Monday, November 17, 2014

Will "being thin" make you happy? (Re-published)

(I needed this reminder myself, so I thought I'd re-post this one.)
Why do people all over the world feel the need to lose weight, to be skinny, and to diet? I think it ultimately comes down to one thing. I think it is because everybody wants to be happy.
For a long time, we have been told that achieving “thinness” will make us happy. But will it?
I promise you, being thin will NOT make you happy. For that matter, being thin will NOT make you healthy, accepted, popular, rich, famous, a good person, or a saint either.
To be healthy, you have to eat nourishing food, exercise moderately, minimize stress, get plenty of sleep, and realize that a lot of things are out of your control. Just because you are doing everything you can to be healthy, doesn’t mean than you will not have to accept healthy problems tomorrow or down the road.
To be accepted, you must first realize that “you are enough”. You only have to please the Lord. You do not have to earn respect or dignity - you received inherent value from God when you were conceived. If other people do not accept you, that is their problem. How others treat you say more about them than it does about you.
To be wealthy, you have to be responsible with your money. It has nothing to do with how you look. It has everything to do with not trying to look a certain way. If you are too concerned with your appearance, you spend too much money on cars you can’t afford, too big of house payments, and ridiculous name brand clothing...just to keep up with the Jones'.
{St. Thomas Aquinas}
And to be a saint, you have to stay in the heart of the Church. I do believe that St. Thomas Aquinas was a rather large person. I highly doubt that he was concerned with dieting. I also highly doubt he was gluttonous, since he is canonized. His weight had nothing to do with the state of his soul.

I have never heard anyone say, “Gee, I am so glad I spent all that time and energy trying to be thin.” Being thin will NOT make you happy.
Some people attribute gaining confidence with losing weight. If you do experience a boost in your self-esteem because of weight loss, it will only be temporary. The affirmation you receive (praise, compliments, etc.) from losing weight is from the world, and the world is fickle. If you look for affirmation from the world, you will be in a never-ending, losing battle. There will always be more weight to lose, there will always be skinnier jeans and smaller sizes, and there will always be someone thinner than you.
Losing weight doesn’t mean you will be happy. I think, if you gain more self-confidence, you will be happier with yourself no matter what size you are.
So, how do you improve your self-confidence?
For starters, accept the way you look now, even with all your imperfections. Separate your self-worth from your appearance. Get rid of the “should do’s” and the expectations. Remember that you are enough. Realize that you can have peace and happiness without worrying about your weight.
So the next time you find yourself fighting with the scale and wanting to lose weight, remember that a smaller number will not make you happy.
Challenge of the Day: Throw away your bathroom scale. Your scale is not the boss of you. Your scale does not determine your value or whether or not you are good enough. So, if it doesn’t matter what your scale says, then why not throw it away? Think you just have to know? If you just have to know what that number says, then you are still equating your self-worth with that number. Knowing what the number says eases some kind of anxiety about having to look a certain way or be a certain weight. Having certain expectations concerning weight or appearance will only lead to unhappiness. Want to be happy? - throw the scale away.

Monday, November 10, 2014

Becoming “Pro-life” on a different level through the experience of loss and grief; a writing about miscarriages

(I wrote this post a while back…right after my second miscarriage.  Recently, I realized that I was still holding onto a lot of pain and grief from those losses.  I know it will be good for me and this child that I now carry if I confront these difficult feelings.  Through talking about it and through prayer, I hope that God will give me peace and free me from the anxiety and fear I have about having a baby.)

After successfully going off my anti-depressant medication, my husband and I discerned we should try to have children.

In those times of discernment, I realized that I was never going to be perfect.  We shouldn’t wait until we’re perfect to start having kids or to start living life for that matter.  No one will ever be perfect in this life – God’s grace is sufficient.

In stark contrast to the year before when I felt like I’d never be able to handle having children because of the depression, I really felt peaceful with this big life decision.  Taking on the new role of motherhood felt as comfortable as the sweatshirts I don on a regular basis.  Because of this peace, I felt certain this next step was meant to be – it was what God wanted for us – I just knew it!

Yet, the journey is not as easy for me as it seems to be for so many of my friends and family members.  The road is difficult and I’ve had to learn new meanings of the words “patience” and “purpose”.

Sadly, I’ve had two miscarriages.  Each baby only lived about seven weeks.  Both times, we found out by going in for our first doctor visit and ultrasound.  Both times, the doctor could not find a heartbeat.

The experience has taken my pro-life stance to a new level.  If I am really Pro-Life, I must acknowledge the two children that lived in my womb, even if it was only for a short time.  I must acknowledge that they are real human persons each with their own soul, gender, destiny, and capacity for greatness.  And I must allow myself to grieve for the deaths, the tiny lives that were so abruptly cut short.

Even though they were early, first trimester miscarriages, I still got attached, I still gave them names, and I still consider myself a mom – I have two children.  If I don’t do this, then how could I call myself Pro-Life?

I hesitate to publish our losses on this blog.  The experience was something very sacred.  The lives of those two little ones are very important to me.  I am afraid of losing that specialness by having my words fall on non-understanding ears.

On the other hand, however, this experience has majorly affected my life.  It has greatly influenced who I am as a wife, a friend, a sister, a daughter, and a human being.  It has been hard to write about anything else.

When people hear about miscarriages, they tend to sympathize to be nice or empathize if they’ve been there too.  I know they are doing nothing besides trying to be helpful, positive, and encouraging.  But people often say things like, “It was God’s will”, which might be comforting but also confusing.  And words like, “At least you know you can get pregnant…” are not helpful either.  Yeah, so, my womb is capable of conceiving but it is also capable of killing?  Please don’t remind me.  When all is said and done, my arms are still empty and my eyes brimming with tears.

