Thursday, February 28, 2013

Abortion and Depression

The World Health Organization recently published that, in the last 45 years, suicide rates have increase by 60%.  In the United States alone these rates are higher, and the number of people diagnosed with clinical depression has increased exponentially every year.  Mental disorders, such as depression disorder and alcohol abuse disorder, are the number one cause of suicide deaths in our free country.

In light of those recent statistics, I am going to make a bold statement...

I believe the increased number of major depressive disorder cases and the resulting suicide rates in the U.S. is a consequence of the legalization of abortion.

For over 40 years, abortion has been legal in the United States.

If you have been directly affected by the evil of abortion, then you are very likely to suffer from depression because of the tragedy of the event.  The abortion industry conceals this truth, but it is a horrific experience to have an abortion.

Every medication label, every medical procedure, every box of cigarettes, and even some food labels include a warning about the possible health risks associated with the using the products.  Every doctor will talk about the risks of certain medical surgeries, procedures, and decisions and thoroughly discuss the outcome with the patient.  Every doctor is looking out for the best interest of the patient by giving them this information.  Every single surgery has this routine, except one majorly invasive surgical procedure, abortion.  Women are told that the "problem" can be taken care of in a matter of minutes and they will never have to think of it again.  However, the reality of the situation is that a very high percentage of woman will suffer immense physical complications as a result of the abortion.  And a high majority of mothers will suffer life-long emotional trauma in the form of anxiety, depression, or other mental illnesses in the years following an abortion.  If you have had an abortion, you are 248% more likely die as a result of suicide with the first year!  This information is staggering!  Yet, those horrific statistics are hidden from the public, not to mention hidden from the patients themselves.

I am convinced that the increase in mental illnesses such as major depressive disorder is a result of the legalization of abortion.

The root of the problem is that we have completely disregarded the VALUE of human life.

Even if you have never had an abortion or been directly involved in an abortion, you are still susceptible to the effects of this great tragedy.  Even if you are avidly pro-life, you will still be greatly influenced by the culture of death brought about by abortion, contraception, euthanasia, selective parenting, stem cell research, etc.  EVERYONE is effected by these evils more than they know.

If a culture has no respect for life at its beginning (at conception), what point does life receive value?  Eight weeks?  Eight months?  Eight Years?  If a culture does not condone euthanasia of the elderly, the severely disabled, or ill, when does a person stop becoming worthy of life?  In addition, who decides when someone no longer has value anyway?

As a culture, we have crossed the line.  We are being brainwashed to believe that it is okay to kill another living human being.  Since there is no respect for life at its beginning or at its end, who is to believe that there will be respect for human life in between?  Well, the hard truth is; our society does NOT value human life as it is.

Today we are faced with a very dangerous school of thought.  The public consensus is that a person has value because of what he can do.  Just think of how we desire to climb the ladder of success.  Think of how we value accomplishments and praise achievements.  What do you do and how do you think when you cannot contribute to society?

This ugly cultural reality is evident in many ways.  One manifestation of this belief is the fact that our government has legalized abortion and some forms of euthanasia.  In society’s eyes, the unborn, the severely disabled, and the elderly cannot productively contribute to society.  Reflected in our country's laws, these human persons are useless and, therefore, their lives do not have value.

How does it feel to know that you, as a human being, have value in our current culture based only on what you are capable of doing?  Whether or not you can contribute to society determines whether or not you are worthy of life.

Under the influence of this culture of death, it’s no wonder why so many people commit suicide.

For 40 years, we have been told that we have to earn our value.  Why would abortion be legal if we didn’t think this way?  The culture of death shows us that you are not worthy of life until you can prove that you are valuable.  You, yourself, according to this culture, do not deserve life until you earn it.

Most people suffering from a severe depression feel that they are incapable of doing anything.  A major symptom of depressive disorder is feeling "worthless".  If you have depression, or have ever experience a very low time in your life, it is likely that you felt useless and, maybe, not even deserving of life.

Look around and everything about our society affirms that belief.  How can anyone expect to fully recover when what we are told and what we witness are not in line.  Our actions, on the whole, show what we really think about life.  It doesn’t matter what we say, the actions by our legal government prove that we do not value life as it is, in our country.

Now that you've been shown this relation between abortion and depression, what do you think?

You may not be directly affected by abortion, but it affects you more than you realize.

All human beings are created by God and, therefore, have an immense value.  Each person, from conception until natural death is deserving and worthy of living.

This reality is yet another reason to stand up, speak out, and embrace the culture of LIFE!

Watch the Trailer for the Movie "Blood Money" here, and then go watch the Movie!

Tuesday, February 26, 2013

Out with the old and in with the new

I am having a terrible morning for one reason.  I feel fat.

In my opinion, I have been eating a lot recently.  In addition, I have not been exercising.

In my mind, those two things need to be delicately balanced in order to maintain a healthy weight and healthy attitude.

