Living With Depression: What I Know of Myself about Sharing Stories and Compassion versus Force

From my own experience with depression and anxiety and now trying to support a family member with depression and anxiety, I’ve come to know some things of myself. What I’ve come to know in this past month was why compassion is better than force and that sharing our stories gives us hope and strength.

This past month I participated in two book groups. For one I read Silent Souls Weeping by Jane Clayson Johnson which is a compilation of stories from members of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints who struggle with depression. For the other group I read How to Stop Worrying and Start Living by Dale Carnegie. The philosophies of these two books seemed to be in conflict. Silent Souls Weeping suggested that compassion and patience were the ways to deal with depression in ourselves and others. In a chapter about suicide Jane Clayson Johnson says, “There can be no dispute: nothing but love and compassion—totally devoid of judgment—should be bestowed upon individuals who live and die from mental illness” (Silent Souls Weeping, Jane Clayson Johnson, p. 148). Dale Carnegie compiled many stories about dealing with worry and his answer seemed to be to stop worrying and get to work. One chapter is titled “How to Cure Depression in Fourteen Days.” Dale Carnegie quotes Alfred Adler, the psychiatrist, who said, “You can be cured in fourteen days if you follow this prescription. Try to think every day how you can please someone” (How to Stop Worrying and Start Living, Dale Carnegie, p. 172). After reading these two books, I didn’t know whether to listen and console or to compel and command.

When I posed this question to both groups, I learned two things. When someone suffers from depression, improvement will happen when the person chooses to act. I cannot compel or force. Even if I think I know the best way to deal with depression, it is still up to that person to make the choice. At a Relief Society activity where a therapist taught us about empathy and depression, I asked, “In dealing with my own depression, I know what worked for me. Can I tell my family member what to do to get better?” The therapist said, “When you were depressed, how would you have felt if someone told you what to do?” That would not have helped. I needed to make choices for myself. What I needed was to talk about my depression and to have loving and supportive family and friends. That was the second thing I learned from both groups. We need to share our experiences with loving people with whom we feel safe. Jane Clayson Johnson shared from an article in Psychology Today that “Telling your story—while being witnessed with loving attention by others who care—may be the most powerful medicine on earth” (Silent Souls Weeping, Jane Clayson Johnson, p. 197). Dale Carnegie shared story after story about someone who has conquered worry because of loving and being loved by someone else. And it is in the sharing of those stories, that we gain understanding and empathy.

What I know of myself now is that I need to share, and I need to be compassionate.

The Son

A son born to a mortal mother

And God as His father.

A hero over death and hell

Who washed the feet of his friends.

Able to control the seas

And heal the sightless.

Defeated devils

And blessed little children.

Walked on water

And obeyed the will of his Father.

Resisted temptation

And carried His cross.

A baby born in a stable.

A gift from our Father.

Not a myth.

Not a Greek God.

The Son of the Eternal God.

Who descended below all

To carry my grief

To wipe my tears

To succor my pain

To cleanse my sins

To hold me in His arms.

The son of a mortal mother

With God as His father

That all can live again with Him.

What Is Your Brass Plates?

At the beginning of The Book of Mormon, the prophet Lehi and his family are commanded to leave Jerusalem. This is 600 years before the birth of Christ, and because of their wickedness, the people of Jerusalem will be destroyed and carried away captive. Soon after Lehi’s family leaves Jerusalem, the Lord commands Lehi to have his sons return to Jerusalem to obtain the brass plates. Laman and Lemuel, Lehi’s older sons, complain about having to go back. I remember the complaining during a family vacation when after driving 30 minutes, we realized we needed to go back for the fishing licenses. Nephi doesn’t complain. He tells Lehi, “I will go and do the things which the Lord hath commanded, for I know that the Lord giveth no commandments unto the children of men, save he shall prepare a way for them that they may accomplish the thing which he commandeth them” (1 Nephi 3:7). Back in Jerusalem, Nephi and his brothers fail two times to obtain the plates. They are even chased by the guards of Laban, the leader who has the brass plates. Nephi then goes by himself not knowing how he will accomplish the task. He finds Laban, drunk, and is commanded by the Lord to kill Laban. He resists but then complies and dresses in Laban’s clothes and tricks Laban’s servant into giving him the brass plates. Once Nephi and his brothers return to their father with the plates, they learn the reason for the Lord’s commandment. The brass plates contain a history of Lehi’s ancestors, the five books of Moses, and a record of the prophecies of the holy prophets. These scriptures allow Lehi’s family and his descendants to maintain their language and to study the word of God.

