Sunday, September 13, 2015

In my genes

I feel very inspired to write about a miracle that has taken place in my life; because hopefully the information I provide can help someone else. I don't normally talk about this, but I've been suffering with major depression for the last 14 years. I've been to multiple doctors, therapists, and psychiatrists. I'd be put on a new medicine and feel a little better, and then a few months later I'd feel just as bad or worse. I've tried all the different classes of anti-depressants, with combinations thereof, and nothing seemed to truly work. However, I do feel like they helped, and am grateful that I had access to them, so please don't discount their role in the mental health field. 

One thing that the medicines were never able to wipe away were the constant thoughts of suicide. I know, I used that word that makes everyone (including myself) grimace. For the most part, those thoughts were like gremlins, locked in a room in a corner of my mind. But I could always hear them banging on the door, or screaming to be let out. Sometimes they gott out, where they grew in size and power to resemble a massive monster of an unconquerable nature.

The only way to keep myself from being harmed from this hideous beast was to lie in my bed for hours on end, hoping and praying for it to go away. There were times when I couldn't lie in my bed. Where I'd be at work and something triggered my mind, unlocking those pesky gremlins. It was all I could do to function, let alone put on a smile and give good customer service. (Please note that I've never attempted suicide, but our judgments concerning those that have should be kept in check).  

I tell you these things in depth that you might better understand where I'm coming from and the significance of my miracle. There's so much more I'd love to ramble on about (the tabooness of mental health in our society being one), but I'll try to get to the point. 

About 6 or so months ago, a friend who struggles with infertility posted about finding out she has some mutated genes which may be an underlying cause of the infertility. She then linked to an article about this particular mutated gene, which goes by MTHFR (for real, that's the acronym). I was curious more than anything, and the article said that mutated MTHFR genes are linked to not only infertility, but also severe depression and anxiety, as well as other disorders. I started to research more, and found that those particular genes help in the process of folic acid and vitamin B, which then build amino acids and other sciencey stuff. It also plays a part in the making of things like dopamine and serotonin (chemicals that affect your mood). 

I didn't really understand the hard science of it, so I won't pretend to be an expert here, but I felt driven to figure out if my MTHFR genes were mutated and if it could be a potential clue to understanding my own treatment-resistant depression. I found out that if these genes are mutated, and you can't process folic acid normally, you need the pure form of folic acid, or folate (please forgive me in advance if my science isn't spot on). Folate is found in leafy greens, like spinach. You can also get a supplement, but, and this is important, you cannot just take folic acid tablets that you get at a vitamin store. It will do nothing for you. You actually have to get a folate prescription from a doctor -- they call a medicinal food. There are a couple of kinds, but the kind I started taking is called L-methylfolate. When I saw my doctor, he had never heard of MTHFR, but he was willing to give me the L-methylfolate because well, why not? It basically is just a vitamin. No side effects. 

The second thing I did was to find out if my genes were mutated. Some articles say that you don't have to get tested, that you could start just taking the folate and if that helps then awesome, but I needed to know. There is a company called 23andMe which will map out your genes for $100. They can only give you raw data concerning your genes as it relates to health matters (like if you have genes that mean you are more susceptible to breast cancer, Alzheimer's, etc), but there are sites that help you interpret the data (I'm happy to share all those sites if you're interested). It came back that two of my MTHFR genes were mutated. 

I started take l-methylfolate in June, and found out about my genes in July. And here's the miracle of all of it: I am finally feeling happy on an everyday basis, and even more importantly, I no longer think suicidal thoughts on a constant basis. I feel like it took about two months for the L-methylfolate to really take effect. This has been such a huge deal. I realize it can't be measured like the shrinking of a tumor, but I promise you my life has been changed. Just some examples: I keep my room more clean and am more apt to do housework. I laugh more. I'm eating better. **I exercise (which I also give credit to Luna for). 

Doing this research has also helped me realize there is so much we don't know, especially when it comes to our genetics. Yes, we still have agency, but who's to say the man with the extreme anger problem, or the child that can't sit still, or the teenager that can never be serious doesn't have some sort of deficiency that makes it twice as hard for them to overcome a particular weakness?