The hard truth is – miscarriages are a tragedy.  An innocent life taken from the world who will never get to laugh, breathe in fresh air, watch a sunset, learn to walk, say it’s parents names, get married, or have children of their own.  Death is not a natural part of life, whenever it happens…8 weeks, 18 years, or 80 years.  God did not create us to die – He created us for eternal life.

Mysteriously, God’s accomplishes His will always.  But He does not directly intend for miscarriages to happen – just as He does not intend for abortion to happen.

A miscarriage is not God’s will.  It’s sad, unfortunate, and an evil that resulted from original sin.  God desires all of His children to be baptized and to get to Heaven.  He only permits bad things like this to happen so that a greater good can come from it.  The only reason evil persists is because God allows it to happen.  God is not some sadistic, twisted miser up in Heaven specifically preparing bad things to happen to people, then laughing a satisfied laugh when we stumble and fall.  No, God is a loving God who wants nothing but the best for each of His children.

Instead of chalking it up to part of a sad plan for my life, I think it’s better to grieve for those two precious souls and pray that God will bring some good from this heartbreak.  God is grieving along side of me, and, someday, He will rejoice with me as well.

I trust in God’s mercy and that He will bring good out of this evil.  However, I would not be honest if I didn’t say that these two miscarriages have left me with unanswerable questions.  Did I not pray enough?  Did I not want this bad enough?  Did I drink too much coffee? Or did I exercise too much?  Did I eat the wrong things?  Did I mess up my body through my eating disorder?  What if we didn’t discern correctly?  What did I do wrong? 

Maybe God knows that I won’t be able to handle having children.  Maybe I’m not mentally or emotional stable enough to handle the burdens and responsibilities of parenting.  Maybe this is the only way I could ever be a (biological) mom.

Discouragement and despair are not from God.  So as I experience these challenging emotions, I am trying to remember that Our God is the God of Hope.  He would not want me to give in or give up so easily.

We have a framed pictured of us on our wedding day and below the picture reads an encouraging phrase.  I never noticed it before, or never really thought about its meaning until now.  However, I saw it the other day and it struck me:

“Delight yourself in the Lord and He will give you the desires of your heart.” (Psalm 37:4)

I didn’t know how much these words would mean to us when I put our picture in that frame.  But reading them now gives me comfort.  God knew we would have this struggle before we were even married.  He knows our miscarriages are a tragedy.  He is grieving right alongside of us.

It might feel like, at times, God gives us more than we can handle, but, I believe, it’s only to show us that we can do nothing on our own but everything through Him.

If I stay close to God, He will give me the desires of my heart.  After all, I am His beloved daughter.

Tuesday, October 21, 2014

Mom-To-Be Freak Out Moments

I wonder if every new mom-to-be experiences moments of panic before her baby is born.  “Can I do this?”  “What was I thinking?”  “I don’t want to be a mature adult!”  “What if I can’t handle being a mom?”  Even thinking about the word “mom” freaks me out.  My mom is a mom.  My sister is mom.  I am NOT a mom.

I’ve got about a 4 week countdown to my due date.  However, I feel like I could use another several months to mentally prepare.

Recently, I’ve been having a lot of anxiety and a lot of down days.  I’ve been frustrated with myself for not coping with it well.  Considering my life is about to change forever, I should cut myself some slack.

I am good at dealing with the everyday anxiety and depression that has been a part of my life for the past several years.  I have good routines, good coping skills, and good, healthy habits…for the most part.

But, now, I’m not able to overcome my fear of the future.  I have absolutely no idea how I am going to handle life with a newborn baby.  I realize that I’m not always going to be able to deal with my anxiety and depression in the same ways I have been.  I can’t just go for a walk whenever I want to.  I can’t just take a shower whenever I feel like it.  I can’t just sleep whenever I need to.  The fear of not being able to cope with all the changes scares me so much.

I’ve always been afraid of things that I don’t have control over.  The future holds a lot of changes, probably the most I’ve ever had to experience, and that terrifies me.

There are so many “what ifs” running through my head during the day (and night).  I’m afraid of forgetting to do something or get something important before the baby comes.  It’s like I’m afraid I’m suddenly going to forget how to think like a rational adult.

I am also afraid of things not being “perfect”.  I want to be perfectly prepared, I want to have the perfect labor and delivery, I want to be the perfect post-partum mom, I want to have the perfect nursing experience, I want to perfectly lose all the baby weight, and I want to perfectly take care of this new child.  Not to mention, I want to be able to handle every situation perfectly and take care of myself perfectly.
I know in my head that this perfectionism is recipe for disaster, but I can’t help but think this way.  It's more difficult to overcome because I'm not just thinking about myself anymore...there is another human being involved.

I’m afraid I’m going to have to start back at square one after I have the baby – learning how to deal with stress, anxiety, fear, perfectionism, and depression all over again.  Just the thought of putting all that work into recovering again is exhausting.

I don’t want to fall apart, but I’m falling apart because I’m afraid I’m going to fall apart…

Tuesday, October 14, 2014

No-Internet-Fridays Challenge!

My husband showed me a cool video the other day and it got me thinking.  You might have seen it…it’s the “If this video doesn’t convince you to put down your phone, nothing probably will” video.  Click here if you want to watch it.

I started to think about society and the humans who are a part of it… And I really think that, if we knew what we were doing, we’d act different.  How many times have you looked back on your own life and thought, “Gee, I wish I could have changed that or not done that”.  One of my favorite jokes is “If only I had some hindsight”.

In spite of the modern conveniences of technology and the Internet literally at our fingertips (like the video says), we are losing touch with the real world.  Unfortunately, most people might look back on their lives and wish they’d lived more in the moment and less in their phones.

One of my biggest concerns is the “instant gratification”.  Deep down in our hearts we might know that having it all – instantly – is not always a good thing.  But we justify it because there are a few good things that come from having the Internet constantly at your side… i.e., directions if you’re lost, pictures of your nephews and nieces, recipes for a quick dinner…

I believe that on the whole, however, our Internet lifestyle is not helping us become better people, but instead threatening to take over our lives.

