Thursday, December 19, 2013

“I can’t go to the party! I’m too fat!”

Welcome to my mind.

It is difficult for me to act all merry and cheery when I don’t feel like it.  Yet, at the same time, I hate being the debbie-downer even more.   So, I usually just pretend like I’m having fun and most people don’t notice.

The small family parties are usually OK.  Each of them knows my struggles and understands to a certain degree.  I feel no pressure to be anybody I’m not, and I feel no pressure to do something I’m not comfortable doing.

It’s the larger extended family things that get me in a tizzy.  The anxiety I experience beforehand is overwhelming.  I get caught up in thinking about what I will say, what I will wear, and what I will eat.  The ceaseless worrying takes over the enjoyable anticipation.

I am so insecure about not working that when it comes to these kinds of events, I am tempted to make up a flashy career just so I will have something to say when people ask, “So, what have you been up to lately?”

I love staying home but I feel guilty when I talk about it with other hard working people.  Sometimes, I don’t think others understand why I need to stay home.  “Are they judging me?”  In the end, even if they aren’t thinking it, I still feel lazy and bum-ish.  Because, deep down inside, I feel like if I try harder I could be more “normal”.

In addition to the work thing, I get so worried about my weight in the days and weeks prior to the parties.  I often focus all my anxious energy on body bashing and negative self-talk.  In the past, this is when my eating disorder would be the worst.  Now, I understand that what I am really worried about is whether or not I will be accepted.  If I am truly honest with myself, I don’t think I am good enough the way I am.  In my mind, if I was skinny and pretty, it would make up for my lack of social skills or interesting talents.

When the party turns to feasting, it is really difficult for me to eat in front of people I don’t know that well.  I feel like I am being judged for everything I put in my mouth.  It’s like I can hear what people are thinking, “You shouldn’t be eating that, it’s bad for you” or “it’s fattening” or “You shouldn’t be eating anything – you should run around the block to try to lose some weight.”

I hear other people’s insecurities or justifications when they say things like, “I guess I can eat more dessert since I ran six miles this morning” or “I better work out tomorrow after all I ate today!”  I know where those words are coming from because I’ve been there myself once upon a time.

When all is said and done, things usually turn out OK.  But needless to say, being at parties with this kind of anxiety is no fun.

So, this year, to make the holiday parties more enjoyable, I’m going to try a different angle.

1) Who cares what other people think?  If they don’t think I’m good enough, then that’s their problem.  By the way, they’re probably not thinking about me anyway – they’re probably thinking about how they look to other people.  If I spend my whole life worrying about what other people will think of me, then I will miss out on the beauty of my own unique individuality.

2) Be a smiling face.  Even if I don’t feel like it, try to smile more than not.  Fake it till you make it.  Not that I am trying to be “fake” or someone I’m not.  Just that if I want to possess a virtue I don’t have, then I must imitate that virtue.  I want to be positive, uplifting, and share the joy of Christ.  There are other times and places to express the sorrow of the soul.

3) Eat what I want.  If I am hungry, or even if I just feel like eating, I must remember that I do NOT have to earn the right to eat food.  I can enjoy a good Christmas meal and seconds and thirds if I want.  I’ll eat slowly and savor all the flavors that only come around once a year.  I’ll be a good example of eating “normally”.  And I won’t regret it after!

4) Embrace the awkwardness.  Every conversation can’t be enlightening and at the epitome of class and grace.  I am not perfect.  Sometimes I say stupid stuff.  Who cares anyway?  Everybody does it from time to time.  Laugh it off and move on.

5) Stay away from mirrors…during the party and beforehand.  Since I am more tempted to beat myself up this time of year, it would be helpful not to put myself in situations where I have the opportunity.  Right now, I’m at once a day while I brush my teeth.  But if that proves too much, then I don’t know, I’ll have to cover it up with a poster or something.  I am amazed at how much stronger my self-esteem is when I am not fighting with the mirror every day.

If I go into the holidays with this kind of attitude, I will be more likely to enjoy myself.  I am also hoping that, by telling myself these things now, I won’t have the debilitating pre-party anxiety.

I hope you found these tips useful as well.

May your Christmas be filled with true joy and authentic peace.  Have a nourishing holiday!

Monday, December 16, 2013

Your Temperament and Your Mental Health, Part 2: The Melancholic and Mental Illness

Click this link here for Part 1.

I read the book “The Temperament God Gave You” in college, yet I did not know it’s value until these past few years.  The most interesting discovery I made while reading about temperaments was that Melancholics are more prone to depression and anxiety than those with any other temperament.

Because the Melancholic values the “ideal”, things of this world often fall short of their expectations.  Their perfectionist tendencies drive them to keep rigorous routines or unrealistic standards.  And when they can’t maintain even one small portion of this lifestyle, they view themselves as weak failures.

The Melancholic’s heart is restless on earth and is often caught contemplating eternal life or, at least, caught with a book in their nose.  They have a difficult time “living in the moment” because the moment falls short of want they long for.

Small imperfections or failures are seen as catastrophes.  Melancholics are prone to illness, but they are also hypochondriacs because they are expecting bad things to happen to them at any moment.  A minor setback is seen as “the end of the world”.  This is why they can become self-absorbed and throw themselves “pity parties”.

