As I think through my life to answer the question “Who Am I?” here are answers I would give:
efore reading further I would love to challenge YOU to take a few minutes to jot down “WHO ARE YOU?” You can add to your list as you go, just get started.
We all have many different roles and titles in our lives. It’s a part of who we are - what makes us US and helps define us and feel connected. This can definitely be a healthy thing for all of us.
From a very young age I had roles, titles, responsibilities. These things gave me purpose and direction. All very healthy, but there was also another side to this for me. It helped define who I was while I was hiding the pain and abuse that I had experienced at a very young age and had continued on for many years. I wasn’t sure how to process the abuse and I for sure couldn’t tell anyone for many different reasons so I loved being busy and having purpose. That’s what kept me going.
When I was 7 years old I had 6 other siblings so I was helping my mom and had a role of being her helper. I was also going to school and then as I got into Junior High I had the opportunity to work for my dad and I volunteered with friends at the Scera and different things. I also held many different church callings through my youth. I got to college and was going to school full time, working full time, dating, served on Institute Council, callings in my singles ward and the list went on. Then to mission, to getting home and going right back to work and college, dating, church callings. Marriage, working, starting a family shortly after getting married, callings, managing apartments, starting a business, building a new home and then full time volunteering in the schools for the last 18 years.
It helped define who I was while I was hiding the pain and abuse that I had experienced at a very young age and had continued on for many years.
September 2018 I stepped back from a handful of my commitments. My life as I had known it came to a screeching halt. My top contacts in my phone were all PTA roles. I went from easily 100 emails a day to ZERO. My phone wasn’t ringing. There were no texts waiting for me to answer. My list of things to do each day went from unlimited to ZERO, well, alright, not zero, but went to the household tasks and paying bills and all of the things my boys needed. It didn’t feel like there was anything on that list that was for me, enjoyable, me making progress and an accomplishment. I literally would wake up in the morning and think to myself what’s my purpose. I would stay in bed thinking I don’t really have anything to do with my life. Honestly, the relationships right in front of me just didn’t feel like enough.
It was a very difficult time for me. I kept thinking I need to redefine my life. I need to find purpose. I was looking at going back to college, other committees - looking outside of my home and definitely looking past taking time for myself. There was no way I could slow down enough to look within - that was way too painful!!!
In 2019 enough things happened that happened that the only place I could look was WITHIN! I was realizing that it was time to take care of myself and start the healing and learning to love myself. I was also realizing that I needed to take a deeper look within the walls of my home and with my husband and my own boys. Right where I was determined to not look was right where the heart of “WHO AM I” was.
I am a Child of God. I am loved. I am enough. I am valuable. I can be happy with myself. I can have healthy, safe, close relationships. Who I am isn’t determined by what I succeed or fail at. My ultimate value is not measured by my accomplishments, to do lists or what others can see. I am enough for my boys. My boys are enough for me. My husband and I can have a close relationship without a million tasks to do.
Think about this. . .you’re identity will be tied to whatever you give your heart to. What are you giving your heart to?
If your identity is tied to a task or being a coach for a team or your profession or a position in the community. . .whatever it may be when there is failure or loss it could devastate you.
What have you allowed to define you?
Something or someone will have first place in your heart. . .is it being a Child of God or a love for yourself? There is great healing in finding love within yourself.
This is one of my favorite clips from the Movie “Overcomer”
One of the most important things I’ve learned in counseling over the last 12 months to have sincere, real healing is to be honest with myself.
What does that mean? For most, you might say, “Of course I’m honest with myself.”
Well, are you?
When I started counseling my counselor would ask me questions and I’d think about it for a few seconds and then give the answer that made the most sense in the situation or the answer that was the most logical. Of course it was the truth, but it might have been the 3rd, 4th or 6th thought that came to mind. That’s being honest with myself, right?
I was making progress, but deep down I knew I wasn’t taking advantage of the opportunity to sincerely heal. The answers I was giving were the answers I had trained myself to give throughout my whole life and I could find truth in those answers, just maybe not complete truth. They weren’t bad answers, but I wasn’t being completely honest with myself.
As I pondered this over the first few months of counseling I decided that I had nothing to lose, in fact I thought I might have more to gain by giving the very first answer that came to mind no matter what. I felt that the first answer was probably the most honest answer and it didn’t have to make sense. It was my subconscious releasing things and it was time to change what I had been doing for my whole life, saying what everyone wanted to hear or what was the most logical. It was time to be true to myself.
Over the next few weeks I gave it a try. I wouldn’t ponder, sort through my responses - I would just answer. As I would do that I found myself really feeling things vs things being matter of fact or logical. I found that I was really connecting to who I was, what I felt and emotions that I had tucked away for years. This is when I started really making real progress.