Are you in control of the Internet, or is the Internet in control of you?

Could you live without it for one day?  Do you have enough will-power to live without it for one day?

Here are some reasons to try (for more, see the above video rap):

Smart phones and social media, in particular, are teaching us to be less present.  Stats say that, on average, you’ll miss 4 years of your life because you’re looking down at your phone or at a computer screen.  That blows my mind.  4 years!

The Internet is teaching us to be bad listeners.  It is constantly flowing with information, videos, pictures, etc.  There is always something to look at, always something to be entertained by.  Since the outbreak of the smart phones, an average adult’s attention span is less than a goldfish’s.

Instead of more connection, it’s teaching us to more isolated.  With social media, texting, skyping, you might ask, “Who needs real life, actual, face to face conversations?”  Well, everyone needs real, physical human encounters.  We are social beings – meaning, we are made to live in community.  Isolation leads to depression, despair, and potentially, worst-case-scenario, suicide.

Instant Internet makes people more selfish.  iPhones, iPads, iPods…it’s all about what “I” want.  Our smart phones don’t help us serve others – they only help us serve ourselves.  And, in turn, they help us get used to being selfish.  It is obvious to me that our society has become in the habit of “being served” instead of putting others before themselves.  Just look at the lack of corporal works of mercy.  Look at the divorce rate.  Look at abortion stats…

My husband and I recently got Internet in our home.  We had been utilizing the library ever since we’ve been married – more for saving money purposes, but a little for helping our relationship as well.  I wanted us to start creating family traditions and habits of spending time together without the intrusion of the Internet.  However, since we’ve done well with our budget (Thanks Dave Ramsey!) and with the baby coming soon, we decided it could be a good kind of change to get the Internet.

Nonetheless, I want to make sure that the Internet works for us and DOES NOT start to take over our lives.  We are in control and not going to become controlled by it.

So, one way I am planning to achieve this is by putting limits in place.  I want to be able to “say no” when I want to say no.

How else can I do this if I don’t practice on a regular basis?

So, I am posing a challenge to myself and to all those who want to have a more nourishing life.  It’s about creating good habits or changing bad habits.  Like Matthew Kelly says, “our lives change when our habits change”.

Unfortunately, because we are habitual creatures, we don’t change easily.  And even if we want to change, we often fail because our habits run deep.  If we really want to change the fact that the Internet is our master, than we have to be intentional about how we use it.

My challenge is this:

Give up the Internet every Friday.

Since Friday is already a day of penance, there’s no better time to do it.  Giving up the Internet, even if it’s just for one 24 hour period, will be difficult.  I can guarantee that.  It’s going to take some real guts and some real strength to accept this challenge.  However, you’ll get extreme amounts of graces if you unite your sacrifice to Christ’s sacrifice on the cross.

This challenge will be one of the hardest things you’ve ever done.  But I tell you that you are worth it.  I can promise you that your life will change for the better because of it.

If you can’t do it, if you can’t say “no” to the Internet, then you are the Slave and the Internet is your Master.  The Lord said, “I am the Lord your God...You shall have no other Gods before me.” (Exodus 20:2-3)  Jesus said, “A man cannot serve two masters.” (Luke 17:13).

If you deny yourself just one day a week – if you say no to the Internet every Friday – you will strengthen your will-power to make good decisions in the future.  Not only concerning your Internet behaviors but this practice will help you in all other weaknesses in your life.  You will start to be “in control” of worldly things instead of being controlled by the Internet or other material possessions.

On the practical side, when Friday comes along, shut down your computer.  Replace your “Internet time” with spiritual reading or prayer or any other good habit.  If your phone is the problem, block the data for the day or just until you remember not to browse on Fridays.  Post a sign on your fridge or at work or somewhere visible that can remind you of your commitment to make your life better: “Remember NO INTERNET on Fridays!”  Heck, create a calendar event on your phone that says “Get off the Internet”, and repeat it every Friday several times a day.  Pray to your guardian angel to help you remember your promise to sacrifice.

If you want to give up the Internet on Fridays but work a job that requires your involvement on the web or email, just keep it to work-related tasks.  You can still strengthen your “saying no” power in this way.  It might be a little trickier considering it is right in front of you, but it’s not impossible.

If you give in or forget, don’t get discouraged.  Just try again.

Pass this message along to friends.  I’m convinced that great things will happen if we stand together and sacrifice the Internet every Friday.

If you can’t do it for yourself, do it for starving children, for those being persecuted for their religion, for the end of abortion, for stronger marriages, or for any other cause.  Sometimes, it’s easier to do something for someone else than it is to do something for yourself.

But I know you can do it!  I believe in you!

Tuesday, September 30, 2014

Finding Permission to Rest

Rembrandt, 1654
I have a difficult time letting myself rest.  I know I am growing another human being inside of me, but I feel guilty for sleeping as much as I do.
It’s like I need someone to tell me that I have permission to rest every day.  I can’t give myself permission because it makes me feel super selfish.

One of my biggest fears is that my husband thinks I’m lazy.  I also fear that my friends think I’m defective or needy because of how much I struggle with anxiety and depression.

Ever since I quit my job (and before that, I guess), I’ve struggled with giving myself realistic expectations.  Even though I believe what I’m doing is right and I’ve made the decision to stay home, I feel guilty for not working a job.  Because of this guilt, I feel like I have to compensate by accomplishing things at home.

Last time, I talked about my crazy to-do lists.  I have these expectations of myself to “get things done” during the day.  But most of the time, I don’t get much done because I’m tired all the time and I sleep A LOT more than I used to.