In closing, I don't want to come across as offering a cure all. Because it's not. I still struggle and have down days, but overall it's made a big difference. It's also not a solution for everybody -- to those people I pray that you'll one day find your solution. I share because someone else shared their hardship, and I was led to one of the biggest blessings in my life. I thank those who are supportive of me, but especially for a loving Heavenly Father and the quiet encouragement from the Holy Ghost to keep going. And for a loving older brother, Jesus Christ, who suffered for not only my sins, but my sorrows. And if you take nothing else from this, just please try to be a little kinder to all those you interact with.  

If you have any questions, I'd love to help answer them!

*TLDR I've discovered my MTHFR genes are mutated; but by taking L-methylfolate, my sufferings with depression have been significantly reduced. If you are struggling with depression, anxiety, and or infertility, you might want to look into the MTHFR genes.

**A note about depression and exercise. A lot of science has said that exercising can improve your mood, and even cure bouts of depression. While I agree with this, I also believe that there are times when people are so sick with depression that saying they'd be cured if they'd just exercise is a huge detriment to their mental status (read -- massive amounts of unneeded guilt). Or because they choose not to exercise, they obviously don't want to be happy. We don't judge people who are ridden with cancer when they're not pounding the treadmill, so why do we do it with severely depressed people? It takes an incredible amount of energy when your body is in survival mode; the thought of going on a walk would make me weep. Or I'd be starving, but afraid to cook something in the kitchen because there are knives in the kitchen and I didn't feel strong enough to fight that temptation, so I got fast food. Basically, try to be less judgmental of others. You don't know the demons they're fighting. End note.  

Sunday, February 2, 2014

To Catch a Job

It's no secret I'm on the look out for a new job. I was alerted to a copy writing position that I thought would be a good fit for me. When I started to type up the obligatory "my name is Elissa and please give me this job" email, I thought screw that. I wanted to show these people that I have a funny bone and a creative bone in my body.

I decided to make it look like Entertainment Weekly had interviewed me about my skills as a wordsmith. To do that, I also needed sweet pictures to back up those fightin' words. I roped my dear friend Adrian into a photo shoot that we pulled together in less than 2 days. Seriously, we worked magic.

My favorite aspect is that we were able to get a real anvil. Knowing great people like my friend Mary is like knowing the janitor staff at the Capitol. You get hooked up. The stump that the anvil is sitting on? That'd be fire wood that I rebundled to look like a tree stump. A stump from a stump. We made the legs of the work desk from every hard cover book Adrian owned. I bought a ton of chipboard letters at the HL (Hobby Lobby) and spray painted them black then threw them everywhere. Unfortunately most of the letters didn't even get a cameo appearance in the shoot; but now I have a ton of spray painted black letters if you ever needed to do your own version of Sesame Street.

We set up the shoot on a Saturday morning, and by the time we got it all set up, we only had 20 minutes to do that actual picture taking because I had to go into work. Adrian's an angel and cleaned it all up after. And isn't she a great photographer? She's does weddings if you're interested.

Sunday night I wrote out the "interview" and designed the pages. I'll admit, it's not my best work, but I really wanted to submit it by Monday. You never know when these opportunities will close.

And yes, I did spell out "hire me" with my black letters. It seemed better than silly words like "live," "laugh," or "love."

So far I haven't heard back from them. But if you're another potential employee impressed with my ninja skills, please contact me. I'd be delighted, to say the least.

Here's the interview if you aren't able to channel your inner Superman eyesight:

Elissa, how long have you considered yourself a wordsmith?
Does spelling “change my diaper” in pureed green beans count as wordsmithing? If so, I’d say since I was 10 months old.

That seems abnormally young to be using the written word. Are you a prodigy?
I was a prodigy. Unfortunately, I had to squelch my inner genius for the sake of my parents. I’m sure watching your toddler copy John Grisham novels onto the wall with crayon was a bit unnerving. Instead, I would placate them by playing peek-a-boo for hours; they really loved that stupid game.

We heard that you’ve even written while sleeping.
[Laughs] What can I say, I’m an excellent multi-tasker. While attending BYU-Idaho (where I majored in graphic design and minored in journalism), I would sometimes nod off during class. I didn’t want the teacher to be too offended at their lack of presentation skills, so I’d keep my pencil moving to look like I was writing notes. Sometimes I’d wake up and find I’d written out a dream without remembering it.

