My Kindness Shall Not Depart From Thee
MY KINDNESS SHALL NOT DEPART FROM THEE
By Carli Lowry
I was in second grade when I first started to exhibit signs of Anxiety and Obsessive Compulsive Disorder. Though my parents and teachers noticed many symptoms, they didn’t think much of it or even realize they were symptoms at the time. No one really seemed to know much about mental illness back then anyway, unless they were a psychologist.
As I grew older, my anxious and obsessive behaviors multiplied and increased in intensity, and I tried desperately to hide them from others. I was so afraid of my friends and family knowing my thoughts, seeing my compulsive actions, and thinking I was weird or crazy.
I learned to just live with it.
But at seventeen years old, I experienced something that changed the course of my mental health forever – group of men attempted to attack me in an empty parking lot.
I was walking back to my car from doing a mic check at the Rodeo grounds where I sing the National Anthem every Independence Day. As I approached my vehicle, I noticed a jeep of six guys headed toward me. As they passed me, they looked at me, stopped their car, and began to reverse slowly, until they were driving along side me.
My heart started to pound harder than I’ve ever felt as I frantically reached in my bag for my keys. I drove an older car at the time, so I didn’t have an automatic unlock button… I had to physically turn the key in the keyhole to unlock my door. I turned around to see them getting out of the Jeep and walking toward me. My hands were shaking so badly that I couldn’t get my key in the keyhole to get safely into my car, and I instantly started to panic.
As I looked back again to see them even closer, and then looked around me to see that there was no one in any direction to hear my screams, I realized that I was not going to make it out of this alone. I stopped trying to get in my car, closed my eyes, and began to pray. I prayed more fervently than I had ever prayed before. When I opened my eyes, I was sitting in my car, and the men were surrounding me. Completely baffled as to how I got there, I turned my key, put the car in reverse, and sped out of the parking lot as fast as I possibly could.
I am still in the dark as to how I escaped. I can only describe it as divine intervention – but I did escape. God heard and answered my prayers through a miracle that I so desperately needed.
Though I got away completely unharmed physically, the mental battle was just beginning.
I started to have a recurring nightmare of being raped and murdered by the same man, and I’d often wake up screaming or hyperventilating. I became too afraid to sleep, because I knew what awaited me in my dreams. I had to start sleeping in my eleven-year-old sister’s room because I was too terrified to sleep alone.
After six months of this same dream every night, my parents decided I needed to see my grandfather, who was a successful psychologist. After speaking with him, he felt that I needed to get on medication to help take the edge off.
My Doctor started me on the lowest dose, and it didn’t help at all. We kept upping the dosage until we finally reached a point where I was experiencing relief, and I stayed on that same medication and dosage for nine years. It was my “miracle pill,” and I was so grateful to have my life back.
Over the next two years, though I continued to battle OCD, PTSD, and Anxiety, I was able to manage it very well, rarely having anxiety attacks or major trauma triggers. I then moved away to college to be a Vocal Performance major – it was there that I began to experience depression for the first time.
I became extremely homesick, I lost my passion for a lot of things I had once loved – even singing, and I began sleeping through my classes. There were days when I would go to sleep at 1 AM and not wake up until 5 PM the next evening. I was failing my classes, and I didn’t really care, which couldn’t be more unlike me.
I even slept through a planned visit with my aunt and uncle one day; I’ll never forget waking up to the missed calls and text messages from my Uncle Jay:
“We’re at your apartment building!”
“Carli, we only have a couple hours before we have to leave. We’d love to see you if you’re around.”
“Looks like we missed you. Hope to see you soon.”
I was crushed.
How did I not wake up to all those alerts?! WHAT IS WRONG WITH ME?! They must think I’m the WORST.
I literally hated myself at this time of my life.
I felt like a complete loser, and all I wanted to do was go home. When my heart problems (which I’d had since I was fourteen) got worse and I ended up having surgery, I made the decision to just move back home with my parents.