When I don’t get “enough” done…well, let’s just say I am really hard on myself.  I put a lot of pressure on myself to be “perfect” and so when I don’t feel like I’ve accomplished anything, I get down.  I feel unworthy, undeserving, and inferior compared to all my other female peers.

I’ve been reading this book, “Breastfeeding and Catholic Motherhood: God’s Plan for You and Your Baby”, by Sheila M. Kippley.  It’s a great book – I highly recommend it.  It talks a lot about the importance of staying home with your children, not to mention the benefits of breastfeeding.  Recently, I read a passage that helped me with my guilt:
Only a woman can conceive a human being, give birth to her child, and nurture her child at the breast.  Because the spiritual is based on the natural, this indicates the heart of femininity as life-bearer and nurturer.  Only the Holy Spirit can guide us to understand and develop this rightly.
Even with these initial insights into true [masculinity and] femininity, it obviously takes courage to be ourselves. Leadership requires sacrifice and the willingness to be rejected.  It takes courage to lead.  In an abortifacient, contraceptive culture, how courageous women are to conceive, birth, and nurture human life?  Take courage and be yourself.

Our culture has definitely influenced me to believe that I must be productive for society in order to feel worthy.  That if I choose not to work outside the home and instead stay home and raise my children, I am looked down upon and thought inferior.  I know I struggle with this standard because of my guilt.

Yet at the same time, it is ingrained in the heart of woman to desire to nurture and receive life, and so by staying home and raise the children God gives us, we can fulfill the deepest desires of our heart.  However, if we’re not vigilant, that ultimate calling can be stifled by the current culture’s demands on women or the ever present “need” for status or material things.

Contrary to society’s beliefs, our Catholic faith teaches that mothers are doing irreplaceable and important work by staying home and raising children.  You are giving your children the best gift you can give them – yourself – when you choose to raise them yourself.

Of course, like with lots of other Catholic ways, being a good mother requires going against the grain, opposite the flow, and all those other analogies.  In a certain sense, being a stay-at-home mom is a silent way to be a witness for the Faith.  Perhaps I am experiencing this tension because this is precisely the objective of the enemy – he wants to “devalue” my life and make me feel unworthy of my calling.

When I have a lot of anxiety about if what I am doing is the right thing, I remember that staying home is what God wants of me.  Growing a baby inside of me is good enough in His eyes – I don’t have to do anything more.

It’s OK if I sleep a lot.  I need to listen to my body and then I will know what I need.  I don’t have to do great things or accomplish lots of tasks, however miniscule they are.  The most important thing I can do right now is to take care of myself and, in turn, take care of the baby inside of me.  Everything else can be put into God’s hands.

Wednesday, September 24, 2014

Stressful "Stress-Free" Life

Hey, long time no blogging…again.

I’ve been so busy lately.  But it’s not really because I have a lot to do, per se.

My first problem is that I have this big old to-do list…some things are important, other things are just “why in the world do you want to do that” or “why is that on the list” type of things.  I’m chalking it up to “nesting”.  However, because of my outlandish, unrealistic, daily-to-do-lists, I feel like I need to start the day bright and early and keep super busy 99% of the time.

In order to help with pregnancy, and the impending delivery, most of the things on my “list” are things that I am trying to do routinely to keep my body and mind healthy.  Every day, I want to walk, do those pregnancy stretches (to help my poor hips), sit on the stability ball (to help my core and back muscles), listen to relaxing music, practice “Hypno-Therapy”, visual imagery and breathing techniques, read, knit, pray, clean, shower…

Tangent: Does anyone else find that showers are NOT relaxing when you’re pregnant?  They are becoming more and more like work the bigger I get.  It seems more of a chore to wash my hair and shave my legs.  By the time I’m done, I’m out of breath and irritated.  And let’s not even talk about toe nails.  What did they do in the olden days?  Did they just let them grow and cut them after the baby is born?

Anyway…back to my stressful, stress-free life.

I have to take a step back and remember that I wanted to incorporate all of those things to help me keep a state of calm and peace.  Recently, I’ve been stressing about fitting all those things in everyday.  I’ve fallen into the old perfectionism trap of trying to “relax perfectly”.  However, I don’t feel more relaxed, on the contrary, I feel very anxious.

There are legit things on my to-do list, like buy diapers, get a mattress for the cradle…you know, things that actually need to get done before the baby comes.  Checking those things off the list would ease my anxiety more than any of my “relaxing” techniques.

I’m not saying that relaxing isn’t important.  I am just realizing that it has to be, as with everything else, done in moderation and at the right time and place.  I think all my relaxation techniques will be very helpful in the long run – I just don’t have to do everything every single day.  That mentality feeds more into my OCD tendencies than a peaceful, stress-free mind.

Friday, August 29, 2014

Three months to go – Am I getting too big?

Some weight fears are accompanying my daily thoughts.  Am I getting too big?  Will I get too big?  Have I gained too much weight?  Will I gain too much weight?  What if the doctors and nurses tell me I’ve gain enough weight already?

Unfortunately, I did happen to find out what my current weight is.  Every appointment, I try hard to not look when they weigh me at the doctor’s office.  But when I was leaving, I was handed a paper with all my “stats”......including my weight.  Now I can’t get that number out of my head.  It haunts me.  My weight gain is nearing the “appropriate pregnancy weight gain” amount.  And that truly scares me.

Well, what really scares me is the doctors and the nurses.  Just the thought of possibly being confronted about my weight makes me want to dramatically change my eating habits.  Recently, I’ve found myself questioning if I should be eating this or that or if I should be exercising more.  I’ve been getting more and more anxious around food.

At my last pre-natal visit, I “measured a little big”.  Now, it’s impossible for me to get that fact out of my mind.  I’m bigger than I should be.  My irrational eating disordered brain translates that to mean that I am ugly, undesirable, and inferior.

