I Am Not My Condition-Managing my Anxiety

I find that most life defining moments get burned into the long term easy access memory. So I am going to share one of there life defining experiences. It has been hard for me to talk about my anxiety my entire life, but I am making the sacrifice to hopefully benefit myself and maybe one other person.

Here is the Story

I jolted awake. I was disoriented and tired, but all I could hear was a blaring screech that I had never heard before. Unsure of what was happening, my heart started racing. I whispered to my sister, who slept on the bottom bunk of our bed, trying to wake her up. Scared, I crawled off the bed and down to to the floor. Now awake, I still did not recognize the noise, but I was convinced it was the fire alarm. My mind raced from thought to thought, “how were going to get out of the house”, “why wasn’t anyone else awake”, “was I going to have to wake anybody up”, “what would we wear”. That was when I started to hyperventilate and cry. I don’t know how my dad woke up, but as I remember it, I walked out of my room slowly, hoping to not die, and my dad came and found me. He found the alarm clock going off( it had been reset by a recent power outage, and took me to bed  to calm down.

I was 10 years old when this happened. This was the first panic attack that ever remember. Starting from that day I had daily panic attacks for several months, and for the past 23 years I have struggled with frequent anxiety and panics attacks.

For along time I was ashamed of my anxiety. I was 11 when my mother talked to my pediatrician about coping methods. I did not want to go to counseling because of the fear that my friends would find out. To me it was a sign of weakness, and at an age when bullying and peer pressure had just started to emerge, I did not anyone to know that I was broken. I kept it a secret for years. Only my immediate family knew of my struggle.

My Anxiety now

To a certain extent I am still ashamed of my anxiety. And if any of your read my Autism post you can see that in a lot of ways I am a mess, but that is perfectly ok and good, because I am a strong, powerful woman.

Recently, I have come to understand a lot about who I am and how to appreciate myself. I have mentioned before that I have attended counseling sessions and received psychotherapy. Despite these efforts, my recent move to Oklahoma has sent me on a tail spin and my anxiety has started spinning out of control. And, although I am trying to take efforts to control my symptoms it has not been enough.

The Social Situation

Anxiety, bipolar disorder, MDD, or whatever it may be are all over the internet right now. We are broadcasting them all over the place in efforts to promote mental health awareness. The internet does a good job of promoting these disorders but a horrible job of helping us understand what they are; neither does it encourage us to take appropriate action to manage the symptoms and live functioning lives. It gives us the idea that mental health is a condition hopeless condition that ruins lives.

I have suffered from this idea as well, always scared of when it would strike again and taking no real action to deal with it. For a long time I thought that if I had enough faith, or prayed hard enough I would not suffer from anxiety and the panic attacks would stop. This led to thinking that when praying and faith didn’t work to calm me down, it was a reflection of my worth, my importance to God or my faith to me healed. I had created the reality that anxiety was me letting Satan in to my life and that I was incapable of blocking him out. This lead to a whole mess of self worth issues and could have ended up much worse.

The Moral of the Story

I am writing this post for several reasons. One is to help those who have a similar train of thought. It is 100% incorrect. Mental illness is an illness. It is not a question of faith, nor a reflection of spirituality or devotion to Christ. It is an illness. Like and illness there isn’t always a cause or reason. Sometimes it just happens

Also, we should treat is as an illness. Someone with diabetes doesn’t just accept a diagnosis and pray to not die. That person will actively change a lifestyle, take medicine, or seek treatment. Mental illness has to be actively managed, not passively acknowledged. That is actually counter productive and makes it worse.

My parents and younger sister Christmas 2016

Second, I want you to know that you are not alone. You are one of many struggling to function everyday despite facing severe challenges. It is hard, I know. There are good days, and sometimes there are very, very, very bad days. For me, taking action has been hard. Accepting that I need help, that I need more that just will power is hard, but I have not been alone for these years. I have had a wonderful family who has been there to support me at every step of the way, and even though they may be long distance now, they continue to show unfailing love as I work to manage my symptoms.

I think that we live in a society that proliferates mental illness. Also, I think that it affects more people than it every has before. I have realized for me to become functioning I have to be proactive in managing my symptoms. I wish I could say that I have more of a success story, but for now, I do have hope.