I’ve known this story since I was a child. It is obvious that Nephi was obedient and Laman and Lemuel were complainers. I know that I should be like Nephi. But as we’ve watched the new Book of Mormon Videos produced by The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints, I’ve found myself relating to Laman and Lemuel. I would have wondered why the Lord hadn’t told us to get the plates before we left. Why the Lord didn’t tell us how to get the plates. If we were supposed to get the plates, why did Laban threaten to slay Laman when he asked for the records. Our idea to pay for the plates with the riches we left in Jerusalem was a great idea. Then why did Laban try to kill us when we tried to bargain with him?

We won’t be asked to return to Jerusalem to obtain the brass plates from Laban, but we will be asked to do other things. To endure a trial caused by others’ choices. To seek help for ourselves. To seek help for a child or other loved one. To minister to assigned or unassigned individuals. To change careers. To move. To not move. To accept a calling. To adapt to new programs within the church. To attend the temple regularly. To hold onto our faith when we can’t feel the Spirit.

We will have some of the same questions as Laman and Lemuel. How do I know this is what the Lord wants me to do? Why do I have to do it that way? If I’m doing what the Lord wants me to do, why did I fail the first time, the second time, the third or more? If I knew why the Lord wanted me to do this and how it would work out, I’d be happy to do it.

The difference between Nephi and Laman and Lemuel was their hearts. Nephi’s heart was soft and Laman and Lemuel’s were hard. Nephi had a soft heart not because he was more capable on his own, not because he was better than his brothers, and not because he didn’t have to endure hard things. Nephi had a softened heart because he asked for a softened heart. Nephi said, “…having great desires to know of the mysteries of God, wherefore, I did cry unto the Lord; and behold he did visit me, and did soften my heart…” (1 Nephi 2:16). Nephi didn’t cry unto the Lord only once. He did it often, continually.     

Nephi knew that in order to accomplish what was commanded, he needed the enabling grace of the Savior, and he needed to cry out for that power. Our prophet, President Russell M. Nelson, explained the depth of that plea for grace, “When you reach up for the Lord’s power in your life with the same intensity that a drowning person has when grasping and gasping for air, power from Jesus Christ will be yours. When the Savior know you truly want to reach up to Him—when He can feel that the greatest desire of your heart is to draw His power into your life—you will be led by the Holy Ghost to know exactly what you should do. When you spiritually stretch beyond anything you have ever done, then His power will flow into you” (“Drawing the Power of Jesus Christ into Our Lives,” Ensign, May 2017).

As we encounter commandments and challenges, we can complain or we can call upon the Lord. When we call upon the Lord often and continually, we are acknowledging that we cannot accomplish the task on our own. Then the Lord can soften our heart, strengthen us, and guide us to accomplish what we’ve been commanded.

Notes From a Loving Father in Heaven

We speak to God, our Father, through prayer. Our loving Father in Heaven also speaks to us. When we learn to recognize how God speaks to us personally, we feel His love as a child feels loved by her father.

Notes from our Heavenly Father can be called revelation, blessings, tender mercies, and more. Sometimes they are received as inspiration through thoughts and feelings within. Sometimes through the service of others. And sometimes through the written word. This past week my Father in Heaven sent me a written note of love.

Based on the recommendation of a friend, I watched a video called Spiritual Whirlwinds created from a talk by Elder Neil L. Andersen, an apostle of the Lord Jesus Christ. I was touched by the message of the video and especially by my very favorite scripture quoted within the video, Helaman 5:12, which teaches that “it is upon the rock of our Redeemer, who is Christ, the Son of God, that ye must build your foundation.” When you watch the video, pay attention to the image in the light behind the young man. Jesus Christ is our “sure foundation.”

I planned to show my family the video after our evening family scripture study. Currently we are reading The Book of Mormon from beginning to end, two pages per day. We opened to the pages we would be reading, pages 378 and 379. There in the third verse I read “And now, my sons, remember, remember, that it is upon the rock of our Redeemer, who is Christ, the Son of God, that ye must build your foundation; that when the devil shall send forth his mighty winds, yea, his shafts in the whirlwind, yea, when all his hail and his mighty storm shall beat upon you, it shall have no power over you to drag you down to the gulf of misery and endless wo, because of the rock upon which ye are built, which is a sure foundation, a foundation whereon if men build they cannot fall” (Helaman 5:12). My favorite scripture. The one I’d seen in the video that day. We happened to be reading that scripture on that particular page on that day. It was a written note from my Father in Heaven. A note that told me that God knows me, loves me, and that I am His daughter. I am a child of God.