Random strangers have made stupid comments like “You’re about ready to pop, huh?” and “Not much longer now?” and "Any day now..."  Um, no, I still have a ways to go – I have three more months, but thanks for making me feel like crap.  In my head, I want to tell them off, but I smile and nod.  The charitable thing to do would be to pray for them, “Father, forgive them for they know not what they do”.

I know people mean well.  Even saying things like “You look good!” is intended as a compliment, but I see it as an ultimatum.  Obviously, that person is talking about how I look, but the only thing I hear is that they are noticing how I look.  Now, I feel pressured to always look good.

Some people are under the assumption that first-time moms don’t get as big.  I’m a tall person, I wasn’t ever small to begin with. This comparing is another reason to get down on myself.

Slowly, these appearance/weight comments along with my fear of doctors telling me not to gain anymore weight are chipping away at my self-worth.  It’s getting more and more difficult to fight eating disorder temptations.

I am trying to embrace the weight gain and realize that it is necessary for the development of my unborn child.  I want to nourish this child and take care of his or her needs.  I want to relax and not feel like I have to hold it in or hide it.  I want to let there be room in my belly for the baby to move around and eventually turn head down.

But I’m fighting an uphill battle.  And because of my past body image issues, I can be easily shaken.

In my home, I am safe.  I can listen to soothing music and engage in relaxing activities.  I surround myself with body-positive phrases and beliefs.  I don’t have internet or TV to infiltrate my positive-sanctuary.  But, when I leave my home, I’m susceptible to people making stupid comments or comparing and contrasting.  I have to witness other people body-bash themselves or people they know.  People talk about weight-loss and “eating healthy” and looking a certain way.  There are ads and commercials and a bombardment of straight-up negativity in the world.

It makes me want to just stay at home all the time.  So, if you notice me becoming a hermit, it’s because I can’t take it anymore.  Until, I have a more stable body image, I cannot live in this culture.......

I know, I know…becoming agoraphobic is not a good solution to my problems.  I just don't know what to do yet.

Monday, August 25, 2014

How my marathon experience is helping me prepare for birth

Call me crazy, but in a lot of ways, I think running a marathon is similar to giving birth.  Athletes train for many months, they mentally prepare themselves by visualizing success, and the race itself is hours of hard work.  Similarly, in a pregnancy, the woman’s body is “training” for 40 weeks, growing the baby, and getting the body ready to bring him or her into the world.  The actual delivery can be hard work, and you have to be mentally prepared to experience intense physical and emotional changes.

Of course, there are many differences between having a baby and running a marathon – obviously, one being the end reward – in one case you get a baby, and in the other case you get a medal and t-shirt.  Nonetheless, I still think my experience with running a marathon has enlightened me about this whole labor and delivery journey.

Looking back on my marathon, I would not describe it as “painful”.  I would tell you that it was one of the hardest things I ever did, but I wouldn’t tell you it was excruciatingly painful – because it wasn’t.  I look back on it with joy and a sense of accomplishment.  Yeah, it was really extremely difficult, but I’d do it again someday.

I’m approaching having a baby with the same attitude I had going into my marathon.  I decided to do a marathon and I committed myself to whatever it took to get it done.  Similarly, I am determined to bring this baby into a peaceful, calm, loving environment.  I know it’s not going to be a walk in the park, but it also doesn’t have to be a traumatizing experience.  It will still be hard work, but if I prepare myself adequately, it doesn’t have to be painful.  The main point being – I don’t have to be afraid.  Women have been giving birth since the beginning of time…only recently did women start running marathons.

The reason I was successful in completing my marathon had to do with three important factors.  First, I trained for several months.  My body was in condition to run really long distances.  Second, I had incredible support from my husband.  During training, he encouraged me when I was down, he helped me get up for my early morning runs, and he taught me tricks and tips from his own experience (he also ran a marathon).  Then, during the race, he took care of the logistics, he was there cheering me on, and he even ran a total of about 6 miles next to me throughout the whole thing.  He believed in me.  He knew I could do it.  And that is powerful stuff.

That brings up the last factor, mentally preparedness.  I knew the race itself was going to be more mentally challenging than physically challenging.  I knew that toward the end of the race, I would have to fight the demons in my head trying to convince me it was better to stop.  Yet, because I knew this was going to happen, I mentally prepare to keep going even when my will-power was growing weak.  By the time race-day came, I was determined to finish.  Nothing or no one could have stopped me from completing my goal.  I was so focused that toward the end, around mile 24, I tuned out all of my surroundings and concentrated on looking straight forward, putting one foot in front of the other.  You could say I entered a sort of “self-hypnosis”.

I am approaching the arrival of our son or daughter with all three of those factors in mind, especially considering the mental preparation.  Because of my experience with depression and anxiety, I am keenly aware of the body/mind connection.  If your mind’s not onboard, then your body will reflect how you feel.  You have to lead with your mind and the body will follow.  You can accomplish amazing feats when, in your head, you believe you can.

The same is true for birthing.  If you are afraid, you will be tense and not be able to let your body do what it is made to do.  If you don’t believe you can do it, then you won’t.  But, if you are aware of the power of your body, then you can.

In order to prepare for labor, I’ve been practicing these relaxation methods to maintain an overall state of calm.  Lots of hardcore runners will tell you, in order to stay relaxed and not waste extra energy, you must keep your facial muscles loose and relaxed.  I practiced this every run.  A mind that is stressed and afraid will reflect in a body that is tense and rigid.  To be able to finish a long distance race, you have to stay calm and relaxed – and it begins with the muscles in the face.  I think the same is true for birthing.

In the past, I’ve utilized meditation tracks to help me overcome my anxiety.  Slow breathing, eyes closed, peacefully music… Essentially, I’m doing the same thing now, only with more of a centralized focus on the task at hand – labor and delivery.  I’m working on achieving a state of calm no matter what’s going on around me.  I cannot believe how much it has changed my attitude – I’m not afraid or dreading the experience anymore – I am actually excited about this labor of love and can’t wait to bring our child into this world.

