Friday, August 26, 2016

Spiritual and Physical Updates

Just a quick update for y'all.

Spiritually I've been feeling a lot better lately. Ever since I made the decision to not return to the entertainment industry (writing screenplays and acting), I've felt more at peace and my spiritual life has been slowly getting better. I also made a decision regarding my personal life that has helped this tremendously since I figured out that this particular thing was the cause of my being pulled away from the faith. I'm starting to feel connected to the Church again. I feel as if God is still with me, even through the crummy times. That's something I couldn't have said a couple of days ago. Prayer isn't feeling forced any longer (though there are still temptations to do something else rather than pray) but I'm still having trouble concentrating but it could be caused by my physical state.

Physically I've been feeling worse. I was on the mend for a while -- even looked into taking dance classes since I missed dancing and I was doing well -- but I've suddenly become weak and fatigued like I've never known. The last time it was this bad was when I was about 19-20 and I had dairy for the last time. Not sure if the anemia is back, if the platelets plummeted, or if it's something else (food allergies will make me feel like this for a while; could be possible cross contamination with food in recent days). It's gotten to the point where even sitting is a struggle for me because of how weak I feel. It's only been in the last couple of days that I've felt this -- less than a week. I have my next doctor's appointment next Tuesday so we'll see what's going on then (most likely get blood drawn). Right now I'm going to guess it could be depression since I am displaying some of the physical symptoms and I did just go through an emotionally charged month. Yes, an entire month see previous paragraph as well as this post.

Anyway, like I said, just a quick update. I'm going to go pray a little bit more since I'm home alone and it's quiet -- good thing about the kids having returned to school, peace and quiet. lol.

I hope y'all are doing well!

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

Tuesday, August 23, 2016

Giving Up For the Greater Good

Recently I had the opportunity to return to the career path I was on prior to my reversion. Over the last several weeks I seriously considered it. Little by little, the path appealed to me to the point where I couldn't see anything else that would be fulfilling, career-wise. It would allow me to use my creativity. I would have the opportunity to work with great people to bring to life an amazing project. The good things about my life pre-reversion were highlighted, forgetting the struggles and obstacles I came across that eventually made me leave that life.

About a week ago was when the excitement reached its height. It looked like it was going to happen... I even began telling a few of my closest friends about it. I began to drop little hints to other friends I trusted. The more I talked about it, the more it felt like I was committing to it. "I don't want to talk about it and eventually not do it," I told myself. "That would be disappointing and would make me look flaky and/or scared." Still, the more committed I felt to going through with it, the more distant I felt from the faith. I eventually told those I trusted more about it because I wasn't in a good place and I needed prayer.

I felt no peace while considering this career path. It gave me an emotional adrenaline which I can only describe as the feeling you get at the top of a rollercoaster prior to the big drop -- all nerves yet excitement as you wait to take that plunge. My mind raced with so many thoughts and ideas. My energy levels were indescribably high. There was an added element that I won't get into but let's just say that it played a big role in this whole thing.

I knew I was in trouble when I had to start hiding the fact that my faith has been a big part of my life for the past decade. Yes, you read that right. Not only was I trying to downplay being Catholic, I also felt like I wasn't fit to be a Catholic any longer. Without going into too many details, let's just say that a priest made me feel as if I were a lost cause; like there was no point in my being a Catholic any longer. I don't know whether I misinterpreted him or if he didn't communicate his ideas properly but it's been the second time in less than a year that he's played a role in my questioning and doubting my commitment to living my life as a faithful Catholic -- like I just don't have what it takes to try to reach Heaven.

During this journey, I've felt completely empty. I've felt so far from God and from the Church... well, you guys read the last blog post, right? It was nothing compared to how lonely and empty I eventually ended up feeling a couple of days after the last blog post. I felt like I hit rock bottom. Bl. Mother Teresa and St. Therese of Lisieux's dark nights of the soul kept coming to mind. I went to confession and Mass and that helped... for only that little while. The days following it, I felt worse. I've forced myself to keep praying even though I've felt like a robot going through the motions.

