Zach Jensen: Mission, Mental Health, and Meaning

Mar 11, 2024

“I don’t think people get enough credit for just going”

This week we’re honored to hear from Zach Jensen. In this episode, he shares his journey of serving a mission for The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints. Zach shares with us the challenges he faced as he came home early to focus on his mental health.

Zach shared with us his mission story: what it was like preparing and leaving for his mission, what he experienced while there, and what the process looked like for him as he returned home.



I’m your host Eric Stauffer and today I’d like to welcome our guest Zach Jensen how are you doing Zach I’m doing

good how are you good tell tell us a little bit about yourself where you’re from what you’ve been up to where you

were raised etc etc yeah so I was born in Baltimore Maryland well Columbia

Maryland but nobody knows where that is um but I only lived there for a couple years I grew up for most of my life in

Virginia um in a town called Warrington and it was really nice it was great I

mean I don’t know I love the rain so it was it was an awesome childhood I guess I don’t know yeah um and then around

2016 we moved out here to Utah for my dad’s work and that’s when I started

middle school I graduated from Ridgeline high school and then I up until recently I was serving in the Cote d’Ivoire Abidjan West

Mission so tell us a little bit about where that mission is so that is right

next to Ghana so if you’re looking at Africa it’s like right under the head I guess like right on the equator um so

yeah it’s just like to the left of Ghana kind of by like Sierra Leone and Togo if you know where those are kind of by

Nigeria too yeah but yeah oh that’s great so let’s go back to a little bit

of so you you came here when you were around Middle School age and then you uh

you lived here in Cash Valley um tell us a little bit about your high school experience um it was really great I by

that point I had like enough friends that I wasn’t uncomfortable and I had people that I could talk to and freshman

year was awesome I did student council and I loved it um then Co hit and it was kind of a bore

I don’t know I was really looking forward to like my high school experience and then it was kind of just like cut off I don’t know um but then

sophomore year that was pretty good I started taking AP classes and I could definitely feel a change in the workload

and it got a little bit well not a little bit it got pretty stressful um but um after that I kind of like was

like okay I’m going to keep doing AP classes like got to get ready for college and whatnot so I kept taking AP

classes my junior year that’s when I was kind of like oh this is this is getting hard um but it was still good I still

loved it and then senior year that was just a blast that was just like was kind of a Fluff year for me but it was it was

so fun but overall it was a positive experience but there were definitely moments where um it was pretty stressful

yeah so when you when you were in early days of high school do you feel like you were were like a big achiever you wanted

to you wanted to accomplish a lot of things and do you feel like you stuffed your schedule and and was that difficult

do you feel like you handled that okay I I stuffed my schedule like I was always looking for like okay I’m going to go do

this activity I’m going to go join this club and it got it got busy and it got really stressful and I did not handle it

very well just because I was just like oh everyone else is doing all these extracurriculars I’ll do them too and

I’ll just I don’t know I just fill my schedule so full that it was to the point where I was like I don’t have time

to breathe but I was like well everyone else is doing that I got to do it too what do you feel like caused you to

decide to pack your schedule so much I think the majority of it was probably

peer pressure just a lot of my friends were like the super Geniuses and I was

not and I’m okay saying that but they were all very intelligent and so they’d

go off and take all these crazy classes and get like hundreds and I was like oh well I’m their friend I I can go do this

too and I think I kind of pushed myself past the breaking point trying to you

know like fit in with all my friends um and a little piece of it too is like my

dad’s really smart he did really great in high school I love him to death he’s great for that but I definitely felt like I had to meet a standard for that

and so I was definitely trying to push myself to be like him he’s like well I just worked really hard and I was like okay I’ll I’ll work really hard too and

I was definitely overworking myself working really hard but I think it was a mix of both like peer pressure and like

trying to fit an image from like my dad yeah so and your dad was just being your

dad right and so it’s not like he was saying Zach you’ve got to be me yeah you

just you just assumed it you took it upon yourself yep yeah why do you why do

you think we do that oh my gosh I don’t know I think for me when I would see my dad I’d

just be like he’s so successful because he worked so hard and he struggled too

but struggle is just normal and if I’m struggling that’s normal too but then I’m also pushing myself to a point where

