Saturday, July 30, 2016

Forgiving the Worst Offenses Ever Done to Me

It's quite interesting that during World Youth Day -- the theme this year is mercy ("Blessed are the merciful, for they shall obtain mercy" Mt 5:7) -- I've had to face the two biggest offenses ever done to me. These two things happened during my childhood and have been crosses I've had to bear and work through in therapy (as they have been causes for the development of my anxiety disorder) and were a bit unexpected.

As some of you longtime readers may remember, I've talked about how, when I was a little girl (4 years old or so), I used to be locked in the bathroom by an older half-brother and my sister-in-law for hours while my parents worked. This seems to be the root cause of my fear of being enclosed in small spaces; of being trapped without a way of getting out. I still have the memory of having a little pink chair next to the door, where I sat until I was let out before my parents came home. I was also underfed. I think what finally tipped my parents off (from what I was told) was that they found me standing on top of a stool, over the stove, trying to heat some tortillas to eat because they (bro and SIL) didn't feed me very well. I actually have some fuzzy memories of this; definitely remember when my parents caught me heating tortillas because I was hungry. Again, I was 4 years-old. My guardian angel definitely kept me safe from harm because I could have burnt myself in the process.

This week (Wednesday through Thursday), my brother and SIL came to visit. I wasn't sure how I was going to handle seeing them (I hadn't seen them in years) so I asked my friends to pray for me. I was sure that would need both strength and charity. I wasn't sure if the wounds had been healed and was worried that they hadn't been. I've been working with both therapists and spiritual directors over the years to help forgive and let go but it was never put to the test by having the people who hurt me in front of me after I'd worked through the hurt. I was nervous until they came to visit and then I saw something unexpected: the hurt and anger were gone.

The visit wasn't completely hiccup free. My sister-in-law spoke through my brother in the first couple of minutes they were here (which I thought was a bit rude since my questions were addressed to her) but it quickly went away. I was able to talk to both of them as if I were talking to anyone else. Before they left, they took my car and found me a mechanic to fix the a/c in the car. My brother even paid for part of the repairs, which I was not expecting. I felt so at peace that I hugged my SIL as they left and thanked them for everything. That hug was a release and a wonderful moment for me. I was grateful for the opportunity to put that awful experience (one that triggered a lifetime of fear in me) behind and to know that the wounds had been healed. Later that night, my mother said that my SIL looked and spoke to me in a way that showed that she was ashamed of what she did when I was a little girl. Now it's my turn to pray for her so that she may forgive herself.

The second experience happened today. I'm going to have to be super vague about this one because I'm not ready to open up this part of my life but let's just say it's the one thing that has plagued me for most of my life. It also happened during childhood (shortly after what happened with my bro and SIL) and it also instilled a lot of fear and anger in me. This one, unlike my brother's visit, was a surprise. The person who committed the offense called me and wanted to help get my car fixed since my brother had mentioned it (and given that person my number, apparently.) I told them my car was getting fixed and that I didn't need help. I tried to be as civil as possible and, thankfully, the call didn't last for more than 2-3 minutes.

When we hung up, I called my mom and told her what happened. She told me not to be angry with my brother (I'm not and wasn't then either) because he was only trying to help. I then texted one of my best friends and let it out so I wouldn't bottle anything up. It wasn't until I said everything on my mind that I cried. Hello, gift of tears. Part of the reason for those tears was because it was unexpected and it scared me a little bit. I was unprepared to talk to the person who'd inflicted the most pain on me. The other reason for the tears was (I believe) because I didn't feel the anger I'd felt in the past. In fact, I felt no anger or any of the negative emotions I'd felt in the past. There was actually some confusion because I didn't know what to make of it all and the anger wasn't coming out like it had in the past. I wasn't exactly at peace since the call rattled me a bit, but I had no ill will towards the person. Do I want to talk to or see them again in the future? No. Not because I haven't forgiven them -- I think I've finally gotten to the point where I have forgiven them and have moved forward -- but because, for my own mental health, it would be best that I don't have a constant reminder of the past in front of me. The past is the past and I refuse to let what happened in the past keep me an emotional and psychological prisoner.