In the past, I have lived by the rule: food=matter and exercise=anti-matter.  Without getting into all the details, I falsely believed that every morsel of consumed food would directly attach itself to my body.  And if I don’t exercise, I will increasingly continue to gain weight.

However, the body is a complex system.  Even with all the scientific advances and knowledge available to us, we do not know everything there is to know about nutrition and health.  Each person is unique.  And each person has their own metabolism, hormonal balance, digestive system, wants, needs, cravings, likes, and dislikes.  Not to mention, everyone has a heart, mind, and soul, as well as a body. When you eat, you nourish more than just your body.

This weekend, I felt like I ate when I was still training for my marathon.

I feel bad now because I don’t normally eat that way.  My body is not used to those amounts of food in that short of time.

I also feel bad because I feel guilty.  I regret what I ate and can’t seem to move on.  I feel like I have to run 10 miles to get the food out of my tummy and out of my thoughts.  I still hold on to those beliefs that everything I eat is going to make me gain weight.

To make it through, I have to remember two things.

First, if I trust myself and listen to my body and my needs, I will find balance and peace…maybe not today or tomorrow, but in time.

Second, it is okay.  So what if I ate more than usual?  It is NOT the end of the world.  All is NOT lost.

Eating healthier and finding balance after eating large amounts of non-nutritious food is a desire that originally comes from good intentions ingrained in our human nature.

Lots of people feel the need to eat a few more vegetables after the holidays.  After a long winter, some people feel like trying harder to exercise when the weather starts getting nice.  Or after big parties or events, you hear ultimatums left and right about starting "that diet" tomorrow.

You see, embedded in our human nature is the basic desire to refresh our body and begin anew.

Since we have a fallen and sinful human nature, we have to keep trying over and over.  We know in the depths of our being that we are meant for something greater; we are meant for perfection in eternal life.

This human characteristic is manifested in the “big picture” goal and in day to day life, as well.  It feels great to take a shower or get a haircut.  A personal favorite of mine is wearing clothes straight from the dryer.  In society, we love the thought of a blank new year, the start of the next week, and a fresh sunrise of a new day.

Would you leave a baby in a dirty diaper because he is just going to poop in it again soon?  No way!  You change diapers again and again, no matter how many times it gets smelly.

Further more, as Catholics, we love the beginning of Lent for the chance to start anew with good intentions to improve ourselves.  In addition, confession is a wonderful way we cleanse our souls and begin once more to live a pure and sinless life.

So, in light of all these examples, you can see that it is inherent in our human nature to purify ourselves and start over with a clean slate.

Now, the desire to start over is a two-fold process; out with the old, and in with the new.  I am pretty good at the “in with the new” part.  I am willing to change.  I want to change.  I think change is a good thing.  However, when it comes to the “out with the old” part, I have to be careful of how I go about the process.

My good intentions to start over can become obsessive.  If I am not careful, I can take it too far.  Instead of just getting rid of the old, I try to completely annihilate myself and re-build from scratch.  I treat myself more like an old building to be demolished and less like a human person.

Can I completely destroy myself and start over?  No.

I have struggled with this concept, however, for many years, especially when it comes to food.  After this weekend, all I wanted to do was refrain from eating and exercise until I dropped.  In reality, I really just wanted to strip my body down to the bones, and start again.  I pretty much wanted to kill my physical self and rebuild from my soul out.

As you can see, completely killing the body while still living in spirit is impossible.  We do not have the power to perform that task.  Yet I have tried to do this over and over again.  I am still tempted to do this even now, even after I see how crazy it is to try to do.

God is the only one who can separate our bodies from our souls, and that happens at the time of our death.  Our Lord teaches us through the Church that this phenomenon of body/soul separation is only temporary.  At the end of time, we will be rejoined to our bodies.  We profess in the Creed at Sunday Mass, “[I believe] in the forgiveness of sins, the resurrection of the body, and life everlasting”.  Amen!

So, how do I tie all this together?  The only answer to my question is to lead with my body and let my head catch up (See yesterday's post).  My head wants to obliterate my old body and start anew.  But I know those thoughts, coming from good intentions, are not good, to say the least.  I have to lead with my actions and ignore my brain.  I have to go through the motions of making myself a healthy breakfast, lunch, and dinner, and eating it even if I’d rather starve myself.  Hopefully, by the end of the day, I will at least feel good about not giving in to those temptations to annihilate my body.

Our bodies are good.  Treat your body with dignity and respect.  Your body has infinite value.  Why would God go through the trouble to reunite our souls to our bodies at the end of time if our bodies were bad?  Why would He give us back our bodies if they were not valuable?

Just some light thoughts to ponder today and discuss with your friends over lunch…

Monday, February 25, 2013

My head told my heart, let love grow…

…but my heart told my head, this time no, this time no. [1]

The sun is shining.  The birds are chirping.  It’s the start of a fresh new week.  Yet, I can’t find a single thing to smile about.  I don’t want to get out of bed.  I don’t want to do anything.  I don’t, I can’t, I won’t…

Even though I have no major commitments (a.k.a. no full-time job), there are projects at home that I have been looking forward to doing.  Like anyone else, I have my list of things that I want to accomplish.

