My 10 “Secrets” to Forming and Sustaining Healthy Romantic Relationships and Enduring Marriages

“ If the old fairy-tale ending ‘They lived happily ever after’ is taken to mean ‘They felt for the next fifty years exactly as they felt the day before they were married,’ then it says what probably was never was or ever could be true, and would be highly undesirable if it were. Who could bear to live in that excitement for even five years? What would become of your work, your appetite, your sleep, your friendships? But, of course, ceasing to be “in love” need not mean ceasing to love. Love in the second sense  – love as distinct from ‘being in love’ is not merely a feeling. It is a deep unity, maintained by the will and deliberately strengthened by habit…They can have this love for each other even at those moments when they do not like each other… Being in love first moved them to promise fidelity: this quieter love enables them to keep the promise. It is on this love that the engine of marriage is run: being in love was the explosion that started it.”

– C.S. Lewis, Mere Christianity

As a Family Studies major, many people have asked me to share useful information that I have learned about relationships and family. This semester, I took a class specifically about healthy romantic relationships and how to maintain them. Our relationships, especially the ones with our significant others, can bring so much joy into our lives! However, they can also cause us grief, heartache and disappointment if we do not work to maintain them. Today, I would like to share my insights to this very important question:

What are the keys to forming and sustaining healthy romantic relationships and enduring marriages?

Please keep this in mind: I am no expert! Also, there are several things I could share on this subject. It would take hours to go through all of the research and suggestions. Let’s be honest, I don’t have the time or expertise to write about it, nor you the time to read it! Instead, I have made a list of my “Top 10 Secrets” to forming and sustaining these important relationships. These ten things are very important, and all can be tied back to two main themes – commitment and communication. Let’s get started!

#1. Set Realistic Expectations (And Communicate Them!)

When forming relationships, it is very important to have realistic expectations for the relationship and your partner. First, I would like to draw attention to the effects of expectations in our relationships. An individual’s realistic and positive expectations can motivate beneficial behaviors and responses from their partners.[1] However, unrealistic expectations can be detrimental to a relationship. This is because the individual could be constantly disappointed or frustrated if their expectations are not met, and the partner could suffer from constantly falling short.[2] These negative feelings can lead to feeling negatively about the relationship, and eventually, feeling negatively about your partner.

Set realistic expectations, ones that are positive and attainable, and communicate them to your partner. Be willing to negotiate your expectations with them so you can reach an agreement together. Research shows that the more agreement there is in a relationship, especially as it pertains to beliefs about the relationship, the more likely it is that the couple will be happy and satisfied.[3]

#2. Resolve Your Past History

Marcus Garvey, a famous political leader and journalist, said this, “A [person] without the knowledge of their past history, origin and culture is like a tree without roots.” Our past history shapes who we are, including how we approach relationships and maintain them. Who we are as individuals, and as relationship partners, derives from how we were raised and nurtured.[4] When forming a relationship, it is important to recognize how your past influences you in a relationship. Whether it is how you form attachments, how you communicate, how you show affection, or how you view commitment, all of these things can affect your relationships. If there is something in your past that keeps you from being committed and having a healthy relationship, work to resolve it. Also, be considerate of your partner’s past history, and stay committed to them even if you do not understand all of their behaviors.

#3. Make Your Marriage the Cornerstone of Your Life, NOT the Capstone

We live during a time where marriage is viewed as the “capstone” of one’s life, or an achievement that comes only after all other personal goals have been met. This may look like waiting to get married until one has finished college, has a stable career, has a nice house, and has traveled the world. This may work for some people, but research suggests that it may not be the best way to view marriage. A “capstone” approach may make it difficult to go from an individualistic view to a couple one, it increases the risk of re-sequencing family formations (i.e. having children before marriage), and it potentially places marriage beyond the perceived reach of young people.[5]

Instead, seek to make marriage the “cornerstone” of your life. As the cornerstone, marriage is a foundation to build upon, rather than something to try and balance upon everything else. The timing of marriage is different for everyone, but it is important that there not be a long list of goals to check off before marriage can become an option. Be committed to working towards marriage and finding someone who could potentially be your life partner, even if the timing is not what you expected or planned.

#4. Attend a Marriage Preparation Class Once You’re Engaged 

Once you are seriously dating someone or engaged, it is a good idea to attend a marriage preparation class together. A marriage preparation class helps couples to evaluate their relationships, especially concerning commitment goals, communication skills, expectations, and finances, which are areas that can lead to conflict and divorce.[6] These classes call for a relationship assessment, which can help erase doubts surrounding the relationship, or call attention to possible problems. This can help couples go into marriage with more commitment, as well as provide them with the communication skills that they need to tackle obstacles.

