Wednesday, October 1, 2014

Confessions of a failure missionary

I've been thinking about today, October 1st, for about a month now. It's been a day that I've thought about countless times, trying to figure out what I've wanted to feel when this day rolled around once again. And I have decided to just lay it ALL out on the table. Now, internet reader, if you feel uncomfortable reading into someone's very fragile life and feelings- now is your time to stop wasting your time on my page. May I suggest that you go back to Facebook and continue your search for hilarious cat pictures or maybe try out youtube videos, those are quite entertaining as well. :)

Ah, now, for those of you who are still reading, I hope to share this in a way that can be learned from and (hopefully) beneficial to you and myself. Im going to be super brave and be as real as I can get. I don't really believe that sugar coating will help in this circumstance.

Today is October 1st. This is the day that I came home from serving an LDS mission 365 days ago! It's truly hard to believe that so much time has passed.... I can't help but think back on the day as a sad, scary and confusing time in my life. You see, I left my mission for "medical reasons". I still had a year left of my mission that I was "supposed to" still serve. This put me in the category of missionaries who are "honorably released". But to tell you the truth, I didn't feel very honorable. I felt very much like I was dis-honarble. To be perfectly honest, I actually felt like a complete failure. I was "supposed to" serve 365 more days. I was. And everyone knew it. I was a medical mess, a medical mystery and medically I could not get "fixed", which meant that my destiny was that I could not return to my mission. I felt like a failure.  I found myself embarrassed to even say that I served at all, knowing that I "came up short", or that I would have to explain WHY I didn't "finish"... and lets all be real, if its not a valuable "excuse" or reason, people in this culture tend to think down on you. Shame on you, shame on everyone. But, seriously. I never thought that I would be one of "those" missionaries.... You see, in all honesty, the missionaries that come home after the full 2 years or 1 1/2 years... they get treated like royalty. I frequently see videos, pictures, parties, homecoming talks, etc. of these people. Everyone is so happy for them, including myself, and they seem to be beaming with the spirit and with enthusiasm for coming home. Its wonderful to see, and I am so glad that they are deemed so highly for what they have done!

However, the missionaries who return home early, we get, well, a very different experience. We come home and stay off our computers, stay inside to stray away from questions, we don't have a homecoming party, talk, or video. We just quietly come home one day and try to adjust to the things going on around us, and in my case, within us.

NOW, let me make one thing clear, It's not the parties, or the talk, or the video that I really really wanted- however that would've been so fun- It was that I wanted someone, or most people to accept, like they do for "full time missionaries", what I DID do, as apposed to what I DIDNT do (those 365 days). I frequently hear of missionaries coming home and everyone asking them to share their awesome mission stories, and people laughing and being inspired by what they did. For me, the only questions I got were, "Why are you home?" "Are you okay?" "Are you feeling any better?" and my personal favorite "When are you going back out?". NOW let me just say that I was glad that people were concerned, that they were genuinely concerned, however, it seemed that my mission- though "only six months" was too short a time to get any of the positive attention that others received.

I came to believe that since everyone around me only addressed my health, and that my mission was scooted aside, that those six months I spent as a missionary weren't important. Since it was never a topic of conversation, I figured it would be okay if I just didn't mention it, or if I did, I wouldn't mention that I came home early. I found myself having a hard time thinking that anyone from my own mission would even remember I was ever there, and truly believed that my mission parents thought down on me... I had convinced myself that just needed to move on from that little "mission spell" I had. I have hundreds of pictures from my mission, pictures I love and cherish, and I still haven't loaded them up to Facebook or anywhere public. Why? Well, society told me that what I did "didn't count". So I stopped counting it too...

Fast forward, to now. I am married. To a returned missionary- he served "full time". He is married. To a returned missionary- who served "not full time".

And let me tell you what I have learned in 365 days... "Full time" , "Honorably released" and other terms that LDS members have coined and use to describe missionaries put us in false categories.