Over the last 2-3 days, I began to reconsider the decision to return to the field. There was something about it that wasn't sitting well with me. I began seeing that I was falling back into my old habits that caused me a lot of trouble and that I'd worked so hard to get rid post-reversion. My spiritual life, my heart, and my very soul were in danger. There's a reason why I left this life behind and I was being reminded of it.

The less I thought about returning to the path, the more at peace I felt. This morning I couldn't sleep (I only got 3 hours of sleep). I had too much on my mind. Thankfully my wingman was up super early as well and we talked about everything I was going through. He suggested I put the breaks on the project to see how I felt. A few hours later, I made the decision to walk away. I felt an inner peace when I decided to update friends on the decision.

I'm not saying that I'm never going to return to this career path but I'm not ready right now. I'm still too susceptible to the dangers (hidden and obvious) in the field. With how anemic my spiritual life has been lately, it would've potentially destroyed whatever is keeping me from giving up on being a faithful Catholic. Perhaps I needed to go through all of this to remind me of what I've gone through in the past decade (since it's been a decade since my reversion) and how much life has been better since I left my previous life behind. Perhaps all of this was meant to make me see that I truly don't ever want to return in case more tempting offers come along my way in the future. All I know is that I had to walk away from it to save myself. I gave up something I love (once again) in order for something greater -- the chance to potentially reach Heaven one day.

Intellectually, I know my goal is to reach Heaven but I'm still feeling empty. While I've felt a peace about letting go of that amazing opportunity I was considering, I still feel like I'm going through a dark night of the soul -- I still feel empty, alone, completely cut off from God and the Church. I know I shouldn't always listen to what I'm feeling because feelings can be false and trip you up which is why I'm still praying, albeit my sheer willpower because I have absolutely no desire to do it.

Thank you to all of you who've prayed for me thus far. If you can keep me in your prayers, I'd gladly appreciate it. I'm not sure how long all of this apathy and emptiness will last but I'm not ready to give up yet. Some days are harder than others. Some days I feel like giving up but I don't. For the record: when I talking about giving up, I'm talking about faith matters. I'm not suicidal or anything like that.

Alright, I'm going to go do something. I'm not sure what just yet, I just know I don't want to stay online for much longer.

I hope y'all have been well.

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

Saturday, August 20, 2016

Shutting Down the Blog, Questioning Faith, and Other Conundrums

I almost shut down this blog this week. Almost. Then I received a message from a new reader (or a long-time reader who'd never reached out before) that renewed my commitment to keep it and continue writing as authentically as possible. I still don't think I'll write as often as I have in past weeks because classes are about to start and it's a crazy semester but I'll write when I feel like sharing something going on in my life.

I questioned the strength of my faith. I questioned my own faith. Not Catholicism nor God. I simply questioned myself in how my faith fits into my life. I didn't want to pray. I literally forced myself to pray because I didn't want to. A lot of things didn't make sense to me. I've never had a spiritual dryness this intense before. I'm still struggling with a couple of things. I'm hoping confession and Mass later today will help.

I almost quit the SLP field for something I haven't considered doing since I was in my late teens-early 20s. My spiritual director brought it (the career path) up last year, seemingly out of the blue, and I had dismissed it. Something changed this week and I reconsidered it. I talked to a couple of close friends and they all seemed excited for me. The career is a good fit for me in some ways but would take me out of my introvert bubble/comfort zone. It would mean starting (almost) from zero. It means a lot of hard work ahead of me. It means facing some of the fears I had at 20 and returning to something that once brought me both joy and pain. I'm still unsure of whether I'll go down this path but I will finish my degree, at least.

I almost did a couple of things impulsively... which was very unusual for me. Amongst these things included plans to move out of the country to pursue the aforementioned career path; to follow my heart. I almost did a lot of things that seemed out of character for me because I was swimming in a sea of confusion and I couldn't make out which way was up. I still feel like I've yet to come up for air but at least I think I'm coming closer to the surface.

I don't know what I'm doing these days, if I'm honest. I feel as if I'm being pulled in many different directions and I don't know which way to go, what to do, or who/what to believe. I'm not sure if it's all spiritual dryness, a spiritual attack, or just the misfortune of having too many options. I didn't foresee any of this happening, especially not after the summer I've been having thus far; not a week before classes begin.

