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Friday, July 8, 2016

Remember Who The Enemy Is

     As Christisns, our worldview boils down to God vs Satan, Good vs Evil (lack of goodness). But, I think, we lose sight of that, and that's the way the Devil likes it. He gains power by separating, sowing discord, dividing, cutting off. He worms his way into our lives in the form of comparison, self-doubt, critique. He destroys our ability to see other people as people like ourselves, delighting when we can only see the "other", the not like us part. He wins, when we no longer see him as our common enemy, but think the other person is instead. And we tear each other down, rip each other apart, in an attempt to build ourselves and our side up, and he laughs, because we can't see how it destroys us in the process. 
     I've been noticing a trend, lately, that focuses around building each other up. The Girls Gone Strong community, focusing on strengthening the whole person, and not just the body. The Momastery community, full of Love Warriors. Others, too many to name, looking to find common ground amidst the division being sown among us. Loudly proclaiming that the only way to end the cycle of violence is to project love and peace, starting with those closest to you. What's more, these are overwhelmingly secular voices. The Gospel is gaining ground, even though many in religious circles might beg to differ, and many non-believers as well. "Love your enemy. Do good to those who persecute you." (Matthew 5-ish, paraphrased). The hearts of the secular world are stirring; it is no wonder that unrest and violence are growing. Satan sees it, and he is afraid. Why do you think there is such confusion and discord amongst the Church? He is losing his grip on the secular world, so it makes sense that efforts against the Bride of Christ would be redoubled. 
     But what of us? What do we do, when it seems that our only recourse is to draw the line in the sand of us vs them, and stick to our guns? When it seems that the only sure way to win is by completely obliterating the other? Stop. Breathe. Pray. Remember that this "other" is not the real enemy - Satan is. This "other" is a person, just like you, who Satan is using as a weapon, a human sword as it were. In battle, the fight is never with the sword, though it may seem like it. Once the weapon is out of the enemies grasp, the good warrior ceases to fight it, for it no longer has the power to harm. Instead, efforts are focused on defeating the living enemy. Don't lose sight of who the real enemy is. The Devil is using God's Children to do his dirty work. People Christ poured out His Lifeblood for, who He loves with an infinite and intense Love. In everything that happens, don't forget that. These people are not the enemy - Satan is.

Wednesday, June 29, 2016

Cancer Awareness and St. Baldrick's

     Late to the game, as usual. But sometimes continuing conversations are better than one-time things anyway. Cancer Survivors' Day is the first Sunday in June. And as far as I know, no one in my family who has had cancer has beaten it. My father's mother lost to breast cancer when he was a child; my mother's father lost to blood cancer when I was six; a cousin also lost to blood cancer when I was young; and most recently, my mother's mom to breast cancer in 2013. It's something that has been on my mind a bit lately, especially now that I've got kids. What are my chances of developing cancer? How much of it is genetic? How much is environmental? What can I do to lessen my family's chances? 

     Genetics are what they are; I can't change those. But I can choose to limit the use of things which studies are showing to be toxic to health, most especially in the areas of personal products and house hold cleaners. I can't control the world, but I can control what I allow into our home. I can also be proactive about checking my house for materials and substances that could have already been there before me. Asbestos, for example, was commonly used in homes before the 1970's and can cause a rare cancer called mesothelioma. Same goes for lead and radon - they are common in homes, so we must be proactive about getting rid of them. 


     My first switch was from conventional antiperspirant deodorant to a natural deodorant. It took a few, but I finally settled on THIS deodorant from Whiskey Ink & Lace (based in WA), in the woodsy lavender scent. It works best with my body, still smelling of lavender at the end of very muggy VA days spent at the park. While it seems there is no conclusive evidence that conventional antiperspirants are a cause of cancer, I still think it best to be safe, considering my family history. I also use their face creams, too. 
     For our other personal care products, we use Radiantly You, which is based out of NY. I have pretty much loved everything that I have tried from them. From shampoo, to body soap, to foaming hand soap, to booty balm for the kids, to an award winning counter spray, and fantastic multi-purpose tub scrub, Radiantly You has your basic needs covered! Though I personally found the laundry soap to be not quite what I need. I decided to try ECOS laundry soap, and it seems to be working alright, considering all I ever do is throw everything in together with out pre-treating anything, because I can never remember. I use ECOS Dishmate for hand washing (almond smells like amaretto), and 1 TBS RY tub scrub in the dishwasher, with a splash of RY bleach alternative as a pre-wash and white vinegar as a rinse aid. No streaks or cloudiness on the glasses, which is fantastic! 
     Prevention is helpful, but sometimes there is nothing one can do. With this in mind, I'm fundraising for the St. Baldrick's Foundation, which helps to fund children's cancer research. Please consider donating; even $5 would be huge to these kids! And yes, I am shaving my head. On Friday. 
One last info-graphic, because they are fun!