I've been following WYD events closely and I had the prayer vigil on the TV when all of this happened today. After I talked to my mom and my friend, I looked up at the TV (watching it on EWTN) and the skit about forgiveness began. Two actors acted out Pope St. John Paul II forgiving his would-be assassin in the jail cell. I began sobbing because, obviously, it hit so close to home. I asked God to help me forgive if I hadn't forgiven them but it felt like I have and I've moved on. I also felt as if this week has happened because God wants to show me that I've moved forward and have healed from those unfortunate events in my life. The tears didn't last long because I began to feel, deep down, that God allowed for these things to happen this week because He's preparing me for a new chapter in my life.

This past summer has been one big deja vu moment. As I've written before, it feels like God is giving me a second chance to do everything with more wisdom, more faith, and more peace. I've already spent a week in and out of the ER like I did the summer I reverted. God has opened my eyes to many things that have hurt my relationship with Him as well as my own well being, including things have been detrimental to me in various ways (physical, psychological, emotional, spiritual, etc).

Just like I did 10 years ago, I've begun the process of cutting out toxic people from my life. My academic (and general) plans have changed quite suddenly. I've learned how to best take care of myself according to my introverted nature. Now I've learned that the biggest wounds in my life have been healed, not through anything I might've done by myself but thanks to His love for me. What a wonderful gift from God on the 10 year anniversary of my reversion.

Again, I feel as if God is allowing me to see that I've matured and I'm ready for whatever new and exciting adventures He has in store for me. While I might've felt weak, unprepared, too fragile, and/or incapable of moving forward in the past, I don't feel that way anymore. Things that I felt kept me from doing anything no longer feel like obstacles. I feel like I now have the tools to unpause my life because, honestly, it feels like I've been completely stagnant for the past decade. Now? I'm all set, I think. I feel like I'm finally doing what I wanted to do in my 20s. All in God's time, right? I hope that everything I've gone through this summer (thus far) means that my time to do everything I've felt called to do will finally happen. I'm ready, Lord.

Anyway, I've written way too much so I'm going to go do something else. Perhaps I'll go clean the apartment while I wait for the mechanic to call about my car. I'm sooo ready for a/c in the car because I've been trapped in the house when temperatures have gotten over 85 degrees... which has been almost all day, every day.

I hope y'all are having a lovely weekend thus far.

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

Tuesday, July 26, 2016

Cutting the Outside Noise

I had a sort of "screen-free" two day break in which texts went unanswered and there was no activity from me on either Facebook or Twitter. I got the idea after re-reading a novel I'm now going to call my guilty pleasure. What I didn't expect was a very eye-opening (are we sick of that buzzword yet?) experience. Well, just the latest one because I've been having so many of them lately.

During my screen-free break, I worked on my family tree (and ended up discovering the names of my 4th and 5th great-grandparents from the late 1700s!) After I was done with that, I just felt like taking a trip down memory lane and it ended up being the best decision I've made in recent months.

I ended up reconnecting with, well, I'll say an "old friend" during a trip down memory lane. For years (yes, years) I've felt like there have been a few things that have been "off." Every time I felt like I was "myself" once again, something threw me for a loop and I ended up back to square one. I've been dealing with anger, impatience, frustration, and a general feeling of disconnect. I've felt it since my father's death. I can pinpoint most of it to that event. Enter my "old friend."

The conversation went something like this:
Me: I miss the old me.
O.F.: What do you mean?
Me: Do you remember what I used to be like when I was like 19-20? What words would you have used to describe me back then?
O.F.: Hmm... dreamy, romantic, a dreamer... thoughtful, gentle, emotional, deep, and very sensitive.
Me: But I'm so different now. I'm nothing like that.
O.F.: You can get that part of yourself back. She's in there... you just need to cut out all the outside noise. (pause, after I started internalizing things.) That dreamy, idealistic girl... she's not gone, she's just hiding.

It dawned on me that I was letting a lot of the "outside noise" alter me without really realizing. I mean, I've sort of realized that lately (and I think you can see some of that in my latest blog posts) but it didn't really hit me just how much until tonight.

I seriously considered shutting down this blog as well as my social media accounts for a split second. The last time I "cut all the noise" was when I was able to be myself without censoring myself or being fearful of what others said to and thought about me. For those of you who've read the first novel I wrote (When Two Worlds Collide), let's just say that was talked about at the end of Chapter 17 actually happened to me. That year or so that I was off social media and it was really hard to get a hold of me? Bliss. Of course, I cut out more than the online noise in those days. My "friends" then were terrible. The friends I have now are super lovely so I can't really go off and disappear like I did last time. I'm quite determined to do a modified version of what I was forced to do back then... only this time it's more voluntary and being done for my own good.

