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This podcast is dedicated to helping missionaries who return home early and to helping those who care about them. Click on an episode below to listen and learn more. You can also find and listen to episodes by category.
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Episode 55: Haley shares her story of choosing to return home after four weeks due to physical illness
Haley served for a total of four weeks–three in the MTC and one in the field–before choosing to return home early due to physical illness. While she had support at home, Haley still struggled with feelings of shame and loss, as well as anger towards God. In this episode she tells me her story of repairing her relationship with God, owning her decision to come home early, and working through the emotions of an early return. She also talks about how she recognized that returning to the field was not the right decision for her. This is a great episode for anyone struggling with the emotions that accompany an early return, particularly if the mission was much shorter than anticipated.
054: Psychologist and Life Coach, Cortland Watson, discusses the psychological and emotional aspects involved in returning home early from a mission
Psychologist and Life Coach, Cortland Watson, joined me on the podcast to discuss many of the psychological and emotional aspects involved in returning home early from a mission. Using personal stories and insights from his life, his career, and his education, Cortland guides the listener through learning more about emotions, identity, expectations, failure, shame, growth vs. fixed mindset, and so much more. He offers strategies for moving forward in life with connection. Cortland also addresses those struggling with abuse from others due to an early return and those contemplating suicide. This is an amazing episode for anyone struggling with returning home early from a mission.
Episode 53: Meg shares her story of deep depression due to hiding her sexuality and experiencing chronic pain
Meg returned home early after three months of service in Fresno, California. She spiraled into a deep depression due to hiding her sexuality and experiencing chronic pain. Her mission president and his wife did the best with the information that they had but left her with trauma because they didn’t understand how to address mental health. In this episode, Meg talks about her journey of self-acceptance, better understanding the Atonement, helping others on their journeys, and the importance of better mental health trainings for leaders.
Episode 52: Nicholas shares his story of returning home early due to trauma caused by abuse from a member
Growing up in the church, Nicholas never knew if the gospel was for him and he struggled to go to church because of his anxiety and lack of desire. After receiving his patriarchal blessing, and being amazed by the things stated in his blessing, he developed a testimony of the church and decided for himself to serve a mission. He served in Denver, Colorado but soon suffered from pain and verbal abuse, which caused him to suffer from mental health issues. He also suffered some verbal abuse from his mission president, which he was later able to confront his mission president about, resolve, and forgive. He eventually decided to go home. By staying firm in his commitment to God, Nicholas has stayed firm in his testimony and been able to move forward with his life and help others.
Episode 51: Brandon’s story of serving at the Utah Salt Lake Headquarters mission after a short call to a proselyting mission ended
Brandon was about to commit suicide when the thought came to his mind to “Give God one more chance.” Brandon decided to act on that thought and prayed mightily. This decision to pause and act on a prompting began his long journey of repenting of past transgressions and resolving his concerns with the church. Brandon wanted to serve a mission, but he wanted to do it right, and make sure all things were resolved before he went and served–both his former transgressions and his faith crisis–which took a few years.
After this time passed, he received a call to serve in the Illinois Chicago Mission for only a few months. He lives with autism and was very frustrated with this short call as he felt his ability to serve was misunderstood because of his diagnosis. But, he still went and loved his mission even though he dealt with imposter syndrome. After those few months, he was sent home, and after a series of ups and downs, which he details in this episode, he was called to serve in the Utah Salt Lake Headquarters mission–a mission that he initially hated. However, a sacred experience humbled him and helped him learn to love and appreciate his mission. Brandon’s story is one about promises being fulfilled and a testimony to the importance of listening to God and acting on promptings. It is an inspiring listen for anyone.
Episode 50: A chat with author Destiny Yarbro who returned home early twice for physical and mental health reasons, and now helps early-returned missionaries all over the world
Destiny Yarbro returned home early twice. The first time she returned home early from the MTC for physical health reasons. The second time, she went to the mission field and then returned early for mental health reasons. She not only felt like she had failed the Lord upon this second return, but she truly felt like she had committed a transgression (even though she hadn’t) because the Lord didn’t heal her and so must not want her in the field anymore.
Destiny experienced a chronic illness where she had to lay horizontally for months on end. This was extremely difficult emotionally, but eventually she began to feel peace and joy again as she made goals for herself and accomplished them. She called them her “horizontal goals,” and they included spiritual goals and secular goals. As she worked towards these goals, she began to see miracles in her life, some of which eventually led to her serving a service mission while at home.