The Most Valuable Tip from My Writing class: The Sword of the Spirit is the Word of God

Summer 2018 I took a week-long writing class in Utah. I hoped this would be the class that changed my life. My dream was that my mentor teacher, an editor at a publishing company, would love my manuscript and want to publish it right away. I learned a lot from the class about plotting and was impressed with all the manuscripts from my class members. But mine had so many timelines that it was confusing. I entered every writing contest during the conference and didn’t win a single one. After one class I cried all the way home and bought myself a giant chocolate malt. My hopes and dreams were crushed. No agent drooled over my brilliant words. No editor offered me a publishing contract. I didn’t become best friends with any editors, authors, or agents.

Near the end of the week our class went out to lunch together. I rode with a class member who was an editor at another publishing company, and she told us about a manuscript she was working on. The author proposed that we could receive daily revelation through a short scripture study every day. The key was to ask a question in prayer before studying the scriptures and then to write down the revelation received during scripture study. I decided to try the technique.

I began with a prayer. In that prayer I said, “What should be my question for today?” And it worked! It works every time. Sometimes I already have a question, but most of the time I ask what the question should be. Sometimes the question is “Who should I serve today?” While I’m reading, I get an idea for who to serve. One morning I wrote down the name of a friend I hadn’t seen for a while. I showed up on her doorstep, and when she opened the door she said, “I had a dream you would come.” Before General Conference I wanted a re-affirmation that President Russell M. Nelson is a prophet of God. I was studying the Come Follow Me lesson, and when I read Ephesians 4:11-14, I received my answer. “And he gave some apostles; and some, prophets; and some, evangelists; and some, pastors and teachers; For the perfecting of the saints, for the work of the ministry, for the edifying of the body of Christ. Till we all come in the unity of the faith, and of the knowledge of the Son of God, unto a perfect man, unto the measure of the stature of the fulness of Christ: That we henceforth be no more children, tossed to and fro, and carried about with every wind of doctrine, by the sleight of men, and cunning craftiness, whereby they lie in wait to deceive.” Then I experienced the truth of Paul’s words as I watched General Conference and was reassured of eternal truths. This last week I wanted to know what to emphasize with our neighbors who watch the new Book of Mormon videos with us each week. My answer from my scripture reading was to talk about Jesus Chris which I did.

Today during Sunday School we discussed what we can do to dress ourselves in the armor of God every day as taught by Paul in Ephesians 4:11-17. I realized my daily scripture study and personal revelation arms me with the sword of the Spirit “which is the word of God” to me (Ephesians 6:17) and allows me to cut through distraction and doubt.

After my writing class I pouted for a few months. Now I’m restructuring and revising my novel and it’s much better. I’m not published yet, but my life was changed from taking the writing class. I learned that I can receive daily personal revelation by asking a question, studying my scriptures, writing down the answer, and then acting on it.

Taking Pleasure in Toxic Perfectionism: The thorn in my flesh made perfect through Jesus Christ’s grace

Until recently I lived under the burden of countless expectations as a member of the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints. Do family history, attend the temple, study the scriptures daily, hold organized and faith promoting family home evenings and family scripture study, serve others, protect my children from pornography, share the gospel, prepare my children for missions, and so on. When I was doing well in any of those areas, I judged others thinking, “Well, if I can do family history with my busy life, then she should be able to do it too.” When I struggled, I felt like a failure, that too much was expected of me, and that I would never be the person the Savior expected me to be. I knew I was a perfectionist, but I didn’t know how to be any other way. I heard the warnings such as when Elder Holland said, “My brothers and sisters, except for Jesus, there have been no flawless performances on this earthly journey we are pursuing, so while in mortality let’s strive for steady improvement without obsessing over what behavioral scientists call ‘toxic perfectionism.’ We should avoid that latter excessive expectation of ourselves and others…” (“Be Ye Therefore Perfect-Eventually,” October 2017 General Conference). I added this to my “to do” list, another expectation for which I was a failure.

Turning Point

But as with Paul, the Savior used the thorn in my flesh to teach me of the power of Jesus Christ’s Atonement. A turning point for me was when I received the calling of Relief Society President for my ward. I was overwhelmed. I knew I couldn’t accomplish this responsibility on my own. I plead in prayer daily for the sustaining and guiding influence of the Spirit. Day after day, experience after experience, I saw how the Lord loved me and the women and families I served. One example is when I needed to talk with a sister in my ward, but I didn’t know how to get in touch with her. I felt the need to walk in my neighborhood in a direction I didn’t usually go. That sister drove towards me in her van and she pulled over and we visited.

The Savior’s Grace

When I stopped trying to be perfect and allowed the Savior’s grace to strengthen me and make me more than I could be on my own, I was finally able to “strive for steady improvement without obsessing” and “avoid ‘toxic perfectionism’” as lovingly taught by Elder Holland.

