Saturday, March 30, 2013

Courage Prayer

{Taste of Summer, right around the corner, Photo by Me:)}
“Courage is not the lack of fear; it is doing what is right in spite of being afraid.”
-Variation from an Ambrose Redmoon quote

Prayer for Fortitude

 
Dear Jesus, lay Your Wounded Hand

Upon my weary head,

And teach me to have courage

In the paths that I must tread.

Bless me, and bless those whom I love,

And give us grace to see

These crosses bravely borne by us

Will keep us close to Thee.

And if at times a shadow falls

In unexpected ways,

Put Your gentle Hand in mine

And guide me through the days.

So bless my people, one and all,

With Thy protecting grace,

And impart to them Thy Wisdom

Ere they meet Thee face to face.

 

-Excerpt from the Catholic Book of Prayers, Catholic Book Publishing Co., New York, 1990.

Friday, March 29, 2013

Why I don’t talk about my eating disorder

{Photo taken by my hero and husband, Craig}

As you probably already know, I struggle with an eating disorder.  I will probably struggle to keep a positive body image for the rest of my life...save a miracle...which I am still praying for...

However, by the grace of God, I am not practicing any eating disorder habits.  I call it “practicing” because, to a person with any kind of eating disorder, there are two parts to the disease: thought and action (or inclination and habit, to be more specific).  Personally, I am still battling the eating disorder “thoughts” daily.  However, I am not habitually practicing any of the eating disorder "actions" for the time being.  I guess you could say my eating disorder is in remission.

Even though I have made great progress in the recovery department, I never will disclose the details of my eating disorder.  I choose not to talk about it for two reasons.  First of all, it is difficult to bring up those sad things of my past.  God has already forgiven me, why go there again?  The only important thing is that I never want to go back to the way I was.
 
And second, even if I would be comfortable talking about it, I will never share specifics because, I believe, the details can be harmful to other people.  When I was in the pits of despair, I looked for ways to become a “better” anorexic or better at my eating disorder in general.  People tried to help me by telling me their stories and sharing their own difficult journeys with eating disorders.  I even went to a few AA groups for eating disorders.  But the nature of my eating disorder was competitive.  In group, I could only be validated if I “one upped” the other.

A common symptom when you have an eating disorder is, essentially, you don’t think you deserve to take up space.  So in order to deserve to be somewhere, anywhere, even at the eating disorder recovery meeting, I had to prove it.  I felt like I was taking up someone else's space that needed to be there more than me.  I had to prove that my eating disorder was bad enough to merit help.  You see, I didn’t understand that ALL eating disorders are VERY dangerous.  I thought that if I was to receive a grade for my eating disorder, I would get a D+, maybe a C- at best.  I thought that only A+ anorexics could get help.
 
Wrong...wrong...wrong...

But, nonetheless, the disease was so overrun in my body that I actually used my peer's experiences to learn and develop more dangerous habits.  You see, I essentially wanted to go to the fringes of death because I wanted to be the best anorexic in the world.  I had absolutely zero self-worth.  By hearing people talk about their eating disorders, I would only hear them bragging and gloating about all the “incredible” feats they accomplished while practicing an eating disorder.  Instead of scaring me, I was encouraged.
 
In one desperate attempt to get help, I read a book about a young girl’s journey with an eating disorder. The book was meant to shock and stun and probably to scare anyone out of practicing an eating disorder. However, I saw it as a challenge. “At least you are not that bad”, a doctor would say. And I thought, “oh yeah, watch me”.

I don’t want to enable anyone else in their eating disorder.  In a culture that already breeds body-bashing, I feel like I would only be adding fuel to the fire.

The best thing you can do for someone with an eating disorder, and maybe the only thing you can do if you are not a professional, is to have healthy eating habits yourself.  Do not take this lightly.

If you want to help someone heal from an eating disorder, rid the twisted eating disorders from yourself.

That means, no more diets, no more talking about weight, calories, fat, etc.  The mere mention of appearance, good or bad, can cause a downward spiral in eating disorder recovery.  Do not gawk at skinny people or overweight people.  Do not body-bash.  Do not comment on appearance and weight, even if it is a compliment.  There can be absolutely NO association between self-worth and appearance, hands down.

If you are personally struggling with an eating disorder, stay away from people who can’t stop talking about appearance or weight.  Surround yourself with people who have positive body images and severely limit your time spent with friends who are on a diet, at least in the beginning.

