Monday, May 19, 2014

LOTR A-ha Moment

{Photo from here}
It’s high time I wrote another Lord of the Rings post (Groans from readers everywhere).  I can’t help it – I admit I have a problem.  I’m addicted to LOTR.

I’ve been watching a lot of movies recently, and The Hobbit and The Lord of the Rings have not been left out.

Every time I’ve viewed the epic LOTR trilogy, and also now since I’ve read the books, the ending of the story bothered me, or, I guess, it left me pondering and questioning.

Through the whole tale, Frodo’s and the Fellowship have been working toward destroying the Ring of Power.  We’re rooting for Frodo every step of the way.  He gets to the end and --- what?  He seems to fail.  Frodo can’t throw the ring into the fires of Mount Doom.

Gollum and Frodo battle it out on the cliff, perilously coming close to their own deaths.  Gollum gets the Ring, but, alas, he falls into the lava and is consumed.  In the end, the deed is done – just not how anyone expected or, if they think about it, wanted.

I don’t know about you, but I wanted Frodo to overcome his weaknesses, defeat the Gollum creature, and triumphantly cast off the burden into the flames.  I wanted Frodo to march up to that cliff, tare the ring off his neck, give a great heave, and throw away the wretched thing.

But he can’t get rid of the ring by his own will power.  It gets the better of him.  “It’s mine”, Frodo snarls, glaring at Sam.  All seems lost.

This turn of events left me with a funny feeling.  I didn’t like the ending.  I often pondered my own ending that, I assumed, would have been much better than what the novice J.R.R. Tolkien came up with.  He must have just fallen asleep and forgot about the whole story line.

But, I kept thinking.

Just this last time I watched the film, I had an A-ha moment.

Frodo couldn’t complete the mission on his own.  Truth be told, neither can I, neither can you.  No one can do it on his or her own.  We have a weakened will and a clouded intellect.  We can do nothing apart from the grace of God.  If it wasn’t for the grace of God, our world would be shadowed in darkness, just like Middle-Earth would have been if Sa├║ron would have succeeding in obtaining the ring.

As I get older and go through more and more life experiences, I realize that I am less and less in control.  I can’t do anything on my own.  My life, my very existence depends on God.  And God uses people on this earth to help Him help His children along the way.  I need my husband, friends, family, the sacraments, prayer, and many other blessings to succeed in life.  Who except God can take any credit for any good that happens in life?

Sure I could say that I, me myself and I, ran a marathon and achieved that goal all by myself.  But I really didn’t.  So many things had to happen in order for it to come together.  First, I had to be blessed with good health.  And, if Craig hadn’t encouraged me throughout the training, I wouldn’t have done it.  There’s no way I could say I ran that marathon all by myself.

Going through depression helped me realize just how helpless I really am.  I had no control over this disease that made itself at home in my brain.  I tried and tried to “get over it” on my own, but I only made things worse.  If I didn’t have the right people in my life, if I didn’t have the right doctors, if I didn’t have the grace of healing, I would either be dead or a homeless alcoholic or a drug addict.

All the time, things happen in which we have no control.  Natural disasters, illnesses, tragedies, etc.  You can try your best to take care of yourself.  Yet, how can anyone feel completely “in control” of their own life?

You can either choose to live your life in constant fear and anxiety about what may happen, or you can hand your life over to God and ask Him to take care of you.

God tells us that we must become like little children so we can throw tantrums and wear diapers…  No.  He says we must become like little children by imitating their dependence on their parents.  God wants us to depend on Him for everything and have simple, childlike faith that He will.

Back to LOTR, Frodo tried his best to complete his task, yet couldn’t do it on his own.  Of course, Sam was there to help Frodo every step of the way.  You could think of Sam as more than just a good friend.  He is how grace works in our lives.  When we can’t do it on our own, God’s grace is available to help us through the trial.

This might be a stretch, but, in a backward way, Gollum also helped destroy the ring.  He was a seemingly evil nuisance throughout the story who could have been killed for his evils way, yet he was left to live.  A greater good came out of his evil.  Gollum was permitted to stick around because, as it ended up, he had some part to play.  He wrestled the ring from Frodo, but, as a result, he fell into the fire.

