Friday, September 23, 2022

I’m Either Very Self-Absorbed or I’m Becoming More Self-Aware…

My personality in a single photo. Lol. 

 “My goodness, I sound bratty and self-absorbed. This is probably the most ‘Millennial’ post I’ve ever written.” — Me, reading back what I’d written yesterday.


Have I ever mentioned that priests have told me I’m too hard on myself? Because they have. More than once. More than one. That inner dialogue I had yesterday, after publishing the post, is an example of it. I’m trying to get better at it, I promise. 


I tried to figure out why I felt so strongly about “being myself” and having the freedom to do so online. I mean, it’s such a Millennial thing to do; the stereotype is there for a reason. But I had to take a step back and really see if this was coming from a place of self-absorption or from a legit place of concern. In the end, I think it’s a little bit of both, but I hope it’s more the latter than the former.


Some time ago, I came to the conclusion that the best way I can “evangelize” is to be myself and express myself authentically. I will never be able to do apologetics or sit down and explain a number of Church topics because my mind doesn’t work like that. I have a high intrapersonal intelligence followed by interpersonal and musical (I’ve done those tests, lol). I can express myself best through written word as well. But I can’t give you details and facts about anything I haven’t personally experienced or delved very deeply into. Even then, what I’ve studied for years? I can’t explain it very well. My mind doesn’t retain that sort of information. And that’s okay. There’s a reason why I didn’t become a teacher or do anything in the academic field despite me being a massive academia nerd.


I can explain simple things to people. For example, this morning I explained to my mother why annulments weren’t the same as a divorce. I can take things like this and find the simplest ways of explaining them because that is how my mind works. I try to process complicated things, figure out how they work, and then explain them in very simplified forms. This, however, won’t always do in serious conversations so I stay out of them for the most part.


No, my “strength” is in being myself and living my life as honestly as possible. That’s what I do here on this blog. I talk about what’s going on in my life. The good, the bad, the ugly, and the beautiful — it’s all there. That is why I was having an issue with how social media was affecting me and why I felt the need to start over and let myself breathe a little.


The best way I can think to glorify God and hopefully help His kingdom is to live my life honestly and let others see it. Not in a Truman Show / reality TV kind of way though. I don’t want to set up a YouTube account or a social media account that lets you follow my every move. I want to let my love for God inspire my words and actions and let those speak for themselves. I also know that God has given me a gift for words and a gift for understanding myself and others so that’s why I write… and why I keep this blog. That’s also why I need to be myself without the censoring I’d been doing on social media in recent years.


The thing about putting up a front and really restricting yourself is that you eventually get burnt out on trying to keep it up. I never presented myself in a way I wasn’t… but I also held back a lot because of comments and unrealistic expectations placed on me. Part of those were my own doing but not all. I had restrained my sense of humor, my “Emmy-isms” as friends have called them, because of the comments I’d received. It made me feel like I was actually hurting the Church, in a way, because I wasn’t fitting into this little mold of what a “good Catholic woman” is supposed to look like. So, y’all got me… but an “Emmy lite” version. And I didn’t like that. How was I supposed to try to show others what a joyful Catholic looks like if I wasn’t being myself?


Yes, I have gone through a lot it terms of medical and health issues but I’ve found so much beauty and even joy in it. Not in a masochistic way. I found beauty and peace in losing my eyesight. I found joy in my Addison’s disease diagnosis. I’ve been able to get through a lot with my faith intact and even grateful for it all… but, for a while, I also stopped talking about it because of the comments. 


“No one cares.” 


“You’re just looking for attention.” 


“You just want people to feel sorry for you.” 


“You’re too negative.” 


“Others go through worse. Suck it up.” 


“You’re just being selfish and egotistical…” 


Those were just some of the comments I got.


But, as I said two posts ago, all of that changed me… for the worst. Not only did it change how I was with others but it greatly affected my spiritual life in many ways. I no longer found consolation during times of great physical illnesses because I got too preoccupied about how I had to keep this to myself as to not upset or burden anyone… and that unconsciously included God. I didn’t want to pray for myself or my health because I didn’t want to be selfish. I shut everyone — again, God included — out and it made me bitter. I didn’t like it. So, when I had the epiphany of how social media had played a role in that downward trend, I wanted so much to jump ship and get back to what life was like before social media.