Coming home was exactly what I needed. I received many blessings from my father, and I spent more time praying and studying my scriptures. I could finally feel the light starting to come back into my life, and I was happy again. I re-discovered my passions. Eventually, I found a vocal instructor who restored my love for singing, and I moved away to study with him. I got a job, became a certified vocal instructor myself, and eventually met and married my husband.
Three years later, we began talking about starting our family. After talking to my doctor, I learned that the medications I was on had the potential to cause birth defects, so I’d need to get off of them before getting pregnant. I weaned off of my two more mild drugs over the course of about 6 months, and then moved on to my strongest drug, the one I had been put on after my parking lot incident.
I had no idea when I began the weaning process that it would be one of the greatest battles I would ever experience.
I guess I knew that coming off of a strong drug would not be easy, but I NEVER expected what was coming. My first withdrawal symptom was in the form of uncontrollable itching all over my entire body. I felt like I had hives, even though there was nothing there. I would scratch and scratch until I had welts all over me and blood was surfacing my skin. I was so uncomfortable that I began to punch my tile floor, and bang my head against the walls; it was literally driving me mad.
I then began to experience severe depression and anxiety. I would stay awake all night crying. I got cold sweats, my body would convulse, and my teeth would chatter for hours. Then came the nausea. On a night I actually did fall asleep, I woke up at 3:00 AM and began vomiting uncontrollably; this lasted for three weeks.
As I write this, I realize how stupid it must sound… why didn’t I get back on the drug after the first week of withdrawal symptoms? Why didn’t I call my doctor?
Honestly, I didn’t do anything about it because I felt if I just stuck it out for “one more week,” my body would eventually get used to not having the medication in its system and everything would be okay. I wanted so badly to get off of it so that I could continue on the pathway towards bringing children into the world.
After week three, I finally decided to call my doctor and he quickly called in some anti-nausea medicine and had me get back on my medication immediately. I was devastated. All that misery and I had nothing to show for it. I’d have to start all over if I wanted to attempt to wean off again. I felt like a complete failure. I quickly became extremely discouraged. What was I going to do? All I wanted to do was be a mom. I doubt my ability to do a lot of things, but the one thing that I have NEVER doubted that I would be great at is motherhood. I felt like I was being cheated out of the one thing I’ve wanted more than anything in the whole world. At that point, every ounce of hope I had was gone. I felt completely helpless, and I slipped into a deep depression.
Then came the darkest day of my life.
It was February 2014 and I was twenty-five years old. I stared helplessly at myself in my bathroom mirror.
Wow. I’m a mess
My face was paler than I’d ever seen it. My eyes were bloodshot and underlined with dark circles. My entire body was covered in bright red scratches and welts that brought blood to the surface of my skin, and my hair was disheveled from nearly ripping it out of my head.
Who am I? What is happening to me?
Just then, I heard the door open. I turned around to see my husband standing there with a look of major concern on his face, holding up my cell phone.
“What is this?” He asked sternly and lovingly at the same time.
I suddenly realized what he had found. There, in the web browser of my smartphone, was an article titled “The Least Painful Ways to Commit Suicide.”
Crap. He knows.
I must have accidentally left my phone unlocked when I left our living room couch to use the bathroom. How was I going to explain myself? I couldn’t lie and pretend it was nothing. I was desperate for a way out of my misery, and my exhausted brain was running out of logical solutions. At that moment, I felt a knot in my stomach and a huge wave of shame wash over me, and I began to sob uncontrollably.
I needed help.
My husband stayed surprisingly collected, which was exactly what I needed. He talked through things with me, and after a couple hours, I was finally more calm. Once he was no longer afraid to leave me to myself, he fell asleep, and I was alone with my thoughts once again. My doctor and I had come up with an even slower wean schedule, and I was to start the process all over again very soon. I became extremely nervous; I didn’t want to go through all of that pain and misery again. I didn’t know if I could handle it one more time. I felt completely lost and helpless. This fear began to consume my thoughts, and I knew I had to get rid of it.
