"We seldom get into trouble when we speak softly. It is only when we raise our voices that the sparks fly and tiny molehills become great mountains of contention."
- - Gordon B. Hinckley
May 25, 2012
Perspective and the Real You
by Sarah Hancock

Recently I had the opportunity to teach a Relief Society lesson in my little branch. The lesson was on a general conference talk from April 2010 called, "Developing Good Judgment and Not Judging Others," by Elder Gregory A. Schwitzer of the Seventy.

I worried about this lesson, praying about it all week, reading the article again and again. Things just weren't coming together for me. It was interesting because the more I read about not judging others, the more I kept getting hung up on how others have judged me because of mental illness.

Finally, I talked to my mom, Woman of Wisdom. She reminded me of a quick story I want to share with you. It happened when I was a teeny girl and at the time my brothers and I were constantly fighting with one another, insisting one another had lied and so-and-so was wrong; you get the idea.

In an effort to resolve the issue, my dad taught us a great family home evening lesson. For the lesson, my dad placed us strategically around the family room, all facing different directions. He held an object in his hand, telling us all to stay in our places and point to the object. One of us was pointing over a shoulder, one was pointing off into the air, and one was pointing right overhead.

Then my dad lined us all up in a row and asked us where we'd been pointing. There we were, all lined up next to each other, pointing in different directions. He asked, "Who's right?"

We argued about it a bit and then that light bulb of understanding flickered on. We realized we were each right. What a concept! It was a wonderful lesson on perspective. Now, I'm not saying we stopped fighting and tattling on each other, but it was an awaking for us.

I used to get so sick of trying to explain my illnesses to others: my family, my friends, my co-workers, my leaders. Honestly, it gets tiring and at times frustrating.

But, reflecting on that family home evening object lesson helped me see it from someone else's perspective. Perhaps they've never experienced psychiatric symptoms. Perhaps they've never had the opportunity to meet someone as unique as I am, with the sensitivities I have. Sometimes, as infuriating as it can be, I realize their perspective is just as valid as mine and it's up to me to put away my frustrations in order to help others better understand psychiatric symptoms in a way that makes sense to them.

Recently I've been discouraged at how people I felt close to at one point in my life currently treat me. I look at them and think, weren't we friends? Didn't we enjoy being together and laughing our heads off? Didn't I ever comfort them when they needed comfort? Don't I treat them with respect? Although I thought I knew all the answers, I wasn't understanding all the factors.

When I thought about how to present my Relief Society lesson, I remembered my dad's family home evening object lesson. As I watched my Relief Society sisters standing in the line of perspective and judgment, pointing in every direction, I saw my illness from a completely different perspective.

I was severely ill, delusional, moody, angry, paranoid and even suicidal for nearly 12 years. Now that's a long time! It wasn't until, long after waning patience, I was placed on the right medications regimen, creating a balance in my life which exponentially increased my ability to control symptoms.

I no longer have a smorgasbord of uncontrollable symptoms. I am myself again! However, some of my friends and acquaintances didn't know me before I became ill and therefore don't really know the person I think of as the real me. Now that Heavenly Father has blessed me with a remission of sorts, those people who avoid me aren't aware of it because I honestly haven't been around mentally or emotionally for quite a while and the last time I was, I was really ill.

For me to judge others was just as wrong as their passing judgment on me. I need to carefully approach these friends and show them through my words and deeds that I am still the same real me (someone whom many of them never even got to know).

Each of you know who the real you is. In some cases, it may have been a long time since you felt like the real you (because of your illness, or because of the illness of a loved one), but it's in your heart. You are still the real you!

Do something this week to remind yourself who you really are. You are a child of a very loving Heavenly Father. Maybe you need to take an evening walk and just watch the sunset or moon rise. Maybe you need to take a nice shower with some nice-smelling soap and just enjoy the feel of the "rain" on your back. Maybe you need to have an open and honest discussion with a loved one.

Maybe you need to start or reopen communication with your doctor, or maybe you need to just take an extra moment and pray a little harder, letting Heavenly Father know you've forgotten who you really are but have faith that He remembers. Whatever it is, peel off the hurt, and just enjoy the real you.

***

Here are a couple of new discussion topics that may interest you. I have been thinking about them and would like your input. If you have any comments or suggestions, write to me.

  1. It isn't always easy to talk to other people about mental illness. What can you do to help yourself and others get around that discomfort and understand mental illness better?
  2. Does diet effect mental health symptoms?
  3. When you are feeling discouraged, what do you do to help pick yourself up?

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About Sarah Hancock

Sarah Price Hancock, a graduate of San Diego State University's rehabilitation counseling Masters of Science program with a certificate psychiatric rehabilitation.

Having embarked on her own journey with a mental health diagnosis, she is passionate about psychiatric recovery. She enjoys working as a lector for universities, training upcoming mental health professionals. Sarah also enjoys sharing insights with peers working to strengthen their "recovery toolbox." With proper support, Sarah knows psychiatric recovery isnít just possible ó itís probable.

Born and raised in San Diego, California, Sarah served a Spanish-speaking and ASL mission for the LDS Church in the Texas Dallas Mission. She was graduated from Ricks College and BYU. Sarah currently resides in San Diego and inherited four amazing children when she married the man of her dreams in 2011. She loves writing, public speaking, ceramics, jewelry-making and kite-flying ó not necessarily in that order.

NAMI San Diego's Fall Keynote Address: Living in Recovery with Schizoaffective Disorder

Having recently moved into a new ward, she currently serves as a visiting teacher.

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