• Kaylee Petersen

S1E9: Mental Health



 

*WARNING* This episode contains a lot of crying. We apologize for the choking, vocal fry, and sniffling sounds that permeate this episode.

 

We’re Talking About Mental Health!

“Our bodies are precious gifts but they are not perfect,” as evidenced by Tracy’s body quickly deteriorating since she turned 30, waking up with new pain every day.


Once again, we’re reminded that we’re slowly dying from the moment we’re born. As Kaylee loves to point out, “Memento Mori.”


This week we’re talking about a topic that is deeply personal and precious to both Kaylee and Tracy: mental health. Because in this modern-day and age, we’re all a mess and we’re all finally admitting it! People have been a mess for thousands of years, forever truly, but now we’re acknowledging it. We have so much more help today and it is so important to talk about.


We all have talents and abilities, but we also have weaknesses that we all have to live with; no one is perfect. There is something wrong with all of us, whether it’s a diagnosed issue or not. The important thing to do is acknowledge it and not judge one another for our different pains and weaknesses.


A Disclaimer

We would like to point out, once again, that we are not experts! We have our own experiences with mental illness, but we are not experts in any way.


With that said, please feel free to correct us, enlighten us, and help us clarify things because we do not mean to offend anyone with what we’re sharing. We only hope to enlighten and support those who suffer from mental illnesses, those who are caregivers, and help everyone else destigmatize it.


“If you can’t produce your own serotonin, store-bought is fine.”


Like Krystal shared in episode 8, “If your appendix were about to burst, the Lord would expect you to get a blessing, but also go to the doctor to seek treatment.”


If you would immediately seek help and treatment for your body’s ailments, why wouldn’t you treat your mental health the same way? Why would you allow yourself to stew and suffer in mental distress and hope that the blessing would cure you? Why wouldn’t you seek someone who could help you heal and cope with what you have? As our favorite podcasters, Karen Kilgariff and Georgia Hardstark, always say, “If you can’t produce your own serotonin, store-bought is fine.”


Mental Health is Real

Through our simple research, we’ve learned that there are multiple types of mental illnesses. Some may be very familiar, while some are completely new to your understanding. Some types include:

  • Mood disorders

  • Anxiety Disorders

  • Personality Disorders

  • Psychotic Disorders

  • Trauma-Related Disorders

  • Eating Disorders

  • Substance Abuse Disorders

  • And many more

As we’ve learned, when your feelings and thoughts become a disruption to your daily life, are a repetitive problem, a persistent and relentless feeling that doesn’t go away, or it’s found as a chemical imbalance, that’s when you are generally diagnosed with a mental illness.


More often than not, people ignore the warning signs and symptoms of mental illness in their lives and brush it off as something else because the societal stigma around mental illness is greater than their desire to admit they need help.


Grief, Bad Days, and Illness

There is a difference between mental illness and “having a bad day” or grieving.


We need to recognize the difference between the two and have charity and compassion for ourselves and the people around us in whatever situation they may be. If someone is grieving, we comfort them, tell them they’re loved, allow them room to mourn, and generally try to find them help with a grief counselor. Similarly, if you know someone who is dealing with the symptoms of depression, anxiety, or intrusive thoughts, you should also comfort them, tell them they’re loved, allow them room to deal while finding them help with a therapist or other professional.


Over the last 10 or so years––in the Church specifically––we’ve seen a lot of education, changes, and support for people living with mental illnesses, caregivers, and church leaders. Some evidence we’ve noticed are:

  • More talks in General Conference about mental illness

  • See Like a Broken Vessel by Elder Holland & Thru Cloud and Sunshine, Lord, Abide with Me by Sister Aburto for references.

  • Updated manuals to include counseling and more

  • See the church website for references

  • LDS Family Services providing more locations, therapists, and services

  • Click here for more information on the total services provided

  • Therapy and psychological evaluations for missionaries getting their papers ready

  • See an article by Robert K. Wagstaff about preparing for a mission emotionally and Chapter 11 of the Mission Prep manual outlining important points on emotional preparation for a mission.