I want to get started on the basement make over.
I just got more beautiful colors of yarn for knitting and crocheting.
I am in the middle of reading the first, and very exciting, Lord of the Rings book.
I love doing artwork, crafts, and such.  And, I have the time and resources to do so.

Then, why I am not taking advantage of my situation and doing all the things I love to do?  Who wouldn’t trade me for my completely free schedule in a heartbeat?  Even though I have so much to be thankful for, why do I still feel so miserable?

It must be because I am lazy and ungrateful.

At least, that is what my brain is telling me.

For these circumstances, I am going to share with you some of the best advice I have ever heard.  Are you ready?  Wisdom!  Be attentive![2]  This piece of insight is going to change your life:

You must lead with your body, and your head will follow.[3]

When your mind is not feeling up for anything, start moving your body against your will.  This seems counter intuitive because it is; it is opposite of what you think to be true.

Since we were young, we have been advised to allow our heads to make the right decisions and to be careful of letting our hearts lead the way.  The point of that lesson is to do what you know to be right, even if you don’t feel like it.  Yet, for those struggling with depression, the head is not the source of infallible knowledge.   If I had let my head dictate my life when I was going through some of my darkest times, I would not be here today.

So, if you are dealing with a mental illness, such as depression, anxiety, or an eating disorder, it is good to not always listen to your head.  Instead, form a different type of habit.  Lead with your actions, and your head will follow.  Choose those certain activities that you know, for a fact, are going to do you good.  If you don’t feel like it, even if your mind is telling you otherwise, do it anyway.  Once you get moving, there is a good chance that your brain will catch up later.  Just like any other good habit, this practice is learned over time.

For me, some mornings, all it takes is going through the motions of making a pot of coffee and some breakfast.  Most days, however, I have to lead with my body all day long and my brain never seems to catch up.

Nonetheless, the more I remember this practice, the better things turn out in the end.

[1] Mumford and Sons Lyrics, Winter Wind, 2011
[2] Shout out to Gaming, Austria Fall 2005. Byzantine Liturgy
[3] From Margarita Tartakovsky viaTherese Borchard, Weightless

Sunday, February 24, 2013

Prayer for Acceptance of God’s Will

{Photo published on web here}
O Lord, I do not know what to ask You. You alone know my real needs, and You love me more than I even know how to love. Enable me to discern my true needs which are hidden from me. I ask for neither a cross nor a consolation but simply wait in patience for You. My heart is open to You.

For Your great mercy’s sake, come to me and help me. Put Your mark on me and heal me, cast me down and raise me up. I silently adore Your holy will and Your inscrutable ways. I offer myself in sacrifice to You and put all my trust in You. I desire only to do Your will. Teach me how to pray. Amen.

Friday, February 22, 2013

Rise over Run

{Photo published on web here}
Skipping a meal is a slippery slope.  Stepping on a scale is also a slippery slope.  In addition, eating too much “healthy” food, exercising for more than an hour, looking in the mirror too often, going clothes shopping, putting on a swimsuit, and looking at women’s magazines are all dangerously icy inclines.

These things are risky business because I could easily slip into the old eating disorder habits.

Okay, sometimes, I am going along doing every right and it just happens.  I am stuck outside, miles from home, and I find myself in some “bad weather”.  Do I brave the circumstances to get safely back home?

Mental disorders are kind of like Ohio weather.  One day it’s 50 degrees and sunny; the next day, it is snowy with wind chill temperatures in the single digits.

I cannot control the weather.  I cannot control mental disorders.  The weather comes and goes, just like feelings come and go.  Even though it may feel like it, the blizzard won’t last forever and it will be spring again soon.

Just because we cannot control the weather, doesn’t mean we have to live outside in it.  We can come inside.  We can wear warmer clothes.  We can adjust.  We can practice coping skills.  We don’t have to live out in the elements.  We don’t have to settle with the way things are.

(I got this analogy from Dr. Scott Hahn and his audio CD, Love Unveiled, 2012 from Lighthouse Catholic Media Organization.  He used the weather to talk about feelings.  I took it a step further and applied it also to mental illness.)

In Ohio the other day, we had some snowy, icy precipitation.  The bad road conditions weren’t the only risk I was facing.  That afternoon of the winter storm, I also had a routine doctor’s appointment.  Before I saw the doctor, the nurse took the essentials.  You know… blood pressure, pulse, and…gulp…weight.
I kindly asked the nurse if she could NOT tell me my weight.
“No problem,” she murmured.
However, in going through the motions of her day to day job, she accidentally let the big red number slip.  Immediately, she stumbled with her words and got out something that sounded like, “Well, that number, you are, it is in the normal range according to BMI.”
A simple apology would have been nice.
I faked a smile, “that’s okay”, I said.  I wanted to say, I don’t give a shiitake mushroom about BMI, Lady. 

