Rise Up

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It’s actually sort of funny how people who hate, judge and condemn actually think their scare tactics will work. Or at least think they will work on me. I’m not some stupid, naive, timid woman who let’s others roll over her or gives into jerks who get an adrenaline rush bullying those they think are smaller and weaker. When pushed, I push back. When beaten to within an inch of my life, I get back up. Not only do I get back up, I get back up stronger and wiser. When assumed dead, I rise up above the black pit of haters, judgers, and condemners and don’t look back.

Wild

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Sometimes my head pounds with the beating of wild horse hooves. Sometimes this is how it feels to suffer from depression, anxiety and OCD.

Wild 
by Tacy Stine

softly at first
in the distance
pitter patter
quicklynowthesoundcomescloser
even though the sky is blue
thunder thunder pounding pounding louder and louder
the sound of wild horse hooves beat
thunder sounds on the earth through the beating of their wild feet
wild hearts my wild heart and thunder sounds in my head
through the mixture of confusion
and which way do I go
is the answer a or b
pounding pounding the sound beats harder and harder
thunder like wild horse hooves in my head and heart
moment passes by
the deafening roar
slowly       slowly       fades
off into the distance
softer softer
silence silence
and then . . .
softly at first
in the distance
quickly now
comes the sound
of wild horse hooves

Do You Believe in Magic?

Do you believe in magic? Of course you don’t. You did as a kid, until your parents told you the truth about Santa Claus and the Easter Bunny and fairies and that pot of gold at the end of the rainbow—and crushed your happy, innocent bubble of a magical world. But you know what? I still believe in magic. I’ve felt it swirling through the air of Joe’s Valley, caught between long rays at dusk on golden cliffs. I’ve seen it in the reflection of sunlight on towering pines at Kolob Canyon. I wrote this poem once called Kolob’s Gift.

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Shimmering gold grabs my eyes.
Mesmerized.

Individual needles of pinyon pine
reflecting the streaming sunlight
against the brilliant blue sky.
A treasure worth more than all the jewels
I could ever buy.

 

Magic. I also experienced it once at Bryce Canyon. Most people would probably call me crazy. I call what happened a gift. Let me take you back with me.

In high school I was different—different, weird, an outcast—a freak. Most of the time I was fine with that. I didn’t want to be like everyone else, and I proudly walked around in my tie-dye and bell bottoms, not caring what anyone else thought. But some of the time it did affect me. Some of the time I hated being different, hated knowing that people thought I was a freak. And it made me feel bad about myself. Low self-esteem is a common side-effect of depression. I hated looking at myself in the mirror. I was ugly. I was worthless. I was different. I was a freak. And I hated myself.

The summer between my junior and senior years of high school, we took a family trip to Bryce Canyon. I loved being there. I was a nature girl, a desert girl, a red-earth and green-pines girl. But I was also a very depressed girl, feeling so worthless and alone, feeling like my life didn’t matter.

Our last day at Bryce we took a shuttle ride. It stopped at certain lookouts long enough for everyone to get off, take a few pictures, get back on, then drive to the next stop. The main road comes to an end at a large parking lot with several lookouts so this stop was longer than the rest. Everyone shuffled out of the hot, muggy shuttle and took out their cameras. I noticed a trail disappearing into a cluster of pines and took it, wanting to be alone. It led to a lookout called Yovimpa Point.

I stood there at the edge, next to the wooden fence separating me from a long, steep dive down, and took in the breathtaking view of red sandstone, white earth and deep green pines. A good place to take my last breath. All I had to do was climb over the fence and jump. I could end my worthless life and die in my beautiful nature. All problems solved.

I had just put my foot on the fence when I heard voices nearing me, speaking French—a group of tourists who had been on the same shuttle. I stepped back, suddenly nervous about letting these strangers watch me commit suicide. Not long after, my family wandered down the trail, as well. Plan foiled. Now, I can look back and say I’m glad it was.

When I got home from Bryce I talked to my best friend about what had happened. She gave the generic answers any Latter-day Saint person would give about how I was of great worth to my Father in Heaven and that He and Jesus Christ wanted me to live. It did help—enough for me to decide that killing myself wasn’t the answer.

Halfway through my senior year of high school I decided I was sick of being depressed. I remember this one day, sitting by myself in the dark in one of the practice rooms in the band room, thinking how I didn’t want to be depressed anymore. I wanted to be happy. So I told myself I’d be happy. And I was. I know it sounds simple and easy, and, well, it was. That’s not always how it goes, that’s not always how it’s gone at other times in my life, but that time it did. It was amazing how easy it was to make myself be happy after that. It’s not that life was easy. I still had challenges and faced difficult trials, but it was easier getting through them because I had a better attitude, and I wouldn’t let anything get me down.