I still stand behind everything I wrote yesterday… but I also wanted to share these thoughts for many reasons. Not because I wanted to explain and justify myself. I wanted to share because that’s what I do. I feel strongly about wanting to share something so I do. I’m sure I still come across as being self-absorbed and bratty… but that’s just me. Warts and all. I’m simply done not expressing myself as I’d like because of fears of the judgmental comments and burdensome expectations placed on me. 


For the record: I very much have that sanguine side to my personality and I’m trying to figure out how I’m going to balance it with the Benedictine lifestyle since there’s a lot said about laughter and silence in the Holy Rule. I don’t think St. Benedict would ask me to completely extinguish that side of me but I think he’s absolutely right in asking us to be careful when it comes to that; to make sure we’re not just telling amusing jokes and stories to put attention on ourselves. Yeah… wish me luck on that. Lol. 


Anyway, just a few thoughts on the first day of autumn (“whoo!” for my tied-for-second-favorite-along-with-winter season) and the 16th anniversary of my reversion. Oh! And the feast of St. PĆ­o of Pietrelcina (a.k.a. Padre PĆ­o… a.k.a. My mom’s spiritual father). Since it’s Ember Friday, I’m going to try to spend my day in much needed silence… or, at the very least, trying to keep things as simple as possible in terms of entertainment. 


I hope y’all have a lovely weekend!


As always, thanks for reading and God bless! šŸ˜Š

Thursday, September 22, 2022

How Losing My IG Account Became a Prayer Answered


 I would be lying if I said I didn’t have a mini panic attack when I found out I had lost access to my @lapetitefleurmariale Instagram account two weeks ago.


“Not Instagram, Lord! I don’t want to lose my Instagram account. I don’t care about Twitter or Facebook… but Instagram is *my* place.” Those were the words that came to mind when I first found out. 


Over the next couple of days, I kept sending Instagram “selfie videos” and other proof that it was me; that I was indeed the owner of the account. I kept getting emails from them saying that they couldn’t verify it was me. “That’s my face! Okay, maybe my face is fuller and my skin tone has become a little darker due to the medication and my Addison’s… but I haven’t changed so much that I’m unrecognizable.” Still, no dice. I thought about all I would be losing — three years worth of memories, private conversations, and the building of a community I actually enjoyed interacting with. But what I didn’t think about at the time was how this was actually the answer to several months worth of prayer… just not the way I had wanted or anticipated.


As many of you who have been keeping up with my posts know, I have been trying to figure out how to best balance my social media usage. I have grown so disillusioned with it due to the growing hostility and arguing; with the division and the misinformation. That was what I had written about on my last post. I was so overwhelmed I wanted to cry when I thought about logging in. I wanted to delete all my accounts and not look back. 


I had kept both my Twitter and Facebook accounts due to work; to promote links of things I had written. If it wasn’t for work, I would’ve shut down the accounts a long time ago. As for Instagram, it was where I could better keep track of how friends were doing. And, admittedly, I was addicted to it. Yes, I know how funny that sounds — a visually impaired gal who can’t see well enough to enjoy the reels (my bilateral optic nerve atrophy makes it almost impossible for me to see anything that’s moving) and can’t see all the details of photos having an addiction to Instagram. I could easily manage my dislike of social media if I only had IG but the rest? I wanted them gone because, as I had said in the previous post, I hated the effects they’d had on me.


In the days leading up to the “Great Instagram Loss”, I had begun a conversation with my spiritual director on the topic of social media. During the novena in honor of Our Lady’s birthday, I had asked her to help remove any obstacles that were keeping me from Christ. Social media was an obvious one… and the longer I did the novena, the more I wanted to “blow up” my accounts. Since I haven’t been able to write for EpicPew since January (the last article was posted in February) and I haven’t been able to do any work since then, I didn’t see the point in keeping my accounts any longer. Yes, it was the easiest way to keep in touch with friends but I would’ve preferred to text and do it the “hard” way. I won’t say what exactly was said between my SD and I but it became clear that I needed to pray about my actions before I did anything I could potentially regret in the future. I was speaking from a place of frustration and discomfort. 