Tell me about your brainstorming capabilities
Sorry, no can do. Trade secrets and all. However, I will tell you being a ginger and having no soul grants me special privileges and certain, shall we say, opportunities.

Do you consider yourself a hard worker?
Do I look like a Cyberman? I believe you meant to ask if I work hard. Then the answer is yes. Unless it involves quantum physics or long division; if that’s the case, then I check out faster than Lindsey Lohan leaving rehab. Bless her heart.

You haven’t exactly had a writing job before, yet you consider yourself a wordsmith. Elaborate.
Working at Walt Disney World, driving buses in Alaska, being a copy editor for a small paper, and working in a craft store are all part of my plan to take over the wor … uh, I mean, become a master wordsmith. I like to think of those experiences as manure which has fertilized my idea garden. I tell you, I’ve got some exotic plants growing in my head which are just waiting for the right moment to be harvested.

You lived in Alaska?
Fairbanks, Alaska, to be exact. I even made the choice to stay there a winter. My grandfather may have walked to school in the snow uphill both ways, but I walked to my car in -40 degree weather without the help of my dogsled team or Sarah Palin. I hate to sound prideful, but I’m pretty sure I just one-upped my progenitors.

Well you are just a treasure. Any final words?
I just want to point out that this interview and photo shoot were thrown together in three days. Imagine the things I could accomplish with a team and a paycheck. My name is Elissa, and I’m a wordsmith.

*Yes, I did also send them a regular resume so they knew where I went to school and those kind of boring details.

Sunday, December 15, 2013

But Do You Recall, The Strangest Christmas Songs Of Them All

Like any good Christian, I enjoy Christmas. I love the family time, the presents, the food (sometimes the food more than the family ... don't tell my family I said that), the way people pretend they're at an all time happiness when in reality they're pulling the hair from their noses because the holiday stresses them out. But Christmas definitely wouldn't be Christmas without Christmas music; whether that be hymns or commercialized jingles pointing out special savings (Happy Honda days ... really?). 

Today, I want to point out why some of these songs may have the magic of Christmas, but it's a dark magic. 

Baby It's Cold Outside
Can I just say this is one of the creepiest songs in songville in general? There's a man, I'm guessing he's in his mid-50s, probably rocking a pedophile mustache, singing to a girl who most likely is 17 trying to convince her to not leave his den of iniquity because it's cold outside. All her good common sense is combated with responses like "you'll freeze and it's up to your knees out there." 

How is this a Christmas song? I think it may have started out as a Public Service Announcement showing the dangers of My Space relationships and accidentally was played on the radio after a Mannheim Steamroller rendition of "Joy to the World," therefore cementing into the minds of the listeners that manipulation is a Christmas theme. 

Santa Baby
If there's one thing we learn at Christmas, it's seduction gets you the best gifts. Even old fat Santa can't resist a pouty blonde who "innocently" asks for things like the deed to a platinum mine. A platinum mine. There's one thing this girl will never have to ask for: The entrepreneurial spirit. 

Winter Wonderland
"In the meadow we can build a snowman, then pretend he is Parson Brown. He'll say are you married, we'll say 'No man. But you can do the job when you're in town.'" 

A parson is a pastor. I'm guessing this is about a shot gun wedding in which the local small town pastor denied the couple a church wedding, so they had to wander out to the meadow to make their clergy out of snow. Taking their frustrations out on this cold effigy, they then turn him into a circus clown and watch the kiddies knock him down (notice the dual meaning as it correlates to the woman being knocked up with a kiddie). 

Side note: I used to think the lyrics were "then pretend he is sparse and brown." Then again, I grew up in California and our snowmen, made from tumbleweeds, were sparse and brown. 

The Christmas Song (Chestnuts Roasting On An Open Fire)
"And folks dressed up like Eskimos." 
1)Pretty sure the general public doesn't even know how Eskimos dress (think seal skins, animal furs, ivory trimmings. Surprised PETA hasn't banned this song).
2) The only people I've seen dressed as Eskimos were wax figures in an Alaskan museum. 
Conclusion: Folks dress up in gear from Burlington Coat Factory. Sorry that doesn't rhyme. 

