Tuesday, November 10, 2015

I Didn't Fail

I would be lying if I said that coming home early from my mission didn't cause me to feel like an absolute failure. I would be lying even more if I said that I wanted to go back out. Unfortunately, coming home early and not wanting to go back are seriously frowned upon. I felt like I let so many people down and believe me, I never would want to hurt or let anybody down.

I don't use my depression as a crutch. I hate the fact that I have to be on medication to help me function. For so long, I  have felt as though depression and anxiety have been looked down upon and unless you've experienced it in some way, it's very hard to understand. Elder Jeffery R. Holland has helped those with and without depression close the wide gap a bit. His talk "Like a Broken Vessel" was both healing and helpful to all.

To get back on track, I began to feel my anxiety and depression more and more on my mission beginning the fourth month in. I ignored it, played it off, and tried to cope in different ways. I finally got to a point where I felt like I should get back on medication. I had an interview with my mission president and decided to delay the medication because missionary work is hard and even Ammon and his brethren felt depressed and sorrowed at times.

But after another transfer and in a new area, my feelings got stronger and I got weaker. I felt like a mess. I felt absolutely crazy. Was this brain even mine anymore? I couldn't tell. My perfectionist side took over and I was on autopilot for a long time. I wouldn't/couldn't take breaks. I didn't want to stop because I couldn't let down the Lord, my mission president, or myself. I was NOT a failure. But eventually, even after counseling and beginning medication, I made the decision that going home was best.

I don't know if anyone will understand the process it took to come to that decision. It was painful. It was discouraging. I had come to love all of the people I was working with and spending time with. I loved the ward and the people I had come to known. And I felt like the most selfish person in the world deciding to come home. I had failed these people. I had failed Heavenly Father and Jesus Christ. I had failed my mission president and his wife. I had failed myself.

But that was when I had felt the most peace. Instead of pretending to be happy and walking through each day as someone I didn't feel I was, I could go home and cope with this emotional and mental disability in a way that would help me function better.

That didn't take away the guilt, the anger, the regret, and the hurt. For months, even more than a year, I was angry at myself. I was hurt that I had cut close relationships short. I was jealous of the missionaries who finished their missions and served in the areas I had been in with so much success and friendship. I love those people! I wanted to be there for them, to be able to help them and serve them in anyway, and I had failed.

For months I watched as people I had served with came home and loved their missions so much. They wanted to go back. And I couldn't even fathom going back. I missed the people. I missed being able to serve them and love them. But I didn't miss the anxiety, the overwhelming work, the exhaustion.

For a long time, I struggled even wanting to be part of anything to do with my mission.

But then, I found some healing. And I don't fell guilty or angry. I still feel sad. I still feel like I missed out on loving people and helping them. But I found forgiveness for myself. I found healing with the Savior. And that came through sitting in the temple, imagining I was in my mission giving my testimony at a departing devotional.

In my mind, I invited all those that I thought I had failed, all of those that I had come to love, and those that I needed to ask forgiveness from. The Savior was there. My Father in Heaven was there. My husband of a few months was there. My mission president and his sweet wife was there. And I told them how sorry I was. How much I wished that I could've been more true to who I knew I was while I was there. But that I knew this was God's plan. Because on the flip of everything, I saw tender mercies that confirmed that I was to be at home. That I was needed back home for certain things.

I bore my testimony. I told them I loved them. And I asked for forgiveness.

And I haven't felt a sliver of guilt or a bit of failure since that moment.

I still love every single soul that I met while on my mission. And while at times I am embarrassed of how everything happened and the state of my mind while I was there, I know I did what I could.

And if any of you reading this struggle with anything close to what I have described, you must know you aren't alone. There is healing and forgiveness, even if the forgiveness is for yourself.

Heavenly Father and Jesus Christ love you.

And with them, You can NEVER be a failure.

