MISSION POSSIBLE 5K by DON’T STOP SARGEANT

MISSION POSSIBLE 5K | SPONSORED BY Q SCIENCES

“WITH GOD ALL THINGS ARE POSSIBLE.”
Matthew 19:26

WHEN: Saturday October 1st 2016 from 8:00 – 9:30 AM

WHERE: Quail Cove Park (851 E 700 N, American Fork, UT 84003)
located across the street from the Mount Timpanogos Temple

HOW: Register or donate on our EVENTBRITE page

Come meet Kendal and Ashley and register at our booth at the Jamesthemormon Thank You Concert Saturday August 20th @ 8 PM at 2250 N University Parkway in Provo!


On February 19th 2013, Ashley Sargeant (Founder of DON’T STOP SARGEANT) returned home nine months early on medical release from her full-time missionary service in Brazil due to severe mental illness. Three years later she is healthy, happy, and thriving. (See more of Ashley’s story HERE and how she’s overcome her illness HERE). On September 5th 2014, Kendal Levine from Stansbury Park, UT was hit by a car one year into her missionary service in Australia and suffered a traumatic brain injury and medically released six months early. Two years later, she has miraculously regained cognition, her personality, her memories and is in the process of relearning to walk. (See more of Kendal’s story HERE). They met on July 28th 2016 and when Kendal said that she intends to fully recover so she can return to Australia to finish her last six months of volunteer service, Ashley was instantly overwhelmed by an impression that she would also return to Brazil to finish her remaining nine months of volunteer service. In that moment, MISSION POSSIBLE was born.

MISSION POSSIBLE is a 5K fundraising event and awareness campaign by DON’T STOP SARGEANT to help make missions possible. How will the funds be used?

  • 10% of all MISSION POSSIBLE proceeds will be donated to The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints General Missionary Fund.
  • A MISSION POSSIBLE scholarship will be established to sponsor individuals of any faith seeking to make a difference in the world. Scholarship recipients will also receive Q Sciences products to support physical, mental, and emotional well being.
  • A portion of the event proceeds will be used to support Kendal and Ashley to finish the remainder of their missions. There are lots of ways to serve in this world beyond missionary work, and while not all early returned missionaries are able to return to the mission field or want to, both Kendal and Ashley are preparing to do so. Kendal will return to Australia as a full-time sister missionary when she is well, but Ashley has decided to return to Brazil as a volunteer member missionary living with members and helping to teach those interested in learning about the Gospel of Jesus Christ with the full-time Elders and Sisters. Ashley plans to leave for Brazil on February 19th 2017, the 4 year anniversary of when she returned home early.
  • Remaining proceeds will be used to help Ashley to establish DON’T STOP SARGEANT as her lifelong mission by (1) publishing a Welcome Home Kit for early returning missionaries, (2) producing an independent documentary for early returning missionaries that will be available for free online, and (3) establishing a DON’T STOP SARGEANT wellness center to educate and connect early returning missionaries and those battling mental illness / addiction / eating disorders with the best resources available to continue their life’s mission.

All are invited to join us in this inspiring 5K event sponsored by Q Sciences (the company that produces the vitamin supplement called Q96 that has been the key to Ashley’s continued success and support with her mental health.) What is your life’s mission? What were you born to do? What contribution will you make? How will you make your mission possible? Run, walk, or roll the MISSION POSSIBLE 5K for yourself, for someone you know, or to show support! See you at the finish line!

MISSIONPOSSIBLE_EVENTBRITE

Thoughts on Grace from Brad Wilcox’s LDS 12 Step Addiction Recovery Fireside

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What an unforgettable evening listening to Brad Wilcox share his insights on the Grace of Jesus Christ in relation to the LDS 12 Step Addiction Recovery Program at the American Fork Tabernacle. And what a treat to meet him afterwards as well! He’s just as friendly in person as he is at the podium! I attended one of his writing workshops at BYU as a 6th Grader and remember being so star struck by him then, so it was really neat to get to meet him all these years later. I talked to him about my campaign for early returning missionaries and he said to share this with anyone who has recently returned home early:

“They aren’t really returning home ‘early.’ If they were out for 7 months or 7 days, they’re just being transferred to a new mission: The Mission of the Rest of Their Life!”

This fireside was so powerful — I took three pages of notes and just couldn’t write fast enough! I wanted to share all the insights I had with anyone who is interested in what was said tonight. Brad also invited two of his friends, Steve and McKenna from Idaho Falls, to share their story of hope and healing and I’ve included those notes as well. As one who is currently working the LDS 12 Step Addiction Recovery Program, I can say from first-hand experience that Jesus Christ is absolutely transforming my life in every way possible. His Grace is making all the difference. If there was anything that I would want to share from what I learned tonight it’s this: The Savior’s Grace is not a solution. It is THE solution.

