I know that speaking about faith can sometimes be controversial or can feel like someone is trying to force religion on you. That is not my intention, I’m simply going to share something that has been on my heart lately.
A few weeks ago I was asked to speak to my congregation at church. I’ve never been given a reference topic that has ever hit so close to home before. In writing my talk I naturally began writing about my experience as an adoptee and I was overcome with emotion. It does not matter if you are a member of my church or not. I really think the message here is universal and important for any person that knows someone or is someone who has dealt with mental or emotional challenges or depression, no matter your faith.
If you’ve ever felt or are currently consumed by darkness I hope these references I share might give you some kind of comfort.
This amazing message was given By Reyna I. Aburto who is the Second Counselor in the Relief Society General Presidency of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter Day Saints. Her talk is titled Thru Cloud & Sunshine Lord, Abide with me.
She starts by saying:
One of our beloved hymns expresses the plea “Thru cloud and sunshine, Lord, abide with me!” I was once on a plane as it approached a large storm. Looking out the window, I could see a dense blanket of clouds below us. The rays of the setting sun reflected off the clouds, causing them to shine with intense brightness. Soon, the plane descended through the heavy clouds, and we were suddenly enveloped in a thick darkness that completely blinded us to the intense light we had witnessed just moments earlier.
Black clouds may also form in our lives, which can blind us to God’s light and even cause us to question if that light exists for us anymore. Some of those clouds are of depression, anxiety, and other forms of mental and emotional affliction. They can distort the way we perceive ourselves, others, and even God. They affect women and men of all ages in all corners of the world.
Likewise damaging is the desensitizing cloud of skepticism that can affect others who have not experienced these challenges. Like any part of the body, the brain is subject to illnesses, trauma, and chemical imbalances. When our minds are suffering, it is appropriate to seek help from God, from those around us, and from medical and mental health professionals.
It is normal to feel sad or worried once in a while. Sadness and anxiety are natural human emotions. However, if we are constantly sad and if our pain blocks our ability to feel the love of our Heavenly Father and His Son and the influence of the Holy Ghost, then we may be suffering from depression, anxiety, or another emotional condition.
It can happen to any of us—especially when, as believers in the plan of happiness, we place unnecessary burdens on ourselves by thinking we need to be perfect now. Such thoughts can be overwhelming. Achieving perfection is a process that will take place throughout our mortal life and beyond—and only through the grace of Jesus Christ.
In contrast, when we open up about our emotional challenges, admitting we are not perfect, we give others permission to share their struggles. Together we realize there is hope and we do not have to suffer alone.
As disciples of Jesus Christ, we have made a covenant with God that we “are willing to bear one another’s burdens” and “to mourn with those that mourn.” This may include becoming informed about emotional illnesses, finding resources that can help address these struggles, and ultimately bringing ourselves and others to Christ, who is the Master Healer. Even if we do not know how to relate to what others are going through, validating that their pain is real can be an important first step in finding understanding and healing.
Sadly, many who suffer from severe depression distance themselves from their fellow Saints because they feel they do not fit some imaginary mold. We can help them know and feel that they do indeed belong with us. It is important to recognize that depression is not the result of weakness, nor is it usually the result of sin. It “thrives in secrecy but shrinks in empathy.” Together, we can break through the clouds of isolation and stigma so the burden of shame is lifted and miracles of healing can occur.
Man this hit home! It’s no secret that the past couple of years have been transformative in the highest and lowest of ways – hence The Adopted Ride. What I’m saying is that I have had my own real and raw experience with healing from my own pain & secrets the past couple of years.
I was adopted at birth and placed with an amazing family who always wanted me & showed their love for me and I loved them. I was both grateful & deeply conflicted about being adopted. More often than not I didn’t know how to process my feelings. Throughout the years it had come to affect me more and more. It brought times of great joy & gratitude while also weighing me down with dark and heavy times. I kept these dark and heavy emotions to myself. I constantly suppressed them in order to avoid offending or hurting my parents or coming off weird to my friends. I never wanted to be that girl with the issues. So I covered up all my pain with a smile & bubbly attitude & decided to endure in silence instead. I pushed my problems down & I bottled them up.
Then in July of 2018 I found my birth mom after a lifelong search. This was a dream come true for me but I was also suddenly forced into processing all of these feelings that I had suppressed for my entire life. Opening up these wounds was like digging up every painful moment or thought I had ever felt and then feeling it all over again. It’s been so confusing to be feeling so much grief while also being so happy to have found her. I knew I could no longer bottle up all that I was dealing with as I’m sure it would have made me break, so I began to share these feelings in better detail with family, friends and through social media.
It was a year with highs and lows for everyone involved. Through the pain I found that the more I opened up and expressed how I felt especially to my husband and to our family the more weight that was lifted off of me. It was refreshing to no longer suffer in silence.