Because of their sensitivity to suffering, Melancholics carry the weight of the world on their shoulders.  It is difficult to “lighten up” because injustices never leave their mind.  They feel personally responsible for solving problems like aiding the relief of world hunger or finding a cure for cancer.  Or considering the realm of faith, Melancholics feel personally responsible for evangelizing every human being on the face of the earth.

The surmounting tasks that the Melancholic feels he must do often becomes too overwhelming, for obvious reasons.  His lists are unrealistic.  However, it is difficult for him to prioritize and make decisions because everything feels important and urgent.

Getting started on any task is very challenging because of the imposed standard of perfection his places on himself.  Melancholics can think of a hundred ways something won’t work before they even begin a project.  They are already a failure before they start.

The Melancholic is extremely in tune with sadness.  He can pick up on others moods very easily which makes him very empathetic.  On the flip-side, they can often take things harder than person with the actual problem.

Melancholics have very low self-esteem.  They don’t feel like they deserve anything good.  Because of their keen awareness of faults and sins, they have a difficult time forgiving themselves, moving on, and learning from the occasion.

Social situations are very draining.  And stressful circumstances require a lot of energy as well.  The Melancholic needs more rest during these specific times, if not all the time.  The mind is always working at top speed which might be the explanation for consistent low energy levels.  The mind interrupts every experience.  Thinking and over-analyzing are constant companions.  But how does one “turn off” his brain?

The combination of perfectionism, pessimism, low energy levels, can often make the Melancholic feel incapable, inadequate, and undeserving.

Is any of this sounding familiar?

It’s no wonder that people with this temperament struggle with maintain good mental health.  Most of these descriptions are classic symptoms of depression and anxiety. 

I know it seems like this temperament has all weaknesses and no strengths.  Like a true Melancholic, I would focus only on the flaws if no one checked me.

On the positive side, Melancholics can be great contemplatives.  Many saints possessed the Melancholic temperament.  They can be incredibly creative because of their deep insight.  Once they finally let someone in, they make for loyal, compassionate friends.  And, Melancholics are very attentive to detail, often being able to work on the most tedious, detailed job without growing weary.  They are determined once they get started, and will see things through till the end.

I know each of the four temperaments has their own set of struggles and obstacles.  I am only picking on the Melancholics because of the link to depression and anxiety.  I think it’s interesting to know that I was prone to despair before I began to experience the symptoms of clinical depression.

Before I end, I’m throwing in a disclaimer; I’m not saying all Melancholics are depressed, just that, because of their nature, they are prone to it.  And I am also not saying that only Melancholics are the one who get depressed.  You could have any type of temperament and suffer from any mental illness.  Often times, mental illness can change your temperament temporarily.  The mental illness can override your natural inclinations and make you act “out of character”.

If you are a loved one of a Melancholic it is important to know that just because the he or she can be pessimistic, grumpy, and complaining most of the time, that does not necessarily mean he or she is unhappy (or has depression).  For the Melancholic, expressing certain feelings looks different than those with other temperaments.

First, encourage trust in your relationship so as to open up the lines of communication.  Once the relationship is grounded and solid, encourage the Melancholic express joy and hope in their daily life.  Finding even the smallest things to be grateful for is an essential habit to form.  And also, prompt them to affirm others often, especially the ones they love.  Gently remind the Melancholic of these things because guilt trips or pressure will only cause them to withdraw inward.

The tendency to depression will always be present in the Melancholic.  However, with good habits and a solid support system, mental illness will stay far away.

I hope that by better understanding these inherit reactions of mine as a Melancholic, I can better understand how to overcome the depression and the anxiety and any other obstacles associated with this temperament.  It is kind of like going to the source, instead of just treating the symptoms.

It may also help me to be kind to myself and cut myself some slack.  After all, God gave me this temperament.  Not that I need to use that as an excuse to stop bettering myself, but that I may use His grace to build upon this nature.

“Whatever is true, whatever is honorable, whatever is just, whatever is pure, whatever is lovely, whatever is gracious, if there is any excellence and if there is anything worthy of praise, think about these things.” (Phil 4:8)

Friday, December 13, 2013

Your Temperament and Your Mental Health, Part 1: What’s Your Temperament?

Going off my last post “It’s OK to have emotions; it’s how you deal with them that matters.”, your temperament has a lot to do with how you deal with your emotions.

If you don’t already know, your temperament is your natural inclinations, behaviors, and responses to life.  It is not your personality, your character, or your fate.  Who you are is not limited to your temperament; your character is made up of your education, environment, free will, family of origin, habits, health, etc.  Your temperament is, however, a general set of guidelines to help you better understand yourself and others.

There are four categories: Sanguine, Phlegmatic, Choleric, and Melancholic.  These four distinctions of human reactions date all the way back to the time of Socrates, Plato, and even Hippocrates.

Some people are skeptical of categorizing because they feel put in a box.  The temperaments are not an excuse to sin or act in an uncharitable way.  On the contrary, knowing your primary and secondary temperaments can help you develop your strengths and work toward overcoming your weaknesses.  “Why do you notice the splinter in your brother’s eye, but do not perceive the wooden beam in your own eye?” (Matt. 7:3)  Knowing yourself can help you make changes for the better and become the best version of yourself.

