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Monday, March 23, 2015

The Via Dolorosa That Is Motherhood

        Pain. Heartache. Agony. Not words which one typically associates with motherhood. I, however, am coming to realize how fitting they are, at least for me. Now, before you get all huffy, hear me out. Perhaps I am doing it wrong. I don't know. But it hurts, deep down to my core. Yes, the sacrifices I have to make in order to be the kind of mom I want to be hurt; but that is to be expected. The guilt I feel for failing so very hard (at least to my thinking, at times) cuts deeply. The pain and confusion that comes, when trying to "research" what is the best way to raise children only exasperates the problem. The times when you are tired and at your wit's end, and it isn't even lunch time yet and you just want to throw in the towel, because no one is listening to anything you say, and you just feel crushed inside. When you lose your temper with children who are pretty much angels, and it leaves you so wounded you wonder if you'll ever heal. 
     It isn't just the tough, hard times that pain me, though. It's when marveling at your two and a half year old, who refused to even hold the mail, because his hands were chocolatey and needed to be washed first, without any prompting from you. It's when the 14 month old insists on hugging during a story, again and again and again. It's their faces when you get them up in the morning. It's the fact that you are still completely their whole world, in spite of the times you've messed up. It's watching them learn and grow and develop, and you realize that one day you are going to lose them to the world of grown ups, and your heart aches at the thought but feels like it's going to burst from pride at the same time. 
     The weight of the responsibility of teaching these little ones about God. Teaching them how to be more than you are, when you are so very lacking. Being the whole world to two little boys, but having to split yourself between them. Wondering how you are going to manage when Number 3 comes along, knowing you cannot be all things to all children. Knowing how weak I am, how I cannot do it all, on my own. There is so much heartache, so much pain, so much agony. 
     This is the part where, if I were really good, which I'm not, but if I were, I would tie it all in nicely with it being a fitting crucible for sanctification, and other lofty thoughts of that nature. But, I'm not that good; my brain is empty of deeper thoughts, which is weird. Pregnancy messes with the proper functioning of pretty much everything. 
Image found HERE

Friday, March 13, 2015

Book Club: "The Mood Cure"

     Well, here I am, finally writing an update. I haven't been sticking to my nightly schedule so well, as I'm sure you might have noticed by now. The time change isn't helping any. We decided to keep schedule with the boys' body clocks rather than the analog one, so bedtime is now 7 p.m. rather than 6 p.m., and bedtime hasn't really started before 7:30 p.m. at all since Sunday. That means we aren't done with the "Good nights" until 8 p.m. at the earliest. Oh, and supper time has been thrown off due to Code Monkey having longer days at the office due to looming deadlines. So it's pretty much been 1. eat all together and start bedtime at 7:30 or later, or 2. do bedtime earlier, and do dinner after. Either way, 8:30-9 is late for me to start things, when I'm supposed to have an ultimate bedtime of 10 p.m. *sigh*