My Favorite Things
This also gets the honor of "How In The World Did You End Up As A Christmas Song?" My friend said it's because it has the lyric "brown paper packages tied up in strings." Although in today's world, nondescript brown packages usually contain a bomb. 

But the thing about this song that I really can't wrap my head around is this part: "When the dog bites, when the bee stings, when I'm feeling sad; I simply remember my favorite things, and then I don't feel so bad."  

You're telling me that you've just been mauled by a rabid dog, your ankle is attached only by a few tendons, blood is geysering from an artery and you have the thought "Doorbells and sleigh bells and schnitzel with noodles" and then things magically seem better? 

Granted, I guess I too would feel better if I were on Oprah's episode where she hands out her favorite things, come dog bite, bee sting or the black plague.  

It's Beginning To Look A Lot Like Christmas
"Dolls that will talk and go for a walk is the hope of Janice and Jenn." 

Well, we do know Santa is an anagram of Satan, and it looks like Janice and Jenn are some devout Satan followers. The top of their wish list is to have dolls that talk and go for a walk; i.e. demons. Corey also asked for a doll that would talk and go for a walk. Here he is with his demon doll on Christmas morning: 

It's the Most Wonderful Time of the Year
For the most part this song is fine. Except for the line "There'll be scary ghost stories." Wait. I thought scary ghosts were associated with Halloween. 

"And then kids, when the elves found Rudolph, his nose was red. FROM THE BLOOD OF THE REINDEER HUNGER GAMES!!!"  

I Saw Mommy Kissing Santa Claus
Dear son, I know you saw me kissing Santa Claus last night. He is only one in a string of lovers I have. I'm surprised you didn't see me kissing Principle Jones on the porch swing or fondling daddy's boss Mr. Matthews in the laundry room. I realize you also thought I was tickling Santa Claus. It was a type of tickling, but a tickling only grown ups do that you'll understand when you're older. And no, daddy would not be laughing if he knew. 
Your Mom Who Gets Around

In conclusion, there are some messed up Christmas songs out there. But at least we have Mariah Carey's "All I Want For Christmas Is You," restoring faith in humanity's ability to write good Christmas songs.

Merry Christmas y'all.

Thursday, October 17, 2013

If you give Elissa a cookie ...

Dear friends and fans,
I realize you are greatly anticipating my post concerning my galvanization into the film world, but I must address something first.

For the past two months, I have made it a goal to limit my sugar intake to two days per week. In this I have been doing very well and am quite pleased with myself come the end of the day.

I'm mainly doing it because I have a slight sugar addiction, but I also do it because it feeds my self-righteousness.

I have been very dedicated and am able to pass up decadent trifle my dear aunt has made, or shake my head at cheap Costco gelato, and even resist the urge to lick the screen while looking at Pinterest.

The holiday season comes upon us, and we all know that means each day is pumped with at least a 304%  increase in sugary goodness. I'm at peace with the forthcoming fructose tsunami and have mentally been preparing for it.

But like any well-written superhero, I have a weakness in my armor.

Gifts of sugar.

You see, when you feel the need to be domestic and bake me supreme chocolate chip cookies that are fluffy in the middle but slightly crisp on the outside -- I cannot refuse such a thoughtful gift. I love sugar to begin with. And I probably love you. So to say no to two loves at the same time would be heralding Armageddon before its due time.

But just save it until one of your sugar days, you say. But I cannot. The wafting aroma of those cookies, though hidden next to the water heater, will permeate my dreams and drive me to madness until I enclose my jaw upon them.

Are you seeing the dilemma you put me in with your lovingly baked gesture?

So this holiday season, as you make your plates of mint brownies and peppermint bark cozied up to gooey caramels underneath seductive rolls of cinnamon -- please don't give me one. It's not that I don't appreciate your friendship or love that you thought of me. It's that I appreciate you thinking of me so much I'm willing to sabotage my own personal goals. This gives me such sweet moments of pleasure, but in the end I feel terrible about cheating myself ... and usually end up with diarrhea as well.

