I was starting a new semester of school, and my only goal was to survive the semester with decent grades. Doesn’t seem like too lofty of a goal, yet it was becoming more and more difficult. I was feeling increased dizziness, fatigue, and nausea, but I was unfazed (mostly just in denial). Every morning I woke up at 7 and dragged myself to class, feeling sick to my stomach and experiencing major brain fog. By the time I finished classes at noon each day, I was wiped. I knew I should stay on campus to study and finish my homework, but every day I hit a wall of exhaustion, and I had to go home and take a nap.
My naps consumed my whole day. Often I would wake up 5–6 hours later, even more stressed out about everything I had to do. And no matter how long I slept, I still felt just as exhausted. I had recently returned home from a mission where I had been sick with mysterious illnesses over and over, and each time I had received strength by relying on my Savior and I had been healed. I came home a transfer early and was able to find some answers before returning to school, but as the semester became more intense, I found my worst nightmare was coming true. My sickness was returning.
Within three weeks, I was diagnosed with Lyme disease. There are many emotions that come with receiving a diagnosis after months of sickness that is hard to define. On one hand, I was so relieved. Relieved it wasn’t just in my head or something I was imagining. Relieved I had a path to follow. But the more I learned about my chronic illness, the more I learned that very often it had no set treatment, and it would probably take years to get my life back.
As the weeks wore on, treatments commenced, symptoms got worse, and my goal to survive the semester with decent grades seemed impossible. As I considered withdrawing from my classes, I was at a loss. Here I was, thousands of miles from home with the sole purpose of attending school and getting my education. If I didn’t do that, who was I? What role would I play? Would my life have any meaning? What would fill my time? Would I be judged for taking a break?
I was 22 and physically unable to go to school, to work, to even maintain a healthy social life. It was like God had pressed a pause button on my life, my hopes, my dreams. I felt stuck, unable to progress, unable to have any amount of control of my life—in the present and even in the future.
And then something happened that changed everything. I didn’t receive the blessing of healing that I so desperately wanted, but I did receive understanding that suddenly made everything about my situation bearable. On one particularly difficult day, I felt God had an important message for me, and as I sought it, I received an outpouring of direction, comfort, and peace.
I felt very strongly that this trial wasn’t some fluke that was interrupting my plan of happiness. This was the plan of happiness Heavenly Father had for me. It seems oxymoronic, a plan of happiness that was filled with daily suffering, but it was true. I learned to be happy, despite my dreadful circumstances. I did everything I could to seek out the sunshine and enjoy—really, fully enjoy—the “pause” that Heavenly Father had given me. I learned so much about myself and my limits. I learned more about others and how willing they were to sacrifice to help me. I joked that I had a half-life (because I literally slept 16 hours every day), but it was a very abundant life.
Over the next months and years, I was able to fully rely on the Lord. I had no idea when I would get better, which treatment or doctor would actually help, or when I would be able to resume school and progress toward my goals, but I knew to what source to look for hope. I knew that if I put my trust and hope in my own ability to heal or in various treatments or doctors, I would be continually let down, but because I put that faith, hope, and trust in God, the one person who will never let any of us down, I could press on.