#5. Make Each Other Your Top Priority

When it comes to maintaining a relationship, it is important to be committed to your partner and making them your top priority. This is easier said than done, especially when children, jobs, other family members or personal goals need a lot of your time and attention. However, it is crucial that partners work, and work hard, to keep their relationship alive and thriving. One way to do this is to respond to bids for connection. By responding to your partner’s needs for connection instead of ignoring or brushing them aside, whether that is through a hug, a conversation or a kiss goodnight, you will help maintain intimacy in your relationship.[7] Also, it is important to participate in activities together, without the children. Research shows that by engaging in shared activities, couples are able to open the doors of communication and learn more about each other.[8] I personally recommend a weekly date with your partner!

#6. Practice Positive Conflict Resolution

First, it is important to realize that conflict is inevitable, but contention doesn’t have to be. Contention comes when conflict is not managed correctly, and can be very detrimental to a relationship. Mismanaged conflict can cause relationship distress, and can cause a decline in one’s perception of the quality of their relationship.[9] Second, good communication is the key to positive conflict resolution. [10] Some effective strategies include staying focused on the problem at hand, not bringing in past arguments. Also, recognize one’s own contributions of the problem and ask your partner questions about the situation and their feelings. Most importantly, listen! Listen to understand what your partner is saying and feeling. Summarize what they have said to you, as well as ask for suggestions to resolve the situation.[11]

#7. “Address the Stress” Before a Relationship Crisis Arises!

Stressful events and situations came with romantic relationships. Whether it is stress related to work, finances, children, unexpected illness or the relationship itself, stress can put a demand on the couple that leaves them with a reduced capacity to maintain the relationship.[12] Communication is essential to tackling stress and we can do this by “addressing the stress”. It is important to identify the stress as something external and to not define the relationship by the stress. Also, do not blame the relationship for the stress. By externalizing the problem to outside the relationship, it is less likely that the problem will negatively impact the relationship. In fact, “addressing the stress” can help a couple work together and, in turn, grow closer together, even in the midst of hardship.[13]

#8. Learn to Make Sacrifices

Loving others includes sacrificing for them, and doing what is best for the relationship. Sacrifices look differently in each relationship, but they are an important aspect of romantic relationships. Sacrifice goes hand in hand with commitment – when you are personally dedicated to a relationship, you will sacrifice for the relationship, invest in it, and seek your partner’s welfare.[14] These sacrifices can be as simple washing the dishes for your partner, or as complex as giving up personal vices that are hurting the relationship. Be committed to your partner and their happiness, and be willing to make sacrifices for them. They will help foster more commitment as well as increase the overall relationship satisfaction. [15]

#9. Forgive

Forgiveness can be very hard to come by in romantic relationships, especially if a huge mistake has been made. However, forgiveness is an important aspect of maintaining romantic relationships. Since forgiveness is a daily process in relationships, work hard to be committed in your relationships. Research shows that high levels of commitment and satisfaction between the offender and the victim can make forgiveness easier.[16] Also, allow for communication and seek clarity on the situation. By doing this, the individual who was hurt will be more likely to move towards adjusting and moving on from the incident. [17] It will also allow the offender the opportunity to recognize their actions and work to change their behaviors.

#10. Don’t Let Divorce Be An Option

James E. Faust said, “In my opinion, ‘just cause’ [for divorce] should be nothing less serious than a prolonged and apparently irredeemable relationship which is destructive of a person’s dignity as a human being.”[18] There is definitely a time and a place for divorce, and I know that it is necessary at times. That being said, “falling out of love” is not a valid reason for divorce. Before getting married, talk to your partner about their thoughts on divorce. Go into marriage with the commitment and idea that marriages require work and should not be given up on easily. Research shows that happiness in marriage has its peaks and valleys and that just because someone is feeling unhappy in their marriage does not mean that they should divorce. In one study by Dr. Linda J. Waite, 50% of once “unhappy” couples reported being “very happy” five years later. [19] Marriage is hard, and maintaining love and intimacy can be very difficult. With personal dedication and commitment, it is very possible to make marriage work.

Falling in love is just the beginning of the journey! Staying in love, and keeping marriage alive, requires work and dedication. Be committed to your relationship and your partner, and communicate with them. By following these 10 “Secrets”, I can guarantee that you will be better prepared to form and maintain a healthy romantic relationship. You can experience the immense joy that comes from sharing your life with someone else as you work together and invest completely in your relationship.