Note: Strength in My Faith

I do not want to discount in anyway the comfort that can be attained through ones faith. The atonement of Jesus Christ and the gift of the Holy Ghost have incredible power. At many times in my life I have relied upon one of all of these things to do things out of my power. Just in the past year I have had some of the hardest times in my life and it was my faith in my Savior and his plan that allowed me to carry through and receive immense blessings. I do believe that Christ suffered to be able to relate to, understand, and help us through all of life’s struggles, including mental illness. He has helped me with my anxiety and also strengthened my faith.

I know that this power is amazing. I also know that our Heavenly Father ultimately wants us to live happy productive lives. To do that we are not restricted to only resources provided by religion. It is only one tool in the toolbox for combating mental illness and making us the best versions of ourselves. To become the best versions of ourselves we sometimes have to look outside ourselves and depend on other things that are also part of our tool box. The important thing like I said is actively managing symptoms and taking actions to improve. Each person will do that in their own unique way, and that is how it should be.

Conference Time is Here Again

So it’s late, and instead of going to get “rested” for tomorrow I have chosen to visit the internet and hopefully contribute the happiness of others through the gift of written word. Ok, I know that I am not a gifted writer, but it still brings me joy to know that someone might read this.

For those readers who are not members of the LDS faith I want to inform you that tomorrow is something we Mormons like to call General Conference. It is exactly what the name describes, a conference given by our Global church leaders. It is not exclusive either. It is broadcast for the entire world via TV, internet, radio and any other form of communication you can think of. It is available in almost every language you can imagine. It is for everyone.

In recent years I have awaited General Conference in anticipation, and I am sad that this is the first time in 5 years that I will be unable to view one of the sessions (there are 6) live. You see, as it does for many members of our church, General Conference holds a special place in my heart since many of my major life changing event have lined up with to occurrence of General Conference

Story Time

5 years ago I was in my first year of college as a naive little 18-year-old freshmen who was ready to take on the world. My dear friend and I had returned home for the weekend to watch General Conference on the giant projector at my uncle’s house. It was nice to be home, because college was not at all what I had expected.

As conference started our dear prophet Pres. Thomas S. Monson open with a few words. In just a few short minutes he had the attention of thousand of young members of the church including myself. He had just announced what has now become known to many as “the age change”. He said that effective immediately young men could leave to serve full-time missions at age 18, and young women could leave at age 19.

I remember that feeling. Hearing those words. I remember looking back at my mother and seeing her heart drop. I remember the overwhelming love that I felt. The overwhelming joy. The all encompassing desire to leave immediately and dedicate 18 months to the service of my God. In that moment I knew I was going to me a missionary. It was my calling, it was what the Lord needed my to so. These words provided my peace and guidance to change my life plan in a HUGE way.

6 months later, I was sitting in my living room watching General Conference with my family. It was my last Sunday before boarding a plane to Argentina to enter the Missionary Training

 there. I remember the excitement and anticipation and the way that those words that day helped move forward with that decision.

These past couple months I have been reminded a lot of the experience I had on my mission in Uruguay. Those friends made, the skills learned, and the personal growth. It was an amazing time in my life that I would never trade for the world. Some of the most memorable experiences form my time in Uruguay were those General Conference weekends where we dedicated time to travel and attend satellite broadcasts, to the words of out prophets from Salt Lake City. 

My last Sunday on my mission was October 5th 2014, another General Conference weekend. It has been two years since the age change, and I had grown in so many ways. I listened to that words of the prophets and apostles that day just as I had for every General Conference

 I attended in my mission. This time it was listening for advice and guidance on what to do as I returned home to my family who I had not seen in 18 months. 

Just like that Conference 5 years ago that changed my world, every conference can impact and change our lives. They give us guidance comfort and instruction. If we listen to the words spoken we will change. We will walk away better people. We will become closer to Christ. 

I sincerely invite everyone to participate in General Conference this weekend. To tune in and listen to what your Heavenly Father has prepared for you. I promise that you will be filled with the word of God and feel is love the love that he has for you as his child.

Waiting on the World to Change

I have a lot to say, and I really don’t have a right or witty way to start.

