LDS blogger battles bipolar disorder by traveling the country, befriending strangers

By Ryan McDonald

For the Deseret News

Published: Wednesday, Nov. 27 2013 1:00 p.m. MST

‘I Believe in Christ’

The topic of mental illness was addressed in the most recent LDS general conference by Elder Jeffrey R. Holland, who asked: "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," Elder Holland said. "... 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. I have seen so many of them come when every other indication would say that hope was lost. Hope is never lost. If those miracles do not come soon or fully or seemingly at all, remember the Savior’s own anguished example: if the bitter cup does not pass, drink it and be strong, trusting in happier days ahead."

During one particularly challenging day in November 2009, Thompson could feel an episode of depression and suicidal thoughts coming on. She began listening to a rendition of “I Believe in Christ” by the Mormon Tabernacle Choir.

As she struggled with her thoughts and feelings, the music sounded faint — until the fourth verse.

And while I strive through grief and pain, his voice is heard: Ye shall obtain. I believe in Christ, so come what may...

“When those words echoed, I felt this literal lift of burden,” she said. “It was absolutely, hands down, the hardest, darkest, most difficult experience I’ve ever had, but at the same time it was also the most enlightening, most fortifying experience. ... It’s a fundamental part of why I believe what I believe and why I’ve endured the way I’ve endured."

The verse can now be read in vinyl letters on a wall in her room.

Reprieve through Montana

After nearly three years of battling depression, Thompson received a voice mail on Mother’s Day 2011 from her mother’s cousin, Wendy Allen. Though the two didn’t know each other well, Allen suggested Thompson visit her in Lewistown, Mont.

Getting on the plane was a challenge, but the first four days in the new location were even tougher. Thompson asked her parents to get her a return ticket home.

The next day, “Aunt Wendy” (as Thompson calls her now) told her she didn’t know why she was prompted to invite her young relative to Montana, but she was committed to finding out.

Thompson decided to stay. Over the next year, Allen taught her ways to cope with her problems. Thompson grew to love Montana and found a job at the local Boys and Girls Club teaching piano and physical education, two things she loves.

But greater challenges were ahead.

Thompson applied for full-time missionary service and in December 2011 was called to serve in the New Mexico Farmington Mission. She was to report to the Missionary Training Center on March 28, 2012.

But just weeks before she was set to leave, a major bout of depression came.

After counseling one night with her parents, bishop and stake president, the group determined Thompson should not go and her stake president effectively released her. In that meeting, Thompson recognized that although she wanted badly to serve a “conventional” mission, the Lord had a different plan for her.

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