I am a recovering “diet-oholic”.  For me, dieting is like a recovering alcoholic taking a sip of whiskey.  It is a dangerous choice and not one without major repercussions.  For me, hanging out with dieters who constantly talk about food, healthy lifestyles, etc. is like an alcoholic hanging out at a bar.  It is an unwise decision and should be carefully discerned.

We must take this seriously.  We live in a society that promises three out of every four girls will struggle with an eating disorder at some point in their life.  Think before you speak.  Educate yourself on the statistics.  Be compassionate.  Be there to listen.  And pray.  We must never stop praying.  We can do this!  I truly believe that we can raise a new generation of women who know and feel loved and cherished for who they are no matter what they look like.
 

Tuesday, March 26, 2013

Why do I exercise?

One of the side effects of taking an anti-depressant is weird, vivid dreams.  Last night I dreamt that I could not run around the school track, even one time.  The scene at the track was the most normal part of the whole dream.  I won’t tell you what was so weird about it.

Anyway, back to not being able to run.  After my marathon, I took some time off from running in order to heal properly.  I was having some trouble with my foot and my knees.  You see, I want to run until I am 80 years old, so I am in it for the long haul.  I don’t want to ruin my knees to the point that I won’t be able to run anymore.

Instead of doing other forms of exercise, like I thought I would this winter, I really haven’t been exercising at all.  In one sense, it has been good for me to detach my self-esteem from how much I work out.  Even if I don’t work out at all, I am still worthy and deserving of life.  I guess my goal this winter was to exercise to enhance my life instead of exercising as a required punishment.

So, my subconscious is still worried about becoming out of shape, hence the dream.  It was a terrible dream.  I had no muscle power whatsoever.  That is a scary feeling.

The experience made me realize that I still want to be strong.  Not obsessive body-building strong, but strong enough to keep up with little kids at the park, strong enough to run a road race in the summer, and strong enough to lift a big pot of chili for a cook-off.

I had an “aha” moment after I shook all the fuzziness out of my brain this morning.  I still want to exercise to be strong.  Our culture does not require us to use our muscles as they had to in the olden days in order to survive.  So, in order to use some of those muscles, we have to go out of our way.

I thought about it for a long time.  It was part of my hard-core staring out the window this morning.

In order to keep my muscles strong, I have to go out of my way.  How much am I willing to go out of my way to be strong?  How can I keep it in check and not get obsessive?  How can I avoid allowing weight and appearance to get all tangled up with exercise?

(Keep in mind that I fall in the “exercise obsessive” end of the spectrum.  I do not need more motivation when it comes to working out.)

Well, I don’t know the answer.  I feel like keeping a positive body image will be something I will always struggle with.  But there are things that I can do to help myself out.

For starters, I think it is good for me to take frequent exercise breaks.  Not just breaks throughout the week, but also long breaks, like taking a winter off from running.  The winter, at least in Ohio, is an obvious time for hibernation.  It is too cold to be outside most days, well, too cold to run and enjoy it, for me, at least.  The winter is a good time to take a step back and separate my self-importance from my appearance and weight.

The bottom line is: I exercise a lot because that is how I validate my self- worth.  I have to remind myself that I don’t need to run to be happy.  Running makes me happy, that is very true, but it is not the only thing that makes me happy.

This winter, I taught myself how to knit and crochet from YouTube videos.  It was such a uniquely entertaining experience.  I never thought I would have been able to learn something new on my own.  I probably wouldn’t have even tried to learn if I was too concerned about getting a workout in every single day.

So, yes, I had a weird dream, and I hope I forget about all the details soon.  But, I am glad that a good reflection came from it.  Just because I took the winter off from running doesn’t mean I will never be able to run again.  It will be hard to get back into it in the beginning of the spring, of course.  But I know I that I can do it; I know that I will at least try.  And even if I can’t run anymore, it is not the end of the world.  I will find some other form of exercise that I like to do.

Do you feel like a failure if you don’t exercise?  Do you tie your self-worth to your workouts?  Where and when did that belief begin?

Saturday, March 23, 2013

The Good Side of Suffering with Depression



{Ohio Sunset}
Even in the midst of immense suffering, your life is still good.

