Monday, November 30, 2009

Remembering the big picture

I got a great energy boost tonight that reminded me why I love science so much. Few things are as motivating as listening to a Nobel laureate speak- unless it's shaking his hand and speaking to him personally afterward. Wow, I feel energized.

I'm still not sure how we got this opportunity, but my stake had a combined FHE meeting tonight where we listened to Mario Capecchi, Nobel laureate for medicine and physiology for 2007 speak about his life and his science and his experience receiving his award. I highly suggest reading a little bit about his life if you want an inspirational story. I enjoyed hearing that, but I so enjoyed listening to him talk about his science, his passion. To him, science is an elegant, exciting, creative thing and it involves lots of creative thinking and reaching outside one's comfort zone and interacting with other people and doing everything you can to prevent yourself from getting so narrow in your focus that you can't see outside your own blinders. And maybe it's just that I'm also a scientist, but listening to him speak, I felt energized to plow back in to the daily grind with more enthusiasm and dedication.

Moments like these are so critical for anyone in any field- seeing the big picture and remembering why we do the small daily things that we do. As a scientist, hearing such an excellent scientist speak, or reading about great achievements, or brainstorming with colleagues or exchanging banter with friends helps me achieve that. Even more importantly, I remember the point of the entire daily grind and everything I do by going to the temple and taking the sacrament and engaging in good, deep, spiritual conversation with friends. It's amazing what you can do when you can both focus on the big picture with its excitement and thrill but at the same time keep your mind firmly on the day-to-day details that make these vistas and dreams a reality. That is a worthy life goal right there- being both farsighted and nearsighted, I suppose.

Speaking of which, I should stop philosophizing and go finish something for work that I ran out of time to complete today. The daily grind is unrelenting- but I think I'll enjoy it more with this fresh burst of energy. Hooray!

Sunday, November 22, 2009

One Year Becomes Another

I've been somewhat introspective all month as I've thought about how last November, I was in Kenya having all kinds of strange adventures. I've been going back and reading my journal and I'm surprised at what I've forgotten already and I'm glad I took the time to write so much of it down. Every evening after dinner while the family would gather in the living room and watch TV or chatter away in Swahili or Kikuyu, I would pull out my little, cheap writing notebook that I bought in the market my first full day in Kenya and write my experiences and impressions. One year ago today, I was driving back from the coastal town of Mombasa, the most humid, grimiest place I've ever been, to Nairobi, which is a good seven hour drive or so. This was on a bus, and it was overnight. And Kenya's roads are not paved. I don't think I really slept the whole time. Then the bus stopped and let us off in Nairobi. I got off with Jo and Emily, the other volunteers I was traveling with, and we looked around and realized that we had no idea where we were. Then a very kind taxi driver pointed out the Nairobi Hilton to us, which was a landmark for the volunteers. It was amazing how as soon as I knew where the Hilton was, I knew exactly how to get back to my village of Gathiga. I walked over to the matatu station and took the matatu back to the village. The one thing I could never figure out is why there were twenty other people who wanted to go from Nairobi towards Gathiga at 6 AM on a Sunday morning.

As I've been reading my notes from Kenya, I've also found myself flipping back through the rest of my journal, and once again, I've been surprised by what I've found. Here's a few reflections and observations I made in 2008:

April 7:
I walked back to Alta with Peter. It was kind of fun; we carried on a continuation of the conversation we’d had at the Dreamcicle. Peter is a fun guy to talk to, and it was a clear, slightly cool night, perfect for a short walk with a good conversation partner. Our conversation turned to other aspects of life, how part of the reason it’s so important to enjoy the moment is that the “moments” are usually in the minority. But then we made a pact that we would work on enjoying the moment. I told him that next time I see him, I’ll ask him how he’s coming on the goal. I hope I remember to. It should be fun.