One thing that I had struggled with when we would go back to my childhood was all I wanted to do was throw away the little girl. I felt bitter. She was messing up my adult life. I had moved on and I didn’t want the childlike feelings and those childlike feelings were becoming strong in my life.
I found that I was really connecting to who I was, what I felt and emotions that I had tucked away for years.
We would talk a lot about when I felt loved. One day we were talking about this in counseling and my counselor was describing a situation that most everyone would say of course I felt loved, there’s really no other answer that most people would say. I found myself pondering what I should say. Rick was sitting next to me and I kept thinking the right answer is. . .and I ended up just blurting out, “I felt like a burden.” Rick, my counselor and myself were all stunned by the answer.
I didn’t know anything about the specific details of this generalized situation for my life. I went to my mom and asked her if she would share with me about this time in my life. I hadn’t told her about my counseling session. I just wanted to gather information to see if my first answer made sense. As she and I visited she shared with me about this time and it made sense why I felt that way.
As I’ve learned to go with my first thought, not sort through the possibilities, I’ve learned to truly connect with myself in a way that I’ve never connected before. I feel emotions and recognize who I am more than I ever have. This has proven to be beneficial not only in my counseling, but in life overall. I’m grateful that I’ve learned to be honest with myself. It’s truly blessed my life!!!!
For some reason I have the personality that enjoys looking back at one year ago on this day or several years ago on this day. . .the only thing was for many years, probably like 15 - 18 years it was pretty close to the same story, except for maybe a few alterations to things with my boys. I was so deep into PTA stuff and sports with my boys that pretty much everything was marked close to the same story, until. . .
A couple of years ago I started making much bigger changes and then I was saying if I was still doing what I was doing the last 15 - 18 years I would be doing this or that. Honestly, not a lot of personal progress, not a lot of changes within myself or my home or in the places that really mattered.
One year ago today I would dare say was one of those life changing days for all of the real, right reasons. It had nothing to do with sports or PTA or everyone around me, it had to do with ME! It had to do with the real journey I’ve been on that is eternally changing.
I knew that I was sinking into a major depression, but I couldn’t make sense of why I couldn’t stick with the status quo that I had done for 47 years.
I’m going to back track just a little bit. . .2019 brought surgeries, tons of medical stuff, a broken water heater, our bedroom being flooded, massive stresses for Rick with his job, our oldest getting married, sending off Brayden’s girlfriend on a mission that felt like sending off a daughter because she was so much a part of our family for a couple of years, sending Brayden off on his mission to England, watching Brayden crumble and cry often and in my heart knowing he was coming home by the end of the year, every car we had breaking down and needing lots of repairs and the list goes on.
I knew that I was sinking into a major depression, but I couldn’t make sense of why I couldn’t stick with the status quo that I had done for 47 years. I had endured much harder things and had a strong back, didn’t cry often, kept busy and pushed through life. I didn’t like relying on people and didn’t open up often to what was really going on with me - not even to my husband and for sure not my boys. That’s what was expected and what I needed to do for all of those around me. So, why was I starting to cry every single day and why was I getting to the point of not being able to answer my phone, respond to emails, carry all of the responsibilities I had always done. Why was I starting to really feel alone? WHAT WAS WRONG WITH ME????
On Tuesday, November 26th our bishop came over to visit with us about Brayden coming home and I lost it. I had never crumbled like I did that night. The rule I always had was if I was starting to cry or struggling my boys or Rick were not allowed to touch me. It would make it worse. So, here I am sobbing, opening up to our bishop about things that were breaking me and Rick’s just standing there - ya, it definitely looked odd for sure.
Brayden returns home from his proselyting mission on Tuesday, December 3rd. The boys go back to school, Rick goes back to the office and his full time job and due to things Brayden’s going through he is really struggling to be home by himself. I sincerely loved the time with him and loved working through things with him, but I was also finding it hard that I was the one that needed to cancel everything that I had going on in my life. Brayden wasn’t in a place of wanting to talk about his mission so it was hard to break through what was really going on and how to help him with his anxiety and emotions.
On top of working through Brayden’s stuff I had agreed to start counseling the end of December. This was taking on things that I had locked up for over 40 years and I was really anxious about finally focusing on myself and kept thinking I need to take care of my family before I take care of myself. And add to all of this that there were those that were judging Brayden and our family for him coming home early and there was judgement of failure, shame and disappointment. We were also transitioning him over to a service mission and his health wasn’t good. Then you throw in all of the family Christmas parties, getting ready for Christmas and all of the December craziness and the other boys needs. Then besides Rick’s full time job he was coaching basketball and had all of his santa jobs and honestly we were all tired and there was no interest in talking to each other by the end of the day - we didn’t want to rehash things and he was surviving and I was surviving in our own worlds.
