On August 23, 2017 I embarked on an eighteen month mission for the LDS Church to Washington State. Two months later I returned home to Utah.
Naturally, I had a lot of people ask what happened and why I was home. For a couple weeks, I lied and said that I was home due to previous physical health condition I had back in high school. I was too ashamed to say the truth; I came home due to severe depression and anxiety.
Every day in the mission field I had strong thoughts and plans for self harm, persistent anxiety attacks, uncontrollable crying, dizziness, and absolute hate and dread for my life.
I received a lot of fall out from those around me. I was told that I was just adjusting to the rules and lifestyle, that I was being dramatic and rebellious, that if I truly did believe in the Church and put in all my effort than I wouldn’t be struggling. I was told that everyone would be better off if I wasn’t on my mission at all.
I saw myself as weak, invalidated, unworthy, and a disappoint to myself, my family and friends, and to God.
I was too scared to get help and I was too scared to go home. I was worried the fall out would be even worse if I had to seek professional help or if I “gave up” and went home. I thought that if I injured myself and was sent home for physical reasons, people wouldn’t judge me as much than if I was sent home for mental health. I was more concerned with what everyone would think of me, rather than my health.
Finally, I worked up the courage to seek counseling. Every week, I met with an LDS Family Services Counselor. I didn’t experience much progression with counseling, but it was a huge step for me! I was finally able to open up about some of the things I felt.
On October 21, 2017 I was emotionally released from being a missionary. Which is an honorable release! Since coming home I have received way more love than I anticipated. I was able to get away from the situation and fully recover. I am glad I served a mission, it put me on a path that nothing else could’ve.
I know firsthand how hard it can be to face the negative stigma in society and in yourself. I want everyone to know they are not alone in their fight. Today, I am a titleholder for the Miss America Organization, where I promote my service platform, ‘”Living #StigmaFree: Mental Health Awareness.” I am a public speaker, blogger, fellow fighter, and advocate.
You are not alone, but to truly heal you need to first help yourself and become your own health hero.