Defarging: A tale of twisted situation

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Lucie begs for mercy. Madame Defarge stares at her coldly while she keeps on knitting. Madame Defarge is a character from the Tale of Two Cities written by Charles Dickens. She is a cold person who doesn’t stop knitting and … Continue reading

Write! Write! Write! – Talk! Talk! Talk!

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Talking and writing are great partners in celebrating life. It’s an antidote for depression. Just take a look at this recent discovery exchange of words between one depressed person to another: I talk to anybody on the street more than … Continue reading

A moment of clarity

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There are days that I just want to end it all. When that does happen, it’s the little things that stop me on my tracks that brings clarity in this obscure mind that surfaces uninvited. What stopped me this time … Continue reading

Sense of Wonder

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Do you know that we are just like cats that get scared easily, fearful? So be careful. All we need is love. Yesterday, I attended a conference in renewing my sense of wonder by bringing together theological, psychological and spiritual awareness … Continue reading

Up Close and Personal

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What makes this photo great? Composition? Lighting? Creativity? Story? My take is ALL of the above. For one, the photographer is from Vancouver, Canada and this photo made the National Geographic YourShot Daily Dozen on June 26, 2015. To top … Continue reading

Blessed be the Winter

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It’s winter. I used to dread this season of long days of darkness. Very little light affects my health and mental well-being. I never had this problem when I lived in the tropics where the sun shines. Learning to come … Continue reading

The Power of One

“Don’t kill it.”

She was startled by what I said when I exclaimed to one of the walkers at the Camino trying to take a bug out of my neck.

“It’s only a ladybug.”

“Still, please don’t kill it and give it to me.”

She gently picked it up and placed it on my arm.

With a sigh of relief that it is safe, I brought it to the nearest bush, let it settle on one of the leaves and whispered have a good life.

Ladybug has such a power to me.  It brings back memories how a tiny creature saved my life.
The Power of One

Flashback:

It was warm fall weather, and I was on my way for a vacation to Nuevo Vallarta, Mexico.  I should be thrilled in going for a week-long all exclusive holiday, but I wasn’t.  Depression was taking hold of me at the time.

I didn’t want to go. There was a foreboding feeling that should I go, I will not return. Another thought that comes and goes that life is not worth living when depression arises.

“Give me one reason to live?”

I was talking to the statutes on my altar. They are the statues of Mother Mary, a crucified Jesus Christ on the cross, the saints, and angels.  Can they hear me?  I doubt that they can.  They are just statues.

It was a moment of madness.

Over and over again, I repeated: “Give me one reason to live!”

Tears are flooding my eyes, everything looked obscure. As my eyes were wandering all over my bedroom, I saw a small red dot just above the curtain wall.

Curiosity took hold of me and went close to check what it was.  When I came closer, it became clearer that it was a ladybug.

Instinctively, I tried to pick it up to release it outside.  However, it flew away, and I lost sight of it.

I searched the walls, the curtains, the ceilings, the floor, the bed, behind the door of my bedroom for the ladybug and for the life of me I cannot find it.

“Where are you ladybug?”
“You cannot stay here.”
“ You will die here.” 
“There is no life for you here.”
“You need to show yourself.”

On and on I talked to the ladybug. It felt a long time searching for it, and I became aware of the time that I need to leave the apartment otherwise I will miss my plane for Mexico.

Imploring to the ladybug, I beg: “Please come out. I have a plane to catch.”

As I said this, my eyesight cleared up from crying and saw the ladybug in the far corner of the west wall of the ceiling.

Finally, I caught the ladybug, placed it in between the palms of my hands so it won’t escape, went to the balcony, opened my hands and gave a soft blow of air from my lips to give it a nudge to fly. And it flew. Free, the ladybug is now free.

In Nuevo Vallarta, a new door opened up to a different meaning of living a life.

There I experienced other forms of life: releasing a bucket full of baby sea turtles into the vast ocean, talking to the iguanas and lizard, watching the sunset, walking barefoot on the sandy shores, tasting the saltiness of the sea, feeling the warm rain on my skin, horseback riding along the Andes Fault and visiting some ruins.