Thursday, November 13, 2014

Depression is a Blessing

I've been really wanting to write about this for awhile. And by 'this' I mean living in my head while struggling with depression and anxiety. Words really don't do it justice, but I am going to try and explain what goes on in my head, so maybe, just maybe, someone can understand.
There are days when I feel absolutely unattached from by own brain. I feel disconnected. I don't know how else to describe it. I feel crazy. I  don't know how to handle things, I feel emotionally uninterested. It's like I know it's my mind, my brain, but the feelings and thoughts inside don't seem like mine. I don't feel like me. It's very disconcerting. Daily tasks are burdensome, lying on the couch seems much more interesting than even watching t.v. Sleep becomes priority, eating falls off of the list. Forcing isn't a strong enough word to describe what I have to do when I need to get something done, like going to work or having responsibilities. You know those old 'depression hurts' commercials. It does hurt, physically and emotionally, mentally and spiritually. On my mission, there would be days that I would wake up and my body would ache. My head would pound. Headaches were a daily occurrence.  I couldn't get a grip emotionally. You know when you get that 'Oh NO' feeling in the pit of your stomach. Times that by ten. I would wake up with this heavy feeling in my chest and the melancholy ache in the pit of my stomach. I would try to shake it, ignore it and get out of bed to keep going. But it lingers. Mentally you berate and belittle yourself because you feel like it's 'all in your head' and it's not real. Your self esteem drops dramatically. You feel paranoid that everyone is judging you for what is going on. I remember trying to explain to my companion what I was feeling and when I was hearing myself talk, I felt even more crazy. I felt like a failure. And then, talking to people, being social, and having a life all disappears. You just don't want to deal with anybody. Being lonely is the way we try to suffer through. Depression is real. I know many people who read this won't quite understand or even get a glimpse at what I am trying to portray. Just know that sometimes we don't even understand what is going on in our own heads. It's frustrating, embarrassing, and annoying.
Anxiety is hard too. I remember the night before my first day at work. I was sobbing because I was so terrified I was going to do awful and that I couldn't do it. Once again, it's like all control is gone leaving you to your own devices in your messed up brain. I wish I didn't have these problems. I get nervous, hyperventilate, cry, and even get physically sick. People say calm down, but hey, it's hard. When you don't always have full control of thoughts and feelings, it is hard to calm down. Thinking logically flies out the window. The simplest of things seem like the hardest. Happiness seems unobtainable. But, there is hope. I promise.
As I struggled more than I ever had before, I received several blessings that would aid me in understanding my own struggle with this terrible mind disease. Multiple times I was told that I 'was blessed with the gift of depression.' When I first heard that, I wanted to scream. What kind of blessing is depression?? Not a blessing at all. But as I continued my fight, talked to trusted leaders, and really leaned on the Savior, I realized it was blessing me to see how strong I really was, what tools Heavenly Father had given me, and what I was capable of becoming. I was able to really use the Atonement of my Savior. Healing, enabling, and understanding come with using the gift of the Atonement. Depression and anxiety gives us the opportunity to become more one on one with the Savior. It helps us realize our strength, potential, and ability to overcome trials, troubles, and hardships. It gives us a reason to get on our knees and pray, to rely on our Father who loves us more than anything. Depression sucks, but God and Christ are greater than depression.
I still have days when I feel absolutely crazy, when I don't want to talk to anyone, and when I don't even want to live. But Christ makes up for all of that. If anyone who reads this has struggled or is struggling with some of these same things, I'm always here for you. We are to never fight our battles alone. "My son, peace be unto thy soul; thine adversity and thine afflictions shall be but a small moment; and then if thou endure it well, God shall exalt thee on high."

Wednesday, October 29, 2014

Angels Round About You

You'd think it'd be easier getting answers and choosing what you should be doing in life, especially being a returned missionary and all. But, in fact, it is harder when surrounded by uncertainty, doubt, and worldly desires. Unfortunately, I am guilty of letting those things in the way when trying to do and listen to the will of Heavenly Father. But as I finally humbled myself and knelt down to talk to Him and then acted by studying and looking for His words, I came upon several different things that I have been missing altogether.

