Thursday, February 27, 2014

Forgiving Those Who Caused My PTSD/Anxiety

If you're wondering why it took me so long to write, it's because I've had a terrible couple of weeks. Stomach issues (again), a crippling headache that lasted a week (and I'm feeling pressure in temples again today), and anxiety all decided that it would be fun to attack me at once. Fun! (For the record: I was told by one doctor that I had a migraine but apparently it wasn't a migraine? Second diagnosis was sinus headache along with tension from anxiety.) Today I've been hit by all three but I think I can handle them long enough to write a blog post so here it goes...

I'm on Day 4 of the Mary Undoer of Knots novena today. After my terrible week last week (which resulted in my going to the E.R. at 1 a.m. last Wednesday), I felt like it was the perfect time to start it. Last night's prayer involved my having to forgive those who have caused my anxiety and who have hurt me. I didn't even taking into consideration by high school bullies because I hadn't thought of them in years. As luck would have it, I saw the two primary ones today (no worries; they didn't see me) and, while my anxiety kicked into high gear, I was able to say the three words I never even considered saying before: "I forgive you."

See, when I was in high school I was sort of an outcast. I did bring part of that upon myself (I was a little bratty in my younger years) but even if I had adapted myself to my group of "friends", I would've felt out of place. I just simply never fit in... but  that's okay. Anyway, long story short: I developed social anxiety and had to leave regular public high school. I was enrolled in an independent study charter school (which was my favorite schooling experience to date) but even then, the bullies struck. One of them (the male; it was a young man and a young woman who were thick as thieves) came up with a fake username on AOL (yes, I'm that old; we had AIM back in the day, lol) and then tormented me online. He told me that I was a waste of space, I was a fat cow (when I was a size 00 due to the anti-anxiety medication's side effects), and that I needed to kill myself. "Do everyone a favor and kill yourself." As soon as I received the email, I printed it out and took it to the school's administration (even though I was no longer a student there). What did they do? Nothing. They did nothing. They shrugged it off and didn't bother to help me in any way. I put that behind me my senior year of high school (just as my dad was newly diagnosed with colon cancer) and I focused on my studies and my dad. I sort of forgot about it for a while because there was no contact.

Fast forward to about 11 years in the future (to today) and I finally saw him and the girl. I almost didn't recognize them but I knew it was them because of their names (which I'd forgotten until today). As soon as I saw them, I started sweating cold and shaking. My PTSD (which I now have as a double whammy due to the library incident a few weeks ago) kicked in and I started panicking... for a few seconds. I remembered the words from last night: "Before You, dearest Mother, and in the name of Your Son Jesus, my Savior, who has suffered so many offenses, having been granted forgiveness, I now forgive these persons...and myself, forever. Thank you, Mary, Undoer of Knots for undoing the knot of rancor in my heart and the knot which I now present to you. Amen."

I think it's so easy to hold onto a grudge or to a bad memory... but that holds us back. If there is one thing I learned from my spiritual director (well, in the past two months), it's that allowing yourself to be held back by these things -- not being able to forgive -- makes it easier for the Evil One to slip in and cause problems. As I reflected on these things, I said in all sincerity "I forgive you, *insert names of two bullies as well as teacher who humiliated me and young man who tried to force himself on me*. I forgive you for everything you did to me that caused me to develop anxiety." It was the most freeing thing I've done in a really long time.

Forgiveness is powerful. Literally minutes before my father died, I told him I forgave him for everything he'd done to me, whether intentional or not. I cried and he cried and I'm sure if he could've spoken (he could barely breathe at that point) things would've been better resolved. Either way, I think his death didn't hit me as hard as it did my mom because I was able to let go of it all in that moment. I am sure he needed to hear those words so that was my last gift to him on this earth.

I hope that by my allowing myself (because, like I said, it's much easier to hold a grudge or keep a victim mentality) to forgive these people, as well as others who have hurt me in the past, I can move on. I hope that one day, if I see them again, I won't feel sick to my stomach. For now I'm just grateful for the ability to forgive them. I never had the chance to even consider it before (this all happened prior to my reversion) but I do now.