I’m like I’m not struggling enough because I’m not doing as good as he did I look at my dad and he’s just like oh I’m just smart like to me in my mind he

just has to answer to every problem he’s great at math he helps me with my math homework all the time but then like when

he talks to me about it he’s like no this is really hard like I got bad grades in school but in my mind he was a

straight A student because he never struggled and so I feel like it’s this concept of like I don’t understand or

like we don’t look at people and go like oh they struggle they’re just perfect in our minds and so it’s just like I don’t

know I mean we’re our worst critics right so it’s like we see ourselves and we’re like why am I struggling when that person did so good like I’m literally

his child I felt like I should have inherited those je yeah but I was like I don’t know I was just like my dad is so

successful because he worked so hard I’m working just as hard why am I not was kind of the idea I don’t know if that

makes the way we see people is really it it can be inaccurate to the realities not

that you’re not intelligent I believe that you are but maybe you don’t see yourself that way and then you see your

dad without struggle even though he knows he did struggle and then when we make these false assumptions with people

and ourselves and they’re inaccurate what do you think that does to us emotionally oh my gosh it tears us apart

like I was like crying in my room over this like I felt horrible about myself cuz I was like I’m working so hard what

is wrong with me that I like can’t do what my dad did and so it’s just like so degrading like you get like a horrible

self-image like your confidence just like plummets cuz you’re like I’m not good at anything like why can’t I meet

this standard like you just feel horrible about yourself from doing this but it’s something that we all do so

often that it’s just like it’s so bad for us but it’s like it’s like in nature like it’s yeah so

so although you you felt this poll to following your dad’s footsteps you also had this desire to to to make your own

path as well you wanted to say I can specialize in this and this is I’m going to have this identity MH yeah I

definitely felt like I needed something to myself my whole life I kind of copied my sister and my dad like whatever they

did I did my sister APO I did APO my sister took calculus I took calculus like I was just like copycatting

everyone ahead of me and I was like I’m just going to do everything they do and I kind of lost a sense of like individuality I guess you would say and

I was trying to look for things that are like this is my thing but all my interests ended up lining with like oh

like I did that in high school and so I was like I got to find something else now like I’m going to go do student council and I did that and I loved it

but it was always just like I need to find something that suits me and I didn’t really find that in high school and so that was kind of hard for me but

I was always like searching on like what makes me unique and then I was like nothing and I felt so bad about myself

yeah in your decision to choose to serve a mission what how did you come to that

choice well I don’t know it was always something that I’ve been planning on since I was a kid you know

like I hope they can call me on Mission like you know that kind of vibe like primary you’re like oh my gosh I’m going

on a mission and then like you get there and you’re like okay like this is time like it’s time to do this and so and my

mind i’ had always been like I’m going to serve a mission but the reality of it never hit me until I was like I’m opening my mission papers and I was like

like oh my gosh and this is happening yeah and I was like this is so like

surreal but at the same time so frightening like this is the moment I’ve been waiting for and yet like I feel

like I am not prepared for this at all and I was kind of debating between whether I should do 18 years old or 19

years old just because I was like I don’t know I know that I’m like really close with my family and leaving at 18

at such like a young age without getting any like experience away from them might be hard for me and so I was like I don’t

know what should I do and I felt like like okay like 18’s good like I won’t go to college I won’t do a semester and

then go like I’ll go at 18 looking in hindsight I probably should have gone at

19 but it’s okay but um did you feel pressure to go at 18 rather than 19

definitely I think I think that’s what swayed my decision because I was seeing everyone else going at 18 years old and

nobody else was waiting that like I knew of except for like a few people so I was like I do not want to like stick out

like I just want to get back and go to college with everyone else and like I don’t want to be like this like you know

like this weird off case and so I was like I’m just going to go with everyone else and so I just jumped in with the crowd and I was like yeah I’m going

without even like really thinking about like the logistics of it like I was just like oh yeah everyone else don’t follow it was really bad yeah so you so both

you didn’t want to be the one who wasn’t going at 18 but you also didn’t want to be the one who was coming home later and

missing out on certain things so you maybe had some elements of fomo exactly no fomo is huge for me like fomo  my

decisions so bad but like it like I seriously like I was like if I don’t go

now like everyone else goes to college everyone else makes friends and then there’s me and it’s like and then I’m

like by myself and so I was like I don’t want that to happen so I’m I’m just going to go with everyone else so I did

that fear of missing out is powerful stuff it is it is it is so as we

recognize you have these kind of Social and cultural expectations that young

people experience either intentionally or unintentionally right um it just

carries with the situation um as you look back with a little bit of hindsight we’ll get more

into your mission in just a minute but as you look back in hindsight and you recognize now that

maybe it would have been wiser to to consider other other approaches to it

where does your relationship with God come in play with that decision for you so when I was in high school I

definitely wasn’t as I mean I guess connected with God as

I wanted to be like I was striving to be there but I just wasn’t really making an effort and I think that was mainly

because I was telling myself like I’m stressed I have school to worry about like I cannot do this right now and so I

kind of like pushed that relationship aside and so when I was starting to get

ready for my mission I was like I have nothing to to work off of here like I was like I feel in my mind like there’s

no relationship for me to like get help from like people be like I’d pray about it and I just like no and for me I was

like I feel like I’m starting from Ground Zero like I was just like yeah I go to Seminary yeah I go to church but I

was like I was going there because it was expected of me not because like I ever like sought the desire to go there

and so I would always be like I don’t know just going through the motions and then when it finally came to it I was

like I don’t know what to do like people would be like I’d pray about it and like I just knew that this was so right and