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[1] See Bradbury, T. N., & Karney, B. R. (2014). Intimate relationships. New York: W.W. Norton &.  p.318

[2] See Bradbury, T. N., & Karney, B. R. (2014). Intimate relationships. New York: W.W. Norton &.  p.320

[3] See Bradbury, T.N., & Karney, B.R. (2014). Intimate relationships. New York: W.W. Norton &. p.323

[4] See Bradbury, T.N., & Karney, B.R. (2014). Intimate relationships. New York: W.W. Norton &. p.222

[5] See Cornerstone Vs. Capstone. (2015). Retrieved from http://marriagemeaning.org/Essays/CapstonesVsCornerstones.aspx#

[6] See Hawkins, “MRE”, 16 Nov 2016.

[7] See Walker, “Healthy Marriages”, 5 Dec 2016.

[8] See Hawkins, “Maintaining Intimate Relationships”, 19 Oct 2016.

[9] See Bradbury, T.N., & Karney, B.R. (2014). Intimate relationships. New York: W.W. Norton &. p.279

[10] See Hawkins, “Managing Differences”, Oct 2016.

[11] See Hawkins, “Managing Differences”, Oct 2016.

[12] See Hawkins, “Relationships in Context”, 14 Nov 2016.

[13] See Hawkins, “Relationships in Context”, 14 Nov 2016.

[14] See Walker, “Healthy Marriages”, 5 Dec 2016.

[15] See Walker, “Healthy Marriages”, 5 Dec 2016.

[16] See Hawkins, “Maintaining Intimate Relationships”, 19 Oct 2016

[17] See Hawkins, “Maintaining Intimate Relationships”, 19 Oct 2016

[18] See Hawkins, “Divorce”, 14 Sept 2016.

[19] See Hawkins, “Divorce”, 14 Sept 2016.

Ponderize – 1 John 4:7-9

So, I missed General Conference last October because that was the weekend that my husband left for Texas. One of the talks from that session was about ponderizing scriptures (a mixture of pondering and memorizing)given by Elder Devin G. Durrant. I heard so much about it, but it took me a while to read all the talks and catch up. Well, this week I was finally able to study that talk, and I felt strongly that it was something I needed to start doing in my life. He says this in his talk: “The Savior said, ‘Treasure up in your minds continually the words of life.’ Ponderizing is a simple and edifying way to do just that.”

At the end of his talk, Elder Durrant says that it’s important to share what we’ve learned and experienced by ponderizing these scriptures. So, every Saturday, I will post just that here on this blog. It’ll be a way for me to look back and remember what I’ve learned, but I also hope that it can also edify someone else.

This week, I picked the scriptures 1 John 4:7-9. It says this:

“Let us love one another: for love is of God; and every one that loveth is born of God, and knoweth God.. He that loveth not knoweth not God; for God is love… In this was manifested the love of God towards us, because that God sent his only begotten Son into the world, that we might live through Him.”

It ended up being the most perfect passage for me to study this week. “Let us love one another.” For all who read my last post, you’ll know why that was so necessary for me to ponder these scriptures this week. Also, God sent us the perfect example of how to love: The Savior. Jesus Christ sacrificed everything for us, and I know that He would’ve done it even just for me, if that was the case. He didn’t care about a person’s nationality, or their family situation, or their popularity or their physical or spiritual ailments. He only looked on the heart. He continues to look on our hearts, and He knows us perfectly. Because of that, He loves us perfectly.

Unfortunately, I don’t have the ability to know someone perfectly the way Christ and Heavenly Father do. That makes it hard for me to not judge, to not get upset, to not assume the worse in people. It’s a human weakness, but I truly believe that if I ask Heavenly Father for help, He can change my heart and help me to see others the way He does. He is love, and He can help me to love unconditionally as well.

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All Lives Matter.

It’s 2:53 AM. I’ve been trying to sleep for the last 3 hours, but I’m unable to because of the giant pit in my stomach. After reading the news of the shooting of 11 Dallas police officers, 5 of whom were killed, I’ve been tossing and turning. 5 people didn’t make it home tonight. 5 families had their loved ones taken from them due to stereotypes and prejudice. It’s upsetting to me because I am a police officer’s wife, and my worst nightmare is to get a call saying that my husband won’t ever come back home. Even when he’s a half-hour late coming home, my heart races and my mind immediately goes to the worst. I can’t imagine what those families are going through, and my heart and prayers go out to them.