“Will deleting my accounts be me throwing away a community God has given me? Will ‘blowing up’ my accounts and starting over be prudent? God has given me a gift for written word and I have been able to use the platforms for good. Not always — I’ve been feisty at times (when provoked) but good has come out of it. Should I maybe modify how I use it instead of deleting it all?” These were the question that kept rolling around my head. 


I had almost decided to delete both Twitter and Facebook — as I was also considering “retiring” from freelance writing — and was awaiting to hear from my SD (whom I’ve been running all big decisions through before I do anything) when I lost the IG account. “Well, that’s the answer then!” I thought to myself.  “I should do the same with the other accounts and start fresh everywhere.” I looked into ways I could ask Instagram to delete the account if I couldn’t gain access to it, so that no one could hack into it (if they already hadn’t) and do something nefarious with it. But… I didn’t want to lose my “community” and access to the accounts that have kept me spiritually nourished during some of the worst spiritual dryness. Again, I was panicking… but that lasted a few minutes.


“Let go. You’re too attached to Instagram. Let go.” These were the words that came to mind during a moment of clarity. I was too attached. It was the obstacle that needed to be removed. I need to let go. Of the addiction. Of the negativity associated with it. Of the large elephant that sat on my chest whenever I logged in. So, I did.


Because there are some really great accounts that truly do help me in my spiritual life (and even in my health recovery), I knew I didn’t want to completely abandon IG. Enter a new account… and a different way of doing things. 


My SD and I had the same thought — that it was God’s way of letting me start over (like I had wanted for the other accounts) and to do things differently; better. Instead of worrying about catering to an audience, this account would be all me. It wouldn’t be for my writing career. I wouldn’t suppress my thoughts and feelings because it didn’t go with was “expected” of me as a “professional” writer or even as a Catholic.  It would be more personal; a space where I could share my mind and heart with friends (and anyone who wanted to follow for whatever reason). I would use my nickname (Emmy) as I don’t feel like myself when someone calls me Melissa (not even family does). Most importantly, the new account would allow me to show myself as I am — as God has made me and how I am away from social media — without worrying about how others reacted. I couldn’t do it with my other account without receiving unkind comments that made me feel defensive and even gloomy. I felt like I couldn’t even share faith related content without offending, upsetting, or angering at least one person. 


The fresh start began with the username (roseatefelicity), which took me to a while to come up with because I wanted something that would reflect the me that few people get to see but who God gets to see. (Side note: I almost named it blooming felicity because I wanted a floral theme and I love the word “felicity” but ended up with “roseate felicity” because of the definitions of roseate). So far, I’ve only posted three things over the last two weeks-ish because I haven’t felt the need to actively share things. I didn’t think it would all be Catholic content — not that there’s anything wrong with it — but so far it’s been that. I think it’s because my faith is the biggest part of my life. But, as I said, this account is going to be all me so there will be non-Catholic related posts as well. 


Where am I on the Twitter and FB fronts? For now, I’m keeping them… though, admittedly, very reluctantly. This will undoubtedly be part of an ongoing conversation I’ll have with my SD. I intend to change how I use them after St. Michael’s Lent is over. I still want to “blow up” both accounts and start over but, for now, I’m going to do simple changes inspired by what I’ve learned about myself, my strengths, and my weaknesses during the last couple of weeks. I might clean up my Twitter account a bit as well so no one be surprised if some things aren’t there anymore. Perhaps one day I will delete the accounts but, for now and until God makes it clear that my professional writing days are over, I’ll stick around in a very limited capacity.


I feel like there’s so much more to unpack but I also know that the fresh start on Instagram and the upcoming changes on all other accounts are the beginning of a change that started during Lent 2021 that has yet to finish. God is slowly chiseling away and making some interior changes that will slowly show externally. 


Am I ready to let that “bubbly, optimistic, enthusiastic, curious” part of myself show once again? I think I am. Our next-door neighbor told my mom that she was surprised to hear me crack up with so much happiness a few days ago; something I’m not really known for by most people as my silly, goofy side only comes out with a very tiny amount of people. The outward happiness (felicity) that is slowly replacing the very somber, stoic facade that set in when my father passed away and my health issues got worse and I’m so very grateful for it. May God continue to bring me out of that darkness that has engulfed me over the last couple of years; that He help keep thawing that cold hardness of heart that has made me unrecognizable to those who’ve known me best and longest. 