It is the number on the scale that gets me every time.

The number reflected on the scale when I step on it is always too large.  It doesn’t matter how small the number is, or how much weight I lose.  It will never be good enough for me.  So, if it doesn’t matter how small it is, it doesn’t matter how big it is either.  With that enlightening self-knowledge, I’ve come to the conclusion that I’d rather not know the number at all.

Nevertheless, the damage’s done; I know the number.  The experience has already left me grappling in the dark for my self-worth.  I immediately started planning to shave off calories from my meals and to go to the YMCA every day.

By the grace of God, I am not worried that it will majorly set me back this time.  Fortunately, I bounced back quickly and I was able to find some humor in the situation.  I invented a new definition for BMI: Bogus Material Info.

You may not think my acronym is funny.  However, I was literally laughing out loud when I told the doctor about my new-found discovery.  He didn’t quite understand, but you know doctors, all business.

Oh laughter, you are a very powerful drug.

If you want to have a nourishing life, a more positive self image, and a holier existence, get rid of your scale.  It doesn't matter what that number says.  You are perfect just the way you are.

When you die, are you going to think, "Gee whiz, I am so glad I spent all that time trying to be thin" and worrying about the number on the scale?  I doubt it.  Think about your ultimate goal.

Wednesday, February 20, 2013

Recovery in the Shoes of a Catholic Woman

{Photo published on web here}
When I first started seeking depression and eating disorder help, I found many resources on the web.  Unfortunately not all advice is good advice.  I sorted through the beneficial Internet sites and blogs and picked out elements that applied to me.  When I first started seeing a counselor, I had to translate some of the advice I received in my sessions.  It was much like sifting through sand to find the treasures.

Because I am a practicing Catholic, some of the advice did not jive with my faith.  For example: Zen Buddhism, Yoga, Self-Empowering Meditation, Hypnosis, etc.

I changed therapists many times until I found one I was comfortable with.  Something they don't tell you when you first start going to therapy is that you have to search.  And when you do find a good mentor, you get out of it what you put into it.
(In some cases, no counseling is better than bad counseling.)
I am thankful that God led me to my current counselor.  He is also a regularly practicing Catholic so his advise is congruent with my faith.
But to get to the point, dealing with a mental illness looks different to a secular person than it does to a practicing Catholic.
In a world view, recovery means looking deep into yourself and seeing value as you are.  But, where does the value come from?  Inside ourselves?   I found this thought process to be very limited and discouraging.  It is a shallow perspective that will only take you so far.  You will not see full recovery if you have the vague purpose of living for yourself.
For a Catholic, recovery is so much deeper.  It means looking deep into your soul and realizing that, yes, you do have value as you are.  But here is the key; You have value because you were created for Love by Love.  You were created by God for the sole purpose to love and to be loved by God.  Without this purpose, life has no meaning.
I was given some bad advice over the years.  I was told to abandon my faith because I had too much religious guilt.  I was advised to practice Buddhism in order to find true peace.  I was even encouraged not to have children because it would ruin me.
I am thankful that I did not listen to this advice but instead listened to the still soft voice in my heart.

When I was advised to repeat a Mantra, I prayed a Rosary.
When I was advised to meditate, I sat in front of the monstrance in adoration.
When I was advised to practice Yoga, I stretched and went for a run.
When I was advised to go to hypnotic therapy, I knitted a scarf.
When I was advised to eat raw foods, I received the Holy Eucharist at Mass.
When I was advised to do a toxin cleanse, I went to the Sacrament of Confession.
When I was advised to go to a support group, I went to Bible Study.
For years, intellects and instructors have tried to find ways to heal the body and the soul.
I want to let them know that the Catholic Church has had the answers for over 2000 years!
It is eerily similar how non-catholics and Catholics deal with mental and emotion turbulence.  Yet, the Catholic Church is often scorned and ridiculed for its medieval methods.  It is so common for secular therapist to recommend practices like meditation, repeating mantras, silence, soul-searching, counseling, forgiving yourself for faults and failures, and other healthy habits.
If you think about it, the Church, it's teachings, and it's Sacraments are available to help nourish our heart, soul, mind, and strength.

There are excellent resources available to us at the tips of our fingers, and also, for Catholics, as close as the local church.

Tuesday, February 19, 2013

Paralyzing Perfection

{Photo published on web here}
Jesus tells us in the Gospel to “Be perfect, therefore, as your heavenly Father is perfect.” (Matthew 5:48).

At first read, Jesus gives us an impossible task.  Perfection?  How can we be perfect when we are flawed and sinful beings?

We are told to remember that we cannot reach perfection in this life.  Yet, with those words of the Gospel of Matthew, Jesus challenges each one of us to strive to be perfect anyway.

Does Jesus want us to be perfect?  In this life, no.  In the next life, yes!