If you can't stand the thought of coming to my door caroling without leaving a token of holiday cheer, know I gladly take cash, check and bank transfers.

You really are just too thoughtful.

Sunday, October 6, 2013


I think we can all say we had unfounded fears as children. I had a couple of unique fears. Like fear of killer bees, O.J. Simpson (although, to be honest, this is a rational fear), the world coming to an end because the paintings of popes ran out of wall space (it was a 20/20 special and that's all my 7-year-old brain got from it ... whoa, tangent. Just understood why the show was called 20/20. As in perfect vision. Good name.), fear of the skeleton lady who sat behind my pillow at night, fear of the vent monster (courtesy X-files). Thinking about it, most of my fears came from TV. Although I'm sure my creative brain would have filled the fear-void with something had I not watched it.

Sometimes, my parents would capitalize on my somewhat paranoid state. Once, I went to the bathroom and when I came out, my whole family had disappeared and the house was pitch black. Instead of looking for them, I immediately ran to my neighbor's house sobbing that my family was gone. Turns out they thought it would be funny to hide from me. But I got the last laugh when I disappeared (to the neighbor's house) and they couldn't figure out where I was.

Now that I'm an adult (can I really say that?) I have different fears.

Fear of a hidden camera in my bathroom.
Fear of all crane flies I've killed coming back to life to attack me.
Fear of being mistaken as Miley Cyrus.
Usual fears.

A fear that I don't have is public speaking. Jerry Seinfeld once said "More people fear public speaking than death. Basically, they'd rather be in the coffin than speak at a funeral." Not me.

I also don't fear being incredibly awkward and making a fool out of myself, mostly for humor's sake. When I was serving a mission in Georgia I went to a transfer meeting intentionally looking ridiculous. Because I knew there was at least one person who would find in hilarious, and I didn't care what everyone else thought. Believe me, a lot of those missionaries later told me it was the first time they saw me and they thought for sure I was one joke away from being sent to the funny bin.

But then there are my deep fears. Fear of never marrying. Fear of failure. Fear of dying alone. Fear of not being remembered. Fear of never making something of myself. Which I'm sure most of us have.

Unfortunately, my fears keep me from my potential. Like writing. I know I'm supposed to write, because I believe I do it well; but then I sit down and fear envelopes me like London fog during a Victorian-themed horror movie. Or designing. My hands start to shake and my head starts to hurt and before I know it I'm rocking myself in bed pretending I'm a hermit crab.

Perhaps it's more anxiety than fear. Whatever it is, it's holding me back and I want it banished. And I realize I'm the only one who can truly fight my own demons.

What I really wanted to get to in this post is that I'm in a transitional point in my life and am facing two doors: mediocrity or potential. The mediocrity door is neutral in color, has a familiar door knob, even has a "welcome" mat printed in Times New Roman. Behind it lies a secure job and a regimented daily routine; but not a lot of fulfilling happiness. I do want to make something clear, I am in no way diminishing the choices other's make. My mediocrity may be someone else's potential, and vice versa. Like they say, one man's junk is another man's treasure.

But the potential door is abstract painted and doesn't even look like a door. More like a black hole with streamers and beads dangling from the top while being sucked into the vortex of unknown. There's no welcome mat. In fact, there's a giant canyon you have to leap over before even getting to the door. Behind it lies the possibility for adventure and growth, but also the possibility for bigger failures. It's an uncertain future financially.

Sitting here writing, I'm reminded of the show Dr. Who. If the doctor showed up at your house and asked if you wanted to travel with him though all of time and space, but with the possibility of death, danger, and disaster at every pit spot -- would you go with him? I think we all would like to say "Hell yes I would!" But has our life reflected this sentiment?

I'm letting you know I've started walking towards the black hole door. I'm shaking in my boots, and it may be some time before I even attempt to jump across that canyon, but I can no longer let fear stop me from living the life I'm most meant to live.

Wednesday, June 26, 2013

Dream Job

People have asked what kind of job I'm looking for. Here is a list of what my dream job would look like. Unfortunately, I don't know where this job is ... yet. But I know it's out there. If you're feeling like you know something that even semi fits this list, please send it my way. I will make you the ultimate cookies or something. 