Anyway, I just wanted to share this with y'all. I've been wanting to blog but was kind of stuck on what to write about so... perfect timing for all of this to happen. :)

I hope y'all have been well. If you have any prayer requests, please send them my way. :D

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

Monday, February 17, 2014

Youthful Looks, Childlike Wonder, and How Opinions Affect Me

This is not going to be one of those "wah, no one takes me seriously" posts. It's going to be... well, you'll see. It's going to be relatively short, too. ;)

I have something that is both a blessing and a "curse" -- my youthful looks. I have to admit, it's kind of funny to see people's eyes bug out when I tell them I'm a decade older than they think I am. I usually get between the ages of 16 and 20 (with 19 being the most common age guessed) even though I'm actually a few short months away from my 29th birthday. Yes, I know it's not lady-like to say how old I am but most people don't believe me anyway. However, as fun as that may be at times, it's also a "curse" because people don't take me as seriously as I'd like because they think I am too young.

Here is my dilemma: life is a continuous learning experience and I still have very "child-like wonder" when it comes to certain things. I'm interested in seeing how things work and/or learning new things I don't know much about so I tend to ask a lot of questions. A lot. I don't care if the questions sound silly; if I want to know something, I'll ask in a way that will help me get the information I'm looking for. Sometimes I get these "where did that come from?" or "wow, how precocious" comments because they think I'm just a kid. It can be a little insulting at times but I've gotten use to it at this point.

Long story short... I was listening to Sr. Mary Magdalene of the Divine Heart (formerly Channing Dale)'s old podcast, This Catholic Life (still up on iTunes), and the fifth episode (in which she talks about St. Therese of Lisieux) reminded me of an old blog post I wrote a few years ago about having that childlike wonder. I can't find that blog post now but I do remember writing and posting it. Anyway, it got me thinking about how different my blog posts were then versus how they are now.

Now, I know that it shouldn't be a surprise that the posts are different. I was 22 years old when I started this blog; that was 6 years ago this past Christmas. I know that I've grown and changed... but I've also become very aware that a big part of why my posts have changed has been because of others' opinions of me and what I should be writing about. Look at my posts from May 2009 and earlier and compare it to one of 2010 and later. Completely different tones. Yes, you can also say that my father's death really changed me but I really think it's more of the comments I got.

Anyway, as I was listening to the podcast (and reminding myself that I needed to find something else to give up for Lent), it hit me that I've lost the joy of blogging because I feel like I can't express myself the way I was used to. I feel like I've gotten so much of the "oh, how cute; she's so young!" comments (along with the very "helpful" comments about what I should and should not write) that I've stifled that part of myself in order to not seem as young as I look. I took listening to Sr. Mary Magdalene's voice to make me realize just how utterly silly that is. I am still very young at heart and I still have that childlike wonder even though I'm in my late 20s. Yes, this is why I get excited about going to Disneyland. lol.

What's the point to all of this? Well... just be prepared for the "old" "precocious" Emmy to start writing again. I'm sorry but I'm done caring what negative things others say about me. It's taken this people-pleaser years to get out of the habit but I'm prepared to really give it up for Lent... and for good. It's going to be easier said than done but I am writing it because I want to be held accountable. So, if you see me going down that road on Twitter... feel free to call me out on it.

I'm sure some of you will read some of my upcoming blog posts and say to yourselves "ugh, you didn't know that?" or "ugh, why are you asking such a dumb question?" but I want you to remember that I am still learning about the faith and about life in general. I am still very young in some ways and I may not always be eloquent in how I ask things but it's because I am so enthusiastic in what I am learning that I cannot always contain that excitement. Please, bear with me.

Also, a friendly reminder: "childlike" and "childish" are two completely different things that should not be confused with each other. Capisce? lol.

Just a little heads up in case you don't want to keep going on this journey with me; it won't hurt my feelings.

Anyway, I really want to finish listening to episode 6 before I do anything else so that's it for now. :D

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

Wednesday, February 12, 2014

What I Learned Wednesday #26: Forgiveness, Charity, and Babies!

1) I know many of you are wondering how I've been doing since last Friday's library incident. The answer is: I'm doing perfectly fine despite my history of anxiety. I was super nervous about going out on Saturday... until I went to confession and Mass. The first half of the day I was consumed with anxiety. I shook at the thoughts of having to go grocery shopping with my mom because it was not far from the library. I was unsure if I could drive out to confession and Mass (and I even thought I wasn't going to make it to either) but something within me kept saying "you have to go, Emmy! You cannot afford to not go! GO!" I teared up because I was scared but, at the same time, I have the most intense desire to go. I ended up biting the bullet and I drove mom and I to confession. It was the best decision I could've made because, during confession, I got the sudden idea to forgive the young man. I confessed that I had called him a "psycho" (which, however you slice it, wasn't too charitable) and the idea of forgiveness popped into my head. I mean, I wasn't angry at him and I felt sorry for him, but I hadn't forgiven him. After confession, I knelt down in front of the tabernacle and I prayed for him as I forgave him. Holy Spirit, you're totally getting the credit for that one... and for my sanity staying intact since! Lesson learned: forgiveness heals more than simply pitying the person who caused damage.