I think accepting the fact that I'm a highly sensitive person and that I do need to cut some of the outside noise that has been causing some inner turmoil has given me the courage to say "okay, I know I thrive when I can just do my thing and cut out all the outside noise (side note: 'sup, new buzzword?) so I'm just going to go for it."

I know I often say that I'm going to limit my time online and that lasts for only a couple of weeks but now I sort of have my old friend to keep me accountable... and hopefully a little busy. Yes, I remember what I used to do back then; how I didn't need the internet or social media.

Do you ever feel like your life has come full circle with a lot of things? It's the 10th anniversary since my reversion. I went through a lot of illnesses/health scares a month ago. A lot of that felt like deja vu to summer of 2006. Now, with the old friend, it feels like I'm getting a second chance to get that right as well. It's almost like I'm getting a second chance to do a lot of things differently so I can finally move on from this plateau I've been stuck on for the past decade. Maybe I'm being silly or I'm reading too much into it but it does feel like God is saying "take everything you've learned and keep moving forward. It's time."

Anyway, it's almost midnight and I have my prayers to get through so I should go. :) If y'all can please say a prayer for me, I'd greatly appreciate it. Let's just say that tomorrow I'm going to face yet another thing that had a major impact in my life when I was younger and I'm going to need both a lot of courage and charity to get through the next two days or so. Thank you in advance!

I hope y'all are having a lovely start of the week. :D

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

Saturday, July 23, 2016

I Make Absolutely No Apologies For This

I know this is going to undoubtedly bring some pointed comments and maybe some possible arguments (that I will refuse to partake in) but I just need to say this for my own peace: I make absolutely no apologies for trying to connect what happens in my life with my faith.

I see every experience as a way to grow in my faith and in my relationship with God or as a possible clue from Him as to what I should be doing because I'm clueless and/or stubbornly set in my ways most of the time.

Illnesses? I see them as a way to remind myself that life isn't without sacrifices yet we must trust God and strive to move forward and stay on the right path.

Sudden changes in career and academic life when I felt "sure" and "comfortable" in the path? A good way to remember that sometimes we need to think less about what we want and more on what God's will is for us. Also, an excellent opportunity to grow as a person.

My failures? Good lessons in humility when pride tries to creep up.

I'm not sorry for anything I tweet or post (that isn't written in a moment of anger/annoyance). I know some of you have expressed your dislike of this (sometimes in a subtweet shortly after my own tweet) but that's how I've chosen to live my life. You don't have to like it or even agree with it. I just want y'all to know that I'm going to continue doing it. I'm truly sorry if you have a problem with it but I refuse to change this because it "gets on (your) nerves."

Anyway, I still have a couple of library books I want to get through before they're due so I'm going to go read them. :D I hope y'all continue to have a lovely weekend. :D

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

Friday, July 22, 2016

Do You Have a Tsundoku Problem?

I have a problem. A massive problem. It's called tsundoku. "What's that?" you may ask. Apparently it means "buying books and letting them pile up, unread" (or something like that) in Japanese. Does anyone else have that problem?

It's bad. You know what? I'm going to go count how many books are on the living room bookcase and see how many of those I've yet to read/finish. It's 11:03 a.m. right now, let's see how long it takes me...

It's now 11:10 a.m. 7 minutes. In 7 minutes I found out I have 124 books on my small living room bookcase. Of those 124 books, I've not read 49 books. Out of those 49 unread books, 35 are Catholic -- either philosophy, teachings, or saint lives. That means roughly 39.5% of my books have been unread and of those unread books, approximately 71.4% of them are Catholic. Yikes! And, guess what. That doesn't include the books I've checked out from the library or other books I have scattered throughout the apartment. Yes, I have a problem.

I've banned myself from looking at the TAN, Sophia Institute Press, and other Catholic publisher catalogs that arrive in the mail because I always want more... but I have so many books I've yet to read. I've never finished Interior Castle or even The Story of a Soul. Not sure why. Do you know how many books I have on my Amazon wishlist that are Catholic? More than I should. lol. I'm definitely suited for the (lay) Dominican lifestyle... but I can't keep spending money and never reading these books. I think the one sitting on the bookshelf the longest has been there for almost the decade since my reversion and has yet to be read. Tsk, tsk Emmy.