Destiny has since gone on to write a book to help early-returned missionaries, work with the Church’s missionary department to make the service mission program what it is today, and serve members of the Church all over the world. She does all of this while still dealing with chronic physical and mental health issues. Destiny is absolutely incredible and literally anyone and everyone would benefit from listening to her story.
Episode 49: Addie shares the many emotional, mental, and physical health trials she experienced on her mission before ultimately being sent home due to COVID-19
Addie had always desired to serve a mission and when her call came, she was excited to go! However, a few months into her mission, she was emotionally abused by her companion and housemates. It was a very isolating experience for her. She also began having some physical health problems due to allergies. And, to top it off, she suffered a lot from OCD as well. Despite these things, Addie did manage to continue on until the COVID-19 pandemic struck and she was sent home along with thousands of other missionaries. She talks about her struggles on the mission as well as what it was like to go home due to the pandemic and the emotions and struggles that came with that. Furthermore, Addie told me that she didn’t love her mission and we discussed the cultural implications of that. This episode will comfort anyone who had a rough time on their mission, whether they served the expected amount of time or not, to know that they are not alone and to find a path forward.
Episode 48: Jackson shares his story of returning from his mission early twice for physical health reasons
In this episode, Jackson shares his story of returning home early twice. The first time, he served for eight months before physical health problems required that he come home. The second time, he served for seven months (in the same mission) before a different set of physical health struggles struck him and he again needed to return home early. Through all of this, Jackson had an amazing support system who helped him to talk kindly to himself and put things in their proper perspective. He tells me why he chose to stay home the second time, takeaways he learned from this experience that will serve him well in life, and gives great advice to those who have come home early for any reason.
Episode 47: Jacob shares his story of returning home early for physical health reasons, dealing with judgement, and ceasing his habit of seeking validation from others
Jacob started his mission journey long before he even got his mission call. Overweight and insecure, Jacob decided to make some changes. He got into body-building and realized it was a way from him to grow and push himself. He decided to apply this new mentality to all areas of his life, including spirituality, and eventually decided to serve a mission.
However, as soon as he arrived in his mission, he began experiencing breathing problems, possibly due to the recurrence of a childhood illness, and then later had a hard time swallowing. He managed to stay for seven months, but finally needed to go home. He stated that he believes that if he’d been able to take care of his physical health more, especially through more exercise, these illnesses would not have bothered him as much, or perhaps not have occurred at all. His health improved dramatically once he resumed his workout routine.
Jacob was lucky to have a lot of support from those around him, although he did also deal with some judgement which really bothered him for awhile. Ultimately though, Jacob learned to stop seeking validation from others and to love and accept himself as he is, to set goals for himself, and to understand more fully his divine potential.
Episode 46: Violet tells her story of returning home early due to depression and anxiety and then serving a service mission in the San Jose area
Violet was born deaf and wears two cochlear implants. She served a mission to Washington D.C. speaking ASL. She came home early due to depression and anxiety after much consideration, prayer, and counseling with her mission president. She later served a service mission in her hometown area of San Jose. She shares with me her strong testimony and faith in God despite her trials (including the depression and anxiety that still plague her). She is a bright beacon of hope for anyone else struggling to know how to get through the dark night of depression.
Episode 45: Summer shares her story of returning home early from the MTC due to depression and anxiety
After a period of inactivity, Summer returned to church and began receiving promptings and dreams about serving a mission. She followed these promptings, but upon entering the MTC she developed terrible anxiety, including panic attacks, and depression. Her mental health became so bad that her physical health began to decline as well. She returned home from the MTC feeling confused and defeated. She soon discovered the reason for her early return though when she was able to help a friend embrace the gospel. Summer also talks to me about how she hears the Spirit and how that has helped her make decisions in her life. She still struggles with depression and anxiety today and talks about what helps her through this ongoing trial.
Episode 44: Jake shares his story of growing up with cerebral palsy, becoming inactive, discovering himself as an LGBTQ individual, returning to church, serving a mission, and returning home early due to belated confession
Jake was born with cerebral palsy and as a result was often excluded from activities as a youth in the church. As a result of this exclusion, and a falling out with a friend, Jake became inactive during his later teen and young adult years. He is part of the LGBTQ+ community and identifies most closely as queer. While he was away from the Church, Jake had a close brush with suicide and felt the Spirit tell him to “come home.” Jake contacted the missionaries who helped reignite his testimony and desire to come back to church. Shortly after coming back, Jake decided to serve a mission despite his physical limitations. While on his mission, Jake realized that there were things from his past that still needed to be cleared up, particularly related to homosexual immorality, and he opened up to his mission president. Jake was sent home, which he initially felt peace about, but upon returning home was treated in a way that led him into inactivity again. Jake is currently trying to find peace again with the Church, but in the meantime is also doing what he can to deepen his relationship with God and Jesus Christ. He shares with me his insightful perspective on church policies and discipline, as well as how being different in the Church can be extremely difficult. Jake is very open, raw, honest, and vulnerable in this interview and anyone would benefit from listening to his story.