Coming home, my disposition in life is a bit brighter.  Depression still exists, but I don’t find it overwhelming.

When life becomes unbearable, I think of the ladybug.  A Godsend. I firmly believe in the God of small things. Life grows into a series of little things in faith of gratitude. The possibility is due to a single ladybug.

The power of one.

Thinking Thresholds

 

threshold door

To find a light streaming through a hole on a door
in a dark room made my outlook brighter.

In the threshold of my thoughts that gives me a
glimpse of hope that life will be bearable
in between these spaces lie a threshold
a passage that will open a door of transformation.

The awareness of the light,
I am grateful for the threshold
for without it, there is no possibility to know
that there is a brighter life behind this door.

 

Self-Disclosure: Doodling my way through CBT

“But I don’t want to go among mad people,” Alice remarked.
“Oh, you can’t help that,” said the Cat: “we’re all mad here. I’m mad. You’re mad.”
“How do you know I’m mad?” said Alice.
“You must be,” said the Cat, or you wouldn’t have come here.” 
― Lewis Carroll, Alice in Wonderland

Cognitive Behaviour Therapy (CBT) has three components thoughts, behaviour and emotions arranged in a triangle.  These are important factors in personal change.  The three sides represent the three aspects of my lives.  When one side of the triangle changes the rest also change.  When I change my way of thinking, I will act and feel according to my thoughts.  When I change my emotions, my actions and thoughts will change.  When I change the way I do things, then my thoughts and emotions will alter.

CBT

Sounds easy, right?  Not really.  In order for me to understand the psychology of CBT, I thought of three words that is the driving force of my whole being. These are faith, hope and charity.  Drawing the same triangle, I came up with this.

Theology of CBT

Then I incorporated the whole thing based on what works for me to get better.   I called this new and improved diagram the Theology of CBT.

CBT Combo

Of course, this is just for me doodling my way through a ten-week CBT course.

When CBT first came out in Vancouver, I was one of the guinea pigs.  I volunteered to be one of the subjects.  It helped me tremendously as well as the Faculty of Psychiatry.  Of course, familiarity breeds contempt.  I thought I got it all made and don’t need to carry on with the “experiment” to myself.  Soon, I fell out of practice and old habits returned; automatic thoughts.

Automatic thoughts are similar to a movie; a constant rewind of a scenario mostly negative.  I counted how many times an automatic thought came up in a given minute.  There are 60 seconds in a minute, I must have thought of it 100 times.

I took the course the second time around two years ago and the modules have much improved as well as the therapists.  The therapists are better trained, the doctors are well versed with the course and there are more participants.  I speak highly of this course for anyone who needs to “get” a hold of their own well-being.

I never called this disease as “mental” disorder.  I vehemently argue about this terminology.   I know it is a disease of the brain and I waited a long time for someone to speak about this until I heard in TED “Understanding of mental illness.”  This is a big relief for me.

Going deeper to doodling, a new diagram arose based on my love for trees and gardening.  This keeps me grounded.

cbt nature

Finally with all these knowledge and training, I realize that medication tremendously helps.  There’s nothing wrong with taking medication.  Insulin is for diabetics to control the disease taken for the rest of their life.  No stigma on that.  Antidepressants work well for my brain to balance the serotonin level taken for the rest of my life so I may live to the fullest.  Nothing wrong with that!

The Lucky One – Black Mother

Quote

Someone told me to read the lives of the saints to help me in times of dark night of the soul.  Not just the saints but as well as people who had the courage to come back.  These are ordinary people who managed to crawl out of their darkness with the help of others and divine intervention.

She was born in Sudan in 1869, kidnapped by Arab slave trades at age seven, sold and resold, suffered much trauma, abuse and brutality during her captivity that caused her to forget her own name. She was named Bakhita, meaning “the lucky one”. Life as a slave terrified her.

St. Josephine Bakhita

Click on the photo to view a brief story in video.