Those police officers were gathered in that Dallas area, patrolling a peaceful anti-police protest. I have nothing against protests, and obviously everyone is entitled to free speech. I wouldn’t be writing this if it wasn’t for that. Yet, I find it ironic that those same people who were protesting the police were being shielded and protected by them moments later as the shots came firing down.

Those Dallas officers had absolutely nothing to do with the police shootings that occurred earlier this week…yet because of stereotyping, they had to pay for it. And their families will be paying for it for the rest of their lives.

Yes, I understand that some people have died under questionable circumstances at the hand of police officers. Yes, I understand that it seems to be directed towards the black community. I’m not going to try to justify the police’s actions in those cases, because it’s not my place to analyze and pass judgement on a situation I wasn’t in. I understand that there are officers who are under-trained, prejudiced and make assumptions based on stereotypes. But I also understand that the media shines light on some facts, but leaves out so many others. I understand that almost all police officers will analyze and evaluate a situation to the very best of their ability before firing their gun or taking a life. And I definitely understand that life isn’t fair. Humans aren’t perfect, and everyone, I mean everyone, makes mistakes.

Black lives matter. But it needs to be remembered that police officers have lives too. Police lives matter. All lives matter.

I know that this post is bias because I’m married to an officer. This event has hit me at a very personal level. However, I don’t want it to seem that I elevate police lives over the lives of anyone else. I just want to show that not all cops are the racist, uncontrollable and unforgivable men that the media make them out to be. There are some good ones out there still, many in fact.

To me, it all comes down to one word: freedom. Isn’t that what we all want? Freedom to choose, freedom to say what we want, freedom to feel what we want to feel, freedom to travel, freedom to be whoever we want to be, freedom to love, etc. Being free is a gift, however it’s one that comes with a price.

On Monday, we celebrated America’s Independence Day, relishing in all of the freedom that we enjoy. All day, we hear words like, “I’m thankful for those who have fought and continue to fight for our freedom.” I say those words too, with a little extra feeling. I do this because every day for the last 9 months, my husband has put on a U.S. Army uniform, confronting 120 degree weather, in service to our country. We praise our soldiers, as we should, because they are amazing and because they defend our freedoms. They protect our lives and our livelihood. And honestly, I don’t know if I’ve ever heard someone protest against our soldiers and what they do.

On the other hand, I don’t know how many times I’ve seen/heard/read protests against our police officers. I don’t know how many times I’ve heard things like, “Soldiers give us and defend our freedom. Police officers just work to take it away.” If that’s the case, let me ask these questions:

  • Why does a police officer pull people over for speeding?
  • Why does a police officer arrest someone who was driving under the influence?
  • Why does a police officer arrest a man who was found abusing his wife and children?
  • Why does a police officer pull his gun on someone who moments before threatened and held a gun up to a helpless cashier?

The answer to all of those questions is because that police officer is protecting freedom. They’re protecting the freedoms of other people on the road, who don’t want to end their day or lives being hit by a reckless or drunk driver. They’re protecting families and their right to live a life of peace, not fear and hurt. They’re protecting the lives of innocent bystanders to crimes Most of all, they’re trying to protect every individual person, even if that means protecting those people from their own selves. Police officers serve, protect, and defend us, our lives, and our livelihood.

This all may just be a long ranting post but…

All I know is that my husband wears two uniforms. One is camo, one is black. One says “U.S. Army” and the other says, “____ Police Department”.  Both carry his name. Both uniforms include a gun. Both bear the American flag on the sleeve.

Both of those uniforms are worn by the same man, a man dedicated to protecting his loved ones and defending his country. I know that he puts those uniforms on for the exact same reason. His motives don’t change from one job to the other. My husband doesn’t fight for freedom one day, then seek to destroy it the next. He puts on those uniforms day after day, willing to die for strangers if that is what is required of him. Day after day, I have to live with the reality that he may not come back home from his job. But he continues to do it. He does all of it out of service and love. And I believe that almost all other police officers do what they do out of service and love as well.

It’s easy to put blame on a group of people. Society has been doing it since the very beginning, and I know that it’ll continue to happen. They’ll do it to a race, a religion, a gender, and a job. All I ask, and the whole point of this blog post, is that before we start saying things like, “The police had it coming” or even (heaven forbid) “They deserved it”, we stop and think about how all lives matter. Those officers lives mattered. My husband’s life matters, at least to me. No one wants to have tragedy strike their lives, and I hope that one day, we can stop wishing that on groups of people who have hurt or offended us.