I’d be like I believe that like that is so good for you but for me like I don’t even know where to start like I will

pray and I will second guess myself anytime I receive an answer like I’ll get an answer and I’ll be like that is

just my mind and I didn’t have that strong Rel relationship to go off of so

my relationship wasn’t where it needed to be for me to be able to make that choice correctly like in the best

interest so even though you recognize that your relationship with God needed more time needed more work more

development those social expectations and pressures came back in and factored that in mhm and it like pushed

everything else out of the way like I probably should have been working on my relationship while I was worrying about

that relationship between me and God but I was just so worried about the social

aspect of well that will take time and who knows what will happen I was just like whatever I’m going and that was

definitely not the best decision to make but I definitely in my mind I was just like fomo like everyone else is leaving

like I’m just going with them like that seems like a good decision yeah and I don’t know how you feel about yourself when you reflect back on that to me just

listening to the story I go well no wonder I mean no duh of course you’re going to go along with those things the

pressure is there the expectation is there it’ll probably work itself out

some way and and then maybe maybe you feel some kind of impostor syndrome as

you go forward because you went along with the narrative mhm and I think what people

don’t really realize is that missions are so individualized like it is an individual experience but I was kind of

trying to fit into that mold of like the generic everyone’s like ideal mission in their

mind and so I was I was kind of just like oh like I’ll just go along with whatever else does because that is just

like the mission standard like boy graduates high school boy goes on a mission comes back gets married and I

was like that will that will be me like I’ll just do that but I think people don’t really realize that a mission is

something that like is very personal for you like it is something where when you feel like it’s the time when you’re

praying about it and you feel an answer you feel like it’s right then you go and I definitely was just like I know I’m

just going to go I’m I’m just going to put myself out there and trust my instinct my instinct was wrong in my

mind but I like I don’t know I just just is trying to fit that mold that everyone has but it’s definitely not the right

answer yeah well and I obviously I can’t I can’t tell you how to feel but I I certainly hope you don’t feel shame that

you were a part of that experience because we see so many young people go through the exact same emotions that you

did that they are trying to find a way to meet standards to show faith I mean

because it is a it’s a step of Faith right even if you have a really strong Foundation relationship with God

that decision to go and serve him in that capacity is still an unknown right

we just don’t know what we’re getting into oh yeah I definitely didn’t think of it as a step of faith when I first

started doing it I was just like I’m just going and then I got there and I was like holy cow like I am trusting

right now yeah like I have I’m going on nothing like please help me and it is it is hard and it takes a lot of courage

and bravery and faith and I don’t think people get enough credit for just going

like staying I think is way easier than going like it is yeah most of the time like once you get into it and once like

you feel like you’re adapted then it’s like okay like we’re here but that first leap of faith in like those first couple

months is really hard like it it has power to do something doesn’t it yes yes

yes yes yes and so it’s heavy yes and so anyways but yeah so um you get your call

what’s the name of your mission again it’s the Cote d’Ivoire Abidjan West so that’s Ivory Coast the Ivory Coast okay that’s great

so you get called to the Ivory Coast so um and where were you called what uh

where did you go to the MTC I went to the Ghana MTC okay for my training yeah and it was awesome and how long would

you be there I was there for six weeks okay yeah and did you feel like six weeks was

sufficient I don’t know if this is horrible for me to say this but no you felt like they needed more time just a

little bit like even just an extra week week like I felt like I was finally like okay I think I know what I’m doing I’m

almost there and then I was like okay go and I was like I was like I was almost to the

point where I was like okay I understand this like I know what I’m doing and I think I got to the like I was like on

the edge of like oh yeah like this is the mission experience this is what I’ll be teaching like this is what preach my gospel is I’m understanding the language

a little bit and then I was like go and I was like darn and some people only get 3 weeks and that like shocked me I was

like how do you only trained for 3 weeks but they did it yeah

I mean they were speaking English like good for them but like still like yeah it I don’t know so you’re in Ghana for

six weeks just almost ready but you felt like you need another week okay tell us

what happens next so then it’s like I felt like I got there and then it was all of a sudden like we’re getting the

information on like okay here’s what you do at the airport this is where you’re going these are mission presidents like

here’s your schedule and all of a sudden it was like okay go and so like we’re on the airplane and we get to the mission

field and I was just like what’s happening I was like this is like going so fast like I don’t even know what to

expect and then I get to the mission office I’m like okay like this is Chill like everything’s good they’re like okay

you’re getting your trainers tonight and you leave tonight to your field and I was like okay I was like wow this is all

very fast paced I feel like like just like one night’s like rest would have

been nice but there obviously you know like people left they need to fill their spots you know so it’s like okay like we

got to get you guys out into the field and I was like okay deal but it was all feeling very fast paced and I was kind of

freaked out by it all because I was just like what is happening like so you get there it’s same day you go from MTC same