So, new goal for me: try to make it through at least 10 of those books before I return to school in a little over a month. It can be done, especially since I'm pretty much stuck in the house when it's over 85 degrees which has been after 9 a.m. the past couple of days (it's supposed to go up to 109 today).

Does anyone else want to partake in this Tsundoku Challenge? Maybe not 10 books in a month (I have waaaay too much free time these days) but perhaps making a dent in your pile of unread books? I pledge that by August 28th I will have 10 books crossed off my "to read" list. I will even blog about it, whether I did it or not.

I really need to "out" myself with things I need to change because I know some of y'all will keep me accountable. If I keep them to myself, I'll most likely not follow through. Get on my case (if you know me on a personal level)! ;)

Alright, I should probably go do something. Maybe I'll finish one of the books I borrowed from the library... or take myself a snack (spoiler alert: self-care update coming this weekend).

I hope y'all had a lovely week and have a lovelier weekend. I also hope to have something posted tomorrow but we'll see. ;)

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

Wednesday, July 20, 2016

Moving Forward with Trust and (Some) Confusion

This is how I've felt my moments of silence and prayer have gone lately:

Me: God, I'm confused. I thought I was supposed to take this one route yet things are working out for the other route.
God: Do you trust Me?
Me: Yes, I'm just confused as to why I feel like the other path was the one I was supposed to go down on but it didn't work out. I'm not even sure I like this other path.
God: Do you trust Me?
Me: Yes. I just don't know what I'm doing anymore. Have I been wrong all this time? Was I just supposed to get certain things out of my system by experiencing them so I could put all my effort into this other route?
God: Do you trust Me?
Me: Yes.
God: Then let go. Keep going down this path. Don't plan so far ahead and don't overthink things. Trust in Me and you'll get to where you're supposed to be.
Me: Okay. (inwardly panics because I like to have everything planned ahead of time.)

My eye-opening moments have not ceased since the last blog post I wrote. I feel like my entire world is getting turned upside, but in a good way. A lot of things that I was certain about? They no longer seem like they're what I expected. Example: grad school and career path.

I was certain that I was supposed to do the Theology MA degree. I felt in my element doing the coursework. I loved learning more about the faith. I did well (that C in Theology during the Fall quarter following my car accident notwithstanding). Then the whole thing with me having to suddenly leave JP Catholic happened. That was followed by the (also seemingly sudden) change back to the SLP field.

In a lot of ways, my eyes have been opened to the possibility that maybe the SLP field is where I belong after all. I've already done well in my previous course. I even have the option of taking an extra course to qualify for Latin Honors. (side note: I've declined because I don't need an extra class and I'm perfectly fine not getting honors at graduation; I'm not even planning on attending the graduation ceremony next May.)

It's been pointed out that I have a surprising amount of patience for children. It seems to be a sort of "superpower" because I can handle a lot of things most adults can't. Maybe not having children at 31 and having a desire for children makes me more patient. *shrugs* The children seem to respond well to me. Looking far younger than my years might be helping me there. I worked with a group of 3-5 year-olds with speech impediments two years ago and I had one very shy little guy open up to me after the first day. That helps a lot in this field, especially since my focus is on young children with speech impediments.

Perhaps I was meant to do a bit of the Theology MA before returning to the SLP field so I could be sure about my other discernment -- becoming a lay Dominican. My former SD did say I should finish school before I committed to going through that process. Maybe I was meant to see that this (Dominican instead of Carmelite) was the path I need to take while I work as an SLP/A. (Another side note: I'm currently not sure if I'll stay as an assistant or become a full SLP; I will revisit the idea in another two years). Not all lay Dominicans are professors or working in the education field. Bl. Pier Giorgio Frassati was working towards his mining engineer degree before his death and he was a lay Dominican. Maybe I'll finish that Theology MA one day as a lay Dominican.