  • We also know in Orlando, missionaries leaving our stake to serve elsewhere had to do at least one session with a therapist before submitting their mission papers. We don’t know if that’s a Church-wide thing or not.

  • Mental Health Self-Reliance/Emotional Self-Reliance Classes

  • *as of 2021, it is confirmed there is a manual from the Church for an Emotional Resilience for Self-Reliance course.

  • More of a focus on “being productive” with the things we can do to get closer to the Lord and fight the clouds in our minds that are hard to face.


In the October 2005 Ensign, Elder Alexander B. Morrison of the Seventy wrote a beautiful article entitled “Myths About Mental Illness.” In it, he outlined how increasing our understanding of mental illness helps us reach out with love and compassion to those who are suffering.


“If we are obedient and follow God’s commandments, we will be happy. It is important to understand, however, that happiness does not imply the absence of adversity.” - Alexander B. Morrison

Much to our chagrin, being commandment-keeping members of the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints doesn’t mean that our lives will be free from adversity, but we will be able to find joy and happiness. With that said, happiness doesn’t mean everything is going to be sunshine and rainbows all the time. There are going to be hard days, but there are also going to be days that are wonderful and we need to remember that there is always hope.


“Happiness is a very hard concept to even grasp at times, but as long as we’re willing to take a step forward, it can really help us.”


The Science of Mental Health

“We still do not know exactly how the brain works nor exactly how and why parts of it may malfunction. One thing is certain, however: no individual, family, or group is immune from the effects of mental illness. Furthermore, we are learning that many mental illnesses result from chemical disorders in the brain, just as diabetes results from a chemical disorder in the pancreas.” - Alexander B. Morrison

Your brain is an organ also. Your brain can have chemical imbalances and malfunction in ways that people can’t understand fully. But the whole point of treating mental illness is helping the person suffering with it cope, survive, and be OK with it. Therapy, psychiatrists, and more give you the tools you need to recognize when it’s your mental illness talking/taking control during the day, the steps you can take to restructure your mindset, rebalance your day, and recognize that you are so much more than your mental illness.


Let us say it one more time, in case you weren’t listening: You are so much more than your mental illness.


The Myths of Mental Illness

Elder Morrison continued in his article to list common myths that society, and especially members of the church, have held onto for far too long. Kaylee read them off to Tracy in a True or False format and she got them all correct. We thought it was an important enough list to share it again on the blog.


True or False?

  1. All mental illness is caused by sin.

  2. FALSE. Honestly, people, it’s not the 1600’s anymore where mental illness is caused by witchcraft. It’s just how our DNA doesn’t match correctly and according to God’s plan for us. You can’t sin your way into mental illness.

  3. Someone is to blame for mental illness.

  4. FALSE. As much as we’d like to blame our parents or upbringing, or even Satan himself, no one is to blame for mental illness.

  5. All that people need to be healed is a priesthood blessing.

  6. FALSE. LOL no. If it were that easy, don’t you think everyone would be cured immediately?

  7. Mentally ill persons just lack willpower.

  8. FALSE. *insert eye roll here* Willpower for what? What willpower is necessary to fight a mental illness? No, please, we want to know your rationale here.

  9. All mentally ill persons are dangerous and should be locked up.

  10. FALSE. No, they are not. Should they be given access to resources and professionals who can help them cope? Absolutely. Should they be locked up to do so? No.

 

*We would like to note if you want to lock us up in a tower, feed us all day, and not make us worry about looking for jobs, we’d be down for it.

 
  1. Mental illness doesn’t strike children and young people.

  2. FALSE. Mental illness has no age. Talk to Kaylee and Tracy about our childhoods and we’ll tell you that we should have been diagnosed sooner.

  3. Whatever the cause, mental illness is untreatable.

  4. FALSE. Mental illness is always treatable. Treatable and curable are not the same thing.

You’re always going to live with a mental illness, but you can receive the help you need through therapy, medication, and more. Those tools will allow you to live with your mental illness without letting it completely dominate your life.