2) Speaking of praying for others, I found this website that gave me a very good idea that I wanted to share with y'all. How many of you prayer for people you don't know on a regular basis? How many of you do acts of anonymous charity? Want to kill two birds with one stone? Check out the website Emotional Baggage Check. This website allows you to "check" your baggage (meaning you can vent or cry about whatever is on your mind) or "carry it" for someone else (meaning you read a stranger's "baggage" and reply with words of encouragement). This gave me the idea of "carrying" another person's "baggage" and praying for them in the process. It isn't a religious website so there will be people who don't believe in God... but who says that you can't pray for them anyway? There's so much hate in this world, why not brighten a person's day with words of encouragement? Lesson learned: prayers for anonymous strangers who are having a tough time are good ways of doing acts of charity.

3) Okay, so, I technically promised I wasn't going to blog specifics about what happened on Monday so I can't give details but, I will say... please don't give a devout single gal in her late 20s the advice to have a baby "even if it's from a lab" because her biological clock is ticking. Yes, I received this advice as well as the additional words that "it doesn't matter if you're not married and you just use the guy to have the child; just have a child before you're old and alone." I was shocked when I heard it. I don't know if it's because of how seriously I take the Sacrament of Marriage, because I know that you cannot be selfish when it comes to having children, or because, like I said, I take my faith seriously, but I was not happy. It was rude, unsolicited advice that is just terrible. Look, I know that my "clock is ticking" (I'm turning 29 in May; I get it) and all but I have faith in God. I know my vocation is of wife and mother but I'm not going to rush Him. All in God's time. Lesson learned: I take my vocation far more seriously than others seem to do; I'm grateful that I am able to remind myself that things will happen in God's time and not mine.

And those are my three things that I learned this week. Nothing about the Faith, per se, but close enough. ;)

I hope you're having a good week thus far. If you have prayer intentions, send them my way. ;)

As always, thanks for reading and God bless!

Friday, February 7, 2014

What Happened Today

I don't have enough space on Twitter to write this out for everyone who asks me what happened today so here's a blog post explaining why I was so shaken earlier today.

I had reserved Catholicism: a Journey to the Heart of the Faith by Fr. Robert Barron from the library and I had received an email that it was ready for pick up. I was stoked because I've had in on hold for a while. Anyway, I left to go to the library early because I wanted to get some Adoration time in before I had to pick mom up from work. I found a parking spot somewhat close to the entrance and when I was parking my car, I noticed a young man who looked vaguely like Jamie Campbell Bower sitting with his forehead on the steering wheel of his car, looking at me. I even laughed and said to myself "wouldn't it be funny if it was him? This is L.A. after all." The only thing was that he was red in the face (and had red eyes as well) that matched his red car. The way he was looking at me was really creepy and I felt unsafe even before I got out of my car. I thought I was being silly so I grabbed my things and got out of the car.

The guy started saying "excuse me, Miss"... "excuse me!" His voice got louder and louder (and more aggressive) so I decided to ignore him. I started walking towards the library entrance and he started yelling at me with more aggression, honking his horn. I felt like he was behind me halfway to the entrance, ready to either grab me or throw something at me, so I bolted towards the entrance. I was shaking pretty badly and I probably looked as scared as I felt because the librarian kept looking at me. I explained what happened to her and she apologized (even though none of it was her fault). She called one of the male employees who then walked me to the car.

By the time we reached my car, he was gone. However, when I got into my car, I noticed he'd thrown some milky substance onto my windshield... which we still haven't been able to scrap off on some parts of the windshield and hood of the car. It didn't fail to resister that he'd thrown something I'm allergic to (dairy allergy here) and that set off a flood of tears. I kept thinking "what did I do? All I wanted was to grab my book and head to Adoration! I didn't hurt anyone!" That resulted in me sobbing (occasionally pulling over when I was too shaken to drive) all the way to my mom's work.