So. Living in the moment. Also, as I’ve been continually admonished, looking at things from an eternal perspective. I had a pretty good day on Thursday;but this weekend was kind of hard again. But something else I’ve been trying to convince myself of is that it’s better to try to be your best and be inconsistent than to give up the fight and never be your best because you’re afraid of the inconsistency. Better to strive for better things and have inconsistent results than to be consistently living below your privileges. So it’s all right that I had a less than admirable weekend. I’ve felt the sweet peace of forgiveness before, I need to keep the Lord involved and trust Him.

April 27
Next time I write, I’ll fill in some gaps about new roommates, an exciting expedition to broaden my cooking horizons, and extreme sorrow and deepening faith. Tune in next time for another exciting episode of Maria’s life!

May 12
What a complicated situation. But, in any case, I’m slowly learning that if I keep my eyes on the Lord and have confidence and faith that He is the one guiding my life—and the lives of those around me—then it is much easier to be happy, and I don’t get panicky or resentful feelings welling up inside. If I take my eyes off of Him and focus on dissatisfying conditions or my own faults and foibles or anything else—if I focus on the boisterous waves of the sea, then I begin to sink, and I can no longer walk on the water. I need patience. I need to realize that as much as I so desperately want to graduate and leave, apparently that’s not what I get to do quite yet. Patience. I am ready to move on, but there must be someone who needs me here still. Do not be selfish, Maria. Give of yourself. Be patient.

June 22
One thing I hate about college life is the intense cycle of friends. You get to know people pretty well relatively quickly because there aren’t tons of pressures on your time- no family of your own to worry about. Everyone’s looking for friends. So friendships are formed quickly- and then they get interrupted quickly by graduation, marriage, moving, etc. I love all my friends now. I loved all my friends last year and the year before that and the year before that and the year before that . . . going back to my freshman year of college which was seven years ago now. It seems like I’ve spent the last four of those at least becoming good friends with people and then attending their wedding receptions.
I’m not really complaining, especially since it seems like so many of my good friends have married each other- such good friends! I love them all so much.
Maybe someday if I’m lucky, I’ll join their ranks. I kind of feel like I’m standing in the middle of a decaying sandbank- and all the sand is blowing away around me, but I’m still standing in the same place I’ve been for years. I know it’s not really true. I’ve grown and changed a whole lot since I started BYU. I sure hope I’m different now than when I was a freshman, at least. I loved my freshman year, but looking back, there are so many things I wish I’d done that I didn’t, and so many mistakes I made that I wish I hadn’t. I wish I’d figured out how to be friends with guys sooner without being weird about it. I wish I’d figured out how to live in the moment more, although that was kind of tricky since I had chronic fatigue syndrome. I wish a lot of things that I can’t change now, so I don’t worry about it too much. I think I’ve always been something of a late bloomer. I guess as long as the lessons get learned, it doesn’t matter so much when they get learned, although sooner does seem to be a little better.

June 29
Meanwhile, Danielle and I are preparing nicely for our recital. I’m excited, I think it’s going to really come off well. Danielle is going to play Claire de Lune for a solo piece, and we have six or seven numbers we’re working up where she’s accompanying me. Our rehearsals are always punctuated by interruptions when her children need attention. Jacob is two and is definitely a little mischief maker. He’s very curious and likes to explore things. A lot of time we end up putting my backpack in the bathroom because that’s the only place he can’t get to it. He’s a cute little thing though; he kind of reminds me of my brother Mark at that age. He has apparently grown rather fond of me, because the other day he asked Danielle where I was. Danielle’s sister Kim is in my ward and she had a birthday party at her parents’ house on Friday night. Danielle was there with her family, and I was rather flattered when Jacob came over to me and kind of latched on to my leg. We played Bocce ball and Jacob gave me his ball to throw. I suggested that he might wasn’t to throw it himself, but he kept giving it back to me and saying “Maria throw it.” So, I threw his ball for him.