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Okay, now let’s fast forward to my second year of college. Some roommates and friends and I decided to go to Bryce Canyon over spring break. One day, we drove to the big parking lot at the end of the road. I quickly took off away from everyone else and walked the trail to Yovimpa Point. I stood alone, looking out at the same scene, though painted white from several feet of snow. After a short time I noticed movement from the corner of my eye. I turned to look, thinking maybe one of my roommates had come down the trail, but no one was there. Odd. I turned, looked out at the scene before me, again, and again, out of the corner of my eye I saw movement. I saw someone. I turned, but no one was there. As soon as I turned back, I saw the person again. But this time I didn’t turn to look because I knew who it was. I knew who was there—it was me. I saw myself—the past me, the one who stood there, thinking about jumping. And in this rush of memory I thought about how much I had changed and grown and evolved in the last two and a half years, since the last time I was here. The most incredible sense of peace, calm, and quiet satisfaction settled over me—just like the pure, white snow settled over the land. A gift to remind me that we don’t have to stand still in this life. We can become more than what we were, more than what we are. And it’s okay to falter, it’s okay to be weak. It only means we have some place to go, that we can make ourselves strong.

So, did I really see myself that day? I will always believe that I did. Was it magic? Am I just crazy? Just different? Just a freak? Well, whatever anyone else may think, I’m grateful—will always be grateful—for that experience and what it meant to me. What it taught me. What have your experiences in life taught you?

Darkness Makes Us Grow

A little over nine years ago I moved from a tiny town in Eastern Utah to Phoenix. I was beyond happy to be getting away from what had been a horrible situation where we had been living, but was also incredibly intimidated and a bit terrified to be moving to such a big city. Yet, within weeks, I had fallen in love with the city, the people and the vast, unique beauty of the Sonoran Desert. Some people hate the desert or simply thinking I’m weird for loving it. Maybe I am weird. Maybe it’s the fact that I could relate to something “different.” Maybe I simply appreciated a landscape that survived despite the odds. Probably it’s all of those reasons.

Blooming cacti in the spring was one of my favorite sights while living in Phoenix. The fact that these prickly, pokey plants could produce such bright, vibrant, beautiful flowers never ceased to amaze me. So when we moved back to Utah, less than two years later, we took a tiny cactus magnet with us as a memento. Okay, so my ex-husband’s mom bought it for our two-year-old daughter, but I was glad to be taking a piece of the desert with us. Unfortunately the magnet got packed with all of our stuff, and despite searching the storage unit we rented, we couldn’t find it.

I was sure the poor, little cactus would be dead after four months of no water or sunlight. I dreaded pulling it out, letting our daughter see, because I knew she would be sad. But a miracle occurred. One day, as we were unpacking, after having bought a house, we found the cactus magnet. Not only was it still alive, it had actually grown!

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I love finding metaphors in life. This one reminds me that darkness doesn’t have to be an end. Sometimes the darkness we face in life is what helps us grow. It’s what makes us stronger, what gives us the ability to appreciate the light when it comes into our lives again. If that little cactus could make it all that time with no light or water to sustain it, I can make it too. It’s not easy. It’s hard, it’s dark, it’s hell. But I can find the light again. And when I do, I will have learned and grown and become stronger because of it.

The Power of Gratitude

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I’m going to be cliché today and write about gratitude. The fact that Thanksgiving is this week is a complete coincidence! Actually, this has been on my mind recently, partly because it was the subject of a lesson I substituted for in my daughter’s primary class at church. Thanksgiving being in a couple of days just makes it more appropriate!

Many years ago someone told me about a gratitude journal—a journal you kept where every day you wrote three things you were grateful for. Gratitude/thankfulness is something we talk a lot about in my church, The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints. We’re taught to be grateful for all of the blessings Heavenly Father has given us. But gratitude isn’t just a spiritual concept. It’s part of the field of Positive Psychology. Dr. Randy Kamen wrote an article for the HuffPost about it:

What we have learned is that cultivating personal attributes fortifies us during times of adversity and emotional turmoil and leads to greater happiness and resilience. Moreover, of all the attributes one can develop, gratitude is most strongly associated with mental health.

You can read her full article here.