During our life on earth, He wants us to try our best to be perfect and never to settle for mediocrity.  We will never be able to stop trying until we reach eternal life.

You will know the fruits of living out the Gospel message because your actions will always be productive.

The devil basically wants to destroy our relationship with God by stopping us from doing virtuous deeds.  The enemy’s sly strategy is to take “the good” and twist it into something evil.  So, it is sometimes confusing to distinguish our good intentions.

It is a good thing to try to obtain perfection in the light of the Gospel.  We must continue to try and work toward that goal no matter how many times we fail.  However, be on guard because the devil takes our intentions and warps it into a device for our own destruction.

The enemy will stop us from striving for perfection by paralyzing us with fear.  If we are too afraid of failing (perfectionism, at its core), then we will be too afraid to act, to afraid even to try reach the goal.

If you are paralyzed by fear, the enemy has got you right where he wants you.

The devil wants us to fail.  He does this by instilling fear.  Satan wants us to be afraid to act.  We do not fail because the goal of perfection is too lofty.  No.  We fail because we are too afraid and, therefore, give up.

I've thrown my hands in the air too many times to count.  I am a guilty perfectionista.

You don’t have to wait until you are perfect to start living your life.

I often thought that I couldn’t do anything until I was already perfect.

Not all, but most of my concerns were with my appearance.  I didn’t want to get married until I was the “right” dress size.  I couldn’t hang out with my friends until I was popular and fun to be around.  I couldn’t paint a picture until I was ready to paint a masterpiece.

I put my life on hold until I was perfect.

Unless I was perfect to my satisfaction, I didn't want to live my life.  If I couldn't do something, or some task, perfectly, I did not want to do it.

I was striving for perfection in the wrong way.  I desired perfection in order to live.  In reality, perfectionism was taking away my life and destroying my will to live.

There is a right way to try and obtain perfection.  You can tell if you are doing it in the name of the Lord by the fruits of your labor.  If you strive for perfection, by the Gospel message, your life will be productive.  The fruits of your actions will be positive and virtuous.  You will live your life free from all fear.

If you are trying to fulfill your perfectionism tendencies, you will be too afraid to act.  Eventually, you will stop living because of your intense fear of failure.

Do not put your life on hold until you have reached perfection.  It will never happen.  You will never be able to live a happy life if you wait until you are perfect to start living.  Live your life NOW as God has given it to you.  Only with that purpose can you strive for perfection as Jesus commands us to in the Gospel.


Monday, February 18, 2013

All or Nothing Drama

{The Lord of the Rings; Merry, Frodo, Pipin, and Sam}
Have you ever heard the phrase, “go big or go home”?  I think it was coined by someone dealing with depression.

It is common for those struggling with depression to have an “all or nothing” attitude toward life.  The current feelings you are experiencing seem like they are going to last an eternity.  There is only black and white, no gray.

Even if you don’t deal with depression, you might have experienced an all or nothing situation that left you feeling hopeless.

I will easily fall into despair if I forget that my feelings are NOT forever.  If I have a bad day and can’t get out of bed, I feel like I am going to be bed-ridden for the rest of my life.  If I miss my work out for just one day, I think I will never exercise again.  Or even if I have a lousy run, I am tempted to never run again.  That phrase, said in good fun, “go big or go home”, has a dark side in my opinion.  Having that attitude makes is really difficult to recover from small setbacks, not to mention, the big failures.

The saying, “all or nothing”, while I can see how it can be beneficial in some circumstances, is quite harmful for me in most situations.  For a long time, I believed, that if I can’t get better now, then I will never get better.  If I can’t have a job now, then I will never have a job.  “All or nothing” has not served me well.

Looking back, I can see many times I’ve easily given up because I couldn’t “go big”.  I can see now that I was being dramatic.  It always feels like the truth in the moment.

I have to note that I do have a dramatic side to my personality.  Not the kind of drama that you would think a group of high school girls gets involved in.  No.  I flee from that kind of drama.  I guess I have a more quirky kind of drama that I don’t often disclose to anyone else.

I blame it on watching Anne of Green Gables as a girl.  Anne, with her red hair and admiration for literature, became a heroine for me and my friends in our early teenage years.  She was a textbook melodramatic character.  And-we-loved-it.

Some of my classic cinematic drama is embarassing to admit.  It includes things like having tea while reading a book.  I keep my phone in one spot so that when it rings, I can run to it and slide with my socks on the floor to answer it.  If I am late for church and I hear the bells toll for mass, I hop on my bike and ride as fast as I can to get to the front door before the bells stop.  Though I’ve never worn a cape, I do wish they were in style so I could wear one.  Quirky drama.

Okay, so I know I can be a bit dramatic.  Now, I can work on using this knowledge to my advantage.

If I am getting down and feeling like I will never recover, I remember that I also slide on my socks to get the phone.  I have to laugh at the thought of it.