Pray for me, dear readers, because I feel lost and I can't see a way out anytime soon.

Wednesday, August 17, 2016

Binge Watching and Emotional Abuse

I took a break from writing and was online far less than I usually I am because I spent the past 19 days binge watching a show that I ended up really enjoying. No, I won't say what show it is. I'm sorry. I was asked by several people during Twitter updates but beyond saying it's an Argentinian show and that I watched it in Spanish instead of the dubbed English version, I'm not saying much else.

I should start by saying that I'm not a binge watcher... or I wasn't. I'm not big on TV in general. I have the odd show that I love but none that I've loved enough to binge watch. I'm glad I did it because it did one major thing for me these past (almost 3 weeks): it saved me from plummeting into a full blown depression.

On the day I started watching this show was an emotionally traumatic day for me. After slowly realizing that I was being emotionally manipulated and abused by a close friend, it was decided that it was best for me to pull a "Lina" (readers of the first novel will know what I'm talking about) and cut toxic friendships out of my life. There were several. In the days prior to the start of the "Great Binge Watch of 2016" (as I'm calling it) I was not in a good place. At all.

If you're asking yourself how it's possible that I didn't realize I was being emotionally abused, that's just how I am. I'm utterly clueless sometimes, which apparently isn't uncommon. When it comes to friendships and relationships, I sometimes can't see what's right in front of me. Guys who have had crushes on me in the past? I've always interpreted it as friendship and nothing more. That's why I have wingmen now. lol. People who do me harm? Sad to say that I don't always see the red flags. I see people who keep messing up but was come back always penitent after they've hurt me. What I didn't see was that they were emotionally manipulating me because I tend to see the best in everyone. This isn't the first time it's happened (my spiritual director saved me from another long-term one last year) but this time I had friends who pointed out those things I failed to see.

My friends are amazing. Those who knew the situation made sure I was aware of what was going on. I'm (to quote a friend) "too nice" to see people being emotionally abusive towards me so my friends look out for me. When it got to the point where I had a couple of friends and my mother all point out the bad shape I was in -- both emotionally and mentally -- I knew what I needed to do. I was honestly a little fearful of how other people were going to react. In fact, I still am. I admitted that I needed help. My mother and my friends (two in particular) went above and beyond to make sure I was going to be okay and that I had the break necessary to begin the healing process.

I became determined to limit my time online. I stopped charging my laptop daily, sometimes spending up to two days in between charges despite the battery being completely drained those days. I limited my phone usage. It helps that my phone has been acting up for a while now; it gives me the perfect excuse to not use it much. I let those I was closest to know that I was taking a break from texting and social media for a couple of days. I would ignore my phone for long periods of time. I even let the service "run out" (I use a prepaid phone) until I needed it again. Some text messages and emails went unanswered for several days and explanations were given when I felt well enough to start answering them once again. In fact, I'm still not fully back to my usual habits but that's okay. I'll ease back into it as I get comfortable with them again.

Since I had gotten Netflix for a month (my own treat before classes begin), I looked for recommendations and found this show. It didn't sound like my cup of tea but I blindly gave it a chance... and it became one of the best decisions I could've made. The characters and plotlines sometimes frustrated me to the point where I would yell at the TV in frustration. At times I didn't want to continue but I did. I stuck it out. I became emotionally invested at a time where my emotional well being and my self-esteem were fragile. Still, going through the emotional roller coaster with the characters helped me greatly.

The main character's life (as well as that of her friends) revolves around music. I think that was the big selling point for me. Those who've known me long enough to remember my pre-reversion days know how much I love music and what a big part of me it's always been. Prior to changing my major to Religious Studies I was actually a Jazz Studies major at Santa Monica College. I took a couple of music courses as an undergrad and was deciding between studying history or performance before I reverted. I could be seen lugging around my acoustic guitar to classes and even playing in between classes.