It’s like living with a roommate forever that you didn’t pick. Nobody wants to live with a roommate but to make the best of a bad situation what do you do? You find ways to create a nice environment, clean up after each other, maintain harmony in the home, and work around one another. Is it ideal? No. Is it what you want? Also no. But it’ll do for the time and you’ll be blessed in the long run.


The Savior is Here to Help

As highlighted above, Elder Jeffrey R. Holland’s talk “Like a Broken Vessel” from Oct. 2013 General Conference is a powerful example of how the Savior’s love, combined with professional assistance, can be the ultimate healing balm for mental illness.


“In striving for some peace and understanding in these difficult matters, it is crucial to remember that we are living―and chose to live―in a fallen world where for divine purposes, our pursuit of godliness will be tested and tried again and again. Of greatest assurance in God’s plan is that a Savior was promised, a Redeemer, who through our faith in Him would lift us up triumphantly over those tests and trials, even though the cost to do so would be unfathomable for both the Father who sent Him and the Son who came. It is only an appreciation of this divine love that will make our own lesser suffering first bearable, then understandable, and finally redemptive.” - Jeffrey R. Holland

We are not on this journey alone. Christ has gone through it all for us. The Lord is with us every step of the way. Only He knows what we’re feeling when we’re in the pit of despair. Only He knows how to lift us out.


Another powerful talk we mentioned previously was “Thru Cloud and Sunshine, Lord, Abide with Me” by Sister Reyna I. Aburto at October 2019 General Conference. Her entire talk focuses on mental health and being willing to help people who suffer from mental illness because that’s what being a disciple of Christ is all about! She echoed Elder Holland’s words:


“I testify that ‘thru cloud and sunshine’ the Lord will abide with us, that our ‘afflictions [can be] swallowed up in the joy of Christ...
“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...Let us follow the Savior’s path and increase our compassion, diminish our tendency to judge, and stop being the inspectors of the spirituality of others. Listening with love is one of the greatest gifts we can offer, and we may be able to help carry or lift the heavy clouds that suffocate our loved ones and friends so that, through our love, they can once again feel the Holy Ghost and perceive the light that emanates from Jesus Christ...your struggles do not define you, but they can refine you.” - Rena I. Aburto

We testify what Sister Aburto shared is true. Our trials and struggles with mental illness do not define us, but truly refine us through this journey of mortality.


Our Personal Experiences

When Tracy was diagnosed with Depression in 2019, her mind was blown and everything finally made sense. More than that, she realized she could turn to people around her expressing similar things they were struggling with and advise them to seek professional help because she was doing that herself.


It wasn’t out of judgment or the desire to leave a conversation, but out of love, compassion, and hope that someone else could begin their own journey of healing like she was. It was helping her turn more to the Savior as she was doing more to take care of herself and ultimately helping her extend Christ-like love towards the people around her.


There are going to be moments where all you can do is hang on for dear life and pray that you’ll make it through to the next day. But there are also going to be moments where you can help someone hand on a little bit more, even while you’re suffering. That’s when your soul is being refined.


When Kaylee was diagnosed with Anxiety (which led to Depression), it opened doors for her to develop a closer relationship with one of her siblings in a way she never expected. Her sister shared a church video with her about suicide that led Kaylee to open up about the things she was struggling with.


She didn’t expect to share everything going on, but was able to reach out for help and received love and help in return. Since their conversation, her sister sent daily check-ins, made sure she took her meds, and continues to be a great support system. Beyond getting the basic help, Kaylee gained an extended support system she didn’t know she needed.


Having External Support

To our caregivers: we love you, we appreciate you, we need you always; even in times when we’re behaving like we don’t need you, we need you, and your help is always valued.


For some of you, opening up to someone in your family about your mental health might be the most terrifying thing possible, and we understand. If you can’t open up to your family, open up to the Savior about it. We know He will listen.


