Today's posting is from a guest poster. It's a Sacrament meeting talk given recently in my ward.

The subject is one I could not write on myself. His insights are poignant and personal. He has graciously allowed me to post it here.

I've preserved most of his formatting, which is slightly different than mine and what you are accustomed to on this blog.

(Note: It can feel a little dark and hopeless at first but keep reading to the end. He will reward you with his spiritual insights and the benefits of having the Savior's influence in your life.)

Personal Struggles with Mental and Emotional Illness

I recently felt strongly impressed that I needed to give this talk, so I did the unimaginable – I contacted the Bishopric and offered to give it! Would you believe it, they found a day to fit me in.

I’ve heard it said that if you want to be an effective speaker, talk about something you know; so, I’m going to talk to you today about rock music. Don’t worry, bishop, I’m only kidding. Sort of.

I’d like to start with a few lines from a song from a modern rock band:
Sometimes I'm in a room where I don't belong
And the house is on fire and there's no alarm
And the walls are melting too
How about you?1
Confused? Good, hang around a while because I’m going to come back to that.

Why music? There’s power in music. It can inspire us in ways nothing else can. Why rock music? Because I like it. Additionally, there are plenty of good songs with powerful, wholesome meanings. Having said that, I know that we also need to filter these songs as many contain, as Simon and Garfunkel put it “words that I never heard in the Bible”2, or, as Spock said, “colorful metaphors”3.

Visible vs Invisible vs Mental

What if I came in here with a broken arm or a limp, what would you think? How about the fact that I need to wear glasses, or I had an irritating shoulder tick? Maybe we’d get to talking and I mentioned that I suffered from high blood pressure, AD/HD, or a lack of self-confidence? Those are fairly commonplace problems. No big deal, right?

How about mental or emotional conditions like autism, addiction, depression, bipolar disorder, or suicidal thoughts? What would you think of me then? Would you really be okay with that? Would you feel comfortable around me? I hope so because that is me. I am either dealing with or have in the past dealt with all these things.

Being near-sighted, having a broken arm, high blood pressure, those kinds of things, as a society, we tend to overlook as ‘commonplace’ or things that can ‘just happen’ and we have no control over. But what about those trials that are well-hidden, deep in our minds with terms like ‘clinical’, ‘syndrome’, or ‘disorder’ attached to them? Some people may have issues that aren’t diagnosed, but you can tell they’re just different. Although I know we don’t all fall into this category, we have learned through societal norms to start feeling really uncomfortable being around people like that. Why? It’s not contagious! Nor should we think something is wrong with those who wish to be friends with people with mental health problems.

In his talk titled “Like a broken vessel”, Elder Jeffrey R. Holland stated: “However bewildering this all may be, these afflictions are some of the realities of mortal life, and there should be no more shame in acknowledging them than in acknowledging a battle with high blood pressure or the sudden appearance of a malignant tumor.”4

Let’s not fall into the trap we find in the New Testament:
1 And as Jesus passed by, he saw a man which was blind from his birth.

2 And his disciples asked him, saying, Master, who did sin, this man, or his parents, that he was born blind?5
Elder Eric W. Kopischke, in his talk “Addressing Mental Health”, said: “Because mental illness can interfere with our perception of perfection, it remains all too often a taboo. As a result, there is too much ignorance, too much silent suffering, and too much despair.”6

I’d like to go from abstract concepts to concrete examples by sharing some of the struggles I (and by extension, my family) have had.


Let’s start with something simple: AD/HD. Why is AD/HD simple? Because it is a commonplace terms these days. Most people have at least heard of it and have some level of understanding of what it entails. What’s it like having it? First, the one most people think of, is that we see squirrels and shiny things that get our attention – they’re absolutely EVERYWHERE! Second, as our mind is wandering around, we feel the need to be doing something… anything. However, there is a third part to it. It happens most often for me when I’m on a medicine regimen that works well, but it can happen on its own as well and that is hyper-focusing. We get so caught up in what we’re doing that we become completely oblivious to the world around us. This, too, can be a problem.