God only allows us to suffer because a greater good will come from it. He only allows us to suffer because, ultimately, it is our path to salvation. If we knew how important suffering was for our soul, then we would not be so inclined to flee from it.

Often times, when we are suffering, we immediately look for ways to avoid it.

When I first started seeking solace for my depression, I wanted it fixed, and I wanted it fixed now.  I wanted to try to avoid the pain of suffering because I thought it was a pointless suffering.

If I had an x-ray or a CT-Scan, I would not be able to see the problem.  I couldn’t tell you where it hurt or what it felt like.  So, I couldn’t admit that the pain was real.  However, mental suffering is just as real as physical suffering even though you can’t see it.

If we were only bodies, than suffering would make absolutely no sense at all.  However, we are body and soul.  As Catholics, we believe that our soul will live forever.  Suffering, if you think about it, is the only way to have this opportunity.  In order to have eternal life in Heaven, you must suffer death.

Suffering allows us to relate to Christ in a metaphysical way (beyond the physical).  Suffering allows us to deepen our relationship with Christ.  We can only get into Heaven if God knows us by name; if He knows us in a personal relationship.  "And the LORD said to Moses, 'I will do the very thing you have asked, because I am pleased with you and I know you by name'." (Exodus 33:17)

God allows suffering because only in suffering is the relationship with Him made possible.  One cannot have great love without great sacrifice.

Pope Emeritus Benedict XVI has some enlightening quotes about suffering.  (The quotes below were published in St. Remy’s Sunday bulletin several weeks ago.)

“It is when we attempt to avoid suffering by withdrawing from anything that might involve hurt, when we try to spare ourselves the effort and pain of pursuing truth, love, and goodness, that we drift into a life of emptiness, in which there may be almost no pain, but the dark sensation of meaninglessness and abandonment is all the greater.”

“It is not by sidestepping or fleeing from suffering that we are healed, but rather by our capacity for accepting it, maturing through it and finding meaning through union with Christ, who suffered with infinite love.”

Jesus went through all of this terrible torment and suffering not only to save us from the fires of Hell, but also so that we can relate to Him and enter into a personal relationship with Him.  It elevates our own suffering to be able to unite it with His.  It gives it purpose and meaning and allows us to get through it.

For me, Holy Thursday is a very reflective time.  In a particular way, I can relate to Christ’s Agony in the Garden more than I can relate to the Crucifixion.  I have never had such intense physical suffering that could even come close to what Jesus experience on Good Friday.

Do you remember the Gospel reading when the disciples fall asleep while Jesus is praying? (Luke 22:39-46)  Reading that passage breaks my heart.  He just wants someone to stay up with Him.  He doesn’t need them to do anything.  He doesn’t need them to fix the problem.  He doesn’t need them to take away the suffering.  He just needs them to be with Him and stay awake by His side for one hour.

It is so hard for us to do that for each other.  We want to fix the problems.  We want to have the answers.  We want to save the lost.

If you cannot do anything, would you just leave?  Would you fall asleep?

If you are personally struggling with a mental illness, reflecting on the Garden at Gethsemane can be a unique time for you to relate to Our Savior.  He is the only one who knows how much you are suffering.  He is the only one who will stay awake with you through the night when everyone else has fallen asleep.  You are not alone.  You are never alone.

If you are a loved one of someone struggling with depression and anxiety, I urge you, as well, to read and reflect on Jesus on the Mount of Olives.  Do unto others as you would do to Christ.  Will you not stay up one hour with Our Lord?  Remember, you don’t have to fix the problems, you don’t have to have all the answers, and you don’t have to save them from suffering.  You just have to be there for them and let God do the rest.
 

Thursday, March 21, 2013

Guarding Your Faith in the Modern World; Remember the Four D's

{Photos taken from the Nashville Domincans Website: http://nashvilledominican.org/Home}
If you love Nuns, raise your hand!

I just absolutely love nuns and sisters of religious orders.  I love them so much that when I was young I thought that I was called to be one myself.  I have an aunt/godmother who is a Dominican Sister of Nashville, Tennessee.  So, ever since I can remember, I have thought that nuns are cool.  Quite the opposite of the cultural belief!

Every single religious sister I have ever seen is incredibly beautiful, yet the only skin they show is their face and hands.  They have an interior beauty that radiates from their soul.  I cannot help but be in awe of their vocation.