“Sometimes, just being able to open your heart up to the Lord and say, ‘I am really struggling right now,’ that’s when you can feel the Lord throw–just YEET–love at you from Heaven.”


He knows everything, He’s felt everything you’ve felt, He has experienced every illness and struggle that you’ve experienced, and He knows the perfect way to help you get through them. He will help you as long as you are reaching out to Him in faith.


Do the Next Right Thing

We’re going to have good and bad days; anything can come our way. Sometimes we just have to hang in there, drink the cup, and trust that there are happier days ahead. It may feel like we don’t know what to do next and we might not care to know, but at the end of the day, the Lord will remind us that better things are ahead if we kneel and ask Him for that confirmation. We can overcome those bad days and see the good days when they come.


Not to be cliché Mormons who talk about Disney, buuuuuuut…


Think about the song from Frozen 2: “The Next Right Thing.”


Sometimes it’s just taking a step forward to do the next right thing we can to make things better for ourselves. Small things make a big impact on our day. There’s even a scripture about small and simple things bringing to pass great things.


Don’t discredit the small steps you take during the day to make it better. Plus, doing small and simple things for yourself will ultimately help you take care of yourself and find joy/inner happiness in yourself that the Lord has promised will come to those who follow Him and His commandments.


Some small and simple things for you to do for yourself can include:

  • Staying hydrated

  • Getting out of bed

  • Showering

  • Getting dressed

  • Seeking help―in an expert and a support system

  • Praying

We are living proof that it can change your life if you just ask someone for help.


Church Support

The Church website has a great resource for mental health. In one of the sections, it says, “We invite Church and community members alike to increase their compassion and support of those who are struggling and take an active role in caring for their own mental health through the following:

  1. Watch your words. Your language can change perceptions. Avoid potentially harmful or negative phrases and choose words that are more descriptive of what you observe. Visit Time to Change or the American Psychiatric Association to learn more.

  2. Be a Friend. Listen patiently and without judgment when others share their concerns. Help them locate professional resources if they need additional support. Visit HelpGuide.org or Active Minds to learn more.

  3. Practice self-care. The limitations of mortality may require us to slow down and restore our strength at certain times (see Mosiah 4:27). It is not selfish to take time for yourself.

 

*Note: Self-care doesn’t just mean taking baths and watching Netflix all the time. Both can help, but it truly means treating yourself kindly, feeding yourself, and keeping an eye out on the warning signs, or indicators, when things are starting to get bad for you.

 
“In preventing illness whenever possible, watch for the stress indicators in yourself and others you may be able to help. As with your automobile, be alert to rising temperatures, excessive speed, or a tank low on fuel. When you face “depletion depression,” make the requisite adjustments. Fatigue is the common enemy of us all--slow down, rest up, replenish, and refill. Physicians promise us that if we do not take time to be well, we most assuredly will take time, later on, to be ill.” - Jeffrey R. Holland

This is a universal truth, folks.


There are a lot of things that can work and can’t work for self-care. Anything that you can do to take care of yourself before you hit that completely empty tank is going to be more important than anything else.


Take time to know when to slow down and do what you know is best to reset yourself emotionally and mentally.


In Conclusion

Living with mental illness is not a death sentence and it’s not going to leave you locked in a tower, isolated from the world somewhere. You can get treatment, you can gain tools and knowledge to cope, and you can live a normal life.


For those of you who are caregivers to loved ones with mental illness, know that you are loved, valued, and appreciated, even when it doesn’t seem that way.


If this is your first time learning about mental illness, welcome to the community. We are happy to have you. Be kind, be open, be supportive, and above all, don’t judge.


Take care of yourself and take care of the people around you. Do what you can to uplift and edify the people around you. Don’t judge them because they are suffering and enduring things differently than you. Let them know they are loved, they are valued, and you are there for them.


“You are worth more than rubies. You are worth more than all of the wealth in the world. You are a beloved Child of God and He loves you. He is there for you and we are rooting for you as well. We all want you to succeed in being the marvelous works of art that you are.”


And always remember that you are more than your mental illness.



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