As we start the second year of this new year, I thought it would be a good idea to revisit a talk from general conference back in October. I don’t know about you, but I feel like general conference was ages ago now! I guess a lot of things have been going on for me since that point, and it’s all a bit of mess in my head! I had to look over the list of talks on lds.org before I landed on one to look at this morning.
I decided on “The Trek Continues,” by Elder Ballard, and I think it’s an appropriate title and topic for us, heading into the New Year of 2018.
Many of us are on amazing journeys of discovery—leading to personal fulfillment and spiritual enlightenment. Some of us, however, are on a trek that leads to sorrow, sin, anguish, and despair.
In this context, please ask yourself: What is your final destination? Where are your footsteps taking you? And is your journey leading you to that “multiplicity of blessings” the Savior has promised?
I think this idea of being on a journey is a good one, though I also believe that our journeys are not always solely in one direction or the other. Especially for those of us with mental health struggles, the journey is one that takes a lot of detours. I’ve written before that struggling with OCD in particular is often like climbing a mountain, falling back down it, and climbing back up again. Sometimes we feel like our journey is the same one, over and over again, as we try again for betting footing and sometimes mess up and slide down the hill even more dramatically than the last time.
It’s important that we don’t get discouraged by this. Not all journeys are successful in every step. We don’t always find ourselves on the path of least resistance, and I don’t think we are meant to. I think the point that Elder Ballard was making was that we make sure we have in mind where we want to end up. What are our goals? Spiritually? In regards to our physical and mental health? Socially? Do we have those goals in mind or are we just blindly hobbling along?
If we don’t have the confidence or hope that we can best our OCD, what kind of journey are we on? If I didn’t think that I was strong enough to withstand compulsions, my journey would be much different than if I believed I could work through ERP and CBT and regain my life from OCD—maybe not today or tomorrow but over time. Like Elder Ballard said, our final destination matters. It doesn’t really matter when we reach it, just that we have it there, as a goal that can be eventually obtained.
Another part of his talk that stood out to me related to this idea that, usually, easy answers and solutions that don’t require us to put forth effort and work for ourselves are not effective in the long run. He stated,
In some places, too many of our people are looking beyond the mark and seeking secret knowledge in expensive and questionable practices to provide healing and support.
An official Church statement, issued one year ago, states: “We urge Church members to be cautious about participating in any group that promises—in exchange for money—miraculous healings or that claims to have special methods for accessing healing power outside of properly ordained priesthood holders.”
The Church Handbook counsels: “Members should not use medical or health practices that are ethically or legally questionable. Local leaders should advise members who have health problems to consult with competent professional practitioners who are licensed in the countries where they practice.”
So often we want easy answers. We want miraculous cures so that we don’t have to do the hard work. If we are thinking about mental illness here, many people don’t want to go to therapy, work with a psychologist, or do the cognitive behavioral therapy because it’s hard. They want to just take a pill or find some other miracle oil or cure. Of course, medication is often very helpful. But do as Elder Ballard suggests and go to professional, licensed practitioners to get that medication. And, if you can afford it, also get behavior therapy from similarly licensed and trained professionals.
It’s not easy. Life isn’t easy. It’s work, every single day, to live with a mental illness. It’s wearing. It can be exhausting. But it’s a journey. Step after step, day after day. Some days you’ll get farther along than others. Some days you might have to back track for awhile. But that’s okay. It’s the work that matters. It’s the work that makes it all mean something. It’s the work that changes you. You can do this. You are doing it.