Thursday, January 9, 2014

Mentally Strong

As the new year approached, so did new year's resolutions. Honestly, just the thought of making them exhausted naturally I rebelled. "I don't need no stinking resolutions, I'm working out enough stuff as is," I thought to myself. Such good excuses.

The truth is, I do have things I'm constantly working on and I didn't feel the need to set new resolutions on top of my currently-in-progress goals like exercise, healthy eating, quality time with children, patience, kinder words, and more expressions of love towards husband, better quality scripture study/prayer, %100 visiting-teaching/temple attendence...etc. See, my list is already full. 

However, something kept nagging at me. 

This past year was one of the hardest years of my life. While Brigham was in the midst of master's school his job was threatened and we worked hard for three months to save it. And when I say worked hard, I mean we gave it everything we had, poured our time, heart, energy, and souls into it...and still ended up losing it anyway. I had to go back to work and leave my kids every day to go to a job I couldn't stand. And then we were told we had to find a new place to live in the middle of it all. We had financial strain, marital discord, health problems, no health-insurance, depression, school stress, months of job searching and interviews, and couldn't get pregnant on top of it all. Then we picked up all our things, left most of our friends and family, and moved in with my parents two states away.

Reading all that you might feel really bad for us. I know I did. But really we were SO blessed. Despite losing his job, Brigham was able to still get tuition reimbursement to help us since we paid cash for all his schooling. And I was blessed to find a higher paying part-time job so easily. Brigham now had the time to both finish his schooling, and apply for jobs and attend interviews. We paid off our car and had no other debt, plus Brigham was receiving unemployment, so we weren't losing money month by month. So many people were there for us and helped us. I felt their prayers. And then Brigham was able to land a job in Washington just in the nick of time. Also, my family had a vacation already scheduled in Utah that coincided with our move so they were there and able to help us pack and drive all our belongings to Washington. It was amazing how perfectly it all aligned.

I realized all these blessings at the time. Heavenly Father truly watched out for us and I knew it. And yet - how well did I handle all of this? Not. Well. At. All. I cried, I still cry. I felt forsaken, confused, unable to function, overwhelmed, lonely, and hurt. My depression was all consuming, and many days I didn't think I could get out of bed, let alone go to one more family dinner and pretend I was ok anymore. Although I felt peace at church because of the Spirit, I almost never made it through a meeting without trying to discreetly wipe my tears away. My family complained because I never smiled when we chatted online anymore. I fought with my husband constantly. I yelled at my kids constantly. I was tired 24/7. And my constant petition was why. Why us? Why did this have to happen to us? Why can't it get better when I want? Why can't I understand what God wants me to do?

And mostly, Why is this so hard for me?

Sure times were hard and we struggled, but no great tragedy happened. I recognized that no one died. We were all healthy for the most part. We weren't in ruins. We had the knowledge of the gospel, and I knew God was prepping us for greater times ahead. So why could I not snap out of it? Why was I struggling so much?! If I was grieving as if someone had died, what would happen to me if someone actually did? What if I was struck by real tragedy? I'd probably have a mental break down and turn into Mrs. Bennet and be in a constant state of nerves for the rest of my life. Ugh. I looked at others that were going through, or had gone through, way worse than me and would feel awful that I was acting so pitiful.

Basically, I spent a lot of time soul-searching. After I got over feeling forsaken by God, and yet still struggled so much, I began to realize that I was having such difficult times because I everything that was happening was not under my control, there was little I could do to fix that, and I was not mentally strong enough to deal with those facts. And once I realized that, instead of doing something about it, I just began to wonder, "Why not? Why am I not mentally strong?" I didn't really have an answer for it, and I didn't really do anything about it either.

Then, a few months after settling in Washington, one of my friends posted an article on Facebook that was titled something like, "13 Attributes of Mentally Strong People." At first I avoided that article because I didn't want to add more guilt to my life...I knew mental strength was not on the top of my list. But eventually curiosity gave in, and I read the article expecting to find I only did three or four or the thirteen things. To my dismay, after reading through the list, I found I did not do one.

Not one.

I failed the whole list. I groaned in discouragement and thought, "No wonder why I'm such a mess," and pushed the whole thing away because I couldn't deal with processing another failure. But it's been bugging me. More hard things are going to come, probably harder things. And I want the mental fortitude to handle them. And so yes, this whole big long story has led me to this point: this year I'm going to work on my mental muscles. 

I couldn't find the exact article again, but I found one that is basically the same called, Mentally Strong People: The 13 Things They Avoid. I've looked it up to start breaking down and building back up mentally. And here's what the article suggests I do:

1. Stop wasting time feeling sorry for myself. 

But this is so hard to do! Man my life sucks. :) Seriously, self-pity is definitely a weakness mine. I hope to overcome it by thinking of nice things to do for others in the midst of my pity-parties.

2. Stop giving away my power. 

This means that I won't give others the power to make me feel inferior or bad. I will know my strength is in managing how I respond. I have been working on this for a long time. I don't improve quickly and I'm awful at it. But I have the tools and renewed sense to work harder.

3. Stop shying away from change. Embrace it actually.

Yeah, I hate change. It scares me. But I do recognize that I become stagnant. I will need to be excited at the opportunities to grow instead.