I felt that I was carrying the world on my shoulders and I couldn’t break. Anyone that knows Rick and I knows that he and I get along great, we work well together, my boys would tell you that we hardly ever fight - maybe twice a year, if that. Over the years I’ve had so many people tell me that they wished they had a marriage like Rick and I’s. On the outside it looks pretty perfect and that we are sooooo happy. We’ve even had people over the years say that we should teach a marriage class, because we’ve got it all together.
Well, I didn’t realize how far apart he and I had grown and how lonely I was feeling and the things I was doing to create such a barrier - the drawbridge was up and locked firmly.
Well, I didn’t realize how far apart he and I had grown and how lonely I was feeling and the things I was doing to create such a barrier - the drawbridge was up and locked firmly. On Saturday, January 4th, 2020 things had really fallen apart. I was tired of feeling alone in the journey with Brayden, I had my first counseling session and was realizing how hard this was going to be and honestly my thought was if I was going to feel this lonely then divorce would be the better thing - then it would be one less person to worry about, well actually it was the feeling of being alone, in my own world was the safer place and less work to let people in my life.
Saturday night I went to bed crying feeling there was no hope. Sunday morning I awoke and turned on some church music and 4 of my go to church songs came on in a row. I had a feeling to read my patriarchal blessing so I pulled it out and read it. I was at a point I didn’t want to even go to church, but just had that feeling that I should be at church so I reluctantly got ready and went to church.
Through all of this I kept having a feeling that there was a letter I needed to write and send to someone that at the time was pretty much a stranger to me. We had some communication pertaining to Brayden for a couple of weeks and honestly had been my saving grace in helping Brayden start working through things, but that was the extent of our conversations.
On Sunday, January 5th, 2020, after church things worked out that it was just Rick and I driving home together and I just felt I needed to open up to him and tell him where I was at, find out where he was at with things and really have a heart to heart. That is a very difficult thing for me, because that meant I needed to be vulnerable and honest with where I was at and show that I wasn’t as strong as I liked to think I was. We sat in the car in front of our home and this heart to heart happened - for a couple of hours. This was a huge turning point for us, but also, just the beginning of the real healing that needed to happen for both of us. Things weren’t bad, we loved each other, we just hadn’t taken the time to nurture or focus on our relationship and communication and really supporting each other emotionally vs the day to day tasks. Our marriage had been very task oriented and honestly more in a survival state.
As we visited I shared with Rick the feelings I was having of writing this letter and how it was a huge leap of faith, because I don’t open up to anyone this openly and how I was sooooo scared and kept questioning why I was being guided to do this, but both of us felt it was the right thing. We said a prayer together and when I walked in our home I sat down and wrote the letter. The words just flowed so easily and both of us felt this was me showing the Lord that this was the beginning of me doing the really hard things for me personally. That it was time for ME! The Lord had put everything in place perfectly for me to start my own healing including the right people that would have an eternal impact on my life and honestly would feel a part of my family and open up my heart for real feelings of love.
Here is a part of the letter that I sent:
This last week things have weighed much heavier on me in worry for Brayden and his healing. Of course him getting sick this week has been a part of it, but I also feel what you said this week about what you found was his health and mental went so closely together is what I have felt too. There have been several things that you have said that have really stuck with me and caused me to reflect deeply on things.
Last night all lights were out in the house, everyone asleep or in their bedrooms and my home was completely quiet - all phones put away. It was around 1:00 - 2:00 a.m. and I was reflecting. . .I'll be honest, I felt a level of confusion, stress, worry and things were not coming together in my mind and I was praying to seek the Lord's help.
I finally fell asleep and then around 6:00 a.m. I woke up and turned on some Sabbath Day music and 4 songs in a row that are my go to comfort songs came on in a row. Then I had a thought about a specific part of my patriarchal blessing and then pretty clearly I had some thoughts of what I needed to do to bring everything together.
I felt that I needed to share with you why I have been so "obsessive" "seeking answers" "pleading for help to better understand Brayden's experiences.” It could come across a little crazy or alot ;).
When I went on my mission in September 1993 everyone perceived me having it all together. I had lived my life to serve a mission, I had held lots of leadership positions in the church and Institute, I had graduated with my associates, I was outgoing - you know, had it all perfected. I got on my mission and had a breakdown. I ended up in counseling and I finally was telling a counselor that I had endured 13 years of alot of abuse - it started when I was 8 years old and continued until almost the day I left on my mission. NO ONE KNEW what I had been through - I had kept that as a very hidden life from everyone - my life was not perfect by any means.