July 8
There are so many good, fun things I want to do, though, I need to remember the counsel that just because something is good is not a good enough reason to do it. I need to be careful to fill my time with the best things, not just with good things. A Also on my list of things to do right now are become a better biker, practice voice, practice piano for the piano support group, improve at cross-stitch, finish the two skirts, top, and pair of pants that I have fabric for, transcribe Grandma’s biography tapes, and try new recipes. It’s more than enough to keep me busy. But life is full, and life is good.
Life is also tired, since it’s almost midnight. I think I’ll finish this tomorrow. Good night.

August 24
I need so many miracles in my life. Or maybe all I need is more faith. Either way, I think sometimes I get blessed a whole stinkin’ lot.

August 28
We spent the night in a beautiful meadow about four miles up the canyon. The stars were gorgeous, but not as phenomenal as they could have been because we still got a little glare from the city lights. We saw some beautiful shooting stars. It was dark when we actually got to the meadow, so it was kind of fun to wake up in the morning and discover that we’d spent the night in a meadow full of flowers.

September 14
Time keeps flying. I think another reason that I’m still in Provo is to give me a chance to really savor the experience of being in a BYU singles’ ward one last time. Every so often I’ll stop in the middle of my mad scurrying or playing or flirting and take a moment to realize just how much fun it is and how lucky I am, and I’ll drink it all in. It’s so good . . .

October 2
Funny how lucid and contemplative I’m feeling at 4:50 in the morning. I think I’ve almost run out of things to contemplate for now. But I think it’s all the contemplation that woke me up- all these thoughts about jobs and PhDs and boys being very friendly and thesis defenses and traveling alone to Africa . . . I guess I can see why I couldn’t sleep. But I’m going to try again now. Because I am pretty tired. Hopefully soon I’ll pick thins thing back up and discuss how I went to the wedding openhouse of my first date, Jason Troyna, the huge thesis revamp session with Dr. Jellen, the big breakthrough in contemporary voice singing that happened at my last voice lesson, and other fun anecdotes from the life of Maria.

October 12
We talked a little about reaching out to others to fulfill our baptismal covenants, one of which is to comfort those who stand in need of comfort. I think we all need so much comfort, so very, very much comfort. We like to think that when we grow up we’re adults, which apparently means that we’re tough and we can handle hard things and we have to be brave and mature all the time. And while it’s true that we do have to be brave and learn how to be mature and handle more than we could as children, we still are children at heart, and we need solace and comfort so much. People who deny this are numbing their feelings somehow- whether it be in alcohol or escapism literature or selfishness or greed or meanness of spirit. By doing so, they stunt their character growth, their emotional growth and spiritual development. But turning to the Lord, allowing Him to both comfort you and allow you to face the struggle or the temptation or whatever it is and successfully overcome it, is in the long run such a better option.

I can’t really remember why I originally started typing my journal instead of writing it out in hand. I fought the idea for a long time, thinking it was highly impersonal and very clinical, which it may be. But it is astounding to me how much more I write when I can get the words off my fingers so much faster. Also, the added benefit of having my journal on my jump drive, easily portable, is huge. Anytime I’m at a computer and I want to throw down some thoughts, all I have to do is pop in the jump drive and open up the Word document that contains my journal. As a result, I have an excellent document covering the last year and a half of my life, which has been a time of tremendous growth and challenges for me. It’s contained some of the sweetest and the bitterest moments of my life so far. And I have it mapped out and documented in general how I’ve grown and how I’ve fought my battles and how hard the battles have been, as well as how sweet the good times have been and how good the friends have been and how happy I’ve been. I feel pretty lucky to have this little device for keeping track of how the Lord has worked in m life.

October 26
After we walked around the riverwalk, we went back a ways to visit a little farmer’s market, where we had tacos and tamales for lunch. They were quite tasty. Then Grandma spotted the Idaho Falls temple matron- Jean Groeberg. She introduced us, and I must admit that I was kind of excited, because I love Elder Groeberg’s books. I tried to imagine all the things this woman had done and all the places she’d lived and was amazed. She was in a hurry so we didn’t talk long, but that was kind of neat.