day Mission office or home getting your companion and you’re out in the field

all in the same day yeah wow it was fast and it it terrified me to death I was

like oh my gosh like how am I do any of this like I just got here from like the

MTC and it’s like tomorrow you proselyte and I was like oh my gosh so I was like

freaking out like I was verge of a panic attack like in the mission home I was like oh my gosh like so were you feeling

physical manifestations of your anxiety I was like sick I was weak I thought I was going to pass out like I was shaking

like and everyone was like like other Jens said you don’t look okay and I was like no I don’t like I don’t feel okay

like this is terrifying are you guys like freaked out by this and they’re like no I’m just excited and I was just

like what I was like this is terrifying like even thinking about it now I’m just like that was a horrible feeling like it

was so bad but I don’t know like just seeing everyone around me being like Oh yeah like I’m just excited to get my

companion I was like did I miss something like am I just like not is something not clicking for me where I’m

just like yeah this is this is what’s happening there it is again that’s that’s similar to what you you talked

about in your high school and your family experience is is to check normally you’d compare and contrast

yourself with those around you and how they were doing yeah yep and so here you are you’re in this brand new experience

and you’re checking with the other missionaries they seem to be just fine and handling it okay some are burned out

from the MTC and ready to go and you’re like I need more time and so that comparison what it so that caused you to

feel like you were like something was wrong or yeah like I felt like something was wrong with me specifically specifically

like what was I doing wrong so that I wasn’t feeling this way like everyone else is so excited and I was excited but

my fears were definitely taking over at that point like I was like this is terrifying like everyone else is so

happy and I’m so scared what is wrong like what am I missing cuz it feels like it generally feels like something’s

wrong with you when you experience this like you’re just like sitting there and you’re like what I think one of the things we Overlook so much is that when

we’re experiencing an a really strong emotional reaction to a

scenario that the physical response is so real and it’s not made up I mean you

can’t argue with nausea or nerves or loss of breath or tightness in the arms

or whatever it might be right so when those things start happening um you’re you’re feeling it

yeah like it is it’s real and it’s scary like yeah so can you just take me take

us there to that moment for just a second you’re starting to realize you’re having these physical manifestations to

anxiety where where did the faith thing come into play in that moment was it even a question was it even a thought do

you think oh I need to have more courage or I need to have more faith or I need to pray or I need help from God or a

priesthood blessing or what what was the element there with spirituality I wish I

had asked for a priesthood blessing for my mission present because I was terrified but no one else did that I

know of because more comparison exactly L like everyone else went into that room I wasn’t there with them so who knows

maybe they were terrified and they did but in my mind I was like everyone else is chill I’m just going to pray by

myself and I’d wish that I’d ask for a PRI of blessing cuz there’s real power in that but I told myself like I like

kind of denied myself that opportunity which was really hard for me afterwards I was like I wish I’d done that but like

I don’t know I was just like I’m just going to pray like I’ll pray and it helped like I definitely felt the power from that I was like wow like okay like

things are coming down like everything’s okay but like for a minute there I was just like I’ll just do it alone I’ll

just go it alone and I wish I’d talked to my mission president about it because then I feel like those concerns could have been brought up earlier earlier

instead of later into the field where it was getting more detrimental and so I

don’t know I think I definitely should have reached out but I was just I don’t

know that fear of comparison and you know yeah that’s huge for me like for Me

comparison is like huge as you can probably tell but like is huge and so I was like yeah like I cannot no I’m like

I’m fine I’m fine I’m good nothing’s wrong but something was definitely wrong so tell us so you met your companion

there that at that time MH and tell us a little about your first companion he was really awesome um I didn’t have the

greatest experience with my companion in the MTC so I was like anything is better than this was like horrible mindset cuz

like it was probably my fault that we didn’t get along in the MTC in hindsight but um like I got my companion I was

like oh my gosh this guy’s so cool like we get along great this is awesome and so like we get out into the mission

field we get to our area it’s not the bush but it’s definitely the village

like it’s not it’s 3 hours away from like any City and so it was it was you know kind of secluded and he knew it

well and I was like okay this is awesome like this guy’s great um and then a couple weeks went by and I was like okay

like I don’t know I’m kind of feeling a little off put still like I thought this would have cleared up by now I was I

don’t know you felt like what would have cleared up my anxieties and fears I thought when I got to the field that all

of a sudden I’d be like okay the fire will take you yeah like I everyone else talks about this experience where they

get into the field and you know they struggled really hard and then bam they’re like it didn’t bother me anymore

and that was like in like the first 3 to six months and I was like okay well I’ve only been here for like a month like

whatever like it’s still normal to be feeling this so I was like I don’t know I’d get really anxious whenever he’d

like look at me to speak and I’d be like I don’t know what to say and he was like well just say something I was like I I

don’t have words I was like I don’t know and so I started getting this like feeling of like what am I doing here like what like failure did you feel like

