reflections

Self-Care

According to what I see on my Pinterest, Instagram, and Twitter, self-care is kind of the new buzz word, but what does it entail?  It is about taking proper care of yourself, for you, by you, because you have individual needs that only you can address best.  Self care, as the word implies, is care of yourself.  What makes you happy and recharges your batteries?  That’s self care.  And once you have figured out what recharges your batteries, coming up with the plan on how to do so.

One of the most important points of self-care is that it works for you, in accordance with your values.  Value, in this case, is a way of defining what matters to you.  Your personal values will vary a lot from person to person, even within the same group of people who generally share the same philosophies.  For example, I value creativity, therefore, a creative outlet is very important to me and my self-care.

So, for self-care to be effective, you must figure out your personal values.  Do you value spending time with family?  Do you value spending time outdoors?  If you’re not sure, it’s okay to try what other people are doing and see if it works for you.  For example, I tried drawing, but it wasn’t really my cup of tea.  I don’t draw and I don’t get pleasure from drawing, so while it may be a really good outlet for others, it certainly wasn’t for me.  But I tried, and I am happy I did, because now I know it doesn’t cut it for me.  On the same vein, I did realize that coloring is indeed anxiety-reducing for me, so it is in my self-care arsenal.

Sometimes, however, self-care can be as simple as taking a nice, long, warm shower, or drinking a cup of tea slowly, mindfully, even.

It is important to add a self-care item or two to our daily routines, and it is also important to schedule time for more involved self-care.  For example, to add an item of self-care to our daily routine, we can try to drink our morning coffee mindfully, every day.  Another way to add something to the daily routine would be to spend 5 minutes in prayer and/or meditation prior to going to sleep.  (It seems the best times for me to add some self-care to the routine is either first thing in the day, or last order of business).  I also like to schedule time on the weekends to do some coloring, journaling, or something crafty.

 

 

 

reflections

Focus and Organization

Sometimes, my largest obstacle to becoming more organized is my lack of focus.  I find something and I get completely derailed from my mission: impossible, I mean, mission:  organization.  While I have been somewhat successful at organizing, I definitely don’t have the organization of thoughts and concentration that probably needs to occur when you’re going to organize.

Well, that sounded like a tongue-twister.  But it’s true.  There is a certain level of concentration that needs to occur in order to organize a house.  The truth is, the more I research and try to deal with organization, the more I realize that I don’t know anything about organizing.

As of late, since my concentration is pretty null, I have been trying to do it only in 10 minute intervals, since it seems I can only concentrate for about 8 – 10 minutes at a time.  Cue the book: 10-Minute Declutter: The Stress-Free Habit for Simplifying Your Home.

I really enjoyed reading the book and taking notes, and even implementing the ideas it suggests.  However, the problem for me, comes when I need to plan for organization.  You can’t just throw stuff away and put stuff in drawers and cabinets, unless you have a plan to deal with it in the long-term.  And really, the only solution to clutter should be long-term oriented, or you will end up with a mountain of stuff on the dining room table all over again.

I am curious to read Declutter Your Mind: How to Stop Worrying, Relieve Anxiety, and Eliminate Negative Thinking, by the same authors (SJ Scott and Barrie Davenport).  I wonder, if there is a link between worrying and anxiety with actually having a cluttered home.  (I will report on this later, I promise, but I am trying to stay on topic.)  I do feel, that the more grateful and the more joyful I feel, the easier it is to organize.

Is it possible to organize 10 minutes at a time?  I don’t know, but I am able to do laundry 10 minutes at a time, so why not?  Here goes to hoping I can get it right!

reflections

Finding Motivation with Prayer.

You know, when you struggle with depression, it is hard to find motivation to do the smallest things.  Things that normally would get done, don’t get done.  What are normally simple tasks appear monumental.  Getting out of bed, for example.  Taking a shower, preparing breakfast, making coffee…  But there’s something I can still manage to do, and that is prayer.

I don’t have to pray a whole Rosary.  I don’t have to even complete a Hail Mary.  All I have to do is summon God and ask for his graces to just get motivated enough to get done the bare bones minimum, to ignore the Inner Mean Voice that tells me I am a failure, to get out of bed and see how my son is doing, brave my face in front of the mirror and brush my teeth.

This small prayer:  “Lord, grant me motivation to get going.” is normally good enough.  I force myself to get out of bed, and drag my feet around the house.  I keep repeating the prayer as a mantra throughout the day.  Until I find that even though I might have been dragging my feet, and skipped a few steps in the daily routine, I got things done.  And at the end of the day, the realization that the motivation to get going got granted, and humility to be thankful for it.

