AUMBERLY ROWBURY'S AnXIETY STORY
It has taken me 4 years and 7 months to feel comfortable enough to be vulnerable with the world, but I finally decided that I could do it. Hopefully there is someone out there who needs to hear what I have to say. Maybe there is someone struggling with depression, anxiety, or PTSD. Whatever it is, I just want everyone to know that there is hope. That there is a way out, and it is through the Savior.
I had wanted to serve a mission since I was a little girl. That was my life goal, and I was overjoyed when I got my call and my dreams became a reality. The first year was pretty great, I had a blast teaching and loved my companions. Things changed however when I got transferred to be with a companion who was struggling with some personal and mental issues. There were 4 of us in that apartment and what I didn’t know at the time that the next 6 months would affect me for years to come. Its hard to talk about specific things that went on, but overall that period of time was just one of high stress, high emotion, and feeling all alone while trying to be missionaries at the same time. We weren’t really serving a mission like you would typically think, but were trying to be mental caretakers, dealing with things that we never had experienced in our young lives before. We didn’t have the tools or capacities to be dealing with what we were, and yet were expected to figure it out. We had to do whatever we could to survive each day, and stay mentally strong. But sometimes being strong isn’t enough, different experiences can affect you in ways that you never expected. I and the other 2 seemingly “normal” sisters would be broken and changed forever. I came home a completely different person. That happy, bubbly, girl I left as was gone. I didn’t want to do anything, didn’t want to talk about what happened and I felt like a complete failure. I slipped deeper and deeper into depression, and my anxiety levels were off the charts. I tried to handle it myself for about a year, which in the meantime I met and married an amazing man. Lucky for me, he was a trooper and dealt with all my outbursts, and crying fits, and depressive moods. I would cry for hours at a time, not knowing where emotions were coming from. The littlest things would stress me out, or set me off. I found myself not being able to walk in a church because it brought back horrible memories of being a missionary and I would have panic attacks during Sacrament Meeting and have to walk out. For the longest time I was angry at God. I had given up 18 months of my life to serve, and spread His gospel, and here I now was broken, and ruined. I was angry that the one thing that should be helping me, God, church, and anything church related, was making me hurt even more because it brought back so many horrible things from my mission.
My husband finally suggested that I get some help, and I knew I had to for both of our sakes. I had to let go of my pride, and admit that I really needed help, and for a stubborn girl like me, that was really hard. I met with the Bishop, and he helped me find an amazing counselor. I know God was watching out for me because she just got me. I was diagnosed with PTSD and anxiety disorder and I spent the next year working through many of my issues. Although it didn’t go away, I got to a place where I could attend church again and I fought so hard to be able to get through daily life. I didn’t want my challenges to define me. I was so mad at Satan because I knew that he was fighting so hard to keep me down and make me feel that this was “me”. That I was a loser, that I wouldn’t be able to handle my life ever again, and that I had failed as a missionary. My anger at him fueled the fire to help me to get back up on my feet and start moving again. 2 years into this journey, I found myself once again dealing with some mental issues, but this time it was different. I started worrying constantly about dying and having an illness. I became a true blue hypochondriac and was obsessed with dying all the time to the point where it was physically debilitating. I had every form of cancer, disease, whatever, you name it I had it. I was scared to wake up every morning because I didn’t want to die. This all sounds nuts, but to someone who knows how it is its awful! Its not just something you can “pray away” or “change your attitude” about. Mental illness is a very real thing, and can really affect people’s lives. I went back to my counselor and began working with her again to try and work through some of my issues with anxiety and obsessive compulsive thoughts. Eventually I was able to get on some medication for anxiety and OCD and planned with my doctor to use it for a year or so until I could rebalance my chemicals. It made a world of a difference for me and most issues I had faced in the past have lessened. I have been able to come to a place now where I can live life happily and breathe a little easier.
I still struggle with anxiety, but I can walk into church now like a boss, and own the fact that I have struggles sometimes, but it’s the church that brings me peace. If there are any of you who are struggling with anxiety or depression, I get it. I know how it feels! If you are considering medication but think you are “weak” if you do, just know I felt the same way, but just like any other illness, sometimes it is necessary for healing and that is okay! I chose not to let this define my life, and learned that it is just a part of it. Its been 6 years now since I left to serve my Father in Heaven. There are still days I have panic attacks, or think I am dying, or fear the future. But Satan wants me to life in that state of fear and I will not let him rule my life! Priesthood blessings became such a source of peace and comfort for me. Going to the temple once a week helped me feel the love my Heavenly Father has for me, and helps me to get outside myself and serve those who are wanting their ordinances done. Family History has also been an amazing comfort to me to help my mind focus on something other than my issues. Something about having to be organized and concentrating on finding records has been really good for my mind. I also made it a goal to read conference talks starting the year I was born, and that has brought me so much comfort and peace. Reading words of the Prophets and heeding their counsel has brought so much healing. I had to learn to just take a day at a time and like Elder Holland said, Don’t assume you can fix everything, but fix what you can. If those are only small victories, be grateful for them and be patient. Patiently enduring some things is part of our mortal education.” This is just a small part of who I am. I am so many more things than my illness, and I know each day that I fight it gets better and better! I have so many happy days, and good days, that when a bad day comes I just have to let it roll off my back and keep going. Ultimately I am a Daughter of God, and look forward to the day when “I can stand glorified and grand, breathtakingly perfect in body and mind.” But until then, I will keep pushing, keep moving, and keep being kind to myself.