My name is Michelle Jensen and I am 23 years old. The past three years have been ones of various up and downs. My life completely shattered, I worked hard to tape and clue it back together...only for it to be shattered again. Currently, I am starting to rebuild myself. I've felt the need to put down in words where I've been and where I am going spiritually. My goal is to remind myself that God is good, and the reality of Christ's Atonement in my life. I'm going to share very personal experiences from my LDS mission. How I had faith after coming home early from my mission, and how I continued my mission from home. Finally, I will share how easily it is to forget God, and the struggles I am now facing to regain belief in him. what has been so private for years, I am about to share. Maybe this will help more people than me.
I was 19 years old when I heard the news through the grape vine about the historical age change. Elders could serve at 18, and sisters at 19. I was then working at Redfish Lake Lodge in the heart of the Sawtooth Mountains in Idaho. A week before I had a couple phone interviews for Big Sky Ski Resort in Montana to work in the winter. Only a couple hours before I heard that the age had changed for missionaries to serve, Big Sky offered me a job. When I was offered the job, I felt so excited...but I asked them if I could have a day to decide to take it and I would let them know. Family and friends who know me, know my love for the outdoors, especially winter recreation. I thought I was crazy for asking for a day to think about the job. Any other moment, I would have taken the job in a heartbeat. As soon as I heard that I could now go on a mission at 19. I knew I had to go. November 2012: Sister Jensen you're called to serve in the Washington, Spokane mission. Reporting to the MTC January 30th 2013.
The MTC was in my opinion the worst! From day one, I let my companion know that I was ready to be in Spokane. 2 ½ weeks later we flew out to the mission. I was paired up with my companion, and placed in the area of Colville. While we drove from the stake center in Spokane, I thought. “maybe the MTC was okay”. I was scared, but so excited to serve. The people and country of Colville were beautiful. So much faith in one town! When you drive into town there is a sign that says “Colville's Churches welcome you”. I had amazing experiences there. Many members were eager to help us. I was able to gain very special relationships with them.
One of my first Sunday's in the Colville 1st ward I introduced myself to one of the young women, Chiavan. She was happy, and I could feel a strong love of Christ radiating from her. As my companion and I were leaving the building, I told her that we should invite that young women to come teach with us. My trainer, Sister Umphenhour said that the girl was not a member, and was dating a priest in the ward. She comes every week with his family. I was shocked. Why was she not baptized? Later I came to find out that Chiavan's mother was not a huge fan of the Church. That it was a blessing that she was even allowed to attend church meetings with her boyfriend and his family. Occasionally, during my time in Colville we would be able to talk to Chiavan about Christ and the restored gospel, and it would be the highlight of our hard earned day.
12 weeks into my mission, I found myself having a difficult time. I did not love my area. I did not enjoy the companion I was now training. I lost desire to eat, I was becoming quick to anger, and felt tired all the time. More often than not, I could not feel the spirit guiding my actions. “it's just a moment” I thought, “I will get over it”. But I didn't, I kept spiraling down in what I now know is depression. I counseled often with my mission president, therapist, and mission psychologist. I kept fighting my demons. We were Teaching more and more lessons each week. Receiving new contacts, and new investigators all the time. All the while, working on my own mental health. I worked hard as a missionary to keep myself healthy. I ran every morning, and I was also prescribed one hour of exercise on top of that morning work out. I also kept an anger journal, a gratitude journal, and an everyday journal. After another few weeks went by, and I was still so depressed, I decided to try medication.
Antidepressants...it's very hard to find the right one. Some people have a positive out come with them. Others, the drugs have a very negative effect. I was one of the not so lucky ones. I took an antidepressant, and a sleep aid. I felt like I was in a fog all the time. I felt like was never really in a lesson, or conversation. I was there, but I really wasn't there. I was on the outside looking in. My mind became a very scary place. As I would be driving my companion and I places, I would have thoughts of crossing the double yellow line while another car was about to pass us. But, that would hurt my companion so I didn't. I had many other thoughts like this one. But, that would be too tragic, or too messy. I kept telling myself, “it's just a moment, I will get over it” But I didn't. I didn't like how I felt, who I was, and I was tired. I felt like God had left me. I often prayed to feel him near me, but there was a pavilion over head. I could not hear, or feel him. I kept what I was feeling and thinking private. I put on a brave face almost everyday. The work wouldn't stop and neither would I.
One night before I started my daily hour of exercise, I pulled out my refilled prescriptions from their paper bags. In all prescribed medication there are warning pages, and that night I decided to read what would happen if I were to take too many pills. I did the same thing with the sleep aid. The consequences were catastrophic. I put the pills in the cabinet and thought, “no way”. I left to work out, and it wasn't a good work out. I got angry that I wasn't able to push through and shut off my mind. When my companion and I got back to the apartment, I mentally checked out. I was gone, but still moving and getting ready for bed. I found myself grabbing a glass of water, and grabbing my two prescribed medications for sleep and depression and going to the bathroom. I pulled the caps off, nothing running through my mind. I took every single pill. Not one left. I brushed my teeth, and went to bed.