Last January I was in a dark place. I was definitely taking a toll on me, and I decided that the best thing for me to do was seek help. I went to BYU’s counseling and psychological services and started talking to one of the counselors. After just a few meetings, two I think (actually in the first meeting she asked me if I always talked loud, which, unless I am mumbling, I am pretty sure I am yelling), she  noticed some peculiarities. She handed me her copy of the DSM (this is a book that defines all psychological disorders and their symptoms) and had me read a section. As I read that section she asked me to read the symptoms outlined in that section and look for any that applied to me. I remember reading things:

I failure to make peer relations, and I thought about all through school and I can count on one hand the number of friends that I made on my own who were friends of friends or forced by living situations;

Impairment in the use of nonverbal behaviors and I thought about how I never make I contact, and how I had to train myself in the mirror to control the faces I made when interacting with people

A lack of spontaneous seeking to share enjoyment, interests, or achievements with other people. I thought about how I struggled to relate and find commonalities with anyone, especially on my mission.

Apparently inflexible adherence to specific, nonfunctional routines or rituals I thought about how I struggle with when my plan or schedule changes, how I cannot handle breaks from school because it isn’t my routine, my normal.

Stereotyped and repetitive motor mannerisms. Only my mother knows how I shake my leg, pick my scabs, and get on my phone just to swipe around on the screen.

After I finish my therapist said that one of the other PhD candidates in her psychology program was running a study and asked if I would be interested in participating. Curious about what she saw, I said yes. She talked to the other candidate and got me into his study.

The study was for ASD, Autism Spectrum Disorder. Now when I first heard her mention autism I was definitely surprised. I pictured the non-communicative kid with autism on the episode of House who required full-time care from both parents. The only picture of autism that most people have.

I was wrong. ASD has been defined to capture everything from low-functioning non-communicative autism to Asperger’s syndrome. There are lots of variations in the severity and symptoms which is why there are tests and psychologists specialized specifically for diagnosing someone with ASD.

It has been 8 months since being on the spectrum was suggested to me. I have done a lot of research, and in my humble and non-qualified opinion, autism fits. I have looked at my awkwardness in school, around people, all the time. I miss social cues. I fight change because it gives me major anxiety. I am unable to recognize the volume of my voice and the appropriate behavior(include what to say and not to say) in different social situations. I do not sympathize with, struggle to relate to and make emotional connections with people. Autism fits.

I was tested as part of the autism study last April and results have been slow in coming. I still have not clue whether I am officially on the spectrum or not, but yet I have still been having trouble coming to terms with this. The change that I feel is coming, but most likely isn’t. I feel like the test will comeback negative, and that I will have just gone back and psycho-analyzed my life self-diagnosing myself for nothing. I don’t know if I will be able to come to terms with being on the spectrum or if I’ll be able to come to terms with the fact that I am just plain awkward without any real reason why. 

I know, superficially that a report from the study saying whatever it says doesn’t change who I am or who I have been for the past 23 1/2 years, but I keep thinking that it will. If the blog is to represent how a I feel and tell the story of my life, this is exactly where I am. Just kind of up in the air. Waiting for a finish, an end, a line of a few words to define my life. I feel like and can’t move forward with or without them. So here I wait, with my hands tied, all things up in the air, hoping that nothing comes crashing down.

One is the Loneliest Number

So confession time, I am afraid of a lot of things. I have probably said that before, but really have kind of  a “fraidy cat”. There are also lots of things that me nervous and the future is one of them, but what makes me scared is being alone.

I have learned many things about myself in recent months. One of those things that I have learned is that I am very much an extrovert. I feed off of social situations and I learn best in a group or when I have to teach or explain myself. I work best with someone else there. I love hanging out in groups and going to parties. I love being will people and going out a doing things. But for the first 22 years of my life I though I was an introvert.

Why did I think this? Because I am very, very socially awkward. Everyone knows it. My friends in high school wanted to make a new yearbook category of “most awkward” just for me, because I embody awkward. Even my mother has told me that I am socially awkward, and when a mother admits the fault of a child it must be true.

To avoid a lot of the awkwardness, I tend to not talk to people. Like ever. I never make eye contact. I can never find questions to ask, or ways to keep up a conversation. In many ways it is just easier for me to avoid people. Well, as an extrovert, where I need interaction will people, this is very dangerous. I am avoiding the friendships and bonds that give me energy and help me function on the day to day.

 

I have made lots of friendships in my life. Have had the opportunity to meet and get to know tons of people. I have had great friends, many

people that have changed my life, but when I can’t figure out what to say or how to start a conversation I tend to fall away from the friendships. And then I never know how to reconnect. This leaves me feeling alone. Friendless. I think of the things that I used to do with the people that I used to know and I just kind of feel alone.

