go.

Monday, March 17, 2014

I'm okay!

If you read the post I published late last night, you may have been a little concerned about me. I just wanted to do an update this morning to tell my readers that I'm doing better. After I published the post, I got ready for bed, said a prayer, turned on some calming music, and snuggled with the husband.

Kate got up in the middle of the night, which would normally be bothersome, but this time I welcomed it. For some reason, snuggling my sweet girl helps the anxious feelings melt away. Oxytocin is a beautiful thing, isn't it? 

However, I am facing the consequences of staying up too late--I'm a bit tired now. We also overslept a bit, making it necessary for Stephan to rush out the door for work. I've been making the best of it. Kate has had some tummy trouble this morning, so she's getting lots of mommy loves right now :)

Sunday, March 16, 2014

Bah.

For some reason, I was really tired today. I didn't sleep too badly last night and Kate even slept in until 8:45! Yet, I was still tired. Just after four o'clock, I decided to lie down...and then I dozed off. Big mistake.

Now it's eleven and I am wide awake. Restless. I should not have taken that nap, ugh. Now I won't fall asleep until the middle of the night, and knowing my luck, Kate will wake up really early and I'll be exhausted tomorrow.

How am I feeling?

I'm mad at myself for taking a nap so late.

I'm annoyed that I was so tired for most of the day, and now that it's so late, I'm wide awake.

I have no idea what I'm going to do now.

I feel like I should have exerted more energy today, but how am I supposed to do that while keeping the Sabbath day holy?

I get frustrated with Sundays. I'm still figuring out this "day of rest" business, but if I don't do something that requires more energy than reading scriptures and inspiring talks, well, I get restless. When I get restless, I get anxious. When I get anxious, especially at night, heaven help us.

Can't sew. My fabric is still buried under a lot of stuff and I don't feel like getting it out. I've really got to organize my sewing stuff. One thing at a time.

Don't feel like crocheting. My yarn is tangled. Un-tangling yarn is frustrating business. I still haven't finished that blanket I started crocheting when I was pregnant with Kate. It will probably never get finished.

Dishes are done. I've actually been pretty good at "keeping my sink shiny" (thank you FlyLady)

House is relatively clean, and I don't want to risk waking the sleeping child.

Too restless to just sit down and read. I need to move around! But it's too late to go for a walk, and I'm afraid exercising would only rile me up more.


If anyone is reading this (I have disabled comments), please please don't be worried. Sometimes, this just happens, and I have to work through it on my own. I pride myself on being honest in my writing, and since I usually write about mental health episodes in the past tense, I figure that writing about them when I am presently struggling would help stop the stigma around mental health issues. This is my reality when I am having an anxiety episode.

I'll be okay. Writing this is actually helping, cathartic really.

I think I'll go get ready for bed. That's a step in the right direction, I suppose. And get a drink of water. And pray. Beyond that...we will see. Things will look better in the morning.

Saturday, March 15, 2014

Rings and marriage

Five years ago on Pi Day, Stephan proposed to me in the front seat of his family's beat-up old Buick (yeah, I know, not YouTube worthy) with this wooden ring he made for the occasion.

I'm engaged! Squee!
You see, he wanted the proposal to be a surprise, but he also wanted me to be able to pick out a ring. The wooden ring was a stand-in until I got this ring

Stephan had to talk me into getting the more expensive, sparkly diamond. 
When I first got my ring, I was so proud of it. I may or may not have been one of those obnoxious engaged girls who showed off her ring to anyone who would let her. I bragged about how superlative the diamond was, and how the metal was so high-quality that it was scratch resistant. I couldn't get enough of my ring. On sunny days, I would hold hold my hand out in such a way that it would catch the sun and REALLY sparkle. Seriously, I stared at that ring for months.

A ring shot :)

Picture taken by Rachel Mary Photography

Yeah, about that scratch-resistant thing...

Almost two months after we got engaged, I noticed scratches on the bottom part of my ring. At the time, I was home visiting my family and having my mother drag my hand around showing everyone my ring. I showed the scratches to her, and she said, "That's normal. Over time, the metal will develop a new finish."

And over time, she has been right. My ring has developed a new finish that I actually prefer to the initial "shiny".

This has caused me to wax philosophical. Bear with me :)

We look so young...and well-rested. Also, I like how my hair looks in this picture.

Picture taken by Rachel Mary Photography

It took me a few dates to warm up to Stephan (that's another story), but once I did, I looked forward to our dates with eager anticipation, especially since we were only able to see each other on weekends for the first months of our relationship. When we got engaged, we wanted the whole world to know we were in love. We were in the shiny, sparkly days of our relationship. We also planned our future with much enthusiasm--I would work so I could get him through school (I was graduating, after all), he would get his degree, and life would continue on without a hitch! There would be no scratches to our shiny love.

As it always does, life happened, and we got scratched, figuratively speaking.

Unemployment. Learning to relate. Car accident. Depression. Anxiety. Money troubles. Illness. Disagreements. Heavy course loads. Church callings. A complicated pregnancy. Adjusting to life as parents. Moving. Growing pains. Housework. I could go on.

The only way my ring would never get scratched is if I either (a) never wore my ring or (b) never did anything that could even possibly scratch it. With regards to (a), why get a pretty engagement ring if I'm never going to wear it? That, and I'm pretty sure Stephan wouldn't be very happy if I never wore it. Heck, I'd be upset if Stephan didn't ever wear his wedding ring.  Then (b)...well, I'd miss out on A LOT if I didn't do anything, and frankly, where would the joy be?

So it goes with marriage. The guaranteed way to avoid marital problems? Don't get married. This works if you aren't dating anyone or if you know you are with the wrong person. But if you are with the right person, you would probably miss out on a lot of happiness and adventure.

Before I continue, I am only talking about the normal ups and downs of marriage, NOT abusive marriages. If you are in an abusive relationship, get help in whatever way you can.

My ring may not super shiny like it was when I first got it, but it has a nice glow to it that I am quite fond of.


I am more in love with Stephan now than when we got engaged those five years ago, and it's because of all the scratches we've taken on that I love him more. We've been together during the good times and bad times, and we've seen each other at our worse. Oh gosh, Stephan has seen me at the very worst with my depression and anxiety and yet the man is still crazy about me. He's a saint, I'm telling you.

Just like jewelry, any relationship can be better with a little polishing and cleaning. Even just a short "I love you" text message can do wonders for a relationship.

Even though the metal on the band has a different finish than it did when I first got it, my diamond still sparkles like no other.

My ring...five years later (well, almost)


If you are curious as to the whereabouts of the wooden ring, it now resides in my jewelry box. I am happy to show it to anyone who cares to see it :)

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