Monday, January 26, 2015

Little Steps

Today I drove to the Cathedral in downtown L.A. It may not seem like a big deal to most of you but when you've had anxiety/panic disorder for half of your life, it's a huge deal. It took me quite a while since I don't live near the downtown area (hello for the suburbs!) and I got there using all streets; I have yet to find a legitimate reason to take the freeway.

On the way there, I was a little nervous but I didn't have any crippling anxiety. I had planned my route using Google Maps and I've grown up in L.A. so I don't get lost very easily. With that confidence I drove out to get myself a St. Brigid of Ireland Tiny Saint to hang out with the Bl. Pier Giorgio Frassati Tiny Saint that I carry next to my keys. Yes, when I'm motivated, I can achieve things. Did I get it? Yes, along with a couple more for one of my best friends. As I drove back home, I couldn't help feeling proud of myself.

It's so easy to believe the lies that you can't do anything. I've heard it before. "Oh, Emmy can't do this because of her anxiety." "Emmy needs help because..." "Yeah, Emmy can't..." Luckily for me, anytime someone says that I can't do something that I know I'm capable of, I get determination to prove them wrong. Learning how to drive, getting my license, driving to places "far" from my apartment... all of these things are goals that I have proven that I can do despite others underestimating me.

I know a lot of people find this blog because of search terms such as "anxiety and Catholicism." In fact, that was partly why I opened this blog 7 years ago; I wanted to show others that having anxiety was nothing to be ashamed about. Stereotypes be darned. They haven't defined me and they don't define anyone who is going through it.

I hope that posts like this show others going through the same thing (anxiety/panic disorder) that it is possible to overcome these kinds of obstacles. If you were to ask my mom if she ever thought it was possible for me to drive, she would honestly tell you "no." No one believed I would eventually conquer the fear to do it. Just remember that when people say "no" to something important, God often says "yes."

Anyway, just a quick little post I wanted to share 'cause I'm honestly so stinking proud of myself. :D Naysayers say whaaat?! lol.

I hope you all had a great Monday (yes, I know Mondays are a punk butt) and have a great rest of week. :D

As always, thanks for reading and God bless! :D

Sunday, January 25, 2015

Anemia and Missed Mass

I am currently sitting on my bed, laptop on my lap, with Love by the Book (Hallmark's latest movie; I'm a sucker for these movies) playing in the background, eyes groggy, and feeling unhappy that I missed Mass this morning.

I woke up at 5:30 a.m. (to get ready for the 6:45 a.m. Mass) but I felt terrible. Stomach queasiness and some weakness/fatigue. Back to sleep. Up a while later, still feeling off. Back to sleep. Woke up in time for the last English Mass of the day... only to feel weak (heaviness in muscles) and really off. For the next hour or so, I felt the same -- weak/heaviness, fatigue, groggy eyes (which I still have), and a bit of shortness of breath. 

I worried for a while. "Why am I feeling this way? This is kind of scary. What's going on?" I did the Memorare prayer 3-4 times, asking Mama Mary for help to illuminate my mind. Did I have to go to the ER? Was it anxiety related? I got the idea to look up the symptoms on Google (a big "no no" if you have anxiety/panic disorder) and I found the cause pretty quickly: anemia. All the symptoms I have (and have had this past week) are all anemia related. My anxiety levels went down... and a new determination set in.

I hate missing Mass. If you've read this blog long enough you know that I am reduced to tears most of the time that I can't attend Mass. I say "most of the time" because sometimes I understand that, no matter how hard I try, my body just doesn't cooperate with me... and I know that God loves me regardless. Most of the time, though, I cry because I get frustrated. All I want to do is attend Mass! Why can't I just attend Mass?

Recently I've been "okay" with the fact that my health stinks because I know that it's forced me to slow down and reevaluate things. I was a healthy child and teenager. I rarely got sick and, when I did, it was never too bad... however, I developed a slew of crummy habits and was heading down the wrong path. I will say that I didn't do anything like drinking, drugs, or sleeping around but I was still doing stupid things I regret.

I got anxiety as a teenager (at 15). That forced me to redirect my path. I learned to live with it... and then I was hit with a bad breakdown at 21 that, in the end, resulted in my return to the Church. That put me on the right path. In the past year, I had gotten a handle on my stomach issues and I was thriving in terms of not having anxiety... then I was hit with low platelets (and, lately) anemia.