November 2
Speaking of church, it was an experience and a half. The church Lucy attends is held in the schoolroom at the orphanage. It started with a good 20 minutes of song from the preacher, during which we all swayed and clapped. Then the next 2 ½ hours were alternating preaching, praying, and dancing. We were told repeatedly, “dance for the Lord!”
I sat on a row with Ruth the cook and three or four orphans. They held my hands and stroked my arms and rubbed my knuckles, fascinated by my light skin. They ran their fingers over my nails and laced their fingers through mine. They discovered the ring on my right ring finger and the watch on my left wrist and that kept them occupied for quite some time. When we danced, they had an amazing amount of rhythm and flair. They were also captivated by my light, curly hair. The kids seem starved for attention—affection is probably more accurate. They all want to get close and hold my hand, or lean against me, or run their fingers through my hair, or whatever.

November 5
It’s raining tonight—a real downpour. Hopefully it’s not too muddy in the morning. I bathed in the washroom and watched the lightning light up the outline of the banana trees through the small high window. I also washed my hair for the first time since my arrival. The water was full of red clay particles by the time I was done. The rain’s making me feel all cozy—I’m sure the Kenyans are freezing. They whip out winter coats at the slightest sign of rain or cold—usually while I’m busy enjoying the slightly cool turn in the weather. Bless them.

November 8
I think I’ll postpone the rest of what I was going to write. It’s late, and the power generator just went off. Tomorrow apparently we’re going to the crocodile and hippo pond. Could be exciting!

November 15
9:30 AM- wow. Talk about being out of one’s comfort zone. I’m taking breakfast by myself at a little downtown hole-in-the-wall cafĂ©. I’m pretty sure the staff dislikes me for being white and not speaking Swahili. Also, they may think I’m crazy for ordering both eggs and French toast. And I have a huge, burning mug of Milo to consume before I can leave. Of course, it’s not like my meal has arrived yet anyway—African time. We’re all operating on African time.
Oh, good the French toast just arrived and looks more or less like I anticipated.

November 16
On a different note, it’s Sunday in Nairobi and the house is pretty quiet. Most of Regina’s family went to church, some of the new volunteers went to the animal orphanage, and Anina, Ollie, Brandon, and Cynthia just left to Nakumatt and such. So I have a quiet house to myself for now for Sunday—except for the drum that someone’ been pounding for the last half hour, the music and chanting coming up from the streets, and the occasional noise from a crow, a rooster, and a turkey. Unfortunately, my ipod is dead. A little Sunday music would do wonders for the atmosphere. Oh, well. At least it’s pretty quiet.

November 18
The other night, I showed Lucy a picture of my family. She was impressed with the size of it and asked questions about different family members. I mentioned somehow that Dad was a bishop, the leader of our congregation for a while. So Lucy started asking me more questions about my religion. She knows I don’t drink tea because of my religion, but she asked me if I believe in salvation, and Jesus Christ and God and some other things and she finally concluded that we believe the same things except for the bit about tea. I tried to explain to her things like living prophets and the Book of Mormon, but I don’t think she quite caught the significance. But she is a very good woman.

It really was quite the year, 2008. I'm glad I wrote down a lot of those things because I forgot just how much contemplation I did. Although I still do a lot of contemplating, so I'm not sure why that surprises me . . . and hey, look, it's getting late, so I'll end now, in case anyone read through this whole thing. Thanks for playing!

Monday, November 16, 2009

Laughter's medicinal properties

Today I was having an okay day, but a kind of blah day. Just not quite so on top of things as I would like. It was far too easy to rationalize not working out after work since I had to prepare a dish for our ward FHE Thanksgiving dinner. In fact, I was feeling blah enough for a little while that I wondered if I even wanted to go to the dinner at all. I knew I should and I knew I would have fun, but it seemed like too much effort.