It is difficult to pinpoint a specific temperament in the saintly man.  On our journey toward holiness, we become more and more “centered” or “balanced”, living life in the intersection of the four.  It is not about “changing” who you are, but more so about building on your nature.  As St. Thomas Aquinas says, “Grace builds upon nature”.

There is much to say about the four temperaments.  If you want an in-depth look, check out the book, “The Temperament God Gave You” by Art and Laraine Bennett.  This book will help you figure out what temperament you have, and, in addition, by understanding all the different temperaments, you can learn how to better relate to your spouse, your children, and to God.  For example, if you are a laid-back Phlegmatic and your spouse is a go-getter Choleric, or if you have a pensive Melancholic son and you are a fun-loving Sanguine.  My favorite part is, probably because I’m a Melancholic, the practice advice given to deepen your spiritual life corresponding with the temperament you have.

For the sake of this post, I am going to simplify the four categories (speaking in terms of reactions) to fall under the main descriptions of either: quickly or slowly, and shallowly or deeply (if those are even real words).  See my high-tech chart below. J

        Quick/Active/Extroverted         Slow/Passive/Introverted

Shallow/Factual                               Sanguine                             Phlegmatic

Deep/Personal                                 Choleric                                Melancholic

Simplified, the Sanguine reacts quickly, has glass-half-full optimism, makes decisions easily, everybody’s friend, and loves to be the center of attention.  Large crowds energize them and nothing seems to bother them.  Sanguines are quick to forgive and forget, generous, self-giving, friendly, attentive, and communicative.  Some possible weakness include: superficiality, easily distracted, and speaks before he thinks.  People with the temperament of Sanguine need to understand Jesus is his truest friend and that love is the basis for rules and discipline.

The Phlegmatic reacts slowly and, most often, without a whim, reserved, sensible, tolerant, and dependable.  Peace is their source of energy and they will do anything to avoid conflict.  They are harmonious and peacekeepers, yet they are not strong leaders.  In the midst of crisis, they stay calm and rational.  The Phlegmatic can be dispassionate, detached, and overly scientific.  They will aim to please to the point of fault, falling into peer pressure or sacrifice their values.  What the Phlegmatic needs most is encouragement, especially to personalize the faith and realize that he has an important role in the Church.

The Choleric reacts quickly and intensely, is strong-willed, rational, highly energetic, enthusiastic, and very productive.  Activity energizes the Choleric and wasting time is the most annoying thing.  The Choleric’s strengths are: leadership, decisiveness, efficiency, and ability to grasp the big picture.  The Choleric’s weaknesses are: quick to judge, domineering, overly ambitious, fear of intimacy, and prone to pride and anger.  This temperament needs obedience, humility, and understanding, yet first needs to realize that he “needs” these things.

The Melancholic reacts slowly and deeply, values the “ideal”, is empathetic, introverted, and loyal.  Reflection and solitude energizes the Melancholic and chaos is overwhelming.  Strengths: precision, detail, organization, and consistency.  They are the writers, poets, musicians, and artists of the world.  However, those with this temperament can fall into scrupulosity, perfectionism, pessimism, and despair.  Melancholics need supernatural hope, joy, prudent realistic goals, and not to forget to take care of their human needs.

If you're still unsure of what temperament you have, check out this assessment by Sophia Institute.
The point of all this is to help you determine what type of temperament you and your loved ones have.  The more you can understand each other, the more you can avoid miscommunications and grow your relationships.  The more you can understand yourself, the more you can grow in virtue and deepen your relationship with God.

Aaaaaaaaand.....Knowing your temperament can help you recover from mental illness.

I provided this brief analysis as a foundation because wanted to go into a little more depth discussing the Melancholic temperament (well, probably because that is my primary temperament).  Also, I learned about some interesting things about possible links between Melancholics and mental health that deserved some attention.

But in order to create some suspense, you’ll have to stay tuned until next time for Part 2 of this post! J

Wednesday, December 11, 2013

It’s OK to have emotions; it’s how you deal with them that matters.

Emotions are not bad in and of themselves; they are a part of life.

Most of the time, you cannot control the emotions or the feelings you experience.  In the past, I’ve written about how feelings are like the weather.  They come and they go.  And just like the weather, sometimes, strong feelings are unwanted.

Even though we can’t control the weather, or our emotions, we can still adapt to the environment in which we live.  The defining factor between good and poor mental health is how you deal with your emotions.

(It is in that sense that people talk about “controlling their emotions”.  In actuality, one controls his/her emotions by responding in a positive and productive way – not, however, by stopping them from occurring altogether.)

A major part of mental health recovery is focused on dealing with your emotions in a healthy way.

Everyone has unwelcome emotions.  Those who have mental health problems are prone to dealing with their emotions in a self-destructive way.  So, in order to get better, those habits need to be changed for the good.

For example, drink excessive amounts of alcohol to deal with the pain of losing a loved one is not a good way to deal with emotions of sadness and grief.  There is nothing wrong with feeling sadness and grief; those are natural emotions that occur in life.  What is harmful is how one deals with those strong feelings.  Long-term, self-destructive behaviors left unaddressed can result in more problems like alcoholism, drug abuse, and suicide.  All the while, the sadness and grief are not given space but buried deep down inside a person.