It is easy to take things for granted, but when it comes to being grateful, even the smallest of things is something to be thankful about.  Sometimes, just being grateful for breathing is enough to be grateful about, and it’s okay.  I have noticed that on days that I wake up thanking God for breathing, I am set in a better mindset to deal with the day than when I wake up and complain about how hard life is with depression.  Turns out gratitude is a good thing to have when you are struggling.

What are you thankful for today?

 

reflections

Forgiving Oneself and Being Forgiven

We all do some pretty bad things from time to time.  It is in our imperfect nature that we mess up.  And sometimes, we do something that we deem so terrible that we just can’t forgive ourselves.  Yes, I bet even some saints in Heaven have been there, too.  It’s all too human.

As Catholics, we have a great gift in the Holy Sacrament of Confession.  Sometimes, this guilt of having messed up, is eased by telling someone about the horrible thing we did, but it always feels better after it has been absolved by a priest (who sits in persona Christi).  Sometimes, however, even after the repentance, absolution and penitence, we still can’t seem to shake off the guilt.  I think this is because we haven’t forgiven ourselves.

It is all too easy to get caught up in the guilt – a tool that the devil sometimes uses to keep us away from Confession and from feeling better.  But we have to remember that no matter how awful our mishap/mistake/sin was, we have to forgive ourselves.  Obviously, we have the guilt because we feel bad about it, and that’s a good sign that we repent.  However, when this guilt doesn’t go away, we need to work on forgiving ourselves.  This can be hard, but the beauty of Confession is that you can bring up this pain, this guilt, as many times as needed until you process what happened.

Wallowing in the guilt is not going to make things better.  Keeping the sin to ourselves is not going to forgive it.  So, I highly encourage you to go to Confession to be forgiven and to forgive yourself.

reflections

The Inner Voice that Abuses You

We all have that inner voice that whispers “Keep going” when the going gets tough.  Unfortunately, for some of us, this voice also whispers horrible things to us throughout the day.  I’m sure you’ve heard it before.  It is that voice that tells you “ugly” when you look at the mirror.  It is that voice that tells you “you’re a failure” when you make a mistake.  We all have it, and it abuses you in different ways, at different levels, during different circumstances.

This Inner Abusive Voice keeps us depressed and anxious.  And who wouldn’t?  If you were constantly told that you’re ugly, fat, a failure, and/or unlovable, wouldn’t you feel sad? Yet, most of us have an inner abusive voice that is ready to constantly put us down.

I don’t have an answer as to how to silence these inner voices, as I am working on that in therapy, but I do have a little bit of an insight.

If Jesus is able to love us with all He is, and with his infinite compassion, why can’t we try to imitate him and love ourselves with such infinite love?  He did tell us to love one another as He has loved us.  It was His commandment.  We know we can’t love others if we don’t love ourselves, so why not start by loving ourselves a little more, so we can love our neighbor a little more, more Christlike?

We can start by having compassion for ourselves.  Maybe next time you make a mistake and you hear that snarl of your inner abusive voice saying you’re a failure, show yourself some compassion and correct that voice.  “I am not a failure, I am only human, and, as such, prone to mistakes.  Nobody is perfect, and neither am I.”  Maybe, next time that little voice is saying that you are ugly, you can correct it and say, “I am beautiful as I am, for I am made to the image and liking of God.”

These corrections are actually much better than the abusive alternative!  Maybe something to work on…

reflections

Guardian Angels

We all have a guardian angel assigned to us by God.  This being is by our side always, and we should be calling on him regularly, in times of trouble, and in times of gratitude.  It’s our personal intercessor.  It is amazing how often we forget about him!  And even so, he is always by our side.

The joke goes around that our guardian angel must be holding his head in shame because of the things and troubles we manage to get into!  But how often do we pray for him and thank him for being by our side?  How often do we offer sacrifice for him?  How often do we even think about him seriously (instead of in a joke)?  Have we cultivated a relationship with him, our personal intercessor?

What a great gift guardian angels are, and we often don’t appreciate them.  I’ll go as far as saying that most people have even forgotten or don’t believe in their existence.  Let’s make an effort to acknowledge them and make them a part of our daily lives.

Our guardian angel is a brother and a friend, that we can call on always.  And as such, we should call on him not only when we are in big trouble, but also when we are in small trouble, no trouble, joyous times, grieving times, etc.  In other words, we should call on him always.

PRAYER TO OUR ANGELS

My God, I thank Thee for all the graces Thou hast given to my dear angel.

My God, I thank Thee for having given me this great angel to be my brother and my friend.

My dear angel, I thank thee thousands and thousands of times for the countless favors thou hast done me, for the countless times thou hast saved me from evils and dangers.

