A Mental Health Message from the Past

Earlier this week, I learned a bit of information that changed my past, at least the past as I knew it. This bit of information brought me even closer to my beloved mother and caused me to have an even greater sensitivity and understanding of those in the world with mental illness.

I was chatting with my sister, whose arrival on this earth predates mine by almost 4 1/2 years, and she told me that almost immediately after I was born, my mother fell into a deep depression. It was so severe that she even became suicidal.

As soon as I heard these words, I immediately thought of “Postpartum Depression”, but the year that I was born very few doctors had even heard of this diagnosis. As a result, my mother ended up in a mental institution and I ended up without my mother for a time.

The stigma and shame attached to mental illness at the time was much greater than it is today and the institutions and treatment methods available were immature and crude. The thought of my sweet mother being stuck in one of those places and not getting the help that she so desperately needed broke my heart.

It was particularly frustrating for me since my mother has been gone now for several years and there is nothing I can do to change what happened to her or comfort her after the fact.

As I continued to think about the time my mother spent in this institution, my thoughts drifted to her fellow patients. It occurred to me that all of these patients were someone’s mother, father, sister, brother or child.

My thoughts fast-forwarded to present day. While the stigma associated with mental illness has lessened, it still exists. Many of these patients are ostracized and even blamed for their own illnesses.

Everyone we meet is usually struggling with some type of inner turmoil and many are battling some form of mental illness. These individuals are someone’s mother, father, sister, brother or child. They are our Heavenly Father’s children and our brothers and sisters. They need our love, patience and understanding.

So earlier this week a bit of information changed the past as I know it. Now, it is my hope and prayer that it will also change the future as I strive to be a little kinder, a little more sensitive and a little more compassionate to everyone I meet.

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To Everything There is a Season


There is a huge tree outside my office window. I’ve grown quite attached to it over the last couple of years. It has been my companion through the ups, downs and stresses of my work days. My office is one of the few that has a window so I consider myself fortunate.

My tree has character. It has extensive, sprawling, gnarled branches. It is the kind of tree that you might expect to see in The Wizard of Oz, but much larger. I can’t really explain why, but watching it grow and change outside my window seems to bring me peace and solace which is a stark contrast to the chaos that is often inside my office.

Right now, there are only a handful of leaves left on its branches, but I know that in a few months they will be covered with tiny green buds. I also know that seemingly overnight those buds will literally burst into thousands of brilliant green leaves hiding its twisted branches from my view.

I know this because I have watched it happen season after season. I have seen the tree appear almost dead in the middle of Winter then bud out with new life and new growth in the Spring. I have seen it full of life and covered with leaves in the Summer only to drop those leaves again in the Autumn.

So today as I gaze out the window at my tree and its barren branches, I know that this is a temporary condition. I know that it will be plush, green and beautiful again. I know that there is a season, time and purpose for everything.

I also know this to be true in my life. When life is difficult and trials seem to overwhelm me, when my soul feels as barren and lifeless as the branches on my tree, I know that this also is a temporary condition. I know that in time, the season of trials will pass and it will produce new growth and new life to my weary soul.

So no matter how dark and dreary things get, I will continue to have faith and hope. I will continue to thank my Heavenly Father for my trials and my blessings, and I will look forward to the glorious Spring that lies ahead and the better person that I will be when it arrives…

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Friends of Great Worth

I have been blessed with some amazing friends. My friends are some of the most caring, compassionate and loving people around. They also happen to be some of the most gifted and talented people I know. Let’s face it, they are some of the most awesome people on the planet.

Unfortunately, some of them don’t know it.

For some time now, I have been somewhat troubled by this fact. It is difficult for me to understand how some of the most exceptional people I know fail to recognize their own worth. They ignore or downplay the talents and gifts that they have and underestimate their own value.

I discussed this with my daughter one evening. I told her how frustrated I was that some of my friends didn’t seem to recognize their worth. I told her that these friends were so awesome but that they just couldn’t seem to see it. She looked straight at me and without a moment’s hesitation said “You mean like you?”

Her words pierced my soul and stopped me right in my tracks. I wondered, could I really be guilty of the same thing? As I pondered her question, I came to the conclusion that she was right. I decided that to varying degrees we are all guilty of underestimating our own value or worth.

