Thief of Joy

thief of joy

Recently, I thought of a quote attributed to Theodore Roosevelt. I heard it from the general primary president of the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints at our last General Conference in October. It goes, “Comparison is the thief of all joy.” Perhaps the obvious meaning of the quote is that comparing what we have to what someone else has, always thinking this person or that person has it better, doesn’t make you happy—it only makes you miserable. I think there’s more to it than that.

Some of the most miserable people I know or have met are ones who think no one has suffered the way they have, people who get upset when someone else talks about their own trials or hardships. I recently heard a woman share her outrage that her sister had the audacity to complain about how hard her life was—because apparently her sister’s life isn’t as hard as hers. I guess that means she’s the only one who has the right to complain! She said her sister has no clue how hard her life is. Well, maybe this woman has no clue how hard her sister’s life is. This sort of attitude robs you of happiness because you are dwelling on your own negativity instead of being grateful for what you do have.

Also, one of my biggest pet peeves is to hear someone say, “I’ve been through things no one else can imagine,” or, “If anyone else had been given my trials they would have given up or just died.” Well, how do you know that? How do you know how much someone else has suffered or what kind of strength they have in them to endure? Thinking this way certainly doesn’t bring strength, and it certainly doesn’t bring happiness. Maybe this will sound judgmental, but that sort of attitude reflects egotism, in my opinion. Ego definitely stands in the way of happiness.

There’s one other way I’ve found this quote to be true. And that is when we compare our hardship to others—not in a I’ve-suffered-more-than-anyone-else sort of way. In a I-shouldn’t-feel-so-bad-because-other-people-have-it-worse-than-me sort of way. A friend from high school helped teach me this lesson. It was after the second time in high school that I almost took my own life. I told her I felt bad for feeling bad—because really I had a pretty good life. I was just depressed, but I knew I shouldn’t be because there was real suffering in the world, and I was blessed to live in a first world country. She told me I shouldn’t compare my problems to other people. She said something along the lines of, “Something that’s hard for you might not be hard for someone else, but what’s hard for someone else might be easy for you. We’re all individuals, and we’re all different.”

As I’ve grown, learned, developed I’ve gained a strong belief in God’s love for all of His children. We are all important to Him as individuals, and I truly believe that He cares just as much about me as he does anyone and everyone else in the world. He cares about my own individual struggles. He cares about yours. If we are that important to Him, there’s no need to compare ourselves. Doing so only steals joy from your life. I think most of us, as humans, are pretty good at being hard on ourselves anyway. If you have mental illness, on top of that, you are probably an absolute expert! Now, that doesn’t mean it’s okay to become one of those people who says no one else has it as hard as you do, but we all have emotions, and those emotions are real. It’s okay to feel them and even, at times, let them batter and bruise you. It’s about what you do after that counts. Are you going to stay down? Are you going to wallow in misery? Or are you going to say, “Yeah, I have problems, I have trials, I have difficulties, and they are real, but I can keep going. I will keep going, and I will be grateful for the blessings I do have.”

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If comparison is the thief of all joy, then perhaps acceptance is the giver of it. Being able to say that you are good enough, that you are of worth. It’s hard. Believe me, these days I don’t feel like I’m good enough—for anything or for anyone. And I have a hard time seeing my worth in a world that seems to be full of people who are so much more amazing and better than me. But there’s that comparison—it really doesn’t help. It only brings me down. I need to work on it. Maybe we all do. And if we did, maybe we’d be a happier people, a happier world.

Not Hardcore, Just Anxiety

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Three days a week I get up at 4:00 in the morning to go to the gym. A few people have told me I’m hardcore. Believe me, it has nothing to do with being hardcore and everything to do with anxiety.

I got a gym membership two or three years ago. I went when I could, but finally realized the only way I’d be able to go on a regular basis, which is what I wanted, would be to get up early and go before the kids woke up in the morning. So I started going right when the gym opened at 5:00. Surprisingly, there were usually a lot of other people getting there at the same time. Then, last summer, it turned into a twenty-four-hour gym. That’s when I started going at 4:00.

It’s not because I’m hardcore and intensely working out all morning. I go that early because there aren’t many other people there. Sometimes, I’m the only one—at least for a little while. I hate being at the gym when it’s crowded. It gives me extreme anxiety. Just thinking about it right now is making it hard for me to breathe. Oh, and when I get home, usually a little after 5:00, I shower and then go back to bed for an hour. See? Not hardcore, not badass. Just anxiety.

That is what anxiety will do to you. It will make you get up ridiculously early just to avoid something that causes anxiety, nervousness, stress, feeling uneasy. Because yes, I would rather get up early, I would rather lose out on some sleep and be tired during the day than be at the gym when it’s crowded. And 5:00 is usually when it starts to get crowded. Pure and simple. There it is.

What Does Mental Illness Look Like?