Growing up I loved singing and dancing. I got into playing instruments (especially the guitar) as I got older but singing and dancing were always what I enjoyed the most. At some point prior to my reversion, I stepped back from it. After my father died, I stopped playing the guitar. It wasn't until this earlier summer that I really picked it up again. I've always sung along to the radio or danced whilst cleaning but it wasn't until the Great Binge Watch of 2016 that I realized how much I truly missed immersing myself in it.

I miss taking music courses. I miss taking dance classes. I miss expressing myself through music. Before finishing all 240 episodes of the show, I made the decision to return to the dance floor. After thinking it through, I've decided to start with ballet. Because of all the health issues and my doctors limiting my exercise (I was completely sedentary for months at one point), I need to start slow and work myself up to what is more physically demanding. I'm also going to return to taking music classes (singing and playing piano and guitar) at some point but dance will be a good place for me to start for health reasons (I need the exercise).

If you guys are wondering how all of this connected: I was emotionally fragile so I made the decision (with the support of my wonderful friends) to cut the things that were causing me harm. To keep my mind occupied (since I have the tendency to live in my head and overanalyze things), I started watching a show that was recommended but knew virtually nothing about. I became hooked, which helped me from internalizing a lot of things that would've undoubtedly triggered a deep depression in me. Instead of dwelling on negative emotions, I laughed, cried, and went through an array of emotions with the main character. As I continued to watch the show, I rediscovered what brought me joy in the past (the same that the characters loved) and it helped me make the decision to reintroduce these things into my life. As the show came to an end, so did a lot of the negativity in my life. I somehow gained the confidence and drive to take back what little control I have over my life.

I had cancelled Netflix prior to finishing the series because I didn't want the temptation of binge watching again but I think I'm going to keep it. I found out that the show isn't available in the U.S. except on Netflix (nope, no DVDs available for this region) and can't legally watch it anywhere else. It might be good for me to occasionally watch the show when I have some free time during the semester.

If you're wondering how I was able to pull off 240 episodes (which ranged between 42 and 65 minutes each) in 19 days: a lot of fast forwarding and free time. I would fast forward parts of characters I disliked and only watch the plotlines and characters I enjoyed. Sometimes it would take me only 20-25 minutes to finish a single episode. That and, like I said, I had a lot of free time this and last month -- probably the last time I'll ever have all this free time without responsibilities beyond cleaning the house, running errands, and taking care of myself. It felt so odd to be selfish and do this but I knew it was part of the self-care I needed so I did.

If you're wondering what my prayer life looked like during this time: praying a decade of the Rosary or praying up to two different prayers in between episodes was how I did it. I'll be the first to admit that there were a couple of times when I messed up because I got too into the show but I got my system down pat towards the end so I was able to get all my prayers in on time.

I'm grateful for having the time to do something (binge watching) which I wouldn't normally recommend or even do. I'm grateful that that decision helped keep my mental health in a good, healthy place (even my therapist was impressed at our last session last week). I'm grateful that my friends were honest with me and then did what they could to protect me from being harmed any more. I'm grateful to my mother for sitting down with me and watching many of the episodes with me and then saying that she was happy that the show served as a form of therapy -- it helped make me feel less guilty about all the time I spent watching it.

Now that I'm finished with the show, I'm happy to say that I have a new outlook on life and even new things to do. Beyond my courses this and next semester, I plan on taking dance classes for fun. I've already gotten reacquainted with an old part of my life (and old friends). I hope all of this will make things a little easier for me. I will be online less. I might blog less... though I'll touch on this topic next time because I have a major decision regarding blogging that I still need to make.

There you have it. That's the reason why I spent so much time binge watching and talking about binge watching. It might not seem like much but it did a lot for me. :) I told y'all on Twitter I had a good excuse.

Alright, I'm going to go check my email because I haven't spent much time on the laptop lately and I have messages to sort through and reply to. :)

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

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

Monday, August 8, 2016

Returning to Confession and Mass

5 weeks. 5 long weeks of no confession, no Mass, and no Eucharist. Illnesses, lack of a/c in the car on days in which heat waves had no mercy, and a number of other obstacles (some mental) that prevented us from going. I didn't like it. I didn't feel "right." I had too many things pop up -- a lot of old, bad habits that I was unprepared to face again.