Every sister I have met possesses an indescribable happiness.  Yet, they have no possessions to call their own.  And their lives are spent in constant service; service to the world, to their community, and to God.  You cannot help but be attracted to that joy.

What are they doing that makes them so beautiful and happy?  Well...the complete and total opposite of what the world tells us to do.

The world tells us, especially women, to wear tight, revealing clothing in order to be loved and desired.  The world tells us to serve ourselves because no one, not even God, cares about us.  The world tells us that having a lot of money and things will make us happy.  The world tells us that sex is a right not a gift.

Now, I am not saying in order to find true joy and peace you must join a religious order.  No.  But take a lesson about what can make someone truly happy and truly peaceful.
 
Only by living your life completely and totally for God will you be able to gain that lasting joy and peace that “surpasses all understanding”. (Phil 4:7)

So okay, let’s say you don’t have a vocation to the religious life.  Let’s say you are like me and your vocation is to be married and live in the world.  How can we obtain that joy and peace when everything the world tells us is contrary to what we believe?

A few weeks ago, I went to an inspiring holy hour given by the Sisters of Reparation of Steubenville, Ohio.  Sr. Mary Peter gave a wonderful talk on how to live in the world and keep your soul pure and holy.  I thought that it was too good not to share with you.  Her talk was an hour, so I’ve summed up only four of her main points below.  I will call the bullet points the Four “D’s” to Remember (D as in Devil’s tactics, D as in Detrimental to your soul, etc).

When you live in the world, you have to protect your faith and guard it like a precious treasure.  Because it can be easily taken away, you must always be on guard.

Protect your soul from:

Dazzle – The world is flashy.  The Devil uses the dazzle and glamour of the world to take your attention away from God.  Guard yourself against the false promises of happiness and power.  Technology can be a good thing. We can use computers, Internet, and other technological advances for great good.  However, technology should be our slave.  We have to control it so that it does not become the “king” in our lives.  New stuff is dazzling and intriguing.  I can be easy to get distracted from your true mission with phones, computers, Internet, television, iPods, iPads, and video games.  If you cannot resist falling into sin because of these things, then get rid of them.  Would you rather have your computer or your soul?  Like the Christian song; what if you gained the whole world but lost your soul? (Matt 16:26)

Doubt – There is a popular religious trend these days called relativism.  In a nutshell, it means that each person determines what is good and bad.  “What is good for you might not be good for me.”  You’ve heard it before.  Where that belief true in some circumstances, like if we are talking about which flavor of ice cream you like, it is not true for religion.  There is good and there is evil.  If you do not acknowledge that truth, then your moral life will get lazy.  A lazy conscience is detrimental to your soul.  “I am not that bad”, you might say, or “but, I am a good person”.  If you get comfortable then you get lazy, and you stop trying to improve.  That is when relativism moves in.  If you cannot believe in your beliefs, then what do you believe in?  You cannot honestly live your faith unless you have decided that it is worth dying for.

Discouragement – Guard your soul from despair, discouragement, and depression.  It is from the devil.  I am not saying that you are culpable of sin if you struggle with depression.  God is allowing it to happen so that you can grow from the experience and come out better on the other side.  However, do not allow it to run or ruin your life.  Search for ways to find joy and peace in the faith.  Never give up, never stop trying.  Accept the crosses you have been given and work with what you have.  But don’t settle for a life of discouragement.  It will cause you to go in a downward spiral and that is what the devil wants.  Always get back up and reach for the light.  Sometimes, God talks to us in our darkest, lowest moments.  He uses those low points because we would not listen to Him when we had success.

Deception – How do you know who to listen to?  How do you know what is truth and what is false?  Well, in the Bible we read that Christ is the head and the Church is the body (1 Cor 12:27).  So, if you stay in the Heart of the Church, then you will stay in the Heart of Christ.  God has promised that the gates of Hell will not prevail against the Church.  For over 2000 years the Church has never taught fallacy or heresy.  The Pope can never teach wrongly on matters of faith and morals.  Stay in the heart of the Church and you will not be deceived.

To guard your faith, you must also be pro-active.  You must cultivate your relationship with God and pray frequently.  Detach yourself from the noise of the world and sit in silence and listen to God.  Those are two words we’ve forgot how to define: silence, and listen.  The world is nosy.  There is so much that robs our silence and listening.  Music, YouTube videos, Internet phones, reality TV shows, texting, Tweeting, Facebook…  You could be in a quiet room but your head is still full of noise.  You are pulled out of this world into the world of technology and communication.  However, in order to communicate with God, you must turn off all the noise and listen.