I remind myself that this feeling will pass.  Feelings come and go.  Feelings do not dictate my actions.  The temptation to give up is just a feeling; just a consequence of my “all or nothing” attitude.

Have you ever felt like giving up or going home because you couldn’t “go big”?  What would you do if you knew you could not fail?  What would you do if you knew you wouldn't fail?


Saturday, February 16, 2013

My Tower

{Photo published on web here}
Just when I think I am doing really well, I get the feet knocked out from under me.  I am looking up from the ground thinking, “How did this happen?”  Well, it’s more like I am looking out from under my fortress of covers and soggy tissues at two o’clock in the afternoon.

I have been taking care of myself, going to therapy, taking my meds, meditating, and talking about my feelings.  In my opinion, I am doing everything right.  Heck, even in the books of professionals, I am taking steps in the right direction.

A prominent symptom of depression is severe lack of energy and feeling tired all the time.  It is not necessarily the want of motivation; I think I would, for sure, be motivated if I didn’t want to sleep all the time…maybe…I don’t know…maybe not...  Anyway, this symptom of fatigue is usually the last one to go away in the process of healing.

Just when I think I am gaining speed toward a slight resemblance of normalcy, I find I am taking 14 steps backward.  At least, that is what it feels like.

The mornings have always been really difficult for me.  There is something so incredibly daunting about the start of new day.  Each new day I have to start over and build my self-esteem from scratch.  I get no roll-over days.  In the first moments of the morning, I have extreme hopelessness s and deep despair.  I have to remind myself about what I believe in and why I am doing what I am doing.  And then, I play that track on repeat.

There is no amount of healthy eating, exercise, coffee, vitamin D, or energy boosting smoothies that will do the trick.  I am sure they help a little.  But for all you self-proclaimed doctors, there is no “quick fix” or cure.

Every morning I have to rebuild my positive outlook, thought for thought, block for block.  Sometimes, I can build a sturdy tower out of Legos that lock into each other and are difficult to knock down.  At those times, I am really proud of my creations.  Most of the time, however, all I can muster is a crooked structure that kind of resembles a tower but looks more like the game Jenga in the final moments before it tumbles.  A slight breeze or a soft bump of the table and I come crumbling down.

99 out of 100 times, my tower falls over before I even get out of bed.  The whole day I am behind, trying to pick up the pieces and rebuild with no luck.

At the end of the day, all I can be proud of is my commitment to try again tomorrow.

I thought by now I would back at my full-time job, climbing the ladder of success, and writing my book about “How to Recover from Depression in Five Easy Steps”.

But at this point, I am not sure if I will ever fully recover.  I am not trying to be dramatic.  I am not trying to get pity.  I am just being honest.  The point is, I realize now that it doesn’t really matter if I do recover or not.  I have to accept my situation either way and take it just one day at a time.  Just one day at a time.

Below are some tricks that (are no guarantee, yet) seem to have helped me in the mornings so far:

I take extra time to get ready before I have to go somewhere.

I stick to a morning routine as much as possible.

I don’t book my schedule too full in one day.

I keep things flexible so that, if I have to, I can cancel or reschedule at a moment’s notice.

If I am getting anxious about doing something, I get myself ready to walk out the door, even if I am hours away from leaving.  Not that I wait at the door for hours like a puppy waiting for the school kids to get home.  I just prepare all the necessary things when I am feeling anxious.  Then I do other things in the mean time.  I am less likely to panic and back out at the last minute if I practice this technique.

I will continue to practice the steps toward recovery.  I will continue to follow the advice of what will heal my brain.  And I will continue to pray for the strength and guidance when I am out of options.  But most of all, I will continue to hold onto the hope that God is going to take care of me no matter what happens.

Whether or not I receive healing from this illness, I know it is God’s will either way.  And all I can do is  pray and build my tower one Lego at a time.


Friday, February 15, 2013

Mindless Distractions

{Photo published on web here}
In our culture today, there are many distractions available to us.  We seek out these distractions and make them a part of our daily life.

Why is it that we want to distract our minds?

I believe it is because we are afraid of reality.

Because we are afraid to face who we really are on a regular basis, we distract ourselves with mindless occupations.  Television, video games, iPods, iPads, movies, music, and even books, bring us out of the moment and into another world.

T.S. Elliot said, “Humankind cannot take too much reality.”

I think it is ingrained in our human nature to not be present in reality every second of every day.  We know we have to distract our minds somehow in order to stay sane.  “Mindless” distractions are part of a healthy lifestyle, in my opinion.  In our culture today, however, we have a unique dilemma in which we have many options to choose from to distract our minds.  There are many “mindless” distractions that can be harmful to our well-being.  And, unfortunately, many people seek to distract themselves from reality in a negative, or non-productive, way.

There is a good side and a bad side to this human quirk.  Let’s start with the good so we can end with the bad and be more dramatic.

