By Linda Turley-Hansen
Life’s inspirations often come through others’ battles in crisis, but few will ever hear a story as life-changing as Josie Thompson’s. The 26-year-old Mesa resident is bipolar, a mental illness that encompassed her after she graduated from Mesa High School and entered her first years of college. To that point, she had excelled on every level, including being chosen high school homecoming queen and student body president.
As her bipolar condition intensified, and months turned into years, Josie chose to bring her torment into the light. She created a blog to tell her story. She says the blog has taken her beyond what she envisioned; the highlights are the considerable responses from those who also suffer mental illnesses and those who relate from other levels.
In tandem, she’s created “The 444 Project,” the title taken from her family’s favorite scripture: Alma 44:4. She says the promise of that scripture carries her through every day.
Read her full story on her blog, www.josiethompson.com, where, among the many posts, you’ll see this: “I am the bipolar girl, who has undergone what can easily be perceived as three major failures: Withdrawing from college, breaking off an engagement and what served to be most discouraging … receiving a mission call, but just one week before departure, having to withdraw due to the debilitating bondage of bipolar.”
As blog readers can learn much about Josie’s triumphant yesterdays, her todays continue to be filled with progress as well. In May, Josie and trusted friend, Kelly Allen, will be in Rome, Italy, on a second series of The 444 Project. For the first phase of the 444 Project, Josie traveled alone through 30 states last year. Her goal was to meet people, learn from them and ask, “What gets you out of bed each day?” She hoped to reach 444 strangers. She topped 500 and, yes, a book describing her experience is forthcoming.
Late last year, her story ran in the Deseret News. The next day, she received an email from Gabriel Funaro, a member of the LDS Church in Rome. He asked her to bring The 444 Project to his country. He told her of the sorrows of those suffering there from discouragement and mental illness. After prayer and pondering, she “booked in faith,” Josie says.
Regarding this trip, she says: “This journey is taking me beyond the boundaries of what I once regarded as impossible. This journey is giving me an experience that will defy all limitations and boundaries I had once set for myself. I will be lead to people who lead such a different life, yet stand in need of the same message of joy.”
Again, she question she will ask—posed this time to Italian strangers, who will quickly become friends—will be: “What brings you joy?” Those who wish to follow her can track her on her blog or Facebook.