 I know this (minus the platelets) was brought on by poor nutrition (seriously, I was eating junk) and not taking care of myself for several years (I always put others before myself). I know that this is a good thing because, even though I feel exhausted and blah most days, it's forcing me to finally take care of myself and my needs. Most importantly, it's also giving me the chance to improve my relationship with God. I was so busy and focused on other things that my prayer life took a backseat to everything else. So, thanks for this anemia... but, seriously, why can't I just go to Mass?!

I hope to make it to Mass during the week but I've been trying for weeks without success. Last Sunday I was falling asleep in Mass but I made it. This week... nope. If any of you have any suggestions (besides red meat, lentils, leafy greens, liver, beans, iron-enriched cereals) for anemia, please send them my way. My stomach couldn't handle the iron pills the doctor gave me so... suggestions are welcomed. I'm also going to be selfish and ask for prayers because it's sometimes hard just to make it through the day with the fatigue and/or shortness of breath. 

Anyway, those are my thoughts for now.

I hope y'all had a great weekend and have a wonderful week. :D

As always, thanks for reading and God bless! :D


Thursday, January 22, 2015

Questions about the Will and Lina Series

I've gotten some questions regarding the Will and Series. Mostly "is Will based on *insert guy's name*?" or "Was *insert chapter* hard to write?" So, for Valentine's Day, I've decided to answer as many questions (or, at least, the top 5-10 questions) asked about the series. As for why I picked Valentine's Day as the day... is it spoiler-y? *shrugs* Was it just a day that I picked because London Calling is my favorite novel I've written? Maybe. ;)

Yes, this is the reason why When Two Worlds Collide was on sale for a week up until yesterday and why London Calling is currently on sale for only 99 cents on Kindle. (side note: the sale will end in a week so get it on sale while you can.) You want to know anything about the series? I'm going to give you guys a chance to ask. No question will go unanswered... unless it's wildly inappropriate.

If you want to ask any questions, you can do so by leaving the question up on the Will and Lina series FB page, this blog's FB page, or over on Twitter. You have until February 12th to send me your questions.

Here's a sneak peak of the kinds of questions (and answers) you can expect:

"Are any of the characters based on people you know in real life?"
The short answer: Yes, some characters were based (even in little ways) on people who are/were in my life but more than half of them weren't; my imagination just really got into the writing process.

The long answer:
When Two Worlds Collide
Not based on anyone:
Will, David, Matt, Mrs. Zamora, Odysseus (Odi), Mr. Alonso, Mrs. Alonso, Audrey, and Aiden.

Loosely based on real people:
Lina, Stella, Mikayla, Candace, Mr. Zamora, and Professor Normandy.

London Calling
Not based on anyone (new characters): 
Ethan, Mrs. Alden, Sofia, Henry, Kieran, Ella, Michael, Tom, and Aunt Lizzy.

Loosely based on real people (new characters):
Blake and Stephanie.

There you go. Have more questions? Just ask. ;)

And that's it for now. I have a couple of things to catch up on (mainly: reading and snail mail... and errands).

I hope y'all are doing well. :D

As always, thanks for reading and God bless. :D

Wednesday, January 21, 2015

Learning to Love Myself

For the record, that is not me in the picture but I still thought it was cute and fit with this post.

For many years after my reversion there was one thing that many priests told me: I'm too hard on myself. Part of that was due to the scrupulosity I developed upon my reversion (I wanted to not do anything dumb that would cause me to not receive the Eucharist so I was too overly cautious) and the other part was the fact that I grew up feeling like I was never good enough.

Before I go on I should say that I love my parents. Mom and I still have our strong disagreements at times (differing temperaments) but I still love her. Dad's been gone for almost 6 years now but I still love him as well. I'm so grateful for them and how they raised me because it helped me become the young woman that I am. I mean absolutely no disrespect to them when I say that, though I love them, I know that I'm too hard on myself because that's a habit I picked up growing up.