First of all, memories are a legitimate reason to not be present in the moment.  Memories are a special gift from God.  Our fond memories can ease the sadness of a lost loved one.  Memories can make us laugh when we are reminiscing with a brother or sister.  They can allow us to learn from our mistakes.  And they can enable us to learn from other people’s mistakes, as well.

Second, we can be taken away from the moment via art…art that is good, true, and beautiful, to be specific.  Whether it’s a musical masterpiece from an orchestra or a timeless mural in a cathedral, fine art can take us out of ourselves and lead us to something transcendental of our being.  Often times, this experience can bring us to an ever closer reflection on eternity.  Since it is our ultimate goal to reach a Heavenly eternity, it is good to allow art to touch our soul.

The third and final reason I will list as a “good” way to not be present in reality, is knowledge.  Learning allows us to actualize our potential as human persons.  Learning transforms the person and fulfills them in a way that no other living creature on this earth can be fulfilled.  In order to learn, you must, in a certain sense, rise above the “now” to reach a new level of knowledge.  If you stubbornly stay where you are, intellectually speaking, it will be difficult for you to grow.  And it will be difficult for you to stay satisfied and happy.  In order to learn something new, you must take a leap and leave the firm, understandable ground your feet are planted on.

These three reasons above are just a few examples of how living out of the moment is nourishing for your body, mind, soul, and heart.

Now for the negative side…I think if you just took a moment and thought about your distraction choices, you would be able to decide if it was harmful or helpful to your well being.  Every person is going to have different answers.

Being honest with myself, I know that women's magazines, Facebook, TV, and Tetris are harmful to my overall well-being.  No one else makes me do these things, I choose them for myself.  I know from experience that the results of these activities do not make me a better person.

Remembering that there are other, more beneficial, ways to distract myself will help me make a better choice when I am faced with the decision to “self-distract”.  Sorry for the pun, I couldn’t help myself.

Since I struggle with depression, there are times that I really need to shut down my over active brain and do something light, or “mindless”.  Because, if I think too much, bad things will happen.

Some of my uplifting “mindless” occupations are: knitting, doing the dishes, reading a spiritual book, organizing a closet or room, or meditating.  Not that any of those things are completely “mindless” whatsoever.  Those things just require less commitment and less brain power than, let’s say, creating the budget, or painting a picture.  You get the point.

What are some of your “mindless” distractions?  Can you decipher the harmful vs. the helpful?  Let me know what you found out!

Wednesday, February 13, 2013

Through Christ Who Strengthens Me...

When I was in the 8th grade, my mom bought me a bracelet from the local Christian book store.  I was always so nervous going in that fragile shop.  I was especially concerned when I had to chase after my two year old Tasmanian brother as he whipped through the displays like a tornado.

On one particular day, after the errands were done and my brother was caged back in his car seat, I let out a deep sigh of relief.  Nothing was broken today.

From the driver’s seat, my mom reached around and pulled out a little white box with a pearly white ribbon and handed it to me.

“I was going to give this to you for your birthday,” Mom said, “but I can’t wait. Go ahead and open it now”.  Mom is never one to keep secrets.

Inside the box, in my 8th grade opinion, was a really cool bracelet.  Engraved in the metal read the encouraging words, “Perseverance – I can do all things through Christ who strengthens me (Phil 4:13)”.

I was immediately struck by those words as I read them.  Since that day, 4:13 has become my permanent mantra.

Many years later, during the summer Olympics before my sophomore year of high school, I spiritually connected with an American diver, Laura Wilkinson.  During an interview, she told the cameras of her devotion to St. Therese, the Little Flower, and of her favorite Bible verse, Philippians 4:13.  I followed her events more closely than any of the other athletes.  She was not expected to go far, but she persevered.  I cried when she cried as she sang the National Anthem with the gold medal around her neck.

Many year after that, the bracelet is long gone, but the words are forever etched in my mind.

In my darkest of times, I would repeat 4:13 over and over until peace was restored and calm filled my mind.  In those times, I did not care about the “doing all things” part of the sentence.  I was more relieved by the words “Christ” and “strength”.  At that time, I want to do just one thing – live.

On my road of recovery, Jesus used that verse and helped me grow in stronger and stronger.  I know for a fact that I would not be here today if it had not been for the strength of Christ.

This past October, I achieved a huge personal goal.  I completed a full marathon.

In the months leading up to race day, I fought physical, mental, and emotional difficulties.  Besides the grueling workout regimen, I worked through a foot injury and a knee injury.  For me, my physical injuries were symbolic of my mental and emotion injuries that no one could see.  I was going through some intense internal suffering and I didn’t know how to work past it.  By preserving and working through my marathon training, I was also able to persevere and work through some of my mental sufferings.

The day of the marathon finally arrived, and like most participants, I had pre-race anxiety.  I was dealing with it okay until about five minutes before they fired the canon.  All of a sudden, I had a full blown panic attack.

“What the hell was I thinking?  What am I doing?  There is no way I am going be able to run this race! I willingly agreed to run 26.2 miles?  Not going to happen!”

