Wednesday, October 15, 2014

When Plans Don't Overlap

Today marks exactly 1 year since I came home early from my mission in the Adriatic South States. According to my former agenda, right now I should be on the streets of Albania handing out blue hardcover copies of The Book of Mormon. But I'm not. Instead, I'm in Provo, UT, USA @ the BYU library reading from a tattered, green chemistry textbook. So what happened?

Before my mission I was prescribed antidepressant/anxiolytic meds for what doctors thought was Generalized Anxiety Disorder (GAD). I suited up, nametag and all, thinking things were fine and dandy. And for the duration of the MTC and first several weeks in Kosovo, things were just that: fine and dandy.

Then circumstances took a turn for the worse. Several scary, life-threatening incidents went down that consequently overwhelmed me with unimaginable levels of anxiety. (That's another story for another day) It seemed only logical to up my daily dose of Zoloft. So I did. I doubled it, actually.

Then things turned from worse to frenzied psychotic. I felt constant compulsive urges to commit suicide, so I was put under 24/7 lock-down supervision. Missionary Department Psychiatrists concluded that my response to the upped-antidepressant was indicative of some form of Bipolar Disorder. And that's just bad news. So they decided to medically release me and send me home to the United States.

I couldn't help but think that God's plan for me was ruined: I was supposed to serve my 2 years, come home & get married, and live happily-ever-after, right? Instead I was sent home after 4 meager months, lonely, and dealing with symptoms of Bipolar Disorder. How could something that awful ever be part of a loving Heavenly Father's perfect plan?

Neither did things get better in any timely fashion. It wasn't just once that I cried out in desperation, "Lord, where art thou?" Heck. It wasn't even just 10, 50, or 100 times. It took a solid 10 1/2 months, 12 different psychotropic medications in all their varieties and combinations, and a seeming eternity of psychological and emotional anguish. And then something clicked.

The long-awaited day finally arrived when the dark curtain was lifted and my life was flooded with light. Happiness returned as a regular emotion, rather than just a distant dream. People, school, work, and even routine daily activities became surprisingly interesting and engaging. Every facet of life surpassed my grandest expectations one-hundred-fold. Even now I am dumbfounded by just how good ordinary life can be, and is, on a daily basis.

You know, when God comes to the rescue, He doesn't just perform CPR and haul you off in an ambulance. No, when God comes to the rescue, He gives CPR with a complimentary manicure and massage, and takes you away in an emergency medical limousine! I couldn't even begin to express how tenderhearted He has been to me the past 365 days.

So why did God send me home early from my mission? I might soon as well discover a new principle of relativity in quantum mechanics before I know 100% why I'm home. But I have my ideas...

What I do know, however, is that God has made me more compassionate, less selfish, more intelligent, more handsome with whiter platinum hair, ripped shoulders, and shredded abs (that there was all probably just icing on the compensation cake), more appreciative of life, and most importantly, more happy.

So for now I'm at BYU. Studying Neuroscience. Making my best attempt at meeting and dating the incredible BYU girls. And just living lYfe.

Even though my once-thought-perfect plans were revised, happily-ever-after is still 100% possible. That hasn't changed a bit :)

1 Year Home And Happy As Ever

Thursday, January 30, 2014

The Second Half of Seven

You know, it's been a while since my last entry. I haven't lost interest in sharing my 'Adriatic Adventures', but rather I think I've adopted the idea that my writing has been "set as a thing of naught", "cast like pearls before swine", and "trampled under the feet of men". Okay. Maybe those scriptural descriptions are a little too elaborate in rehearsing that I feel like my blog has been forgotten. And so had I surrendered to this assumption until recently reading the statistical report to find, to my surprise, some 1,500+ blog views since several months of dormancy. I'm not elevated by this figure but devastated because of the hosts of missed opportunities to share my testimony of The Gospel of Jesus Christ through a public, non-pressing medium. So I apologize to those who contributed to that population.