Healthy ways to deal with strong emotions must be determined by the person experiencing the feelings.  Some things work well from some but not for others.

Still, even today, I am trying to figure out what works for me and what doesn’t work for me.  It is tricky because it even varies from day to day.

I have a default setting that, when things get bad, when I am experiencing strong emotions, I want to restrict my eating or not eat at all.  Or, I want to exercise until I get dizzy from exhaustion.  Obviously, these are not healthy coping skills.  It has been a struggle to over-ride those default settings.

Years and years ago, I developed those self-destructive methods to cope with my emotions because I thought that my emotions we the result of something bad inside of me.  I thought that I was to blame for what I was feeling.  And I thought that I “shouldn’t” be feeling that way.

I had to learn that it is OK to have feelings.  Having emotions means you are human.

Instead of the self-destructive behaviors, I try to deal by:
Talking about how I feel – whether or not I feel like I “deserve” to feel that way or not.
Taking a walk – fresh air and light exercise helps me think clearly and efficiently in order to make better decisions.  Sometimes, I need to listen to my iPod while I walk because I need to allow myself not to think anymore.
Doing the dishes – sometimes mindless activity is needed to distract from the relentless thoughts.  It is a small accomplishment that doesn’t take much effort but is still satisfying.
Scheduling a time to cry – I don’t want to cry all the time, but sometimes I need to.  So I tell myself that I can cry later when the time is right.
Taking a nap – sometimes, being over-tired triggers unwanted emotions.  Taking a nap or going to bed early can rejuvenate and refresh the mind.  I always feel better after a good rest.
Remembering who I am – I am a child of God.  He wants what is best for me.  He will only give me what He knows I can handle.  He only allows bad things to happen because a greater good will come from it.  If I can pray, then that is also a good coping skill.  If not, then I repeat to myself “I am loved. I am enough.”

Learning to deal with your emotions starts at a very young age.  Most of the time, we learn how to deal from our parents or caregivers.  If they have unhealthy habits, their children will most likely develop unhealthy habits.

There is nothing wrong with showing emotion.  This article from does a fantastic job explaining why it is important to show your children that you are experiencing strong emotions, like anger and so on.  But, as expressed in the article, equally important is that you continue the process and also show how you deal with your emotions in a healthy, non-self-destructive way.

Remember, emotions are not bad; you are not a bad person if you feel strong feelings.  How you respond to your emotions is what really matters.  Suppressing your feelings will only result in bigger issues.  So, it is important to find beneficial ways to express your emotions and allow them to have a proper place in your life.  Eventually, your emotions won’t seem so scary if you have healthy habits ready to deal with them when it is needed.

Wednesday, December 4, 2013

Having an Ego Can Help in Eating Disorder Recovery

As of late, I’ve felt redundant in my blog.  I’ve written about a lot of topics and I’ve pretty much said everything I want to say.  But, I recognize that I need to be reminded over and over and over again in order to stay on the straight and narrow.  So, I’m thinking that maybe you will continue reading as well, even though I am repeating myself, because you need to be reminded too.

Healing from mental illness takes a lot of time.  Continuing to learn and re-learn information will set you up for success.  I think the statistic goes you have to read or hear something seven times before you actually learn it (???).  That is why I take time every day to work on my mental health; whether it’s reading helpful information, implementing new skills, or practicing healthy habits.  Ev. Er. Y. Day.

I recently read a good critique about maintaining eating disorder recovery during the holidays.  In the article, the author writes about how making progress toward mental health is counter-cultural:

“Recovering from an eating disorder while living in such an environment can be a maddeningly frustrating experience. A clinician I know explains it this way: ‘A person recovering from an eating disorder is recovering into a very disturbed world.’ To recover means to land above and beyond where the vast majority of people are in terms of food and body.”

As an eating disorder survivor, one needs to recognize this reality.  The sociological standards and cultural norms will not help you live a life of recovery.  This phenomenon is similar to a recovering alcoholic living his whole life in one gigantic bar.  There is no escape from the constant temptation to relapse.

The author goes on to say:

“Although it can be satisfying to have such an evolved perspective, it also can be challenging. It's hard to feel forced out of all the bonding that happens over discussions about exercise routines, and it can be daunting to try to practice "normal eating" when you are surrounded by people eating diet foods.”

In order to say true to the mission of recovery, personally, I must view my relationship with food as superior to others’ perspectives.  For me, I have to believe that what I am doing is the right thing for me and what you are doing is the wrong thing.  I know it sounds egotistical, but it is essential that I believe my eating habits are more advanced than yours.  If not, if I don’t believe my way is the right way, then I will cave in my convictions and fall into an eating disorder relapse.

It is a tricky thing to live, let alone to write about.  Bottom line: if you want to recover from an eating disorder, you’ve got to have some sort of an ego.  More often than not, those who struggle with E.D.’s have no ego at all and very low self-esteem to boot.  I grapple with feelings of worthlessness on a day to day basis; so, needless to say, this part of recovery is very difficult for me.

I can very much relate to the authors words when she talks about living it out, “Even though I know I should be proud of myself for doing what is healthy and supportive of a life in recovery, I sometimes experience shame around not complying with the prevailing cultural expectations.”  Shame.  It keeps me from making new friends, it causes me extreme anxiety before social events, and it keeps me from being who I am meant to be.  Shame plays the biggest role in keeping me from full recovery.

