Tuesday, May 24, 2016

Vulnerability, Love, and the "D" word.

I've seen vulnerability in just about every form. The face of vulnerability is no stranger to any of us. It may be saying sorry first, quitting your job, trying a new hobby, or even trying on a pair of jeans. To one person, vulnerability may be asking for help, and to another it may be convincing yourself that its time to stop asking for help.

In 2012 I was introduced to Brene Brown's TED talk about vulnerability and shame. Anyone who knows me knows that I'm as obsessed with her research as anyone ever could be; a true "Brownie", if you will. With all of the conversations I've had about vulnerability over the last four years, I really started to see myself as a "vulnerability virtuoso". In my mind, I thought I had nailed vulnerability on the head.

Until today.

Today I discovered an identical loathing towards vulnerability, which is as equally strong (if not stronger) as the passion I have for it. I have never hated something so much. Vulnerability feels like freedom and courage, but it also feels like someone kicking you in the stomach and knocking all of the air out of your lungs. Over and over again.

I can be vulnerable about the fact that I usually turn my alarm off at least four times before I actually get up, or that after training for five months I still want to die when I run just one mile. I can admit that my shopping habits keep Target in business, and that I listen to Ingrid Michaelson for at least three hours every day. But there are two vulnerable topics for me that I have avoided like the black plague.

Depression and Anxiety.

I probably erased those words at least 10 times just while typing this. They have such a negative connotation, such a stigma in our society.  I have many fears that this entry will be taken as weakness, a cry for compliments, a lack of gratitude, or even a naive perspective into the world of mental illness.

Let it be known that I am writing this blog post with only 2 motives:
1-to let anyone who struggles with any weakness to know they are not alone
2-to educate the general public, as an attempt to dilute the stigma around mental illness.

The reality of depression is becoming more and more accepted in our society. I am certainly pleased with the efforts of so many people that have been made to raise awareness about this topic. I am not attempting to make an educated statement about mental illness, or to say what depression and anxiety feel like for every person. But I am attempting to let the world in on the hidden and often shamed life of someone with depression.

Even with all of the talk of depression, we are still so far from accepting it for what it is. In the seven years that I have struggled with depression, I have had people tell me that it's all in my head, that if I was more grateful I wouldn't struggle, that I am less attractive because of my depression, that I am in control of my thoughts and so I should be able to use positive self-talk to get out of it, that going to therapy is weak, and that I just don't understand the Atonement of Jesus Christ. Considering how private I am about my depression and anxiety, these are comments that have not been made by strangers, but by some of my closest friends.

To most of those that I have opened up to about my struggles with anxiety and depression, my confession has come as a complete surprise. They see me as a upbeat, cheerful, and outgoing person. And that's the thing: I am.

I am not my depression. I am not my anxiety.

Depression and anxiety can target the least expected. Even I, having studied psychology, am terrible at picking someone with depression or anxiety out of a crowd. When we think of depression, we think of the introverted, frowning girl who has too low of self-esteem to carry on a conversation with someone. We think of anxiety as the person who is nervously fiddling with something in their hands, who leaves immediately after church is over to avoid socializing, or who obsessively writes out to-do lists throughout any given day, Let me tell you, these are not the only faces of depression and anxiety.

I can’t really tell you what depression is, I can only tell you what it feels like. Depression can feel like a never-ending pit that you’ve somehow fallen into. It can feel like you are the only person in the world who feels lonely or sad. It feels like the whole world seems to “get it” and there is something that you just don’t quite understand. It feels like there are thoughts inside your head growing bigger and bigger, until there isn’t room inside of your body for them anymore. It feels like no matter hard you try, the purpose of your life is to be weak. It feels like the sharpest pain in your heart, or it can seem like you can’t feel anything at all. It feels like no matter how much you sleep, you will never feel rested again. You're tired all day, but when you try to sleep the thoughts start racing in your mind. You plan out all of your goals and expectations for the next day, but then each night you feel like you've only let everyone down. It feels like wanting to eat everything you see, and other times it feels like you couldn’t endure ever eating again. The anxiety fuels the depression and the depression fuels the anxiety. You worry that other people might see you as being a downer, so you try to make sure others see you as being outgoing and optimistic. You don’t want people to know, because you don’t want people to think that you’re weak, looking for attention and sympathy, or just too lazy to try harder. You try to make it seem normal, but the fear of others seeing you for who you are starts to make your heart race. At times, the anxiety takes over your body with no warning sign at all. It comes without rhyme or reason, and even when your thoughts are calm, your heart is racing and your palms are sweating. It feels like you have to escape or hide, because it's not normal to feel like this. And even when the kindest, most loving people are trying to help, you can’t help but feel embarrassed and ashamed that you are so weak. You know, logically and rationally, that you are so loved and that people are pleased with who you are; but every time you try to convince yourself that this is really true, you can't help but wonder if it's all just there to make you feel better