Episode 43: Kate returns home early due to emotional and physical abuse from companions
Throughout her childhood, Kate was emotionally and physically abused by her father, and then later by her stepmother. While on her mission, Kate experienced anxiety and undiagnosed ADHD. These mental health struggles were not understood by her companions and they became exasperated with her and abused her emotionally and even physically as well. This re-traumatized Kate and brought up a lot of PTSD. She was given a sedative to calm her, but eventually things came to a head and she decided to go home. Upon returning, Kate felt “broken, undignified, and like a complete failure.” She transitioned to a service mission shortly after returning home and the healing began. Her family also rescued a dog, which became an emotional support animal for Kate. During this episode, Kate shares how she has been able to turn negatives into positives her whole life, and this experience of returning home early from her mission is no exception.
Episode 42: Genisse’s story of coming home early due to depression and anxiety and then returning to her mission
Genisse is the first missionary I have spoken with who came home early due to mental health reasons and then returned to her mission. In this episode, she shares with me her journey of choosing to come home and then choosing to return which includes the ups and downs of therapy, moving forward with life during the 16 months she was home, keeping the desire to return to her mission alive, and going through the required process to return. She also shares what it was like to return to a mission, how she coped with her mental health upon her return, and what has happened in her life since then–including working on a book about this subject and owning a small business, all while still dealing with her depression and anxiety!
Episode 41: Pascal Friedmann shares his story of returning home early due to severe thyroid dysfunction
In this episode, Pascal tells me his story about returning home early due to a prolonged illness that started about a month after he arrived in the field. It was misdiagnosed as depression and homesickness, but turned out to be severe thyroid dysfunction. Pascal shares how he was ostracized by many in his ward back home in Germany and how that led to a period of inactivity because he felt like he didn’t belong. When he moved to Utah for school, he felt like he was able to start over with the church and found fellowship and understanding. Pascal also shares his story of conversion to the church and how his testimony helped him to stay in the church even when it was hard. He also tells me about the miracles that happened during this trial and shares wisdom he’s gained for anyone going through something similar.
Episode 40: What is the “rest” of a mission like?
There are so many questions that run through the mind of an early-returned missionary, not least of which is questions along the line of “What is the rest of a mission like? Specifically, what is the rest of a proselyting mission like?” To answer this question, and several others, I have invited five missionaries who completed the expected amount of time on their missions to come on the podcast and answer questions from those who needed to return home early. These are people I’ve talked to before, many times, about their missions, and I know they would give completely honest, sincere answers about what the “rest of a mission” is like–the good and the bad. Some suffered depression, anxiety, companion issues, etc. but for one reason or another were able to complete the intended amount of time. Some didn’t struggle with anything serious at all, but like all missionaries, they each had mission experiences unique to them.
Episode 39: JT shares his experience of returning home early due to depression
JT had never experienced depression before his mission. He recalls being bullied in the MTC by his companions for six weeks before finding relief in the field before the depression got worse. He stopped feeling his emotions, had bad insomnia, and eventually suicidal thinking. Upon returning home, he felt like such a failure. He was very confused about what had happened to his mental health as he began to experience panic attacks. He saw a therapist which was helpful and also eventually got involved with Mission Fortify and became and early-returned missionary coach which helped his healing process immensely. Although JT isn’t overly fond of talking about his mission today, he wouldn’t change anything because he feels like it’s made him better.
Episode 38: Richard Ostler, former YSA Bishop, shares what he has learned about helping those who feel marginalized in the Church
In this podcast episode, Richard Ostler (host of the podcast Listen, Learn, and Love) shares what he has learned about helping those who feel marginalized in the Church, including early-returned missionaries. Richard has served in multiple leadership positions, including as a YSA bishop for three years. Richard is also the parent of an early-returned missionary (due to COVID and OCD Scrupulosity) and shares his experience of going through that trial with his son. In addition to these things, Richard also shares what is challenging about leadership positions, gives good advice to those who return home early, as well as to leaders, and lay church members. He emphasizes honoring personal revelation, utilizing the gift of the Atonement, and loving everyone–especially those we do not understand. And, he tells of his great love for millennials. This is an episode you won’t want to miss!