Then Mel came home and we started cracking lame jokes and laughing at our silly senses of humor. This had the amazing effect of revitalizing me to the point where I was eager to go to the activity. I went with some friends and met up with other friends while I was there and laughed heartily at stories that my friends told me about Seth, the ward prankster, and laughed with my friend Chad, even though we were talking about the two staff infections he's had this fall, and laughed with Daniel when he was investigating the dessert table and wanted to know if a certain dish was a torte, even though he's a lawyer and should know these things himself, and laughed with Meagan when I was talking about the sensory experience she was having eating her bread pudding but the word that came out of my mouth wasn't "sensory," but "sensual," and laughed even more when Meagan told me how she was waiting for Daniel in his apartment last week and jumped out to scare him when she heard someone coming, but it turned out that it was my roommate Amy and not Daniel, and Amy was so weirded out that she just turned and walked into our apartment without saying anything to Meagan at all. And now I don't feel blah any more. The blahness has been purged right out of my system by the laughter. It's like a pollutant has been removed. Today, I am grateful for laughter shared with good friends.

Sunday, November 15, 2009

The future beckons

I'm backtracking today. Yesterday's thanks item got supplanted at the last minute, but today I'm still grateful for amazing books- but more than that, I'm grateful that for whatever reason, Heavenly Father let me come to earth into my set of circumstances. Not only do I know how to read, I have a multiplicitude of books at my very fingertips- on my bookshelf, at the library, on the internet. Even in today's world, that combination is much rarer than it should be.
I took a good chunk of time to get through school (although I guess I did get two degrees one on top of the other, so it's better than it sounds), and I miss school a lot. I miss the feeling of actively engaging my mind, and, to prove what a nerd I am, I miss the rush I would get from really effective study sessions with the pressure of a test coming up. I miss the feeling of satisfaction I got from having mastered a concept and gloating over it like a prized possession.
However, I am so happy that the tools for learning are still readily available at my fingertips, and although I can definitely tell a difference in the dedication and quality involved when I'm not actively enrolled in classes, part of what I look forward to doing my whole life is expanding my mind. I'm so thankful that I get to!

Saturday, November 14, 2009

Warmth of Spirit on a Cold Night

Earlier today, I was thinking that the Daily Gratitude Award would be going to the excellent books I've been reading lately, but I just got back from a great evening at the house I'll be moving into in a month and a half, and now, I'm just grateful that I have good friends in Salt Lake who seem to want me to move in with them as much as I do, and I'm looking forward to all the good times that are ahead. There's something about an environment that's filled with love and happiness that fills my soul like a parched sponge, which is probably the case for most people. And it's been a little while since I've lived in a situation like that. I like being an independent adult, but I don't like being so independent that my life is separated out from the people I live with, which has been the case for almost a year. It's a rather lonesome feeling. I'm ridiculously excited to be living with girls who pray together and sometimes eat dinner together and are a united group.

So, the future beckons brightly. The warmth of friendship is still making me happy- I'm so grateful that Meagan is getting married so I can move in with her roommates!

Friday, November 13, 2009

Contemplation Incurs Gratitude (and vice versa)

Seeing as how Thanksgiving is in less than two weeks, it's hard to go a day without hearing some kind of reference to, well, giving thanks. I often try to make a daily entry in either my regular journal or my thought journal about something that happened that day that I'm grateful for, or just something I'm grateful for, period (as an aside, this was actually one of my strongest tools when battling depression earlier this year. It's amazing to look back and read how many good things still happened and how many people were helping me out, even unintentionally). I love the perk I get by thinking about things that make me happy. In fact, I've often placed myself if a slightly awkward situation by thinking about funny things that make me grin, and then the next thing I know, I've started chuckling about a joke that only I'm in on.