I've been having a lot of "well, that didn't work out as I planned but, okay, that actually makes a lot of sense" moments lately. I need to either see if my former SD would be willing to meet with me to help me figure this out or get some major peace about the new plans. Like I said, I feel like my world has been flipped upside down and I'm now taking things one day at a time. Besides the upcoming school year, I'm not planning anything else ahead of time. What's that saying? "If you want to make God laugh, tell Him your plans"? Okay. No more planning. Taking things as they come. I'm down with that. Wait, are they kids still saying that? *shrugs* Playing it by ear, folks. ;)

So that's what's been up with me lately. I've been very, very physically fatigued lately but I kind of figured out that it was probably because we had maintenance workers at our apartment almost every day, all day for a couple of weeks and that just drained me of my introverted energy. If I need a day or two to recover from hanging out with friends, imagine how much more time I need to recover from having these gregarious (read: super extroverted) maintenance workers at my apartment for days and weeks at a time. I'll be fine. :D

Anyway, I think that's it from me for now. Gotta leave some things for the next blog post. ;)

I hope y'all are having a lovely week thus far! :)

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

Sunday, July 17, 2016

When the Dam Burst, I Was Honest with Myself

This past week was incredibly eye opening and revolutionary for me. While in earlier weeks I had been dealing with physical illnesses, this week it was all about emotional turmoil and spiritual dryness.

It happens every year around the anniversary of my father's death. I start feeling a bit apathetic, a little depressed, and a little anxious. It didn't help that I felt like people were dumping all of their problems on me and then disappearing once they "deposited" their problems into the human vault that is me. It's an unfortunate pattern with me; many friends only touch base when they need to unload and then I don't hear from them again until they need another round of venting.

After being physically drained from the dehydration, infection, and the consequent side effects of the medication, I wanted a little break. I wasn't going to get it with July 11th (anniversary of my father's death) coming up but I wasn't expecting to get overwhelmed with everything else that happened. Between the dumping of problems, various other comments about me and others (read: gossip), and feeling, well, almost bullied into doing things I had no desire to do, it's amazing I didn't have a full blown panic attack.

The dam burst around Thursday/Friday. I sobbed. I vented my own frustrations to my poor mother who had to deal with a daughter who was fed up. "I'm tired of people judging me," I cried. "I'm tired of being pushed into doing what I don't want to do. I'm tired of people make snide comments. I'm tired of..." the list went on. She let me cry because she knows I occasionally need to emotional release when I'm overwhelmed by others' problems. Does this happen often? No, but it happens more often than I'd care for.

After I let all that pent up frustration out I did something I had been working up the courage to do: I was honest when someone upset me. I started doing it even before I read this article on Introvert, Dear. Instead of just bottling it up or pretending I was okay, I told whoever upset me that I wasn't happy. "I'm upset right now... let's take a break from this conversation," was my mantra this weekend. The reactions were varied. Some chose a very passive-aggressive route. (Thanks for helping me identify it, all those psychology courses I took as an undergrad!) Thankfully, I have incredibly understanding people in my life. It became quite clear who I could count and whom I couldn't. I only talked to two friends this entire weekend -- both incredibly patient and supportive guy friends whom I trust implicitly. I took a break from most things until I got my thoughts and emotions sorted out.

A beautiful thing happened during this time: my spiritual dryness lessened considerably and my eyes were opened. As I immersed myself in prayer after feeling somewhat apathetic for weeks, I began seeing that certain situations had been pulling me away from God and my prayer life. A number of things I have to go to confession for came as a result of these situations. The worst in me was being pulled out by certain friendships. When I took a breather and really saw what was my fault and what I couldn't take "credit" for, a peace settled in me. Furthermore, I saw which friendships brought out the best in me; which challenged me to become a holier and more humble version of myself, one who was more aligned with the kind of woman I'd like to be. With perfect timing, the chaplet of St. Michael Archangel I'd custom ordered from Allison arrived when I had this breakthrough. Well played, God. Well played.

Even though most of us are out of college (and then some), there are a couple of things that don't ever go away as we get older; things we think will die in college. Recognizing that we occasionally need to look at our friendships and be honest with ourselves is something I periodically do but it's never easy. You develop a camaraderie with people who may lead you down the wrong path or whom may be all wrong for you. I'm still learning that it's okay to say "I appreciate what they've done for me but it isn't a healthy friendship for either of us" (because I DO take into consideration what I bring into the friendship for the other person). I'm learning to not feel guilty for realizing that it's actually an act of charity (to myself) to do something for myself; something that will help keep me on the right path towards holiness.

I have a massive mountain to climb in the next couple of weeks, but I'll keep my beloved Bl. Pier Giorgio Frassati's words in mind: "Verso l'alto." I must remember that I'm striving towards something that will be hard to obtain yet eternally rewarding: Heaven and sainthood. I can't do that on the path I've been on lately and it's going to take a lot of emotional suffering (on my side) to make things right. Well, the path to Heaven is not easy one but one I'll gladly suffer through to reach the destination.