Episode 37: Synne returns home early due to perfectionism and self-harming and becomes the first service missionary in Norway and Sweden
In this episode, Synne shares her story of returning home early from her mission in France due to perfectionism, anxiety, depression, and self-harming. She felt like she had failed Heavenly Father and was devastated. However, because of her desire to continue serving, Synne immediately requested to become a service missionary upon returning home, even though there had never been a service missionary in Norway before. Synne persisted despite this and with the help of her leaders, she became the first service missionary in Norway and Sweden! Listen to Synne’s story if you want to feel inspired and uplifted about how to continue doing the Lord’s work even when things don’t go as planned.
Episode 36: Sarah shares her story of experiencing covert abuse from a companion and her dad while also returning home early for physical health reasons
Sarah was sent home during the COVID-19 pandemic because of physical health problems. She begged her mission president to stay, but he was concerned she wouldn’t get the help she needed if an emergency happened and so after 15 months in the field, she went home. At the time, she was also experiencing covert abuse from her companion which brought up a PTSD response of abuse she had experienced from her dad. In this episode, she discusses that abuse, the trauma it inflicted, and what she has learned by going through this trial.
Episode 35: Josie shares her story of coming home early after 15 months due to stress, anxiety, and panic attacks, and going through a faith crisis
In this episode, Josie shares her story of coming home early after 15 months due to stress, anxiety, and panic attacks that increased in severity. Gospel activities triggered large amounts of anxiety for her, leaving her scared and confused, and she began to abandon the truths she had always held dear. The gospel began to fuel her anxiety rather than soothe it. Through this trial, Josie is better able to help others who question their faith or leave the Church. Her testimony is stronger for having gone through her faith crisis, but she understands what it’s like to be on the margins of Church culture.
Episode 34: Tyler talks about his journey of intense anxiety, leaving the church, and returning to full activity
Tyler came home early due to intense anxiety and panic attacks after serving in the Spokane Washington Mission for 3 months. He actually loved being out on his mission, but his mind would not let him be stable. The experience of returning home early challenged his relationship with God and he left the church for a short time. He tells me that it was easier to think that God wasn’t real at all. He has since returned to full activity and he talks to me about what happened to get him to where he is now–happy and even more deeply committed to the Lord.
Episode 33: Ruby shares her journey of returning home early due to extreme depression, self-harm, and suicidal thinking
Ruby began struggling right from the get-go on her mission during at-at home MTC (due to COVID-19 restrictions). Her struggle soon turned into extreme depression and shortly after arriving in the field, she began to self-harm . She recalls feeling temporary relief upon cutting herself, but then felt guilt and like she wasn’t worthy and had failed God and her assignment as a missionary by self-harming. The depression continued though and soon she found herself making a suicide plan. She was sent home and felt like there was something irreparably broken inside of her upon returning home early. She felt abandoned by God and seriously considered leaving the Church. Her suicidal thinking and planning continued too upon returning home. In this raw interview, Ruby shares her pain and struggles openly, but also discusses how she has continuously overcome the worst of her depression and why she wants to live even though the pain is still there. She also shares poignant testimony of why she has chosen to stay in the Church and how she has deepened her relationship with her Heavenly Parents through this trial.
Episode 32: Jacob shares his story of returning home early due to belated confession
Jacob had always wanted to serve a mission, but due to some mistakes made before he left, he was unworthy to go. He lied to himself constantly to convince himself that he was okay, which led to him serving for 9 months before the guilt became too much and he had a powerful experience that helped him to seek repentance. Upon returning home, he intended to repent and return to his mission, but life began happening again and he soon found himself committing the same sins. It wasn’t until after a few more turning points that Jacob was finally able to forsake his sins, fully repent, and eventually return to his mission.
Episode 31: Elizabeth discusses returning home early due to OCD Scrupulosity and creating BeyondMyBadge.org
In this episode, Elizabeth shares her struggle with OCD scrupulosity, which she describes best as “perfectionism.” On her mission, Elizabeth was very focused on always doing things right (which caused her to constantly feel that she was doing things wrong.) This confusion led to her being very rigid and upset with her companions. She also felt unworthy to be a missionary because she wasn’t perfect. After five months, she went home and began unpacking what had happened. As her healing began, she came to accept the Atonement and let it into her heart rather than feeling like its healing powers were something she had to earn. She tells me about why she created BeyondMyBadge.org and what it has to offer early-returned missionaries as a resource website. Elizabeth is inspiring and if anyone is seeking to heal from OCD or perfectionism, listen to this episode and let the healing begin.