Often times, we can get angry at God for allowing evil to happen in our lives, just as Frodo complained to Gandalf about Gollum in the mines of Moria.  But we don’t know the big picture.  We can’t see what purpose it might have in the long run.  God only allows evil to happen because He knows a greater good will come from it.

Frodo might have been thankful for Gollum in the end because Gollum, in a sense, helped Frodo destroy the ring.

Sometimes, we might never see the good that comes from evil.  But we can be comforted by the fact that God knows what He’s doing.

I didn’t understand my depression in the beginning.  But now, I am grateful that I went through the experience.  God has brought about so much good from the pain and suffering.
Hopefully, I can take this lesson with me throughout the many more trials and tribulations that will happen in my life.

Friday, May 16, 2014

Being sick for a long time could trigger depression and eating disorder behaviors

It’s really difficult to feel bad for an extended period of time.  Like this whole nausea thing, I wasn’t expecting to feel so crappy.  I thought that I would feel a little sick but still be able to go about the day doing the things I always do.  Maybe I’m a wimp, but it’s been debilitating for me.  For weeks and weeks, all I could do was lie on the couch and try with all my might not to throw up.
Several times, I thought that I might feel better if I made myself throw up.  “Just this once”, I thought.  But, I knew that would be a lie.  If I started throwing up to make myself feel better, I knew it would not stop there.  Eventually, I would be throwing up to make myself feel better when I was down on my body or had low self-worth or I was obsessing about what I ate.

It’s a slippery slope for me to make myself throw up because of my eating disorder past.  I tried hard not to vomit because I knew it could trigger some old habits.  Of course a person can’t always help it; sometimes you have no control over it.  But if I could help it, then I was committed to trying.

These past few weeks have tested my resolve to stay positive.  It felt so overwhelming to be in such pain without relief for so long a time.  I didn’t know how long it would last.  I didn’t think I could do it.  I regretted ever trying to have a baby in the first place.

The worst part was that I was so discouraged.  I felt like a failure.  I felt weak.  Why couldn’t I handle morning sickness with ease and grace?

Someone once told me that morning sickness was all in between the ears.  It was a mental thing and you actually made yourself feel sick by thinking about it too much.  All you had to do was to believe you felt better.  Hmmm…

It could be true that pregnancy nausea is in the head.  Some doctors think it’s caused by too much serotonin being released into the brain.  If you have too much serotonin, you feel nauseous.  So, yes, morning sickness could be in the head, but there’s a scientific, medical explanation to back it up.

Even after I learned this helpful bit of information, my head still did get the better of me but in a different way.  I got down on myself, discouraged, disheartened.  If I couldn’t handle nausea, then how in the world could I handle giving birth?  I’m a wimp, I’m a failure, I’m good for nothing…

Being sick for an extended period of time can trigger depression, no matter what the sickness is.  You don’t feel like yourself and you being to forget what it was like when you were well.  The illness becomes the new norm and you begin to cope with your current state.  You feel like you might never be well again.  Thus starts the downward spiral.

Looking back, I wish I had been more prepared for such a horrible first trimester.  I wish I would have known that every minute would feel like living hell.  I wish I would have know that I would feel so worthless and discouraged.

But also, on the flip side, I could have prepared myself that it will be OK.  It’s OK to feel sick.  It’s OK to do nothing but sleep and eat.  And it’s OK to feel that way.

Just because I couldn’t do anything productive or important in the eyes of the world doesn’t mean I’m a failure or a wimp.

Even though I was unprepared in the beginning of this pregnancy, I feel like I’ve learned a lesson I can use in the near future.  I know there will be tough times ahead, so I need to lower my expectations of myself.  I will feel bad, I will experience more pain, and I will be discouraged, perhaps, for a long period of time.  The most important things should be to keep getting out of bed and to keep trying to take care of myself.