Growing up, I never felt I was "good enough." Someone was always *insert positive trait* more than I was. Yes, my parents did a great job cheering me on whenever I did something praiseworthy (mostly academic; straight As, awards, graduations)... but there were also comments about how I needed to do/be more. By the time I was old enough to realize that the constant comparisons had hurt my self-esteem, it was too late; the habit was so ingrained in me that I didn't think I would be able to break it. I still struggle with it, but it's becoming easier to deal with.

If one good thing came out of my leaving the speech-language pathology program, it was that I learned to love myself as I am. For the first time in my academic career, I had failed. The one thing I excelled at during most of my life, I couldn't complete. It wasn't because I didn't try hard (my current crummy health is the result of the stress, lack of sleep, and push I did during those 6 months), it just wasn't for me. Having to step back and go "whoa, okay, this is obviously not working; I need to take better care of myself" was the silver lining in this poopy diaper situation. Telling myself that I didn't need to finish this just to show others that I could do it -- that it didn't define who I was -- was the first step in being easier on myself.

Ever since November 14th (the day I officially sent my leave of absence from Utah State), I've been on a mission to take better care of myself. For years I've taken care of others but for the first time in my life, I'm looking after my needs. It's somewhat of a foreign concept to me and I feel selfish at times but I know that I need to do it. This means sleeping more, eating better, exercising more (when the doctor lets me...), de-stressing, and basically doing things for myself. While in the past I might've felt guilty for taking some time off (and I occasionally still feel guilty), I'm learning to say "no, it's okay to take this break; I need it for myself and my health."

Beyond taking care of my physical needs, I'm learning to take care of my mental, emotional, and spiritual needs. I allow myself to do things that may seem silly or boring to others. I love solving puzzles (always have; I used to take apart -- and put back together -- the family vacuum for fun as a child) so I let myself take some time out of my day to work on puzzles or play an online game that isn't time consuming (the one I'm playing takes, at most, 10-15 minutes of my time). I'm a very visual person who feels much younger than she is so I let myself have a little time out to color in some coloring books. (side note: this, by the way, is an excellent way to de-stress or tame anxiety because it makes you focus on something else other than your worries.) Having an accountability person (other than my spiritual director) has also been great for my prayer life.

One of the biggest things I've learned (and am still learning) to do is being okay with my so-called flaws. I think part of that comes with getting older but I also remind myself that I'm not perfect... nor do I want to be. I like all my little quirks. I still get embarrassed when I get caught singing or dancing (especially at the grocery store; I seriously don't even realize I'm singing or dancing along to whatever they have playing until it's too late) but that's okay. It's just who I am -- I'm a happy little nerd who does these things. I may not be *insert trait*, but I'm okay with that. Someone will always be better than I am at everything. However, that doesn't matter as long as I remember that what really matters is that I'm consistently trying to be a good person who loves God. I may fail (miserably some times) but I'll never stop trying. As long as these little things are adding up to a healthier, happier me, I'll be okay.

Earlier this morning I sent out a tweet that said:

I've been denying myself of luxuries for so long that the gift (to myself) of a mug and the Lent journal seem like I'm spoiling myself. However, I think I've earned the right to get myself a little something for Valentine's Day. Remember, the day is not only about romantic love (although consumerism really goes with). :D

Anyway, this is what's been bouncing in my head this morning. I only slept about 3 - 3.5 hours last night and I'm just getting sleepy enough to try to take a nap. Interesting to see what goes on in one's mind while sleep deprived... Okay, I just yawned and it's getting harder to keep my eyes open so nap it is. :D

Before I take a nap, I would like to give you a challenge: I dare you (all of you lovely readers) to do something for yourself today. Having a good dessert/chocolate bar. Take a nap. Color. Take 5 minutes out of your day and do nothing. Whatever floats your boat and makes you happy, do it. Smile and remember how awesome you are. :)

I hope y'all have a great rest of day!

As always, thanks for reading and God bless! :D

Monday, January 19, 2015

A Blogging Change; Back to 1.0

Sorry for not writing for over a week but I've been busy and/or sick (stress-induced physical symptoms like extreme fatigue). But I'm here to tell you why I'm changing my blogging style a little bit...