Could I have avoided years of guilt?

So why didn’t I figure this out years ago when I had three small children and was the Primary President or when I was begging for volunteers to staff Cub Day Camp or when I saw countless needs publicized on Facebook that I couldn’t fulfill? If I had just followed all I’d been taught about Jesus Christ and turned to Him instead of trying to become perfect on my own, I could have avoided years of guilt and failure.

Refining takes time

Because for most of us, the refining process, the method of Jesus Christ’s grace turning our weaknesses to strengths takes time. We are on this earth to learn. Our Savior is a patient teacher.

Pleasure in perfectionism

While I still try to understand my need to control my life and others, I don’t wish I was a more relaxed person with different weaknesses. I take pleasure in my “toxic perfectionism” because that is one of my weaknesses that the Savior uses to teach me to rely on him.

I glory in my infirmities.

I testify with Paul in speaking of Jesus Christ, “And he said unto me, My grace is sufficient for thee: for my strength is made perfect in weakness. Most gladly therefore will I rather glory in my infirmities, that the power of Christ may rest upon me” (2 Corinthians 12:9).

David by Michelangelo: The Work and the Glory of God

My husband and I went on my dream vacation to Italy. In high school I took two years of Art History and since then have wanted to visit Italy, especially, Florence, the birthplace of the Renaissance. The experience was better than I imagined.

Much of Renaissance art was commissioned by the Medici family and Catholic popes. Although the Medicis and popes were the means for so much great art and architecture, many of them were greedy and immoral. Before I went I wondered how inspiring art could be a product of greed and immorality, and I wondered how I would feel seeing religious buildings and events depicted that differed from my beliefs as a member of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints. Some of my friends asked if I was uncomfortable seeing nude sculptures and painting. I’m not. I don’t know if that is because I became de-sensitized from studying art history in high school or because sculpture and paintings of the time glorified the human body but not in a scandalizing way (at least not in comparison to today’s objectification of the body).

In Italy I was in awe of all the art and architecture I saw, but the most touching and inspiring experience was the statue of David by Michelangelo created between 1501-1504. Our tour guide said that Donatello’s David, created sometime between 1440-1460, depicted David as a young boy of fourteen years old after killing Goliath. We don’t know the exact age of David when he fought the giant, Goliath, but the Biblical record indicates that he was young. “And when the Philistine looked about, and saw David, he disdained him: for he was but a youth, and ruddy, and of a fair countenance” (1 Samuel 17:42). Instead of creating a young adolescent as Donatello did, Michelangelo created David as a young man at the prime of physical beauty and stature. David is in the moment of decision, the sling behind his back, the rock in his hand. He knew he could do all things in the Lord. “Then said David to the Philistine, Thou comest to me with a sword, and with a spear, and with a shield: but I come to thee in the name of the Lord of hosts, the God of the armies of Israel, whom thou has defied. This day will the Lord deliver thee into mine hand…that all the earth may know that there is a God in Israel” (1 Samuel 17:45-46). God saw David, not as a wimpy fourteen year-old boy, but as the man who would do God’s work.

In the book of Moses, an extract from the translation of the Bible as revealed to Joseph Smith, the Lord God appeared to Moses and taught, “For behold, this is my work and my glory—to bring to pass the immortality and eternal life of man” (Moses 1:39). We are each God’s work and glory. He sees our potential. We are children of God–strong and capable of doing God’s work “through Christ, which strenghteneth [us]” (Philippians 4:13).

After my visit to Italy I had an experience that confirmed the thoughts of my heart as I beheld the magnificent works of art there. I was listening to a podcast on the newly published history of the church, Saints: The Story of the Church of Jesus Christ in the Latter Days and learned about Joseph Smith’s thoughts from his visit to New York in 1832. From a letter to his wife, Emma, Joseph said, “This day I have been walking through the most splendid part of the city of New York—the buildings are truly great and wonderful to the astonishing of every beholder and the language of my heart is like this. Can the great God of all the Earth, maker of all things magnificent and splendid be displeased with man for all these great inventions sought out by them? My answer is not. It cannot be, seeing these works are calculated to make men comfortable, wise, and happy. Therefore not for the works can the Lord be displeased. Only against man is the anger of the Lord kindled because they give him not the glory” (Joseph Smith Papers, 13 October 1832 letter from Joseph Smith to Emma Smith. Punctuation modernized).

Inspiring, beautiful art exists. We can be a part of that creation and of God’s great work as we like David let God’s power work in us and acknowledge the source of that power: “In all thy ways acknowledge him and he shall direct thy paths” (Proverbs 3:6).

