Words to Live and Write by

I am willing to fall Because I have learned how to rise.

I craft Love from heartbreak, Compassion from shame, Grace from disappointment, Courage from failure.

I am among the brave and brokenhearted, and I am rising strong.

(credit to Brene Brown)

Friday, November 29, 2013

Letter to the Past

Do you ever wish you could send letters back in time to yourself? I tried it today and found it rather enlightening.

To Hannah in Dec. 2003,

  I know what the world is to you now. It is dark and scary and utterly hopeless. Everything you dreamed and loved has been so cruelly snatched from you. You wonder if there's any way to get it back. And, if not, you wonder if it's worth it to keep living.
  Well, I'll be blunt with you, because you don't need anymore BS right now. He's gone. He's really gone for good. Nothing you do or say will change that. Just trust me, the sooner you accept that, the sooner things will start to get better.
  Oh, I know, they can't be better without him. But yes, they can. And they will. It's going to take time. It's going to be hard. But you are going to be surprised by your ability to endure hard. And then, one day, you will find yourself again--your real self, the one you changed and sacrificed to try to keep him. Your real self is beautiful. Your real self is strong. Your real self is what everyone around you can't help but love.
  Someday (it's really not too far away, so keep that dress), you will find yourself quite by surprise in love with a man who is truly worthy of you. A man who will adore you and treat you better than you've ever known. He'll make you laugh, and listen to your thoughts, and always treat you gently. It will catch you by surprise, but one day you will realize he is the one. You can't envision any other right now, I know, but he's out there, even now being placed in the path you will follow, and when you get there, you'll see. Just keep going and get there.
  What you're going through now is terrible,  the bitter dregs of the worst cup. Drink it and carry on. You can do it. You are strong. And as  you begin to heal, and you will heal, take the time to soak in the beauty around you. The world is beautiful. People are beautiful. Life is beautiful.
  Forget, as quickly as you can, every lesson he ever taught you. People can be trusted. There are some nasties, as you're seeing now, but you would not believe how many people do and will love you if you just give them the chance. Love them back. Don't close off your heart, as I know you're trying to do. The pain seems unbearable, but you will survive it. Let it happen. Don't fight it. And while you're at it, stop fighting him--you can't win, and it will only hurt you more.
  There is light ahead. There is a lot of life ahead. A lot of beautiful life. Some brutal moments, too. You will learn to call it "brutiful." Things will get simple. Things will get hard. Happy and sad. Breathtaking and impossibly frustrating. Life brings them both.
  I won't tell you specifically what your life in the next ten years will bring. It's a whole lot of brutiful. And I'd hate to let the fear of the brutal scare you away from the beautiful.
  For now, just keep breathing. Breathe in and out. Do both, consistently, with patience. Just breathe. And don't forget to eat. Mountain Dew doesn't count. In fact, just keep away from caffeine: your body doesn't like it. Spend a little more time in the warmth (right now that means someone else's house or on campus) and less time in the cold and dark. Don't be afraid of people; don't be afraid to share what you are going through. Forget what he said. Most people will instinctively wrap their arms around you to try to shelter you from pain and to lend you strength. You need that. You need good people. Learn that lesson well, because it will hold true for the rest of your life.
  Oh, Hannah, I know it hurts. I know you hurt. I know the darkness is overwhelming. I know you're broken. I know everything that's happened. No it's not fair; it's not right. You will never be the same. You will emerge from this a different person. From this, you will know the beginnings of what it is to suffer.
  But remember: breathe, eat, and let people love you. Breathe. Eat. Love. Breathe. Eat. Love.
  There is joy ahead. I promise. Joy and love to make your heart burst with happiness, and swell to a size you'd never dream possible.
  Scars remain. Inside and outside you will accumulate some pretty big scars. Sometimes you'll see them and wonder how you ever lived through that. But the thing about scars is--they're proof that you DID live through it. Scars remain, but they do fade, and eventually, they reach a point where they only hurt if you push on them. Some days you even forget they're there.
  Breathe in. Breathe out. Let him go. Let yourself be loved. You are worth all the love. Still. Always.

