Friday, June 27, 2014

Guest Post!

A lovely reader recently left a BEAUTIFUL comment on one of my blog articles.  It was so good that, with her permission, I’d like to share it with you all in this post.  Her voice is stunningly honest and true.  Please take a reflective moment and thoughtfully read through her words.  Personally, I am so grateful that she took the time to rely her thoughts to me about her experience with depression.  I am adding the prayer she included to my repertoire.


I am young woman suffering from depression. I also happen to be an artist and Catholic.

Depression if it is mild or moderate feels like an earthly experience of purgatory.  And if it severe it is like experiencing the first levels of hell.

People often romanticize illnesses like cancer, but it is hard to tell a story about depression, because it is depressing by default.  The only way to tell story about depression that isn’t soul crushing is by inserting humor and God.  Sometimes humor is the best a person can do, but I am so very grateful for God.

Now that the pain of my illness is moderate, mostly thanks to meds, I can go about my day without constantly thinking about my moods and saying, “oh my goodness, how can I possible live another day like this?”  Now I can say to myself, “It may or may not pass, but it can- oooh look a squirrel!”

It’s hard to describe what I’m going through to people that have never felt this. It is like a demon ran away with my soul or at least part of it, and the ever pressing weight that I may never feel like myself again.  And then of course there is the fatigue, pain in my lower arms and head.  That isn’t pleasant either.

Then there is God, who can make darkness into light.  The wallpaper on my work computer displays this prayer that I read every morning and every time I begin to get scared that this will never go away:

“I will trust Him, whatever I am, I can never be thrown away.  If I am in sickness, my sickness may serve Him, in perplexity, my perplexity may serve Him.  If I am in sorrow, my sorrow may serve Him.  He does nothing in vain.  He knows what He is about.  He may take away my friends.  He may throw me among strangers.  He may make me feel desolate, make my spirits sink, hide my future from me.  Still, He knows what He is about.” - John Henry Cardinal Newman

I wish the stigma of mental illness wasn’t so rampant.  I think people like to believe that they are in full control of their minds, and so they mentally outcast those who are not, because nothing is more terrifying than your mind running away from you… indefinitely.  That’s where all the well-meaning sugary mantras come from.  “Just try harder”, “Just pray harder”, “Just take up sports”, “Just count your blessings”, etc.  “If you only try hard enough, you can do anything!”

Only God can to anything, well all good anythings, but we want to believe that we are gods and that we have control.  If illnesses teach you anything it is that you are not God and not in control.

I am an incredibly gifted artist.  Drawing comes naturally to me.  I can be having a crap day and still illustrate a children’s book that gets translated into four languages.  If I were to ask my mom to make a copy of Da Vinci’s Mona Lisa, it wouldn’t be very good.  If I told her to try a harder it might be a little better but not much.  Maybe with years and years of training she could become as good as me, but probably not.  She’d need a miracle.  Luckily, her earthly wellness and happiness don’t depend on her drawings skills.  But the healing of my mind does.  I do need a miracle of sorts.  God might work through the right doctors or people or food or pixie dust, but I know that if I ever wake up excited for the day and with a respectable level of confidence, it will be an act of the Almighty.  I have fought tooth and nail to not be depressed, and although I am better I am not healed.  But because there is a God I know that it is possible, and so there is hope, and if there is hope, well all is not yet lost.

Much love, your sister in Christ,


(F, so sorry it took me so long to respond!  I didn’t see your comment right away – if my computer hadn’t been broke, I guarantee I’d have published it the very next day!  Thank you so much for your vulnerability in sharing your thoughts.  I am sure many people will benefit from your words.  Know that you are in my prayers as you continue your daily struggle.  I am rooting for you.  Please feel free to write anytime!)

Wednesday, June 25, 2014

“Since you’ve been gone…”

Recently, I haven’t been able to blog because my computer has been broken.  To my surprise, these past few weeks of minimal technology have taught me some things.  First, I missed blogging.  Second, I did not miss Facebook.

Again, I am reminded of how much I still use blogging/writing to cope with my depression and anxiety tendencies.  I depend on the blog to help me just as much as I’d like it to help others.  I tried writing things down the old fashioned way – paper and pen – but it just wasn’t the same.

I bet part of the reason I like typing as opposed to writing is because you can easily fix mistakes and the document still looks clean.  With a pen, the paper is full of scratches, cross outs, and barely legible handwriting.  I’m such a perfectionist that I’m sure the act of writing was a hindrance on the therapeutic process.

The second thing I realized from my unintentional technology hiatus was that I really liked not being on Facebook.

In the past, I’d log on to post a blog, but, first, I’d end up checking my Facebook account…then get stuck looking at whatever Facebook deemed important for me to see.

Several months ago, I limited my access to whose notifications would pop up in my newsfeed.  You can read about why I did that and how to do that here.