you were failing yeah like everyone else is like learning the language and I was over here just struggling to put

together a sentence just not even because I didn’t speak French well like my French was really good but just because I was like paralyzed I was

like something’s wrong like I don’t know what’s happening but something is not fitting into place how long were you

with this first companion I was with him so I was only in the mission field for

one one transfer one transfer and I was only with him for half of that time

about so did they do a did they move you to like a new companion the mission home

what happened I was moved to the mission office yeah so I was working in the office with the office Elders I was putting a trio with them

and that kind of came to pass by me being like something’s wrong I don’t know how to deal with this and it’s kind

of getting worse and like this is freaking me out who did you tell that to I texted my mission president yeah and

normally like the mission president’s wife takes care of it but I felt like I didn’t know her well enough at the time to like be comfortable sharing that so I

texted him and he was like okay like I see like okay we’ll we’ll talk about

this so he’s like one day I get a text from me he’s like okay pack your bags get on a bus you’re coming to the

mission office and I was like okay it was pretty abrupt yeah and I was like okay sounds good so I went to the

mission office and I was there while they were kind of talking to me asking me questions like you know trying to

find the best solution for what to do whether that was like new companion new area service mission go home for a bit

so you had he presented you all kinds of different options he gave me a bunch of options which I was grateful for but it

also got my hopes up cuz nobody wants to go home early nobody wants that image put on them just because of stigmas M

and so I was like I definitely didn’t want to be that missionary I was like I came home from mental health because

honestly when I did I was afraid of this and it kind of happened when I did the older generation were like you came home

cuz of what like you came home cuz it was hard and I was like no like I came

home because like I was having a hard time living there like I was like struggling bad like it was bad and so I

was afraid of like if I come home will people think that of me like I was scared and so he gave me all these

options and I was like okay maybe I lie my way through it and be like no I’m fine just stay in the mission field you

felt tempted to do that mhm cuz I didn’t want to go home nobody wants to go home but at the same time it’s like that

might have been the best thing for me I didn’t you know I was trying to deny that in my mind I was like no going home

can’t do that like staying in the field and getting help here is probably the best thing for me do you feel like your mission president understood you and was

hearing you accurately to what you were going through I feel like he did good yes he is

very I really I miss him so much he was like a second father and I only knew him for like 6 weeks but he was amazing like

I loved my mission president and I felt like he like the words that I couldn’t put out he accurately described and so I

felt like I was like okay like I can speak to you and you’ll understand and like I trust you to make a decision that

makes sense yeah but that’s not always the case with people I know sometimes I feel like there’s

distrust um but that was not my case so you felt like your your mission

president saw you I’m so glad to hear that because you know if you had have been

met with that other stigma or a response of come on where’s your faith work

harder be more obedient what would that have done to you a response like that from a mission president that would have

been so detrimental like at that point I think it would have been like I’m done yeah like I can’t handle this like I’m

out like what like I felt like I needed that support from someone and I felt like the the only person that could

really come from was him so if he hadn’t been able to provide me with that I felt like I would have been like okay like

what is happening here like I feel like this is a place where I should have received that not like in a selfish way

but like a place where like I felt confident going there feeling like I would get a response and if I hadn’t

gotten that I think that would have been so so much worse oh that’s great feedback for Mission presidents um that

they can see that when you are in need to be hurt I love how you said that he

had the words to say that you didn’t you didn’t know how to say and I just love I’m so glad to hear you had that

experience with him yeah so he gives you these options what happens then so the

decision was taking off of me I was allowed to give my input on what I felt and at that point I felt very honest I

was like okay if I’m being honest this is hard I don’t know if I can solve this here like this is this is something

that’s Weighing on me so much and I’m like I think going home is definitely an option that could make sense and having

said that I was like okay that’s a burden lifted CU I feel like I did not just lie about how I was feeling and like okay we’re going to talk to some

people we’re going to talk to like the mission area people and we’re going to come to a conclusion we’ll let you know

I was like okay how long he was like it’ll be a couple of weeks I think it was like three MH and I was like okay

like waiting transition period it was kind of hard and I didn’t really want to tell people what was going on because I

didn’t know what the outcome would be and the only people I really told were my parents and my sister when I was like

just so you guys know this is like actually what’s going on it’s like so that you guys aren’t like freaking out or anything so so 3 weeks three more

weeks go by it’s transfer time how did the decision come down so I was sitting

in the office and um my um Mission president walked down build and he was

like hey can I talk to you for a second I was like we have not had a meeting in a very long time I think I know what

this is about and so we get up there and he’s like you can probably guess why we up here and I was like there’s been a decision made and he was like yeah

there’s been a decision made I just start balling I was like I’m so scared right now and he’s like okay like let’s

say a prayer together first obviously like like we normally do like let’s say prayer let’s talk about this and I was