NOTES FROM BRAD WILCOX’S TALK:

  • Grace is not the Atonement. Grace is the POWER that FLOWS from the Atonement. The Atonement is the suffering of the Savior, but Grace is the enabling power that stems from it.
  • The power of Grace is designed to change us, to TRANSFORM us into new beings!
  • Grace always allows us to live on a higher level.
  • The downward negative spiral of compulsive behavior is only healed by the intervention of Grace.
  • Jesus says, “I AM THE WAY.” His Grace is to help us ON the journey, not just to meet us at the end. He is there every step of the way to help us get to the destination!
  • Some have been enslaved in addiction for so long that they cannot imagine life without it. They prefer to be enslaved because that’s all they know and believe they are worthy of.
  • Slavery CAN be taken from us, but how long until we allow ourselves to take ourselves from slavery?
  • Metaphor of riding a bus: it doesn’t matter what seat your sitting on, how close or far you are from the front or back, that bus is still going to take you home. Be patient in your process and know that as long as you are trying and moving forward you are worthy!
  • WORTHINESS IS NOT FLAWLESSNESS. Be honest and keep trying! You are worthy if you are honest and you keep trying! You may not be 100% perfect, but as long as you are trying that is enough. Choose to be honest.
  • The Lord blesses those who WANT to improve! The Savior is there to help us to keep on TRYING.
  • We take upon ourselves the name of Christ when we partake of the Sacrament; don’t take His name in vain (vain = meaningless or empty intent) by not utilizing His Grace. It is what sets us right each week when we partake of it.
  • REACH OUT! Just sharing your desire to change skyrockets your healing process!
  • People don’t just drown in quicksand. They die because they’re STUCK and they’re ALONE. It’s not the sand that kills you — it’s being ALONE in the quicksand that kills you. That’s the wisdom of support systems.
  • Where we see suffering, He sees growth. Where we see failure, He sees steps toward success!
  • A baby chick gains the strength he needs to survive by pushing and pecking his way out of the shell. If the process of healing and change were easy, we would surely be disappointed in the outcome. It’s not as easy as Harry Potter waiving his wand with an enchantment spell to make long-term changes that will last a lifetime. God wants our changes to be permanent — to learn it for REALS.
  • Our journey to freedom in the future means healing from the past.
  • Bondage comes in many forms such as habits and addictions.
  • The Savior’s Grace is not a solution. It is THE solution.
  • When you reach out to God for help, you are not just reaching out to some “Big Bang” to hear you. You are reaching out to an actual being who can love you, help you, heal you.
  • The JOURNEY of healing makes freedom possible.
  • It is with joy that the Savior receives our PROCESS.

NOTES FROM STEVE’S TALK (recovering from pornography addiction):

  • The Adversary was at the supermarket selling lies and I bought them.
  • Addicts oftentimes feel they have to prove or qualify for God’s love because they feel they have run out of chances.
  • Satan is absolutely the definition of a professional. He has been at his trade for thousands of years. He is a PRO. He knows what he’s doing. Sometimes he’s so good we don’t even realize the path that we’re on until we’re so far down it.
  • You HAVE to reach rock bottom before getting out of your addiction. You HAVE to.
  • EASY ROAD Thoughts: “It’s not that big of a deal. Everyone else is doing it. No one will know.” –> Will be a harder road for a long time with these kind of thoughts.
  • HARD ROAD Thoughts: “I’ve let this go too far. I want to make things right.” –> This path is infinitely more desirable in the long run. It’s hard at first, but easier in the long term. Choose the road less traveled by and let it make all the difference.
  • Recovery is a CHANGE OF HEART, not permanent perfect abstinence.
  • Healing is not going to happen overnight. It is a JOURNEY of a lifetime.

NOTES FROM McKENNA’S TALK (Steve’s wife):

  • Hearing her husband’s honesty about his pornography addiction came like a “tidal wave of despair like a a tsunami to the soul” as Elder Holland describes it.
  • Step 1 = Step “I Can’t” (Honesty)
  • Step 2 = Step “He Can” (Hope)
  • Step 3 = “Ok, I’ll Let You” (Trust)
  • You are never too dirty or unclean for Jesus to reach down to your depths and lift you out and help you.

*FOR MORE INFORMATION ON THE LDS ADDICTION RECOVERY PROGRAM AND TO FIND A MEETING NEAR YOU, VISIT ADDICTIONRECOVERY.LDS.ORG*

 

Thoughts on Facing F.E.A.R.

FEAR

(Photo by Bekah Price Photography)

F.E.A.R.
Forget Everything And Run.
Face Everything And Rise.
What will you choose?

A friend of mine shared this quote this evening and I felt impressed to pass it on. The word fear is defined as “a distressing emotion aroused by impending danger, evil or pain — whether the threat is real or imagined.” Isn’t that interesting? In its most basic definition, fear is a distressing EMOTION. And what causes that emotion? The possibility, the potential, the probability of PAIN. Fear is not irrational. We are afraid because we have had previous experiences that have caused us to develop fear as a form of pain insurance.

No one wants to get hurt. But we all experience pain at some point, whether from our own decisions or the decisions of others — or sometimes for seemingly no reason at all. Sometimes that pain is just too much to bear. So we run. We try to just “forget everything and run” as fast and as far away from what we believe to be the source of that pain, no matter if the threat is even real. Because in our mind we believe it is absolutely real and the only thing that matters is to self-protect at all costs. Another friend of mine once said that everyone has pain, and we are all trying to find a way to make it hurt as little as possible.

Thoughts are one of the most powerful forces in the universe. What you think about eventually becomes what you believe, and what you believe ultimately becomes your reality. If our thoughts are born out of fear, we will surely realize an eternally exhausting destiny. Pretty soon, you can’t run anymore. You’re tired. You’re just so tired of running from the thoughts, from the feelings, from the fear. There will inevitably come a point when you will have to face it. And that is what most people are truly afraid of — facing it.