We judge ourselves too harshly. We compare ourselves to others. We continually criticize ourselves. We exaggerate our faults and mistakes and minimize our talents and accomplishments. We are much kinder to others than we are to ourselves. It is not surprising that we sometimes feel worthless or inferior.

But we shouldn’t.

We are all children of a loving and kind Heavenly Father. He has created us and we are of great worth. He has given each of us different talents, gifts and abilities, not so that we might compare ourselves to each other but so that we might use them to help one another.

I am grateful for all of the wonderful friends that I have. I am grateful that they so willingly share their abundant gifts and talents with me. I am grateful for my knowledge of my Heavenly Father and I am grateful that I know I am His child and as such, I have great worth.

I will try to remind my friends and myself of that more often….

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Judging Myself

Have you ever read a quote or an excerpt from a book or an article that just seemed to hit you like a ton of bricks? Something that seemed so simple, so obvious, yet so profound? Something that made you wonder why the thought had never occurred to you before? Earlier this week, I read just such a quote.

This particular quote was about judging, or more precisely, about not judging. While I readily and humbly admit that I am far from perfect on this topic, I have always tried not to judge my fellow brothers and sisters and endeavored to find the good and positive in each of them.

This quote, however, suggested that the commandment to not judge includes not judging ourselves. As I read this quote, suddenly my far from perfect mastery of this precept became even farther from perfect in my mind. Am I really supposed to resist the continual urge to judge myself?

This is a challenging concept for me because I tend to be somewhat hypercritical of myself. I strive for perfection and instead of applauding myself when I get closer to my goal, I berate myself when I fall short.

I think we all struggle with this from time to time. We seem to have no trouble overlooking the minor indiscretions and mistakes of others but condemn and judge ourselves for the very same actions. We allow others to be human, to have weaknesses and make mistakes but do not allow ourselves the same courtesy.

As I pondered this concept, I remembered the Savior’s teaching to “…love thy neighbour as thyself.” (Matthew 22:39) So, to truly love our neighbor or our brothers and sisters, we must first love ourselves. We need to treat ourselves with the same patience, love and compassion with which we treat others.

I will continue to strive for perfection, but I will try to be more patient and forgiving of myself when I fall short. I will continue to look for the good and the positive in others, and I will try to follow the example of the Savior and love everyone…including myself.

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The Dandelion Perspective

I love dandelions. My love for the tiny yellow blooms began early on in my life. In fact, one of my favorite childhood memories is of a time I spent in the park making dandelion chains with my mother. We spent all afternoon making chains so long we were able to use them as jump ropes.

I have many fond memories of these flowers. I remember running through yellow fields of them. I remember spending hours picking dozens and dozens of them and then carefully making huge sunny yellow bouquets for my mother. To her, they were just weeds but she loved them just the same.

As a child, I could not understand why so many adults disliked these flowers. They called them ugly weeds and did their best to eliminate them from their yards. To me, they were beautiful. They made me happy.

As an adult, they still make me happy. While I now understand why other adults find them displeasing, it still makes me smile when I see a bright yellow field of them. To me, they are still beautiful.

As I reflected on the vastly different ways that people can view the same flower, the same “weed”, it occurred to me that there are many things in this world that people view differently.

People have vastly different viewpoints about books, music, movies, cars, politics, religion and just about everything else, and that’s okay. Life would be boring if everyone had exactly the same opinions about everything.

What is not okay is when people hold negative viewpoints or perspectives about a group of people or an individual without reason. Like the lowly dandelion, they view these people, these individuals as “weeds”, undesired and unwanted.

If only they could see each other from the perspective of a child. If only they could look past labels and preconceived notions and see the beauty and value in one another. If they did, instead of weeds and bitterness, they would find the world full of flowers and love.

I will continue to love dandelions. I will continue to see flowers instead of weeds. I will strive to look at the world through the eyes of a child and find beauty, love and value in everything and everyone I see.

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Twenty Million Moments

Today is my sweet husband’s birthday. For the past 38 years, we have celebrated his birthdays together, but this year he will be celebrating in Heaven. As I reflected on these birthdays, these years, I discovered that we had been together for more than 20 million minutes.

Sometimes, these 20 million minutes seem like forever and at other times they seem to have passed in the blink of an eye. I am grateful for every single moment. It was during these moments that my husband gave me many treasured and precious gifts.

