My name is Kaden. I served for 5 months and was given a medical release.
I wanted to take time to share my story in the hopes that it can help at least one future missionary one day.
When I first arrived at the MTC, I was hit with something that I didn’t expect or anticipate at all… extreme homesickness! It came as a complete shock to me and my parents because I showed no signs beforehand that it would be an issue. Before leaving on my mission I became very independent and had a great social life. I really only came home to sleep. So the level of extreme homesickness was a big surprise. I realize now that the shock of jumping rapidly from the carefree high school days to mission life and culture-shock were more than I knew how to handle. I also have a perfectionist view of rules and obedience, which made my feelings even more intense. Between those two things I felt overwhelmed. But I wanted more than anything to be obedient to the call of the prophet and serve the Lord. I always want to do what our Heavenly Father wants me to do.
I didn’t know how to deal with these intense feelings by myself. I tried to tuck them away and set out to “just forget myself and go to work.” I was blessed to pick up the language quickly. I also found that I had absolutely no fear of talking to people. Actual teaching and contacting were a strength to me and were the parts of missionary work that brought me joy. I looked forward very much to being able to get out into the field to be able to start teaching.
When I first got to the mission field after leaving the MTC, the feelings kept getting worse and became physical as well as emotional. I was extremely confused when my muscles became sore and were eventually in a chronic state of tension. We believe now that this was due to the prolonged stress mixed with the busy schedule and wearing a backpack.
I started to develop the worst headaches and pains in my shoulders, 24/7. They started and mid-September of last year and NEVER went away. I still have them. The headaches have been so severe and feel like migraines. Sometimes it´s an intense burning feeling, sometimes it feels like a thousand needles pricking at my brain all at once, or just a pounding, sore feeling. These pains come with bad neck cramps.
I also began to have panic attacks. Like 5-6 times a day at the worst point. My lungs felt like they were collapsing in/short of breath. I got these burning feelings in my chest. I started shaking. I felt sometimes like an elephant was squashing my chest. At times I would also get horrible stomach pains and throw up.
So those are the physical symptoms that I’ve had. It was extremely difficult to have all of these physical pains and try to be a missionary at the same time. It just couldn’t be done, to be honest.
The unfortunate thing about the timing of the headaches coming on was that as the homesickness started to ease, and I had adjusted to mission life, the headaches took over and became a chronic source of pain. Instead of the source of my problem being homesickness it changed to true physical pain. The unrelenting painful headaches became daily. But I never let them stop me from my first duty to serve the Lord and be a faithful missionary. I think at that point we all thought that the headaches were solely anxiety driven. This is when everyone tried their best to help me relieve stress by sending me articles, and trying to teach me stress relieving techniques. Everyone was truly doing their best to help me out, but sadly none of it was working. My anxiety and panic attack issues became progressively worse because I really tried to do what everyone was telling me to do, but I couldn’t just think happy thoughts to make the pain go away caused by these headaches.
I love the Lord and our Savior Jesus Christ more than words can express. I love the people I taught and want nothing more than for them to be happy. I´ve gave it my absolute 100% all. I worked my butt off every single day. My trainer called me ´´the best elder he´s ever worked with´´. I don’t know about that, but I know I did my best. I don´t want to be here at home. The mission is definitely where it´s at. Every day since I have been home, I have lovingly looked at my pictures and other treasures I brought home. I feel good about the work I was able to accomplish there considering the issues I dealt with.
My first week back at church felt quite awkward for me. I don’t know what people were truly thinking, but in my own mind, I felt eyes in the crowd staring me down as false judgments were being sent my way. I wish that I could have been able to share some of my stories and the miracles I saw rather than have to solely address why I was home and when I was going back out.
The hardest thing about being back home has been dealing with a mixture of feelings within myself, such as ‘’I’m a failure!’’ It’s really hard having to deal with the whole social and cultural aspect of being an early-returned missionary. It’s just nice to know that I have received an answer for myself that I accomplished all that I was supposed to while on the mission.
I know that God has a plan for me. Although it’s really hard to understand why certain things happen it’s all for the best. I’m so grateful for all the amazing experiences and wonderful friends I met in my short time as a missionary. Now I just have put my faith and confidence in the Lord that he has great things in store. As the 13th Article of Faith puts it, “…We have endured many things and hope to be able to endure all things.” I know that this church is true without a doubt in my mind. And although I had to pass through some crazy health trials during my time as a full time missionary, I value the experience more than anything.