Forgiveness: 
“If I were to meet the slave merchants who kidnapped me, and even those who tortured me, I would kneel and kiss their hands. If what happened to me had never taken place, how could I have become a Christian and a religious?”

Eventually, in 1883 an Italian consul bought her, treated her kindly in his household, took her to Italy and was given as present to a wife of friend.  When the new owner left for Africa to attend to business matters,  she gave the  Canossian Sisters of Venice  custody of Bakhita. Here she found out that she is a free person and remained with the Sisters, became a nun and known as the “Black Mother.”

Bakhita, what a life story she had at a tender age.  How does one get over the abuse she received as a child?  With the help of others that cared about her and discovered that she has a new Master, her God, she recovered.

During the millennium year 2000, Pope Paul II canonized Josephine Bakhita.

Sources:
Wikipedia: Josephine Bakhita
UCatholic: February 8 Saint of the day
Depressed and Catholic: Bakhita, hope for those abused in childhood

On Being Thankful

Being Thankful When Depressed

Sometimes it can be difficult to be thankful when you feel miserable.  That misery usually becomes worse when well david-and-bathsheba-chagallmeaning people remind you of what you should be thankful for.  So, let me offer a prayer of gratitude for all who struggle with depression, or any other mental or emotional condition.

Dear Lord,

  • Thank you for giving me the courage to get up and face another day, and the stamina to work for health.
  • Thank you for holding me close when I have wanted to end my life, and for holding others who did die from depression, bipolar, or schizophrenia.
  • Thank you also for understanding when I couldn’t get myself out of bed to go to mass or feared confession because the very thought of facing my sins only made me feel more unworthy of love.
  • Thank you for providing the ability to hold up my head when people judged me, gossiped about me, or backed away during the times I became ill.  Likewise, for granting me patience and understanding when those who saw me at my worst could not accept my health and so treated me as if I were still “fragile.”
  • Thank you for teaching me how to carry my cross for love of you, focusing on you rather than my specific pains.  I know I don’t do that perfectly but you don’t care and for that I am most grateful.
  • Thank you for modern medicine, competent therapists and spiritual directors, understanding clergy, and Saints who had mental health difficulties.  These can bolster my hope, lessen my sense of isolation, and even make me healthier.
  • Thank you especially for those moments, days, and sometimes months of remission when joy and a clear mind return.  These are a foretaste of what heaven will be like after I have finished fighting the good fight in faith and hope.
  • Most of all thank you for accepting the offering of my imperfect, broken, and sick self at mass and responding by feeding and strengthening my soul with the Eucharist.

For all these things I thank you.  Amen.

 

Credits:
Article: Depressed and Catholic
Image: Friar Musings

 

Break the cord and fly like a bird.

fly like a bird

When you feel as if you are in a deep darkness because of doubt, fear, illness, or depression, rather than try to desperately climb out perhaps it would be better to “walk in the dark.”  Often when we try too hard we only get more discouraged and if we go with the flow while we try, we slowly feel better.

We can be attached to our pursuit of happiness and health to the point of forgetting we are human.  We can expect ourselves, our doctors, therapists, spiritual directors, and priests to completely heal us, as if they were god.  Pursuing health and happiness are good but need to be kept in balance.  If we pine for them too much, we ignore the fact that only God can fully heal us and bring us lasting happiness.  

When you feel overwhelmed by life’s difficulties St. John of the Cross advises:

“If a man wishes to be sure of the road he treads on, he must close his eyes and walk in the dark.”

“In tribulation immediately draw near to God with confidence, and you will receive strength, enlightenment, and instruction.”

“The soul that is attached to anything however much good there may be in it will not arrive at the liberty of divine union.  For whether it be a strong wire rope or a slender and delicate thread that holds the bird, it matters not, if it really holds it fast; for until the cord be broken the bird cannot fly.”

 

Links:
 

Something fell from the sky

On my way to work, something fell from the sky.  As I walked closer to it, it appeared to be a small piece of paper iridescent green colour.  I bend down to pick it up and it was paper light.