The first of these was the gift of unconditional love. My husband was a considerably large man with a heart to match. He was unselfish, compassionate and empathetic. He loved helping others and would strive to do or give whatever was needed to do so. He showed me and others how it felt to be loved unconditionally.

The second gift was the gift of friendship. My husband’s huge heart and tremendous capacity to love made him a treasured friend. He did his best to make people feel important and valued. He was an extraordinary friend to many and my best friend.

The third gift that my husband gave me was the gift of embracing imperfection. He knew that we are all human and we all make mistakes, but when he made a mistake, he always apologized sincerely and immediately. He knew he was not perfect, he knew that I was not perfect, but he loved me, imperfections and all.

One of the most important gifts that my husband gave me was understanding the value of hard work. My husband was extremely intelligent and exceptionally strong. He used both his mind and muscles and worked very hard to support his family and serve others.

My husband also gave me the gift of finding joy in the journey. While he worked very hard, my husband also understood the importance of enjoying life. He loved celebrating holidays, special occasions and people. He enjoyed being spontaneous. He liked going to midnight movies on the spur of the moment, grocery shopping at 2 AM and dancing in the kitchen on an ordinary Tuesday night.

The final gift my husband gave me was the gift of gratitude. He taught me to be grateful and to never take things for granted. During the past months, I have thought back upon thousands of the more than twenty million moments I spent with my husband. Even the most trivial of moments seem so exceedingly important to me now. I regret the moments when I passed up opportunities to create even more memories and those moments I took for granted.

I know that we will be together again and we will spend the eternities making more memories. Until then, I will celebrate his birthday by doing my best to incorporate all of his gifts into my daily life. I will try to be the best person I can be and share these gifts with others until we can celebrate together again…

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Seeing Beyond the Fog

***Originally posted February 17, 2013***

One day last week, I had to drive to work in a dense fog. It was one of those times that the fog was so thick I could barely see a few feet beyond my car in all directions. It was a curious feeling to be driving on a road that I had been on a thousand times and yet have it feel so foreign, so different.

As I drove along this usually familiar route, I found myself struggling to recall landmarks normally seen that were invisible at the time. I mentally reminded myself that the road curved to the right soon, that there was a hill up ahead and other helpful details about this road.

As I successfully navigated through the fog, I thought of how difficult this task would be for someone who was not familiar with this road. I thought how their success would be dependent upon only what they could see at that moment.

It occurred to me that someone familiar with this road like myself, could serve as a guide for this unfamiliar traveler. I could warn the traveler of the curves, hills and obstacles ahead. I could describe the landscape, buildings and houses that lie hidden to their view.

The safety and success of this traveler, however, would be dependent upon the faith and trust they placed in me. Their knowledge of this road would be limited to the tiny piece of it that they could see. They would not be able to see the obstacles ahead that I know are there.

We are all like this traveler in the fog on an unknown road. Our vision is limited now. We do not know what lies ahead for us. We cannot see the curves, hills and obstacles in our future. We also cannot see the beauty and treasure that may lie a short distance ahead but is now obscured from our view.

Our Heavenly Father knows what is ahead for us. He knows the trials and blessings that await us. He loves us and wants to be our guide. If we will place our faith in Him, He will lead, guide and direct us. He will lead us home.

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I Am Only One

I am only one, but I know that one person can make a difference in the world. If we strive to change the world for good, we will. We can make the world a better place one smile, one thought, one act and one person at a time.

I am only one, but I can make a difference.

I am only one, but I know that even one soul is of great worth to our Heavenly Father. As we strive to serve our fellow brothers and sisters, He will help us to see their true worth. He will touch our hearts and we will feel greater love for one another and for ourselves.

I am only one, but I understand the value and importance of one.

I am only one, but I know I am one part of a greater whole. As we follow the Savior’s counsel to be one, in our homes, our churches, our communities, our nation and our world, we will find greater happiness and an increased capacity to serve. We will find that nothing is impossible if we are unified in the purpose of serving our Heavenly Father and each other.

I am only one, but I know that I am an important part of a marvelous whole.