Episode 30: Drew Young shares with me his experience of returning home early from the MTC due to mental health struggles and talks about how he has since found purpose in his life’s mission
Drew Young, author of the new book “The Meaning of Your Mission: Lessons and Principles to Know You Are Enough,” shares with me his experience of returning home early from the MTC due to mental health struggles. He walks me through his journey of navigating years of lonely nights and suicidal thoughts to ultimately writing his book and sharing his story, and what he learned from it, with the world. Join me in listening to Drew as he discusses principles such as progress vs. perfection, exact obedience vs. obedience, the reasons we need to be careful about prying into people’s trials, and the anatomy of a mission call. Drew is an uplifting and engaging speaker who seeks to help others understand their greater missions in life and how our trials help us become who we are meant to be.
Episode 29: Lizzy tells her story of returning home early due to a dizziness that never stopped
In this episode, Lizzy shares her story of returning home early due to a dizziness that never stopped. Many people around her thought that anxiety was the cause of the dizziness and she struggled to find someone who would listen to her and give her the help she needed. After two and a half years, she finally received a diagnosis and was able to get the surgery she needed and begin the path to physical healing. She shares with me the anger and frustration she felt at others, herself, and God during this time, but also the peace and comfort she received along the way and how she is now able to move forward with forgiveness.
Episode 28: Rian shares her story of returning home early due to toxic perfectionism
In this episode, Rian shares with me her story of returning home early due to toxic perfectionism, something that she didn’t realize she struggled with until she was on her mission and her usual coping mechanisms were gone. She suffered from physical and mental symptoms of the perfectionism such as stomach aches, anxiety, and panic attacks. She often felt like a failure while on her mission and eventually realized she needed to return home to get the help she needed. Although she felt broken upon returning home early, Rian has learned a lot about managing her perfectionism and shares openly the tools she has learned and gained, mainly through therapy. She also shares how her faith has increased through this trial, how she has gained empathy and understanding for others. and how she now looks back on this trial of returning home early as a sacred personal experience.
Episode 27: McKenzie discusses returning home early due to anxiety and homesickness
McKenzie has struggled with anxiety for most of her life, but when the prompting came to serve a mission, she faithfully accepted the call to serve. While she loved several parts of missionary work, she continued to struggle with anxiety and often felt overwhelmed and tired. She struggled to sleep for five months and her mental and physical health took a toll before she decided to return home early. She came home to supportive parents and leaders and a little more than a year later is doing very well and is able to look at her mission experience healthily. She particularly talks about overcoming discouragement from the adversary and what she leans on when days are hard. Her thoughts will benefit any returned missionary (early or otherwise) who is struggling with anxiety or discouragement about his or her mission experience.
Episode 26: Bob and Elaine discuss, as parents, the effects of our culture on missionaries who return home early
In this episode, Bob and Elaine share their journey of navigating the culture of our Church that still surrounds missionaries who come home early as they experienced it with their son, who needed to return home early from the MTC. Their son was told terrible things about what would happen to him if he returned home early and Bob and Elaine had their work cut out for him in trying to undo the damage of the effects of cultural opinions about their son’s struggles and need to return home early. They dove into research provided by Dr. Kris Doty-Yells and have since prepared a presentation based on their experiences with our culture that they have presented at local levels and at church headquarters. Bob and Elaine are full of compassion towards missionaries who need to return home early and hope to some day see the culture and stigma change and want to do whatever they can to help change it.
Episode 25: What can I expect if I stay home?
In this episode, five missionaries who came home early for various reasons, and chose to stay home, answer questions previously submitted via a questionnaire distributed on social media. They discuss their experiences with making the decision to stay home, moving forward with life, dealing with the guilt of not returning, whether or not they feel like “real returned missionaries,” and how they talk about and feel about their missions now. If you are struggling with the decision to stay home or go back out, or if you have already made the decision to stay home and just want to know what you can expect next, listen to this episode and continue the healing process.
Episode 24: What can I expect if I return to the field?
In this episode, five missionaries who came home early for various reasons, and chose to return to the field either as proselyting missionaries or as service missionaries, answer questions previously submitted via a questionnaire distributed on social media. They discuss their experiences with making the decision to return to the field, choosing between a proselyting mission or a service mission, how they overcame the fear that the same issues that caused their early return would happen again, how they dealt with feelings of impatience, envy, and confusion while waiting for the right time to return, and how they adjusted to missionary life again. If you are struggling with the decision to stay home or go back out, or if you have already made the decision to return to the field and just want to know what you can expect next, listen to this episode and continue the healing process.
