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The Early Homecoming podcast is dedicated to helping missionaries who return home early and to helping those who care about them. Below you can listen and learn more about those who returned home early for mental health reasons. You can also listen to episodes in other categories.
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Podcast Episodes: Mental Health
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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 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 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 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 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 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 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 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 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 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 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 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.