Good Lord.  A hummingbird.  I don’t know what to do.  I was so scared that it might have died from the impact of hitting the pavement.  It was breathing so fast. Stroking it as gently as possible and praying to it “Please do not die” was all I can do,

I turned around and went to the nearest bush.  I laid it gently, left and hope it will come back to its senses.

On my coffee break around 10 am, I went to check the bush.  The hummingbird was gone.  I hope it flew away.

This was the first time I encountered a hummingbird.

Fast forward a year later.  Spring, a beautiful sunny day, however, the dark night of the soul is trying to invade me.

I was gardening on my balcony at the same time talking to God.

God, where are you.  I don’t particularly like how I am feeling, please take this away from me.  Where are you?

Suddenly I heard this whooshing sound.  It was high pitched buzzing more like it.  Am I hearing things now?  Or the tension is affecting my eardrums again?

I look up and right in front of me was this beautiful golden hummingbird.

Oh my God.  I repeated this so many times in my mind. Transfixed to this small creature, I did not breathe nor move for fear of scaring it away.

Time stood still.

Zoom, it was gone.  So was the dark night of the soul.

hummingbird

From here on, the hummingbird is my constant companion especially when I tend to garden.  One hummer brought others  and they stay around all year.

Oh, give us pleasure in the flowers to-day;
And give us not to think so far away
As the uncertain harvest; keep us here
All simply in the springing of the year. 
 Oh, give us pleasure in the orchard white,
Like nothing else by day, like ghosts by night;
And make us happy in the happy bees,
The swarm dilating round the perfect trees. 
 And make us happy in the darting bird
That suddenly above the bees is heard,
The meteor that thrusts in with needle bill,
And off a blossom in mid air stand still. 
 For this is love and nothing else is love,
The which it is reserved for God above
To sanctify to what far ends He will,
But which it only needs that we fulfill. 
A Robert Frost Hummingbird Poem

Better than Bacon

Who doesn’t like Bacon?  Can’t say I don’t.  I happen to like bacon and the smell of bacon wafting through the atmosphere.  Imagine me hovering on mid-air following the scent of the bacon.  It’s so enticing.  Ah ….

Bacon is one of the most common discussions at work.  We could talk about bacon all day long except for other belief system that doesn’t eat meat at all.  However, they are intoxicated by the smell of bacon.  Yet, their faith keeps them from eating this sinful delicacy.  They have such deep abiding faith.

Would you care to join me and eat bacon?

When I invite someone, I try all kinds of tricks to join me or join us.  But I suppose dangling bacon is not as good as dangling a carrot.

I am actually talking about Catholics bloggers.  There are many of us: some are really dedicated, some are lapsed.  And there are non-Catholics that are just faithful to their religion.  It really does not matter to me.  Catholic means Universal.  I embrace you all.

For the sake of this post, I am supposed to link two sites that are catholic bloggers.  Let me introduce:

Claudia.  I like her sense of humour and I can relate to her.
“Whoever suffers from mental illness ‘always’ bears God’s image and likeness in himself, as does every human being.” excerpt from statement by Blessed Pope John Paul II at International Conference for Health Care Workers, on Illnesses of the Human Mind, November 30, 1997.

Not The Sword But The Pen.  She wants to join the Franciscan Missionary Sisters of Our Lady of Sorrows (Beaverton, Oregon).  I happen to follow the footsteps of St. Francis.

Friar Musings.  The title is exactly what it says.  He is a Franciscan Friar.  Again, he is another St. Francis in the making.   This link speaks about mindfulness and I quote:

The weather and its coming and goings make us vigilant. What else in life causes you to be vigilant, attentive, watchful, observant, alert? Is it the literal thief in the night?  Maybe at best I have been attentive – you know… lock the doors and windows, install an motion-sensing flood lights outside, regular things.  Did I stay up all night on watch?  No.  Didn’t install ADT or other home protection systems, either. Maybe a better word for all this is that I was “mindful.”  I was mindful of the possibility of a thief in the night, but it was all just integrated into my life.

I did ask the first two but not Father.  They are good in what they do already to let their faith shine in the whole blogging world.