4. Stop wasting energy on things I can't control.

I need to control everything. I'm one of THOSE people. It's the worst. I worry about not being able to control that I'm a control freak. And when something frustrating happens that I can't control, I waste ALL my energy on trying to control it anyways. Phew. I think the first good step for me here is just learning to recognize when I can't control things. If I start doing that, then I can learn to let it go.

5. Stop worrying about pleasing others.

This I'm about 50/50 on. Half the time I'm not worried at all; I actually have a kind of  "forget-the-world" attitude. But when it comes to those I love, I love to please. I'll bend over backwards to make them happy, sometimes putting myself out in the process. I need to realize that if I can't please others and I'm doing the best I can, that's all I can do. Tearing myself up about it isn't going to help any.

6. Stop fearing taking calculated risks.

I'm the biggest scaredy-cat there is. I want a 100% percent guarantee that everything will work out. I think I drive Heavenly Father crazy with prayers constantly begging reassurance, and re-questioning things I've already gotten answers to. And a lot of the time, after taking a risk, I tear myself up about the what-if's of going a different route. Would it be better the other way? Did I really do the right thing? What if we did it all wrong? All the worst-case scenarios I prepared for flood my mind and I'm remorseful I took any risk at all. I pray for stronger faith all the time and less fear. It's helping. I need to continue to trust in the Lord and know that even if I don't choose the BEST thing, He will be with me anyway.

7. Stop dwelling on the past.

But this is my favorite place to go! To wish for happier times, to kill myself over past sins, or to boost my pity-parties and feel sorry about past difficulties all over again. Stop doing that Kari! Remember the good, learn from the bad and move on. 

8. Stop making the same mistakes over and over again.

I don't really do this one all too bad. I learn pretty well and guilt keeps me from really relapsing too much...except for one area in my life...mentally! I make these mistakes always! So to fix this I'm making this new year resolution to grow mentally stronger :)

9. Stop resenting other people's successes.

I'm not the worst at this one either. I usually don't resent someone else their success, unless they've offended me or I don't like them. And usually it's more of a, "well that's just unfair!" rather than resentment. But I could do much better at not being jealous when others get what I want. Like I tell my daughter: be happy for them, being upset only hurts you.

10. Stop giving up after failure.

If something hurts me I'm especially quick to runaway. Well I am now determined to keep going. One good thing from this past year is that I do feel that I know how to be more resilient. Yes, I can keep going even if it's hard. Do it anyways.

11. Stop fearing alone time.

When I first read this I rejoiced and laughed, "Yes, one I DON'T fail. Hahahahahaha, I'm a mom. I CRAVE alone time." (Not to mention I'm super independent and like to manage on my own much of the time.) However, my joy quickly dissipated when I kept reading and the article went more in depth and referred to not letting others determine your mood or build your happiness. And honestly, after being alone for too long, I do start to fear that no one likes me, no one wants to be with me, and that I'll die alone. Ok, maybe not that exaggerated (all the time), but I do depend too much on others to make me feel needed and wanted. I want to be confident in myself and of my worth when I'm alone, rather than relying on others to build myself up.

12. Stop feeling that the world owes me anything.

I'm not really an entitled, spoiled brat. I grew up learning I'd only get what I worked hard for. But this past year tested that. It's hard not to feel entitled to opportunities after paying for school and working hard for a degree. But, alas, it's putting hours in on the job hunt and becoming what a company needs - the work - that gets you where you want to go. I will fight harder for what I want rather than wait for it to come to me after completing the basics.

13. Stop expecting immediate results.

I'm pretty much one of the most impatient people ever. When I get an answer from Heavenly Father I expect it to happen right then - Boom - Solution revealed, this is why I had you do that. This blessing will happen now. Degree - Boom - Job. Tell my husband how handsome he is and how much I love him - Boom - He is the most helpful, nicest husband ever. Obviously, it doesn't quite work out that way so I become frustrated, angry, or hurt. This answer is another that falls into the faith category. I'm working so hard on having more faith in the Lord and waiting on his answers and blessings. As long as I'm doing as He asks, I need to have the patience that what needs to happen will. And prayer. Lots of prayer on this one.

So there you have it. Pretty much my biggest weaknesses laid out before you. The hardest ones to overcome too. I feel really good about becoming more aware of these weaknesses and working on them rather than shying away. I hope that as I do so this year, that I can be better prepared in the future and grow in strength as a person. I also hope that in the future, when my posterity reads this, they can pick out a few of the things that I do become strong at, and how they carried me through my life. And I pray that Heavenly Father can guide me as I do so.

Now, to relieve the pitiful picture I've painted of myself and my situation: just know things are settling down. Though I miss my life in Utah and I'm adjusting to our changes, there is so much hope and faith here in our future. We still have so much to look forward to and possible changes to embrace.  I'm actually excited for it all (mental strength #3 right there :)). I hope your year is as promising as ours has the potential to be.


  1. This is a really good goal. Sorry 2013 was such a hard year, but boy those blessings!! Keep working on this. You're a strong woman!

  2. I hated 2012, so I completely understand when you say that 2013 was the worst year for your family. But, you guys had so many changes that I'm sure are placing you where you need to be so you can receive all the blessings that Heavenly Father has in store for you and your family! You rock :)