One of my favorite talks is by Elder Jeffrey R. Holland titled “Cast Not Away Therefore Your Confidence“— a talk that saw me through the darkest days of my mission. These quotes are among my favorites:

“Everyone runs the risk of fear. For a moment in Moses’ confrontation with the adversary, ‘Moses began to fear exceedingly; and as he began to fear, he saw the bitterness of hell.’ That’s when you see it — when you are afraid… At those times we must resist the temptation to panic and give up. At those times fear will be the strongest of the adversary’s weapons against us…

Don’t give up when the pressure mounts. Certainly don’t give in to that being who is bent on the destruction of your happiness. Face your doubts. Master your fears. Cast not away therefore your confidence. Stay the course and see the beauty of life unfold for you… Dismiss your fears and wade in with both feet…  Fear ye not. And when the second and third and fourth blows come, ‘fear ye not. … The Lord shall fight for you.’ Cast not away therefore your confidence.”

There’s a book I’ve been fascinated with lately called “Smile At Fear: Awakening the True Heart of Bravery” by Chogyam Trungpa. His philosophy is that we must learn to conquer our fears, not just suppress them for a little while. To truly become fearless, we must stop running from our fear and learn to smile at it. This takes courage. This takes bravery. This is the key to conquest.

One important factor of overcoming fear is to give up privacy. This is going to cause some major anxiety in some readers, but nevertheless, there it is. Trungpa talks about how giving up your privacy is one of the only ways that you can truly discover ourselves. He says: IF YOU ARE BOTTLING UP YOURSELF WITH YOUR SO-CALLED PRIVACY, YOU FIND YOURSELF GETTING IN YOUR OWN WAY. When you live this way, your emotions rule your life. This is dishonesty at its finest. Give up your privacy, open your heart, and your whole existence begins to shift. The journey of self-discovery begins once the leap of vulnerability has been taken. Here is one of my absolute favorite quotes from this book:

“The only way to relax with yourself is to open your heart. Then you have a chance to see who you are. This experience is like opening a parachute. When you jump out of an airplane and open the chute, you are there in the sky by yourself. Sometimes it is very frightening, but on the other hand, when you take this step, the whole situation, the whole journey, makes sense. You have to actually do it, and then you will understand. Giving up privacy is not so much a process of education and logic, but it happens on the spot, by doing so.”

I used to think that it wasn’t ok to be afraid of anything. I used to believe that if I was afraid then I was weak. And therefore my reality consisted of pretending to be strong all the time so no one would see the pain in my eyes. The truth is I’ve been pretending all of my life. I created the most incredible masks that have fooled even those who think they know me the best. But let me tell you — getting sick in Brazil and coming home early from my mission was quite possibly the greatest blessing of my life. Hitting that rock bottom physically, emotionally, and mentally showed me how weak my masks were, how incredibly counterfeit my pretending was, and how much I needed to start telling the truth. I got tired of running. This campaign helped me jump out of the plane of my past, pull the chute, and face my fear.

Why was it so hard for me to follow the impressions I received for over a year to launch this campaign? One word: FEAR. I was AFRAID. Putting yourself completely out there is super scary. But that is exactly what God asked me to do. I was terrified of being labeled and judged stigmatized as an early-returning missionary. I thought no one would want to date me, much less marry me, if they knew I was plagued by mental illness that could potentially be passed on to my future children. I thought I would bring shame on my family. I believed that no one would want to be my friend anymore. I thought I would lose everything if people knew my story. But I was just so tired of trying to be perfect. I was just so tired of pretending. So I jumped. I trusted God and I jumped. To this day, this campaign has been the best decision I have ever made. Through it, God has shown me that with Him all things are possible. He has shown me that I can do impossible things. And you know what? God proved all of my fears wrong! The pain that I imagined coming into my life was false and imagined. But the only way to know that was to trust God and take the leap.

 So what is it that we are truly afraid of? What is the true source of our distressing emotions? I think Marianne Williamson hits the nail right on the head with this inspiring thought:

“Our deepest fear is not that we are inadequate. OUR DEEPEST FEAR IS THAT WE ARE POWERFUL BEYOND MEASURE. It is our light, not our darkness that most frightens us. We ask ourselves, Who am I to be brilliant, gorgeous, talented, and fabulous? Actually, who are you not to be? You are a child of God. Your playing small does not serve the world. There is nothing enlightened about shrinking so that other people will not feel insecure around you. We are all meant to shine, as children do. We were born to make manifest the glory of God that is within us. It is not just in some of us; it is in everyone and as we let our own light shine, we unconsciously give others permission to do the same. As we are liberated from our own fear, our presence automatically liberates others.”

Choose courage. Choose to FACE EVERYTHING AND RISE. Do so and you will see the ripple effect that you will have on the lives of all those around you. If you have the strength and power to maintain your fear, you have more than enough strength and power to overcome it. If there is one thing I have learned, it’s that when God asks you to do something, JUST DO IT. He has your best interest in mind, even if you don’t understand all the reasons why. Doubt not! Fear not! Because when you have God in your corner, you have everything you need.

