Missionaries and Depression

November 24, 2014

This week was busy, and looking through my planner, I honestly can’t say I know where it went. Two of the elders I came out with are serving in the same zone as I am, and when a member asked them how long they’d been out, Elder Smith responded, ‘fifteen months.’  Elder Nelson and I had a heart attack right then. I’m still recovering. I can’t believe it’s almost crunch time. I try not to think about it, but some parental units keep asking questions. ;) This week I had the opportunity to go on exchanges with Sister McNeill in her area (Sylmar), which was a blast. It’s cool to see how much she’s grown since we served together in Canoga Park almost a year ago. We were able to teach a few lessons to their investigators, contact a potential who is just a gem, and eat two dinners on accident. Sister McNeill and I were able to have a lesson with one of their investigators who is battling serious depression, and I was able to share a little with her about how it has been to serve a mission with chemical depression. It’s something I’ve been thinking a lot about lately, especially after a comment that was made to me a month or so ago about depression and the Holy Ghost. Someone told me that because I had depression, I wasn’t able to really feel the joy of having the companionship of the Holy Ghost, and that hit me really hard. I’ve been thinking a lot about it since, and about missionary service with depression. I’m grateful I’ve been able serve, because it really has lifted a burden that I can’t control without the help of medication. It hasn’t been easy. I’ve talked with other missionaries who have depression or anxiety, and we’ve come to the conclusion that the discouragement tends to run a little deeper, and comes a little more often. But we have this incredible blessing of being so immersed in the Gospel of Jesus Christ, that our joy becomes more full because of what we endure. I know that come Resurrection, my joy and happiness will be overwhelmingly full because I was able to really see how the Atonement helped me throughout mortality. When I was in the MTC, one of my teachers shared with me a scripture that has really helped me throughout the past 15 months (which I shared with the Sylmar sister’s investigator), “Now when our hearts were depressed, and we were about to turn back, behold, the Lord comforted us, and said, Go… bear with patience thine afflictions, and I will give unto you success.” (Alma 26:27) Pair that with my favorite verse in Isaiah, and it’s really helped me to push through and find joy in the journey (favorite verse is Isaiah 41:10, by the way). Now don’t freak out. I’m doing so well. It’s incredible how much serving a mission has helped me overcome my weaknesses, and helped me to understand more fully how I can rely on the Savior in the hard times, as well as the easy. A mission isn’t for everyone, but I do know that the Lord helps us to fulfill our purposes here on earth, and a mission has been integral to me drawing closer to Jesus Christ and overcoming my own inadequacies and inabilities. Lily, a potential that Sister McNeill and I contacted, was a real gem. Literally. We knocked on the door, and she answered looking incredibly grouchy, but once she recognized us, she invited us in, saying that the last time that Sister McNeill and Sister Andersen had dropped by and she had not invited them in, the Lord had rebuked her (her words, not mine), and let her know that the next time the missionaries dropped by, we were to be let in. She shared some experiences that she’s had throughout her life that have drawn her closer to Christ, and shared what she believes, and we chatted for a bit. One thing that stuck out to me was the theme of ‘claiming your heritage,’ or knowing where you came from and who you are to your Heavenly Father, then making the changes necessary to live up to it. She shared an experience about sitting in ICU with her son, who had been diagnosed with spinal meningitis, and how she sat at his bedside reading the Bible and praying not that her son be saved or healed, but “thy will be done.” She used a phrase that expressed the feeling she felt as she sat there, not knowing whether her son would live or die, just knowing that God was saying, “that’s my girl.”  I realized that I want Heavenly Father to say that about me. Not just while I am serving a full-time mission, but when I return to Him one day and am looking back on the things I said and did, I want Him to be proud enough of me and what I have done with what He has given me to hear Him say, “That’s my girl.” Yeah, I do realize that I have a LOT to work on. Little by little, I’m working to get there. In other news, I had a triumph of sister missionary life…. I finally learned to paint my nails neatly, without looking like I was finger painting with a three year old…. It’s the small things in life. :) We had a great lesson this week with Hunter and his mom. I almost died laughing over this kid’s cuteness at least half a dozen times. We talked with him about baptism and prayer, and asked him how he feels when he’s praying. I was thinking of the standard Primary answer (I feel good), but what we got was a hysterical insight into the mind of a kid: “I feel good. Sometimes I feel a little breathing on my head when I pray with mom.” I think his mom was a little mortified, but it totally made our day. Hunter’s a quick kid, and I love teaching him. I am excited to teach the Plan of Salvation this week to him and his mom. We asked Hunter to pray at the end of our lesson, and he didn’t fail us. He prayed just like he was talking to his Father, who was sitting right next to him. He had the best one liner in that prayer, that has kept me thinking over the past few days, “Dear God. I hope you have a good turkey on Thanksgiving.”  Out of the mouth of babes. :)

I love Thanksgiving on the mission. We get to work and help people realize how much the Lord loves them, which is one of the greatest things to be thankful for. We had dinner with a family in our ward this week, and read with them Alma 34:38, “… receive it [the Holy Ghost], and take upon you the name of Christ; that ye humble yourselves even to the dust,and worship God, in whatsoever place ye may be in, in spirit and in truth; and that ye live in thanksgiving daily, for the many mercies and blessings which he doth bestow upon you.” I love that. Living in thanksgiving daily. We challenged the family to do what Sister Cox and I have been trying to do recently, which is getting on your knees and saying a prayer of gratitude. Not asking for anything, just telling Heavenly Father what you are grateful for. It’s not easy at first, because we’re so used to asking for things and asking for help, but about the time your toes start getting chilly or your hands start falling asleep, you realize that you can’t stop thanking Him for everything He’s blessed you with. Things just keep coming, and by the time you say ‘amen,’ you realize how incredible He is and how great His love is for each of us as individuals. It’s been such a blessing to do that exercise this week as we draw closer to Thanksgiving and to the holiday season. So that commitment we left with the Leo family is the same one I’ll leave you with. Say a prayer of gratitude sometime this week – no pleas, no supplication, just thank Him for everything you’ve been given. It really changes the way you see Thanksgiving, as well as every day life. I hope you all have a good turkey! :)

Love, Sister Red

Picture 1 – Elders. Gotta love ’em.Elders gotta love em

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