Just like how you are not your messy car, your bad habit of interrupting people, or your diet of mostly Chick-fil-a and diet soda, I am not my depression or anxiety. I am a person with goals and dreams. I am a person with strengths and weaknesses. I am a person with real feelings and real thoughts. Does my depression give me a skewed perspective of reality? Does it cause me to wear my emotions on my sleeve? Does it make me a more needy friend? Maybe. But just because my depression and anxiety are part of who I am, they are not my identity. Yes, depression and anxiety are a struggle for me literally every day. I cannot deny the influence they play in my life. This influence, however, is not something that can simply be characterized as a weakness. My depression and anxiety allow me to empathize with people in all stages of life. They help me to perceive other people's emotions and to be more considerate of those around me. They help me to be aware of my weaknesses and motivate me to be a better person. They facilitate connection and compassion. I am not my depression. I am not my anxiety. I am a person who is trying to make these weaknesses I've been given into strengths.

Vulnerability sucks. At times it makes me feel worthless, embarrassed, and inadequate. But I'm not ready to give up on vulnerability. Don't get me wrong, I hate loving when it isn't reciprocated. I hate asking for help and being seen as incompetent. I hate expressing my feelings and having others think that I'm an emotional train wreck. I hate admitting that I was late to work because the thought of getting out of bed felt like a life or death decision. These vulnerabilities, however, have been the very building blocks upon which I have established courage, growth and, compassion.

Everyone has their personal battle they are fighting every day. I don't understand what it feels like to struggle with a pornography addiction, or to lose faith in the God I've been taught to believe in my whole life. I don't know what its like to be told that my career choice is impractical, or that my lustful desires will require disciplinary action. But I do understand weakness. I understand the need to be loved and accepted for who I am and for my best efforts.

So while you are wondering how others will accept you for your weaknesses, remember that everyone else is wondering the same thing about themselves. Reach out. Show courage. Love. Please, be vulnerable. You are underestimating the powerful influence you can have on those within your sphere of influence. A few words of kindness go a long way. Say you're sorry. Ask for help, Tell someone you appreciate them. Admit that you aren't perfect. Have a conversation with someone, even when they are no guarantees (ESPECIALLY when there are no guarantees) of it being any benefit to you. Tell someone you care about them. Take the chance that they may not appreciate it.

It is my greatest goal to be able to love and accept others, not despite of their vulnerabilities but because of them. Please, reach out to me and tell me your story! Text me, call me, send me a facebook message. I want you to know that your weaknesses are half the reason I love you.

C.S Lewis said, "To love at all is to be vulnerable". Let us choose love and vulnerability.

A huge (and incredibly inadequate) expression of gratitude to my closest friends, family, coworkers, and roommates who have been so supportive, patient, and consistent in helping me see my worth. Eternal blessings surely await you.

Wednesday, November 19, 2014

Blood Clots and Contemplations

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Sometimes you donate blood and things go differently than expected... and you wake up the next day with this. Don't worry, just a minor blood clot that will go away in a few weeks. So in my hour of waiting at the urgent care today, I was reflecting on several conversations I've had in the last 24 hours about life and all of its uncertainties.  The conversations were similar, though one consisted of a friend expressing to me fears and doubts, while the other consisted of me expressing my own unknowns.