- From Hannah in Dec. 2013

Thursday, November 28, 2013

Moments of Free-Fall

  I'm in a tricky sort of place right now. My depression is lifting, little by little. It knocked me down hard not too long ago, and it's taken me a while to get back up. I just had too many stresses to handle and I broke under the pressure. I can be strong, but not infinitely. And I'm not entirely sure that I'm stronger after these things happen. I hate that phrase, "What doesn't kill you makes you stronger," because it's bull. Maybe it's true some of the time, or most of the time for some people. But personally, the best thing I can say about "what doesn't kill you" is that it didn't kill you. Period.
  Anyway, right now my mood is going up. But sometimes it drops unexpectedly, and that scares the bejeezus out of me. The best way I can describe it is by relating it to an airplane ride (which also terrifies me).
  It's like that moment during the plane's descent when - due to turbulence or some force of physics I don't understand - the plane takes a brief and sudden plunge. It doesn't last long - just a fraction of a second - and I'm sure compared to the altitude of the plane it's not really a big drop, but for that split-second your stomach gets left a few hundred feet above you and your mind panics and you could swear the plane is (or soon will be) free-falling towards disaster. Close your eyes and remember that feeling. If you can, now you know precisely how I feel when my mood takes a drop. It isn't pleasant.
  So while overall I am doing much better than a month ago, I still get those moments of panicked "We're all gonna die!" They come out of nowhere - like those pockets of air that so confusingly cause the plane to drop. It could be a get-together where I feel like a misfit and my high school mentality of "You'll never fit in and no one likes you anyway" jumps out of the closet and screams at me. (I thought I'd locked that door...) It could be a glance in the mirror after a shower and seeing, as if for the first time, my gruesomely disfigured stomach. To be clear, I'm used to and generally accept and forgive the state of my stomach, but when you see your maimed body like that for the first time (which is the feeling I get) it's a helluva thing to cope with.   The point being it can be any stupid little unexpected thing that causes me to plummet. And I get scared.
  As I said, this is a tricky place. Am I getting better or not? The answer is, of course, both. I am a contradiction. But that's okay; contradictions are interesting.
I am going to keep rising though. Slowly and steadily I will rise. I will be strong and happy and positive and productive once more. But please extend a little grace while I'm doing it. Extend grace when I fall and tell me it's okay and I'm okay. Not "okay" as in nothing's wrong, but "okay" as in still loved and still worthy and still something to be proud of. Just tell me I'm that kind of okay.

Tuesday, November 26, 2013

"Do. Less. Stuff."

This one just needs to be shared.


"I hear you  in the bathroom, locked behind the door and trying to unwrap a piece of chocolate with shaky fingers." Describes me so perfectly.

Bye-Bye Crib

We just transitioned Lana to a twin-size bed last weekend, and it's gone without a hitch. She stays in bed like she doesn't know she can get out on her own. We're not correcting that assumption yet. :)
In reminiscence of her crib days, here are some cute sleeping pictures.

Teddy Bear Troubles

I was THAT lady at Goodwill yesterday: the one with the 2-year-old crying with an enormous volume, "Bear! Mommy! Bear!!" because I refused to buy her the huge stuffed bear for $7. I'm not sure if the looks I got were sympathetic or something else, I just know I got a LOT of them.
But I stuck to my guns, because she doesn't need the bear, even if it's only $7; there's a reason we were shopping at Goodwill.
I'm just going to tell myself that at least ONE of those people staring open-mouthed at me was thinking, "You go Mom!"

It happened again today, this time at Target, also over a stuffed bear we did not get. "Bear! Mommy! Mommy! Noooo! The bear!!" Huge crocodile tears and lots of drama. Sigh.
On the way out, I even heard one mother remark in a rather sour tone to her 6-o
r-so-years-old daughter about how fussy my baby was. Seriously?? If I didn't have my hands full carrying my screaming child and minimal purchases out of the store, I might have stopped and said, "Don't tell me YOU didn't go through this with HER a few years ago."

Thursday, November 21, 2013

You're Not Listening Anyway

I am intentionally leaving no explanation for this collection. 
It means something very specific to me personally. But these songs are deeply emotional and, like all good art, are best left free for individual appreciation.

"Keep You" - Sugarland

"You tried to explain, but I couldn't hear it, as if your words were my tears."

"The Heart Wants What It Wants" - Selena Gomez

"But then you make me feel crazy. You make me feel like it's my fault. I was in pain."

"All Too Well" - Taylor Swift

"Maybe I asked for too much - or maybe this thing was a masterpiece before you tore it all up."

"My Immortal"- Evanescence

"There's just too much that time cannot erase."

"Gravity" - Sara Bareilles

"You hold me without touch. You keep me without chains."

"Let Me Go" - Avril Lavigne

"I still remember the pain of December."

"Breathe Again" - Sara Bareilles

"He's the air I would kill to breathe... Out of breath, I am left hoping someday I'll breathe again."