I am only one, but I know that my Savior, the “Anointed One,” is there to help me when I feel too weak, too sad, too sick or just too tired to go on. I know that He is always there for us during times of pain and trial. I know that He loves and cares for us far more than we can comprehend.

I am only one, but I know that the “Anointed One” is there for me. I am not alone.

I am only one, but I know that with the help of my Heavenly Father and Savior, I can make a difference for good in the world. I can find the joy of becoming one with my brothers and sisters and hopefully, I can find my own worth as I strive to show them theirs.

I am only one, but with God’s help, one is more than enough.

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Learning to Dance in the Rain

I have always loved storms. Even as a child, I enjoyed curling up in the breezeway of our home watching the storms roll in. I would sit mesmerized until either the last clouds floated past the horizon or my mother told me to come inside.

I still love them today. In fact, one of my favorite memories is of the time I spent in a beautiful corner hotel room high above the streets below. Two walls of this room were covered with floor-to-ceiling windows. They created the perfect spot for me to watch the magnificent storms my first evening there. I watched with delight as the clouds rolled in, threw their tantrum and exited stage left.

While I love storms, I also respect and recognize the immense power they can possess. I do my best to prepare for and protect myself from their potential danger. I watch forecasts, pay attention to weather service watches and warnings, and listen for tornado sirens. If the storm is severe, I take shelter.

Despite their inherent danger, I still love these storms. I do not, however, share this affinity for the other “storms” in my life–the trials, tribulations and adversity that sometimes engulf us.

We all experience these storms. They come at different times and in different intensities for each of us. Some seasons of our lives are full of sunshine and blue skies while others are full of dark, threatening clouds and raging floods. Sometimes these storms produce only a fine misting of rain, barely dampening our path. Other times, they come like a monsoon with harsh, damaging winds and terrible lightning, literally stopping us in our tracks.

It is important that we learn not only to survive these storms but also to embrace them. Our natural tendency is to feel sorry for ourselves. We feel despondent and discouraged. We suffer and agonize over our plight trying merely to weather the storm until the sun comes out again. But these storms will return again…

If we are to embrace them, we must do all we can to prepare for and protect ourselves. Once we have done all that we can, our Heavenly Father will be there to help us. We need not face the darkness and fierce winds of this life alone. He will be there waiting to help.

So when I am struggling and tempted to give up, when the storms of life have left me scarred and weathered. I will fervently seek my Heavenly Father’s help. With His guidance, support and love, I will be able to embrace the storms. I will find joy in this journey of life, and even during the most difficult of trials, I will be found dancing in the rain.

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Angel Friends

I find it difficult to believe, but it has been more than four years since I last posted anything on this site. These years have been challenging, full of trials, illness, pain, and sorrow. They have left me feeling depleted, exhausted and a little bit lost.

As I have reflected on these years, I have wondered how I survived them. But I did survive them, and I did so with my sanity mostly intact and my faith and hope for the future preserved.

Without hesitation, I fully acknowledge that the credit for my survival goes first and foremost to my Heavenly Father, and I am profoundly grateful to Him.

I am grateful for His unlimited, unconditional love for me. I am grateful that He hears and answers my prayers, and I am grateful for His angels that care for and watch over me.

I believe without a doubt that there are angels in Heaven watching over us. I also believe that God inspires and directs people here on Earth to help us when we are troubled and in times of need. We call these Earthly angels friends.

I have been richly blessed throughout my life by these friends. They have always seemed to show up when things were darkest, when I was at my lowest, the times when I have needed them the most.

These friends have “shown up” in person, by telephone, Facebook, email, text, and even the U.S. mail….Often, these visits provided no more than a listening ear. But they brought me comfort, encouragement, and most importantly, they gave me hope.

I am grateful for these angels and their visits. I am grateful for their love, support, and willingness to serve and inspire others. I am grateful that when their Heavenly Father called, they answered.

It has been a long, arduous journey. It has not been easy, but it has been possible with the help of my Heavenly Father and His angels, both in Heaven and here on Earth.

Throughout this perilous journey full of trials and blessings that we call life, I have learned three things.

The first is that there are far more blessings than trials.

The second and more powerful is that “…with God all things are possible.” (Matthew 19:26).

And the third is how undeniably true are the words of Clarence the angel to George Bailey in the classic movie It’s a Wonderful Life: “…no man is a failure who has friends.”

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