I'm still pretty shaken (I feel faint, there's knots in my back, and I'm physically still shaking) but I'm okay. I thanked God and my Guardian Angel for their protection when I got home... and, I'll be honest, I don't want to leave the house anytime soon.

I think the reason why I'm so shaken was because of my PTSD. I had one jerk try to force himself on me when I was a freshman (going into sophmore year) and he was a newly graduated senior in high school and that's where my social anxiety came from. I'm super stressed out right now and I pray to God that I not get some bad post-anxiety symptoms because of this episode.

Thank you to all of you who read my Twitter message and asked how I was doing. Thank you to those who prayed for me when they became aware of what happened. Seriously... thank you.

7 Quick Takes Vol. 14: Music and Life Edition

-- 1 --
I've been on a new music kick lately. There are two songs that I can't get enough of. The first is by Little Mix and it's called "Little Me." It's basically a female empowerment song that isn't in-your-face "feminism". It's a "you're beautiful, no matter what others say" / "don't let anyone put you down" kind of song that I always enjoy listening to. Here's the great video for it:

-- 2 --
The second is "Invisible" by Hunter Hayes. As someone who was bullied in school (part of where my PTSD comes from) and was an outcast in school for being "weird" (because I liked music, movies, and things others didn't), the lyrics hit close to home. I think it's a beautiful song. Here's the lyric video for the song:

-- 3 --
After the Great Music Purge of 2014 (740+ songs; 3.52 GB worth deleted off of my laptop), I decided to go through all my songs and pick and choose which ones I wanted on my iPod. Yes, I normally rotate songs in and out throughout the year. Anyway, while going through the songs, I was once again enamored with the Tord Gustavsen Trio's albums The Ground and Being There. I'll include a video but, uh, I don't expect any of you to like it. (warning: it's Norwegian jazz).

-- 4 --
"Having a soft heart in a cruel world is courage, not weakness." - Katherine Henson.
I saw this quote on tumblr yesterday and immediately liked it. I feel like I get so much crumbs for being "too softhearted" and "too nice, Jane Bennet." Yes, some of my friends call me "Jane" after Pride and Prejudice's Jane Bennet because I can be "too nice" and people will take advantage of that. Anyway, this was nice to see; sort of "girl, you be you and don't let the haters tell you otherwise."

-- 5 --
I've been writing a lot of snail letters in the past two days. And by a lot I mean five letters. lol. I fell a little behind during the holidays but now I'm getting back to either replying to letters others have sent me or writing just because. I love having pen pals so it's always fun for me to write to them. And to show how diverse my friends are are: one is a priest, one is a professional photographer, one is a deployed soldier (and one-time guest blogger on this blog), one is a substitute teacher, and the other is young college student. Each letter is going to a different state (and/or country). God bless snail mail!

-- 6 --
If you've noticed that I've been online less in the last couple of days, it's because it's true. I've been trying to get my sleeping schedule on track (read: 10 p.m. sleep time and 4:30 a.m. wake up time; I don't even know who I am anymore, lol) and getting a better grasp at time management so a break from the social networking world has been a must. I have less than 3 months to go before I return to school so I need to make sure I'm ready for it. Intense summer program (and program in general) means a change for the better.

-- 7 --
I'm trying to figure out what I'm going to do for Lent, which is a month-ish away. I will once again be using the St. Therese book I used last year but I think I want to add another one to it. Maybe Finding God's Will For You by St. Francis de Sales or maybe I'll just save up and buy the Little Office of the Blessed Virgin Mary instead of using the version in the iPieta app. I am, for sure, limiting my time on social networks (maybe an hour per day). I'll be on vacation for part of Lent so we shall see what else I can come up with. ;)

For more Quick Takes, visit Conversion Diary!

And that's it for now. My life is quite boring but now you know what I've been up to. :)

I hope you've all been having a great week and that you have an excellent weekend.

As always, thanks for reading and God bless!

Tuesday, February 4, 2014

Post Number: 666. Topic: Superstitions.

*cue "Superstition" by Stevie Wonder*

This is a topic I've wanted to write for quite some time because I've seen how many superstitious acts are clumped together with Catholicism... and it's just not right! I am still learning about these things but I'd like to share what I've found in my research. The topic is too broad but I'll try to touch on as many things as I can.