As for Better Than Bacon, this is what it’s all about: click on Man Alive.

 
Related Links:
 
 

Buddha says “Life is suffering.”

Photo by: Daehyun Kim Source: New York Times

Photo by: Daehyun Kim
Source: New York Times

Buddha says “Life is suffering.”  
Every time someone says this quote, I add: “Get with the program!” 
Yes, I agree.  What I do with suffering is either use it or lose it. 
Useful suffering teaches me something; it makes me wiser and cut away any useless limbs so that I may bear fruit, so to speak.  It makes me a better person, a better sister, a better friend and then some.  
Useless suffering is negative and depressing.  I cannot make sense of it.  When I try to analyze the situation, it causes analysis paralysis.  My spiritual, emotional, mental and physical well-being deteriorates.  I feel it’s a dead-end street and sometimes death is a good way out.  It is devastating. 
I have my fair share of suffering.  Family and friends help tremendously with their outpouring love to help me recover.  Behind this love is the deep faith we have that help me redeemed myself.  It is called Redemptive suffering. 
“Redemption accomplished through love remains always open to all love expressed through human suffering.”  Since my faith is based on the theology of Jesus, I offer my suffering to Him and I am privilege that He allows me to unite my suffering.  This is the greatest way for me in order to rise above the existential angst and cesspool of the soul. 
I can offer the grief, depression, limitation, frustration, pain and sorrow that I experience without suffering.  The uselessness of suffering becomes powerless.  Of course, I have fear.  I am never useless no matter what condition I am in.  And I can say the same to you, you are never useless.  In fact, other people can learn from us; we may be doing more good for humanity.  I know.  Being in the company of women at Talitha Kuom, I learned humility, love, perseverance, trust, compassion and patience. 
To keep up with my answer “get with the program”, I take a look at the area of my life and make sure that none of it is useless and wasted.
 
Related Articles:

It’s All About The Genes

It was St. Patrick’s gathering, most of the second generations were present and all of the third were there.  It’s an opportunity for me to take pictures of the younger generations. 
Caught them playing monopoly in the bedroom and asked if I could take a picture of them.  
“NO!  We are playing” they responded in concert.
“It’s really important and it will only take a second.  Besides, I just want to take a picture of your legs.” 
Now they are curious what Auntie Crazy is up to.  So they oblige. 
Then I explained to them what the picture is all about.  The title is “It’s all about the Genes.”
“Jeans as our pants?” one smart child asked.
“That’s a good way to put it.  It sounds the same but spelled differently.” I said. 
Of course the younger ones do not understand but a couple older second generations understand my cryptic title. 
“G-E-N-E-S, Genes. It means we all came from the same blood or DNA” I said.
“D-N-A?” said the wee one.
“Never mind, let’s stick with the blood.” 
“We all came from the same blood.  Your mother came from your Nana.  Your Nana is my sister.  Nana and I came from Granny.”  I explained and they seem to get a better understanding. 
“Now, sometimes, there is something wrong with the blood that is pass from one person to another.  Meaning, there’s something wrong with me but some of you might not get what’s wrong with me.  And some of your Uncles, Aunties and Cousins might have something wrong with them, too.  For example, depression.”  I further explained. 
“Depression, you mean crazy or weird?”  A naïve question.
“Yes, when you feel weird or acting crazy, it might be a sign.  And do not be scared of talking about feeling weird or crazy because there is always help.  You have to let us know because we are here to help.  Do you guys understand?”  I said. 

All about the Genes

All about the Genes
 “Yes, can we go back to playing the game?” 
End of lesson on Genes 101.