7 Lessons from a Bipolar Relief Society President

LESSONS

(Photo by Beka Price Photography)

Yesterday marked four years since I was set apart as a full-time Sister missionary for The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day saints. Today marks four years since I boarded an airplane to Brazil and tomorrow is my official four-year anniversary since I entered the Missionary Training Center in Sao Paulo to embark on what would become one of my life’s greatest adventures. It was through my mission that I discovered my calling in life, the reason why I was born, and what I was destined to do with my time on this earth. Little did I know then what the Lord had in store for me. He is full of surprises, you know! My heart is so overwhelmed at the goodness of our God who sees the end from the beginning and allows us to be co-authors with Him in writing our life stories that will become our legacies.

As I have reflected today on where I am now, I had some thoughts I felt impressed to share. Have you ever received a calling that you felt totally inadequate to fulfill? I felt that way as missionary, as my home ward’s Girls Camp Director, and I certainly feel it now as I am serving as my Young Single Adult Ward’s Relief Society President. I am convinced that no one ever feels completely qualified for callings they receive. When my Bishop met with me to extend this calling about five months ago I was completely shocked. Me? A Relief Society President? He must be joking! The first thoughts that went through my mind were:

Doesn’t he know I have bipolar disorder?
Doesn’t he know I have anxiety, depression, and OCD?
Doesn’t he know that I came home early from my mission?
Doesn’t he know that some days I can’t even get out of bed and face the world?

Yes — he knew. But he asked me anyway. It was my gut instinct to instantly disqualify myself because in my mind Relief Society Presidents were perfect! In my mind, Relief Society Presidents had their life together! In my mind, Relief Society Presidents didn’t have mental illness! But you know what? Turns out I was wrong. Relief Society Presidents are PEOPLE. It’s funny because every single person I know who has served in this same calling said they didn’t imagine themselves as the “type” of person in that role and felt pretty overwhelmed at first. They worried about saying the right things all the time, always being friendly and welcoming, and even looking like they had it all together. I guess when your in positions of greater visibility it’s easier to be more aware and critical on every single little thing. But guys — Relief Society Presidents are PEOPLE. I cannot emphasize that point enough!

It’s important to remember that callings aren’t death sentences! They are opportunities to learn, to grow, and to love. Our callings enhance our capacities in all areas of our lives. We can create relationships that we will have forever through our callings. We can have some of our happiest and most spiritual experiences through our service!  Over the past five months I’ve learned seven powerful lessons that I hope will help those of you that may feel inadequate, overwhelmed, or even doubtful that you can fulfill your calling.

1. Stay humble.

These two verses from the hymn “Be Thou Humble” pretty much sum this one up:

Be thou humble in thy weakness
And the Lord thy God shall lead thee,
Shall lead thee by the hand
And give thee answers to thy prayers…
Be thou humble in thy calling
And the Lord thy God shall teach thee
To serve His children gladly with a pure and gentle love…

I’ve learned not to rely solely on my own capacities but to let the Lord be my strength. His grace is more than enough to take our contributions — what we may see as measly loaves and dinky fishes — and accomplish miracles. Ether 12:27 has some great insights on this as well:

“And if men come unto me I will show unto them their weakness. I give unto men weakness that they may be humble; and my grace is sufficient for all men that humble themselves before me; for if they humble themselves before me, and have faith in me, then will I make weak things become strong unto them.”

2. You are enough.

I reached a point a few weeks ago when I let the fear gremlins completely devour my faith in regards to my ability to keep going. I told my Bishop, “I can’t do this. You should call somebody else. I’m just not good enough.” I found myself comparing my weaknesses to other’s strengths, and when you do that you always come up short. It is normal to have moments of self-doubt, but the trick is to not dwell there. The Bishop told me that because I know what it means to struggle that I would be able to help the sisters in my ward in a unique way. It’s not my job to fix everyone’s problems. It’s not my job to save them either. It is my job to love them. Don’t worry about trying to be just like the person who served before you. Don’t worry about trying to fill their shoes. God called YOU, so focus on what YOU have to offer and let it be enough.

3. If God brings you to it, He will bring you through it.

When I was set apart there was one thing that stood out in my blessing more than anything else. I was blessed that whatever mental health challenges I would face as I served in this calling would be BRIEF. That word — BRIEF. That blessing has absolutely been fulfilled. It makes me so emotional to write out this particular lesson because I felt so unqualified because of my bipolar disorder. It is important to remember that God does not call the qualified — He qualifies the called. Trust that He knows what He’s doing.

Whenever I feel discouraged in my responsibilities, I remind myself of the incredible comforting feeling that washed over me just before I told the Bishop that I would accept the calling. The Spirit filled me from head to toe and I knew it was the right thing to do. It felt like I was taking a leap into the dark by saying yes, but if there is one thing I’ve learned its this: Where God guides, God provides. And with His help we can achieve the seemingly impossible.

4. You do not have to be perfect.

I am so grateful my Bishop made it very clear to me from the get-go that he did not expect me to be perfect. His only expectation of me was to do my best. I love this quote from Elder Jeffrey R. Holland’s talk Lord, I Believe: “Imperfect people are all God has ever had to work with. That must be terribly frustrating to Him, but He deals with it… so should we!”