Let’s talk about squirrels. Imagine getting up from your desk and, as you turn around, you notice the half-disassembled 3d printer and think “I’ve really got to finish that project” only to notice the stack of folders on the nearby table which triggers the thought “I’ve really got to get those bills paid”, and, as you’re nearing the steps you realize that you still have to put those groceries away. This all just happened in the space of time it took to walk 12 feet – all because you had to go to the bathroom! Or how about that rabbit hole you’ve been going down for a project at work for the last four hours only to realize that this isn’t the project with the looming deadline.

Asperger’s Syndrome

About 12 to 13 years ago, I was diagnosed with Asperger’s Syndrome – a form of autism. Let me do some math here. That means that my wife, and I had been married for about 10 or eleven years at that point. Let me explain what Asperger’s is so that you understand why that is relevant.

Asperger’s is a ‘brain-wiring’ issue. My brain isn’t wired the same way most peoples are. I literally process information differently. When it comes to processing logic, well-structured things, remembering details, or troubleshooting problems, people with Asperger’s tend to be highly intelligent. However, there is a price for that gift. Asperger’s is also a social disorder. We lack the social skills that come naturally to most. We find it very difficult to put ourselves in other people’s shoes, so to speak. Because of that, we come across as (and naturally are, to some degree) very selfish.

We tend to have a hard time learning and applying social norms and filtering our thoughts. For example, there may be a group of people gathered around a newborn baby and everyone’s saying ‘awww, isn’t he so cute?!” and the person with Asperger’s might say, ‘not really’.

Body language is also a huge challenge. Let’s say you’re talking to somebody, and they start looking at their watch. You instinctively say to yourself ‘they’re done with this conversation and want to leave’. It’s automatic. For us, we have to actually think about it. We have to notice it and then spend time to process what it means. To help you understand, next time you have somebody give you a signal using body language, mentally stop for a moment and think to yourself ‘what thought processes did I just do to understand what they meant’. That’s what we do in reverse.

It takes us years, decades, to learn to do what you do naturally. So, how do we cope until we learn – if we learn? Simple. We bluff!

Another common trait is low frustration tolerance. When things don’t go right, or somebody doesn’t do something how or when I want, I tend to get… irritated… quickly! Those around me recognize that. I hate to admit it, but there were years while the boys were growing up that they avoided me much of the time because of this.

Now, with that understanding, can you imagine what life was like having to deal with this not knowing the ‘why’? To her, I was just a selfish, uncaring, jerk, not willing to change to make things better. Go ahead, ask her, she’ll agree!

Here’s an experience that will help illustrate what I mean. Shortly after my diagnosis, as we started doing research as to what this all means to us, we found statistics that said 80% of couples where one person has Asperger’s, and the other does not, end in divorce. Lamenting the difficulty of the situation my wife shared her feelings on social media. My brother and sisters immediately reacted – not at all favorably. They felt my wife was setting the stage to ask for a divorce and that they needed to come to my aid. My wife was hurt deeply as that is not at all what she wanted. She was looking for support from her friends.

Upon hearing this, I immediately added a comment to her post telling everybody to back off. I had realized by that point that I had made her life… difficult. I then called each of my siblings that had lashed out. Over the next couple days, I had interactions with a few of her friends that each complimented me on how I handled the situation. I was confused as to why, so I asked my wife why everyone was making such a big deal out of it. In her response, I learned a life lesson I will never forget. She said it was because I had never stood up for her before. After 11 years of marriage.

So, how did our marriage survive, and, eventually, thrive? Well, there are a couple of things that made it better. Most of these revolved around simply understanding what we were dealing with. After receiving my diagnosis, we started studying what it meant. From there, my wife started adjusting her expectations. We realized that there were some things I would only be able to partially change. For some things, it wasn’t reasonable to expect me to overcome them at all. It also helped me to understand myself and why I had so much trouble trying to change. It helped me not to be so hard on myself – even though I continue to try.