Thank you for reading.

My Miracle Morning

It’s finally July! That means less than 2 months until the love of my life comes back home! I can already tell that this final stretch is going to be rough. My husband is getting to the point in their deployment that they’re not working as much, so the days are dragging on for the both of us. I definitely needed something to help boost my morale and help get me through the last few weeks!

I first read about “The Miracle Morning” on Boho Berry’s website, and it definitely caught my attention! Since finishing this last semester, I have had THE WORST daily routine ever, and it definitely all starts in the morning. I usually wake up late, stay in bed for longer than I care to admit, play “Candy Crush” then watch Hulu or Netflix until my husband calls. (My latest TV show obsession is “Nashville”. It’s so good!!) Anyway, reading about “The Miracle Morning” definitely opened my eyes to my laziness and lack of motivation. I read this quote from the book that Boho Berry included in her post:

“How you wake up each day and your morning routine (or lack thereof) dramatically affects your levels of success in every single area of your life. Focused, productive, successful mornings generate focused, productive, successful days — which inevitably create a successful life — in the same way that unfocused, unproductive, and mediocre mornings generate unfocused, unproductive, and mediocre days, and ultimately a mediocre quality of life. By simply changing the way you wake up in the morning, you can transform any area of your life, faster than you ever thought possible.”

So, I decided to try it out.

Hal Elrod, the author of “The Miracle Morning”, introduces “Life S.A.V.E.R.S.”, the ultimate morning routine. It goes like this:

S (Silence): Meditation, Prayer, Deep Breathing, Gratitude

A (Affirmations): Personal Mantras to repeat to oneself to start your day thinking the best of yourself

V (Visualization): Picturing how you want the day to go, and how you want to act/react that day.

E (Exercise): However much time you can dedicate to exercising, do it! It helps you to wake up your body and mind, and gives you more energy to get through the day.

R (Reading): Not just any reading, but books, articles, lectures that INSPIRE and MOTIVATE. Read something that makes you want to improve and be better. I’m pretty religious, so I include scriptures in my morning, but it can be anything to a motivational speech to self-help books.

S (Scribe): This is what Hal Elrod calls writing or journaling. Writing is a big help to me (obviously!) and it does help to get thoughts down on paper. It’s a great time to start a journal or blog, or just writing whatever!

And that’s it! That’s the how to of having a Miracle Morning!

The important thing is to work to make it a habit! Hal Elrod recommends doing it for 30 days straight, not just 21, in order to turn it into a habit!

Let me just say that while I’ve only been doing this for a few days, it has helped me out so much. I feel more relaxed, energized and productive. I’ve been really struggling since school got out with feelings of uselessness, but this has helped me to feel better about my day. It’s not a time consuming process, but it does require dedication and extra effort.

“Your thoughts are the architects of your destiny.” – David O. McKay

Controlling your thoughts and decisions at the start of the day determine how the rest of your day and week will go. I’m glad that I discovered it, and I’m excited to see where it takes me!

 

“Hang On and Believe”

I’ve been debating about writing this post for quite some time now, but after a few recent events, I have decided to finally put my thoughts and feelings into words. This may be a long post, but I hope that it can be to someone’s benefit.

The first event was the releasing of this video from my church about mental illness. One of our church leaders addressed the reality of depression and other emotional disorders. (The link to his talk on this subject can be read HERE). It stirred up many different feelings inside me. The other event was my finding a book of poems that I wrote while struggling with many different things, including low self-esteem and depression. I wrote those poems quite a few years ago, and as I read them, I couldn’t help but marvel at how far I had come.

Starting in middle school, I began to battle with low self-esteem and the beginning of depression. Without going into too many details, I felt confused by a lot of things, I was hurting and I felt alone and let-down by the people closest to me. Many different stages of depression followed, accompanied by many poor life choices. To say the least, I didn’t care too much about what happened to me. I let others influence and control me, and I became merely a spectator of my own life. I remember crying myself to sleep most nights through high school, and I remember sitting and wondering if I was ever going to feel better. Luckily, through the help of some great friends, family, and counseling, I was able to come to terms with the crippling effects of depression and the consequences of my actions. While the fight is not over, I have learned to find ways to not let it destroy me anymore.

I’m not going to pretend and say that I had it bad, because I know that there are many people who struggle so much more than I ever did. But, the point is, that I did struggle. I still do sometimes. And I’m not afraid or ashamed of that.