like okay so we say a prayer and I’m like okay like I’m good like I’m common collected and he’s like okay we’ve been

talking and it’s we’ve decided that it’s in your best interest for you to go home and I just started crying I’m probably

going to start crying again but I was so upset because I was so sad about going

home cuz I loved my mission I really did but it was hard for me to love it with all those added anxieties and stress

like I loved being there I loved the people they were so nice but just all the anxieties being there got to the

point where it was like I couldn’t love it as much as I wanted to and so when he was like okay you’re going home I just I

started balling so hard cuz I was like first of all like I was it was it was

really weird mixed emotions I was sad because I was leaving I was happy because there was a decision made I was

also happy because I really missed my family like those first couple months are really hard like especially coming

from my house like I was really tight with my family and so leaving them was hard so I was excited to go see them but

then I was also really ashamed cuz I was like I’m going home to a ward where a missionaries come home before and it was

not reciprocate like the people did not reciprocate well to that like there was a lot of not good feelings from that and

so I was terrified to go home to that and so I was really ashamed and he was like so what are you feeling and I was

like I don’t even know everything exactly I was like everything is going through my head right now like I just

want to like I just need time to process this so I just walked into a room and I just started crying and I was like can I

call my parents and he was like you can call them on pday I was like oh he’s like you can message them and I was like

okay deal so I messaged them and I was like like hey a decision been made I’m coming home and they’re like oh okay

like let’s talk about this later I was like okay cuz pday was like the next day I think so it was like it wasn’t that

far away so anyways as soon as they wake up like I called them and I was like hey just so you know I’m going I’m coming

home like this is what they decided is best um can I ask something about that before you tell us about your parents

when you say a decision has been made did you feel like did you know that

there were people that were counseling together to make a decision for Elder Zack Jansen yes I actually met them and

I who was it so it was my old State president okay it was my um Mission

president and then it was the like West Africa oh like area Authority yeah okay

and I met them all I met my I saw the other two on a zoom call one time while

we were talking about this and like what the steps going forward to go um what

the steps forward were and you know what the process would be like well they made a decision so that I kind of felt involved so it’s a triangulation of your

home State president your mission president and the local area Authority for where your mission is okay so I felt

like there were two people that knew me and then one person that was very well versed in missionary experiences so I felt like there was like I felt like

okay like I trust these people to you feel like that’s a good kind of team to have for a decision like that exactly

and even though like me and my state President we weren’t like oh my gosh family friends before you became state

president like I didn’t know him like at all I still felt like I have that connection to home where it’s like

someone I already know is helping make this decision like who knows me previously and so I felt like it was a

very inspired Council and I felt like the decision they made like after hearing it I was like no this is right I

was like I can have all the feelings I want about it but like this is the right decision yeah and I was really happy

because I was like finally like this decision been made like I finally

understand what’s going to happen I’m done being left in the dark like this is a great moment and I was really grateful

for like all the time that they had put in for it um but then the next couple weeks I was

like okay now what and so then I don’t know I the shame started setting in at

that point a little bit more heavily I think just because I was like okay now

that I’m going home let’s think of everything that’s going to happen when we get home cuz I over catastrophize everything like that is a talent of mine

and I’m like the worst possible scenario will happen oh yeah so you call your family and tell us about that so they

said that’s okay they were all really supportive which was something that was huge for me like if my family had been

like what like you’re coming home like that would have been so like such a horrible experience just like how I was

like counting on my mission president to be there I was like relying on my family to be like that emotional tie and like

between all of this and so I was really scared that like I’d be like I’m coming home and my Dad after send me that email

would be like I just sent you an email about this like didn’t you even read it like I don’t know but they were so

supportive about it um especially my dad actually um he was just like okay so

like what are we going to do when you get here like how are we going to you know keep you up with the mission schedule but make sure that you know

you’re like doing what you need to do here like how can we help you and that to me was huge because like I wasn’t

planning on anything like I was like I don’t have a plan I don’t know what I’m going to do so to have my dad be there to help me make that plan was huge um

and then the rest of my family was just excited oh Zach’s coming home like but

yeah like having that support for my parents was like massive so you felt like you had authentic support from them

do you do you felt like they had to face real situations of their own questions

and their own concerns about how do we help Zach what are people going to think of Zach

what are people going to think of us as a family like sometimes we don’t realize how much of a ripple effect something

like this can have on the entire family did you see any of that or were they good at protecting you uh I saw some of

it but not in a negative way like not like my parents were like oh our image like no like none of that but like I

definitely felt like they were concerned about what the um

um I’m trying to find the word like the reciprocation for lack of a better word I guess just like how people would react

reaction reaction to like me coming home would be and they were worried that if it was too negative like you know what

if Zach leaves the church because of like this like horrible like why are you home like that’s not a valid reason like

you know people like what the heck and so they were definitely I think worried about like how do we go about this in a

way that like is like as sensitive as possible while still maintaining that like okay like we’re happy to have you