Has anyone ever experienced that before -- the longer you stay away from the confessional and Mass, the easier it is to fall into terrible habits? I was doing well and the chips hit the fan. I became angry over how people were treating me -- an emotion I've been told I shouldn't experience despite how I was treated. There were arguments between my mother and I over a ton of miscommunications and other factors beyond my control. It became easier to be uncharitable when my neighbors did or said something unkind to/about us.

This past Saturday we finally made it to confession and we attended Mass yesterday. Can you heard the angels singing? We almost hit a snag on Saturday but were able to overcome it and we went. I even thought "why go? I don't want to go" but I still went because I knew better. It felt lovely to wipe the slate (almost) clean. I say "almost" because I know some stuff will linger and purgatory will be waiting (I hope). I felt renewed; energized. Somehow the habits that had returned were easier to ignore and not continue after confession. I'm not sure if it was the power of confession, the knowledge that my sins had been absolved, or a combination of both. God's grace is amazing and powerful. Yesterday's Mass at 6:45 a.m. (my favorite) was solemn and lovely despite the sound system not cooperating with the monsignor who celebrated the Mass.

I hope to don't go a long time without attending Mass again. The car's a/c has been fixed and the temperatures have been quite low for L.A. summer standards lately. I have an idea of how to keep myself healthier for the weekend. I know, thanks to my current doctor who is seriously on top of multiple blood tests to determine the cause of my illnesses, that I have folate deficiency at the moment so lentils and lots of foods rich in folic acid are in my future.

I still feel a bit off; a disconnect from God. I think that may be normal. We won't always feel close to Him even when He is with us. I suspect mine is left over from the 5-week gap. That and I had a crummy two weeks with a lot of inner turmoil with friendship and parental issues that I'm just now overcoming.

Anyway, just wanted to share these thoughts. Not sure if they'll be of much help to anyone but I needed to get them out. Keep me accountable, y'all.

I should go try to get some more tortillas in my system. There was a gas leak in our building and the gas has been shut off since Thursday. That means we've been eating out (which has gotten expensive) and/or eating things we can heat in the microwave. Though several men from the gas company are here, still no word on when we can use our stoves again. Or shower. I miss showering. Baby wipes aren't the same but at least I don't stink. lol. Wish us luck. ;)

I hope y'all had a lovely weekend!

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

Tuesday, August 2, 2016

What Self-Care Looks Like (July 2016)

I know I've written about self-care before (and more than once) but I thought I'd give y'all an update on how that's going to keep myself accountable to what is and isn't working.