It took a lot of time and prayer, but we were eventually able to find that common ground of understanding in which we could both find happiness. We tried to keep an eternal perspective. We tried to remember our temple covenants and that we would be perfected in the eternities and wouldn’t have from these problems then.


And then there’s bipolar disorder. While I don’t suffer the bipolar that must people think of _ going from being suicidal (depressive cycle) to doing crazy dangerous things like bungee jumping or skydiving (manic cycle), it does cause me significant difficulties. While the type 2 bipolar I have doesn’t have such extreme highs and lows, it does have longer depressive cycles – which can sometimes last for years. This is exacerbated in me by the fact that when I’m too depressed, my AD/ HD medicine no longer works basically making me incapable of getting anything done – either for work or at home – even to the point that this has caused me to take significant amounts of time off work.

I can look around and see all the things that need to be done. Projects – both unfinished and un-started, chores, house and vehicle repairs, or commitments I’ve made, and I can see that none of them are getting done. I feel useless. What do you think that does to the depression that’s already there?

Can you imagine being so down that getting food is such a chore that you put it off until you are so hungry that you just can’t stand it anymore? I’ve been there, done that. I wouldn’t wish it on anybody. How about that deadline at work that’s looming closer, and you still can’t get yourself to do the necessary work, even though you know you could lose your job for performance reasons?

Depression / Suicide

At one point, during a low spot in one of these depressive cycles, something happened that sent me spiraling down into a very dark place I hope none of you ever experience.

Looking back on the situation, I can see much more clearly that it wasn’t nearly as bad as I thought it was in the moment. However, in that moment, it was completely different. When you’re depressed, it’s hard to remember ever feeling good. I don’t know if it’s like this for others, but I start ruminating over negative thoughts. I keep going over the same events in my mind thinking about all the ways it could have possibly turned out better. This process can tear you apart from the inside out. Depression can make you think you are the common denominator of all the woes you, your family, and your friends are experiencing.

It’s at times like this that you need to reach out to somebody, even if it’s the last thing you feel like doing. It could be a friend, parent, colleague, a doctor, a counselor, or a church leader. There’s even been a phone number established: 988. Think of it as 911 for an emotional crisis. Despite what you may feel at the time, there are people around you that love and care about you. Don’t become a statistic, get help.

Let’s now go back to the lyrics I quoted at the beginning:
You've always been slightly awkward, kinda weird
Upside down and not all here
What's a-wrong with me and you is crystal clear
Sometimes I'm in a room where I don't belong
And the house is on fire and there's no alarm
And the walls are melting too
How about you?
Don't worry, it's all just a symptom of being human7
When you’re severely depressed, this is your world – everything’s burning down around you.

If you see someone around you struggling, or you hear they are struggling, or if you get the impression they need your help, don’t put it off, they may need your help right now. Let’s replace those lyrics I just read with these:

Hey, have you heard?
Hope’s not a four letter word.8
What about this song?
It's amazing what the hard times can reveal
Like who shows up, who walks away, and who's for real
So take me on, I'll take the wheel and we can both outrun the past
We will always live forever if we don't look back
You saved my life, not once but twice
You keep me free from falling
You saved my life, make it all alright
When I don't feel like talking
You make sure I always see the daylight9
About this song, singer Brent Smith:
"This is about the human condition. We've got to live, and we've got to live with one another. And that should be something that is celebrated and not tolerated. That's what 'Daylight' really represents. It's our humanity. It's an understanding that we're all on this planet together, and we've got to figure out ways to take care of one another. A lot of times, it may just be asking someone 'are you okay?' because you could potentially save someone's life just by asking. We can't lose our empathy and courage towards each other, or our willingness to pick someone up if you see them on their knees, because there's gonna be a moment in time when you need someone to pick you up."10
Or maybe this song?
So pack your bags and leave a note
And thank the ones that kept you afloat
And gather all your hopes and dreams
They can keep you company
And go on and be your dysfunctional self
Life's too short to play someone else
'Cause being normal is just a trap
But you're never so gone that you can't turn back
So go on and be unpredictable
Shatter the glass when it's half full
The audience has waited all this time
You're well-rehearsed and you know your lines
So introduce them to
The wonderful dysfunctional you11
Now I’d like to share some more thoughts from church leaders.