I am preparing in the move to Oklahoma. By myself! Not that will change my situation very much because I don’t do much with my friends anymore and I need to extend myself socially. But I won’t have my parents, who have over the years always been my rock and in many ways, my social life. I am very scared to move. To be alone. To have to make new friends. To be awkward and make mistakes. To get to know new people and do a whole lot of different. So, I am definitely terrified. Freaking out. Ask my mother. I am going crazy, and at times barely functioning.

I have learned through many trials that I am “never alone.” That Christ and his Atonement are always there. This is true. Through this I can find strength to do new things. And because of this knowledge I know that everything will be alright at the end. I mean, I have one hundred percent confidence that moving to Oklahoma is the right thing for me (there was way too much divine intervention for it to be wrong).  I am still terrified of the new adventure. It is still hard, and I still spend a lot of time forcing myself to get ready. So we’ll see what happens, but I will survive.

 

The One on Dating

About two years ago I release a video on YouTube… actually I don’t like that preface. Let’s start over.

In a past life I really wanted to be a famous YouTube star. I had a YouTube channel. I tried vlogging, but my lack of views was pretty un-motivating. About two years ago I published a video about my angst toward dating. I’ll let the video speak for itself, but I find myself in a similar situation again in my life.

Don’t get me wrong…those friends who were previously getting engaged are all still happily married and are not getting engaged for the second time. Alas, as June rolls around, we are back into wedding season and well I just can’t help but feel the need to get back on the dating app scene.

So, for many years, probably about 20, I was, the best way to put it would be, anti-boyfriend. I basically thought that having a boyfriend was a sin and secretly condemned all of my age group that followed the societal norms of coupling up. I have talked to my sister about it (years after the fact), and she said that I was so committed to my anti-dating campaign that she thought I would shun her if she ever considered dating…

Anyway, after coming home from my mission almost 3 years ago, I have felt am immense pressure get married.  Now, I can tell you that nothing in the world scares me more than marriage… ok spiders scare me more than marriage, but it is a very close second. Still, I’m terrified of marriage! I have had experiences dating in the past almost 3 years, some good, most bad, but after it all I still feel think the world frowns on me because I have not achieved marriage, nor am I actively trying to date anyone.

What has really I think been the hardest for me is that for the past several months my little sister has been in a serious relationship and recently got engaged to be married. As soon as she started dating her current fiancé, well everything was different. I don’t do different, and my sister dating someone is a huge change. On top of that the pressure from the universe for me to date and get married just seemed to increase, become unbearable.

I started doing every irrational thing from reaching out to my ex-boyfriend to entering dating sites (Tinder and mutual guys, mostly mutual, Mormons are safer). Nothing came of anything because at this point in my life, about to go to graduate school and move dating just doesn’t make sense. Logically, it’s pointless. But I still feel that constant need to find someone to marry. And why? Why can’t I just be happy being a productive single member of society.

Is that pressure to get married a good thing, it could be, because otherwise I wouldn’t date, nor have dated ever in my life. But at the same time, it leaves me feeling like I am not living up to expectations or that I can only be my best self as a married individual. There is not much I can so about it, but it still kind of sucks. I keep “trying” to go on mutual and date, but I do go on the dates because I just don’t want to… I don’t want to date. Maybe one date I will want to again, but I am happy to just try to do my the best version of my single self.

All you need is that one country named after the Earth’s center line

I have learned a lot about myself in the past few months, and I DO NOT deal well with change and uncertainty. So I avoid it. The downside to avoiding change is, well, you live a boring life with few people in it. Reinventing my life is a slow process. I don’t have many friends, even fewer that I hang out with, and I can list on one had the things that I  actually”do”: study, go to the gym, go to work, go dancing. Sad life right. Like I have shared before, I spent 18 months serving an LDS mission in Uruguay. I really don’t know how I got through that, but generally, I do not do DIFFERENT!

So, seeing as I do not DO different, I decided to go to Ecuador on vacation. #YOLO , right? As far as different, I think traveling to a foreign country to stay with a bunch of people I didn’t know was you know, kind of, like well charging head first to the 100,000 orc strong army.

I went anyway, I had promised a good friend that I would make a trip out to visit her in Ecuador and a “senior trip”seemed like a good excuse to go (I graduate from college soon, so it seemed like a good reason to pull out the old credit card) .

So, I bought my ticket for the 5 days of “vacation” that I had between winter and summer semesters ( yes I go to school year round to avoid changing my schedule). I mean, I was excited. I was going to take a trip. It was going to be a good thing for me right?