My head started to spin with all kinds of doubts. My body started shaking uncontrollably.  I started hyperventilating.  People around me looked over with concern.  I got light-headed and began to get tunnel vision.  I thought for sure I would pass out.  I covered my ears, closed my eyes, bowed my head, and begged God for mercy.

“Please God.  Please God.”

I looked up.  Standing right in front of me was a person wearing a t-shirt with the following words, “I can do ALL things through CHRIST who STRENGTHENS me!”

Immediately, a sense of calm rushed over my whole being.  A warm breeze surrounded me and filled my lungs with courage.  A huge smile spread across my whole face.  I was ready to run.  I knew I could do it because Christ was going to give me the strength.

And He did.  I finished the race.

Christ still gives me strength.  And He will continue to give me strength until the end of my days here on earth.

Pray with me now, “I can do all things through Christ who strengthens me.” (Phil 4:13)



Monday, February 11, 2013

Catholic Peer Pressure and Lent

In the midst of sacrifice, the burden is made easier in solidarity. To know that someone else is suffering with the same things you do, to a certain extent, is comforting.

However, we have to remember that sacrifice is an individual calling.

I went to a Catholic college…well, I went to several Catholic schools: Ave Maria College (Ypsilanti, Michigan), Benedictine College (Atchison, Kansas), and Ave Maria University (Naples, Florida).

Each one of those schools was relatively small.  Because of the intimacy, you had a lot of friends and a lot of people to keep you accountable.  I discovered that I felt a lot of Catholic peer pressure when I was attending school.  There was daily mass, prayer, adoration, and many other really great opportunities for spiritual nourishment.  I found it difficult, however, to keep up with everyone else.  I found myself constantly comparing my faith habits to others around me.  Instead of wanting to go to daily mass, I was going to daily mass because everyone else was doing it.

When it came to Lent, I succumbed to the typical giving up of desserts, coffee, television, and the usual.  Even though we tried to keep our sacrifices between us and the Lord, we would often discuss our Lenten rituals and compare and contrast.  Each year, our endeavors became more and more intense.  One year, some friends and I decided to live only on bread and water.  We thought we were encouraging each other to achieve holiness.  In reality, we were only threatening each other with not being holy enough to call yourself “Catholic”.

Since Lent starts this Wednesday, I am feeling the old twing of guilt.  I feel like I will not have a good Lent if I don't fast and abstain from sugar, desserts, snacks, etc.

Sure, it can be a huge sacrifice to go without those simple pleasures.  But, I don’t think everyone is called to do it.  Because I struggle with an eating disorder, I need to really be careful about going down that path.

If you don’t give up certain things for Lent, you are not less holy or less of a good Catholic.  If your sacrifices are different than someone else’s, so what.  Your personal sacrifices are still important, especially if you've spent time discerning it in prayer.

Sacrifice is an individual calling and it is different for each person.  The Catholic faith is a personal faith.  We have a personal God.  We can know Jesus and have a personal relationship with Him.

Honestly ask Our Lord and pray about what to do for Lent this year.  You might be called to sacrifice in different ways than you have done in the past.

If you can’t think of anything else besides giving up desserts, here are some fresh ideas: sacrifice women’s magazines, celebrity gossip articles and web pages, reality TV shows, looking in the mirror frequently, make-up, your pillow, Facebook, body-bashing, or negative self-talk.

For Lent this year, I am not giving up sugar or dessert or any kind of food whatsoever.  Because I have an eating disorder history, those sacrifices would harm rather than help me.  The fruits of sacrifice should help you become a better person and help your relationship with God.  For me, giving up sugar does not help me get closer to God.  It makes me concerned about my weight and my appearance.  I end up being too focused on diet and less focused on prayer.  Learning from experience, I have discovered that giving up a certain food item leads me away from God.

Everyone gives up desserts for Lent.  It’s an easy route, if you think about it.  It’s easy because everyone else is doing it too.  You don’t have to give up desserts or sugar or whatever just because all the other Catholics are doing it. Catholic peer pressure, how shocking!  In our culture today, wouldn’t it be more of a sacrifice to eat your dessert?

St. Therese, the Little Flower, wanted to sacrifice dessert while in the convent but her Mother Superior would not approve her request.  She ordered Therese to eat what she was served.  Therese discovered the key element in sacrifice through that experience.  The key element of sacrifice is obedience.  Obeying the will of our superiors and obeying the will of God is the real sacrifice.  It is not a sacrifice to do something we want to do.

Very rarely do we have a choice when it comes to sacrifice.

Lent is one of those circumstances.  But we still have to pray for the guidance to know what to do.

Before Lent starts this year (February 13th), honestly pray about it.  Sit in silence and honestly pray.  Are you going to sacrifice something just because everyone else is doing it?  Are you going to give up something because you will feel less holy or less worthy if you don’t?  Ask God to help you figure out what would be a good way for you to sacrifice.  I guarantee you will have a more nourishing Lent this year.