Luckily I was blessed with an amazing counselor and a Mission President that felt the safest place for me to get help and heal was my mission so every P-day I went to counseling and then worked and served as a missionary the other 6 days throughout almost my whole mission. I ended up coming home 4 weeks early.
This is not a part of my life I share with very many people so this morning when I felt so strongly that I needed to share this with you it scared me, because you hardly know me - really don't know me. . . I honestly went to church praying to have confirmation that I needed to do this and the feeling was yes.
So, when I got home from my mission, got married and started a family my whole goal in life was to provide a safe, comfortable, happy home for my children. There was a point that we didn't know if we would be able to have any children after 2 surgeries so when I was blessed with 4 boys I wanted to protect them from everything I had been through. I wanted to be there for my boys when they got home and hoped that they would talk to me and never fear me. We created a home with no confrontation, I didn't want arguing - I only wanted love in our home. More than once over the years I have been told that I needed to thicken my boys skin and let them be yelled at, treated disrespectfully, beat down at times, but there was no way I could do that - I have protected my boys like crazy. I didn't want them to go through what I went through - I didn't want them to even touch the edge of pain I had gone through from people.
Having Brayden come home and watching him go through the pain he has gone through has caused me to reflect, look deep at my life, realize the big, gaping holes in our home and he is such a mini me - that's really scary. We have an amazing family and are really blessed, but through trials it opens the wounds, the weaknesses manifest. Once I got home from my mission I didn't do anymore counseling and have hardly talked about any of my life stuff for over 25 years. I started counseling this last Monday and I don't want Brayden to endure 25 years of what I have - lots of happiness, blessings, but man the difficulty has been real and painful. I want to get him the help he needs now - he has such great potential and I know the Lord wants him to heal and I truly believe that is a critical part of why he is home now.”
Yep, at the time I thought wow, am I crazy! What am I thinking, but I couldn’t deny the Lord’s guidance in writing this and sharing it. The next day I got a response back and want to share just a little bit of what was sent back to me:
Yep, at the time I thought wow, am I crazy! What am I thinking, but I couldn’t deny the Lord’s guidance in writing this and sharing it
“Thank you so much for opening up to me and sharing these things with me. I have a true appreciation for the insights and very personal experiences you have shared with me. As a mother in Zion, you simply have done all that you felt was right and no one can ever fault you for that. And you did all this with your own hurt and pain, which means you are all the better. You are an incredible person and Mother. . .I am proud of you for being so willing to help your son, but still be willing to seek help for yourself too. You both are on a path to having lasting happiness and greater peace.”
These were words I needed to hear at the time and have thought about a lot this last year. They were words that I needed as a foundation for the last 12 months and have truly been an anchor for the deeper healing that needed to happen. They are words that I’ve framed on my heart. Looking back to this day 12 months ago I know the Lord led all of these things to happen and can see such a greater picture of blessings. I wouldn’t change a thing.
One year ago today I was thinking what is wrong with me and can I possibly open myself up to be vulnerable and real deep healing to have stronger relationships and most importantly an eternal, not task oriented marriage. A connection of love that truly could be felt in my heart and not a checklist - I hadn’t really allowed that in my life with anyone
Yesterday in counseling one of the first things I told my counselor was “I’m married to a champ!” I’m truly married to my best friend and can share anything with him. I’ve shared some pretty difficult things with Rick this year that I’ve never shared with anyone over my 48 years and he’s been loving, accepting and shown me that we are growing and healing together. We are no longer a task relationship, but a personal, open, honest, feeling relationship.
Our relationship is stronger than it’s ever been, the relationships with my boys are stronger than ever, I’ve been blessed with very special people in my life through this journey and the greatest blessing is the close relationship I have with my Savior and Heavenly Father. I’m so grateful that one year ago today, January 5th, 2020 the Lord helped me dig deep and open myself up not only to Rick, but who once was a stranger, and is now an important part of my family. It’s been eternally life changing!
A wife and mother of 4 boys and 2 daughter-in-law, I have spent my entire adult life devoted to my family. I have been busy in their schools, supporting them in all of their school work, sporting events, activities, etc. I spent years heavily involved in the PTA, church callings, etc Life for me has always been overwhelmingly busy. While I thought this was my sanity, the truth is it masked issues - real issues - that I needed to work on to gain true sanity. I am sharing my story in this blog. I do this so that I might be able to help other women find their true sanity