But, all that aside, I've been trying really hard to steer away from patented things to be grateful for, like "family and friends," "the miracle of modern medicine," "education," "a good job," etc. The reason for this is not that I'm not grateful for these things, but rather that I don't want my gratitude to become rote. So, instead of looking at the huge, overarching blessings that cover so much, the joy becomes so much greater when thinking about the small, individual parts of these big wholes, which is what I've been striving to focus on.

Today's gratuity, because I like to misuse that word, is all the amazing different kinds of food I have access to. Since I studied plant biology in college, I got a taste of agronomy and was surprised to learn that the world lives substantially off of about eight different crops, including rice, wheat, corn, soy, potato, cassava, barley, and a couple others that aren't coming to me at the moment. It's understandable why these plants provide so much of the basic nutrition, they're generally inexpensive to grow and produce large quantities, and they're good carbohydrate bases to the diet. However, thanks both to globalization and some amazing horticultural practices, we have at our fingertips so many other kinds of food. I confess, I do get stuck in a rut more often than I'd like and my meals go through bouts of consisting of frozen burritos and nachos, but I do get unduly excited when I purchase something new at the store or make a foray to the Asian market. This week I enjoyed tabouli, quinoa, couscous, an awesome dish of sauteed vegetables with fried eggs mixed in, tangerines, spinach salad, mashed potatoes, and pomegranite seeds. I'm feeling pretty good this week. One of the things that I love about trying new foods is that it can be done from the comfort of my own home. Anyone have any awesome suggestions for new things I can try, since that's the gratitude topic of the day?

Tuesday, November 10, 2009

2n = 4X = 36

I know it’s a good day when I find fresh evidence that I am a nerd. A very special kind of nerd, although all nerds are special.

Today as I sat at my desk counting the bands on chromosomes, I found my mind wandering somewhat as I pondered on the fact that different organisms have different numbers of chromosome, yet it is generally a pretty significant and devastating thing to either gain or lose a chromosome. So how did this evolution of chromosome number differences occur?

I tell you what, I’m going to have a front-row seat in the theater when they play the premiere of “The History of Biology” on the big-screen in heaven.

Monday, November 9, 2009


Why is it that on the nights I really want to go to bed early I end up staying late?

But since I'm still up, I'll wish myself a happy anniversary.

Two years ago, I received my endowment in the temple.

One year ago I was in the Masai Mara in Kenya.

Today? Today I started the morning with some service, and went to work. Both of these are part of my lifelong quests to be worthy of the temple covenants I've made and to be able to go on more adventures. Life is a pretty big adventure.

Saturday, November 7, 2009

Forward in Faith- Even When You're Laying Facedown on the Strait and Narrow and Think You'll Never Get Up Again

This is going to be challenging to write, and I've pondered over writing it for a while now. I've pondered whether or not it even ought to be written, but I feel that it does need to be written.

Last Sunday, I listened to President Uchtdorf's excellent CES fireside. One part in particular caught my attention. He read a question from a young member of the church explaining that this person often felt depressed and thought about ending their life. President Uchtdorf touched briefly on the fact that these are serious issues that ought to be taken care of with the help of trusted church and professional helpers. I want to spend a little longer on the topic of depression, which I'm becoming more and more aware of as a serious concern, especially for members of the church, because it isn't very well understood.

I'm becoming more aware of this because I've been there.

I'm not sure who out there needs to read this or see this, but I know that I've felt strongly that I need to write on this topic. The main thing that concerns me about Latter-day Saints and depression is that this one thing is so poorly understood: depression is a real, real, physical disease. The thing that makes it unique is that it is a physical disease with emotional symptoms. I feel that that point is so important that I'm going to repeat it: depression is an actual, physical illness that has emotional symptoms. And in a gospel that emphasizes a personal relationship with God that can be measured by feeling the presence of the Holy Ghost, depression can be especially devastating. The Lord speaks to us most of the time through our feelings, and a depressed mind is so biochemically mixed up that it simply isn't getting those impressions like it used to.