We live in a society now that is afraid of and shames mental and emotional illnesses. We live in a time when you’re viewed as someone who’s broken and maybe even useless if you struggle with something. So, most people hide it. Most people tuck it away into a dark corner and pretend that it’s not there. Most people are afraid to find help. I know this, because I did that for 5 years before I decided that I needed to deal with it.

One of the poems that I re-read that really spurred these thoughts, along with the video was this:

 

Masks

Why do we have masks?

What is about our identity,

Our individuality that we want to hide?

Is it because the world is burying us,

Yet we cannot find our way back to the surface?

Is it because we think it’s easier,

Easier to pretend to be something we’re not?

Why do we have masks?

What is about our identity,

Our individuality that we want to hide?

Is it because we don’t want the pain to show?

Is it because we don’t want to

Burden others with deep feelings of turmoil, or

Our feelings of inadequacy?

Why do we have masks?

What is about our identity,

Our individuality that we want to hide?

No matter the reason, no matter the cause,

Everyone needs to breathe.

Everyone needs to live life without it being an act.

Everyone needs to take off their masks.

Why do we have masks?

What is about our identity,

Our individuality that we want to hide?

I wrote that poem when I was 14 years old, and I didn’t take off my mask for another 4 years. I remember writing this, because I distinctly remember how tired I was of putting on a show for everyone. I hated wearing fake smiles and pretending like everything was okay. But, even after writing this, I stayed in that dark place. Looking back now, I wonder why I did that. I can’t give you a straight answer as to why, but I know that many things in my life happened as a direct result of running away from it, instead of facing it head-on. But, eventually, I faced it. I let time, love and my Savior, Jesus Christ, heal me. And it’s made all the difference.

Fast forward to now.

If you had told my 14 year old self that in the future I would serve an 18-month mission for my church, living in a different country, learning a new language and only being able to communicate with my family through weekly emails, 14 year old me would’ve crawled into a hole and deny that would ever happen. 14 year old me couldn’t have handled that, not in the condition I was in.

If you told my 15 year old self that I would make it into one of the most amazing universities, succeeding at that university, and that I would find my passion helping others to piece their lives back together, 15 year old me would’ve laughed in your face. I couldn’t get my own life together, so there’s no way I could’ve dealt with other people’s problems.

If you had told 16 year old me that in a few short years that I’d meet the most amazing man, one who is good, kind, understanding, forgiving and loves me unconditionally, 16 year old me would never have believed that. I couldn’t find it in myself to love me, so how could 16 year old me have ever expected anyone else to do so?

If you had told 17 year old me that I’d be not only be a police officer’s wife, but also the wife of a deployed soldier, 17 year old me would have ran in the other direction. 17 year old me had seen too much betrayal, abandonment and hurt to be able to face any more.

If you had told 18 year old me that I was going to end up as incredibly happy as I am now, tears would’ve just rolled down my 18 year old face instead. Happiness didn’t seem to appear to be in the cards for me, because that was my darkest point, and there didn’t seem to be an escape from that.

When you’re living with in that much sadness and despair, you don’t see the light at the end of the tunnel. But there is always a light there.

“Hang on and Believe.” That’s what Elder Holland said in that video. Despite the hell that I felt like I was living in, I did my best to do that. Trust me, it wasn’t easy. It wasn’t easy to hold on, push forward, and hope. But now that I’m on the other side of that battlefield, I can’t even begin to express the gratitude I have to my God for helping me through that. And looking back, while I hate the fact that hurt and pain accompanied that trial, it did shape me, and hopefully helped me to become who I am now.

“Hang on and Believe.” I’m so grateful I took off that mask. I’m so grateful that I have been able to come to terms with who I am, that I have learned to love myself, and that I have found my place in this world. I’m grateful for everyone to helped and continues to help me through it.

But more than anything, I’m grateful that I’m not alone. Depression, anxiety, and emotional disorders are something that millions of people are dealing with, and the irony is how alone it makes you feel. And I believe that this is only the beginning, and that it will become much more common. I’m so glad that the church sent out that message, and that the world is fighting for a change of attitude towards those that fight these battles. “Hang on and believe.” Depression isn’t something to be ashamed of. It isn’t something to hide from. And it definitely isn’t something to ignore.

I hope and pray that those who are in the middle of this battle know that eventually, it can and will get better. I hope that they’re able to find the help they need. And I hope, above anything else, that they never lose hope, stop trying, or give up. Whether it’s something that lasts for a short time or a lifetime, depression can be faced and conquered.