Sunday, June 5, 2016

"But, I'm Not An Angry Person!" Part 2

For the messy, raw Part 1, click here. If you'd rather skip and focus on what I have been doing to manage my depression, please continue reading.

     So we muddled through until Little Miss was born in August. I decided to have the placenta encapsulated this time, but I don't know taking it helped any or not. We decided to start with learning to track my fertility with the Creighton model of NFP, and began the end of October. While it isn't certain what causes postpartum depression, it has been speculated that hormonal imbalance is a plausible cause, and Creighton seems to be the best way for us to see how my body is functioning. We are blessed to not only have a good instructor reasonably close, but a NaPro trained doctor in town as well. Our instructor was able to give us a referral to the doctor, who was able to get me in to see him in November. And that really is a bit of a miracle, considering how busy he is. We had my hormone levels tested, and when the results came back normal for how far along I was postpartum, we decided to supplement with the generic version of Zoloft. He also recommended talk therapy, because being rejected by girls when I was young left me more deeply wounded than I thought. Honestly, we were just chatting as he was looking at my intake forms, and saw that I had Italy and Ireland down in the foreign travel section. I told him it was with the Christendom Rome Program, and he asked how I liked the place. Being honest, I told him it was really great academically, but really awful socially, considering the people I thought were my core group of friends abandoned me Thanksgiving break freshman year with no explanation. He found that very interesting, and proceeded to ask "Do you get a long better with guys or with girls?" Girls. Second question I don't remember exactly what it was, but similar vein. "Were you rejected by your female peers when you were younger?" Yes. (I'm tearing up as I remember.) "I think that's the root of your depression." Anyway. The rest of my prescription included exercising 20 minutes a day, spending time outside, and play dates. Yes, play dates. He said when women talk with each other they release oxytocin, which is one of the "feel good" hormones, and can do a lot to lessen stress, anxiety, and depression. I started therapy with the psychologist he recommended later that month, also a fantastic person. I'm not sure why I've been given such amazing people to help me through all of this. 
     My dosages of antidepressant were on the low side, and the doctor said that, generally speaking, they ought to be used to help the brain get used to feeling "happy", and when "happy" becomes the new default setting, the meds can be dropped. I weaned off mine in April (will document experience later). I've been rather stable since, once the withdrawal effects wore off. Up until last week, anyway. I've been an burrier of "bad" emotions for so long that learning to navigate them is a bit rough, to say the least. I plan on writing a post dedicated to my experience with therapy at a later date. For now, though, I recommend it. Being able to talk to someone who won't judge you and doesn't know everyone you know is wonderful. It removes the fear of gossiping or destroying another's good name, while also providing constructive feedback and perspective. 
     My fertility chart has been a typical breastfeeding one, with no indication of hormonal imbalance, which is good. We are getting much more outside time with the warmer, and sunnier, weather. It seriously rained all but a few days end of April into mid-May. My diet has been decent. We've been getting out to see people, and even hosting play dates. The only things I'm not good about are getting to bed before midnight, and exercise. And feeding my introvert. I stay up late because it's our only time without children. Every time I try to get up earlier than the kids for a workout and quiet me time I give myself a sinus infection. Hopefully on the tail end of one now, actually. And nursing baby who has no interest in a bottle is preventing good, restorative alone time. And change is hard and I'm really good at using the kids as excuses to not do things. But we are getting there. I am moving forward, oh, so, slowly. 
     Hopefully you will find my experience to be useful in some way. The first step - actually seeking help - is the toughest. Don't let fear keep you trapped. Some people have called me brave for being as open as I have about my journey, or other things in life, saying they would be too afraid to do something similar. It's not that I'm not afraid, because I am, often. But what they might not realize is that bravery is not acting without fear, but acting in spite of fear, or, as I prefer, hand in hand with fear. You don't have to struggle through this alone. Many of us have been there, and we are more than willing to help you get out.