Practicing these relaxation techniques are going to help me with more than just having a baby.  I know that these skills will help me with future stressful situations.  Hopefully, I will be able to continue to reduce my anxiety so that the baby will have a loving, peaceful mom and a happy, positive environment throughout the duration of his or her life.


Books I’ve recently read that have helped me form these thoughts:

Saturday, August 16, 2014

This too shall pass…

For as good as I was feeling in the last post, this one is equally opposite...

I’ve now reached that wonderful pregnancy stage where my thighs rub together when I walk.  It irritates the skin and makes it uncomfortable, to say the least.  I know it’s nothing major, but this experience is challenging my ability to keep my hormonal emotions under control.  In short, I can’t stand it.  When I take walks, it makes me so mad that I want to break things, throw things as hard as I can, or smash something into the wall.  It even makes want to hurt myself.  I get so irritated that I could rip off my skin.

Eventually the irrational anger turns into sadness.  My anger makes me so sad that I could just cry and cry.  In fact, if I am alone, I do cry a lot.  It’s a constant reminder to me that my body is growing and it’s not going to stop anytime soon; I’m only going to get bigger and my clothes smaller.

I want to walk to get exercise.  Part of me feels like I have to walk because I can’t do any other form of exercise right now.  And, I feel like I have to exercise.  What would happen if I didn’t exercise?  I am too afraid to find out.

I already don’t exercise as much as I want to.  I miss running – the repetitive, rhythmic workout, turning-over until I’m exhausted.  It is as much of a stress reliever as anything.

Having my thighs rub together is just one thing that can make me irrationally upset.  These days, it seems as if the littlest things shake my peace and calm.

Part of the emotion is from pregnancy hormones.  But, I know part of the problem is lingering eating disorder thoughts.  I am having a difficult time with my changing body.  I am having a difficult time giving up controlling what I look like.

Having a baby requires you to give up control of a lot things.  The way I look, a clean house, alone time, uninterrupted sleep are just a few examples.

Sometimes, I feel really guilty because I don’t want to be pregnant anymore.  I question myself and wonder why I wished for this and prayed so hard to be able to have a baby.

I feel like there’s no way I can handle raising a child.  I have a hard enough time trying to take care of myself as it is.  I feel extremely inadequate and undeserving.

The only thing I can do to get through these tough feelings is to tell myself that “It will pass”.  These miserable feelings will go away and be replaced with better, happier ones in the future.  Though, I only half-believe it.  I say “it will pass” in hopes that it will pass.

But will it?  Will it go away?  I don’t really know for sure.  I feel like I have no control over these feelings.

However, reminding myself that I will feel better soon helps me living in the moment, one day at a time.  Just do what I can do today and think about tomorrow when tomorrow gets here.  Just because I feel crappy today doesn’t mean I’ll feel the same tomorrow.

Something else that I find helpful is remembering this article I read a while back.  My friend introduced me to this blog and I really get a lot out of everything I read from it – I highly recommend it.  This one post in particular has stuck with me.  It’s called “Rethinking the Physical Pain of Parenting”.

Even though I’m not in the troughs of parenting, the message is still very relevant to anyone who is trying to live a life of mortification (not in the sense of embarrassment, but in the sense of dying to oneself so that Christ can live).

This emotional suffering that I am experiencing right now is part of the sacrifices of being a mom.  This is certainly not the last time I am going to suffer, and not the last time I don’t feel up for the task.  Right now, my imperfect body shape, my limited ability to exercise, and my inability to sleep comfortably are all sacrifices that I’m making for this child inside of me.  I can either learn to embrace this suffering as a beautiful way to live out my vocation, or I can be miserable because I’ll never get my way again.

In these times of trial, I need to remember that I can also offer it up.  I often think of offering things up when I am in physical pain, like when I have a headache or whatever.  But I forget that I can also offer up difficult emotions, like when I am down about how I look, or when I am irritated with everything around me.

God is allowing me to go through this emotional turmoil because it is helping my sanctification.  Remembering that this type of suffering also has a purpose can help me cope with it and not fall into despair.

Friday, August 8, 2014

Exactly what I need to hear today!

I love it when I find writings from other people who share the same thoughts as me.  In a certain sense, I guess I feel validated.  I think to myself, “Yes! I’m not the only one who thinks this way!  Phew! I'm not crazy.”  It can be very comforting to know you’re not alone.

I found a great passage this morning in the Magnificat.  It was one of those exactly-what-I-needed-to-read types of moments.  Titled She Pondered These Things in Her Heart, Christa R. Klein writes:
“Fear not,” spoke Gabriel.  Fearful by nature, I ponder those two words frequently.  To their dying days, my own parents would ask, “Is everything okay?” in tones of suspicion that it was not.  Still, motherhood, not parental conditioning, surfaced my deepest anxieties.

Even before our first child’s conception, my prayers grew anxious.  Then, during pregnancy, I committed myself to the more rigid prescriptions of the 1970s about natural childbirth, nursing, and avoiding commercially made baby food.  Although none of this was unique for a new mother, the unending deluge of information and advice on raising healthy children stoked the false belief that, as parents, my husband and I had boundless control.  In time, our children, and especially our third child with her progressive genetic disease, taught us otherwise.  And we are still learning that each day is a gift to be lived, not a list of fears to be assuaged.
Now, with our children grown and their own children growing fast, I dare not allow anxiety to squander my credibility or time with them.  Oh God, I beg to trust you more fully so that I can know and love them more than fear allows.  I want to understand more keenly the challenges and temptations they face.  Draw my husband and me in to a deeper life of prayer.  Let us reflect more naturally and easily your Goodness, Truth, and Beauty.  Make us joyous, courageous, and persevering, so that they can hear us but want you.