Anyway, that’s it for now. Tomorrow marks the 16th anniversary of my reversion but since it’s also the autumnal Ember Friday, there will be no celebrating. I don’t even think I’ll post an anniversary post this year because I’m still trying to figure out how to not burn myself out or trigger a migrain when I write.


I hope you’re all doing well!


As always, thank you for reading and God bless! šŸ˜Š

Tuesday, September 6, 2022

Overwhelmed, Overstimulated, & the Need for the Slow Life


am overwhelmed… and I feel incredibly disoriented as a result. It’s gotten to the point where I can’t concentrate on anything, prayer included. I’ve had to take some time (but perhaps not enough) to figure out what changes need to happen because I feel like I could very easily have a mental health relapse if I don’t do anything about it soon.

 

This summer has been hectic. From the emergency surgical procedure and the month of painful wound care that followed to the stress surrounding an important process I’m currently going through (which I’ll share when I’m able to), I haven’t had a chance to breathe. Even this last week, which has forced us to slow down due to the triple digit heat we are experiencing in L.A. (“is 110 but feels 118” anyone?) has not been a restful one for me. I had my second surgical procedure last Thursday and I have to go get the sutures removed this upcoming Thursday. Add the chaos of living in a noisy apartment building, feeling pulled in so many directions by so many people and situations, being unable to sleep as well as I should, being unable to pray or even attend Mass… it’s all the perfect recipe for me to feel on the verge of tears.


Yesterday I spent the day trying to find old photos of one of my oldest and dearest friends to surprise him with for his birthday today (happy birthday, J!) and I was plunged into this sea of nostalgia. The photos brought back so many wonderful memories — of my late teens, my college years… of my pre-reversion and early reversion years. I remembered how happy I was then; how I dealt with the stress of life in a healthier way. I remembered the adjectives that were used when a counselor on campus described me and how “bubbly” is probably not a word anyone would use anymore. That made me sad.


I remembered walking across campus at Santa Monica College on rainy winter and spring days… walking to the cozy cafeteria and hanging out with friends (including J)… of how, even though I had a difficult time with my social anxiety at times, I still managed to survive and even thrive. I remembered how unapologetically “Emmy” I was back then and how I miss that.


Who was I back then? I was a girl who loved jazz. Who wore a lot of pink and red. Who loved classic Hollywood movies and had a bit of a crush on Gene Kelly. Who carried her guitar around campus to practice in between classes (or to practice during my intro to acoustic guitar class). I stayed in touch with friends at other schools (still local) via text messages in between classes and saw them when we were all free. I read… a lot. I always had music playing. I didn’t think about the stressors I do now. I was eternally optimistic. Yes, I was definitely bubbly back then as well though I’ve always been a bit reserved at times as well. I loved life and was curious to learn more. To give you an idea of my personality using the four temperament tests: I got sanguine-phlegmatic for the first couple of years I took the test.


Can I say the same now? Not really. I’m a lot older and life experience has changed me, for better or worse. I still love jazz. I still love pink but I don’t own anything of that color. I got a red shirt for my birthday this year but it’s the first thing of bright color I’ve owned for years. I still have my guitar (though a different one from the one I carried around campus) but I don’t play it as much as I would like. I don’t text as much… nor do I keep in touch as well as I could. Music is still my “love language” but it’s rarely playing these days. I’m no longer the optimist I was… and I’m definitely not bubbly anymore. I go through books quicker than most but then again I have audiobooks and a lot more free time than most. I also now test as a melancholic-phlegmatic in the four temperaments test. It’s quite the change.


I could say that the loss of my father in 2009 is responsible for a lot of that change but it’s only part of it. Looking back at my life from about 2004 to now, I can see what has been the major factor in these changes: overstimulation and a perfectionism I never had that has been made worse by hyper connectivity and how social media has changed in general.


Sure, I was on MySpace and then The Facebook (as it was called back then; you could only join if your university/college was added and needed a student email address to join) but i wasn’t on it like I am on all social media platforms now. We posted to share something quick with friends but didn’t spend so much time on them because we called and saw each other regularly. 


I didn’t have the pressure of presenting “the best version” of myself 24/7. My friends got to see me at my best and worst. In fact, when I was writing the IG birthday message for J last night, I was realizing how he was probably one of the last people who got to know me as I am without filters or restrictions. I didn’t feel the need to “perform” and be something I wasn’t. I was blissfully unaware of how others perceived me and, back then, people didn’t critique your every word and action like they do now. People were more courteous and only those who were truly rude had the audacity to say some of the things they now do without a second thought.