So I went, I have traveled internationally before, so I was kind of ok, familiar will the process. I didn’t appreciate LAX, what do they make it so that I have to leave security to go to another terminal… and walk across the parking lot. no sense. I was also there for 8 hours, both ways… but whatever.

So I got to Ecuador at 12 am, went through customs and exited the airport to see my wonderful friend and her family of strangers, taking her word that they weren’t weirdos, because stranger danger.

So what can I report from my adventure. They weren’t weirdos. In fact they were some of the nicest people that I have ever met, and that was the biggest blessing. I felt so taken care of, protected,  and wanted. They, all of them, did such a good job and making me feel welcome, that a lot of my awkwardness just seemed to melt away. Well, not all of it, I still exude awkward, but lets just say that in the 5 days that I was visiting, I felt like I belonged.

I learned a few things on that trip. That I love Ecuador, well, the people there, and that 5 days was definitely not enough. Maybe I’ll go for a month next time. I am definitely going back. I also learned a lesson about friendship. It has a value that is indescribable because it is friendship that gets us through our hard times, and it is friendship and love that allows is to do different things.  I learned, that even though it is incredibly hard for me, different is good, sometimes even great, and I will have to face it constantly. So, I think I will just keep charging head on into that orc army, because well, Aragorn never dies.

A Desire to Believe

I have been waiting a long time to write this post. Way too long… maybe 4 or 5 months.  And just like always I am going to have to give you a little back story.

Well, ever since I can remember, I have liked learning. I was a quick study as a child, and even now, I don’t know how to function when I am not in school (I barely function in school, but trust me vacaciones are worse for me). 

As you can tell from my previous post I am very religious, and Mormon. And being such, I put a lot of trust into God’s plan for me and hope that he reveals to me things that i need to do to comply with that plan. One of the things that has been made very apparent to me, since a young age, was my need for higher education. That is to say, I felt like Gods plan for me was to pursue a PhD. I fell in love with physics and so, after graduating high school I started preparing myself to look good for graduate school applications. 

Well, college was not easy for me. I worked so hard to get the grades, but more than once I fell short. I got involved in research, and I loved working in the lab, not many of my efforts were unfruitful and yielded a null result. 

Last summer, while working in the temple I felt impressed to adjust my schedule and graduate in  August 2017, one whole year earlier than anticipated. This means that I would be starting graduate school one whole year before I was prepared to start it. 

Graduate school in physics is very competitive. They have many applicants and low acceptance rates, but I felt that if it was the right thing to do God would provide a way. I went forward with faith.

The first trial was a physics GRE. This test in crazy important. Every graduate school says that they don’t have a GRE score benchmark, but a good score on the GRE will guarantee you a spot in graduate school. Most people take 6 months to study for this test…. I had 6 weeks. But I thought faith would get me through… I was wrong. I did horribly on that test. I thought my chances on graduate school were ruined because of that score, but I went forward with anyway and applied.

I had lost hope. I thought hope was lost. I didn’t even want to go on. I thought I had failed and had no way of going to graduate school and that I was not enough. I prayed so hard! So hard! I wanted to have the faith to move forward, but I had none. 

During this time, when I was in one of my lowest lows I remembered the words of Alma in the Book of Mormon. 

But behold, if ye will awake and arouse your faculties, even to an experiment upon my words, and exercise a particle of faith, yea, even if ye can no more than desire to believe, let this desire work in you, even until ye believe in a manner that ye can give place for a portion of my words.

Alma 32:27

I wanted to hard to have faith, to trust that God would make tup he difference. That his atonement was enough for me. I just couldn’t accept that I deserved the help. I did have a desire, so every night I poured out my heart expressing my desire to have  faith. My desire to put my trust in God.

One day I received a recruiting email from the University of Oklahoma. I usually ignore recruiting email because I do want to get a M.S. in psychological counseling, but this was was for a PhD in Atomic, Molocular and Optical physics. I sent an email back to recruiter wanting to learn more about their program. 

I started to research their program, and I started to really like what they had to offer. I found that their application was free so I applied. Within two weeks heard back.

I am excited to announce that once again God has blessed my life immensely. I really does provide a way for us to accomplish all that is required of us. I know that our Savior Jesus Christ suffered for our pains and afflictions. I was comforted in my lowest lows and he loved my enough to lift me up. This coming fall 2017 I will be attending the University of Oklahoma as a graduate student. I and pursuing a PhD in Atomic, Molecular, and optical physics.