My angel, I love thee with all my heart.  Make me feel thy presence at my side.

reflections

Fragrance

via Daily Prompt: Fragrance

In my daily prayer rituals, I usually incorporate fragrance.  I love the smell of wax burning and wafting through the air.  Also, being as I am, I love smells with the fragrance of flowers or citrus fruits.  The beautiful smells remind me of peaceful days, and help me ground myself.  Once grounded, it is easy to fall deeper into meditative mode, and set the tone for my prayer time.

I like to divide prayer time into 5 parts:  gratitude, conscience examination, daily meditation, petitions, and listening.

Gratitude is pretty self explanatory.  I like to give thanks for everything that happened in the day.  I like to say thanks for all the great moments and all the good things.  But, in a harder exercise, I also like to give thanks for all the stuff that happened that didn’t make me too happy, for only God knows if it will later be a blessing.

And the fragrance starts gently wafting through the room.

Conscience examination consists of looking at my day and seeing what I have done that may have fallen short of Christian expectations.  I also look at everything I have done that might have been good.  I like to make sure I do one act of kindness.

And I take a deep breath, breathing in the fragrance of prayers being elevated to the heavens.

Daily meditation consists of something that may have caught my attention that day.  Sometimes it’s a meditation straight from Mass, or a bible reading, or one of the daily meditations from Blessed Is She.  Either way, I like to meditate on that and how it may apply to my daily life.

The fourth part to my prayer is petitions.  I like to ask God for my friends, my family, and myself to be safe and healthy.

Last but not least, I like to listen.  It’s the hardest part of prayer, but it is a necessary part of prayer.  I don’t know how to explain listening, other than it is a very hard part to do, because I like gabbing and it is hard for me to just sit still, but the fragrance helps.

The fragrance grounds me back and I am able to sit still and just enjoy the smells that I have very well associated with prayer and peace and calm.

 

reflections

A Note on Depression, re: Chester Bennington & Chris Cornell.

Depression kills.  It doesn’t kill the same way terminal cancer or diabetes complications do, but it kills.  It kills in the weirdest of ways:  by twisting your mind in such a way that killing yourself makes a lot of sense.  I am no psychiatry or psychology expert, but I have been dealing with diagnosed major depressive disorder for the better part of 9 years.

I originally wasn’t going to post about the suicide of Chester Bennington, just like I chose not to post about the suicide of Chris Cornell, but given the grief this has caused in my Facebook newsfeed, I am taking the opportunity to educate and destigmatize.

I am no expert in 90s music, either, but I did grow up in the 90s.  I am aware of all the articles out there outlining how the music of the 90s is undoubtedly the most depressing.  And it is alarming, to a great degree, as depression rates in the USA have skyrocketed (especially in the generation that grew up in the 90s).  It is very alarming, that, for the first time since the 1930s, life expectancy in the USA is shorter (largely in part to suicide).  It is also worth noting, that suicide is now the 10th leading cause of death in the USA.

Major depression is a mental illness.  A mental illness is an illness like any other:  cancer, diabetes, fibromyalgia, and heart disease, to name a few.  I won’t go into all the details of how the brain changes with depression and other mental illnesses, but suffice it to say that a picture of a brain with depression is very different from that of a healthy brain.  Mental illness is not your fault, just like cancer, multiple sclerosis, or epilepsy aren’t your fault.

Another disease that very commonly co-occurs with mental illness is substance dependence, be it alcohol, recreational or prescription drugs.  When substance dependence is present with mental illness, it makes treating one or the other a little more challenging, especially when the substance in question is a mind-altering substance.  (Substance dependence may also make psychiatric medications be less effective.)

From what I understand, Chester Bennington suffered from both mental illness and substance abuse.  Two illnesses that can distort your thoughts.  Another aggravation is that when a loved one commits suicide, the likelihood of suicide increases.  (It is known that children of parents who have committed suicide are way more likely to commit suicide, and so on.)

I don’t claim to know what was going on in Bennington’s mind, but he suffered from depression, substance abuse, and his friend Chris Cornell took his own life.  Reportedly, Bennington killed himself on Chris Cornell’s birthday.  Perhaps he spiraled down on a substance fueled depression missing his friend that led him to kill himself?  We might never know.  Perhaps he was isolated from his community of people that made him feel valuable and worthy.

Another thing that has popped up in my newsfeed, which I think is important to deal with, is the possibility of their influences by Satanic rites and other religious/spiritual practices that may be of demonic nature.  Fr. Amorth, a leading exorcist from the Vatican, had said in the past that sometimes, differentiating between mental illness and demonic possession is very hard, but demonic possession is not as common as mental illness.  I don’t know Bennington’s or Cornell’s dabblings in demonic practices.  It is very dangerous and stigmatizing to claim that severe mental illness is of demonic nature.