     As promised, here is a little review of The Mood Cure by Julia Ross, accompanied by a general update on how my moods seem to be doing. The basic premise of The Mood Cure is that our brains are being deprived of the necessary building block, amino acids, required for proper functioning. This is the result of stores being depleted and insufficient diets which are not replenishing said stores due to being nutrient deficient. In addition, there are certain foods which mess with our ability to regulate hormones, which further disrupts things. 
     Julia Ross is a psychotherapist who has been counseling people with emotional and mood disorders since the 1970s. In 1980 she began to wonder if the food people were eating had any effect on their moods and began working with nutritionists to see if there really was a connection. Turns out, the people who changed their diets from highly processed fast food to a more whole food, more veggies one had significantly more success in therapy than those who didn't. In the mid-80s, Ross was researching and found the research of neuroscientist Kenneth Blum, who had success treating addicts with the use of amino acids, which were able to help them come off the drugs and alcohol they had been using to give themselves emotional boosts. 
     There is a quiz, of sorts, which one takes to determine which particular mood areas need work, and I failed with flying colors. My midwife, who recommended the book, has given me an amino protocol which I have been using for a few weeks now, and also recommended following the nutrition advice in The Mood Cure in regards to going gluten free and ramping up veggie and protein intake. I've been gluten free for almost two weeks now, and plan on continuing until Easter because Lent, before reintroducing to see if I notice any change. Overall, my moods have been greatly improved, though not perfectly. When I have had my down times, though, I've been able to break out of them much more quickly than before. But because I am trying to attack from so many angles, it is difficult to tell exactly which ones are working, and which are not. 
     I started a daily journal last week, writing mostly about how I felt and reacted to the happenings of the day, and I am becoming more aware of what my triggers are. This is particularly helpful, because once I identify situations that are going to be troublesome, I can prepare for them, and have a reason for my moods, rather than them being completely random and unpredictable. I know that is a really bad sentence, but I'm not sure how to say it. How about this:  It gives me hope, seeing that I can control them, that there are real reasons why I react the way I do, instead of being a victim of my "random" mood swings. 
     As I mentioned above, I'm not sure if it is specifically the amino regimen or not, but overall I feel better, more balanced emotionally and calmer physically. That being said, I do recommend The Mood Cure by Julia Ross. It may not be the self help book you need, but it does have a lot of interesting info, and many, many citations giving the studies the information is based on. 

Monday, March 2, 2015

Taking Care Of Me

     I don't know if my last post made much sense, but here is what I am planning on doing to try and help take care of me. I'm going to be trying some diet changes, upon the advice of my midwife and after having read The Mood Cure by Julia Ross. Code Monkey is skeptical about it being the magic cure that it claims to be, and is right in his thinking that I need to change my behaviour in order to get the best results. If my mood issues are a part of my not taking time for myself, then no matter what else I change, it isn't going to work if I don't make and then take the time I need to recharge. 
I've brainstormed the things that make me happy, and re-ground me when I need it. Here is my list, just in case you can't read the picture:  Adoration - I like the quiet and the peace, literally being close to God. Listening to music I like. Being alone in nature and Walking in the woods could almost be the same thing - the quiet and the peace again, feeling close to God. Singing. Reading. Cross stitching. Blogging. A clean kitchen, so nice, even though I don't like cleaning it. Basketball, or active sports in general. Animals/Pets could be combined with Chickens and Horses - I really like chickens, though horses might not be the best idea. Learning - I really miss all the intellectual growth that happened at school. Grown up conversation - talking with someone old enough to understand complex thoughts. Physical labor - I like hard work, it is a good medium for thinking, and keeps me fit. The stars - peace and quiet again. My Family - though seeing them keeps becoming more complicated. Routine, and knowing what is going on. Contact with my Byrdz. Dragon's Bane. Actual clothes - getting dressed in clothes that make me feel put together. Showering. Running - good for contemplation. Confession, because peace. 
As for routine, I really don't have one yet. I've been putting off trying to make one, but finally wrote a rough one down today. Though exhaustion seems to be coming back, and my weekly nightly routine has been a bit off because of it. It's hard to do stuff when you feel the need to be in bed only an hour or so after the kids are in bed, and that's all the time you have for yourself and your spouse, sans ninos. Which is why the 6 a.m. rising time for me is so laughable. Oh, I just noticed I forgot to write in Thursday and Friday before I took the picture. I had decided to switch them around, because Thursday seems to work better for adoration than Friday does, so Friday will be cross stitching instead. Dragon's Bane will also be moved to Thursday, maybe. Unless I make it Friday, and try to stitch for a bit on a                                               weekend afternoon. 
I am also keenly aware of how it can seem like I don't really do much of anything, and that feeds depression, so I've started writing down the "productive" things I do on the calendar, so I have something sort of tangible to prove to myself that I am capable of getting things done. Chores are blue, appointments and things are in black, birthdays, anniversaries, and minor feasts are green, and major feasts are red. At least for this month. 
     I'll be going gluten free for two weeks to see if there is any improvement in my mood. I think I will also start journaling, since writing is definitely one of the better ways for me to process and decompress when stressed. Hence why blogging is on my list of things that make me happy. Also, my ultimate bedtime, which I am past, is 10 p.m., and that nap at 1 p.m.? That's meant for me, because I am a much nicer person when I eat well and am well rested. Since I am late for bed, I think my next post will be more about The Mood Cure, which will be the first in my new Book Club series. 