The Evolution of Medicine

In Canada, I pay medical premium for a minimal cost.  The amount of taxes that is taken out of my income is about 30%.  That’s a lot of money considering my income is so little.  I assume the tax is used in part for the medical system. 
Sometime in the 90’s, I was hospitalized for 4 months.  Should I have paid the cost of hospitalization, I would become “mental” thinking how I am going to pay the bill.  I am grateful that it was fully paid by the government. 
My knowledge in medical system is next to nothing; therefore, there is nothing intelligent I can contribute to this post except for insane Medical Humour. 
The Evolution of Medicine 
I have an earache … 
2000 BC – Here, eat this root. 
1000 AD – That root is heathen. Here, say this prayer. 
1850 AD – That prayer is superstition. Here, drink this potion. 
1940 AD – That potion is snake oil. Here, swallow this pill. 
1985 AD – That pill is ineffective. Here, take this antibiotic. 
2000 AD – That antibiotic is artificial. Here, eat this root. 
Suggestion for the Automated Switchboard of a Psychiatric Hospital. 
Thank you for calling.
 If you are obsessive-compulsive, press  ‘1’  repeatedly. 
If you are co-dependent, ask someone else to press  ‘2’. 
If you have multiple personalities, press  ‘3’, ‘4’, ‘5’  and  ‘6’. 
If you are paranoid, we know who you are and what you want;  just stay on the line and we will trace the call. 
If you are schizophrenic, listen carefully and a voice will tell you which number to press. 
If you are depressed, it doesn’t matter which number you press, we won’t answer your call anyway. 
If you are a GP, forget about referring a patient because there aren’t any beds.  
 
Source: Humour MedJokes
 
This is in response to Daily Prompt: Healthcare.  Come and join us, it will expand your mind.

Genie in a bottle or 12 Steps program

Did you say major changes? Sure, I want to have a baby, let me go window shopping and buy one.  Sure, I will visit the a sperm bank to find good genes.  What a silly decision. 
I made a 360 degree turn yesterday and I am still thinking about the what if situation.  
Yesterday was Sunday and I left the mass early because the priest is boring.  I could have easily changed the situation but I stayed until closer to the end.  I did not wait for his blessings. 
Walking as fast as I could in a cold rainy February zigzagging around people, I made a 360 turn.  What made me do that?  My peripheral vision saw a person sitting on the cement outside the mall.  
Meet April in February 3, 2013.  
I asked are you ok?  Then she started crying.  She’s a new face in the block.  I recognize most of the street people in Metrotown Mall.  April made a wrong decision last night according to her, was accused of lying and hates being called a liar.  She left the facility where she stayed for two months to change her life, slept on the street last night and unfamiliar with the city. She came from the Island, up north of BC.  The time was about 2 pm. 
All of this happened out of a blue, don’t ask me why I paid attention to this stranger.  I don’t like WHY question.  Therefore, I did not ask April the why question. 
Did I make a conscious decision to help her?  Yes or No? No. Did I hesitate?  There was no hesitation in my part, I just acted.  She needs a place to stay for one night; she’s looking for the Aboriginal Lodge. 
I’ve asked April only one thing.  April, I want you to pray to your God to help us find you a place.  She sheepishly said yes with a worried look on her face. 
Skipping all the details, I found her a place to stay by 7:30 pm.  An emergency shelter.  We were wet, shaking like a leaf, tired, cold.  We shared a cigarette before we parted and made sure she was inside this beautiful blue looking mansion in a residential area that I’ve never thought it existed closed by where I live. 
This is in response to Daily Prompt: Changes.  Come and join us, it will change your life.

DP: Helpless – Lost Generation

 “Helplessness: that dull, sick feeling of not being the one at the reins. When did you last feel like that –- and what did you do about it?”
It’s now day three that I am under the weather.
I am so sick and tired of being sick with coughing, sneezing and dull achy feeling.  Living alone does not help.  I feel so alone in this world.  I want my mommy.
The weather is uncooperative.  It has been raining for a week now, cold miserable winter day.  I am so bored all cooped up at home.  It’s so depressing looking at the weather.  I want the Sun.
Be patient.  This too shall pass.  It’s hard to be patient being sick with colds.  I know I’m not the only one suffering with this blooming cold.  I caught this from commuting, from work, from who knows.  No point of blaming.  I just have to have a lot of patience.  Where can I buy patience?
What am I going to do about?  I will cook more chicken noodle soup, cuddle up with my cats and a dose of hope from the Lost Generation.