More Thoughts from Church Leaders

Elder Kopischke continues:
“Educating ourselves about mental illness prepares us to help ourselves and others who might be struggling. Open and honest discussion with one another will help this important topic to receive the attention it deserves. After all, information precedes inspiration and revelation. These all-too-often invisible challenges can affect anyone, and when we are facing them, they appear insurmountable.”12
Elder Holland goes on to say:
“So how do you best respond when mental or emotional challenges confront you or those you love? Above all, never lose faith in your Father in Heaven, who loves you more than you can comprehend… Never, ever doubt that, and never harden your heart. Faithfully pursue the time-tested devotional practices that bring the Spirit of the Lord into your life. Seek the counsel of those who hold keys for your spiritual well-being. Ask for and cherish priesthood blessings. Take the sacrament every week, and hold fast to the perfecting promises of the Atonement of Jesus Christ. Believe in miracles…

Whatever your struggle, my brothers and sisters—mental or emotional or physical or otherwise—do not vote against the preciousness of life by ending it! Trust in God. Hold on in His love. Know that one day the dawn will break brightly and all shadows of mortality will flee. Though we may feel we are “like a broken vessel,” as the Psalmist says,10 we must remember, that vessel is in the hands of the divine potter. Broken minds can be healed just the way broken bones and broken hearts are healed.”13

What I hope you take away from what I’ve shared is
  • I have had and continue to have difficulties due to my conditions
  • They have impacted not just myself, but those around me as well – especially my family
  • It’s only been through awareness, acceptance, understanding, improved communication, and plenty of faith and prayers that we have been able to work through it
  • Whether you are struggling with these kinds of issues yourself or it’s someone around you, these things are what it will take to help them
While I’ve had my fair share of trials, please don’t think what I’m trying to say is that I know just what you’re going through. I don’t. However, I do have a friend that does. He’s my older brother. In fact, he’s yours, too. Remember that Christ descended below all things that He might know how to succor his people.

Let’s go back to that scripture I read at the beginning with the apostles trying to figure out who was the cause of the blind man’s infirmity:
2 And his disciples asked him, saying, Master, who did sin, this man, or his parents, that he was born blind?

3 Jesus answered, Neither hath this man sinned, nor his parents: but that the works of God should be made manifest in him.14 [emphasis added]
Elder Patrick Kearon stated, “Jesus specializes in the seemingly impossible. He came here to make the impossible possible, the irredeemable redeemable, to heal the unhealable, to right the unrightable, to promise the unpromisable.22 And He’s really good at it. In fact, He’s perfect at it.”15

This, too, is my testimony, and I leave it with you in the name of Jesus Christ, amen.

Resources for Assistance:These can be found in "Life Help" under "Library"


1) A Symptom of Being Human, Shinedown

2) Keep the Customer Satisfied, Simon & Garfunkel

3) Star Trek IV: The Voyage Home

4) Like a Broken Vessel, Elder Jeffrey R. Holland,

5) John 9:1-2

6) Addressing Mental Health, Elder Erich W. Kopischke,

7) A Symptom of Being Human, Shinedown

8) Hope, Shinedown

9) Daylight, Shinedown

10) Brent Smith,,

11) Dysfunctional You, Shinedown

12) Addressing Mental Health, Elder Erich W. Kopischke,

13) Like a Broken Vessel, Elder Jeffrey R. Holland,

14) John 9:2-3

15) He Is Risen with Healing in His Wings, Elder Patrick Kearon,

Continue reading at the original source →