"Back From The Dead" - Skylar Grey

"I mourn the loss of you sometimes and pray for peace within. The word 'destruct' cannot describe how my heart has been."

"Acoustic #3" - GooGoo Dolls

"What's the point in all this screaming? You're not listening anyway."

Monday, November 11, 2013

Like a Broken Vessel

Like a Broken Vessel

Of the Quorum of the Twelve Apostles

The Apostle Peter wrote that disciples of Jesus Christ are to have “compassion one of another.”1 In that spirit I wish to speak to those who suffer from some form of mental illness or emotional disorder, whether those afflictions be slight or severe, of brief duration or persistent over a lifetime. We sense the complexity of such matters when we hear professionals speak of neuroses and psychoses, of genetic predispositions and chromosome defects, of bipolarity, paranoia, and schizophrenia. However bewildering this all may be, these afflictions are some of the realities of mortal life, and there should be no more shame in acknowledging them than in acknowledging a battle with high blood pressure or the sudden appearance of a malignant tumor.
In striving for some peace and understanding in these difficult matters, it is crucial to remember that we are living—and chose to live—in a fallen world where for divine purposes our pursuit of godliness will be tested and tried again and again. Of greatest assurance in God’s plan is that a Savior was promised, a Redeemer, who through our faith in Him would lift us triumphantly over those tests and trials, even though the cost to do so would be unfathomable for both the Father who sent Him and the Son who came. It is only an appreciation of this divine love that will make our own lesser suffering first bearable, then understandable, and finally redemptive.
Let me leave the extraordinary illnesses I have mentioned to concentrate on MDD—“major depressive disorder”—or, more commonly, “depression.” When I speak of this, I am not speaking of bad hair days, tax deadlines, or other discouraging moments we all have. Everyone is going to be anxious or downhearted on occasion. The Book of Mormon says Ammon and his brethren were depressed at a very difficult time,2 and so can the rest of us be. But today I am speaking of something more serious, of an affliction so severe that it significantly restricts a person’s ability to function fully, a crater in the mind so deep that no one can responsibly suggest it would surely go away if those victims would just square their shoulders and think more positively—though I am a vigorous advocate of square shoulders and positive thinking!
No, this dark night of the mind and spirit is more than mere discouragement. I have seen it come to an absolutely angelic man when his beloved spouse of 50 years passed away. I have seen it in new mothers with what is euphemistically labeled “after-baby blues.” I have seen it strike anxious students, military veterans, and grandmothers worried about the well-being of their grown children.
And I have seen it in young fathers trying to provide for their families. In that regard I once terrifyingly saw it in myself. At one point in our married life when financial fears collided with staggering fatigue, I took a psychic blow that was as unanticipated as it was real. With the grace of God and the love of my family, I kept functioning and kept working, but even after all these years I continue to feel a deep sympathy for others more chronically or more deeply afflicted with such gloom than I was. In any case we have all taken courage from those who, in the words of the Prophet Joseph, “search[ed] … and contemplate[d] the darkest abyss”3 and persevered through it—not the least of whom were Abraham Lincoln, Winston Churchill, and Elder George Albert Smith, the latter being one of the most gentle and Christlike men of our dispensation, who battled recurring depression for some years before later becoming the universally beloved eighth prophet and President of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints.
So how do you best respond when mental or emotional challenges confront you or those you love? Above all, never lose faith in your Father in Heaven, who loves you more than you can comprehend. As President Monson said to the Relief Society sisters so movingly last Saturday evening: “That love never changes. … It is there for you when you are sad or happy, discouraged or hopeful. God’s love is there for you whether or not you feel you deserve [it]. It is simply always there.”4 Never, ever doubt that, and never harden your heart. Faithfully pursue the time-tested devotional practices that bring the Spirit of the Lord into your life. Seek the counsel of those who hold keys for your spiritual well-being. Ask for and cherish priesthood blessings. Take the sacrament every week, and hold fast to the perfecting promises of the Atonement of Jesus Christ. Believe in miracles. I have seen so many of them come when every other indication would say that hope was lost. Hope is never lost. If those miracles do not come soon or fully or seemingly at all, remember the Savior’s own anguished example: if the bitter cup does not pass, drink it and be strong, trusting in happier days ahead.5