home like this is an honorable thing like it’s good to come home to take care of yourself so that you’re not suffering through your mission like yeah stuff

like that and so I feel like they definitely worried but not in the sense

that like they struck a healthy balance for you yeah yeah that’s fantastic cuz I could see you know another scenario

where that that doesn’t happen where maybe there’s a sense of shame that the parents feel or a sense of shame or

embarrassment that a sibling might feel or something like that where they have to start answering questions because of

curiosity that people have again it’s more of that having to face an explanation because it we’re so exposed

in a mission experience yeah so so you had a good response so was

there a plan like you did your mission president when the decision was made and you called your family was there a plan

about what the mission me going forward yeah so he said um there’s no time frame

on this obviously because it’s in your own time that you kind of you know figure all this out like this is not

like a rushed thing like we’re going to have you stay busy obviously cuz you know you know proactive hands you know

keep keep doing what you’re doing or like Idol hands are like the devil’s tools or something like that and so

they’re like we want you to keep doing stuff um and so they told me like do a

semester we’s see where you’re at and I was like okay and at the same time my State president was setting up me and a

therapist to talk together about this so I went and it was life changing like I

hate saying that because like I’m like nothing’s life changing I’m a cynic it’s so bad right but I was like I was like

this is life-changing like this seriously helped me so much and so um

having gone through that I felt like I had like a person to talk to where I could talk about my emotions without

judgment find ways to solve my problems that I was having all like my complexes

all like my anxieties all these things and it was like I got to the point where I was like okay like I feel like things

are starting to turn around and I’m getting like coping mechanisms to help me with like stressors anxiety you know

like depression and stuff like that and it was all this I don’t know just like a combination of like therapy being home

um going to school like being back in an environment where I felt like I knew like learning again that I felt helped

me really normalize and just like heal I guess is

what I’m trying to say like I think go coming home was the best decision for me yeah and it was hard for me to realize

that at first but having seen the benefits from it now like this has been amazing yeah like and now like I can

live my life tell us about some of those tools that you say that you’ve been able to get from from th

yeah so um recently we’ve been talking a lot about um staying grounded in the

present moment so usually when we go into these like fits of anxiety or you

know looking to the Future it’s this putting ourselves and starting to live in that future and like where all of our

worst fears kind of manifest themselves and if we stay there that’s really detrimental to us because then all of a

sudden you know we build up worries we build up stress concern we catastrophize like it’s something I do all the time

and learning to ground yourself in the present moment is something that is so helpful and this is you know practice as

like mindfulness yoga like stretching your hands bringing attention to your body um a lot of those techniques that

just help you ground yourself back kind of bring yourself back into this present moment where you’re like okay now I’m

back because those emotions aren’t bad they’re just warnings to bring you back to the present moment and if we stay

stuck on those it’s like writing the um Road strips next to Road you’re ruining your tires like you feel

those you get off and so feeling those emotions is something to help ground yourself you really like you recognize

them and then you bring yourself back to the moment and it’s the same way with depression like depression could be the other side of the road I don’t know but

like you’re looking into the past you’re you feel regret you feel like you have mistakes um all those things like being

able to bring yourself back to that present moment is huge um and so like whenever you’re like anxious or getting

ready for a test like all the time I’ll just like start like stretching my hands cuz that’s an easy way to just like

bring attention back and it doesn’t require ton of focus but it’s just enough to like okay like I’m here just

like calm down and like breathing exercises like all of those things that just like help you kind of clear your

head are huge and so when you feel those emotions they’re just like little warning signs of like okay time to go

back you know I want to commend you on that Zach because sometimes when we experience the stimulus that leads to

the anxiety we think to solve that we go away from the stimulus so we want to

avoid anything that can cause anxiety and uh We’ve we’ve dealt with a lot of anxiety and depression in my family and

one thing that we’ve learned and it’s kind of a catchphrase that we’ve we’ve clung on to and that is the only way out

is through and it’s not that you have to go through by staying in the mission but

the only way out of learning how to deal with anxiety is learning how to deal with it in a way in at least at a level

that is tolerable so you come home home you get in this new situation and it’s

not that you sit home and watch Netflix and eat ice cream all day it’s you’re still engaged you’re still you’re going

to school and you’re you’re doing the hard work by going to therapy and opening up about it and then you’re

implementing those tools and those practices of how to how to cope when you

deal with that it’s it’s education I love that you identify everybody needs therapy yeah so let me I just want to

hit on two last things with you m one is um how has the experience been for you

culturally to come home and then uh and and how is that with your your decision

or your hope to go back in the mission field you know how how’s that going and then lastly well I’ll get to the last

thing after that but let’s just address that how what has the cultural experience been coming home and and what

is the plan now yeah so um when I first went to sacrament meeting that was like

my biggest fear coming back to sacrament meeting in my award I was like nobody knows that I’m going to be home like