Isn’t it incredible that God calls imperfect humans to accomplish His perfect work? God is able to do His own work and yet He gives us the opportunity to to work hand-in-hand with Him and each other. What trust He has in us! What love He has for us! Guys, I am human. Just like you, I make mistakes. I’m sure I have offended people, no doubt about it. But somehow the Lord compensates and makes my efforts enough, however imperfect. Just show up, do your best, and turn the rest over to God. You do not have to be perfect — you just have to be brave! And if you don’t have that courage, pray for it.

5. You don’t have to do it all on your own.

One of my biggest concerns I expressed to my Bishop was, “What happens if I tank and am unable to fulfill my responsibilities? Then what?” I was so afraid of disappointing God and the Bishop and especially the sisters in my Relief Society. His response to me was, “That’s why you have counselors — to share the load.” My counselors are three of the most charitable, patient, and Christ-like individuals I have ever had the privilege of working with. And he was right… they are there to share the load! I love the sisters in my ward so much! They inspire me with their light and goodness and I am so lucky to serve with them!

6. “You do not have to be healed to help.”

This is a quote from my friend Josie Thompson of the 444 Project, a fellow fighter of bipolar disorder who has inspired thousands through her campaign to help people find the light in their darkness. What a powerful reminder that God doesn’t always call us in our strength but rather in our weakness. Whatever the struggle, I believe we can always find ways to serve. You do not need to define your capacity to serve by circumstances out of your control.

7. Remember Who is really in charge.

My Bishop is a very inspired leader and I have gained a tremendous amount of respect for him. He shared something with me in my first interview with him that I have never forgotten. He said: “Sister Sargeant, I want you to always remember that this is not your ward. It is His. These are not your sisters. They are His. And this is not your work. It is His. All you have to do is be willing to do what He asks you to do.”

The first week after I was sustained, I went to the Temple to pray about what Heavenly Father’s expectations were of me in this calling. I came away with a clear answer: “Help them come closer to Jesus Christ.” To me, that was a realistic expectation. So that is my focus in my calling — to help my sisters come closer to Jesus Christ.


Sometimes we are called to serve. Sometime we are called to learn. And sometimes we are called to be humbled. Whatever the reason for your calling, you are called because God trusts you. You have hearts to touch and lives to change that are entrusted to YOU! Don’t worry about what you can’t do — focus on what you CAN do. I echo the words of Elder Nelson in his recent address titled Becoming True MillenialsEXPECT AND PREPARE TO DO THE IMPOSSIBLE. God will ask you to do hard things because with Him all things are possible. Don’t stop! Don’t give up! Keep going and see miracles unfold! Bipolar or not, the Lord still has work for me to do! Take these words from Elder Nelson to heart and believe that you can do hard things!

“How will you accomplish the impossible? By doing whatever it takes to strengthen your faith in Jesus Christ by increasing your understanding of the doctrine taught in His restored Church and by relentlessly seeking truth… When you are asked to do impossible things, you will be able to step forward with faith and dogged persistence and cheerfully do all that lies in your power to fulfill the purposes of the Lord.”

CHANCES TO CHANGE // Why It Matters That #ASaviorIsBorn

Ten years ago tonight, I was in a serious car accident that should have left me permanently scarred, blind or even dead. But by the grace of God I was spared those outcomes and instead granted a second chance — a chance to change.

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It was three days before Christmas and I ran to the grocery store for some last minute gifts, including a couple bags of Peanut Butter M&Ms. After paying the cashier I headed to my car and remembered that I needed to run one more errand before going home. So I got in my car and headed to one of the outlets in the parking lot to make a left turn to merge with traffic. This was around 9:00 PM, it was pitch black outside, and it was raining unusually hard. The rain was so bad that I had to roll down my driver’s side window to see the oncoming traffic more clearly. The only way I could tell if cars were coming was by their bright headlights.

After waiting there for what seemed like forever, I slowly proceeded to the turning lane. But just before I reached it my headlights flashed on the passenger’s side of a white truck for a split second before I crashed into it. It seemed to have appeared out of nowhere and there was no time to even react. Then came the jarring sound of crunching metal as the front of my car crushed in against the side of the truck, which sent it into oncoming traffic where it was hit again by a van. Both vehicles went off the side of the road. Time seemed to slow down and even stand completely still.

At the time of impact my face was still slightly turned to the left so when the airbag deployed the right side of my face took a serious beating. I was hit so hard by the air bag that the entire section of skin on my cheek and part of my nose  was completely burned off. What you are looking at in this photo is raw flesh. My eyes were also severely impacted by the intense force of the air bag explosion resulting in several ruptured blood vessels, causing my eyes to bleed from behind. I remember hearing “O Holy Night” fading out on the radio as I sat there in pain and shock, touching my face that felt like a Picasso painting. It was like my eyes were up in my forehead and my nose was down in my chin and I was just wet all over with blood.

The first thought that came into my mind when I realized that I had been in an accident was this: “What if someone in the other car is dead?” It was a very sobering thought. I got out of my car to go see if everyone was ok and stumbled into the turning lane, which wasn’t the smartest thing to do considering there were still cars coming. I couldn’t see hardly at all because my eyes were bleeding, so I all I could make out was what was illuminated by the light of my headlights.