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Taking Care Of The Self

     So, it is once again Lent. The super penitential season for Catholics, where it is traditional to give up things which are not bad for you, as a way of developing discipline and mastery over the self. Unless you're me. This is the 4th Lent in a row, that I've either been pregnant, or breastfeeding. Both of those conditions exempt one from fasting, and depending on which site you look on, abstaining from meat too. Except non-meat sources of protein are pretty easy to come by, so I do abstain. But I digress. For the fourth year in a row, my Lenten goals have been "take better care of me". So instead of giving stuff up, I've been all "actually eat more", "go to bed when I'm tired", "sleep in if possible", "eat that cookie, because for goodness sake you're feeding two people". And I've felt guilty about it, because it seems to go so against the point of the season, and even the point of Christianity. "Taking care of me" seems like the opposite of "give of oneself selflessly". Thanks to a couple of homilies and much contemplation, I have come to understand that it isn't really selfish at all. I hope I can explain in a way that makes sense. 

     Our first priority is to get ourselves to heaven. We need to be willing to do whatever it takes to achieve that goal. Fleeing from temptation, making sacrifices, prayer, the Sacraments, and other spiritual practices easily come to mind as ways that we are able to cooperate with Christ's redemption of our souls. The needs of the body often get overlooked, I think to our detriment sometimes. What do I mean? Well, have you ever been hangry? Crabby and grouchy simply from low blood sugar, but as soon as you eat you're back to your normal self? Now, I'm not saying it is a sin to be crabby, but it certainly is a lot easier to lose one's patience when irritable, believe you me. Think how many situations like that could have been avoided, had we only eaten breakfast* (or snack, or lunch, or whatever)? Or when we run ourselves to the ground, taking care of everyone but ourselves, because it is the "selfless" thing to do, yet lose control of ourselves in the process? 
     Sometimes, I think, we try to be like the great saints, but forget that we are not actually at their level of sanctity yet, and wonder why our constant giving of self without time to recharge doesn't seem to be bringing us any closer to holiness, and perhaps causes us to backtrack. At least, that was the conclusion I came to a little while ago. For many, many years I've been saying "no" to myself and the things I like, in part because we're called to be selfless, and in part because I don't like conflict and desperately want to be liked. I've been denying myself those things which I need to recharge, and it all finally came crashing down before my last post. After all that time, I'm no closer to heaven, and in many ways much farther from it than I ought to be. "But the great saints didn't need to recharge!" I hear you say. That's because they were at a level of personal holiness where being an instrument of the Divine Will was for them a recharge; and all of them made sure to carve out copious amounts of time for prayer, which also renews the spirit. 
     I'm not there yet. It took a breakdown for me to realize that I can't really take care of anyone else, if I don't take care of myself. Since it is my vocation to take care of others, I need to do what it takes for me actually be able to do that, and do it well, even when it seems so counter-Christian, counter-sanctification. My vocation is to be the best wife and mother that I can be, and where I am in my journey toward heaven that means taking time for me to recharge, even if it seems selfish. Because one cannot give what one does not have. 

*The two homilies:  The first was given by Fr. Gee at Christendom a while ago, and he started it by giving the example of a person who decided to give up breakfast for Lent, but ended up a horrible person by the end of the day, with the basic premise of not choosing penances that end up making us worse people instead of better ones. The second was given by Fr. Fasano a couple Sundays ago, where he likened venial sin to a spiritual cold, and said that any reasonable person who actually has a physical cold would do what he could to help heal the body quickly, and we should act similarly with our "spiritual colds" and frequent the sacrament of confession to help heal our soul. Because I had been thinking about it, my mind easily made the connection that perhaps some trials would be avoided if we took care to make sure our bodies were in decent shape, because matter does effect the spirit.