Social media isn’t solely to blame nor is it itself entirely bad. I met so many wonderful people that are some of my best friends now. I wouldn’t have my Catholic community if it wasn’t for early Catholic Twitter (circa 2008-2011). I wouldn’t have grown in my faith. For that I’m so grateful. But that doesn’t take away for the other stuff. I won’t get into it because I know I’ve written about it in the past.


The rapidity of the internet — the 24/7 “breaking news” cycle that never sleeps, the expectation to reply to messages ASAP, the pressure to live up to unrealistic expectations and then get dragged through the mud when you don’t live up to others’ expectations — it’s all too much for me. It makes me feel like I’m suffocating most of the time. 


And it’s not only social media that has me feeling overwhelmed. I’ve noticed that when I listen to audiobooks at anything but normal speed, I will be unable to concentrate on anything for at least the next day. Again, it’s too much overstimulation that has my already sensitive nature overwhelmed. I can’t have uptempo music playing while I’m trying to concentrate or else I will get flustered. I have to concentrate on one thing at a time; multitasking is not my friend. 


I need the slow life, but I didn’t realize just how much until last night when it all came together for me. I need to go beyond random social media breaks. I need to go beyond the normal introvert recharging. I tend to disappear for a couple of days every once in a while because I need to soothe my frazzled nerves and racing mind… but I haven’t done much of it in a while. Yes, I take breaks from social media but I don’t have periods of utter silence. I’ve been working on it and I’ve found little things that are helping but I need to make more radical changes.


I need rest. I need silence. I need exactly what the autumn season is all about… slowing down. Have I said that enough? 


In recent weeks I’ve gotten into the habit of turning off my WiFi router during the majority of the day to keep myself from browsing or wasting time on overstimulating things. Don’t get me started on how Instagram (aka TikTok lite) has become my primary source of overstimulating stress. I download the audiobooks and podcast episodes as needed. I turn on wifi for the live stream of the Masses but otherwise, I have designated times to have that internet access. 


I’m also bringing back my 2 days of social media per week. I’ll check in on Mondays and Thursdays but I’ll otherwise be off. I’m deleting the apps off my phone and tablet as I will unintentionally click on the offloaded app and then will scramble to cancel the download when I realize what I’ve done. I’m also toying with the idea of turning off comments on Instagram and Twitter and see if that helps. As a close friend recently said, I am unfortunately a magnet for criticism and hate (and I don’t know why) which I’m willing to bet has contributed to a lot of the overwhelm for this people pleaser.


Last week I purchased ear plugs to muffle out the sound of neighbors being rowdy at night so that I can get better sleep. I hate the sound of my own heartbeat in my ears (due to my PTSD from medical emergencies) but it’s something I’ll work on. I also love my noise-cancelling headphones but sometimes I just need quiet.


 The library sent me about half a dozen books I was waiting weeks (and even months) for between yesterday and today, something I’m sure is the Holy Spirit nudging me to follow through with my plans to slow down. Nothing will slow me down like a good book, especially since I can only do that (read a book) and not split my attention with anything else. 


As soon as the weather cools down, I’m bringing back my tea drinking (something I used to do a lot of back in the day but haven’t done in years). The day I can cuddle up with a good book, a cup of tea, and have the rain pounding on my roof will be my day of bliss.


I’m also eagerly awaiting the drop in temps so I can finally make it to Mass in person instead of only watching it on a screen. Since our parish holds its Masses outside and I have that heat sensitivity (I get physically sick in anything over 80 degrees) I’ve been waiting. Yes, there are also parishes that have Masses inside but I don’t currently have the financial means to pay for transportation that won’t keep me out in the heat, waiting for my ride to pick me up, for long periods of time. I have medical transportation that gets me to and from my doctors appointments but they don’t cover anything that isn’t medical so I wait. Please, God, bring the lower temps back!


I’m sure I’ll make more plans as these new changes become habit and I find other things that I need to change but that is it for now. 