Remember the Four “D’s” as you are living your life in your vocation.  It’s possible to live “in” the world but not “of” the world, even if you are not a Nun.  (That is such a funny statement if you take that out of context!)  It’s possible, yet difficult.  If you can be aware of the things that are detrimental to your soul, you are making a good first step.

 

Wednesday, March 20, 2013

All together now..."And Annn-xiety was its Name-O"


Photo taken by Craig Borchers

Last year, I was going to a counselor who was convinced that I had agoraphobia.  Agoraphobia is the paralyzing fear of leaving your house.  The counselor’s argument was sound, so I listened.  On paper, it seemed like a plausible diagnosis. However, I knew I didn’t completely fit the type.  I knew that there were places I could go with little or no problem.  And usually, once I did get somewhere, I was completely fine. You see, I love to travel.  I love to run outside on a nice day. I love to garden.  I just love to be outside.  Agoraphobics DO NOT love to be outside.

The basis for my diagnosis was that I sometimes have panic attacks when I have to go somewhere.  The key word is “sometimes”.  Regardless, the counselor planted (more like drilled) it in my head that I had agoraphobia.

I was the one with the problem, so I didn’t have the confidence to stick up for myself.

Over time, I started to believe that I was agoraphobic.  Things I didn’t normally have a problem doing became problematic for me.

While I was searching for some answers, I compared myself to other people.  Not in the sense that I wanted to measure up, but only so I could have a gage for normalcy.

In my experiment, I figured out the situations in which I felt higher levels of anxiety than others around me. For example, I had anxiety at the grocery store, yet everyone else seemed to handle it just fine.  Another example is I had anxiety before my marathon.  But at the start line, everyone was nervous too.

Eventually, my husband and I made up our own names for the situational anxieties I experienced. I’ve discovered that by calling my anxiety by a name, I can recognize it quicker and cope with the situation better. When we name the anxiety, both my husband and I know what is going on and can be on the same page.

Disclaimer Alert! I am NOT a professional.  The names below are not real medical names.

Transitional Anxiety: Transitional anxiety is the anxiety experienced when changing from one task to another.

It takes me longer than other people to switch focus, and I need to take some deep breaths and moments of intentional thinking in order to do so.  I cannot just get up and go in the morning.  I need to drink a cup of coffee and do some hard core staring.  It is really difficult for me to be on the run from morning to night.  I need moments throughout the day to decompress in order to transition from one thing to another.  My husband knows that when we go into a store, I need to stop and take a few deep breaths before we start attacking our shopping list. When we arrive somewhere, if I am not already prepared, I have to gather my things and my mind before getting out of the car.  It is not because I don’t want to leave the house.  It is not because I don’t want to go.  I am just nervous because of the major transition.

(Transitional Anxiety is my umbrella term for most of my anxiety.  The next several examples are really just forms of transitional anxiety if you analyze it.  However, it helps to break it down further.)

Pre-Trip Anxiety: or PTA, as we call it here.  This is the anxiety experienced before going somewhere.

If we are going to hang out with friends, if we are going to visit family, or if we are going on a trip or vacation, I have to create a plan of attack.  I can’t just leave spur of the moment.  I believe the term, PTA, was coined by a college friend of mine when we were studying abroad.  We would talk about PTA and our friends would know what we meant and how to help.  A check list goes a long way in those situations. Sometimes, when it is really bad, I need step by step instructions: put on shoes, put on coat, get car keys, etc.  Talking about the purpose of the trip also helps to ease my mind.  If I am freaking out before a vacation, I name the PTA, recognizing the source.  I realize that I am not doing anything wrong.  The flashing warning signals going off in my head are just the result of PTA and not something more serious.

Long-Goodbye Syndrome: This anxiety is what it says.  It takes me a long time to say goodbye and to part with friends, family, and loved ones face to face or on the phone.  My mom and I could stand at the door and talk for hours, even if I already have my coat on.  My sister and I say goodbye about 37 times before we hang up the phone.  We just keep remembering things we want to say. I guess we just have to make sure our goodbye is thorough.  Just knowing that I have long-goodbye syndrome helps me to reduce the goodbyes to a reasonable length.  If I am feeling crappy, it is because of the "syndrome" and not because I am being rude, short, or insensitive.  When I recognize the Long-Goodbye Syndrome, I can call it by name.  In a society that names every problem, it is fun to make up your own names.