 During that wait for the doctor, I thought about how I wish I had the answers-to my friend's questions... and to my own. While thinking about all of the things I don't know, I came to the conclusion that maybe it would best to think of the things that I do know. 

I don't know a lot, but the things that I do know have come to me through experience and revelation. So here are some things I know that have helped me today:
  • I know that whatever situations I find myself in 1. I will always have a choice. Whether in behavior or attitude, the choice is there. 2. It will work together for my eternal benefit. That doesn't mean it will be easy, but it will be something that will improve my life in some way.  
  • I am loved by many friends and family members. Most importantly, I am loved by a Heavenly Father who sees my weaknesses perfectly and loves me because I am His daughter.
  • Weakness is not sin. Weakness is being human
  • The day is always better when you take time to be grateful
  • Though it may be hard for me to see in the moment, I am learning, growing, and improving
  • I don't have to do it all today. I just have to try a little harder to be a little better, one day at a time
  • A few kind words never hurt anyone
  • The best way to love someone is to try to understand their story
  • Sometimes prayer is all you have, but in the end its really all you need

Thursday, November 13, 2014

The Refiner's Fire

I drive past the Provo Tabernacle temple every other day on my way to work. As I drove past the other day, I couldn't help but feel a bit impatient, wondering if I would still be at BYU when the temple was finished. Continuing on my drive, I realized just how much progress has been made, when one considers where this temple was at just a few short years ago. Hitting me at a particularly rough spot on the road of life, I started to see how much we have in common with that tabernacle.

 In fact, right now I feel just like that old building, with flames that seem to consume the better parts of me. We all have those stages in life when we wonder "Why, after I have tried so hard, does it seem that it all went to waste". It feels as if we put forth all our effort and yet we watch as it burns to the ground. We may at times even question why Heavenly Father allows us to go through such painful changes to our very core and structure. 

While letting my thoughts wander, a quote by C.S. Lewis came to mind that had been a source of strength once before:“Imagine yourself as a living house. God comes in to rebuild that house. At first, perhaps, you can understand what He is doing. He is getting the drains right and stopping the leaks in the roof and so on; you knew that those jobs needed doing and so you are not surprised. But presently He starts knocking the house about in a way that hurts abominably and does not seem to make any sense. What on earth is He up to? The explanation is that He is building quite a different house from the one you thought of - throwing out a new wing here, putting on an extra floor there, running up towers, making courtyards. You thought you were being made into a decent little cottage: but He is building a palace. He intends to come and live in it Himself.”
Provo City Center Mormon Temple
Yes, it hurts. Facing our weaknesses can be the hardest thing we will do in this life. Sometimes being a tabernacle seems good enough. But God intends for us to be temples. He has a plan for each one of us. In those moments of scorch and blaze, we can know that Heavenly Father is putting us through the refiners fire. He is helping us to make our weaknesses into strengths. He is making us into the people He intends for us to be. All I can do is trust that He has a bigger plan for my life than I can see right now. 

Wednesday, June 6, 2012

Good week!