-Be able to make people laugh
-Interact with lots of friends/make new friends
- Have the freedom to set own hours, not have to "save up" for vacation days
-Have Sundays off
-Be creatively challenged/yet enjoy the challenges 
-Excited to go to work-Not stuck at desk for 8 hours
-Opportunity to travel if I desire, but don't have to if I don't want to
-Be paid a substantial amount, enough so I can pay off debts and not worry about money, and be able to buy things such as house and car and have money left over to travel without feeling like I'm blowing a year's savings.
-Work with people who like me
-Feel fulfilled and like I'm doing something worthwhile
-Use my skills as a leader and teacher
-If there is a home base/office, I want it to have plenty of natural light, but not so much that it's annoying (I know, this is kind of weird, but I'm not fond of being walled in with the constant-never changing artificial light blasting down)
-Not have to sit for 8 hours
-Be able to grow/get promoted/take on more responsibilities 
-Help others
-Not feel guilty for taking days off
-My higher-ups like and respect me
-I like my higher-ups
-Others I work with will have good communication skills
-I have a sense of pride in my work, feel invested in it
-Job will have perks/benefits that other jobs won't
-Wouldn't be an impediment to raising a family
-Able to do fun things on a whim and leave work
-Do fun things at work

Saturday, June 22, 2013


I daresay it's about time for another post, don't you agree? And what a more appropriate  time than on my birthday.

I am now 28 years old. Why don't we have a looksie at the past year, shall we? (*This will only be a word journey as picture journeys take too long to upload and now that I'm 28 my days on this earth are numbered and I mustn't be bothered with such frivolous things.)

In the past year (and in no particular order) I have ...

○Driven a 45 ft. passenger motor coach
○Had my heart broken
○Been in a car accident
○Been sued
○Been to California, Utah and Alaska (Washington if we count layovers)
○Survived -55 temperatures
○Seen Mt. Denali/McKinley
○Gone to the Anchorage temple twice
○Seen wild: dolphins, killer whales, humpback whales, seals, otters, eagles, puffins, fox, caribou, moose, humans (no bears yet, don't worry, I'm working on it).
○Taken star trail pictures
○Called to be Relief Society president
○Seen the sun at midnight
○Started watercoloring again
○Started writing a story
○Been to the North Pole and sat on Santa's lap
○Slid down a slide made entirely of ice as well as go through a maze made of ice
○Joined the hipster ranks and got an iPhone/first smart phone
○Survived the Mayan apocalypse
○Worked as a copy editor/page designer at the second largest newspaper in the largest state
○Taken at least one photo everyday since Jan. 1
○Sent off quite a few sister missionaries
○Been the victim of a fender bender
○Eaten moose tacos, moose spaghetti, and bison burgers
○Read too many books to even count
○Watched too many hours of Netflix/Hulu that I should never count
○For making new and dear friends (not deer friends, I could never associate with someone with a name like "Bambie")
○Was a bridesmaid at my cousin's wedding
○Got to create some floral arrangements
○Seen the northern lights
○Went to my first Zumba class
○Found my gratitude journal and returned to writing in it daily (...mostly)
○Bought a car
○Found the unfortunate effects of taking too much caffeine
○Lived in three different places
○Navigated through ice fog (easier said than done)
○Grown my leg hairs to stages where it could be braided
○Took a long walk in the pouring rain

Not too shabby of a year. At times a very cold one, but a decent one.

I'm sure there are other things that I'm missing, and I debated whether I should list every time I fell asleep somewhere I shouldn't have, but decided I can't remember because I was sleeping. But out of all of these things, I think the number one highlight of my year is finding happiness from within. Last summer I was happy, but it was because I was surrounded with fun people and fun times. This winter taught me how to find happiness even when I was by myself; which because I worked nights, I was by myself a lot.

My last day of working at the News-Miner is June 27. I'm really excited. I don't know what life is going to bring me next, but I know it's going to be great. Yes, I'm looking for a new job. No, I don't have a specific job or place in mind. If you think of something for me, please send a bird my way. I'm trying to be open to all possibilities.

Until I turn 29 or my next post (hopefully the latter), I say adieu.