Also, this experience has helped me to practice asking for help.  It is something I’ve always struggled with.  I think everyone has a difficult time asking for help.  I realized that it’s hard at first, but if I start small, then it gets easier.  I know I can’t do this having a baby thing on my own.  I’m going to need a lot of help.  It is good to start asking for help now, so that when the baby comes, I will be better at asking for help.

I’m feeling a lot better now.  I have some medication that takes off the edge and I’m rounding the corner and headed toward 2nd, the second trimester that is.  So, hopefully, things will continue to improve.

Saturday, May 10, 2014

What if I have an E.D. relapse while pregnant?

I know I’m growing and gaining weight.  Maybe no one else can tell yet, but my pants don’t fit, my bras don’t fit, and I can see a bump.

What if I gain “too much weight” according to the charts they have on their clipboards in the doctor’s office?  What will they tell me?  What I really don’t what to happen is a conversation with a doctor or nurse about how I’m gaining too much weight and I should watch what I eat and get more exercise.  Those words could send me flying back to an eating disorder.

And then what if I do have a total relapse?  Now I’m not just responsible for myself – I’m responsible for this other human being growing inside of me.  If I have a relapse, then my actions could potentially kill the baby.  If my mind would be thwarted back into that twisted eating disorder world, would I even care what happened?

Before I freak out too much, realistically, the baby will probably help me if I’m ever tempted to self-destruct.  It’s harder for me to do something for myself, but it’s easier to do something for someone else.  When I am really having a hard time, I go through the motions, not for myself, but because I don’t want to let down my husband.  In the same way, I think I will be able to stay away from a relapse because I will be doing it for the tiny, helpless baby.

Now more than ever before, I need to dust off the positive body image phrases and all my coping skills.  As my clothes grow tighter, my self-esteem grows thin.

I am more than my pants size.  I am more than what I look like.  I am more than the number on the scale.
I’m going to be a mom – I don’t want to pass on another generation of eating disorders.

Something I’ve been telling myself when I’m tempted eat less or skip a meal is, “I definitely would not starve my baby outside the womb, so why would I starve my baby inside the womb?”  Growing babies can’t live off of your fat stores.  They can’t convert your reserves into fuel for energy.  A baby gets it’s nutrients from what you eat that day, throughout the day.  That’s why you have to eat regularly and frequently.  Knowing this fact really helps me keep the temptations under control.

Wednesday, May 7, 2014

Early Pregnancy Weight Fears

These days, the duration of a pregnancy is check-marked by going in for your regular appointments.
Even though I’m only 12 weeks along, I feel like I’ve been to the office so much already.  Before all this trouble, I wanted to be a low-maintenance momma who only went to the doctor a few times before giving birth.  Having a baby seemed like such a natural thing.  I thought the least amount of interference the better.

But now, I feel differently.  I have to say, I am grateful for the doctors and all those early ultrasounds that allowed my husband and I to see and hear the heartbeat.  It was such a relief to know that the baby was still alive.

A down side of frequenting the office is that the first thing the nurse does is take my weight.  This stepping on the scale about every week or two has really taken a toll on my positive body image progress.

I don’t look when they take down my number – I turn the other way on the scale.  But the process of weighing myself, even if I don’t know the outcome, is still very difficult for me.  It makes me keenly aware of my size.  Even if I don’t know, now other people know my weight.  And I also find myself wondering whether or not I pass whatever growth chart I’m being compared to.

At a recently check-up, a nurse went through stacks of information from their pregnancy handbook.  Don’t do this, do this, don’t do that, etc.  Of course, she went through what to eat and what to not eat.  I should be getting such and such calories of this and that, protein, carbohydrates, vitamins, and so forth.

Patiently, I smiled and nodded while on the inside it felt like nails on a chalkboard.  I think my husband was having a more difficult time keeping his mouth shut.  Even though he kept kicking my shin, I was flattered that he was looking out for my well-being.

I think the final straw was when the nurse told me about this “really cool” app that allows you to type in everything you eat during the day and it calculates how many calories you’re eating along with the nutritional values so you can see what you are doing wrong.  I don’t know about you but it sounds like the perfect app for someone who is trying to recover from obsessive calories counting!  That was sarcasm in case you could hear the voice inflection.