  • Sunday, May 27
    • Marie's farewell! Who knew that when we became friends in preschool that we would remain so close throughout elementary school, middle school, high school, and three years of college (despite the rivalry!). I am so glad we are going to be serving missions at the same time. It was so great to have someone to discuss the stresses of mission preparing with. I will surely miss the sarcastic texts and nights by the fire, but Louisiana will be so happy to have her! It was also great to see old friends. I love that when we get together, its like we were never apart. 
    • The sad part of Sunday: Saying goodbye to my dearest Stephanie Bishoff :( She has moved to California for the summer and came home for her brother's homecoming. It was my first mission goodbye! I won't be able to see her again until I leave, but I know that not even 5,000 miles will keep us apart!
  • Monday, May 28
    • Memorial day-My favorite holiday! We spent the morning at the Monroe Cemetery for a memorial service. We visited a few other cemeteries and looked up a few ancestor's graves. It was a beautiful day and so nice to spend the day with the family. 
  • Tuesday, May 29
    • Uh... I don't remember what happened...
  • Wednesday, May 30
    • Abby and I decided to wake up early and spend the day in Provo shopping for mission clothes. Abby probably hated every second of it, but she had a good attitude anyway. I must admit, I can't blame her. I am SOOOO ready to be done shipping. I'm not much of a shopper to begin with, and with all the searching for wrinkle free, washable, warm, and matching clothes that don't look hideous is harder than you would think. But Cafe Rio made it better :) 
    • Lunch with Jenna (Oakley) @ Zupas. I just love that girl and wish we didn't live 3 hours apart.
    • He Is We Concert. After getting lost numerous times, trying to find parking, and waiting in line for an hour, we finally made it in! The first two opening bands weren't too bad. When the third got on, we just assumed it was He Is We (We've never seen them before, and have only listened to a view of their songs...). They were AWFUL! I was super disappointed... then we realized it was just another opening band. He Is We ended up being so great and we absolutely loved the concert. We were definitely tired after a long day, but it was worth it.
    • Thursday, May 31
      • We spent the night at Aunt Ginny's, and woke up to cinnamon banana french toast. Could you ask for anything better?? Nope
      • Mission Shower-My mom's dear friend threw me a surprise mission shower! It was honestly the nicest thing anyone has ever done for me.  I know it took a lot of work and everyone was so willing to selflessly sacrifice to help me on my mission. I am so incredibly grateful for the women in my life that support me and love me, especially on this new adventure! A HUGE thanks to Janet Billingsley for organizing everything, and to everyone else for the wonderful gifts! Also, I embarrassed myself by putting socks on my hands because I thought they were gloves... oops! 
    • Friday, June 1
      • OAKCREST FRIENDS AND FAMILY DAY!!! Best day of my life! I never thought I'd love that drive, but I was just so excited to be at camp again. Everything looked and smelled so beautiful. I absolutely loved seeing all my old counselor friends again. The program with the new staff was great and I felt the Spirit flood me again, just like I had never left. I am so excited for all the new staff members and know they are going to have the best summer, changing thousands of lives. Preparing for a mission has been tough... I've been discouraged and second guessing myself. As soon as I was back at camp, I remember everything I had experienced last summer. My testimony was strengthened and I felt revived. I had forgotten how happy and friendly everyone is at Oakcrest  :) Going back  was an answer to prayers, just like it has been so many times before.
    • Saturday, June 2
      • Terry Family Reunion! We spent the day at the Hogle Zoo. The little kids are all so cute! And the new Rocky Shores exhibit was open with a polar bear and sea otters!  All of my family members were there at some point except for one (We missed you Michael!). It has been YEARS since all of us have been together. I realized that I really don't know when we'll all be together again...It was the perfect piece to my summer before I leave. I'm so grateful that we get to spend forever together. 