In preventing illness whenever possible, watch for the stress indicators in yourself and in others you may be able to help. As with your automobile, be alert to rising temperatures, excessive speed, or a tank low on fuel. When you face “depletion depression,” make the requisite adjustments. Fatigue is the common enemy of us all—so slow down, rest up, replenish, and refill. Physicians promise us that if we do not take time to be well, we most assuredly will take time later on to be ill.
If things continue to be debilitating, seek the advice of reputable people with certified training, professional skills, and good values. Be honest with them about your history and your struggles. Prayerfully and responsibly consider the counsel they give and the solutions they prescribe. If you had appendicitis, God would expect you to seek a priesthood blessing and get the best medical care available. So too with emotional disorders. Our Father in Heaven expects us to use all of the marvelous gifts He has provided in this glorious dispensation.
If you are the one afflicted or a caregiver to such, try not to be overwhelmed with the size of your task. Don’t assume you can fix everything, but fix what you can. If those are only small victories, be grateful for them and be patient. Dozens of times in the scriptures, the Lord commands someone to “stand still” or “be still”—and wait.6 Patiently enduring some things is part of our mortal education.
For caregivers, in your devoted effort to assist with another’s health, do not destroy your own. In all these things be wise. Do not run faster than you have strength.7 Whatever else you may or may not be able to provide, you can offer your prayers and you can give “love unfeigned.”8 “Charity suffereth long, and is kind; … [it] beareth all things, … hopeth all things, endureth all things. Charity never faileth.”9
Also let us remember that through any illness or difficult challenge, there is still much in life to be hopeful about and grateful for. We are infinitely more than our limitations or our afflictions! Stephanie Clark Nielson and her family have been our friends for more than 30 years. On August 16, 2008, Stephanie and her husband, Christian, were in a plane crash and subsequent fire that scarred her so horrifically that only her painted toenails were recognizable when family members came to indentify the victims. There was almost no chance Stephanie could live. After three months in a sleep-induced coma, she awoke to see herself. With that, the psyche-scarring and horrendous depression came. Having four children under the age of seven, Stephanie did not want them to see her ever again. She felt it would be better not to live. “I thought it would be easier,” Stephanie once told me in my office, “if they just forgot about me and I quietly slipped out of their life.”
But to her eternal credit, and with the prayers of her husband, family, friends, four beautiful children, and a fifth born to the Nielsons just 18 months ago, Stephanie fought her way back from the abyss of self-destruction to be one of the most popular “mommy bloggers” in the nation, openly declaring to the four million who follow her blog that her “divine purpose” in life is to be a mom and to cherish every day she has been given on this beautiful earth.
Whatever your struggle, my brothers and sisters—mental or emotional or physical or otherwise—do not vote against the preciousness of life by ending it! Trust in God. Hold on in His love. Know that one day the dawn will break brightly and all shadows of mortality will flee. Though we may feel we are “like a broken vessel,” as the Psalmist says,10 we must remember, that vessel is in the hands of the divine potter. Broken minds can be healed just the way broken bones and broken hearts are healed. While God is at work making those repairs, the rest of us can help by being merciful, nonjudgmental, and kind.
I testify of the holy Resurrection, that unspeakable cornerstone gift in the Atonement of the Lord Jesus Christ! With the Apostle Paul, I testify that that which was sown in corruption will one day be raised in incorruption and that which was sown in weakness will ultimately be raised in power.11 I bear witness of that day when loved ones whom we knew to have disabilities in mortality will stand before us glorified and grand, breathtakingly perfect in body and mind. What a thrilling moment that will be! I do not know whether we will be happier for ourselves that we have witnessed such a miracle or happier for them that they are fully perfect and finally “free at last.”12 Until that hour when Christ’s consummate gift is evident to us all, may we live by faith, hold fast to hope, and show “compassion one of another,”13 I pray, in the name of Jesus Christ, amen.


  1.  1. 1 Peter 3:8.
  2.  2. See Alma 26:27; see also Alma 56:16.
  3.  3. Teachings of Presidents of the Church: Joseph Smith (2007), 267.
  4.  4. Thomas S. Monson, “We Never Walk Alone,” Ensign or Liahona, Nov. 2013, 123, 124.
  5.  5. See Matthew 26:39.
  6.  6. See, for example, Psalm 4:4; Doctrine and Covenants 101:16.
  7.  7. See Mosiah 4:27.
  8.  8. Doctrine and Covenants 121:41.
  9.  9. 1 Corinthians 13:4, 7–8; emphasis added; see also Moroni 7:45–46.
  10.  10. Psalm 31:12.
  11.  11. See 1 Corinthians 15:42–43.
  12.  12. “Free at Last,” in John W. Work, comp., American Negro Songs: 230 Folk Songs and Spirituals, Religious and Secular (1998), 197.
  13.  13. 1 Peter 3:8.