Will I ever get that bubbly, optistismic girl back? I don’t know. I‘ve been through a lot but I don’t think it’s impossible for me to revert back to that. If that’s how I grew up and was for most of my life, I’m sure it’s still in there, somewhere. I’m not placing any goals or expectations on myself. I’m just going to do what I think is best for me and see how that changes everything else.


Alright, I think that’s long enough for now, don’t you think? Lol.


I hope y’all are having a good beginning of the week. I don’t know when I’ll blog again but I hope it’ll be more frequent as life slows down.


As always, thanks for reading and God bless! šŸ˜Š

Saturday, August 27, 2022

My First Anniversary as sr. Marie-Therese Obl.OSB

 


This past Monday I celebrated my first anniversary as a Benedictine oblate. I have been sister Marie-Therese for over a year now. How is that possible?


It was a beautiful day. I got to talk to my Oblate sister, sr. Elisabeth, via video chat for an hour. It was much needed as I always feel myself getting grounded (from always having my heads in the clouds) and at peace when I talk to her. I also got to talk to her two little gals who I haven’t seen since our road trip out to Clear Creek Abbey last year.


After our chat, I had lunch and then an impromptu 3.5 hour (seriously!) FaceTime chat with Edith (whom many of you know as CatholicSeoul on Twitter) that was full of laughter to the point of tears. If/when we become roommates, we’re never going to sleep. Lol.


At the end of the day — and after those two wonderful conversations — I had some time to reflect on my first year as an oblate. In fact, I’m still thinking about it, a couple of days later.


As I told sr. Elisabeth, I feel like I was (and still am) a terrible Oblate. I feel like I failed to live my life as an oblate on several occasions during the year. I was surprised to hear that sr. Elisabeth felt the same way about herself. Maybe this is typical of all new oblates? I felt like my novitiate was so fruitful but I experienced so much dryness during the first year after making my final act of oblation. Granted, I’m also discerning consecrated virginity and was given a tentative green light to move forward a couple of months ago so that could also be contributing to the aridity. 


I feel like I’m still learning. I was a novice for two years but, still, I’m slowly growing in my spiritual life as an Oblate. I still have a lot of things to fully incorporate into my life to the point of it being second nature but this is a lifelong commitment I’ve made so I have time to perfect it. I think perhaps I’m simply impatient that I’m still very much a baby oblate, teetering around as I try to move forward. Thankfully, I have my oblate family and my beloved monks praying for me so I’m not in this by myself. 


I can now see why my spiritual director told me to make my final act of oblation before moving forward with my vocation discernment. When I became serious about becoming an oblate, the CV vocation wasn’t even on my radar yet it’s set the foundation I need for my vocation. The emphasis on obedience, on praying the Divine Office… all of these things (and more) prepared me for a life as a CV. Even if I don’t ultimately get publicly consecrated and end up making private vows, my life as a Benedictine oblate has prepared me for my vocation. I think it would’ve prepared me for a life as a wife and mother as well but it wasn’t what God had in store for me.


What am I expecting my second year as an Oblate to look like? Honestly? I don’t have any plans for it. I’m going to keep trying to perfect the habits I already have and then try to add the things I’m still missing, like practice with hospitality. That one will be more difficult due to my health situation and the restrictions when it comes to visitors but I’ll cross that bridge when I get to it. At the moment, embracing silence — which I’ve been trying to do more of… and have been failing at — is still my top priority. I have my good days and then my days when I fail because I feel physically miserable and the noise from texts and audiobooks bring me comfort. That is something I’m still weaning myself off from and it’s something I’ll continue working on.


I think that’s the beauty of being an oblate — I don’t feel the pressure to be perfect at all costs. I always had that pressure growing up; to be the perfect *insert role I had to fulfill*. Becoming an oblate, I’ve learned to let those perfectionist tendencies go. As our holy father St. Benedict reminds me in his Holy Rule, we should do what we can to the best of our abilities and have that be enough. We’re not here to impress anyone. I’m here to serve God in whatever ways I can as best as I can. Even resting and simply resigning myself to it when I cannot do more can become a form of prayer and an offering to God. I sometimes slip back into that mentality but it’s becoming easier for me to turn my mind and heart back to God. 