    Wednesday, May 23, 2012


    In case anyone is wondering how I've been spending my five month wait until I leave on my mission...
    Facts about Sweden:
    • Population 9.3 million
    • # of LDS members: 10,000
    • Political system: Parliamentary democracy 
    • Area: 174,000 sq. mi. (About the size of CA)
    • Hours of Daylight in Stockholm:
      • January: 6
      • July: 19
    • In northern Sweden, the midnight sun is visable 24 hrs a day from June to the middle of July
    • The largest shopping mall of Europe is ‘Nordstan’, in Gothenburg.
    • The northern lights are viewable in northern Sweden. Every 11 years, the solar activity is higher and therefore they are visible farther south. Next year happens to be the eleventh year! (I'm crossing my fingers!)
    • Stockholm is known as one of the most beautiful cities of the world and is composed of 14 islands
    • The fertility rate is 1.94 children born/woman
    • Sweden has a large amount of immigrants, particularly from surrounding countries and the Middle East. 
    • On average, Swedish women have their first child at 30 years.
    • A popular souvenir is the road sign for moose-crossing. Every year a huge number of these signs are stolen from Swedish roads.
    • IKEA and H&M are both modern Swedish retail shops.
    • Sweden has the highest number of McDonald restaurants, per capita, in Europe.
    • The first ice hotel of the world was built near the village of Jukkasjärvi, in Kiruna district of Sweden.
    • Midsummer is one of the biggest celebrations in Sweden. It is held on the weekend closest to June 24 and is the longest day of the year. It includes dancing to folk music, traditional costumes, wreathes of flowers, eating herring, dancing around the maypole, and of course alcohol :)
    • Sweden is known for its progression in technology, fashion, design, and societal systems. 
    • On Easter, the children dress up as witches and hobos and go trick or treating
    • Taxes are about 50-70% of income, and the government fills out your tax forms
    • 53% of the land is forest, with lots of berries to eat!
    • The Nobel Prize Ceremonies are held in Sweden and Norway every year on December 10th.
    • The official church of Sweden is the Evangelical Lutheran Church. 
    • Sweden is known for their fresh, raw, canned, smoked, and pickled sea food (particularly herring, crayfish, salmon and eel, also elk and reindeer
    • Swedes have one of the longest life expectancy in the world-79-men and 83-women
    • Summers in Sweden rarely get warmer than 75 degrees
    • Sweden is known to have one of the highest standards of living in the world
    • The three most popular sports are football (soccer), ice hockey, and bandy (whatever that is...?)
    • Famous things/people from Sweden(ones I recognized at least)
      • Alfred Nobel (instituted the Nobel prize)
      • ABBA
      • Ace of Base
      • Pacemakers
      • Ingrid Bergman (starred in Casablanca)
      • Volvo
      • Zippers
      • Pippi Longstocking
      • A-Teens
      • Invention of dynamite
      • Play (Pop group)
      • IKEA
      • Niklas Zennström (founder of Skype)

    Friday, March 23, 2012

    Called to Serve!!!

    So maybe I'm really slow, but... I got my mission call!!! It was the best day of my entire life, literally. Shall we start from the beginning? Yes!
    After waiting two and a half weeks, Wednesday rolled around (and by rolled around, I mean: took 8 billion years to get here!) The Bishop had told me my call had been assigned, so there was no doubt! My dear friend Stephanie's Mom is our mail lady, so she got my cell number and told me she would call me when it got here. I slept surprisingly well, anticipating my phone call in the wee hours of the morning. Well, 9 am rolled around and I still hadn't heard a single thing. I sent her a text asking if she had heard anything. She informed me that she wasn't working that day, but would call in and check. She reported that they hadn't seen it, and maybe it would come Thursday. Immediately, I went into denial, then panic. I had been counting down the hours for an entire week! I did not think I could possibly wait for one more day, or however much longer it would take. I sat on the floor and began to cry, not knowing how I could possibly focus in class (A little dramatic? Maybe. But probably not). I decided to pray. I told Heavenly Father that I knew things would work out somehow. I truly did not know how I could wait any longer, but I knew His timing was right and it would come when it was supposed to. If it didn't come that day, I pleaded for the strength and patience to wait. I then headed off to class (which just so happened to be mission prep, where we just so happened to sing Called to Serve...). With high hopes, I asked the Bishop to check when it had been sent, so I would know if I had to wait one more day, or a week. He replied that they had not yet marked it as sent, and it would be another week. I slowly came to terms with the situation, realizing that for some reason I needed this trial of faith and patience. Everyone was texting me, asking if it came and what time I was opening it. I held back the tears, with silent pleas that somehow I could just endure that day. 

    In the middle of my second class, I received a text from my mom. IT WAS A MIRACLE!!! My mission call came!!! No, they weren't pulling a prank on me. The substitute at the post office didn't know what to look for, and the mission application hadn't been updated. I wanted to jump up and scream with excitement!!! When I returned home, I immediately knelt down and thanked Heavenly Father for this little mission miracle.While I don't necessarily believe the hand of God picked up the enveloped from Salt Lake and stuck it in my mailbox, I am incredibly grateful for the comfort and peace He gave me. That day was a spiritual high, just knowing that He was aware of me and my needsThe next 8 hours were the longest of my life!! I cleaned the entire apartment, paced my room, and had butterflies so bad I thought I could throw up. But the time finally came. My dear family came (my brother couldn't come because the weather in Salt Lake was awful) as well as my old roommates, Oakcrest friends, and even the girls down the hall. 