My husband and I frequently talk about our missions and we share many of the same spiritual experiences from our missions, we have equally as many "cool stories" to share with one another, and although I "only" served for six months- that for those six months- I was serving "full time"!! That is all I did, 24/7. I don't think it gets more "full time" than that.

These terms that were used SO MUCH when I first got home, were extremely hard for me, because I felt that I could not be both. I truly felt that I could not claim to have served "full time" and be "honorably released" all at the same time. It was a hard time for me.

Now, as I reflect on what has happened in the last 365 days, I have decided what I want to feel today, on October 1st, exactly 365 days from returning home.  I have taken some observations as to how I have had to approach my life since all this has taken place. They are simple, yet they are quite profound to me all at the same time. I share them with you, hoping that through all these emotions that something may help you. That these things I have been learning will not only be selfishly for me, but for you as well, that God can effect more than just one person through these times for me.

One: God knows what he is doing, everything happens for a reason.

Two: It's not about what others think or even say, do what you feel is true, righteous and correct.

Three: Life continues to teach, shape and mold you into what you need to be, missionary name tag or not.

Four: You can be proud for what you have accomplished, however "small" it may seem, it is still deemed an accomplishment. 

Five: Sometimes you need time: to heal, for thoughts to deepen and for understanding to flourish. 

I don't claim to know everyones experience with this certain subject. All I know is from what I have experienced, and I know that I have grown tremendously throughout this year.  I think that God has allowed me to feel the way I have felt to strengthen me, to allow me to remember my own beliefs, to help me remember his hand in all things. To realize that what is best for me, may not be what is best for the person sitting next to me and vice versa.  I think that I have experienced these feelings for others around me, as I know I am not the only one with these or similar feelings- whether it's about this topic or others.  I think that however difficult it has been at times to accept my early arrival home, and all that I DIDNT get to do, that it has been equally humbling. I have been MORE grateful for the time that I DID get to serve, for those that I DID get to teach, and for those that I DID get to effect for the better.

In 365 days, my opinion has changed dramatically as to how I treat my mission experience. And although at one time I believed I was a failure, I can happily say that it was not a waste of my time or energy to spend six months serving the lord.

I confess to feeling like a failure, but I also confess to rising higher, and learning from this experience. I don't have to hide them. If I embrace them, and move forward, the world is at my feet again.

Tuesday, March 4, 2014

Eight Months: My Medical Journey to Relief

Today I want to address my life just a little. Now, please, understand that I have been trying to get up the courage to do this for about 5 months. I am scared and unsure about most of what is going on with me. I have been riding an emotional roller coaster for longer than I ever wanted to, and I am certainly ready to get off soon. ( I was ready to get off a while ago honestly) Today I talk about what is wrong with me. That is kind of a hard statement to make. And for any of you that have had to say it as well, I know how you feel.  Of course I can’t really control it, but I still have to come to terms with the fact that there is something wrong with me.  Something that hasn’t been able to be detected in any about of blood work, nerve testing, urine sample, MRI, or cat scan.  I am still searching for answers. I am still searching for a cause. I am still searching for relief.

I have stabbing pains that run throughout my entire body every day. Sometimes they come for long about of times when I can hardly move. I stay in my bed those days. My body so weak and fatigued, wishing I could just melt into the sheets and never move again. Some days they flutter through my body and randomly visit me at work, while I drive as I shop at the store. It’s a sensation that is a dull underlying ache that pulsates in my joins, muscles, or bones- just annoying and painful enough to make me notice it, but not enough to stop my everyday life. I look healthy and normal to everyone around me, but inside is a different story.  On days when it’s a bit more serious I experience a pain - or a sensation that I can only describe as “someone stabbing me”. Sharp, sudden pain that pinpoints an area and floods its surroundings with waves of tingles and throbbings. When those happen- my reflexes take over, and my arms and legs kick and flail as the reflex of those certain sharp painful moment. It looks ridiculous.