That's it from me for now. I hope the temperatures go down a bit so I can make the last Mass of the day. I hate missing Mass so fingers crossed. In the meantime, I'll go read a book. :)

I hope y'all had a lovely weekend. :)

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

Monday, July 11, 2016

Dear Dad...

Today is the 7th anniversary of your death. I still can't wrap my mind around it being that long. It both does and doesn't feel like much time has passed. I haven't forgotten what you look like but I occasionally forget what your voice sounded like. I guess that's normal since it's been so long.

I started playing the guitar again. This time, it's a little more regularly. I stopped playing after you died. It took me a good 5-6 years to really find any interest in it again. You promised me a guitar shortly before you died which still occasionally hurts. No, getting the guitar doesn't matter; it's the fact that you promised something that will never be fulfilled that got me down. It's a constant reminder that there were things we planned that will never get fulfilled. Every time I picked the guitar up, I was reminded of you and that promise. I remember all those times you drove me to my lessons as well as the times you drove me to get my first two guitars (and how you picked out the first one I ever owned). I think it was quite funny that the only thing that cheered me up this weekend was picking up my acoustic guitar and playing, followed by singing. There's more music in the house, like you liked when you were alive.

I've been through heck and back over the last year but I'm still here, thriving despite the setbacks. I still have that fire in me that I inherited from both you and Mom. My health has gone through ups and downs but I'm overall recovering. The car accident didn't feel me down for too long and I've been driving ever since I got my car back from the mechanic. You'd be proud of me for that. I know you were worried about me and my anxiety before you died but it's been better than it's been since I was a teenager. I've had moments of anxiety (and the darn antibiotics brought them back this past week) but I'm not letting it keep me down for long. Your little girl doesn't get easily scared nor does she quit.

Speaking of quitting, despite the academic setbacks, I've not quit that either. I'm returning to the SLP field. I was accepted to Utah State once again over the weekend. I should be graduating early next May. On your deathbed I promised you that I'd take care of Mom and since it's becoming quite clear that she's going to need to retire sooner than later, I've put my dreams of that Theology MA on the backburner in favor of a career as an SLPA. Isn't that what you and Mom taught me; that sometimes we need to make sacrifices for our family? Once I can get that going, I'll return to finish the other degree. I don't regret it nor am I upset at the sudden change of plans. They weren't what I had planned but God knows what He's doing. I know He is helping guide me down this journey of mine and for now I have to focus on this. :)

Not much else to report on. I'm that same content little girl you raised. Things don't always work out as I'd like them to and I do get down for a little while but I bounce back. I'm still incredibly silly when I'm with those whom I trust. I still carry myself the way you and Mom taught me to act. I hope you'd be proud of the woman I've grown up to be. I still feel like I'm growing but I think that's a never ending process.

I'm still single (I'm sure you'd appreciate that since my sister married so young, lol) but I'm happy. I know I have to be happy with myself by myself or else I'm going to place unrealistic expectations on the future fella and future family. I still think it's in the cards for me but not now. For whatever reason, I have to wait a bit longer and that's okay. One of the last things you said to me before you died was that you trusted my judgment when it came to relationships and that's something I continue to carry with me. Don't worry, I've got more than enough people willing to step in and check out (*cough*interrogate*cough*) potential candidates. Thank you for raising me with old fashioned values; it's helped me weed out jerks.

I still think about you all the time and you pop up in my dreams quite often, especially when I have an important decision weighing on my mind. I hope I can continue making you proud. I'll always remember the lessons you taught me (especially how to parallel park like a boss) and make sure I'm the best person I can be.

With love,

Saturday, July 9, 2016

Life as a Highly Sensitive Catholic

When I was a little girl, my teachers would tell my parents that I was highly sensitive; I would cry easier than other kids. It was looked down upon as a flaw. They thought it was low self-esteem. They thought I was too coddled by my parents. This continued as I got older. Doctors would say I was just a really anxious person who didn't know how to handle too much stress at a time. Then I found out something revolutionary thanks to Anne of Mrs. Modern Darcy: I'm actually considered a Highly Sensitive Person (HSP).

For all of you who don't want to read through all the articles: being a HSP means that I am more sensitive to both emotional and physical stimulation. Loud noises, extreme temperatures, even the effects of medications -- I feel them a lot more intensely than most other people. It wasn't something I picked up growing up; I was just born with this trait.