There was relief from sharing but finally opening up about my feelings didn’t come without great difficulty & heartache for my parents, my husband and the rest of our family as they learned of things that I’ve felt for so many years. But they helped me through it, often times that was difficult to do but in doing so I was reassured that my heavenly father and those that love me were still there to lift me up.
Talking about your pain can be difficult but it doesn’t make you weird. It doesn’t make you less. It makes you brave, it makes you human & most importantly it allows you to heal.
Sister Aburto said “our struggles do not define you, but they can refine you.”
But we have to let it…. right? It’s up to us.
After a very exciting, emotional and intense year I found that I was more often than not feeling encompassed by darkness. Then a year to the day after finding my birth mom and just as I felt I was finally coming out of the darkness I was admitted to the ER facing a life threatening Staph infection & Sepsis. Luckily because of Gods grace, amazing surgeons and caring nurses I was okay. My stay in the ICU was a blur but the weeks that followed brought that dark cloud over me yet again.
Coming off of months and months of reunification depression the weight of this setback affected me deeply. I was grateful to be alive and grateful for family that came and took care of my daughters around the clock. But with so much bed ridden alone time I did what I think many of us do when times are tough and we wonder what we did wrong to be enduring this trial and we wonder why life has to be so difficult sometimes. Such thoughts had the ability to cloud my faith.
I don’t remember when or why but I finally snapped out of this and realized what was missing. Yes I was in pain and trying to recover but more importantly I’d been failing to turn to my Heavenly Father to thank him for all of the things I WAS being blessed with even in this time of sorrow. I was relying on him to keep me alive but I wasn’t doing my part & my faith was weak.
In PSLAM chapter 31 David speaks saying:
9 Have mercy upon me, O Lord, for I am in trouble: mine eye is consumed with grief, yea, my soul and my abelly.
10 For my life is spent with grief, and my years with sighing: my strength faileth because of mine iniquity, and my bones are consumed.
14 But I atrusted in thee, O Lord: I said, Thou art my God.
ELDER HOLLAND once spoke on this same topic and he said:
None of us can go very far without finding somebody who is struggling with something. And that’s not surprising. We talk about the issues of mortality. We have thorns and thistles and noxious weeds. We have trials and temptations and diseases and death. We seldom think about what the father went through as he watched his son, a perfect son do what he did. I suppose everybody has had some kind of an experience where they say “I’m never going to be happy again.”
Well we are, we are going to be happy again & that’s the nature of this plan. It’s the nature of Joy. We have to hang on and believe that. We do the best we can. We manage the situation. But when we’ve done all that we can, you endure.
Hang in there and press forward and be steadfast and count on light at the end of the tunnel and a blessing at the end of the day.
So you think you’re a broken vessel and lo and behold in the miracle of the gospel you get your vessel healed, whole and put back together. That’s the hope that everybody needs to have.
That god’s grace is sufficient that if we come to him, everything that was broken gets fixed. That’s the great promise of the gospel.
So how do you best respond when mental or emotional challenges confront you or those you love?
Above all, never lose faith in your Father in Heaven, who loves you more than you can comprehend. President Monson said “That love never changes.… It is there for you when you are sad or happy, discouraged or hopeful. God’s love is there for you whether or not you feel you deserve [it]. It is simply always there.” Never, ever doubt that, and never harden your heart.
I’ve experienced time and again that Heavenly Father and Jesus Christ know our weaknesses. They know our trials & they are anxiously waiting for us to turn to them. They’ve blessed me with loved ones that are ready & willing to help me through anything. I haven’t always turned to them in time of need. But after the storm has passed and I finally can see more clearly I come to realize once again that they ARE THERE.
I don’t know why as an Adoptee I ever thought my trials were too insufficient to share? All too often I’ve suffered in silence. I’ve become pro at convincing myself that my trials are not “trial-y” enough to share. But just because my trial isn’t the same as someone else’s doesn’t mean it isn’t for me. So yeah it’s taken me a lifetime to realize that things that I’ve gone through never had to be done alone.
There are so many reasons life can be hard and I think especially as teenagers who are just trying to even figure out WHO we are that we can feel the weight of those so much more intensely.
I’ve also lived and experienced the fact that being adopted is not a cakewalk. Yes it’s a blessing, but it also comes with more complicated emotions than the regular messy person, speaking for myself that is.
Trying to navigate it all is a lot. Like A LOT.
As I look back now I want to smack my teenage self and say – wake up – look around – notice all the love that your Heavenly Father ensured you with. This adoptive family and parents were not there to ruin my life. They were there to help me through it. I wish I would of realized that a little sooner & allowed them to do a little more of that.
If my lesson learned here can tell you anything I hope it tells you to turn to your family, or friends, or support group but most importantly your Heavenly Father, there is no need to suffer alone. I know that if you turn to them in honest prayer and refuge they will be there to comfort you & lift you up.
Don’t give up. Don’t suffer alone. Be patient & trust in the timing.
A light at the end of the tunnel may seem far away and it definitely won’t come when you want it to but it will come when it’s supposed too.