A couple of weeks ago I hit an extremely low point—one of the lowest of my life. The next morning I woke up early to make sure I had enough time to curl my hair and put on makeup. I think part of it was wanting to feel like I still had control over something in my life, even if it was just the way I looked. However, even though I looked like this:

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inside I felt like this: hopeless, depressed, sad, alone, empty, hollow, sick, dead.

Several times in my life I’ve been surprised to learn someone has mental illness because on the outside they appear fine, put together, happy even. We live in this society of fronts. For some reason we are raised to believe we have to put up a front for people no matter how we really feel or what we’re going through. It often becomes automatic to smile and tell people you are good even when you are not. That’s one of the most difficult parts of mental illness. It’s a disease you can’t see.

The other thing people should know is that there are moments of good and happiness. Sometimes my smile is real because I’m happy to be around you or I laugh because I really do find what you said to be funny. But those are moments in the midst of the whole story. And the whole story is that I still have mental illness. Depression, anxiety and OCD are still my constant companions. It isn’t like a broken arm that can be casted and healed in a few weeks.

Of course there are things that can help. I’ve written about those things a lot already so I’m not going to go into it again right now. I guess I just wanted to make people aware that mental illness isn’t always something you can see. That doesn’t mean it’s not real or that it’s not there. It is.

Focusing on the Blessings

I was going to write down all of the bad things that have happened to me in the last few weeks. Perhaps it was about justification for why I am, and should be allowed, to be so depressed. Then I realized that doing so wouldn’t solve anything. It wouldn’t make me happy, but would, if anything, give these problems and difficulties more power over me.

Instead, I’m going to write down the blessings I have received through this hardship. That is what I should focus on because that, in all of this, is what really matters.

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First I want to write what a blessing my ward (a local, Latter-day Saint congregation) has been. I’ve never felt like I mattered as much as I do in this ward. I’ve never felt so loved or cared for in any other ward I’ve ever lived in. The people here have been absolutely amazing.

So many people—ward members, friends, near or far, family, acquaintances—have messaged, texted, called, commented to see how I’m doing and to offer encouragement and support.

Friends are a big blessing. I have one friend who has let me cry and vent to her about so many things. We were roommates in college, and she has stuck with me through all of my struggles. I know she sees me for who I really am, and I can always be myself with her. When depression and anxiety make it so hard to make and keep any kind of relationships, this has meant so much to me.

A close friend of mine who lives in another state sent her mom to bring me flowers. After having just gotten home from a traumatic experience getting the oil in my car changed, I broke down and just started crying. (I know it sounds stupid, but on top of everything else going on I had reached my breaking point.) My friend’s mom hugged me and told me she was a good listener and very bad at gossiping if I wanted to talk. I didn’t feel like I could at that point, but knew she was being genuine and honest, that if I did need to talk she would listen and not judge.

One night I was feeling particularly bad and felt like I need some company, that I shouldn’t be alone. I texted a friend and asked if she would be able to get a drink (as in a diet coke!) the next morning. She said she could, so the next morning we went for a walk where she listened to me, but didn’t pressure me to say anything I didn’t want to say. She then bought me a diet coke before we went to pick our kiddos up from kindergarten.

Another night when I was down I felt like hurting myself—because yes, that is still where my mind first goes when I’m that low. I had been texting a friend, and he could tell something was wrong. When I told him how I was feeling he kept texting me until I got to a place where I felt well enough and in control enough to know I wouldn’t hurt myself. I was incredibly grateful that he didn’t judge me or tell me it was stupid that a grown woman would want to do that. He just talked—or texted—me through it. Definite blessing.

Another blessing was a friend who brought lunch one day, then sat and talked with me—or more like listened to me. I sort of spilled all my guts to her about everything that’s happened the last few months. Yet again, I broke down and sobbed through much of it. She just listened and gave quiet encouragement and support. By the time she left that day the load I had been carrying for so long felt lighter. I felt more like I could keep going, that I could do this, than I had all week.

I have to mention some individuals in my ward, as well. My Relief Society president (the Relief Society is an organization of all the women in a ward) stopped by one day with some beautiful tulips that are in full bloom right now! She also came in and cleaned my kitchen for me. It was simple and quick yet made a huge difference.

The second counselor in the Relief Society presidency also dropped by one afternoon with pizza and some of my favorite breadsticks to have for dinner! Again, such a simple gesture, yet it meant so much.

A woman in my ward reached out to me, and I told her how Sundays were hard when my kids were at their dad’s. Despite having her own struggles right now, she invited me over for dinner with her family on Sunday. While there we discovered our birthdays are close together, so she and her mother-in-law told me I should go over to celebrate with all of them—have dinner and cake. Her mother-in-law doesn’t even know me! We had just met, and yet she was inviting me to her house for dinner and cake—chocolate cake! Sometimes I am amazed, saddened, shocked by all the bad in the world. So many horrible things happen, people do terrible things to each other, yet there is still so much good. The world is full of everyday people living simple lives full of love, kindness and service. What a blessing to be reminded of this!

All of the prayers and people who have put my name in the temple—I have felt it. It has made a difference.