nobody I’m just going to show up and like shock people except for my Bishop he’s like the only people that only

person that knows and I don’t know if my family told people or something but I remember I walked in and like heads

turned and everyone was like and I was like oh my gosh I was like cool and we always sit like in the middle until I

was like oh my gosh like Prime seating and then after sacrament meeting

like it was just like a flock of people and I was like what is happening right now it was just like person after person just like giving me hugs and being like

we love you so much like we’re so glad that we’re you’re here like like I don’t know what’s happening but we love you

like if you need anything let us know and I was just like what I was like this

is like the exact opposite of what I was telling myself would happen like I was like scaring myself to death about like

that first day back but being there was like it was so amazing like to see all the people like react like so kindly to

that was just like such a huge blessing because like I was so scared of that

first day but it went like afterwards I was just like I’m so happy to be here now like I’m not scared about like I

don’t know being home anymore like I feel comfortable and so that first just

like sacrament meeting really I feel like set in stone the whole attitude of being here yeah like that first interaction

was like kind of like my maker breakpoint and it’s what made it and so I was like I was really great for all those

people that was that were just like so kind you know that’s a great message for all of us to remember because I think

that you know sometimes we might assume that because of the whispering and because of the passing of information

the Curiosity that then the reaction is going to be negative and I’m sure there are horror stories out there but I think

when the rubber hits the road and push comes to shove the goodness of people is there

and when we’re feeling these anxieties we we anticipate that it won’t be that way yeah we’re afraid that when someone

knows our experience and what we’re really going through that it’s just going to be a negative response and what

a great piece that must bring when you get the opposite response of what you anticipate yeah it was amazing and it

kind of It kind of made me be like okay like this is not such a bad thing because in my mind I was just like so

ashamed of everything I was like everyone’s going to think of me differently but after that I was like no like this is like I’m here for myself

like I don’t need to care about what other people think and they all were so amazing to me that I got to the point where I was like I’m not worried about

what people think about me because everyone was so nice to me about it like that wasn’t a concern anymore and so it

definitely took that huge weight off of my shoulders realizing that that over

catastrophization or just catastrophizing things in my mind was just something that was just so

unrealistic and like people are not horrible like in my mind I’m scared of

like how are they going to react what are they going to do but that is like just so false like that’s not how people

act and so having that reality check was super nice that is good to hear I’m so glad so what is the plan now Zach so now

I am finishing my semester of school you enrolled and now you’ve got a full semester and you’re almost done with

that yep and so when I’m done with that um I’ll be taking an assessment it’s not anything huge but it’s just something to

see like okay how are we feeling um what have you been doing have you been staying busy and then after that they’ll

decide whether that’s go back to the same Mission get reassigned to a state side mission whatever is the case um but

getting to that I feel like we’re getting to that Final Approach even though I’m only halfway stuff’s already

happening where I’m going through meetings like okay here’s what we’re going to start doing and I feel like it’s it’s not as long as I thought it’

take like it’s already happening and yeah we’re just working on getting back

out right now are you okay with any result that might happen I am I’m very at peace with I mean I’m far less

anxious now um and I’m feeling a lot more having gone through this experience

and realizing how good it was for me I’ve kind of realized how inspired decisions can be and I didn’t feel like

it was inspired at the time but like hind in hindsight it was the most inspired decision probably like of my

life maybe even like it was huge and so at this point I’m like whatever the decision is like I know that that is the

right decision and I’m not worried about what the future is going to hold for me because I know that I’m in you know

God’s hands that is fantastic Faith all right Zach our final question for you is

what do you hope that sharing your story of transformation will bring to others

um well what I’d say be open about it it doesn’t do you any good to keep that

closed off to yourself but two um honestly don’t be ashamed of it that’s I

feel like shame comes with a huge part of mental health because people don’t want to be seen differently but it is so

natural and it happens to so many more people than you would think and so being

ashamed of it is just hurting yourself it’s like I don’t know it’s like tying your hands behind your back like you are

not alone in this like this is a very common experience just people don’t talk

about it enough and if everyone talked about their problems I think we’d realize what a world we live in with

this like but it is not something to be ashamed of you’re there’s nothing wrong with you because of it like you’re not a

mistake or a failure like this is just something that you were given to overcome and there are ways to do that

and that taking that path will be the best thing for you in the long run thank

you so much Zach we we’re so thankful for your willingness to be transparent

and vulnerable with with the world about what you’ve been through and and we know that this message will reach people who

need to hear this so that they can get the strength and compassion that they need to know how to deal with their

challenges as well so thank you so much we appreciate you being with us of course thank you Zach thank you

hearing the unheard

“Hearing the Unheard” is a podcast featuring individuals who have faced challenging life circumstances. Through candid storytelling, guests are vulnerable as they share their experiences, offering insights into their journeys, overcoming obstacles, the role of faith, resilience, and valuable life lessons learned.