Monday, September 15, 2014

Week 96 - 8 weeks to go ---22 Months!---

I am so grateful to God for all the experiences He has given me here on this Earth, especially on my mission. I am not going to lie, the past couple of weeks have been some of the most difficult weeks I have had. I am so grateful for them. I am sure by now that those who have been reading my blog and letters I send home know that I struggle with some emotional challenges, namely Anxiety and OCD. Of course I am not the most severe of cases, but it was severe enough for me to make me almost dysfunctional on my mission. The first few months, beginning in the MTC and in the field were incredibly difficult. I was having many physical symptoms from stress, I couldn't process my thoughts, I had these overwhelming fears of various things, and disturbing thoughts that I could not get rid of. All in all, I was just going crazy inside due to the fact that all the escape routes that I knew to relieve stress like music, sports, TV, etc, were all gone.

I spoke with my mission president about the things I was feeling and he lead me to see an LDS Psychologist . This is where my life changed. This was an answer to my prayers. (A couple of years before my mission at home, I received multiple impressions from the Holy Ghost that I needed to seek help for this challenge. At the time I knew nothing about depression or other emotional obstacles and did not understand what these impressions meant. I was scared about the thought anyway. I remember getting on a train in Brooklyn now on my mission and I had the exact same impression- that I needed to seek professional help. Still I didn't know how to even pursue this impression. Then President Calderwood

mentioned the option for me to see a psychologist and it all clicked. I knew that this was an answer to my prayers.) The Psychologist taught me how to channel my thoughts properly and how to handle to disturbing thoughts and fears that I had. Over the course of these two years I have made tremendous growth! I still struggle with it here and there, but I now know how to handle it. I understand how the human mind operates a lot more (this is why I am now pursuing and education in Psychology when I go home).

The first year of my mission I learned what my challenges were and God gave me the right areas, the right companions, and the right obstacles to learn what this was all about. The middle of my mission was a time for me to see how much I have learned and be a leader in the mission and grow a ton! A year and half I had some new challenges that came that taught me how to overcome more anxiety, and now having exactly 2 months left God gave me the ultimate challenge. That challenge was doubting my testimony. I understand now that I was having a lot of anxiety and the OCD in my mind was interpreting these feelings and making me think that I was doubting my testimony. For weeks I battled this feeling that I was losing conviction in the gospel. I couldn't stop thinking about "what if this" and "what if that" and I felt distanced from God. In the past, whenever I had these feelings of anxiety, I always turned to the Atonement to make them ease and handle them well, but since I wasn't sure if I believed that this was real, I was all on my own. I desperately pleaded, fasted, and studied to have a stronger conviction, but nothing came.

I knew that the feelings I was having were not rational and I could not stop thinking about this whole "I am a missionary who is going home soon and am not sure if this is true anymore" feeling. It brought a lot of fears. However, I knew the Gospel was true and didn't understand why I kept thinking it wasn't true.

In a meeting with all the trainers and trainees last week, President Calderwood spoke on Enduring to the End. I knew that I needed to simply endure well. I told God with all the faith I could muster that I was going to endure and never doubt him because I knew that this was true and that He indeed was there. I studied about enduring and learned that "enduring well" was just "learning well". Because of this challenge I learned some valuable lessons of enduring. When you think all hope is lost, that is when you need to put all your "reserve tank" or "72 hour supply" of strength and faith to hang on just a little longer. When the fuel gauge light comes on reading empty, you push it a little farther. However, most of the time you can go a few extra miles longer when you feel you are empty, but you are simply scared to try it (trust me I have done this many times in my Chevelle haha! But that is besides the point I am trying to make!) Push harder. When you can't go anymore, gather in all the strength you got, pray for angels, endure, and push that much harder!

So, to make this long story short, I know God lives. He is my Father, and because He is such a good one, He knows just what challenges to throw my way to make me happy. "He is the gardener here, and knows what He wants me to become. He cuts me down so I can re-grow stronger." Jesus is the Christ. There truly is a Prophet of God on Earth. God loves me and He loves you!

Elder Hooper

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