I thought this was such a beautiful reflection.  I can totally relate – I feel like my own anxiety is growing just as fast as the baby is growing.  It is a good reminder to keep that useless anxiety in check.

The author of this short article is older than me.  Yet, she was faced with the same fears I am now going through.  I want to be able to take her advice and to learn from her life-experiences; “each day is a gift to be lived, not a list of fears to be assuaged”.

I don’t want to live my life in constant fear of bad things happening.  And God doesn't want us to live that way either.

Things are so clearly put into perspective in the prayer at the end of the meditation.  The primary goal of parenting is to help your children get to Heaven.  God calls all mothers and fathers to see to the needs of their children’s souls first and foremost.  For all other needs, He asks us to put our trust in Him.  Oh, how the devil wants us to be distracted by our primary goal, and, instead, get caught up in other worries that take up most of our time and effort!
Lord, help me to see through the eyes of Love, not through the eyes of perfectionism and control.

Monday, August 4, 2014

What is Normal Eating?

I saw this definition of "normal eating" and thought it was worth sharing.
What is Normal Eating?  Normal eating is going to the table hungry and eating until you are satisfied.  It is being able to choose food you like and eat it and truly get enough of it – not just stop eating because you think you should.  Normal eating is being able to give some thought to your food selection so you get nutritious food, but not being so wary and restrictive that you miss out on enjoyable food.  Normal eating is giving yourself permission to eat sometimes because you are happy, sad or bored, or just because it feels good.  Normal eating is mostly three meals a day, or four or five, or it can be choosing to munch along the way.  It is leaving some cookies on the plate because you know you can have some again tomorrow, or it is eating more now because they taste so wonderful.  Normal eating is overeating at times, feeling stuffed and uncomfortable.  And it can be undereating at times and wishing you had more.  Normal eating is trusting your body to make up for your mistakes in eating.  Normal eating takes up some of your time and attention, but keeps its place as only one important area of your life.

In short, normal eating is flexible.  It varies in response to your hunger, your schedule, your proximity to food and your feelings.

Wednesday, July 30, 2014

Where I am today...

Every time I’m absent from my blog for an extended period of time, I feel the need to explain – to let you know why I’ve been gone – like a school kid with a parent’s note.

You know...Summer’s a busy time of year.  There’s vacations, trips, yard work, Red’s games…  It’s been so nice outside.  I’ve been busy with my garden (canned for the first time the other day!).  I’ve been reading a lot of baby books.  I’ve been sleeping a lot more than I normally do because of the pregnancy.  I just haven’t had time for blogging.

I also haven’t been blogging because I said good-bye to Facebook.  I said I was going to do it, and I did.  However, it was so so soooo difficult to click that “deactivate account” button.  I tried several times and failed.  Cancel, cancel, cancel, I can’t do it!  But eventually, I clicked it.  And I don’t regret it at all.  I love the freeing feeling of not being so attached to social media.  I don’t feel like I’m missing out.  I like not having that unnecessary responsibility to “stay up to date” with everybody and everything.

The only effect I hadn’t anticipated was, now, I feel no narcissistic urge to check my Facebook account.  Therefore, I feel no need to check the internet in general.  As a result, I don’t post to my blog either.  Hmm...weird, didn't expect that...

Another factor contributing to my “not blogging” is the fact that my eating disorder recovery has been going really well.  I think that I might not be able to connect to others who are in the midst of terrible E.D. struggles anymore.  It's a good problem to have, I guess.

My mind is no longer consumed with the negative, body-bashing, fat-fear, food-is-the-devil thoughts.  I don’t need to utilize the blog as a coping skill as often as I had done in the past.
What’s really cool is that I’ve found things that I love more than I had loved my eating disorder.  I never thought I’d be able to get to this place.  My E.D. used to be my full-time hobby…well, full-time job really.  There was no room in my head and no room in my life for anything else.

Now, since I’ve been recovering, I have room for lots of other things.  I am able to fill my time with things like, gardening, knitting and crocheting, reading, walking, and visiting friends.  And I don’t think about food, calories, exercise, losing weight, and looking a certain way.  There’s no more fear of eating, no more guilt after eating, and, most of the time, I don’t even remember what I ate yesterday (which is a huge deal).
I realized just how far I’ve come the other day during a family event.  Someone who I suspect struggles with disordered eating tendencies and body image issues made a comment about all the food.  They said, “I look around and all I see is food!”  It made me so sad, because I know that feeling.  I could tell that all the food was causing this person a lot of anxiety.  I’ve been there and it’s miserable.  My heart went out to them because, in that same situation, I looked around and all I saw was a bunch of people!  It was an “A-ha” moment for me.
Eating disorder recovery is all about baby steps.  If feels so minor at times that you don’t feel like you’re making any progress at all.  But then all of a sudden, you look back and see that you have made great strides.
Two years ago, I didn’t think this type of recovery was possible.  I would read success stories like this one and think that I was not capable of achieving it.  I didn’t think I was strong enough, committed, determined, or even had enough desire to do it.  There were many times I didn’t even want to get better.
But, I did.
And if you are also struggling with an eating disorder, you can do it too.  I’m no one special – If I can do it, you can do it.

I like what Jessica said in her blog, “Surviving ED”:
Honestly, four years ago when I started following eating disorder recovery blogs, I would have read the above paragraphs and thought, “Well, that’s nice. For her. It will never happen for me.” I always believed that the person whose blog I was reading was more intelligent, stronger, more stubborn, more gifted, more whatever than I was – and that why was s/he was able to recover.
Here’s the thing, y’all – there is nothing special about me that has enabled me to get to this point in recovery. I’m smart, but I know plenty smarter. I’m strong, but I know plenty stronger. I am not at this point in my recovery because I am some sort of special case – I am at this point in my recovery because I worked for it. I decided I wanted recovery and I decided I was willing to do whatever it took to get there.
It has been a lot of hard work. It has meant working even (and especially) when I don’t want to. It has meant redefining who I am without an eating disorder. It has meant learning new coping skills and using them. It has meant dealing with the physical and emotional side effects of refeeding and renourishing my body.
But most of all, it has meant freedom.