I'm empathetic to the point of tears when I see someone suffering even in the littlest way, which is why I had to leave social media (for the night) a couple of days ago when all the shooting chaos began. I can't sit through any violent scenes or even listen to intense fighting. I faint easily in hot weather (heat sensitivity) if I'm not cool enough. Medication side effects are stronger than I'd like. (side note: last ER visit when I felt like I was going to faint? Antibiotics were so strong that it caused that feeling and it increased my anxiety about 3-fold for 72 hours after my last dose. Anxiety has been gone after I hit the 72 hour mark though my stomach still feels like I have a brick in it.)

After reading about the 16 Habits of HSP, as well as the 12 Things a HSP Needs, I didn't feel quite so alone or odd. However, it didn't hit some just how much I struggled with this label until I read the article on how a young woman learned to love herself as a HSP. This article hit home because, despite being aware that HSP was a real thing (my childhood doctor even confirmed it a couple of years ago; I do have a very sensitive body that can't handle certain medications nor caffeine), I still struggled with accepting and even loving this part of myself.

I've always felt like it was more of a flaw than an asset, one that I couldn't "fix" and that was looked down upon by most other people (especially doctors). After the past week in which I spent 6 out of 7 days in the hospital, it became even worse; I couldn't pray or feel like I could do much. I've recently began on my own journey in trying to learn to love this side of myself but I know I still have a long, long way to go.

Now, let's talk about being a HSP who is also Catholic. I love, love, love the smell of incense... but when it's too strong (or too close to where I'm sitting), I get lightheaded, nauseous, and a headache will pop up. I don't like clapping at Mass. I don't like Spanish Masses because of the music (usually involving a guitar and drums or Mariachi). I like my Masses solemn. I don't mind babies crying or babbling during Mass because I love babies so that doesn't bother me. Altar wine can be too strong for me at times.

I think being a HSP is why I quickly fell in love with wearing mantillas/chapel veils; it helps me focus solely on the Mass. Because the veil literally blocks my surrounding views and gives me a bit of "tunnel vision" in which my eyes will be focused on the altar or on the missalette, it helps me not get too distracted by what other parishioners are doing during Mass.

Lent? I can't make it through reenactments of the Stations of the Cross. I actually almost fainted the first time I watched The Passion of the Christ in one of my Religious Studies courses as an undergrad. I had to look away, something I knew my other classmates took notice of (there were less than 10 of us in that class; only 3 Religious Studies majors in my class).

The Rosary? I couldn't make it through the Sorrowful Mysteries without being a blubbering mess the first couple of years after my reversion. Though I still occasionally cry, it's nowhere near as bad as it used to be. I also don't like noise while I pray because I can get easily distracted and then overwhelmed. It's not fun. lol.

I felt like sharing this because I don't think it's talked about enough. Being a highly sensitive person isn't bad (and I'm going to keep repeating that to myself); it just means that we can get overstimulated more easily than other people. If 15-20% of the population is considered a HSP, then I know I'm not alone. :) If you're wondering if you're a highly sensitive person, you can take a self-test here.

Alright, I should go do something productive with my day. :)

I hope y'all are having a good weekend thus far. :D

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

Wednesday, July 6, 2016

My Body Likes to Scare Me

As I sit and write this out, a full blown panic attack is passing rather slowly. Oh, Keflex, I will be glad when you're out of my system...

If you hadn't guessed from the post's intro, the antibiotic I was given for my bladder infection -- Keflex -- gives me the unfortunate side effect of anxiety. Full blown panic attacks for no reason. One pharmacist said it wasn't possible and another said it wasn't a common side effect but could be possible since I noticed it appeared shortly after my first dose. I had my first full blown panic attack at the 4 hour mark (4 hours exactly) after my first dose of the antibiotic. I had the latest round of panic attacks at the 31 hour mark after the last dose. A Google search brought up several people reporting anxiety being amped up as a side effect to the Keflex so I'm just going to wait it out.