Even though I’ve dramatically cut back, still being “connected” on Facebook has some implications I hadn’t realized before.

During these past several weeks, I didn’t have that feeling of being “connected” to anyone or anything.  At first it was kind of freeing.  I had no obligations to the Internet and it had no demand over me.

But then, without proactively thinking about it, I sought personal connection by other means.  I ended up writing more letters, making more personal phone calls, and visited more friends in person than I have in long time.

After my computer was fixed and I could go back to the World Wide Web, I hesitated.  I didn’t touch the thing for days.  And I started thinking about whether or not I wanted the Internet back.  My life seemed more fulfilling without it.  So, I pondered why I was feeling this way.

I came to the conclusion that Facebook gives you a false sense of connectivity.  You feel like you have a lot of friends, but, in reality, those relationships can be very shallow and unfulfilling.

True friendship is the opposite; true friendship is fulfilling.  Not that you should have friends just in order to get something from them.  True friends, real-life friends, can help you become a better person, help you through tough times, make you laugh, pick you up when you’re down, and all those good things.

Yet, in order to have good relationships, you have to put forth effort.  It takes work to maintain a solid friendship.  And, the time you take to make it work can make a world of difference.

So, time and effort are key ingredients in friendship.

Facebook doesn’t allow for those essential ingredients needed for lasting friendships.  On the flipside, it makes it too easy to connect.  Facebook requires so little effort on our part that it’s hard to see how any “real” relationships can be generated or sustained through this social medium.

For example, it’s so easy that on your friend’s birthday all you have to do is write a few words on their wall.  Facebook even prompts you to remember whose birthday it is each time you log on.  It only takes a few seconds, requires no memory on your part, and demands, possibly, the least amount of physical effort for you.  Sure, it’s nice to get many happy birthday messages…but does it really mean that much when you know how easy it is to happen to be on Facebook that day, happen to see that it’s so-and-so’s birthday, and then type 13 characters in the space provided?  Maybe you add an exclamation mark or a smiley face…it’s quite amazing, you don’t even have to be smiling, but somehow that little icon makes everything OK. J  Get my point?

Facebook is seemingly personal, connecting the whole world together with a few clicks of a button.  But, in reality, Facebook actually separates the “face” from the person.  A person can be suddenly reduced to a comment, a picture, or a status update.  Because we cannot see them or feel the real emotions going on behind the screen, it is easy for us to look at that person with less dignity than they inherently deserve.

So, Facebook seems very personal at first glance but, I think, it is taking us farther and farther away from personal relationships than ever before in recorded history.

The true essence of friendship is sacrifice; it is sacrificing your needs for the well being of another.  Christ said, “No greater love has man than this; to lay down his life for his friends.” (Jn 15:13)

I don’t see love when I look at Facebook.  All I see is venting, unproductive debates, narcissism, and jealously.  I see people so desperate for human intimacy that they post anything and everything just to get “likes” or comments.  I see people so starving for self-esteem that they post pictures of themselves to get constant approval.

Another downside of Facebook, in my opinion, concerns Facebook friends that I’m not that good of friends with; it becomes difficult to know certain information about them from what they post.  I’m not that good of friends with them, yet I get the privilege of knowing things that their significant other might not even know.  With knowledge comes responsibility.  What do I do with the information I read on Facebook?  I can’t possible share that friendship accountability for 300+ people in my life; it’s just not physically feasible.

Friendship takes more effort than what we are giving it these days.  Facebook is making it too easy to have “friends” and as a result, makes less and less true friends.  Facebook is more about “news” or gossip than about fostering real relationships.

So many people are afraid to give up Facebook, I think, because they are afraid of “missing out”.  Facebook does have it perks – if you live far away and want to see pictures and updates, if you have lots of family and you can’t keep up with everyone, etc.  But then again, Facebook only makes it easier.  It’s still possible to keep in touch without it.  What do you want, easy or true?  What you can gain by fostering real friendships will far outweigh what you will miss on the Internet.

Side note: I’ve never heard anyone say, “Wow! I feel so good about myself, I feel so loved, and I feel so uplifted after that 30 minute Facebook session!”  Yeah, it usually goes more like, “I’m doing nothing with my life, I wish my pictures were like that, I need to get this or that, and I wish I looked like this or that.”

In conclusion, Facebook is really unfulfilling for me.  During my sabbatical, without its false sense of security, I turned to other means to let my friends know that I love them.  And the outcome was way more satisfying and productive.

So, as a result of this unintentional experiment, I’m henceforth giving up Facebook!

This means I won’t be able to post on my “Have a Nourishing Life” page anymore.  I might lose some readers because it won’t be “easy” to see when I’ve posted a new blog.  But, I think, for me, the benefits will be worth it.