They come into my hands as I am typing. They attack my back muscles and give me terrible back aches. My neck is almost always tight and stiff. Sleeping is another story- let’s just say it’s hard some nights. I lose interest in food and feel nauseous frequently.  I can hardly exercise due to the repercussions. For days on end I will be regretting that I physically exerted myself. I feel weak and frail and fragile. Something I have never really felt before in my life. Doctors and I have tried a lot of things. A lot of pills, a lot of remedies, but not a whole lot seems to touch it. That is honestly very sad. And on some days when the pain is really bad, I get discouraged. I cry a lot. I sleep a lot. I feel lazy a lot. I get upset that I can’t do what I once could. I tell people I am fine cause I am tired of saying I am not, and getting the look from them that I am helpless(I know that is not what it is, just feels like it sometimes)... It’s frustrating, I mean, I look perfect on paper, every test has come back beautifully, and I am the poster child for the perfect image of health… Only problem is that I am not.

I never expected to be “this” person. I was, and have always been a very physical and energetic person. I try to keep that up and stay positive, but truth is it is really hard some days.

Just about now I feel that I need to say. I am not asking for pity, I don’t want it. I am not asking for everyone to treat me differently, I don’t want that either. I am actually still quite happy and feel very blessed for the things that I have. My family and friends have been so supportive. I have had wonderful doctors. I am still able to function as a normal human being most days. I know that God still loves me and that he is VERY aware of the struggles I face every day. My fiancĂ© has carried me and held me as I cry out of frustration, pain or anger as I try to make it through some days. I really am so happy and grateful for the things that I have.  I am simply just bringing to light the everyday struggle that I face. I am writing it - one for me, that I can face my fears, and finally own this terrible thing I go through, and two, I am writing it to say that if you are facing something similar, maybe not physically like myself, but If you are struggling everyday with something overwhelming at times, that you are not alone. Other people understand. I understand. Our Savior understands.

You see, I first got sick when I was our serving a mission.  Let me tell you, I was humbled. I was really humbled; I prayed and prayed and prayed that I could get better, that I could work harder, that I could share more joy with those that needed it, something that I had, if I could only get out of bed…My faith could move those mountains... But then when I realized that I wasn’t getting better, that it wasn’t God’s plan for me to stay out there teaching and sharing his message, my heart broke. I cried and cried the night we decided I had to come home to get better. But you know what? As soon as I got home, as soon as I stepped on the plane to leave, my heart and mind were filled with peace, the most reassuring peace I had ever felt. One that I KNEW could not have come from me. And as I felt that peace I knew that it was all going to be okay.

Through this whole thing- through all the medications, tears, sleepless nights… through all the anger frustration, humility, joy, pain and emotional goop- I have come to realize one thing in my life that maybe I had forgotten...

That there is a PLAN for every single one of us. That there will never be anything too difficult to get through. That my Savior- Jesus Christ- knows ME, that he felt the way I FEEL, on the days when I’m at my worst, and he did that because HE LOVES ME. I may not know why all of this is happening the way that it is. I may never find out what this is. But I am learning that through these hardships and incredible feats, that I am stronger every day because of it, that I am being shaped into who I need to be for my Savior. I am learning of the love and service others offer me and give me freely. I feel my Saviors love through them and realize just how blessed I am to have them in my life.

These last Eight months have been a struggle, they really really have. But I wouldn’t take them back. I have grown and learned and relied more on what is truly important during this time in my life. I know that I would not have grown so much without this amazingly challenging trial.

It’s all for my good, it's really a blessing I am receiving, and again, if you happen to be struggling, know that it is for your good as well. I know that that is true, if you look for all that is going right in your life, even if it feels like it’s falling apart, you will find that you are blessed beyond belief. You will love it, and it will change your whole perspective. That is where I am finding the healing. It is not being offered by some medical pill, not by some magic tea, but through and ONLY THROUGH my faith in Christ. He heals my aching soul.
And we all need healing.

“I never said it would be easy, I just said it would be worth it”