Carry on my wayward son...  Why do I take time everyday to intentionally get better?  Because if I don’t, then I will forget where I’ve come from and what it took to get to where I am today.  I don’t want to go back to the way I was before.

In conclusion (from the article), “In those moments when I feel like I will scream if one more person comments on how she supposes she can afford to eat dessert because she worked out that morning, I have to dig deep and remind myself that I actually don't want to fit into that cultural norm--I've worked too hard to raise myself above it.”

Monday, December 2, 2013

7 Ways to Make the Holidays More Enjoyable

{Photo credit here}
On the one hand, I love the Holidays: being able to see family and friends, celebrating gratitude and the birth of Jesus, and switching up the routine for a while.  It can be a time of great blessing and renewal.

On the other hand, I hate the busyness and the expectations the Holidays can bring.  Parties are crammed into a few days.  Meals take so much preparation and planning.  There are expectations to make sure everything turns out perfect – having the right amount of food, civil interactions with family members, finding the perfect gifts, and having to appear a certain way.

Everybody handles the holiday season differently.  For me, I have an introverted personality.  Large crowds, parties, and socializing drains me, like a battery having the life sucked out of it.  Some people, however, thrive in social environments.  Being in crowds and socializing at parties recharges their batteries and actually gives them energy.  I have a difficult time understanding this, but I know it is true because my husband is this way.

It is good to know which type of person you are.

If you are an introvert like me, or an extroverted perfectionist, you might need these tips to help you have a more enjoyable December.  Or maybe you are an extrovert but the holidays still stress you out.  Regardless, here are some hints to help you thrive during the holiday season, instead of just surviving it.

1.  Unplug from Pinterest.  There are so many ideas on Pinterest, it can be overwhelming.  The “cuteness” and “cleverness” is never ending.  In addition, it is full of unrealistic, perfect pictures.  In no way does the internet portray real life.  If you need a recipe or an idea and you MUST look at Pinterest, then set a timer for 10 minutes.  Look it up and move on with your day.  If you can’t handle that, then look something up in an old fashioned cook book.

2.  Slow down.  Nothing is worth doing, if it is taking away your peace and stressing you out.  Work at a pace that is enjoyable to you.  If you don’t get everything done, it’s not the end of the world.  In order to make the actually day of the holiday enjoyable, the journey must also be enjoyable.

Don’t let the stress of the preparation carry over into the holiday.  This past Thanksgiving, I made sure to make the preparation as fun as the actual day.  In turn, doing so made Thanksgiving Day (and all the other parties that weekend) more fun.

3.  Adjust the settings on your “expectation meter” to ZERO.  Tell yourself right now, “It’s not going to be perfect” and “it’s not going to turn out how I want”.  But that’s OK.  Don’t imagine the worst – just accept the events as they come.  Lowering your expectations will automatically ease your stress.

4.  Don’t consume yourself with what other people might be thinking of you.  The truth is, they’re not thinking about YOU, they are thinking about themselves.  So don’t beat yourself up about something you said or didn’t say.  Don’t analyze what you did in certain situations.  No one is thinking about you – if they do, it will only be for a moment and they will move on.  Embrace the awkwardness.

5.  Don’t participate in gossip.  You might understand how harmful it is to other people.  Yet, gossip is just as harmful to the person speaking it.  If you spend your time talking about others, even if it is good things, you will begin to worry about what other people are saying about you.  Gossip feeds a low self-esteem whether you are degrading someone else to feel better about yourself, or whether you are comparing someone’s strengths to your weaknesses.

If you find that you are surrounded by toxic people, people who gossip a lot or make you feel bad about yourself, it is OK to walk away.  As Eleanor Roosevelt once said, “No one can make you feel inferior without your consent.”  So don’t consent to be a part of toxic conversations, even if you are just trying to be polite.  We, as a society, do so many ridiculous things in the name of “politeness”.  Don’t sacrifice your self-worth in order to be polite to someone you barely know.

6.  Quiet your inner critic.  Think of your inner critic, or the voice of anxiety, as a toddler throwing a temper tantrum.  Just like a toddler, if you respond to the crying, you are adding more fuel to the fire.  Ignore the voices in your head that put you down, degrade your self-worth, or make you feel like you’re not good enough.  Ignore the voices that cause anxiety, perfectionist tendencies, or obsessive behaviors.  Tell yourself, “Remember, I am not going to do that anymore!”  And try to move on.  Lead with your body (engage in health routines) even if your head isn’t there yet.  If you lead with your actions, your mind will eventually follow.

7.  Remember, you don’t have to do anything you don’t want to do.  Yet, remember, if it is worth doing, then it is worth a little pain and suffering.  Sometimes during the Christmas season, we get so busy with events that we forget to take care of ourselves.  It is OK to pick and choose which events to attend.  If something is causing you too much anxiety, whether you are too busy or you just need to take care of yourself, it is OK to say no.
All in all, we want the Holidays to be an enjoyable time, right?  So, instead of focusing on other people’s standards, focus on what you need.  If you are having a good time, more often than not, others around will have a good time as well.

