While training a new sister missionary, I had the strongest impression that I needed to return home early from my mission. Sounds ridiculous, right? How could the Spirit ever tell a missionary to return home from a mission? I wasn’t the only one who had that question. My mission president, mission leaders, and other missionaries had the same question. The Spirit telling a missionary to return home early had never been heard of or experienced, so my impression was written off as impossible and couldn’t possibly be true. I was told that it was the wrong spirit that was telling me to do so.
At first, I brushed off the impression because I had my doubts. However, I have learned throughout my life to recognize when the Spirit is speaking to me and it is hard to deny. I did everything I knew to receive answers; receiving Priesthood blessings, searching the scriptures, praying, fasting, listening to the talks in church, etc. The impression was always confirmed and it didn’t let up.
My mom had found out about it and trusted my impression at first. She began to doubt because my mission president had talked to her and shared with her how he felt. She sent me an email telling me to stay on my mission and that I was wrong. I cried and I prayed saying, “Heavenly Father, I know what Thou wants me to do. How am I supposed to do it when I have no support.” The impression came clearly, “Don’t worry. Your family will support you.”
I emailed my mom back and told her that she taught me growing up that when the Spirit speaks, listen. Often times when we are led by the Spirit to do something or go somewhere, it is because someone in this life or beyond the veil is praying and needs an answer to his or her prayer. A couple days later, my mom and I were on the phone together. She was given permission to call me and talk to me. She said that she had been praying, fasting, and attending the temple. She was so set that I was wrong, but as she was at work she felt the Spirit so strongly. A scripture was brought to her mind which says, “For my thoughts are not your thoughts, neither are your ways my ways, saith the Lord. For as the heavens are higher than the earth, so are my ways higher than your ways, and my thoughts than your thoughts” (Isaiah 55:8-9). She knew then that I needed to come home.
The hard part wasn’t so much following the prompting I had received. It wasn’t the thought of coming home and facing people’s judgments. The hardest part for me was leaving my mission president. I respected him and loved him so much as if he were my own father that it seemed like going home early was stabbing him in the back after all he had done for me. Letting him down weighed heavily on me. I struggled with following through with the prompting because I knew that by following it, I would lose him and many others that I cared about.
When I prayed about it again, I was led to a video of Esther.
Esther was a queen, but even a queen is not above God’s will or errand. She was faced with a decision that required her to risk her life to save her people. So many lives depended on her decision to do the will of God. With courage and with God, she acted even though she knew she could lose so much. God was with her. We all know that He was because she lived and she saved her people. She saved the very people in which our Savior, Jesus Christ came through; the Jews.
Esther, this woman of bravery and courage, gave me the strength to come home early. I lost my life as a missionary with a name tag. I was cut off by a lot of the people I was once close with on my mission. My mission president was unable to see me off and told me he would keep in contact with me, but never did. I came home to a father who only worried about what others thought and his image. I came home to people who judged me and didn’t reach out.
Coming home early was so hard and so lonely because I didn’t have anybody who was willing to be there for me or support me. The only person who tried was my mom, but she didn’t know what to do or how to help. She was constantly working and didn’t have much time to help me. Being home got harder because I was left to figure it out on my own.
During the time I was home early, all of the problems that I had suppressed over the years manifested themselves. My panic attacks occurred often and were painful. Many nights I cried so much and felt that God had abandoned me and wasn’t listening to me. Despite it all, I continued to go to church. I continued to read my scriptures, pray, fast, and attend the temple hoping that one day I would figure out why I was home. Even though I had come across people who had also come home early and had been an answer to their prayers, I was not satisfied at all with being home. I would always say to myself, “Okay God. I helped them. If that’s all I’m home for, can I go back to Texas?” The answer was always no.
I knew I was suffering from anxiety and depression. I had asked my mom if I could go through counseling, but we didn’t have the money at the time. Again, I was left to learn to deal with it and get through it.
The healing didn’t come until I came across another woman in the scriptures that led me to move to Provo, Utah. Of all places, it just had to be Provo. Haha. I’ll talk about the woman and moving in my next post.
But this is what I have come to learn about my struggle with mental illness through Esther. It took me a long, but I have come to learn that Heavenly Father knows our struggles better than we do. Sometimes we don’t even know that we’re struggling with something, but He does. That was the case for me with coming home early from my mission.
It is my belief that Heavenly Father knew and was aware that I was suffering from mental illness while I was on my mission. Mordecai said to Esther, “And who knoweth whether thou art come to the kingdom for such a time as this?” Maybe… Just maybe God allowed me to serve a mission and put me with each one of my companions so that I could finally recognize that I had a mental illness. It’s interesting to me that the moment I started questioning whether I did suffer from anxiety and depression but doubted was when He prompted me to leave my mission and come home early. He knew that I would continue to deny it and remain ignorant, never seeking help. He knew that others perceived me as the type of person who smiled all the time, remained optimistic, and would get through any trial that was thrown at me. Just like they didn’t believe me about be prompted to come home early from my mission, they probably wouldn’t have believed me if I knew and told them I was suffering from anxiety and depression. Then, I would have never been able to get help and things could have been worse than they are now.
I’m grateful for the courage of Esther in saving her people. I may not have saved anyone through coming home, but by having courage like she did I was able to be saved. Heavenly Father knew the only way He could save me was to bring me home and that required courage, bravery, and faith. I have come to realize that my decision to come home has enabled to me to begin a healing process and to become someone better so that my posterity and future generations will be saved from harm, bad decisions, or anything that could have come about due to my mental illness.
God is aware and He is mindful.