A Prayer

So let’s go back to an early June morning in 2006. Maybe not too early. It was actually around 11am. I had just gotten out of the shower. My dad was at work, my younger sister was at a friend’s house and my Mother was at a management training in Colorado with one of my older sisters. You see, my parents had decided to try to make a retirement out of Papa Murphy’s franchises and in order to do that they had to be trained in all that was “Papa Murphy’s Pizza”.

So I was home alone on what was supposed to be a very big day for me. Being 12 I had decided it was time for me to grow out of my childish ways and glasses, and the day before my Dad had helped me pick up my very first pair of contact lenses. I had some trouble putting those contacts in the doctor’s office, but I figured it would be easier the next day.

So the time had come. The moment of truth, really. The moment when I needed to put in those new contact lenses. So I grabbed the one for my right eye and went in… it didn’t stick. I tried again… no luck… so, I went in again. This went on for a good while; so, discouraged, I decided to try the other eye. Still no luck. After an hour of trying I had still not come any closer to getting those stupid contacts in my eye. I couldn’t ask my dad for help. He had never worn glasses in his life. The only person who coul
d help me  was my mother, but she was 700 miles away in Denver and was going to be gone for several more week. She had been away for 4weeks now. I had never been away from my mother for longer than 3 days before that point.

In my 12-year-old eyes, I saw this situation as hopeless. I couldn’t do something as stupidly easy as put in my contact. I started (rapidly I may add) to have one of my all to common panic attacks. I could only think of my failures. On my inability to put my contacts in, or do anything in fact. I couldn’t make friends, I couldn’t be happy, I couldn’t help my self. I just sat there on my bathroom floor unable to catch my breath, sobbing. I had no idea what else to do with my worthless self.

Just then I had an idea. I could pray. I mean I had been raised praying. My parents had taught me to pray before bed, at meals, at church but never before in my life had I said a real prayer, for a real thing. I mean a prayer that I honestly felt. So right there, on the bathroom floor I knelt, and I offered up my soul to God. My prayer, through my tears, offered out loud (almost screaming at times) was as sincere as it could be.  I asked for help to put those stupid contacts in my eyes, expressed my fear, my inability, and most importantly how much I missed my amazing life-saver of a mother.

A Mother's Love
My first hug with my mom after I came home from my mission to Uruguay

As I finished I was able to calm down. To stop crying and relax. I got up put my contacts in and went about my day a little bit happier. The best part of this whole thing was that the next morning I got up and  saw suitcases in the hall.  I walked a little further and saw my sister asleep on the couch. This sister was supposed to be with my mom. At that moment My head turned toward my parent’s bedroom.  I walked down the hall and
opened the door to find my mother asleep in her bed. My mother had COME HOME.

I found out later (and I am not completely sure on this timeline), but, shortly after I had offered that heartfelt prayer, my sister, who was shredding cheese as part of here pizza preparation training, and had gotten the tips of here fingers caught in the industrial cheese shredder. After emergency medical attention, her and my mother were sent home. They drove through the night to be home as soon as possible.

I know that this wasn’t a coincidence. It was definitely an answer to that prayer. God sent my mother home to a child that needed her. God loved me so much that he gave me the only person on earth who could comfort me at that time in my life. That is how I know God exists and that he loves me. This experience forms the unshakable foundation for my testimony that I have a Heavenly Father who loves me. I have a Heavenly Father who hears and answers my prayers. I have a Heavenly Father who gave me an amazing family and the opportunity to life with them forever. I have a Heavenly Father who sent his only begotten son, Jesus Christ, to this earth so that by his sacrifice I can repent, change, and be better. I have a loving Heavenly Father, I can never doubt.

I love physics and I don’t care who knows it

In most casual get to know you conversations people ask what it is I do. I then say that I am studying at Brigham Young University. They then ask what I am studying, and I reply with the quick and easy answer, Physics. Now any physicist will acknowledge that there are 3 or 4 general answers that the average person responds with:

1. (makes a disgusted face) Really that was my least favorite subject in high school.

2.(astonished face) Really I changed majors in college because of the physics class.

3.(astonished face) Wow you must be smart.

4.(smug look) I like physics too. I am an engineer.

So I am in fact studying physics. And I wanted to answers the question that all 4 types of people are asking in the back of their mind. Why the HECK did you choose to study physics?