One more thing… I’ve come to accept that God may be calling me to stay in Los Angeles and/or the West Coast. This is where I’m going to bring my life as a Benedictine Oblate and my vocation as a potential CV together. In obedience to God’s will, I recognize that He may be calling me to be a sort of missionary in this city; to be away from my spiritual family. As much as I would love to pack up and move to Oklahoma (and I have looked into apartments in Tulsa as I would need to live in/near a city due to my health conditions), I recognize that my heart may always be across the country. As of now, it looks like He wants me to be here for the foreseeable future. Whether I will stay and be consecrated here or if I’ll be uprooted and planted to a different diocese, I don’t know. But I will do whatever He wills… and my lifestyle as an oblate will both prepare me for it and also provide that stability. No matter what my vocation will ultimately be, no matter where I will ultimately settle — I will always have my spiritual home of Clear Creek Abbey where I will be able to retreat to. I will always have a family that will pray for me, something so important if I do become a CV and will not have a family of my own. 


Anyway, just a few thoughts about that. I haven’t felt well most of this week so I’ve been resting and trying to take it easy. That’s partially why I didn’t post this sooner. I had so much going on all the while I was feeling crummy. I even had to reschedule my excision this past Thursday to this upcoming Thursday, i was feeling that unwell. I’m still in bed today but that’s okay. This is where God wants me right now so it’s where I will be. Now, if my mind will just cooperate with me so I can focus on the Mass readings, I’d appreciate it. Lol.


I’m going to go finish listening to Laufey’s debut album and then try to take a nap. I’ve yet to find earplugs to tune out the noisy neighbors so my noise-cancelling headphones will have to do for now.


I hope you’re all having a lovely weekend (and a happy feast of St. Monica).


As always, thanks for reading and God bless! šŸ˜Š

Wednesday, August 17, 2022

Being Diagnosed with Addison’s Disease

 


I had every intention of writing this post last week but I received an important phone call literally minutes after I published the last post.


It was a follow-up phone call from my endocrinologist. Since she had gone on vacation when I had gotten my latest round of bloodwork done, I had to wait until she returned to get my results. They were good. My pituitary gland is working well. My hypothyroidism is under control with my current medication dose. 


“Your cortisol levels are… okay…” she said before I asked the question I’ve been wondering.

“So, is my condition secondary adrenal insufficiency or…?”


The whole point of this round of bloodwork was to determine that very question. She is my new endo and she didn’t have enough information about my condition. Apparently, my former endo had left some gaps so she wanted to cover it all… including whether my condition was indeed secondary adrenal insufficiency as was diagnosed or if it was a misdiagnosis. 


“It looks like it’s primary…” she said, before explaining why. 


My stomach sank. It was what I was dreading. My former endo had given me so much hope of a full recovery one day. If it was secondary, there was a chance — no matter how slim — that it wasn’t permanent. A diagnosis of primary meant one thing: a permanent condition of a rare disease that would keep my immune system in a compromised state for the rest of my life. 


I have Addison’s disease, that’s what primary adrenal insufficiency is called. That means that my adrenal glands don’t produce enough cortisol or hormones to keep my body functioning properly. It affects everything from blood pressure to minerals (especially potassium and sodium). If not careful, I can have an adrenal crisis, which can be fatal. It nearly was two summers ago, before my diagnoses. I have to take extra doses of hydrocortisone when I have surgeries, wound care (which I found out too late), and other stressors. If I have the flu, a cold, food poisoning, or a fever, I have to double up on my doses to help prevent a crisis. I’m at a higher risk for infections and other things, so I have to be very careful around others. It’s going to mean a lot of other changes as well… which I will get to in a minute.


I’m so grateful to my oblate sister (sr. Elisabeth) for introducing me to St. Elisabeth of the Trinity. Before we became oblates, she had mentioned this lovely Carmelite saint but I wasn’t sure why she had said I reminded her of St. Elisabeth. I had gotten comparisons to St. Therese because the sufferings she went through but I didn’t know anything about St. Elisabeth. That’s when I did my research and found out she had Addison’s disease as well. The only difference is that I’m blessed to live at a time when modern medicine can help me while St. Elisabeth didn’t. In fact, I think she died from this disease and had apparently multiple adrenal crises. So, I have a new friend in Heaven who knows what it is to have this condition.