Episode 23: Layton returns home early due to a suicide threat after seeing a robber in his home
In this episode, Layton shares his story of the trauma he experienced on his mission from seeing a robber in his home and the suicide threat that resulted from his inability to cope with that trauma. Layton also discusses the homesickness he was already feeling and how the experience with the robber compounded that anxiety. However, despite these harrowing subjects, this podcast is filled with a message of hope from Layton as he discusses what helped him process these experiences and the immense love he has felt from the Savior and those around him. He shares resources, experiences, and testimony and talks about how he can now think back fondly on his mission and enjoy life.
Episode 22: Sophie Returns Home Early Due to COVID-19
Sophie served in the Washington D.C. North mission for 17 months before needing to return home early to Vienna, Austria due to the COVID-19 pandemic. Even though she nearly completed her intended amount of time on a mission, Sophie is still facing many of the same challenges as other missionaries who have needed to return home early due to the pandemic. She and I also discuss how Austria is handling the pandemic and the similarities and differences between Austria and the United States. Since returning home, Sophie has created a blog for all missionaries who have needed to return home due to COVID-19 called “The Quarantined RM” which you can find at quarantinedrm.wordpress.com.
Episode 21: Courtney’s early return due to physical health, the mental toll it took on her, and her decision to return to the field
While in the field, Courtney came down with dengue fever. She was given a shot for the fever, but likely got a pathogenic bacteria from the shot that caused her to need to go home after six months in the field. She is still figuring out her physical health problems to this day. Courtney speaks openly and candidly about her experiences, including the mental health struggles she has faced since coming home early. However, she also talks about the miracles that have happened that show her that God still loves her, cares for her, and approves of her. She bears powerful testimony of the Atonement and God’s plan for each of us. Additionally, Courtney chose to return to the field after her physical health was good enough and she speaks openly about what that was like and why she feels that was the right choice for her.
Episode 20: Early-Returned Missionaries and COVID-19
In light of the recent announcement from the First Presidency and Quorum of the Twelve Apostles regarding COVID-19 and missionary service, many missionaries are returning home early. There has been mixed reactions on social media to this announcement and impending homecomings, mostly supportive, but some apprehensive about how those who have not previously returned home early due to COVID-19 will be perceived. In this episode, I address the concerns of those who are feeling apprehensive for coming home early due to reasons besides the recent pandemic and also welcome home and address the concerns of those who are returning due to COVID-19. I also provide some thoughts and counsel to those seeking to help those returning home early due to the pandemic or any other reason.
Episode 19: Daniel Shares His Story of Returning Home Early Due to a Broken Ankle and then Returning to the Field
While on his mission in Columbia, Daniel broke his ankle. He was able to serve for about six months before he realized he needed to go home and get it properly taken care of. He thought he’d only be home for a few weeks, but it ended up being 13 months as the surgery required for his ankle ended up being more complicated than anyone expected. Daniel felt a lot of failure for returning home early that also caused him to feel very anxious and depressed. He bears powerful testimony of the Atonement and how it helped him during this dark time. He also shares with me his experience of returning to a mission and how it is different than initially going out on a mission, as well as what life is like after completing the expected amount of time.
Episode 18: Abi Shares Her Experience of Serving a Proselyting Mission and a Service Mission
After twelve months in Germany, it became clear to Abi that her depression and anxiety had become too much and that she needed to go home. However, she still didn’t feel that her mission was done and upon hearing about service missions decided that she wanted to finish her mission by “transferring” to this kind of a mission. In this episode, Abi shares her experience of serving at the Motion Picture Studio in Salt Lake City, discusses the schedule and expectations while on a service mission and what makes it different than a proselyting mission. She also shares her testimony and faith both about the purpose of her serving a proselyting mission and then a service mission and the Lord’s love for her. Abi also discusses her mental health struggles and her methods for both overcoming and coping with the effects of anxiety and depression.
Episode 17: Thea Shares What She Learned by Coming Home Early Twice for Worthiness Reasons
In this episode, Thea shares openly and candidly her two experiences of returning home early for worthiness reasons—the first time for belated confession and the second time for serious disobedience in the field. Thea shares with me what it was like to experience the stigma of returning home early for worthiness reasons, how she suffered from “crippling isolation,” distrust, and self-hatred. However, she also shares a strong message of HOPE for anyone else going through a serious repentance process and about the healing she experienced through the power of Christ’s atonement. She also shares how she was able to turn this trial into a good thing—she now goes about doing good by sharing her story and inspiring others to continue living the gospel and to find peace in their lives.
Episode 16: Ask a Therapist
In this episode, Harmony Packer, a therapist at Healthier You in Lindon, Utah who specializes in treating early-returned missionaries, joins me again to answer questions from those who came home from their missions early or from those who care about them. These questions were submitted in advance.
