When I was asked to review this book, I was a little suspicious. My friend said it was a "book about mental illness" and I think she thought I might be interested because of my struggles. I have to admit, though, that I haven't been very excited lately to discuss mental illness, not even with my own therapist! I've been in a good place for a while, but I'm far from healed... However, I relented and they sent me the book.
I'm really grateful I relented.
This book is about the author's own struggle with OCD, depression, and anxiety. For nearly 26 years, she struggled with her mental illness and against dysfunctional belief systems. She chronicles how she came to have these mental illnesses and what she did before she was healed from them. Healed? Yes, healed! And I found the entire process similar to my own, except with one glaring fact: I am not healed. Yet. (And I have a lot of work to do!)
I'll admit that as I read her book, I was annoyed at times with her story. I was angered at some of the things she went through and even some of the choices she made. I was angry at her parents, I was even angry at her husband (who is a very good man). I was annoyed with some of the ways she writes (which has nothing to do with her story), and I found myself really irritable with the book. When I would find myself getting angry or annoyed, I reminded myself that I was writing this for a review, and I would keep reading. You may be thinking, "Ah, so this is a negative review." But you would be wrong, dear reader!
Each time I was angry or irritated or annoyed, I realized it wasn't at the author or her story, it was at me. I was annoyed with my own weaknesses. I was irritated at my mental illness. I was angry that I have not yet been healed of it. In fact, aside from the OCD, I relate to Misti Stevenson very closely. Not her upbringing, but just the result of her negative thought patterns. As she would describe different aspects of her life --watching her life pass by and not really living it --I felt keenly what she felt because I feel it, too! The patterns she fell into were also familiar --the negative thoughts, the influence of Satan, the lack of energy to fight all the time...
But I think what I loved the most about her story was the fact that throughout all of it, she stayed very close to God. She had the ability to recognize that she would not be able to fight her demons without Jesus Christ and His gospel. She saw the need for His priesthood, for covenants, for her eternal marriage, the scriptures, and especially prayer. And because she did this --because she kept the Holy Ghost close to her as much as possible --she was led to find the healing she needed.
I have been told by many people inside and outside of the LDS Church that mental illness cannot be overcome by faith, just as physical illness cannot be overcome by faith. Those attitudes have led people away from the gospel as they seek for other resources and ways to be healed. Some have told me I just need medication all of my life. Others say I just need some good therapy or a good change of diet. I've never felt comfortable with those thought processes because I know Jesus Christ can heal all things. He must be a part of it. He can heal mental illness just as easily as physical illness! The blind to see, but the mind not to feel joy? The lame to walk, the dead to rise --but not the mind to have peace? That doesn't make sense to me. So I was so grateful to find someone who embraced her faith and tightened her grip on the iron rod instead of loosening it as she struggled forward to find mental healing.
This could be a book about how that faith healed her, and in part, it is, but I think it's important to point out exactly what the author did with that faith. She found help! She didn't just find it in the scriptures; she got on her knees and then she got up and worked hard. Very hard. She saw therapists, counselors, Bishops, took medications and herbal supplements, exercised, and did energy healing. She wrote in hundreds of journals, prayed, received priesthood blessings, and sought personal revelation constantly. In essence, (spoiler alert!) she did the work as far as she was able (for decades) and the Lord did the rest.
And she gives all the credit to Him.
I believe this book has come to me in a time when I would be ready for it. I needed to read about Misti's journey and I believe it's because I'm ready for the next steps in my own. Will my path be the same as hers? Probably not. But her testimony has strengthened mine, and I hope that whatever comes next in my own battle with mental illness, I will be able to use what I've learned from her to help myself. So, thank you, Misti, for writing this book!
"I know that at the end of this book I can't honestly say, "And she lived happily ever after." I sill live in the same dangerous and stressful world that we all do. I still must endure to the end. Yes, I have been delivered from my deepest abyss, yet mortal life is still mortal. I still at times expect too much of my kids, get frustrated with my husband, bemoan all the laundry I have to do, and most especially have a keen sense of all my inadequacies. My journey has not ended, yet the journey is exciting now."
"I will leave you with my favorite scripture. Mosiah 29:30 --"He did deliver them because they did humble themselves before him; and because they cried mightily unto him he did deliver them out of bondage; and thus doth the Lord work with his power in all cases among the children of men, extending the arm of mercy towards them that put their trust in him." He delivered even me. He will deliver even you."