I know I’m not doing everything perfect.  And to be quite honest, I don’t care.  I can’t care.  Do you remember my post about how I have to be a snob about my own eating habits?  If I want to stay in recovery, than I have to believe that what I’m doing is the best for me, and now for the baby too.

No use trying to guilt trip me into changing my ways – I know that having a severe eating disorder while pregnant is much worse than making absolutely sure I’ve had enough dark greens for the day.

I’m not mad at the nurses or doctors, they don’t understand.  They’re just doing what they think is best.  It’s just sad to think that they’re handing out the “eating disorder app” to all who come to their office when 1 out of every 4 women struggle with some kind of eating disorder.

Monday, May 5, 2014

The sense of serenity is like the foundation of a fortress

“The sense of serenity is like the foundation of a fortress — strong, unwavering.” – Margarita Tartakovsky

Since I’ve already had two miscarriages, I can’t help but feel nervous for this little one as well.  But something I want to put into practice right away is overcoming the “useless anxiety” as Fr. Stan Fortuna used to say.

Chronic worrying is the result of trying to control things that are out of your control.  And the anxiety it produces can be debilitating.  Pregnancy is one of those things that can generate quite a lot of worry, stress, and fear.  But, worrying doesn’t do any good for anyone.

I don’t want to live my life in constant anxiety.  I committed to that goal when I went through Lucinda Bassett’s tape series, “Attacking Anxiety and Depression”.  I wrote several posts about the series; you can read Part 1 here.

It is a good reminder for me to go back through my notes about what I learned and what I wanted to implement in my life.

Debilitating anxiety is the result of habits.  You can’t just get rid of anxiety if you’ve practiced living with it your whole life.  It took years to create the bad habits of negative thinking, constant worry, and worse-case scenario thoughts; it will take a while to change for those into good, healthy habits.

Something that I’m reminded of again is that anxiety and depression are part of life.  One person’s life is so full of ups and downs and everything in between.  I can’t change that fact that there are going to be moments in my life where I’m going to feel anxiety.  What I can do, however, is change how I respond to those feelings.

Instead of letting anxiety rule my life, I can choose to accept the anxious feelings and move on.

Like with this pregnancy so far, I am tempted to spend my waking moments (and my should-be-sleeping moments) worrying about the future.  “Am I going to miscarry again?  Am I harming the baby?  My stomach hurts a little, what if the baby died?  I ate Subway before I knew I shouldn’t eat lunch meat, what if I hurt the baby?  What if the baby will be born with birth defects?  What if the baby dies after it’s born?”  There is no end to what one could worry about.

And because of my history with miscarriages, I’m finding myself worrying more and more.

So I don’t give myself a panic attack, I have to remind myself that, in actuality, I’m doing everything in my power to prevent another miscarriage.  I’m taking extra hormones to help raise my estrogen levels.  In which case, having low levels could have been the cause of the first two losses.

When I find myself in a tornado of worry, I try to remember the fact that I’m doing all I can do, I have great doctors, and I’m in good health.

It is true that anxiety can be a good thing if it leads you to positive action or a search for peace.  When you find fleeting glimpses of that peace on earth, be reminded that it is a taste of eternal life – you will never be ultimately happy (or peaceful) until you are in Heaven.  St Augustine once said, “My heart is restless until it rests in thee.”

I want to respond to the pregnancy anxiety by putting it in God’s hands.  There is a lot I can’t control (understatement of the day).  If anything bad would happen, I know that God will help me get through it and bring a greater good from the tragedy.

I don’t want to be a chronic worrier.  I want to live out the words in St. Paul’s letter to the Philippines, “The Lord is near.  Have no anxiety at all, but in everything, by praying and petition, with thanksgiving, make your requests know to God.  Then the peace of God that surpasses all understanding will guard your hearts and minds in Christ Jesus.”  (Phil 4:5-7)

I want to start practicing this habit of offering my worry up to God so I will be better able to handle all the stressful situations that are bound to come up at some point or another.