I woke up nauseous. Fighting through all the chemicals running through my body. I didn't say a word about it to my companion. I should be dead, I thought. We went to do some service at the museum in Colville. There Rose, the woman we were helping. Said I didn't look very well and my eyes were somewhat yellow, and I should go lay down. My companion and I went back home, and I went to bed. I slept for basically two days straight. When I came to, and I realized that I tried to end my life I broke down and started to cry. I had been protected, that's all I could figure out. I told my companion what happened. Soon, she was on the phone with the mission presidents wife. And it went down the line, til I was told I was going home that night to get well. I was medically released from the Washington Spokane mission September 2013.
9 months I served. 9 months incomplete. I was not going to give up. I was a missionary, and I intended to get the help I needed and go back and complete the remaining 9 months of my mission. I had taken a missionary planner home with me. When I unpacked, one of the first things I did was write on a sticky note “your mission isn't finished yet” and put it on the missionary journal. I put the journal on my desk in plain sight. I had work to do to get mentally healthy so I could go back to Spokane. But, God had other things in mind.
I didn't get cleared to go back and finish my mission. I didn't understand why depression was so real in my life. I began to blame God, because I was hurt. I was an excellent missionary, Why was this in the cards for me? I began to ask why they sent me home instead of transferring me to serve in the mission office for a while, closer to therapists, and the mission psychologist? I was embarrassed talking to people at church about serving a mission. Especially if they'd ask me how old I was. When I told them I was 20, I could see them doing the math quickly in their head. I didn't serve long. I was ashamed.
A few months went by, and I accepted that I wasn't going to be a missionary again. I started living my life, focusing on what made me happy, running, hiking, and snowboarding. Slowly I kind of felt normal again. Though, my heart still ached to be serving in Washington. One night I was on Facebook, and a friend request had been accepted. It was Chiavan. I got excited, and began to message her to see how she was, and see if she was still going to church with her boyfriend and family. She seemed well, but still wasn't baptized. I kept a conversation with her going constantly. She was getting ready to graduate high school, and move from Colville to Spokane. I often would ask when she was planning on getting baptized. She would always reply, very soon. Finally I said to set a date with the missionaries, and they will help you get there. One night in my room I messaged and asked what was holding her back from getting baptized? Chiavan then opened up to me about the situation at home. Her mom was very much against the church. Chiavan had to choose getting baptized, or her home and relationship with her mom. My heart broke, as I read the messages I was getting from my friend. I was praying to know how to respond to comfort her.
My eyes wandered away from my computer screen and locked in on the sticky note that was on my dusty missionary planner. “Your mission isn't over yet”. Inspired I asked her, “if you could live your dream where would it take you?” She replied.. “ I would move, and go where there were lots of people with the same beliefs as me. I would have a good support group, to help me keep the commandments. I want to go to school, and do ultrasounds on pregnant moms.” I had the strongest impression of my life that night. I needed to invite her to be baptized, to move down to Utah and live with me and my family.
I told my parents about Chiavan, and what happened that night. They were on board all the way. So I invited Chiavan to get baptized, and move down and live with us. And she did. Six months later, she met her future husband down here. Another six months, they were married in the Manti temple. Chiavan was a blessing in my life. She helped me learn much, and she was brave to follow her faith. She's a hard worker, and is now working for Valley OB/GYN. My mission was to help her, when she couldn't help herself. I couldn't do what I did for her as a missionary wearing a black tag. Being home I was able to do, and teach her more.
Even though I had just had a year full of spiritual moments. I started to feel less enjoyment in the little things, I didn't care for church, I began to be quick to anger, and I slept a lot. My prayers became less and less, because I didn't feel God anymore. I began to revert back into a bad depression. I denied it of course. I stopped going to church because I didn't feel the spirit working in my life. I knew God was real, but did I? I started researching church history and found things that weren't in the actual church history. Things that may have been taken out? I don't know. Maybe. It got so bad, that I didn't believe any of it. I wrote a letter, I didn't believe the church was true. It wasn't real. And I was more agnostic now. Then didn't attend church, pray, or follow some commandments for ten months. Apathetic, and numb. How quickly one can forget God, and blow out their faith in Christ.
I'm on the road back now. I have seen too many miracles in my own life to deny that there a God. Depression is real, and it can disable someone spiritually so fast. At least in my experiences. I have to believe Christ can do for me, what he has done with so many others. Heal me. I've been lifted up a little, and slowly feeling strength from Christ. I can do hard things with Him.
“He can make us whole no matter what is broken in us” - Paul V. Johnson