I'm home! I've actually been home since 2 October, 2014. Coming home was definitely mix of emotions. On the one hand it was very spiritual, on the other it was a torrent of bitterness and negative emotions. The reason it was such a mix was due to the circumstances in which I had to come home.
When I left on my mission I was dealing with depression, which I've had since I was a kid. I thought I had it under control and for a while I wasn't affect too bad by it, but even while I was in Terre Haute and at the height of my mission experience it was always there and unfortunately it caused some disagreements and difficulties between my companions and I. Fortunately they are all wonderful human beings and stuck it out with me.
I was able to spend six wonderful months in Terre Haute and really fell in love with the people, the members, my fellow missionaries and city.
When I left and went to Mishawaka that was the first time that I began to feel homesick. Mishawaka was beautiful and I made some amazing friends, but I didn't connect like I had in my first area. On top of it all, my second transfer there I started training and I love Sister Evans so much. I learned a ton from her and was so happy I got to train, but training caused me a lot of additional stress that I wasn't ready for even though I thought I would be. I plunged into deep depression and I couldn't deal with it on my own, so I went to the doctor and got some medication. They put me on mild medication which ended up having no effect. We decided I needed additional help, so halfway through training I was sent to Fishers to be closer to mission headquarters and LDS Family Services.
Fishers was an absolutely dead area. Literally, we were reopening it to sisters and the majority of the town is No Soliciting, so tracting and PCing (personal contacting) was much more difficult. We definitely had some amazing weeks where we almost met the minimum standards set by President, but it was a huge hit to me because both Terre Haute and Mishawaka easily exceeded the minimum standards on a regular basis. Sister Place and I had so much fun working together and became best friends, which I am so grateful for because if it wasn't for her I don't think I would have lasted as long as I did in Fishers. I started meeting with a therapist at LDS Family Services and he did an amazing job with helping me realize the power of the atonement and that I wasn't ruined even with the things that had happened in my past. I finally felt hope.
But hope isn't always enough.
The medication I was taking was doing nothing and I still wasn't functioning the way I needed to be an effective missionary so we tried a stronger medication. In the past I had taken anti-depressants and had not had good experiences, but I felt desperate. For two weeks I felt like I was on a high. I could actually do this! But the third week, as had happened in the past, I crashed hard on the medication and started having a lot of suicidal thoughts. On one particular day Sister Place and I were biking home from choir practice after services and we were on a busy road. I couldn't shake the thought of how easy it would be to just allow myself to "accidentally" fall into the road and be hit by a car, then I wouldn't have to deal with these feelings of depression, anxiety, stress and temptation. Almost immediately, I would remember that of course that wouldn't be true. I would be more upset leaving this world without finishing what I know God has set out for me to do than living in this messed up, mortal world. When we got home I was still going back and forth between thoughts of dying and thoughts of living and I realized the reason these thoughts were so strong was due to my medication. I'd experienced this plenty of times and I knew that if I didn't take control then and there I would end up doing something stupid. So I got rid of it. All of the medication went down the toilet.
I felt relieved at first and then guilty. I had to tell my mission nurse and President what happened and even though it wasn't what I wanted, two days later President got the inspiration that I had finished what God had intended for me in Indiana. It was time to go home.
When President called Tuesday night to tell me that I was going to go home on Thursday, I felt peace. I knew it was right, even though it wasn't what I wanted. With Wednesday being my only day to get ready to leave, Sister Place and I tried to make the best of it. We attended a combined district meeting which was amazing. I had made close friends with a few missionaries in our zone and I was really happy that I got to say goodbye to them in person rather than via e-mail. The rest of the day was spent packing and trying to get things ready for Sister Place's new companion so they could finish off the transfer as strong as possible. Thursday afternoon Sister Place and President saw me off at the airport a few short hours later I could see the Wasatch Mountains. Part of me was so happy an excited to be home, but deep down I was hurting. I fell in love with Indiana and now I had to learn how to let go of what had been my life for the last 11 months.
Since I've been home I've had a lot of ups and downs. The first month was the easiest- I still had the Spirit with me, I was able to find a great job within a few weeks and buy my first car. I kept as busy as possible. But after that things just went down hill. I wasn't dealing with my depression head on- I was keeping it at bay and doing everything I could to not think about my mission because every time it got brought up it just hurt and I would feel regret for letting my depression get the best of me even though I knew it was out of my control.
Only lately have I started leveling out emotionally and it's been almost six months since I first got back. I realized I made a mistake when I came home, and that was jumping back into "normal" life.
Once you serve a mission, you will forever be changed. Whether you feel like it or not, much knowledge and truth is revealed to you as a missionary and therefore more responsibility is laid upon you and that doesn't leave you when you come home. You may no longer be serving "in the field", but you are still a representative of the Lord and to deny the experiences that you have as a missionary is to deny the Christ. When you come home, take it slow. Be that awkward RM that feels weird being alone, that won't listen to the radio or go on dates. Take a few months at least to allow yourself to adjust. Write down all of the memories that you have and study and share the gospel voraciously, whether it's on the train, at school, in your family or in a church calling.