Sunday Night Blues: or SNB, for short.  I often have a very hard time letting go on a Sunday night.  It is such a daunting task for me to start a new week.  I often keep Craig up late talking.  I feel terrible about it because I know that my feelings don’t make sense.  My emotions run away with me.  I have to go over all the events of the weekend and discuss the upcoming responsibilities of the week.  It is not a good time to talk and,usually, I am worried about insignificant things.  But by recognizing that my feelings are just from the SNB, I can let it go easier.  I tell myself that it is only SNB and I will feel better in the morning.  I have to trust that knowledge and trust my past experiences.

So, in conclusion, by naming my anxieties, I can deal better when it comes up.

If you are struggling with any level of anxiety, it is good to figure out patterns, causes, and effects. If you can name the anxiety, you will become more aware of it in the future.  Knowing is half the battle, right?  Being aware of what causes you anxiety will help you to overcome it with healthier coping skills.  And you will be able to discuss it more effectively with your loved ones who just want to help you overcome it as well.

Tuesday, March 19, 2013

Broken, A Poem


 
Broken, A Poem

 

I am not stick thin,

life is not worth living.

I am broken within

and finished with giving.

 

What I think in my head

cannot be true.

Things left unsaid

are left to brew.

 

Our mentors have failed.

We have nowhere to turn.

 Onward we’ve sailed

with beliefs to burn.

 

What hope have we

for acceptance and love,

when all we see

is killing the dove?

 

I want to save you;

it starts with me.

I know what to do.

Bring all to the tree.

 

Nothing to comprehend

apart from the cross.

Suffering to lend

is a terrible loss.

 

Try again, He will say.

We have nothing to fear.

Try again, He will say.

I am here, I am here.

Friday, March 15, 2013

The Opposite of Depression and 30 Healthy Coping Skills


 

What is the opposite of depression?

Outside looking in, one might conclude that happiness is the goal of depression recovery.  That, in a certain sense, being depressed and being happy are two sides of the coin called life.  However, happiness is not the opposite of depression.  Even those who have never been touched by the illness will tell you that their lives are not always “happy”.

Happiness cannot be pursued; it just “happens”.  It is a bi-product.

When conducting an experiment, (ahem...shout out to Matthew Me Bro) one can look for signs that indicate a reaction has taken place.  For example, smoke can be a sign that a flame and a burnable substance have been joined together.  If you have lived under a rock your whole life, never went camping, or gone to a bonfire, and you set out to create smoke without knowing how to make a fire, you probably won’t get very far.  You must first follow the directions to achieve your goal.

If you set out to create the bi-product (or result) without know the steps of the process, you will have a very difficult time creating it.

However, if you start an experiment, following all the instructions along the way, you will have a great chance of success.

When recovering from depression, you can’t chase happiness.  Happiness is a feeling that comes and goes like the weather.

Happiness is only a sign that certain things have taken place.

Recovering from depression is more about seeking to function in a healthy manner.  It is more about developing good coping skills to deal with stress, anxiety, or other “triggers”.

Stress is a normal part of life.  Sadness is also a common part of life, just like rain is a common occurrence in the weather.  However, how you deal with the ebb and flow of emotions determines a healthy lifestyle.

Stress can be good; it can help you know when and how to act in response to a situation.

However, when I am under severe amounts of stress, I just want to starve myself.  For whatever reason, I developed that bad habit in order to deal with my emotions.  I felt like I had to control my emotions, and I could not.  So, I chose to control where, when, how, and what I ate.

When struggling with depression, it is common to feel overwhelmed and stressed about even the tiniest of things.  The roller coaster of emotions seems to go higher and lower than other people who are not struggling with depression.

It is good to get professional assistance, and perhaps medicine, to help level out the radical highs and lows.  But, the highs and the lows will never completely go away.  It is a normal part of life to experience ups and downs; it can be a good and beautiful part of life if you let it.

The key is to cope with the ups and downs in a way that is healthy.  Starving yourself is not a good way to deal with life.  Drinking, smoking, doing drugs, abusing substances, binge eating, obsessing, isolating, self-injuring, or other self-destructing tendencies are harmful and unhealthy ways to cope with life as well.