Saturday, November 30, 2013

Recovering from a Holiday Hangover (and I'm not talking about alcohol)

I'm republishing this post (with a few modifications) from my archives.  I wrote it the day after Thanksgiving last year.  I am realizing that I need to read it again and take my own advice.

Give yourself permission to eat...unconditional permission.

You do NOT have to earn the right to eat food.  It doesn’t matter that it was Thanksgiving just two days ago.  That was then.  Today is today.  It doesn’t matter if you ate a lot more than you are used to.  It doesn’t matter if you ate “bad” foods or not.

You are allowed to eat today.  Are you hungry?  What are you hungry for?

Don't give yourself penance for what you ate in the past.  Don't tell yourself that you will exercise or diet in the future in order to not feel guilty about eating.

Food is more than just food.

Food can intellectually nourish:
During a meal, we nourish our minds by sitting around the table and talking to people.  We get a chance to share stories and hear about the lives of other people.  We use our brains to cook and bake yummy things.  Eating gives you brain power.  If you skip a meal, you skip more than just the energy needed to move your body; you skip out on intellectually stimulating your mind and your social skills.

Food can spiritually nourish:
During a meal, we nourish our souls.  We pray before we eat.  We thank God for the gift of food.  Meals are really very spiritual and scripture based.  There are incredible teachings centered on food and meals in the Bible if you stop and think about it.  For example, the Passover, Manna from Heaven, the Last Supper, the Wedding Feast at Cana, the Feeding of the Five Thousand, the Eucharist, just to name a few.  If you skip a meal, you miss important spiritual nourishment.

Food can emotionally nourish:
Eating IS a very emotional experience.  Everyone remembers their favorite things to eat as a kid.  Lasagna is so nostalgic for me that eating it can bring me back years and years.  Food can be associated with traditions.  Can you say, “Birthday cake”?  Root beer floats, Friday night treat night, bike rides to the tasty freeze, and “slapping” cheese.  I won’t explain why all those foods have meaning to me beyond just nutrition.  I would run the risk of overloading the inside jokes to poisonous levels.   I am sure everyone has their own stories about childhood and food.
{Photo courtesy of}

Want to make this Holiday Season more enjoyable?  Want to get rid of your fear of the feast?

This Holiday Season, you can change the way you view the abundance of food.  Start by asking yourself what you are really hungry for or what you are really craving.

Don't eat something just because you think you "should".  Don’t make food choices because of what other people are eating, what you think is healthier, or what you think you “should” eat.

Allow yourself permission to eat unconditionally - without repercussions.  Remind yourself that if you don’t eat all your favorite foods today, you will still be able to eat them tomorrow.

Eat slowly.  Ponder the food you are eating, where it came from, what it tastes like, what it looks like, etc.

Trust yourself.  Your body is NOT a Tasmanian devil waiting to be released.

This might take some time.  So don’t get too discouraged if you find yourself reverting back to your old ways or feeling the old guilt trip after eating “sinfully delicious” desserts.  Be kind to yourself.  Give yourself a break.  And remember, food is not intrinsically evil.  Food cannot be “sinful”.  This concept is a fabrication of the modern media via commercials and women’s magazines.

If you improve your relationship with food, you will find that your Holiday experience will be more enjoyable...and nourishing!

Tuesday, November 26, 2013

Are you thankful for your marriage?

I am eternally grateful for my husband, Craig.

The main reason I am where I am today is because of him.  Without Craig, I do not think I would be alive.  He has done so much for me these past few years.

He listens when I need to talk.  He is there for me when I need to cry.  He supports me in whatever I do.  And he lets me know he loves me and will never leave me no matter what.

During the toughest of times, he was very good at making himself available when I needed him – that means he truly listened, looked me in the eyes, and was not distracted by television, the iPad, his phone, or time constraints.  And if I felt like I needed to, I could call him at work.

Before we got to that point, I tried to pull myself up by my own boot straps.  I thought that I had to do it alone.  I got myself into this mess, so I have to get myself out.  Needless to say, I had some trust issues.  But, in some way, I think we all have trust issues.  Ingrained in our fallen human nature is the tendency to want to do it our own way all by ourselves.

But that thinking is so wrong and is why so many people fail in recovery.  We’re not meant to do it alone.

Most people treat marriage like college roommates – each going about his/her own life, only to meet up when their paths cross in the living space.  But marriage is so much more.  When you see it as it is, marriage is a very humbling experience.  You have to be vulnerable.  In order to have a good marriage, you must admit you can’t do it alone.  Once you allow your spouse to take care of you, you will understand your vocation of married life more fully.

God unites spouses in marriage because He knows that is the way they’ll get to Heaven.  This is the point of the vocation of marriage.  God brought Craig and I together because without him, I would not make it to Heaven, and without me, Craig would not make it either.  Each and every marriage contains this sacramental reality.

Whether or not you struggle with a mental illness, this is so important to think about.

In order to get to Heaven, you HAVE to learn how to ask for help and to ACCEPT help when help is given.

No matter what your situation is like, if you do not depend on your spouse, you cannot get to Heaven.  So often I see this attitude of prideful independence or some people might call it the “martyr syndrome”.  If you adopt an attitude of “I don’t need”, your marriage will not help you get toward your ultimate end.  Of course, our culture will tell you the opposite; you must be independent and you cannot rely on anyone but yourself.  Can you see how this philosophy is damaging marriages?