The strength in my legs completely gave out and I went into shock as I collapsed in the middle of the street, crying some of the most painful tears from freshly wounded eyes that had just seen my totaled car and the other cars on the side of the road. A kind man held my hand and waited with me in the road until the ambulance had arrived. I told the police officer over and over and over again, “I didn’t see anything! I didn’t see anything!” He confirmed to me that the driver of the white truck was driving without their lights on, even at 9:00 PM in a rain storm. There was no way I could have seen it coming.

Thankfully the officer confirmed to me that no one in the other vehicles were injured even in the slightest except for me. They cut off my coat and sweater to check for any broken bones, which luckily I didn’t have. Then they strapped me to a stretcher and lifted me into the ambulance to take me to the hospital to have my eyes and face examined. By that point my right eye had already begun to swell shut and it was harder and harder to see. Then it occurred to me that I may never see again. I tried to recall all the faces of my family members and was so afraid I would forget what they looked like. I asked the paramedics on the ride to hospital if I was going to be able to see again. They sat there quietly and responded, “We really can’t say.”

I was met by my family at the hospital who were pretty shocked to see the state of my face. The nurse helped clean me up and checked per my request to make sure my contacts hadn’t slipped around to the back of my eyes. They were hurting so bad that I was convinced they were stuck back there, but luckily they had ejected upon impact. After she had finished with me, my Dad and brother-in-law administered a Priesthood blessing. I was blessed that I would heal without any permanent damage and felt the Spirit so strong in that hospital room. I was so grateful to have my family there with me and we shed a lot of tears together. My Dad said not to worry about the car — he was just grateful I was alive.

After being released from the hospital and returning home, my Mom told me that I should go look in the mirror before I went to bed. I really didn’t want to… but I did. And I cried some more. My Dad pointed out to me at my bedside after we had prayed as a family that a matter of seconds had defined my life and death. Had I entered onto State Street even seconds sooner than I had, that white truck would have hit my driver’s side going 50 miles an hour and I would have died instantly. I did not sleep hardly at all that night with the flashbacks repeating over and over again of that split second seeing the white truck in front of me and the feeling of the crunching metal. It was a miracle and I could not deny that.

The next day I was seen by one of the best plastic surgeons and eye doctors in the state of Utah. I remember feeling like a freak show walking into the lobby and everyone staring at me. I was told by the plastic surgeon that I would need to have skin grafts taken from my legs to fix my face. I was told by the eye doctor that time would tell what condition my eyes would be in for the long run. I was really worried because I had been accepted into the Interior Design program at BYU-Idaho and was supposed to compete in the Utah Jr. Miss pageant in February. What was my future going to be with my face like it was and not knowing if I would be able to see again? As a senior in high school, suddenly everything I had planned was uncertain and I was scared.

I spent the next two weeks flat on my back in bed, my eyes oozing fluid, and my face swollen to twice its size. I underwent a painfully slow process of healing. It was during those two weeks that I realized that I wasn’t ready to die. My life was definitely not in order. I was not living in a way that I would have felt prepared to meet God on December 22, 2005. I needed to change. That was the year of President Hinckley’s “Book of Mormon Challenge” and I decided to read it before the end of the year. While it hurt my eyes like crazy to read the fine print, the Spirit that enveloped me in my room made all the pain worthwhile. After I had finished the last chapter in Moroni, I knelt down and prayed to know if it was true. This was the first time I had ever read it cover to cover and earnestly sought a testimony. I was given an answer and I knew it was true without a doubt. Those two weeks were among the most sacred of my entire life. I came to know Christ in a way that I never would have had I not had that accident. I knew it was necessary for me to turn my life around and that was the only way God could get my attention. I made a promise to God that I would dedicate my life — the life that He had spared — to Him.

When the two weeks were up and I was about to head back to school, I went in for my follow-up appointment with the plastic surgeon and the eye doctor. The plastic surgeon was speechless and even emotional when he saw that the skin on my cheek and nose had completely knit itself back together, appearing as though I had only a slight pink sunburn on my cheek from ski goggles. The eye doctor was also stunned to see that the ruptured blood vessels behind my eyes had completely healed. I didn’t have skin grafts. And I didn’t go blind. God had given me a second chance — a chance to change. 

So why am I retelling this story? Because I know there is someone out there who will read this who is also not living their life in a way that would prepare them to meet God. Someone who needs to change. Someone who needs a second chance. This is the importance of why #ASaviorIsBorn. Because of Jesus Christ, we can change. And we’re not just talking about second chances — we’re talking about a chance each and every day to turn things completely around. It is never too late to change. When we celebrate His birth each Christmas, we are celebrating our spiritual freedom from the bondage of the permanence of our mistakes and our sins. I have never been able to tell this story without being overwhelmed with emotion because it was tailored just for me. I am so grateful that God allowed me this experience — a chance to wake up and heal from the scars of my rebellious life and become a new person.

The Mormon.org Christmas campaign this year has a particular significance to me on my 10 year anniversary of this car accident. Please take a moment to watch this powerful video and ponder what our world would be like without a Savior. The permanence and price of our wrongs would be pretty heavy. Like it says in this video, it would be a world where every heartache lasted forever and every wound never healed. But thankfully we will never know that world. This is why we celebrate Christmas! Because of Him! My prayer is that you will feel of the love that God has for you and that you may come to know His Son, Jesus Christ, in a more personal way this year. May your Christmas this year be filled with the peace only the Savior can provide.