Anyway, if you're wondering what's going on with my body scaring the chocolate chips out of me... it's been a crazy couple of days. I went to the ER 6 out of 7 days. (USA! USA! /inside joke) No, it wasn't fun. I was apparently dehydrated a few days ago and I received another round of IV fluids yesterday when I felt like I was going to pass out at the 2 hour mark of the last dose of the antibiotics. (side note: are we seeing a pattern yet?) Yesterday's latest round of blood work (yep, third time they drew blood in 6 days) showed something interesting: no anemia (it was at 11.1 out of 10 normal range cut off), platelets were the highest they've been in at least 5 years (175k out of 140k normal range cut off; up 75k from the last time I blogged), and I was basically the picture of health since even the bladder infection was gone after 3.5 days of the antibiotics. How my platelets were able to jump 75k on their own in 4 days, I don't know. I didn't do anything differently except cut wheat out of my diet.

I felt terrible all night (starting at the 4 hour mark after the penultimate dose of the antibiotics...) two nights ago and then I nearly fainted yesterday morning (again, at 2 hour mark of last dose of antibiotics). The doctor said it was anxiety but I didn't believe him until today. Anxiety is real, y'all. I don't think it's anxiety caused by so many ER visits because even the doctors said I looked really relaxed while I was there and I don't feel stressed or anxious about anything; these panic attacks will happen randomly while I'm watching TV or praying or doing something relaxing. Thankfully 90% of the antibiotic has flushed out already, just to wait for the other 10% to vacate the premises in the next 38 hours.

Except for the random panic attacks (which I can thankfully manage through; I've had enough CBT training to ride it out without it escalating into something worse), I'm apparently okay. I definitely feel like myself again except I'm a little  exhausted because I've only slept maybe 3-5 hours most night in the past 2 weeks due to the fever or ER visits. I'm so excited about the anemia being gone and the platelets having jumped so high on their own. My weight was still at a good place (within normal range) at last weigh in.

In a weird way, everything I went through in the past 2 weeks has made me more confident about what could be coming up for their upcoming Fall. Whether I return to Utah State to complete my degree in Communicative Disorders and Deaf Education (Speech-Language Pathology) or I don't get re-admitted and end up going to Steubenville to continue my Theology MA degree, I'm ready. :) Now all I have to do is get back to my normal prayer routine.

In the past two weeks, I've fallen asleep praying the Rosary more times than I care to admit. I have missed praying either my morning or nighttime prayers about 5-6 times this past week. I haven't been doing the Chaplet of St. Michael Archangel either. I've mostly done morning prayers (missed once or twice), the Litany of Humility, and the Daily Consecration to the Blessed Virgin Mary because they're short and the easiest ones I do. No Mass or confession for me last weekend either since I was in the ER or unable to drive. Sigh. I miss it.

Dear body, please, no more scaring me. I'd like a little break from worrying about health issues, mmmkay? No more ER visits. No more bladder infections. No more plummeting platelets or anemia, okay? Thank you. lol. Anxiety, you can go fly a kite. You're not welcome here.

Anyway, anxiety has finally subsided a bit (yay!) so I'm going to go read or do something fun. The weather is cooperating so I may take a drive in a little while. :D

I hope everyone else is having a better time than I am. lol. Thank you all for your continued prayers.

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

Friday, July 1, 2016

ITP, Kidney Infection, No More Anemia... Oh My!

Quick update since I'm still feeling a bit under the weather... in list form.

1) Went to ER yesterday to get new antibiotic prescription. Doctor ordered blood test. Platelets plummeted from a healthy 152 to a sad (panda) 100 in a month and a half. I think they may officially diagnose me with ITP at this point; waiting to hear when I can see my doctor about what the next step will be (which may be a trip to see a hematologist). With my history of adverse reactions to different medications, I'd be lying if I said I wasn't a little worried about potential treatment plans. At least people like Allison (and specifically Allison) give me hope that things can get better. :)

2) I started displaying symptoms of the bladder infection I had possibly having spread to my kidneys so I was given a new antibiotic for it. Yay for antibiotics... boo for potentially being worse than originally diagnosed.

3) At least I'm no longer anemic. It was an 11 last night; I was at a 9 a month and a half ago; 10 is normal range. Yay for progress there!

4) I think they might also have to do a biopsy to check for Celiac because the blood test came back negative but I've been displaying symptoms for it, including a drop in platelets. They were steady for almost 2 years and then I reintroduced wheat into my system and my platelets and digestive system got exponentially worse.

5) If you're on #FeverWatch with me on Twitter, the latest is 100.04. Hasn't gone over that in several hours (more than 12 hours). The lowest was at 99.0 at the ER last night (though they had me in a freezing room for hours).

Okay, I'm going to try to take a nap or something. I feel exhausted. Thanks for that, low platelets. :-P