Full disclosure: I grew up with very superstitious parents so it took me a long time to let go of the superstitious beliefs I grew up believing. Unlucky numbers (I hated the number 6), unlucky months (July and August were my worst), etc. It took some time to see that it was the anxiety that was talking and that I wasn't trusting God enough. That and someone once said "luck is for pagans" (which I still laugh over; thanks, Laurence). The deeper I grow in my faith, the less those superstitions make sense. The same goes for my mom. The more she learns, the less she fears and the more she trusts in Him. The number 13? Nope. Black cats crossing my path? I'll stop because I don't to crush the poor animals with my car before going on.

Now, let's get right into the facts. The Catechism of the Catholic Church has this to say about superstition: "Superstition is the deviation of religious feeling and of the practices this feeling imposes. It can even affect the worship we offer the true God, e.g., when one attributes an importance in some way magical to certain practices otherwise lawful or necessary. To attribute the efficacy of prayers or of sacramental signs to their mere external performance, apart from the interior dispositions that they demand, is to fall into superstition." (CCC 2111)

Where to start on the superstitions? Did some of you know that people sweep an egg over a child's body to remove the "evil eye" while praying Our Fathers and Hail Marys (called a "barrida" in Spanish)? Did you know that some people put "eye" bracelets on their babies so that the "evil eye" won't make them sick (called the "Ojo de Venado" in Mexico)? These are amulets though people don't call them that. Did you hear that you must touch a baby if you gush over how cute they are or else the "evil eye" will get them? All Hispanic superstitions. A lot of them involve using prayers to "counteract" the evil. I'm not saying doesn't exist -- it does -- but to do things that people believe will help them make things go their way? I draw the line there. Let's consult the Catechism again, shall we?

"All practices of magic or sorcery, by which one attempts to tame occult powers, so as to place them at one's service and have a supernatural power over others - even if this were for the sake of restoring their health - are gravely contrary to the virtue of religion.... Wearing charms is also reprehensible." (CCC 2117) See? Just say no!

Very devout people are not immune to this. Some believe that wearing the brown scapular 24/7 will save them from the fires of hell, as Our Lady promised. They believe that certain medals have the powers to keep all evil and/or misfortune away. Some ne'er-do-wells wear Rosary beads because they believe it'll protect them while they are up to no good. For students, if you ask St. Joseph of Cupertino to help you pass an exam and you don't study, don't expect to pass. It's one thing to ask for help if you can't concentrate, it's another to think that you'll get your way (without the effort) simply because you prayed for it. Doesn't work that way, loves.

Did you hear about the "Santa Muerte"? It's the "patron saint" of gang-bangers, drug lords, and those generally up to no good. Certain things must be done in order to "ensure" that things go the way people ask. They use Catholic prayers and try to pass it off as a Catholic devotion but it isn't. It's been condemned by Mexican bishops and the Vatican has warned the faithful not to participate in the "devotion."

I know some of you are on the fence about the St. Joseph home selling kits. Personally, I believe these things are superstitious. You're going bury a plastic statue of St. Joseph to help you sell the house? Really? I know blessed items are buried if they cannot be burned, but saying that a statue can control whether or not your house gets sold -- if you do things exactly as directed -- is superstitious.

If you're saying "well, where's the harm in that? It's just silly." Well, if you think it's silly, don't do it. When you participate in superstitious acts you're basically saying that YOU have control over the outcome of certain things instead of trusting God. I'm going to be somewhat bold and say that, in way, you're making yourself an idol by saying that you have some of the same powers God does; that you can control what happens because you had the power to. Trust me, you don't. Sorry but there's only one true God.

As I've said, it's too easy to fall into superstition. We all want things to go the way we want them to and rarely do we just accept that most things won't. We pray because we want things to go our way, and that's the wrong attitude to have. Sometimes we don't get what we pray for because it's not what's best for us. God has amazing plans for all of us yet, let's be honest, we can be impatient and we can be upset when our prayers don't get answered in the way we want them to. What's so wrong with trusting God? What's so wrong with not knowing exactly what's in store for us in the future? Just a few things to think about.

Anyway, that's it for now. I would go on and on on this topic but I have a movie/miniseries date with Julie (and her baby girl, Grace) to get to. OH! And I would like to say that if you do have some superstitions because you have OCD, don't feel about it; that is something you most likely can't control. My prayers will go out for you (and don't forget to ask St. Dymphna for her intercession; she's the patroness of these things).

I hope y'all are having a great week so far. If you have any prayer requests, send them my way.

As always, thanks for reading and God bless!