Counseling can help you to re-train your brain and re-form your habits into healthy, uplifting skills that will greatly improve the quality of your life.

Below are some of my ideas for healthy coping skills:

Running or Walking
Slow breathing
Taking a Shower or Bath
Reading
Journaling
Learning more about the disorder
Reading blogs or self-help books/articles
Tending to a garden
Doing the dishes
Cutting up vegetables
Painting or drawing
Listening to music
Watching a funny movie
Praying
Going to Confession
Playing an instrument
Calling a friend
Having coffee with a friend
Walking a dog
Playing tennis or other sport with a friend
Going out to eat with a loved one
Arranging not to be alone, reaching out to your support system
Praying the Rosary
Drinking a cup of coffee/tea
Going to the Library
Making a Craft/Sewing/Knitting
Baking/cooking Something
Doing Housework/cleaning
Writing
Making a Visit to Church


What are your healthy coping skills?

Thursday, March 14, 2013

Raising the White Flag: Accepting or Surrendering


{St. Remy Church by Mary Borchers}


A good friend of mine sent me a beautifully written piece about healing from depression, titled Getting Back Up After You Fall.

As I was reading it, I realized that the author put everything I have been trying to say about depression into one excellent article.  Even though there are no words to describe the feeling that is depression, the author Elena, does a pretty darn good job.  You can read her full article here.

Among other enlightening paragraphs, she states that the worst part of suffering from depression is the shame.  She writes:
 
Despite years of evidence to the contrary, when I couldn’t get myself off the couch for months, when I couldn’t enjoy any activity, and when I couldn’t smile genuinely at anyone or anything, I truly thought that this was my actual self, my real personality—that I was boring, unmotivated, useless, a loser, an anomaly; that I was weak, and that all of this was my fault.
 
For years, I believed that depression was who I was without even knowing what depression meant.

I believed that I had a pathetic personality and a brittle soul.  I was helpless, cowardly, feeble…and I hated myself for it.  I ran over 5 miles a day, but I thought I was weak.  I stubbornly stuck to a diet of no processed food; however, I was certain that I had no will-power.  I surpassed my coworkers within the first year of a new job and earned a management position; yet, I honestly would tell you I didn’t deserve it and I was a worthless employee.  I believed I was a failure and nothing and nobody could tell me otherwise. 

In her post, Elena goes on to say:

Essentially, depression lies to you—about everything. And when you are used to trusting your thoughts and being self assured and confident, it takes a long time to realize that the torrent of negativity in your brain may not be an accurate representation of reality.

One main characteristic of depression is that it causes isolation.  But by nature, as humans, we are communal beings.  We are meant to help one another and live in community with one another during this journey called life.

In reading Elena’s blog, I recognized so much of myself in her writings.  It has been so good for me to read about, and converse with, people who have also struggled with depression.  Through this experience, it is evident to me that we are meant to have good relationships in order to have a thriving life.

“No man is an island,” wrote John Donne.

When dealing with depression, we flee from the very thing that can help us the most.  Yet, we still try to live on our island when we are suffering, when we most need to live in community.

Why is it so hard to ask for help?  Elena writes, “Acceptance is not surrender; it is simply the opposite of refusal”.

When I was in the pits of despair, I didn’t want to ask for help because I thought that would mean I would be admitting defeat.  I thought that by accepting I had a problem, I would be raising the white flag and surrendering to the enemy.

I felt like I was holding on by one thread; it was the fact that I didn’t give up yet.  By accepting I had a problem and asking for help, I thought I would be severing the only tie that was holding me to life in this world.

If you look in a Thesaurus, however, you will not find the word “surrender” as a synonym for “acceptance”.  I don’t know how they got tied up together in the first place.  I think it is probably because it is used for “accepting defeat” or “accepting limitations”.

When you accept that you are struggling with depression or any other mental health issue, and you ask for help, it does not mean you are defeated or limited.  It means you are brave, realistic, and it means that you don’t want to give up!

For years, I thought I would be accepting defeat if I asked for help.  But accepting that you need help is not accepting defeat.  When you ask for help, you are calling in the reinforcements.  That is not surrendering; it is quite the contrary.  Instead, you are calling in for support or back-up in order to strengthen the mission.  It doesn’t mean you are weak; it means you want to win the battle!