So I fell to my knees.
I prayed more fervently than I had prayed in a long time. I poured my whole heart and soul to my Father in Heaven and told Him things I knew He was already aware of – how much I wanted to be a mother; how badly I wanted to be through with this seemingly endless journey. I begged Him to help me get through the hard times that I was almost certain lied ahead of me. I asked for comfort, strength, and most importantly, FAITH.
I felt a wave of peace come over me, and I was able to fall asleep. The next day, I swallowed my pride and asked my family to pray and fast for me, as I knew I could definitely use the help. As I did so, I felt comforted. I KNEW that I not only COULD do this, but I WOULD.
I continued on with faith that I never could have obtained had I not humbled myself and asked for it.
I immediately saw God’s blessings as I began my weaning process. It was not seamless, by any means – I still experienced withdrawal symptoms, but they were MUCH more mild than they had been the first time. Finally, six months later, I took my last pill. I was ELATED. I had done it; WE had done it. God had helped me through this, and I was FINALLY free.
…or so I thought.
Two days later, I began experiencing extreme withdrawal symptoms again. Words cannot begin to describe the disappointment I felt as I thought about how all of my previous excitement had been in vain. I felt like I had hit rock bottom as I approached the point of uncontrollable itching once again. Depression set back in and I began to feel sorry for myself.
I started sobbing and asking “WHY?? Why is this happening to me? I was DONE!”
I then felt prompted to turn to my scriptures for comfort.
… if the very jaws of hell shall gape open the mouth wide after thee, know thou, my son, that all these things shall give thee experience, and shall be for thy good.
The Son of Man hath descended below them all. Art thou greater than He?
…Therefore, fear not what man can do, for God shall be with you forever and ever. –Doctrine and Covenants 122:7-9
I was humbled again.
As I read this beautiful passage of scripture, my mind was taken back to when I sang with the Utah State University institute show choir, the Latter-Day Voices. We sang a beautiful song that was written from this very chapter: “My Kindness Shall Not Depart From Thee.”
The words of the song echoed in my mind and I began to weep.
Though thine afflictions seem at times too great to bear, I know thine every thought and every care. And though the very jaws Of hell gape after thee I am with thee.
And with everlasting mercy will I succor thee, And with healing will I take thee ‘neath my wings. Though the mountains shall depart, And the hills shall be removed, And the valleys shall be lost beneath the sea, Know, my child, My kindness shall not depart from thee!
My withdrawal symptoms did not last long after that day. I continued to pray and fast – and my Savior eventually carried me through my burden. Because of His mercy and unconditional love for me, and because of my faith and the faith of my family, I was able to completely come off of my pills, get pregnant, and enjoy a wonderful, medication-free pregnancy.
Though I was forsaken for a moment, I was succord in the end.
There is ALWAYS something to be learned from the trials that we face. Though we may not understand while we’re in the throes of adversity, we will always see with clear eyes and a new perspective when we look back on our experiences, if we remain humble and faithful. There will come a day when we have not only overcome our challenges, but we can be grateful for them and the lessons that they taught us.
Our experiences “shall be for our good;” they will give us empathy for others, and we will be better able to succor God’s children in their darkest moments because we too, were once forsaken for a little while. The growth that we experience and the blessings we receive from enduring to the end will ALWAYS far outweigh the suffering.
Having a perfect understanding of why we go through hardships does not matter; what DOES matter is the way that we endure them.
My Son, peace be unto thy soul. Thine adversity and thine afflictions shall be but a small moment. And then, if thou endure it well, God shall exalt thee on high; thou shalt triumph over all thy foes. –Doctrine and Covenants 121:7-8
When all seems dark around you, turn to the Savior – He will bring the light in when it feels like there is none left. Of this I am certain, and for it, I am eternally grateful.