Monday, May 30, 2016

"But, I'm Not An Angry Person!" Part 1

     

     Today might not be the best day to be doing this, linking up with Flourish in Hope and Half Kindled for their annual PPD linkup. It was a bad day. I couldn't get a handle on my emotions. There was no logical reason for me to be having mini-breakdowns all day - Code Monkey was home, the kids were as good as they ever are (which, if you know us in real life, you know they are strangely spectacular, in spite of me), the sun was out, I've actually had over a week's worth of uninterrupted sleep at night, etc. Reading the posts about the struggles other women have had with PPD and similar disorders was icing on a very nasty emotional cake. But, perhaps the reason I should. The feelings are still fresh in my body. And reading about others is healing; I'm not the only one. I'm not crazy. I'm not just making this up. I'm not just lacking in self control. 
     Hah! Self control. If only you knew how much self control I used to have, or at least thought I had, back in high school. I've touched on my high school depression before, but one of my coping mechanisms was sort of emotionally shutting down. I needed the pretense of control, though it didn't seem like a pretense at the time. I needed to be the closed book, because I was too afraid to let anyone see. I never cried and I was never angry; I hid my pain well. So you can imagine my shock when I found myself raging at the boys after Juanito was born. It didn't show up until around 6 months after he was born. I would become intensely angry over nothing. "Nothing?" you question. Nothing worth raging over. Babies and toddlers cry. Not logically worth getting angry over. They make messes. Not logically worth bellowing at them for. "Bellowing? Really. Stop exaggerating." If only I was. I don't know that I have the language to describe it. Animalistic. Screaming at the top of my lungs, with all the energy I had, because I just needed it to stop. I. Just. Needed. It. To. Stop. Mostly the crying. I could physically feel the sound waves hitting my eardrums.  
     Raging only made it worse, though. The crying would pause, like the calm in the eye of a storm, only to begin again with a greater force driven by terror, terror of me, their mother. The person who is supposed to love them, comfort them, help them manage their emotions; not lose control of her own. I joined them in their tears, hating myself for not being able to be the grown up, for letting it get to me, for losing control. I never thought it would be like this. That I would be like this. 
     And the thoughts, the ones of violence. I understand, now, why mothers kill their own children. To make it, whatever it happened to be for them, stop. When you are in a moment like that, rock bottom, it is nearly impossible to imagine worse. The vicious cycle of anger, guilt, anger, guilt is enough to drive anyone mad. Without help, it's only a matter of time. 
     Thankfully, my rage subsided, mostly, all on it's own. I don't know if it was just the passing of time, but I found myself much more in control by the time we found out we were expecting Little Miss. We were doing great, until around 6 weeks in. Then the prenatal depression hit. I was completely blindsided. It had been over a decade since I had been that black. I was constantly irritable and annoyed. I lost my temper over the slightest thing. And the guilt. I felt as though I was stuck in a bog, slowly being sucked down into the quagmire of depression. At my lowest point, I was beginning to lose my fear of Hell. The fear of which was what kept me from killing myself as a teen. And it was fading. I just needed it to end. I was barely managing to hold my recklessness in check, because I wasn't willing to risk the lives of my children, but more than once I was so close to asking a friend to watch them for a few hours, and then just leaving. Finding a plane headed out west and just leaving everything, so they would have nothing to legally bring me back for. 
     I felt so empty. I had nothing left to give, and the little I was giving wasn't worth having. I was 100% convinced my family would be better off without me. All I could see was how I was destroying them. I don't remember how I came out. I knew I needed help when going to bed didn't make my "funk" any better. Normally, I would have an awful day, go to bed, and wake up feeling better, even if only for 15 minutes. I knew I needed help when that stopped happening, when I woke up just as defeated as when I went to bed. I went to adoration after my worst day, my third day in a row of waking up already defeated, and somehow it was never so bad after that. We muddled through the rest of the pregnancy, and started seeking help in earnest in October. 
     I should probably make a separate post detailing what we're doing to help mitigate the damage this time around, considering this post is quite long. And then I can link that one, so people don't have to muddle through this depression story if they don't want to. I'll link to Part 2 HERE when I write it.