Episode 15: A Young Woman Shares Her Story of Struggling with Depression, Suicidal Thoughts, and a Lack of Parental Support
In this interview, a young woman who has chosen to remain anonymous, tells me about her struggles with depression and suicidal thoughts both while on her mission and after returning home early. She discusses the things that helped her—mainly therapy and a supportive bishop—and what wounded her further. She also discusses the rocky relationship that developed between her and her mom due to her mom’s lack of understanding about the depression (discussed at about 21.5 minutes in). This interview will allow you to really feel the rawness of depression, but also hope that things can get better as you continue to do the work to manage the depression and stay close to your Heavenly Father.
Episode 14: Austin Discusses Returning Home Early from the MTC
In this episode, Austin tells me about his experience of returning home after 10 days from the Provo MTC due to a sudden onset of severe anxiety and panic. He returned home to supportive family, friends, and leaders for the most part, but still struggled for several years to define his mission. Was it a mission? Could he say he had served a mission? What should he call that experience? Austin discusses how he has begun to make peace with those questions and also how he moved forward from the trauma of returning home early. He is now able to speak openly about his mission and experience with returning home early.
Episode 13: Brian Recounts what He has Learned the Last 20 Years from Coming Home Early due to Homesickness
This episode is especially for anyone who has been carrying the burden of coming home early for more than ten years. It is also especially for anyone who has born the brunt of unkind comments or false notions in our church culture. Brian suffered from homesickness shortly after entering the field. He chose to return home after six months and doing so felt like admitting defeat. It took him decades to find peace and support and he shares his journey with me in this episode.
Episode 12: Tammy Shares Her Perspective as a Parent and Researcher
In this episode, Tammy shares her perspective of being a mother of a missionary who came home early due to severe depression and anxiety. When her son came home, there were hardly any resources available to parents, and so Tammy dove into whatever research was available and wrote an article for parents titled “Wounded Warriors” which has been accepted for publication by the Ensign. Tammy and I discussed what she has learned and how she has grown through this trial, and also what is still hard about it. Tammy’s honesty makes her story very relatable to any other parent struggling with a child’s early return.
Episode 11: Tyson Discusses Returning Home Early for Worthiness Reasons and then Returning to the Mission Field after Two Years at Home
In this episode, Tyson discusses with me his need to return home early from his Latter-day Saint mission due to belated confession. He was lucky to have a supportive and inspired bishop as well as parents, but despite this, Tyson returned to what had been causing him trouble before even though he had hoped to get his sins resolved and return to his mission. Thanks to some tough love from his bishop, and a forced look at excommunication, Tyson did eventually make it through the repentance process, and, thanks to some more tough love from his best friend, he returned to the mission field. The transition was difficult, but by opening up to his leaders and discussing his concerns, Tyson found the strength to continue and finish what he had started.
Episode 10: Alyssa Shares her Struggles with Depression and Self-Harm while on a Mission
Alyssa served for eight weeks in the field with two trainers, one of which was very unkind to her. As a result of the constant belittlement, Alyssa began to dive deeper into depression and began to self-harm (which she delves more into at 26:13). She also lost a lot of weight due to the stress and depression. While she did have a good support system upon returning home, she did deal with a lack of understanding about the serious nature of self-harming and depression. Despite being home for only five months, Alyssa has a very positive outlook on life and talks about her healing journey openly and candidly.
Episode 9: Blake shares his experience of serving in the Utah Valley Service Mission after returning home early from Brazil due to anxiety
When Blake came home early from his Latter-day Saint proselyting mission in Brazil, he had many questions: Why? What was the purpose of coming home early? What was he supposed to do? How could he move forward? He was initially not interested in serving a service mission until he learned about the Utah Valley Service mission where he would have the opportunity to serve beyond the temple and the Bishop’s storehouse. Upon learning this, he felt like he wasn’t done and that there was more that he could do and was reassigned to labor in the Utah Valley Service mission where he now happily serves in the MTC. He shares with me a powerful testimony about the validity and power of service missions, talks about the growth he has experienced by serving one, and also discusses facing the stigma that his reassigned mission is less than his first mission. Blake also discusses the culture shock he faced in Brazil that triggered his anxiety so badly that it began severely affecting his physical health and the anxiety he faced about coming home.
Episode 8: What is a Service Mission and Should I Consider Serving One?
In this episode, Elder and Sister Wilkey discuss their roles as Latter-day Saint service mission leaders in the Utah Valley Service Mission and share valuable information about the way service missions are developing and all the different ways to serve in Utah Valley (which they hope will extend to other areas soon!). They share with me the similarities and differences between a service mission and a proselyting mission. They also discuss the role of parents in service missions and explain the involvement of parents better. They are very candid and honest about the best parts and hardest parts of serving the Lord as a service missionary while sharing real examples of the various experiences that service missionaries they work with have had. Finally, they discuss the stigma that still surrounds service missions and how they hope that will soon change.
