Taking My Own Advice

I recently had one of those experiences where I realized what a hypocrite I am and that I need to take my own advice. I had told a friend that it’s not about where you live, but how you live and how you choose to raise your children, no matter where you are.

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Now, I love where I live. It’s not because I feel I belong here or that I fit in. See, I’ve always been an outcast, someone who has never belonged, fit in, been part of the in-crowd or part of the click. But I’ve never sought to be. I’m different. That’s just how it is, and I’m good with that. I mean, who else do you know that wore tie-dye shirts and bell bottoms, paired with multiple peace necklaces, beaded bracelets and several rings on each hand? In between the years of 1999-2001? In Utah?! Hell, I even wore tie-dye pants to school! A friend sewed them for me and told me I could wear them as pajamas. “No way,” I said. “I’m wearing these to school!” And I did—along with a bright orange shirt and my necklaces, beads and rings.

I may not dress that way anymore, but that hippie chick is definitely still a part of me! And I still don’t belong, fit in, am part of the in-crowd or the click, but I’ve learned that I don’t have to be in order to be happy with where I live. I love the neighborhood I live in, I love my church group which is full of some of the most amazing people I’ve ever met, I love my job, I (sometimes) love the school my kids go to and (sometimes) love their teachers. I love the convenience of the city I’m in and how close it is to bigger cities with (slight) diversity and culture. I love how where I live is surrounded by such beautiful places in nature that inspire me and bring peace and renewal to my soul. I love where I live. But I hate the drivers here!

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Seriously, Utah has the worst drivers! Okay, okay, so there are two other places I’ve noticed worse drivers—California and Idaho. But Utah really is famous for the crappy drivers. One of the first things I noticed when I moved to Phoenix, Arizona almost eleven years ago were the great drivers! People actually drove the speed limit, were kind and courteous. When I put my blinker on, signaling I needed to move over (that’s what a signal is for after all) they’d slow down and let me in. They recognized that a yellow light meant slowing down rather than gunning it and speeding up. It was amazing! Then I moved back to Utah, and one of the very first things I noticed, or had brought back to my memory, were the crappy drivers! Everyone speeds at least twenty over the speed limit, they’re rude and reckless and speed up when they see your blinker on because there is no way they’re going to let you move over in front of them! They speed up at yellow lights instead of slow down and often don’t use their blinkers. And then there are the “opposite” days, where everyone on the freeway decides to go twenty under the speed limit instead of twenty over, like usual, for no apparent reason! Yeah, it’s really frustrating, and I totally let it get to me. I’m constantly complaining in the car, often times in a very loud voice and with a lot of four-letter words—when my kids are in the car with me. I don’t even know how many times they’ve heard me shout, “Stupid Utah drivers!” Or, “Utah drivers suck!” It may not sound like a big deal, but my twelve-year-old daughter hates getting in the car with me now. And she’s terrified to learn to drive—in Utah.

Sometime after I gave this friend my advice, I realized that I was letting place affect me and what I was teaching my kids. I don’t want to teach my kids that it’s no fun getting in the car with Mom when we’re driving in Utah. I don’t want to teach them that driving here is terrifying and frustrating and not worth learning how to drive. My daughter even once said that she thought I’d want to move sometime just to get away from the crappy drivers here. So not true! Everything I love about where I live is worth the bad, frustrating or hard things—like the crappy drivers. I want to teach my kids that it’s about how you choose to live your life no matter where you’re living.

So I decided I needed to take my own advice and stop complaining about the drivers here. I’ve challenged myself to be better at not saying bad things about other drivers when I’m in my car. I’m not gonna lie—it has been hard! And it doesn’t mean I’m not cursing them in my head—because I am. But I really, truly want to try harder to be more positive and help kids focus on the positives. Like the fact that we live in a wonderful, beautiful place full of amazing people, amazing opportunities and awe-inspiring nature. I want our lives to be about how we’re living, what we’re learning, what we’re giving back rather than focusing on the negatives of where. Any place can be a good place if you can do that, right?

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A World of Contradictions

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Life is interesting. And full of contradiction. Society claims they hate the news because it reports so much bad in the world. “We want good stories, happy stories, inspirational stories,” we all say. On the flip side everyone talks about how much they hate social media because it gives a false perception of people’s lives. Everyone posts happy things, like life is never bad. “Show us reality,” we say. “Not your fake happy smiles.” So which one is it? Good or bad? Positive or negative? Depressing or inspirational?

With my blog I’ve found that I get way more views when I post a depressing piece than a happy one. And the happy ones aren’t fake. I’m open and honest all of the time. I’m always me and I always show that. But my posts about hitting low points and showing ugly crying pictures of myself always get more views and more responses than posts about how I’m doing well or how I’m happy and haven’t been dealing with my mental illness.