LEARN MORE AT CHRISTMAS.MORMON.ORG

The Story Behind #IAMSTIGMAFREE

This #IAMSTIGMAFREE music video is a symbolic and artistic expression of our message as fighters of mental illness who are seeking to break free from the negative stigmas. At the beginning of the video, everyone is disactivated and frozen in their solitude. But one person reaches out to another symbolically by placing her hand on her back, setting into motion a domino effect that spreads through the entire group until all are activated and united. This represents the power of one person to touch many lives. You may be “like a small boat” or “only have one match,” but that small boat can send out big waves and that one match can make an explosion. You can change and even save someone’s life who is battling mental illness by reaching out them in kindness and in love.

“Living with a mental illness is like a tarring of the soul. It’s dark. It’s scary. It’s heavy. But we are not afraid to get up and fight every day.” That symbolic representation of the ‘tarring of the soul’ is found in the black handprint on the back of each fighter’s baseball tee. The individuality of each fighter is highlighted through her movements and facial expressions, showing that we all have a unique contribution to make in this conversation about mental illness. The energy, vitality, and power you see in each of these fighters is evidence of their passion to end the stigma and be seen as they truly are.

“We are fighting to break free from the negative stigmas placed on those of us with mental illness. We are fighters. We are not our labels. We have each other’s back. And we are breaking the silence.” A symbolic portrayal of breaking the silence and stigma is literally created as boards are broken over the fighter’s leg and tossed to the floor, leaving the fighter victorious and free. Once all of the boards are broken, the fighters form a circle around the broken stigmas with their arms around each other. The one who initially set the waves into motion lights a match and drops it on the boards resulting in an explosion of light and freedom.

All fighters join together in unity of movement and song like an army marching into battle. All hands go into the air with the declaration, “I’ve still got a lotta fight left in me!” The closing shot shows one fighter reaching out and dedicating the project to Delia — a friend and fellow fighter who was the inspiration for the creation of #IAMSTIGMAFREE.

My hope in releasing this project to the world is that those of us who are living with mental illness — no matter our age, gender, ethnicity, or social status — will be seen as the fighters that we truly are and that one day we will be free from the negative stigmas that are so prevalent in our society. It’s time to break the silence. It’s time to break the stigma. It’s time to tell our stories without shame and without fear of judgment. This is our fight song. Please share this message with those who are fighting mental illness and help us end the stigma.

>> VIEW THE PLAYLIST OF ALL 17 FIGHTER’S INTERVIEWS HERE <<

IAMSTIGMAFREE_CAST FINAL
Photography by Martha Keyes
Hair & Makeup by Becky Swasey (beckyswasey@gmail.com)
Videography by Tucker Dansie and Chris Peck
Filmed at Club Alison

FRONT ROW: 
Karli Carr, Megan Rogers, Ashlee Schroeppel, Ashley Sargeant,
Jessica Oberg, Sarah Christensen, Seantay Hall

SECOND ROW:
Maryanne Nelson, Kylie Spilker, Suzy Jordan, Lindsay Titus,
Ashley Frederickson, Rebecca Sato

THIRD ROW:
Bree Campbell, Saydee Taylor, Kate Lundquist, Meghan Stolp

About a month ago I heard Rachel Platten’s “Fight Song” for the first time and instantly fell in love with it. This was during the month of September and my social media feeds were exploding with posts about mental health awareness and suicide prevention, as is tradition each year. I felt impressed to add my voice to this very important conversation in a creative and memorable way but I wasn’t sure exactly how to do it. As one who lives with Bipolar II, anxiety, depression, and strong symptoms of ADD, OCD, and PTSD I have a lot to say (read more about my personal story HERE and my process of receiving a diagnosis HERE). And then a close relative had a devastating experience with mental health that really motivated me to follow through on that impression. I had this crazy idea to make a music video to “Fight Song” with as many other women as I could find to spread awareness about mental illness and to break free from the negative stigma. I believed then just as much as I believe now that our message will change the world.

As I listened to “Fight Song” over and over and over again, I could see in my mind exactly what this music video needed to be — the messaging, the tone, the apparel, the setting, the lighting — everything. I remember where I was when I visualized this project — standing by the window in my art studio looking out at Mount Timpanogos during a hail storm. How right that I should be looking at a mountain during a storm when the vision hit, as it was quite the stormy climb in every possible way to bring this all together. I just remember feeling completely overwhelmed with emotion and a strong sense of urgency to launch this music video by the end of October, but I knew there was no way I could fund a project of this scope on my own. I have sponsored myself on every Don’t Stop Sargeant project up until this one. After consulting with several friends, I came to the conclusion to launch a Kickstarter campaign to crowdsource enough money to pull it off. I gave myself 14 days to raise the $2,000 on Kickstarter needed to cover all production costs, and miraculously we reached the goal by the seventh day. It was then that I really knew that there was enough demand and support by my friends and family and even complete strangers to pull out all the stops and go full force into making this dream a reality.