What is Working
  • Learning more about introversion and being a highly sensitive person (HSP). I've been reading a couple of books on introversion (most notably Quiet: The Power of Introverts in a World that Can't Stop Talking by Susan Cain and The Irresistible Introvert: Harness the Power of Quiet Charisma in a Loud World by Michaela Chung) as well as some articles on HSP that have helped embrace who I am and what works for me. Quiet has helped me understand what introversion is and what it isn't while The Irresistible Introvert (which is more like a memoir with tips on what's worked for the author) has given me ideas on how to best manage stressful (to introverts) situations. So far the latter has been highlighted, annotated, and been the most useful to me since I learn best from personal experiences. My anxiety and stress levels are at an all-time low thanks to the new techniques (as well as some I've picked up from implementing some mindfulness into my everyday routines).
  • Embracing change. There have been a lot of changes lately (you can go back to last month's blog posts to see some example) and I've been able to accept them because I think I've finally learned to let go and let God guide me. Change doesn't make me uncomfortable but not knowing what's going to happen in the future has been a trigger for my anxiety attacks in the past. Now? I'm trusting God and am letting things come as they may without any long term plans in place. I have goals but no concrete plans as to how it'll happen. I'm re-learning to be more flexible which is something I was actually good at before the PTSD became a part of my life. I've also made some much needed changes in how I do things. For example, after reading both The Irresistible Introvert and an article on how multitasking actually depletes your mental energy, I've tried to do one thing at a time instead of trying to do several things at once. Right now I'm blogging without any music or the TV on in the background; I'm focused on this one single thing. While this is a small change for me, it's really helped my energy levels and mental sharpness.
  • Taking screen-free breaks. As I've mentioned before, I've noticed how much better I feel and how much more (mentally and physically) energized I am when I'm not glued to a screen. I've taken a couple of screen-free breaks throughout the week. I let my friends (with whom I communicate the most often on social media and/or text) know ahead of time so they don't think I'm ignoring them. It's done wonders for my mental health; I can't recommend it enough.
  • Drinking more water. Alright, 'fess up... who else has trouble drinking the recommended amount of water? After my bladder/kidney infection in late June-early July, I've been making an effort to drink more water. I try to aim for at least six 8 oz glasses per day and most days I'm able to reach that goal. Sometimes I fail on the six glasses but I do drink more than 16 oz of chamomile tea (for heartburn) or eat watermelon fruit bars (like popsicles but made out of actual fruit) so that helps keep me a little more hydrated. Added bonus: if I start off my day with at least 8-16 oz of water, I have a bit more energy during the day.
  • Taking guilty pleasure breaks. If I feel myself getting stressed what do I do? Take a "guilty pleasure break." "What's that?" you may ask. It means that I'll do something that I enjoy for at least half an hour per day. It could be reading a book or watching a TV show that I'd be slightly embarrassed to admit that I read or watch but that makes me happy. If you're curious, let's just say it's usually aimed at a teen audience. Shh! lol.
What Isn't Working
  • Not getting enough sleep. I've been averaging 4-6 hours most nights in the past couple of weeks. At first it was because the fever and infection weren't letting me sleep. Then the maintenance guys were here almost every day for about three straight weeks, not allowing me to sleep. Now it's just become a bad habit that I need to break before classes begin at the end of this month. This means sacrificing certain activities (such as reading one more chapter of a book or watching one more episode of a show I'm hooked on) but it'll be worth it for my health. I try to aim for 6-7.5 hours because I've noticed that that is what works best for me and my mental sharpness.
  • Not listening to what food my body craves. I won't sugar coat it -- I've been eating lousy (yet delicious) food lately. My diet has consisted of a lot of fast, greasy foods which is why my heartburn has been terrible lately. When I see certain foods, my (literal) gut reaction is "ugh, no more" but sometimes it's all that's available so I eat it... and then suffer the consequences. I've also not eaten at times because we run out of food and I can't get to a grocery store because it's too hot outside (and I had no working a/c in my car for most of the summer thus far). With my stomach as sensitive as it has been lately, I'm going to make a list of which fruits and vegetables work (in terms of the acidity my stomach can handle and which foods I'm not allergic to) so I can incorporate more of them into my diet.
  • Not attending confession or Mass for the past 5 weeks. Yes, I know, that's a mortal sin. I have my excuses but it still doesn't feel right. Not only that but not going to confession has had the unfortunate consequence of bad habits popping up again. Since I'm no longer sick like I was early last month, the Sand Fire is no longer an issue (we were advised to stay home because of the air quality being poor and our parish is only a couple of miles from where it was), and since the heat wave we had (which peaked at around 115 degrees or so and left me indoors for 2 straight weeks) is over, I no longer have any excuses. This past weekend was the first on which we could attend Mass without the lack of a/c being a factor (since it was fixed) but both my mom and I didn't feel well enough to attend Mass (she had painful arthritis that not even painkillers helped with and I had a stomach issue which seems to have peaked yesterday). I was kind of miffed that I couldn't attend this weekend after waiting for so long but I'm going to make sure I eat healthier so I don't have a repeat of this weekend. You guys don't know how much I've been wanting to go to both confession and Mass. We've even tried (and failed) to go during the week. It's a yearning at this point. I'm determined to make things right this weekend. Prayers that we're able to go to both, please?
Anyone (that I know offline) want to keep me accountable for any of the three things that I need to work in this month? I give you my permission to get on my case if needed. I'm serious.

That's it for now. I have the house to myself for only 2 more hours so I want to enjoy the silence and the slow pace while I still can. I love my mom but living with an uber-extroverted personality isn't easy when you're an introvert. I need to recharge my energy battery while I still can. :)

I hope y'all are having a lovely start of week!

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