As a man thinketh in his heart, so is he. I’m a writer.

I struggle with being overwhelmed and stressed with all the good things I need and get to do. This is not just a Mormon problem, but a people problem. I need to make meals, buy food for the meals, clean the house, establish and maintain family and friend relationships, exercise, serve, write, do my church calling or job, volunteer at the school, complete and compile monthly bookkeeping reports, read to my child, study the scriptures, etc. I’ve addressed this problem in previous posts. I’ve thought that if I had less to do, if I eliminated responsibilities, I’d be happier. Or even better if other people eliminated those responsibilities for me, I’d be happier. Don’t expect me to attend the temple regularly. Don’t expect me to organize a fundraiser. Don’t expect me to make dinner for my family. Or maybe I need to learn to say no.


In March of last year I wrote about establishing good habits. In the book, The Power of Habit by Charles Duhigg, he explains that having a keystone habit allows you to accomplish more. I know that three keystone habits for me are reading my scriptures, praying, and making my bed. If I do those three things every morning, it helps my day go better. And at least the first two are necessary because they help me communicate with God. They are important. But here’s another keystone habit that I’ve tried to eliminate and when I do, I am miserable. Writing. When I write, I’m balanced and everything else seems to fit into place. It’s like that object lesson where you fill a jar with rice then try to force in golf balls. It doesn’t work. But if you put the golf balls in first, then the rice fills in the spaces. I’ve seen this object lesson in church many times. This past Sunday our teacher used this visual to teach us why we need to put God first. Why the first commandment is to love God. But I’ve struggled with how writing fits into putting God first. How can writing be one of they key things I need to do to make everything else fit? It’s not scripture study, prayer, serving others, attending the temple. It seems like a selfish need for me. In fact knowing that it’s something I need to do, I’ve felt resentful of everything else expected of me. These feelings or thoughts are selfish, is what I’ve told myself. So if I gave up writing I would be happier and could do more selfless things.


Many of my friends have said, and I’m sure you’ve heard this before, you need to do what makes you happy. If Momma ain’t happy, then nobody’s happy. Do what you love and enjoy and then you can be a good mom. Those sentiments have helped a little, but I’ve still wondered why writing is such a need for me and why everything else seems to fall into place when I write. This week I think I’ve figured it out. Big reveal. Actually I still don’t know why writing is a need of mine, a keystone habit. But this week I did make writing a priority and I’ve been able to fit everything else in. I’ve been happier and more content. And here’s why. “As [a man] thinketh in his heart, so is he” (Proverbs 23:7). When I don’t write I have a continual cycle of negative thoughts where I am resentful of everything else I have to do. If only I didn’t have to go grocery shopping, I could write. If only I didn’t have to volunteer in my son’s school, I could write. If only I didn’t have to wash and fold the laundry, I could write. It’s not that I hate doing those things, but everything seemed to interfere with writing. But it was all in my head. Imagine my husband saying, “I knew that all along.”


Before Christmas, my friend and fitness instructor, did an experiment on me in front of the class. I held my arm out straight from my body. She told me to think of something positive, a good thought. I thought of my children and how much I love them and the good relationships we have. Then she told me to resist while she pushed down on my arm. My arm held firm. Then she told me to think of something negative. I thought about my writing and how my manuscripts have been rejected. She pushed down on my arm, and I couldn’t hold it up. We finished with a positive thought. I thought about my husband and how much I love him and our good relationship. My arm held firm again. I went home pondering that experience. Did it mean that I should focus on my children and husband and give up writing? No. That hasn’t proved successful in the past. I decided it meant that I needed to change the way I think about writing. I need to make it something I do. Not something I fit in when everything else is done, because I will never be done with everything else. A couple of weeks ago when I set my positive intention at the beginning of my workout, I told myself, “I am a good writer.” Then guess what? Later that day as I was writing, an agent requested my entire manuscript.


Obviously for everyone, writing is not the habit that will make everything else fit. I’m saying that as we think, that’s how we’ll act and feel. If I’m continually thinking negative thoughts, then I’ll be unhappy. If I’m thinking positive thoughts, faith filled thoughts, I  will be happier. And for me that means thinking of myself as a writer and acting on it.





Eating healthy and portion control

A few years ago, my husband created these tracking sheets to train us on portion control and what our bodies need each day. I’ve been asked by a few people to share this. We created them from, the Super Tracker program. Create a profile and put in your information and it will calculate how many servings you need of each food group. There is details about serving sizes and a method for tracking on-line.


The sheets attached are for what I need. You can modify them for you.

my plate serving sheets