I honestly had to take this entire project by faith. I had no idea if anyone else would really have the courage to put themselves out there with me. All I had to go off of was that powerful impression I had that day of the hail storm looking out at Mount Timpanogos. But the response was phenomenal when I personally invited friends to be in this video with me, who jumped on board then shared the invitation with their friends who also jumped on board. We ultimately had a cast of 16 incredible women (17 total, including me) who took a huge leap of vulnerability to share their personal story about living with mental illness with the world, in addition to being featured in our group music video to “Fight Song.” The miracles just kept coming. I was led to find the best videographer and editor, the best hair and makeup artist, the best choreographer, and the best photographer to be members of our production crew. It just all came together so miraculously. As I look back on the events of this past month, I can’t help but be overwhelmed with emotion as I write this, seeing how everything worked out the way it did. God’s hand was in absolutely everything with this project. Because of Him what started as a simple impression became a powerful reality.

There were so many moments during the day on Saturday October 24th when all these women came together to film their stories and this music video that I just kept asking myself, “Is this really happening?” It felt like I was in a dream! I would find myself looking around at the girls wearing their #IAMSTIGMAFREE baseball tees and dog tags and practicing their choreography just feeling like I was in a daze. (That probably had something to do with the fact that I was running on 2.5 hours of sleep from the night before, ha!) It was so moving to see them reach out to one another in love and kindness, to encourage and lift each other when it was their turn to film their segment. It was unforgettable to be the one sitting across from each one of them as they told their story on camera. To see the beauty in each of their faces, the light in their eyes, and the courage in their hearts was one of the most extraordinary experiences of my life. They came in as strangers and left there as sisters. It was truly an amazing day of hope, healing, and friendship. I’ll never forget it. One of the most powerful moments of this whole experience was at the end of the day when we filmed several of the participants breaking boards over their leg with different mental illnesses painted across them. Then we stood in the circle with one foot in and took this picture. This serves as a powerful reminder to me of what we accomplished in this project — we literally broke the stigma and we did it together.

STIGMA FREE

I hope you will take the time to listen to the powerful and personal stories of each of the 17 fighters HERE and share them with your friends and family, especially those who are struggling and need to know they are not alone. There is no need to suffer alone. Like Rachel Platten says in her song, I might only have one match — just one voice — but I can make an explosion. Please help us share our stories with others. There is such strength in numbers. Thank you so much to everyone who has shown unbelievable love and support through this whole experience. We could not have done this without you!

#IAMSTIGMAFREE // Meghan Stolp’s Story

Meet Meghan Stolp — a fearless fighter of anxiety, panic disorder, depression, and ADHD.

“If I had to say one thing to anyone that was going through what I do, it is possible to overcome it. While it may never go away completely, it is possible to be happy and to live life in a normal way — no matter what other people say, no matter what labels you may feel like you put on it. You’re still a person.”

// MEGHAN STOLP
clogger74@yahoo.com

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MEGHAN STOLP_2

MEGHAN STOLP_3Videography by Tucker Dansie and Chris Peck
Photography by Martha Keyes
Hair & Makeup by Becky Swasey (beckyswasey@gmail.com)

>> READ THE STORY BEHIND #IAMSTIGMAFREE HERE <<

#IAMSTIGMAFREE // Suzy Jordan’s Story

Meet Suzy Jordan — a fearless fighter of anxiety, depression, and pornography addiction.

“The message that I just want to share is that there is so much hope out there. We don’t feel it, we don’t realize it because we feel like we’re in this box. We can hear people encouraging us, calling us, asking how they can help but we can’t see a way out. But just responding to what they’re saying is what is going to help lead you to the door that will help you see that light. When we’re open we can connect with more people. It’s all just about connection and talking about it and when we do that then we really can heal once and for all.”

// SUZY JORDAN
suzannejordan22@gmail.com

SUZY JORDAN_1

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SUZY JORDAN_3Videography by Tucker Dansie and Chris Peck
Photography by Martha Keyes
Hair & Makeup by Becky Swasey (beckyswasey@gmail.com)

>> READ THE STORY BEHIND #IAMSTIGMAFREE HERE <<

#IAMSTIGMAFREE // Rebecca Sato’s Story

Meet Rebecca Sato — a fearless fighter of postpartum obsessive compulsive disorder (PPOCD).

“What I would want every woman to know who has been through this or any mental health issue — I want her to know that she has nothing to be ashamed of, that she is a warrior Goddess and that she has survived something really difficult and just how proud I am of her, and all the amazing men and women who struggle through mental health issues and come through on the other side. I just want them to know that there is hope out there. The important thing is to reach out for help and to get the help that you need.”

// REBECCA SATO

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REBECCA SATO_2

REBECCA SATO_3Videography by Tucker Dansie and Chris Peck
Photography by Martha Keyes
Hair & Makeup by Becky Swasey (beckyswasey@gmail.com)

>> READ THE STORY BEHIND #IAMSTIGMAFREE HERE <<

#IAMSTIGMAFREE // Sarah Christensen’s Story

Meet Sarah Christensen — a fearless fighter of depression.

“If I had to say one thing to the people who struggle with this, I’d say that it’s real. It can be frightening. It can be hard. But just keep going and moving forward, and bit by bit it will get easier.”

// SARAH CHRISTENSEN

SARAH CHRISTENSEN_1

SARAH CHRISTENSEN_2

SARAH CHRISTENSEN_3Videography by Tucker Dansie and Chris Peck
Photography by Martha Keyes
Hair & Makeup by Becky Swasey (beckyswasey@gmail.com)

>> READ THE STORY BEHIND #IAMSTIGMAFREE HERE <<