    Opening an envelope has never been so hard before! With shaking hands, I could hardly believe it was real life!!! I covered it up, so I wouldn't accidentally read it. As I read "Sister Chesley" I immediately was overwhelmed with Spirit. Tears quickly came, and I read that I had indeed been called to serve as a missionary for The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints. Then I accidentally saw where I was called to... I thought I hid it so well, until I watched the video and realized I had gasped and covered my mouth. Real subtle, Bec. There it read, Sweden Stockholm mission!!! WHAT!?!?!?! I don't remember a single thing that happened after that. SWEDEN!? Why didn't I think of that?! Immediately, I KNEW that was where I was supposed to be called. It felt perfect the moment I read it. 

    I absolutely CANNOT wait to serve my mission in Sweden. I will be speaking Swedish, and report to the Provo MTC on July 18th. I know that this is where I am supposed to serve and I know the Lord trusts me to represent Him. As I read the rest of my call, I couldn't stop the tears from flowing. I have the opportunity to teach the gospel to those who literally have no idea that they can live with God again in perfect happiness. What a sacred and humbling opportunity this is going to be. Greater happiness than I have ever imagined awaits me. But most importantly, it awaits those who have will be accepting the gospel of Jesus Christ. Thanks to EVERYONE for your love and support. All the texts, calls, and Facebook comments really do mean the world to me. Look out Sweden, here I come! Many exciting facts on Sweden to come :) Love always, Syster Chesley. 

    Wednesday, February 15, 2012

    Because I Have Been Given Much...

    As I'm sure all of you know, I have made the decision to serve a full-time mission for The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints!!! The question I frequently get is, "What made you want to serve?" there was no grand experience or life changing event that really made me want to serve. The desire to serve a mission is something I have always had. Even from the time I was in primary, I remember singing Called to Serve hoping some day I would have the unique opportunity of preaching the gospel to the world! There have been many experiences that have solidified my decision to serve. One-Church History Tour. Every second of that trip radiated the truthfulness of the gospel. When I bore my testimony at church in Palmyra, I looked down to find Brother Jenkins (my preschool teachers husband, previous seminary teacher, institute teacher, and Stake Patriarch who was our tour guide-and my favorite man in the world!) staring at me with a smile beaming from his face. After the meeting, he approached me and told me that when he looked up at me, he could see a missionary bearing her testimony. Two-working at Oakcrest. Having the opportunity to bask in the Spirit and teach the gospel every day only increased my craving for missionary work.

    Now, just because I've always wanted to serve, doesn't necessarily mean this decision has been easy.  Many have come into my life during my 20 years of riding the Earth around the Sun telling me I was going to get married first, get too far into my schooling, or that I just flat out didn't have what it takes. While my family has been 100% percent supportive, its clear they worry about missing me and me missing them. Then there are my own doubts I've had, which have far exceeded every one else. Question of whether or not I am going for the right reasons, if I know enough, if I can follow the Spirit enough. Worries about taking a break in the middle of my degree, coming back an old maid, getting homesick, all sorts of questions! But every time I sincerely pray, I have felt an overwhelming assurance, greater than I've ever had, that serving a mission is what I'm supposed to do.

    I've now come to the point where I think "How could I NOT serve a mission?" I have been blessed with a knowledge of one and only true gospel on the face of the earth!!! How could I pass up the opportunity to share that? While I still get worried about all the things that could go wrong and the sacrifices I will have to make, I try to keep in mind that I'm not going for me, or for anyone else. I'm going for the Lord, and with Him all things are possible. I started my papers a month before I could turn them in, thinking it would take a few weeks. It took three days... So since then, I have practiced pronouncing the names of all the missions (This is a strange fear I've developed... I dont want to embarrass myself...) spent many hours on Google maps, had many sleepless nights, and experienced full on anxiety attacks! I turned my papers into my Stake President two days before they could be submitted. He decided to wait a full week to submit them... BUT! They're finally in!!!!!!!! I feel like I'm the happiest girl in the world, knowing this is the right decision. So, let the waiting begin :) I'm hoping my call will be here on the 22nd or 29th. Pray that I actually live to see that glorious envelope!