What is for sure is that Cornell and Bennington carved their way into their fans’ hearts, and will be sorely missed.  It is very sad that they have succumbed to their illnesses, months apart from each other, especially when effective treatment is available.

May they both rest in peace.

If you’re struggling with depression, please seek medical help.  I can’t emphasize this enough.  Also, if you’re struggling with substance abuse, seek medical help.  If you’re in the USA and are in emotional crisis, call the crisis line at 1-800-273-8255, available 24/7.

reflections

Organization and Joy

In the Nourishing Minimalism Blog, Rachel Jones argues the connection between clutter and depression.  Basically, it’s a vicious cycle.  Because you’re depressed, you’re more likely to accumulate clutter, and when you have clutter, you’re more likely to fall into a depression.  By that logic, decluttering and organizing are key to joy and happiness.

I don’t need to talk about the books by Marie Kondo, in which you only keep items that spark joy, and you organize everything in a way that everything is visible and accessible, and you’re supposed to be happier, more organized, and liberated.  And I get it.  The more things you own, the more stuff you have to preoccupy yourself with, because you somehow have to keep track of it all.

It is no secret that I am battling depression.  As such, I do have a good amount of clutter.  Nowhere near a Hoarders: Buried Alive episode, but none-the-less clutter here and there.  Clutter that I am constantly trying to battle, but life happens, too.  I feel like the only possible way to tackle it is to dedicate my whole life to constantly putting things in their place.  This clutter battle can seem overwhelming and never ending.  But it doesn’t need to be.

In a previous post, I reflect on the fact that Jesus has called us to give up all earthly goods, and pick up our crosses and follow Him.  We know, however, that taking it to the extreme is hard to do.  We all have a basic need for shelter, food, clothing, and stability.  And as such, we accumulate a few things along the way.  A house with furniture, appliances, clothes, toys, and mementos.  Most people in the USA have this to a certain degree or another.  In addition, because of consumerism, in the USA, not only do we have the basics, but we have an excess of the basics, the luxuries, and the unnecessary things that make clutter a reality of a good chunk of our homes.

How much is enough?  That’s usually a personal question.  Personal needs and personal values are going to dictate what you need and how much of it is enough.  Someone with a high-power job is going to need more suits and business attire than someone who flips burgers at a fast-food place.  Someone with 3 kids under 5 is more likely to need baby toys and car seats and strollers than someone with 1 kid under 5 and 2 over 8.  Someone who values (and commonly uses) all manner of kitchen gadgets is more likely to have a fully stocked kitchen.  You get the picture.

What are the items that are truly helpful and a true necessity?  Once this list is formed, it would be a lot easier to declutter and organize.  It is definitely easier to organize less stuff than it is to organize more.

 

 

reflections

Thoughts

My fiance has had multiple sclerosis for years, and as a result of the different attacks, he has recently been declared legally blind.  Since we don’t live in the same state at the moment, I am not sure what this entails.  He will be flying to Chicago to meet me for a couple of weeks, and I guess I will see the extent of this, his latest exacerbation.

I knew all along that something like this was bound to happen, as this wouldn’t be the first time that his MS attacks his optic nerves, but now that the reality is sinking in, I don’t know what to expect.  A part of me is ready to roll with the punches, but the other part of me is honestly terrified.

When I look at the long term, I am confident and calm.  When I look at the day to day, I feel at a loss.  The feeling is totally terrifying, almost freezing me.  But when I take a deep breath to try to cope with the situation – I wasn’t really expecting it to progress to this level this soon, and truth be told, I don’t think he expected it to be this way, either –  I can only see a cross we must carry together.

Certain friends have told me that I am not married yet – that I am still able to get out of this “mess” but that’s not even in my head!  Sure, I can run away and leave him now, but what does that accomplish?  It wouldn’t only break his heart, it would also break mine into a million pieces.  My response is, if I had already been married to him by the time he was declared legally blind, should I run away and leave him?  The answer is no.  So why should I leave now, when we have a solid relationship and a solid commitment to each other and love for each other?

Besides, my friends are not seeing his side of the coin.  He could also say that my illnesses are all too much for him to bear and he could leave me at any point – especially given that I have been hospitalized multiple times since we started dating – yet he doesn’t even seem to flinch.

Like I was saying earlier, I see it as we will pick up our crosses and help each other.  Honestly, as terrified as a part of me is, I have full confidence that God will provide.  He doesn’t put in my path anything I am not able to bear.  I don’t know what the road ahead has in store for us.  But I do know that God is with us every step of the way.

I can’t stop thinking that fear is the opposite of love, and that God doesn’t call us to be comfortable, but to have complete faith in Him.