There are many ways I tend to answer this question. My most common answer of late is that I just want to play with lasers for the rest of my life (my current research area is laser physics). This answer pacifies most people including my critical older brother who compared me to an 11-year-old playing with a chemistry set from Toys-R-Us. Which in fact is kind of the fun of being an experimentalist. Playing with big expensive toys I mean.

I have always wanted to know why. Why things happen? How they happen? How things work? I guess I have a curious mind. Physics has always been able to answer those questions for me. It is the original science of how the world works.

Then there is the question of why I want to study Optics (the physics of light). This may get a little weird. Like I mentioned before all of my posts seem to get religious. I don’t know why. I am just that mormon I guess. When I was in my very first physics class some 6 years ago we entered the optics section at the same time that I started studying something called the Light of Christ in my own personal scripture study. I have never in my life seen something so worldly have such a religious connection. I realized the all of the physical properties light has are astounding. Mind blowing. Just plain amazing. Light is everywhere. It bends and flows. It never ends, but can travel to infinity. I saw the Light of Christ behaving the exact same way that physical light did. It was the perfect evidence of God’s existence.

 But Alma said unto him: Thou hast had signs enough; will ye tempt your God? Will ye say, Show unto me a sign, when ye have the testimony of all these thy brethren, and also all the holy prophets? The scriptures are laid before thee, yea, and all things denote there is a God; yea, even the earth, and all things that are upon the face of it, yea, and its motion, yea, and also all the planets which move in their regular form do witness that there is a Supreme Creator.” (Alma 30:44)

I want to study optics because I want to understand Light. How it works. What it does. It’s incredible power. It’s mysteries. By extension I feel that my knowing light I will be able to understand a little more about how God works. That is why I study physics. And that is why I want to study Optics for the rest of my life.

I do believe in ________ (insert noun here)

You know how sometimes life just sucks. I mean pardon my language, but it just sucks. Nothing seems to be going your way. I feel like my college career just keeps getting suckier every time I try to do something good for myself. After some long years of studying (and a 2 year excursion to the beautiful land of Uruguay) it has come time for me to finally look at life after the bachelor’s degree. Since I was 16 I have been preparing for this moment. I get to look at Graduate school. WOOHOO!!! Right? There should be some kind of freedom that comes with that. Some kind of accomplishment?

At least for the girl writing this long vent session the only thing that preparing for graduate school has done for me is show me how un-prepared I am for graduate school. It seems like around every turn there was another obstacle to hurdle. From tests, to admissions, GPA, research. I just can’t win. It can’t tell you how many times I have just wanted to quit. To give up. To just not even try anymore. And with every end of semester, every test, every conference, everyday I get more and more discouraged.
There is one thing that I know. I know that I must finish graduate school. I am supposed to get a PhD. I am in fact cut out for this even if my little  self is trying to convince me other wise. It is my destiny, I just feel incapable of accomplishing it. I am creating a self-fulfilling prophesy. The more I doubt myself the less capable I will be of doing great things, but I cannot help but doubt myself. I just feel like I am not enough.

In the Book of Mormon there is a story of a man, the Brother of Jared. He and his family ran away from a corrupt society and were being guided by God in the wilderness. As time passed the Brother of Jared forgot God, and he and his family suffered. When he finally remembered God he was in dire need of God’s help to cross the ocean. He needed help for something that he himself could not do. At that moment he prayed to God. In this moment God answered him and granted unto the Brother of Jared the much-needed help to cross the ocean because, and God tells him, “never has man come before me with such exceeding faith as thou hast” (Ether 3:9).

I read a quote by apostle, Elder Jeffrey R. Holland that describes this incident. He states:

“The brother of Jared may not have had great belief in himself, but his belief in God was unprecedented. In that there is hope for us all. His faith was without doubt or limit. … Once and for all it was declared that ordinary people with ordinary challenges could rend the veil of unbelief and enter the realms of eternity” (Christ and the New Covenant [1997], 29).

When I read that statement, it resonated within me. I want that. I know that I am not
enough. Well and least I have convinced myself of it, but I want that faith. I want the faith to say that I know God will make up the difference. I want the faith to say that I know God is enough. I am not there yet. I hope one day to have enough faith to make it into graduate school. I want all of my hard work to mean something to pay off. I want to way that I am who I am, I have accomplished what I have accomplished because God made it so. I will get there. It will take time.