So I decided to start my own gratitude journal. At the time I was still struggling with the aftermath of my severe postpartum depression which never went away. Finding things to be grateful for during times like that can be a struggle, so I decided to start out writing just one thing each day I was grateful for. Sometimes my entries were of a silly or whimsical nature. I’m grateful for chocolate. (I really, truly am!) I’m grateful for rain in the summer and for cute, little frogs hopping around. (We used to have a bunch of them, and my kids loved finding them in our grass.) I’m grateful for gourmet donuts. [My daughter] and I shared an Oreo donut, and it was so good. (I miss those donuts they used to have at the local grocery store!)

Sometimes I wrote about temporal things. I’m grateful for good people who do good things. (I don’t even remember who I was thinking of when I wrote this, but I am still grateful for the many people in my life who do good things.) I’m grateful for shelter, for a place to live. (This is especially true now with all the disasters going on throughout the world.) I’m grateful for my children. I wish they didn’t grow up so fast.(My baby boy just turned six, and I still wish they didn’t grow up so fast.)

Often times, my entries were of a more personal or spiritual nature. I’m thankful for The Book of Mormon and the peace, comfort and happiness it gives me. I’m grateful for the Spirit that’s with me when I read it. (Something I still feel the same way about.) I’m grateful for the gift of beauty the Sonoran Desert has shown me. (Right about now, I’m really missing it—those warm, beautiful winters and springs.) I’m grateful for love and forgiveness. (Yes and yes.) I’m grateful for words. I’m grateful for the words inside of me. They are my soul. (Something I think about often and am still grateful God helped me to see.) I’m grateful for my Savior. (Something I will always, always be grateful for.)

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Keeping a gratitude journal didn’t take away my mental illness, but it did make my life a bit lighter and happier. I would find myself actively thinking about things I was grateful for each day, so I would be able to write something in my notebook. Focusing on those blessings helped keep negative, self-depreciating thoughts at bay. And as time went by I found it easier to write more than one thing I was grateful for—and still have plenty more to add to the next day.

There have been lulls in my writing. The last time I wrote something was over three years ago, but I would like to start doing this again. I talked to my children about it last night, and we decided that each night before we go to bed, we will each say something we are grateful for. I’m going to write it in my journal as well. I challenge everyone reading this to do the same. Start a gratitude journal or at least spend some time each day thinking of what you have to be thankful for. I guarantee it will make a difference in your life!

God Speaks to Us

I’ve had numerous experiences that have taught me that God is aware of us, He knows us, and He speaks to us in ways we will hear Him. Those ways can be different for everyone.

I never doubted my religion, as a member of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints, even in the midst of my depression. Back in high school it was hard to always live it, to always do what I was supposed to, but I still believed it was true. I just felt so worthless, like I was such a bad, horrible person that I didn’t believe I deserved a relationship with God. But God was still there for me. He still spoke to me, reassured me, comforted me and gave me answers to questions I sought. One of the ways He did this was through music.

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My sophomore year of high school I discovered Classic Rock. It’s one of the things that turned me into a hippie! The music of these incredible artists spoke to me in a way no other music ever had. Led Zeppelin, Lynyrd Skynyrd, Jimi Hendrix, Pink Floyd, Rush, Janis Joplin, The Who, Jefferson Airplane, Eric Clapton, Traffic, The Doors. The list could go on, but I’ll stop there. I listened to this music a lot because I felt a connection to it. When you’re a depressed teenager, feeling so alone in life, having a connection like that means everything. And God used this as a way to communicate with me. I’m sure there are some people out there who might think it’s blasphemous or just ridiculous, but there were times I got answers to prayers through lyrics in a rock ‘n’ roll song.

I remember this one night, getting home from work, but I didn’t get out of the car right away. I sat there and stared up at the gibbous moon above the mountains to the east, feeling lost and alone. I asked this totally general question. “God, what do I do?” And then Lynyrd Skynyrd’s Simple Man came on the radio. And I knew, I knew, that was God’s answer to me—that I needed to live life more simply. I was an emotional, dramatic teenage girl, and that made for a complicated life, but I was filled with such peace and contentment in that moment, knowing that I could take steps to simplify my life—that doing so would help me. It was God’s way of answering my prayer.

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There were also times I received comfort in the midst of absolute darkness and despair through the heavy chords of an electric guitar. And there were times I finally understood things about myself, others, the world—things I needed to know—through this music.

God knew what the music meant to me. He knew He could get through to me with it, so He used it. That sounds very believable to me. And it sounds like a God who truly cares about us as individuals. How has God spoken to you? Yes, I really want to know. Please, leave comments on my Comment page or Contact me here with your story if you would like me to share it in one of my next posts. Remember, we are all in this together, we can all help each other.