I’m not trying to say that I am completely, 100% cured.  I still have bad days here and there.  I am still tempted with negative thoughts.  Occasionally, I still think that my life might be better if I went back to my old habits and became super thin again.
Especially now because my belly is growing, I’ve had breakdown moments when I can’t fit into my pants anymore or my favorite shirt becomes too tight.  At times, I’ve been sad, I’ve cried, I’ve analyzed my flaws in the mirror, I’ve coveted other people’s bodies.  It hasn’t been all roses and sunshine in the recovery department.
But that’s OK.
The difference is that I can bounce back.  If I do have a bad day (which are fewer and farther apart now), because of my experiences and my commitment to recovery, I have a lot more resources to rely on when things get bad.  I can avoid another relapse because I know the warning signals, I have an emergency plan set in place, and I have lots of people to talk to about my struggles.
Recovering itself became a habit.
And that is a good place to be.

Thursday, July 10, 2014

Post-Party Anxiety

A while back, I wrote about Pre-Party Anxiety.

I think many people can relate to the nervousness or butterflies you get before going to a big social event, party, or gathering.  Some experience the anxiety worse than others – especially if you have agoraphobic tendencies or social anxiety in general.  On the flipside, I’m sure there are some people who don’t have trouble at all.  However, for those of you who are familiar with the symptoms of anxiety, you know that it’s no fun.

Previously, I thought that after an event was over, I was out of the woods, in the clear, free from harm…done with anxiety for the time being.  But after last weekend, I became aware of this other anxiety that came after an event.  I realized, begrudgingly, that there must also be a post-party anxiety.

Social events drain my batteries (even though I do enjoy them and participate in them because, to me, it’s worth the work).  Nonetheless, the company, the conversations, and all that good stuff, still get me overwhelmed and nervous.  Even after the event is over, I noticed that I get a different kind of anxiety that threatens to take over my brain.

I spend time mentally preparing for social situations, and I try to equip myself with the skills I need to get through it joyfully and relatively pain-free.  Yet, I haven’t been prepared for what comes after, even when I’ve successfully stayed at a gathering without leaving early because of anxiety.

It’s probably the result of low resources – being at parties takes a lot out of me – and I don’t have the strength to fight off the anxiety demons post-party.  But, I think a lot of it can be prevented (or at least, reduced) if I have a game plan.

It’s worth it to me to attend social gatherings.  I’m not just going to stay home all the time.  I want to learn how to cope with the anxiety so that it’s not so bad.  And being aware of what causes me anxiety is a good first step in learning how to deal with it.

After a party, I find myself unable to relax.  It’s like I need to decompress, move really slow, and reorient myself to my surroundings.  I find that I analyze conversations, re-live certain moments, and think and think and think and think about the day.

“Did I say the right thing to that person?  I didn’t get a chance to talk to that one person.  That one moment was really awkward.  Why did I say that?  Sometimes, I don’t know why I say certain things.  I should think before I talk!  Did I unintentionally blow off anyone?  I didn’t finish that conversation with that one person.  I hope they don’t think I didn’t want to talk to them.”

And vanity and pride play a part as well…

“Did I sound silly when I said that?  Did I overdo it when talking to that person?  Did I look dumb?  Did I eat too much or too fast?  Is that person still going to like me after that interaction?  Are they still going to think highly of me?  Is this one person still going to want to hang out with me in the future?”

My mind feels like it’s going 100mph and I don’t feel like I can stop it or slow it down.  Sometimes I find myself walking around the house in circles doing random things that aren’t necessary.  Like, I’ll fluff the couch pillows, fill up my water bottle, and organize the books on my end table…at midnight.

I think that I can help myself in these situations by first becoming aware of this “Post-Party Anxiety”, how it affects me, and what I can do about it.

I think a good way to deal with this type of anxiety is to first get rid of the desire to appear a certain way; whether it’s about physical looks or whether it’s about personality – appearing smart, composed, or graceful.

A lot of my anxiety stems from the fear of not being a certain way.  And the fear of not being a certain way comes from the fear of not being accepted and loved.

I need to remember that I am who I am and that this good enough for me.  I need to care less about what others think of me, because, in the end, it doesn’t matter what they think anyway.  Comparing myself to others is useless because it only leads to discouragement and self-pity.  I need to remember that I am loved, I am accepted, and I am good enough – first and foremost, because my self-worth comes from God Himself.

Also, I need to remind myself that I’m not weird.  It’s OK to have a transitional routine – nothing out of control or really lengthy – just a few things that help me settle down.  I was doing this before without realizing what I was doing, but my mistake was that I thought I was crazy and I felt weird for doing it.  But I can see now that it is helpful to have a specific routine in order to transition from a particularly taxing event.  What I need to add to the routine is the awareness of what I am doing and the confidence that when I’m done I can let go of the anxiety.  And I need to give myself permission to wind down when I get home instead of expecting myself to go perfectly from one thing to the next.

A transition routine can be anything from brushing your teeth to taking a shower to sitting for a few moments with your eyes closed or mediating.  I think a good practice would be to pray the rosary because it is so rhythmic and repetitious.  A rosary can calm the anxiety while getting you back into a pattern of peace and trust.  Or, if not a whole rosary, I’ll try just a decade or even just a short prayer, “Lord, I offer you this anxiety.  I pray for everyone I spoke with this evening.  I trust that you’ll bring good from all my weaknesses.  Help me always to desire to lead others to You.  All for Your greater honor and glory.  Amen”