As of August 28th I have been home from my 5 month LDS mission for 7 years. Each year this date comes around I am reminded of that hard and yet amazing day.
I remember waking up and getting a ride over to the mission president’s house. I remember him walking me to the security gate at the Cleveland Ohio Airport and telling me to call him when I returned safely to Utah. It was a hard and lonely day.
I had arrived at the gate of the first flight from Ohio to Minnesota, a grandmother was consoling her granddaughter. Telling her that her parents would be waiting for her after the flight. I smiled as we boarded and ensured the Grandmother that I would keep an eye on the child during the flight. I remember the first flight sitting in the last row by myself and reading “Our Heritage”. I remember leaving the flight with my two bags. My backpack filled with all my study material and my tote filled with 3 pairs of shoes and other little things. (I had only a day to pack everything and you do what you have to do.) I left the plane and had to go from one end of the Minnesota airport to the other as fast as possible to get on another flight to Salt Lake City. I followed the signs and by myself feeling sick and weak with my mission name tag on I was somehow able to make it with enough time to eat a quick snack before boarding again.
The flight to Salt Lake was longer and I had been sitting in between a business lady whose only interest was drinking alcohol next to the window and a middle aged gentleman who was the previous pilot returning home. I felt trapped and I had one goal in mind… get home. When the fasten your seatbelt sign went off and I saw the mountains through the window I felt a sense of peace. I made it home. I know that the only way I was able to get home was because I had amazing angels helping me. After getting off I don’t remember getting to the escalator but I did.
As I descended I saw them. Mom, Dad and one of my big brothers. I couldn’t wait. I ran down the escalator and went straight for my mom. Her hug and the joining of my dad was the safest I had felt in months. After that wonderful reunion we got straight in the car, made a pit stop at my second brothers apartment and then went to my oldest brother’s house and I got to meet my first sweet baby niece, who had been born the day before I came home. My homecoming later that night consisted of hearts and a banner set up in my parents trailer. It was the best.
Rewind from that day to April 3rd 2013. The day I entered the Missionary Training Center. I left the car and gave everyone a hug. I gave my mom one more bear hug and with tears streaming down my face I went with the other missionaries to get all set up with my nametag, my room and my first companion.
The 2 weeks I was at the MTC was a mix of emotions. I learned a lot, had a couple of blessings, went to the temple with the other missionaries, ended up at instacare because of stress that caused dehydration and stomach ulcers and somehow I made it on the bus, to the airport and to Cleveland.
After that I met my trainer and we got to work. She was amazing. She knew how to communicate with me and we had the best 6 weeks together of learning the area. We were both new to the neighborhood. One of my first days there my companion and I ended up walking into the wrong house (yes we thought the house next door was ours and when we walked in and smelled cigarette smoke we quickly realized that our house was left of that.) We laughed after I freaked out because a man was looking through our window thinking our house was for sale and when I got a bug stuck in my shirt. We smiled as we were able to be a part of a sister’s baptism into the church. She helped me when I started to doubt my worth and then she went home, her journey was over but mine had just begun.
I started working with my next companion and that’s when things slowly started to unravel. Our personalities clashed and I started to get stressed. Depression slowly crept in, but we still got a lot of wonderful work done and met amazing people.
6 weeks later she was transferred and I started training my third and little did I know my last companion. By the time she showed up I had gotten worse with my depression. And a couple weeks into training I ended up driving with her to Cleveland and back to meet with a member that was a therapist that offered free service to missionaries. A few days after that we had finished at a less active members house and when I got in the driver’s seat, I was too dizzy to drive. We called and got permission to switch drivers and then the days melted together. I remember calling my mission president depressed and having suicidal thoughts. He talked with me and things got better.
It kept happening and the thoughts wouldn’t stop. My mom sent me a card with a bunch of stickers that said, ‘I love you’ and it did absolutely nothing for me. I remember opening it at a park that had a big train and just thinking that I wasn’t making it home alive. It scared me. So the mission president thought it was time for me to go see a doctor to see if my anxiety/depression meds needed adjusting. After the doctor adjusted it, I started getting sick and ended up spending a day in bed watching church videos, while my companion studied with the other sisters in the house. After a lot of prayer and concern, the mission president decided that it was time to involve my parents.
We all did a conference call and when I heard my parents I could hardly keep it together. The mission president talked about all the things we had done to try to resolve the issues. He told me that he was not going to send me home, but that he would leave it up to me to decide what was best. My dad then proceeded to explain that whatever choice I made they would be proud of me and if I chose to go home, they would do what they could to get me help. I was so set on staying because I didn’t want to fail. But at the same time I felt like I wasn’t being fair to my companion. She wasn’t getting to do the work because I was always sick. My dad specifically said, ‘if you could make the choice right now without thinking too much and without us on the phone, would you come home?’ and to that I immediately responded yes and the choice was made.
I got off the phone call and went into the front room to tell my companion and I remember just bawling. She was so sweet, she hugged me tight and sat with me while I cried. The next day I packed my bags, we drove to a zone conference and I waited outside on the curb with a few sisters until a elderly companionship came and loaded my stuff in the van. I spent my last day with the Cleveland sisters and that was that.
This is the first time I’m sharing the order of my mission. It’s taken many years to come to the acceptance of what happened. It took three years of trial and error and moving out by myself to finally realize that all that occurred was not just anxiety.
It was something much bigger, there was so much buried that needed to be brought to the surface. 20 years of stuff that I had pushed so deep, needed to be worked out. Grieving all the death I experience, working through all the bullying and the insecurities. Finding out that the bad, intrusive, harmful, sexual, irrational thoughts I had before my mission and on my mission were caused because of a chemical imbalance. I was not hiding sin, I was a worthy missionary. It took years to figure it out. But I am happy to say that I am past my mission.
During General Conference this year, I had a moment where I felt the burden of the past, especially my mission be lifted off my shoulders.
In my mission on the first day, you sit in the school of prophets in Kirtland and say a silent prayer, telling God the goals you want to achieve for your mission. At the end of your mission you get to sit there again and report to God how you did. Because my mission was cut short I didn’t get to do that. My goal was to overcome anxiety. It took 7 years to do that. I’m never going to rid myself of OCD and anxiety but I’ve learned to manage it. And who knows maybe I will get to go back someday and report it. But for right now I’m just going to be happy for the lessons I’ve learned.
My mission scripture on my plaque that was displayed in the church building was 2 Timothy 1:7, “For God hath not given us the spirit of fear; but of power, and of love, and of a sound mind.” Turns out that I learned the truth of that scripture in the 5 months, 7 years ago that I served as a missionary for The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-Day Saints.