Episode 7: A Chat with YSA Bishop Barry Rellaford
In this episode, I chat with my friend and colleague Barry Rellaford, who is currently serving as a YSA (young single adult) bishop. During this interview, Barry tells me about the most challenging aspects of being a bishop and the training he receives from the Church (as well as from his life). He also discusses with me how he helps the members of his ward overcome the shame and stigma (both cultural and self-imposed) for coming home early and other reasons, how he leads others along the path of repentance, and how he tries to help early-returned missionaries (and others) when their lives don’t go as planned. Finally, Barry shares with me how he tries to make sure someone is ready to serve a mission. Barry also discusses the importance of keeping the Savior as his focus and how his main goal as a bishop is to lead others to Him.
Episode 6: Hayden’s Story of Severe Physical Illness, Mistreatment, Falling Away from the Church, Coming Back, Forgiving Others, and Finding Peace
Hayden came home early due to a severe case of H. Pylori. He was mistreated by his companion and mission president, probably due to major misunderstandings about his condition. However, the scars of what was said to him remained for years. Hayden was further judged and mistreated by various ward members for several months after his early return, causing him to no longer feel welcome at church. He was also rejected by several girls he tried to date because he came home early. Wanting to avoid further pain, Hayden went through a period of inactivity in the church and experimented with various substances. Eventually, he was able to turn things around and find peace by talking to others who came home early about his experience. When he came back to church, he had very kind, understanding leaders who helped him on the path of repentance. He also eventually met a wonderful young woman and they were later sealed in the temple. Hayden explains to me how he has continued to recover from his mission experience and forgive those who harmed him.
Episode 5: Deby’s Dual Perspective as an Early-Returned Missionary and as the Parent of an Early-Returned Missionary
Deby returned home early from her mission in the Washington D.C. South Mission 29 years ago. She shares her struggles with anxiety, depression, and an eating disorder. She discusses how she was mistreated upon returning home early and how it took her ten years before she ever even spoke about her mission. Just recently, her daughter returned home early from a mission and she shares what it was like for her to watch her daughter go through the experience. Deby offers timeless advice to both early-returned missionaries and parents in this personal, insightful episode.
Episode 4: A Chat with Harmony Packer, Therapist and Researcher for Early-Returned Missionaries
Harmony Packer is a therapist at Healthier You in Lindon, Utah who specializes in treating early-returned missionaries. During her undergraduate degree, Harmony joined Dr. Kris Doty-Yells in her research on early-returned missionaries and their parents, helping her publish two research papers titled Return with Trauma: Understanding the Experiences of Early-Returned Missionaries and The Experiences of Parents of Early-Returned Missionaries. In this episode, Harmony and I discuss the types of trauma early-returned missionaries (and missionaries who complete the expected amount of time) face, as well as persistence of stigmas and why they exist. We also discuss how to find compassionate people to talk to and the dangers of isolating oneself during painful times. Harmony will be starting a therapy group for early-returned missionaries on August 15 with Healthier You.
Episode 3: Nathan’s Story of Dealing with Severe Insomnia and Discovering the Validity of Caring for Oneself
Nathan Winters, author of the Medium article, “What Early-Returned Missionaries Want You to Know,” gives a raw interview where he shares his struggles with insomnia on his Latter-day Saint mission, his attempts to grapple cultural notions of “Forget yourself and go to work” with his great need to take care of himself, and how he is coping four months after his early return. Nathan also discusses what he has been found helpful and unhelpful from others who have tried to help him upon his early return.
Episode 2: Macady’s Story of Coping with Depression and Finding Hope
Macady was diagnosed with depression before deciding to serve a mission, but worked really hard to overcome her illness to still serve a mission for The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints. She was happy in the MTC, but soon felt the incoming of depression as soon as she arrived in the field. Due to a lack of understanding from her mission president, his wife, and those around her, she was sent home after just four weeks of service. In this episode, Macady relates to me her struggle with feeling unwanted and her deep shame of coming home early.
Episode 1: My Story of Battling Parasites and Finding Peace with Returning Home Early
This is my story of returning home early from my Latter-day Saint mission. With the help of my husband, James, I navigate the listener through my experience of choosing to serve a mission, to feeling ill, to my hospital stays in the Philippines, to making the decision to return home early, to choosing to stay home, to finally where I am now: completely at peace with my mission and coming home early.