A good marriage can show us how we are supposed to relate to God.  God wants us to completely depend on Him for everything.  And He wants us to grow in faith through relationship and community.

So, with the true meaning of marriage in mind, let us consider “happiness”.  If you are relying on your spouse to make you ultimately happy, then you will be disappointed.  God created us for eternal life; nothing will make us truly happy besides being united to Him.  As Saint Augustine once said, “Our hearts are restless until they rest in Thee, Oh Lord”.

Conclusively, living out your vocation of marriage means depending on your spouse to help you on this earthly journey.  Depend on God for your eternal happiness in the next life.

If this made any sense (hopefully it did, sometimes I think I get too philosophical), during this Thanksgiving week, take some time to express gratitude toward your spouse – and of course, God too.

Monday, November 25, 2013

Craig's Helpful Tips

Considering it’s that time of year when we count our blessings, it’s worth noting the main things that have helped me get better this past year.  In a short answer...I have to say, Craig.

I am so Thankful for my husband.

I was talking with him recently and we both came up with a several key components that have aided in my recovery.  He had a few things that helped him, helped him help me, and helped our marriage.

So, whether you are personally struggling with depression and anxiety, or you want to help a loved one, maybe you will be able to benefit from his advice.

Craig’s Points:
Communication, Communication, Communication:  We talked about everything – and I mean everything.  We still talk on a regular basis.

Helped get the ball rolling with the initial step to find a counselor

Talked with and got guidance from a man whose wife deals with the same issues

Doing own research online and gaining a fearful respect for the disease

Wanting to see things get better

Prayer and sacrificing own wants at times

Learning to recognize when to just listen – it’s not about the nail

Realizing it can’t be “fixed”

Continued patience and sacrifice

Recognizing that this will always be a struggle to some extent – there will be good days and bad days.  It is a long journey, have to be in it for the long hull.

Being committed to our marriage in good times and in bad
Thank you, Craig, for helping me on this journey to find mental health.
(Stay tuned tomorrow for more on this topic)

Friday, November 22, 2013

Someone stole my 26.2 sticker

Last weekend, someone took my 26.2 marathon sticker magnet off of my car.  I don’t know why anyone would steal anything, let alone a stupid car magnet.  I should have just left it on my fridge.

I get that it may come across as being vain and egotistical to publish yourself as being among the few completers of a marathon – 0.5% of the U.S. population to be exact.  Maybe some people don’t like it and want to “teach a lesson” to those horrible people who put stickers on their car.  Or maybe some people think they could never run a marathon so no one else should run one either.  I’m pretty sure that’s called “envy”.

In my opinion, the 26.2 sticker is no less vain than a high schooler wearing a letterman jacket with all their varsity letters and awards sewn onto the coat.  Well, maybe some people don’t like those either.

I think it’s good to celebrate your accomplishments.  Obviously, bragging is another thing.  But, if you have a healthy pride in who you are (sometimes its called self-esteem), you are more likely to achieve other goals in the future.  Setting goals and striving to accomplish them is a huge part of maintaining good mental health. 

For me, completing a marathon was so much more than running 26.2 miles.  Sometimes, I feel like I have not accomplished very much in my lifetime.  It is really easy for me to believe the lies of depression and get down on myself because of this.

Each time I saw the 26.2 on the back of my car, I was reminded of that time in my life when I defeated my inner demons, persevered, and overcame incredible mental obstacles.  For me, that sticker represented a bigger reality – the beginning of my defeat over depression.

I was not trying to brag or to make other people feel inferior by placing that sticker on my car.  I was only remembering that “I can do ALL things through CHRIST who strengthens me.”  Maybe next time I’ll make my own sticker that says “26.2 – Phil. 4:13” because that is what I really meant to say.

I'm over the sticker - really, I promise. But I'm taking something out of this experience. I should never judge another person. I have no idea what is going on in their life or in their mind. Perspective changes how we see other people and what they do.

Going forward, let us remember to encourage each other’s strengths and to affirm each other’s talents and gifts – there’s not enough of that in the world.  Instead of comparing ourselves to others, let us recognize our own gifts.  And instead of cutting people down with gossip in order to make ourselves feel better, let us remember how each one of us is unique and has a specific purpose in this world.

Tuesday, November 19, 2013

One Year Anniversary Post (Nov. 15th)

It’s been one full year since I started this blog!  (On November 15th)  I’m pretty proud of myself, I’m not gonna lie.

If you didn’t know, I started this blogyish thing last year because I was wigging out about the upcoming holidays.  For many reasons, the holiday season can exaggerate the symptoms of those who struggle with mental illness – and make normal people do crazy stuff.

Looking back on those inaugural posts, I am surprised by my sarcasm.  I felt so insecure about publishing my writing on the internet.  Who am I that other people would read me stuff?  I still feel that way, but I am less sarcastic because I have so much I want to say.

This whole year, I’ve just wanted to scream on the rooftops that mental illness is real and it hurts – but it’s beatable.  You don’t have to settle for a mediocre life – you can have a nourishing life.

