One day a few years ago, I was feeling incredibly exhausted on the train home from work. My mind was filled with anxious and scary thoughts. This wasn’t the first time such thoughts had entered my mind, but they had been showing up more frequently, and this time, I was scared.
Suddenly, I felt so much pain in my chest, and I started finding it difficult to breathe. I began to panic. My heart was racing. When I arrived at the train station near my home, I sat down on a bench, unable to take another step.
I was soon in an ambulance on my way to the hospital, certain I was going to die.
A few months before this incident, I’d become overwhelmed by a number of events in my life, and my mental health began to suffer. I had been feeling depressed and a lot of self-loathing. I had been meeting with a counselor, but I knew that I needed more help. Even so, I hadn’t been able to bring myself to see a doctor. I just didn’t want to be judged or to be seen as weak, and I felt ashamed of what I was experiencing.
I felt this way because in Japan, people don’t often talk about mental and emotional issues, and if they do, the issues aren’t discussed outside of one’s own family.
At the hospital, the doctors concluded that I wasn’t dying—I had simply experienced a panic attack. So I was sent on my way once I was feeling stable.
But the next day, my heart palpitations were still happening. I knew it must be connected to my dwindling mental health, so I finally summoned the courage to make an appointment with a psychiatrist.
I was diagnosed with generalized anxiety disorder, and the doctor prescribed anxiety medication for me.
To be honest, it was hard to accept this diagnosis at first. But at the same time, I was relieved when the doctor explained that this wasn’t a weakness—it was a condition that needed to be treated.
I thought I would get better quickly, but that wasn’t the case. The cycle of repeatedly feeling better and then falling back into a state of depression was frustrating.
On a particularly difficult day, I decided to turn to the Lord. And as I did, I began to see my healing process as an opportunity to humble myself, to open my mind to the reality of mental health struggles, to practice acceptance and patience, and to rely more on Heavenly Father and the Savior.
Believing that They could heal me, I started praying diligently for strength and for guidance to resources that could help me. I also felt inspired to ask my ministering brothers for priesthood blessings on really difficult days. Even though I wasn’t fully healed right away, every time I would receive a priesthood blessing, I was able to feel peace in my heart, direction, and hope.
I truly did feel that “immediate goodness of God” that Elder Kyle S. McKay of the Seventy once spoke of. “Even while we are patiently waiting upon the Lord,” he said, “there are certain blessings that come to us immediately.”1
I had never imagined that I would struggle with mental health challenges. However, through this experience, I’ve learned anew that the Lord is aware of each of us.
I witnessed this when I decided to take a break from work to help my mind heal. In speaking with my boss, I was surprised by how much compassion and understanding he showed me. He also told me that he was certified in mental health counseling.
I felt that it wasn’t a coincidence that I worked for this man, especially given the fact that mental health isn’t openly discussed in Japan. I became so much more aware of Heavenly Father’s mercy and influence in the details of our lives.
Mental health problems can easily happen to anyone, and they are nothing to be ashamed of. They need to be treated, just as with other medical conditions or illnesses.2 Now that they are a part of my life, I feel a sense of compassion and love for others who experience similar struggles.
I’ve realized that even if many people around me don’t understand mental health challenges, the Savior does. And He has ultimately prepared a way for me to overcome this challenge. With Him, even the most difficult seasons of life can be for our good and for our spiritual growth (see Romans 8:28).
I’m still healing, but I’ve discovered that my trials can help me recognize the love that Heavenly Father and Jesus Christ have for each of us. I know that as we rely on our Father in Heaven and Savior, They will always support us in our struggles and continue to help us find hope and healing.