In addition to the motivation of my audience, today marks another special instance associated with quantitative values. As a brief introduction, upon arriving home from the mission field, I was reintroduced to pop culture- music particularly. One song I'd never heard before was 'Marry Me' by Jason Derulo, and the opening line made me do a double-take, which goes, "One hundred and five is the number that comes to my head when I think of all the years I wanna be with you." Ignoring the second half of the sentence, I think my jaw dropped 'til it hit asphalt. It's significant to me because, "One hundred and five is the number that comes to my head when I think of [the number of days I spent as a missionary]". What the random, right? Why'd you choose that number, Mr. Derulo, when average life expectancy is like 79? Well, that number popped up again today as the sum of the days I've been home. (Hence the nonsense title) One hundred and five. It's probably just a coincidence, right? Well my life has been full of too many coincidences to not draw suspicion. For example, not too long ago I was watching the video of me opening my mission call. And guess what? As I read aloud my call I guess I failed to see a two digit in the tens place because it came out, "It is anticipated that you will serve for a period of FOUR months," before catching my stumble. I served fifteen weeks. Another coincidence, maybe? Regardless, there's another point to plot on the regression line. "All things denote there is a God; yea, even the earth, and all things upon it… do witness that there is a Supreme Creator." (Alma 30:44)

Another observation that I've made on the home front regards how receptive and compassionate my family, friends, ward members, and essentially anyone who knows my name have been towards me. From the airport terminal 'til now I haven't seen nor felt anything but sympathy and solicitude for me. From plates of cookies to prayers and phone calls and everything else in between, there has been no room for doubt that Heavenly Father manifests His love through other people. In speaking with other missionaries, my perception has been that they think regularly about what others are thinking of them. This has been far from the case for me. It hasn't once crossed my mind that others are gossiping behind my back or speaking critically of me. And I don't get worked up wondering how often I'm the topic of disappointment in others minds. I wouldn't credit this feature to my cognitive reasoning capacity, but to every walking angel that God has placed in my path. And that's how my every prayer begins, with thanks for each one.

I don't intend to lament because of how blessed I am, but there is one theme that's been dominating my thinking which I think sharing would broaden understanding and tear down a lot of uninvited awkward walls. I think individuals' intentions are genuine but applications are unexplored when it comes to topic of conversation with people in circumstances unique to the norm. I'd assume that from the reciprocal side of my situation conversation is similar to talking to someone with a missing appendage. Okay. Maybe not. But that's as best as I could come up with. I'll bet it starts with that queasy, hesitant feeling when you recognize an anomaly, then proceeds to swift reasoning of how to approach what to say, and concludes nine times out of ten with avoidance of any discourse at all. Once again, I'm not frustrated with people but simply the unfamiliarity of how to respond in situations like this. I don't dare say to what extent of variety I represent, but for myself and most early returned missionaries, we want to talk about our experiences just like any other RM! We want to share our spiritual experiences, our takes on people & culture, what we did on p-days, how our companions were, what the members were like, and everything else top to bottom. I don't know about the others, but I even what to talk about my coming home early because that's the best part of the story. And to be denied to say even one word because of a fear of offending is heartbreaking. I served an honorable full-time mission, and I am not ashamed of it.

In connection with this idea is 'What next?' Man. I really wish people would ask me that question more often. I think the only people brave enough to venture into that uncertain territory have been my bishop/stake president and my parents. Why not? It's an equally important chapter in my story. If you were to ask me, I doubt I could give you a confident reply. Sure I've got my speculations. But at least I'd know that you care. Hence, because of the dearth of bravery, I'll write it out. My primary psychiatrist is employed by the missionary department and works with early returned missionaries. From him and other statistics, reported rates of missionaries medically released for mental health issues that return to the mission field are roughly 20%. The remaining 80% is composed of those whose service was complete in whatever duration of time they faithfully served and who are thus medically excused from further service. In which group do I stand? I don't know. A decision will be reached sometime come May. But it doesn't matter much because Heavenly Father is still in charge, and I've shown my willingness to rise to the call to serve. To what task will I rise next? Your guess is as good as mine. But there is Someone that knows and has known forever.

If anything, I have learned that "[God] shall consecrate thine afflictions for thy gain" (2 Nephi 2:2). With the prophet Lehi I testify that "All things have been done in the wisdom of him who knoweth all things" (2 Nephi 2:24). And finally, it is my witness that all things unfair will be made just through the Savior, Jesus Christ. It is my prayer that He will be as tenderhearted towards you as He has been me.
Me and The Clan outside my new home
I just really like this picture. I think I look like Elder Calhoun (to an extent).