Acceptance is not surrender.

Acceptance is receiving; it is the gift of enlightenment.
Acceptance is acknowledging, or responding to the truth.  It is approval and affirmation.
Acceptance is belief, a conviction in what you know to be certainly true.
Acceptance is confidence and trust in oneself.

Acceptance is not surrender.

Accepting that you need help and asking for it is one of the most honest things you can do for yourself.  By asking for help, you will not fail; you will receive approval, affirmation, trust, love, and truth.

Now that’s not so scary now, is it?

Wednesday, March 13, 2013

5 Ways Depression has been Beneficial to my Marriage


Depression thrives in solitude.

For many years, I tried to keep my problems a secret.  Eventually, my close friends would start to question my behaviors.  Since I didn’t want to face my problems, I had to get out of dodge.

Once I got past my comfort zone, I would shut down and drift away from the people I loved.  Sometimes, I would just flat-out-up-and-move out of state.  I moved around from place to place thinking that I needed a new start every year or so.  Michigan, Europe, Kansas, Florida, and New Hampshire were some of the places I tried to call home.

I thought that if people really knew who I was, no one would love me anymore.

Once I finally stared opening up, however, I couldn’t believe the amount of support I received.

It’s amazing to me how much better my relationships (in particular, my marriage) have become since starting depression treatment.

Even if you do not suffer from a mental disorder, everyone experiences low points in their life.  It is helpful to know what you can do (and what your spouse can do to help) to make it through.  There are many more reasons than what I have listed below.  Yet, I have to leave something to write about next time, right?

1.  For my husband and I (on a scale of 1 to 10, 10 being the best) our communication level is at a 10+.  (This data is coming from a woman’s perspective!)  We are no longer afraid to communicate about anything.  When you bear your soul to one another about your deepest darkest fears, any other topic can be easily discussed over cake and ice cream.  It is very important for my recovery to keep talking about the things that are on my mind.  If Craig also shares the state of his soul with me, I am more likely to open up.  Because we have learned this technique from dealing with mental illness, our communication level on any subject is awesome.

2.  We are more appreciative of one another.  We are thankful for the big things and the little things, as well.  I am eternally grateful to Craig, and I do not hold back from telling him so every day.  Because every day I need his support to get better, I thank him every day for taking care of me.  Often times, you can get caught up in day to day life and forget to say “thank you” to the one’s you love.  Recovering from depression has taught us to be thankful for each other, each and every moment of every day.  It is very rewarding to be in a relationship where there is mutual gratitude.  You feel loved and appreciated for just being you.

3.  As a couple, we pray together more often.  “A family who prays together, stays together.”  Craig and I know we need God’s help, especially when we are struggling with things that don't have a quick fix (depression).  By accepting that God has the control, we can offering our lives to Him in humility.  Praying together brings us both closer to God, and as a result, closer to each other.

4.  Our virtue of patience has increased tremendously.  We are aware of our mortality.  We are aware of our faults and failures.  We are aware of our imperfections.  And, yet, we still love each other despite all of those things.  In a marriage, when you no longer have the expectation to be perfect, you can be free to be yourself.  You will be happier in a relationship where you can be yourself.  You will no longer be afraid to make mistakes because you know you will be loved no matter what.

5.  We go on dates, at least, once a month.  Instead of “dates”, we should call these outings “marriage maintenance”.  We keep this ritual to officially check up on each other regularly, even if there are no apparent problems.  We check-in unofficially throughout the week as well.  However, we have regular sessions once a month specifically to get on the same page.  We write down our short-term and long-term dreams and goals.  We share those things we each other without reservations or hesitations.  We talk about what has worked in the past and what we want to do better with in the future.  And we also sit and enjoy each other’s company over coffee and pie.  I love it.  I recommend this practice to any husband and wife.  Dealing with depression has taught us that our minds (thoughts, dreams, goals, ideas, and fears) are constantly changing.  We can’t read each other’s minds.   So, if we want to have a “thriving” relationship, we need to share with each other what is going on in our brains. Want to read more about how to improve your relationship?  Read this!

Do you struggle with depression?  How has dealing with a mental illness enhanced your relationships?

Write your ideas below.  I would love to hear about them!

Tuesday, March 12, 2013

Priorities


{Photo published on web here}
If I accomplish nothing else  all day other than ask God for help, then it is a good day.