Do you know what I miss? I sort of miss having anonymity. I miss the days in which very few people knew who I really was because it allowed me to be more open. I'm not saying that it's bad that people have gotten to know me better but I miss having the chance to be more candid about what was going on in my life. I feel like I can't really do that anymore because a good number of you know me personally (having met offline; for that I am NOT sorry) and I feel (and know) that some of you automatically begin to wonder who I am talking about if I mention someone on the blog. That's a big reason why I don't talk about my relationships or why I'm very vague and not specific about that part of my life. (side note: the bigger part of that is because I like those feelings and thoughts to stay between myself and the person that I love.) It feels so good to have that part to myself. However, I feel like in some respect I've failed to uphold a promise I made to myself when I started the blog: not to hold anything back... and I want to get back that.

That doesn't mean I'm going to be an open book. But I think I'm going to ditch some of the blogging habits I've developed over the past couple of years. I was considering that when Clare wrote about why she wasn't blogging more regularly and how she doesn't care about popularity. Thanks to Clare (who I've always adored and who consistently inspires me to be a more Godly woman), I was reminded of the joys I had before I felt the pressure to produce certain kinds of blog posts. "But *insert name of high-profile Catholic person* says you're great, I expect high quality posts/a better and/or holier person" and/or "You're a writer, I expect you to write like one" you might be saying. Yes, I've been personally told at least one of these things recently (though I paraphrased.) Like Clare, I don't care about popularity in the Catholic world. I just want to express myself. So... welcome to Journey of a Catholic Nerd Writer, back to 1.0.

Here are how most of my posts will sound like:

Can I just say how excited I am about praying the Rosary more often? I'm so happy that I've asked a fellow Kindred Spirit (yes, we even call each other KS because we're nerdy like that ;D) to be my accountability partner because it motivates me to not be put into a cone of shame for failing. I failed last night BUT I got day six of the novena to Our Lady of Lourdes in as well as my nightly prayers so it's not like I failed to pray altogether; I just ran out of time. Oops. Yes, I will wear my cone of shame today because I failed to better manage my time yesterday. Oh, Sundays... why do I fail to pray on Sundays (outside of Mass)? *shakes fist* Mof-bama!!! (That's Steven Moffat and Obama put together; inside joke with my twinnie.)

You know what I'm really sad about? The fact that my fatigue has gotten so bad that I still can't wake up early enough to attend daily Mass or even the first Mass of the day on Sundays. I miss daily Mass; it was the highlight of my day when I was able to do it. The first Mass on Sunday mornings is my absolute favorite as well. It's quiet (no music except for the nuns and my SD singing) and it's more my speed...

Okay, so here's the real reason why I want to return to the 6:45 a.m. Mass: there's this guy at our (for now) usual Mass that has a habit of looking in my direction quite often (homeboy doesn't even hide it; it's so obvious that I've had someone else comment on it) and that throws me off. I just want to focus on listening and feeling like I'm there for God. Why do you think I like mantillas so much (other than what it symbolizes)? Because it creates a sort of curtain that helps me focus on the fact that what's right in front of me (the Mass being celebrated) is what matters the most. It blocks out all the outside distractions and when the guy (who will usually sits a couple of pews in front of me and usually within my view; hey, I get there before he does so I pick my pew before he does) distracts me; it makes me self-conscience. God, please help me find a way to combat this fatigue so I can get up to both daily Mass and the 6:45 a.m. Mass on Sundays. Please. I would be so happy if I could do both. I'm sure the guy is nice and all but I'm just not interested and I'm really not a fan of unwanted attention. No me gusta!

... and that is all I'm cramming into this blog post. lol. I have more to write but I'll save it for the next time. No deadlines for this; I'll write when the mood strikes... which is actually more often than not but I've been so tired lately that all I really want to do is sleep all day.

Verso l'alto? Verso l'alto! That reminds me... I should finish the Bl. Pier Giorgio novel I'm reading... after I clean the house. I know the doctor said no exercise but I think the inactivity is actually making me feel even more tired and sleepy. Eh, I'll just sort of dance while I vacuum. Compromise, right? It's not a full workout but it's not me not doing anything. Yeah, that works (or so I'm telling myself).

Alright, I'm off to get some light exercise (I said "light," doc...) and then see what else I can do while I'm not too tired. :)

As always, thanks for reading and God bless! :D