I was thinking about how I didn’t feel as though I should be receiving so many blessings. It’s not because I think I’m worthless or anything like that. It’s much more complicated, but not something I feel I need to go into here. It just didn’t make sense to me. Then I realized that maybe it isn’t about me. Maybe it isn’t for me. Maybe it’s for the sources of all these blessings—the people who have done so many good things for me—giving them another opportunity to serve. Service is one of the best ways we can become like our Savior. It’s what He spent His life doing. When we serve we are following His example and coming closer to Him. No matter the reasons, whether there be any or not, I am extremely grateful. Blessings are definitely the more positive thing to focus on!

Hope and No Hope

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I didn’t think I could get any lower. Then I lost my job, and suddenly that pit I was in got a whole lot deeper, a whole lot darker.

 

My job wasn’t much—just a couple hours a day, a few days a week, but it was something. It was enough to help. And it gave me a sense of purpose, a feeling that I was doing my part to contribute to my family’s financial needs. It also worked so perfectly with my schedule, allowing me to be able to pick my son up from half-day kindergarten and be home with him and my daughter when she got out of school. Now it’s gone. And now everything rests on this new venture of mine as an independent sales consultant for this company. It’s a whole lot of pressure and fear. Pressure to make it work. Fear that, not only will I fail, but that I’ll make people dislike me even more. Yet, I have to hope that it will work, that I won’t fail and that people will be understanding that I’m only doing my job—only trying to put food on the table.

Yes, I have some hope. I have to, otherwise I would have given up completely. I still feel very hollow and numb inside, and I still have no hope in other things in my life, but in this one endeavor, I see a very tiny, very faint light far, far in the distance. Maybe it’s enough right now. I guess only time will tell.

This is Just How it is Right Now

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Just keeping it real, people. This is how I’ve looked most of the last three days because, yes, ugly-crying is most of what I’ve been doing the last three days. I don’t think I’ll be posting for awhile. How can I talk about hope when I don’t have any anymore. I clung to hope because it was the only thing keeping me afloat. But I’ve realized that everything I had hope in was false. And I can’t do false hope anymore. It hurts more than not believing at all. See, no matter how hard I have tried to do what’s right, no matter how hard I have tried to make my life the way I want it, the way I need it, the way I know it’s supposed to be, I have failed. I have done nothing but sabotage myself. I have brought nothing but pain and hurt into my life. My hope is gone.

I’m to the point where I just don’t care anymore. It’s that numb feeling that overtakes everything else. I will not take my own life because that is the easy way out, and I never do things the easy way, the easy way has eluded me my whole life. And I will not deprive my children of a mother. But if someone came along and stabbed a knife in my gut, I wouldn’t care. If someone shot a bullet into my brain, I wouldn’t care. If someone pushed me off the edge of a cliff, I’d open my arms and soar on the way down, because I wouldn’t care. My hope is gone.

And please, those of you who know me, don’t call or text and ask if I’m okay, because obviously I am not. But I will live. I will keep going. I will do what I have to do, well, because I have to. That is all.

Forging Ahead

Life is hard. Life is hard for everyone in some way. I have been struggling with the anxiety of trying to figure out how I’m going to continue to provide for me and my children and our future. Lately, I’ve been having to take money out of my savings account to make sure I don’t go over. My savings account is pretty pitiful as is, so I’ve been stressing like crazy. I needed something to earn a little extra money, so I’m embarking on a new business venture, I guess you could say.

Last night I signed up to become a consultant with the company my boss works for. (I’m her personal assistant, so for the last six months I have been working for her, not the company.) I’m terrified. Excited, yet terrified—for several reasons. First, I’m not a salesperson. I’ve never had a sales job and have always stayed away from them because you need to have good social skills to be a salesperson, right? I don’t.

Second, I have anxiety. I have social anxiety. Bad social anxiety. Just the thought of having to go talk to/try to sell things to a bunch of strangers is almost enough to give me a panic attack.

And lastly, I fear failure. I feel as if I’ve failed at nearly everything in my life, so why should I think that this will be any different?

I need the money this opportunity could potentially provide. I need it. Last night I went to a conference this company did, and all these women were talking about how their jobs as consultants were about giving them extra income on top of what their husbands already make. They do it to pay for a vacation to Disneyland, to afford to take their kids to a nice restaurant and a movie. I need it to buy my kids new shoes when the ones they have wear out. I need it to buy them new shirts this summer because their old ones don’t fit anymore. I need it to put food on the table. And if I get to a point where I can save some for their future, well, I need that too. It’s a lot of pressure, and I’m so afraid of failing. This is a job that requires social networking, something I’m terrible at. I don’t have many friends. Ever since I was a teenager I’ve felt that I repel people rather than attract them. Much of that is due to my mental illness. It makes creating and keeping relationships hard. But I need this. And I absolutely, one-hundred percent believe in the products this company makes. So I’m forging ahead. I’m risking going so, so, sooooo far outside my comfort zone—like a fish out of water—and hoping, despite my fears, I can do this and that it will somehow work out.

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