The diagnoses couldn’t have come at a better time. Even before the call, I was already planning on doing St. Michael’s Lent (from the solemnity of the Assumption to the feast of St. Michael Archangel). I had planned on cutting out Twitter (which was the biggest source of my stress) and greatly limit both Instagram, other social media platform, and noise in general. I was going to go forward with my plans to purge all entertainment (novels, movies, shows, etc) that was bringing unrest into my heart; things that took over my thoughts while I was trying to concentrate on hearing His voice in prayer. Because my body doesn’t respond well to stress (since it doesn’t produce cortisol), this seemed like a confirmation to what I’ve been feeling called to do — eliminate all that causes stress.


Now, it’s impossible to eliminate all stress. Even hermits deal with it (or so I’m assuming). But I *can* eliminate stress that I voluntarily subject myself to. Getting on social media isn’t mandatory or necessary for my survival. Literature and other forms of entertainment that disturb my peace aren’t crucial for my wellbeing. On the contrary, they cause more harm than good, especially to my soul if the material is especially problematic. I have a chance to limit that outside noise. And that’s what I had planned for St. Michael’s Lent. I also have other things I’m giving up — comfort things — but those are more of a voluntary form of penance.


So, that’s how I’ve started St. Michael’s lent. That and some unkind words that I’m going to leave at the foot of the Cross and not dwell on because it’s not worth it.


And that’s what I’m going to try to remember to do — leave everything that threatens my inner peace at the foot of the Cross.


Fear of common illnesses that become a lot more high risk for me? Leaving it at the foot of the Cross.


Fear of how people will react to these and other changes I feel called to do? Foot of the Cross.


All my worries, anxieties, disappointments, etc? Foot of the Cross.


This diagnosis is also a beautiful reminder of how God is in charge and how I simply have to trust in HIm. My endo was surprised that my body did as well as I did after a full month of (every other day) wound care. I was supposed to double up on doses every time I went but I didn’t know. I also had my labs done the day after the most excruciating wound care apps ointment and was still in pain and yet my labs were the best (though still low normal) they’ve been since my initial diagnosis in October 2020. I credit that to the prayers of all — the saints and everyone who has prayed for me — and God’s mercy. He made sure I was able to endure all of that stress and not have an adrenal crisis. God is good!


What do things look like from now on? I can’t have visitors unless we all head outside and maintain distance. I have to wear a mask when I go out, even if I’m outside. If I’m somewhere with large crowds, I need to get as much distance as I can from them… which means I’ll have to always be with someone who will be able to let me know since I won’t be able to see. I need to prioritize rest and healthier eating as I’ve fallen off the wagon with the latter (goodbye, delicious Lorna Doone cookies…). I will need to increase my sodium intake, a tip I learned from a follower on Twitter who also has Addison’s. I suffer from low blood pressure and now I know why. Also, I now understand why I’m so tired all the time and why my endo has stressed the importance of sleep since I met her.


And, most importantly, a greater reliance on God. Instead of getting anxious and wanting to control everything as a result of that anxiety, I’m going to keep resigning myself to God’s will. If something difficult and unpleasant happens, I’m going to take it as a lesson that I need to learn. I’m very much “big feelings that run deep” (I am a melancholic-phlegmatic after all) so it’ll mean surrendering my natural reactions and thank God for them all — good and bad — while learning to offer it all up as well as I can. It’s not going to be easy but we weren’t placed on this earth for an easy life.


I’ve always said that I’ve felt closed to God while suffering from physical maladies so I guess that, in a way, my prayers of breaking down whatever was keeping me from Him have been answered.


I’m not afraid of the diagnosis. Disappointed, yes. I had plans… but His plans are greater than mine and I know He will bring so much good and beauty from this diagnosis.


Lord, I place myself entirely into Your hands (again). Your will, not mine.


Anyway, that’s it for now. I want to turn off WiFi and screens to rest my eyes. Ever since I took the last round of antibiotics (which I had to stop after two days), I’ve had some unusual eyesight issues (yes, on top of the bilateral optic nerve atrophy) that I haven’t recovered from and I need to close my eyes more than usual.


I hope you’re all having a lovely week thus far.


I hope to blog again soon but I’m scheduled for a surgical procedure tomorrow so I don’t know when I’ll be able to write again as it’ll be near my rib cage and I’m sure I’ll have to have limited movement on my right side for at least a couple of days. Until then, I’ll keep praying for everyone who has asked for them.


As always, thanks for reading and God bless! šŸ˜Š