Wednesday, June 24, 2015

There Remaineth An Effectual Struggle To Be Made

A few years ago I was at work and found myself viewing pornography, yet again. I needed to just get away from work for a while, so I walked outside to a nearby park and just sat on a bench to think. I kept going over what had happened. As I sat there, I started to recognize a very important pattern. It didn't have to do with things leading up to me viewing pornography, but rather what happened to me after.

At that point in my journey, I was really good at shaming myself. I felt worthless. I felt like I was never going to get over this. I felt like I was a failure. I felt just about every self-degrading thing I could think of. This often led, or contributed to a steep downward spiral that seemed to make it much more likely for me to return to pornography, and generally just made everything worse. What I realized as I sat on that bench was that I was letting Satan win twice. He was winning not only when I viewed pornography, but also when I beat myself up afterwards. I got knocked down, and then promptly began to kick myself, ensuring that I stayed down.

Recognizing this destructive pattern was key for me. I realized that the Savior’s response to my sin and weakness would be much different than my response. The Savior would put His arm around me, love me, teach me to become better, and help strengthen me so that I could. So I tried to be more compassionate to myself. The change hasn’t come overnight, and I’m still working on it. But trying to shift my mindset has helped me progress in ways I wasn’t able to before. I still have to remind myself all the time to stop kicking all the time. But when I remember to trust God and follow His example, it is easier to repent and I get back on track so much quicker.

One scripture that I often think about is Mosiah 7:18-19. “O ye, my people, lift up your heads and be comforted; for behold, the time is at hand, or is not far distant, when we shall no longer be in subjection to our enemies, notwithstanding our many strugglings, which have been in vain; yet I trust there remaineth an effectual struggle to be made. Therefore, lift up your heads, and rejoice, and put your trust in God."

Sometimes my struggles seem to be completely in vain. It seems like no matter what I try, my enemies still have power over me. But like king Limhi, I also trust there remaineth an effectual struggle to be made. I trust that all the struggles that seem to be in vain are actually important exercises that will help us. If we let them, they can teach us, strengthen us, and prepare us for that effectual struggle that still remains.

Changing my attitude toward myself after I fall has helped my struggle become more effective. What do you do to make your struggles more effective? I’d love to hear and learn what you are trying.

Tuesday, June 2, 2015

A Place of Healing, Not Hiding

Being open about my struggle with pornography has changed my life. I haven’t been wide open about it, but I have opened up to some very key people, and as you can see from this blog, I’m starting to share my stories and experiences with whoever wants to listen. Once I stopped trying so hard to hide from everyone, I slowly started finding room to heal. This ongoing transformation has been something I never could have imagined, and now I want others to experience it too.

In his last conference talk, President Uchtdorf said that the church should be a place of healing, not hiding. I don’t know about you, but I’m not quite ready to stop hiding this at church. And I may never be, and that’s okay. But I think having another space where I can not hide, but be myself, and where I can listen and learn and share with others who really get what I’m going through would not only continue my healing, but also would help others have the courage to stop hiding and start healing. 

One of the key people I’ve been very open with is my therapist, Daniel Burgess. Working with Daniel has been an enormous blessing. He has helped me change the way I think about things. He has helped me learn a lot about myself, the Atonement, and how to better handle my struggles. I was recently checking in with him and while discussing what passions I have that could focus my energy on, he threw out the idea of writing a book together. Everything we talked about reminded me of the exact reasons I started my blog years ago - it was a way I could try to help someone else.

I thought and prayed a lot over the next few days. I dusted off my old blog, read through some old posts, and logged back into the email account I had set up specifically for this blog. I was absolutely shocked to see an email from a woman who found my blog, and even more shocked to hear that my blog somehow helped her! The crazy thing is she had sent that email 2 years ago, and I had no idea!! I was overcome with the sweetest feeling of joy, I can't even describe it. For the first time in my life I felt like I knew how Alma the Younger felt when he said “my soul was filled with joy as exceeding as was my pain!” (Alma 36:20). I have corresponded a bit with this woman, and I think she is just a wonderful soul.

Realizing I helped someone, in some small way, fueled my desire to pursue this project with Daniel. Every time I prayed about it, I felt nothing but an outpouring of the Spirit. I’ll be honest, it is a little scary. It is definitely going to push my comfort zone, but if I can help someone else, it will all be worth it.

Daniel and I met to talk about the book, and we decided that in addition to writing a book, some sort of online support community for women could be very helpful. So we are giving it a shot! I want there to be a safe space where we can share, and listen, and learn from each other. If we can create that, I believe it will be an awesome place full of healing, not hiding, cause let's be honest. Hiding is exhausting!

So there you go. That is where I am, and where I want to go. It feels like a daunting project, and sometimes I feel totally inadequate to even think about trying to attempt something like this, but I am also incredibly excited about the potential for good. So if you want to get involved, offer support or have thoughts, ideas, suggestions, or comments, please let me know. And stay tuned for more info!