  1. Life and experiences, in my case dating and marriage, cannot be rushed. It is NOT our timing, but His and it always will be. (Even though we are told that again and again, it takes learning the lesson for it to sink it, doesn't it.) I'm not ready for marriage yet, as much as I would love to be, I don't want to miss out on life as a young adult, even as a young single adult. Dating is a great opportunity to meet so many new people, create friendships, and find out for yourself who you are searching for and who YOU are.
  2. In Ether 12:6 in the Book of Mormon, it says, "... ye receive no witness until after the trial of your faith." Quoted hundreds of times by many of us, I think we fail to read what is directly before that. "... wherefore, dispute not because ye see not..." Ooops, once again I have been disputing and complaining about what has been going on in my life. Being a whiner, downer, and pouter. But, if I had just let the Lord guide me, letting my trust be put in Him, I would have seen much sooner, and gone through less heartache that the end result is and must be more glorious than I can even imagine. 
  3. Life is about learning to dance in the rain while waiting for the sun to come out. Yes, life sucks. We all know we will experience huge roller coaster rides, bumps, pits, and altogether stops. But hey, enjoy the bump. Scream as you ride that roller coaster. Put your arms up and feel the wind on your face. We can't plan every little detail or event in our life, but we can definitely learn how to live in the moment. This builds character, faith, trust, happiness, and joy. How? Because it gives us a chance to become one with our Savior and our Heavenly Father. And therein lies the rainbow, the sun, and the pot of gold. The Atonement covers those pits, bumps, stops, and downs. The dark allows us to use the enabling power of the Atonement, take Christ's hand, and let HIM lead us through. He knows where He is going. Choose to take His hand and hold on. It'll be a much smoother ride. 
  4. Forget yourself for a second. Serve others. Get to the temple, it's a perfect time. There are people waiting for YOU to be an answer to THEIR prayers. Yes, it is ok to take a moment for yourself, we all need it. But in the end, we all know that serving others will take the load off of us and off of those we are serving. Cool, right? Break those chains that you have put on yourself, and go help someone else. I promise, you'll feel great.
  5. Speaking of prayers, have you been on your knees lately? I have failed monumentally at this. Prayer, the act of communicating with God. Not to God, but WITH God. Talk to Him, let Him know all that is in your heart. And then LISTEN. He hears. On my mission, I remember praying one morning, and as I was on my knees, I had this amazing feeling and thought that even though thousands of other people and missionaries were praying, Heavenly Father hears my prayer. My prayer. Me, Carlie Stewart, 19 years old, and struggling to serve Him. But He heard. I testify He hears, even when we don't feel worthy of it. Get on your knees.
  6. When you get on your feet from your heart felt prayer, go to work. Study the scriptures, attend the temple, serve others. This is where those actions take part in our life. Seek out the Spirit. Trust His will. We must be moving in a direction, and even if it is not exactly the right direction, God will help us change our course if we rely on Him and are doing what He has asked us too. He will not forget or forsake us. 
Keep pushing on, yes, I am talking to myself and you. You aren't alone, I can promise you that. "...for I will go before your face. I will be on your right hand and on your left, and my Spirit shall be in your hearts, and mine angels round about you, to bear you up."

Wednesday, August 7, 2013

The Miracle of Love

One of my favorite songs lately is Softly and Tenderly by Daniel Beck. It's a beautiful song that expresses the way that our Savior calls for us to come unto Him. While I thought about that, it occurred to me that I also need to softly and tenderly invite the people of California unto Christ. I am representing Christ; I have been trusted enough to go and feed His sheep. What an incredible blessing and privilege. What a beautiful way to spend 18 months. I've wondered how exactly I can go about inviting others in a tender and soft manner. But I guess I always knew the answer. I must follow Christ's example in all things. I must love them. I think love is the biggest key. It is, after all, the first great commandment. "If you love me, feed my sheep." My heart yearns to serve Him. I've felt His love and His peace in my life countless times. It is my turn to offer these same gifts of love, peace, comfort, happiness, and mercy to His sheep. I am humbled by this opportunity and the great trust and love my Savior must have for me to let me take such a great responsibility into my life. I've really started to grasp the concept and great importance of LOVE. "Greater love hath no man than this, that he lay down his life for his friends." I will teach of His love, I will share His love, and I will love those I serve and those I serve with. This work is hastening and I feel extremely blessed to be apart of this great work. I know that Christ lives. I know that He loves us. I know that He invites ALL to come unto Him. He has provided the way and I will let everyone know that they are loved and welcome into the arms of Christ. May you feel the love of our Savior in your lives. Never forget that His arms are always open. He is calling for you, softly and tenderly. He wants you home. Go now. He loves you. :)

Sunday, July 21, 2013

Just a short, little update!