What so many people, including up until recently myself, have trouble realizing, is that this ought not be considered any different than any other physical illness in terms of treatment- and how the person ought to view him or herself. A person with diabetes has chemical imbalances that need to be treated and monitored if the person is going to live a normal life. A person with depression has chemical imbalances that also need to be treated, and I can't tell you how grateful I am that we live in an age when this is understood by medical professionals at least, and there are wonderful treatments available for it.

I consider myself fortunate in many respects- I'm almost healed, and as I get farther and farther from the darkest days, I can see better and better that although I wouldn't go through this year again for all the wealth of the world, as I read more and learn more and peruse the experiences of others, I've been so very, very blessed. However, like so many other members of the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints, I have learned the hard way that depression has devastating symptoms.

Please, please note that I am not talking about pessimism, cynicism, mourning, or even deep sorrow that comes from hard times. I'm talking about a dark, dark, unnatural feeling that seems to sap one's ability to feel joy or even remember that there's such a thing as joy. I'm talking about nights laying with one's head buried under the pillow because the thought of living for another fifty or sixty years is terrifying. I'm talking about curling up in a ball and wondering if you've has lost your testimony completely, because you're desperately reaching out for God and you can't find Him anywhere. I'm talking about despair so deep that I have a new, significantly deepened appreciation for the Atonement- because I've felt, more than I ever had before in my life, what it was like to be separated from God, which is the definition of spiritual death, which the Atonement saves us from. For a different angle, one person I talked to described it as the feeling you might get near a demetor, from the Harry Potter series, which I think is fairly accurate.

See the difference between depression and just normal doldrums or sadness? I doubt that anyone who knows me well would call me cynical or pessimistic- but I've been depressed. What I hope you also see is that it is entirely unrelated to one's actual spiritual status, regardless of what goes on inside your head. I have entries from my journal written last winter where I poured out my frustration that I was doing the best I could, I was doing everything right, as it were, reading my scriptures, praying so long that I often fell asleep on my knees, going to the temple as though it were a life raft, and I had never felt farther from Heavenly Father.

However, the other reason, and more important reason, I think I need to write this is that as much as depression is not a sign of unworthiness or weakness, the even better news is that it is actually a highly treatable illness. As I mentioned, I feel very fortunate in my experience, and a big part of that is that within a few months, I was working with an excellent doctor who has helped me get on a track to healing, including both cognitive work through reading books, and medication. I'm also very fortunate that the first medication I was given was very effective; I know that not everyone is so fortunate. As the year continued and more challenges occurred, I decided on my own to start working with a therapist to arm myself more effectively from any kind of large relapse, and I've also been very fortunate to work with an excellent woman here in Salt Lake. In fact, she co-authored a book about depression specifically for LDS women. I would recommend it to anyone dealing with depression or dealing with someone who is depressed: "Reaching for Hope," by Betsy Chatlin and Meghan Decker.

So, here I am, with the help of so many others, climbing out of the other side of my own personal valley of the shadow of death, and I'm sure that there are many, many others, probably even some that I know, who are still wandering lost in this valley, fearing that the rest of their lives will be lived with this feeling of darkness and despair. And I'm writing this to tell you that it's not true, and it doesn't need to be so. And if you can be brave and move forward, which I know is so, so hard to do when you're depressed, you can receive good, professional help, and become the person you used to be, the person that you feel is lost, but who I assure you is still there.

I don't claim to be any kind of expert, but I can promise to be a completely nonjudgmental shoulder to cry on and to some extent at least the beginning of a road map of how to get out of the valley. I don't even have any idea who I'm writing this to or for, but if anyone happens to read this who thinks they may be going through what I've described, whoever you are, I want to help you. Send me an email, give me a call, or at the very least, read this and know that you're not alone. I promise that God is still there and He's still watching over you. And that's the truth.