I’ve tried to bring you with me on this journey.  And that’s why my posts are as different as my changing moods.  I’ve tried to make you cry with me, laugh with me, rejoice, or rally with me.

I think, on the whole, I’ve really just wanted to empower you by giving you information.  I believe knowledge is not only powerful, but self-awareness is sanctifying.

Anniversaries are a good time to take a step back and assess how far we’ve come, what has changed, and how we’ve grown.  Even though some days I feel like I’m at square one, I can still look back and acknowledge all the progress I’ve made.

Below are five (so difficult to choose!) of my favorite posts from this year.


I hope you have a nourishing week.
See you again soon!

Friday, November 15, 2013


The Thomas Peters Story

We believe what we believe for a reason.  The laws of our faith are more than just laws; they are more than just rules to keep us in line.  We do what we do because we love.  Only on the foundation of love does the faith make sense.  When tested, like gold refined by fire, we see the true strength and beauty of the faith in our own lives.

This story below will give you courage to continue to uphold the dignity of all life, live faithfully, and remain hopeful in unconditional love.

Earlier this year, two college classmates of mine got married.  When I say college classmates, remember that I went to four different colleges/universities in four years.  These two lovely people were with me during my first college experience at Ave Maria College in Michigan.

To be honest, I don’t remember much of Thomas from those years – except that he was an excellent actor and stunned the audience with his superb performances.  Natalie, on the other hand, I remember very well.  When I first met her, I thought she was, perhaps, the most beautiful person I had ever seen.

As with many of my college acquaintances, I lost touch.  It was through Facebook, of course, that I found out they were getting married.  It put a smile on my face and gave me joy to know that Ave Maria had enabled yet another holy marriage.

About four months ago, it was also through Facebook, less than a year into this couple’s married life, tragedy struck.  In a diving accident, Thomas sustained severe, life-threatening injuries to his head, spine, and lungs.

By no small miracle, he survived and is making great strides in recovery.  Thomas is confined to a wheel chair, for now, and is still without the use of many of his muscles.  He's probably not much older than me.  His wife of now almost 7 months has faithfully stood by his side and used her loving power, which no doctor could simulate, to aid in his recovery.  It brought tears to my eyes the day I read that, after two months, he was finally able to make the sign of the cross again.

This week, contrary to the initial belief of doctors and medical professionals Thomas was able to go home!

(If you would like to read the whole story, you can find more information on their blog.  Read this piece that Thomas wrote himself with the knuckle of his pinkie finger.  Truly amazing!)
We can’t even begin to imagine what Thomas and Natalie are going through.  But I do know, however, that through every step of the way they have stayed faithful to God and faithful to their vocation.

After following a blog for a certain amount of time, you being to feel like you know the people.  You share in their joys and sorrows, and you empathize with them in their pain and suffering; it's the phenomenon of blogging.  Yet, personally knowing these people, I can tell you that they are for real.  In their lives is the making of two beautiful saints.

Why does God allow these bad things to happen to such good people?  He only allows it because, in His infinite wisdom, He knows that a greater good will come from it.

The reason I am telling you this story is because they are hosting a special social media-thon to raise money for medical expenses.  If anything can break the spirits of a devout, young couple, it is the financial burden of extreme medical bills.
Also, quoted from their blog, "With your help, Thomas could go to more therapy sessions, and more therapy means a better chance at a fuller recovery."

Most of the time, we are not given the opportunity to directly answer someone’s prayers.  But God uses us, His instruments, to bring about His plan in every circumstance.

I am reminded of a piece of wisdom that used to sit on top of our refrigerator when I was a kid:  “If you pray, God will make a way.”  I know Thomas and Natalie are praying for a way to make this happen.  But the thing is, they don’t have to do it alone.  We are the Body of Christ; when one part suffers, we all suffer.  Let us show them that they are not alone.

Thomas is a writer, and as I am sitting here looking out at the snow and complaining about the cold temperatures, I am humbled.  I can type this post and sip my hot coffee.  I have two working arms and two working legs.

Thomas writes for Catholic Vote.  Before his accident, he strove to promote the value of human life, from natural conception to natural death.  He has been a strong voice of conviction and hope in this dark world.  From his work, countless lives have been saved.  However, I think now, by his example, even more people will come to the fullness of faith.

The value of a human being is not reduced to what he can do.  Every single life has inherent value given to him by God.  It doesn’t matter if you are talking about a 4 week old baby embryo or a bedridden elderly woman.  Our culture is trending toward this notion that, in order for one to be worthy of life, he or she must contribute to society in a useful way.  If this belief becomes the standard of law, then how would beautiful people, like Thomas and Natalie, be treated?  With the dignity and respect every person deserves?

I hope that Thomas and Natalie can see the good that is in God’s plan – if not now, then maybe someday.  They might not realize it, but they are positively impacting many other people’s lives by sharing their story and living as an example.

The special social media-thon was technically yesterday.  I know I am a day late.  But, I’m pretty sure our generosity would still be accepted.  If you would like to help Thomas and Natalie, click here.
Even if you can’t give any money, you can still offer some prayers.  We should never underestimate the power of prayer.
If you’d like to spread the word, share his story on your social media pages with #IStandwithThomasPeters.

Thank you for reading.  God Bless You All.