Good gracious. Time has certainly been flying by and I definitely need to update everyone :) Soooo, I got my call on April 26, 2013. I have been called to the California San Bernardino Mission, reporting September 4 and speaking English. However, on July 1, my mission was changed to the California Redlands Mission! I am seriously so very excited to serve. I leave in 45 days! I opened my call like 130 days before I was to report and now I have about six and a half weeks until I go. I am freaking out a little!
Since I opened my call, I have moved to Sandy to nanny for my cousins. It has been such a great blessing to be living here. I have been able to finish my shopping, take mission prep, and the best part of all was going through the Brigham City temple on July 13. What a beautiful and wonderful experience. I am so grateful to be part of this gospel. I also got to go with my best friend when we dropped her off at the MTC. I can't believe she left almost 3 weeks ago.. Umm once again, where is the time going?! My Becca is serving in the Georgia Atlanta mission. She is going to be such an incredible missionary!
My family is here for a mini vacation this week, which has been nice. We got to go up to Park City and explore and just have a great time! I also got to go to a We The Kings concert with my little sister. I am seriously partying it up before I leave. I'm gonna post soon about all of my mission clothes and shopping experiences. God speed!

Monday, April 22, 2013

Excitement :D

Ahhhh!!! :) I can't believe it! My stake president sent my papers into Salt Lake on Wednesday. This moment is seriously surreal. I can't believe that they have finally been submitted and that I will be receiving a mission call. What a glorious and beautiful moment. I can't describe to you the peace and the spirit that warms my heart. Fast forward now to Monday. I had the day off of work so I decided to go in and sit through a seminary class because 1) my Stake President is a seminary teacher and 2) I definitely could use some spiritual uplifting. So I got there early and my Stake Pres. says, "Should we see where your papers are?" Of course I said yes. So we are sitting there looking at the screen and he notices that there are no papers at Church Headquarters. I kind of start to freak. Turns out that my call was assigned last Friday (two days after they were submitted) and so my call should be here THIS WEEK!! WHAT. Yeah I am so freaking excited. I was totally planning on waiting another week, but this ROCKS. So that is all :)

Saturday, April 13, 2013

Mission Decsion

Oh dear, where to even begin with this story. Maybe I'll start with saying that as a kid, whenever we would get big white envelopes in the mail box, I would joke that it was my mission call. I've always wanted to serve a mission, but I always thought I would be married or too involved in school to go. What a shock when I realized that with this age change, my desires could be fulfilled. I can't deny that my decision to go may not have been 100% pure desire. I was dating a young man who was preparing to serve a mission last summer. He left on my birthday last year. I kept telling my mom that if it was possible I would serve a mission at the same time he was so we could grow spiritually at the same time. Little did I know that my answer and future would be flipped 180 degrees with on sentence. I was sitting in Rexburg in an apartment with friends from the Distinguished Young Women program. One of the girls mom called and told us what had just been announced. My heart beat so fast, and my stomach dropped. In all honesty, I knew that this was my answer. As stupid as my desire had been to serve while my boyfriend was out, I still knew that this was something I should do. In the midst of this, one of my favorite teachers text me and said, "you could be a missionary in a year." His words went straight to my heart and started it on fire. Of course, I couldn't make the decision in one day, but I knew that the seed was planted and I would have to come to a decision. The whole day I was on fire with a passion and desire to serve. It could have been the shock or the spiritual witness that these times are the times where the work is being hastened to prepare this world for the coming of our Lord, but either way, it was an incredible feeling the buoyed me up and influenced me to find out whether or not I was to serve. I don't quite remember much of the next couple days, but I know that my parents both supported me. One night I decided to sit down and read my patriarchal blessing. Phrases and words popped out at me and warmed my heart. Slowly my heart turned from wanting to pass the time away from my boyfriend to feeling this immense desire to serve and love the people of my Savior and to give them the opportunity to come to know Him like I have been able too. I have been given promises to fulfill and I know that serving a mission is one of the way I can do this. In the midst of preparing and filling out my paper work, the spirit told me it was time to reclaim my heart and use it in its full strength to serve the people of God. I wrote my missionary a letter explaining the way the spirit was guiding me and what I needed to do. I know the hand of the Lord was in this because he took it well and supportively. My journey is just barely starting and I am so looking forward to see what the Lord has in store for me. My mission papers will be submitted on April 17. I can't believe how far I've come in just the 6 months since the announcement to change the age of missionaries, but I can tell you that I know that I am a better, stronger, braver, and more faithful woman than I was before. I am so grateful and excited for this new chapter in my life.