I’m certainly grateful I’ve gotten such a positive response from readers, friends and neighbors during my difficult times. I’m grateful they have been there for me, prayed for me, loved me and not been scared away. It shows me that people are learning, caring and seeing past the stigma of mental illness that has been around for so long. But people—everyone, with or without mental illness—still need love and support even in the good times.

So we want happy, but we don’t want fake, but we don’t want depressing, but we only care if it’s depressing. And around and around we go. I have no judgments about whether this is right or wrong or makes sense or not. I just find it interesting because it does seem like a pattern of contradictions. Do I keep writing even if I’m happy or should I only share when I’m struggling? What are your thoughts?

Combatting Feelings of Worthlessness

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Twice a year the church I belong to—The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints—holds a big conference where our leaders speak to us. They instruct, inspire, encourage and uplift us. I wasn’t able to watch this last conference because I was out of town, but I have begun listening to all of the talks online while I get ready in the morning or am doing housework. I’m usually not a weepy person when it comes to spiritual matters. I tend to feel excitement and joy more when reading, hearing, learning or thinking about the gospel. But with other difficult matters on my mind and my depression in full swing I was already pretty sad and emotional when I began listening to President Dieter F. Uchtdorf’s talk, which started out the first general session of this conference.

President Uchtdorf is the second counselor in the first presidency of the Church. He spoke about finding our way back to our home in heaven with Heavenly Father. Part of his talk addressed the fact that it’s not all about us, but about how God will use us to help others on our way back to Him.

While I was gone I saw a lot of people posting on Facebook about how much they liked his talk and how inspiring and true it was. It definitely hit home for me, but only because I had been feeling the opposite lately. While I heard the words he was saying, I just couldn’t feel them. See, my friend I stayed with is this really amazing person. He does so much to help others in so many ways—through our religion, through his job, through his knowledge. Another friend was telling me how great he was and how much he had helped the people in their line of work. I could see how clearly this man made a difference in the lives of those around him. I had a very strong impression that he was where he was supposed to be, that God had him just where He wanted him. If my friend were to pick up and move away it would impact the lives of so many people—people who would definitely feel the loss of his presence.

When I got home I started thinking about how I was not like this friend of mine. The only impact, influence or difference I make in anyone’s life is my own children’s. And yes, I know that’s the most important kind of difference I can make, but it was discouraging to think about how if I were to move away, no one would even notice. Okay, maybe a few neighbors would notice, but no one would care. I’ve made no difference in anyone’s life that my vanishing would impact in even the slightest way. It was a very discouraging thought.

Ever since high school I always hoped that the difficult things I went through with my mental illness were for a reason, that I would be able to help someone someday because of it. And yet the stigma is still there. The general population still ignores it or feels uncomfortable talking about it. Do you know how much it would have meant to me as a teenager to have an older adult tell me they suffered from depression or that they, too, had once been a masochist? It would have made all the difference in the world. And sure, I’m here blogging about it, but my readership is barely existent anymore. So what difference would it make if I dropped off the face of the planet? These were my thoughts—thoughts of worthlessness, of feeling like I have done nothing to help others, wondering if God really has any sort of plan for me or not.

I ran into a friend as these thoughts plagued my mind one night—the kind of friend who I could actually tell the truth to when she asked how I was doing. She told me she wasn’t doing all that great either. Later that night she texted me and told me some things she does to try to help herself when she is having a crappy day or feeling really bad. The one that stuck out was telling herself something positive—even if she didn’t believe it. She said sometimes you have to tell yourself over and over again until you do start to believe it. It reminded me of a therapist I had who talked to me about positive affirmations. She said I needed to look in the mirror every morning and tell myself three positive things.

For me, this is so hard. When I get really down and have those feelings of worthlessness I don’t want to lie to myself—because that’s what I feel like I’m doing. Telling myself I’m pretty is a lie. Telling myself I’m a good mom or a good person is a lie. Telling myself I’m of worth is a lie. That’s the thing, though—they aren’t lies, but it is so hard to see that sometimes. And yet, I think it works.

Like my friend said, even if you don’t believe it, tell yourself anyway. I do believe that the more you hear something, the more you begin to believe it until it does become true. Really, it seems like the easiest thing in the world to just tell yourself a few positive things—even one positive thing, and yet I resist. But I’m going to try it again. I’m going to try to be positive. I’m going to try to believe President Uchtdorf’s words—that God has a place and a plan for me, one that will allow me to help others. I still don’t think it would make any difference to anyone if I up and moved away, but maybe the only difference I need to make right now is a difference in my own life and the lives of my children. Maybe they are the ones who will impact the world because of what I taught them. See, I’m already being positive! So I encourage everyone reading this to do the same. Look in the mirror, say something good about yourself—whether you believe it at the moment or not. Let’s combat these feelings of worthlessness together.