Today I am honored to be joined by some immensely talented ladies (who also happen to be among my favorite bloggers) to commemorate May as Maternal Mental Health Month. We all wanted to come together to provide a resource for women to read the stories of multiple catholic mothers who are having to bear the difficult crosses of depression and anxiety, both to provide support for those who are struggling with them, and to raise awareness on the topic for those who have not personally experienced it.
Dear fellow suffering mother,
I see you, forcing the smile as you hold your precious young child. You were up in the wee hours of the night, putting the baby back to sleep again. Your exhaustion is palpable, your nerves racked, and your newly altered body a stranger to you.
The sense of Isolation encloses you, trapping you in its prison. You miss the company of other adults, but you are afraid to reach out for help. In your mind all of your friends have their own problems to deal with. You think to yourself, "I should be able to do this on my own. This is my responsibility. I just need to try harder, be stronger, and things will come together." Except despite all or your best efforts, you aren't able to reach the goals you have set for yourself. You decide to not leave the house until you get your act together.
You spend immense amounts of time and energy, worrying about your baby's welfare, spending long sessions with "Dr. Google" trying to make sure that everything is normal. Now that there is this magical invention of the internet, you think that if you just do enough research and work, you can be the perfect mother for your child.
Any deviation from your predetermined philosophy of "THE ONLY RIGHT WAY TO PARENT," results in an internal barrage that you can't silence. Inability to exclusively breastfeed your child? He will grow up to have a whole assortment of difficulties from asthma to low IQ, and it is all your fault. Baby wearing makes you claustrophobic? Clearly you care more about your own anxieties than your baby's sense of security. Or at least this is what you tell yourself as you lie awake, exhausted, but unable to sleep.
You feel like you are walking on eggshells all the time, afraid that at any moment you might snap and release a barrage of tears or anger.
And then panic attacks come. You feel like you will die. You feel your throat closing, dizzy from lack of oxygen, fearing the worst.
Then there is the shame. "Why do I feel like this? I love my baby more than life, but I hate being a mother." You convince yourself that you can't tell anyone what you are feeling, for fear of judgement.
Besides, surely this is just baby blues, you say to yourself, "I have no right to go get treatment when there are so many women who are surely suffering worse than I. It is just a testament to how pathetic I am that I can not handle this with ease."
Out of fear of suffering a stigma attached to a "maternal mental illness," you keep quiet. You keep your head down and just try to survive each day. Who knows what horrible things could happen if you reached out for help. In your vivid imagination every scenario ends poorly. They might put you on medication that makes you psychotic, or worse take your children away from you.
Perhaps you even start to think that anyone else could do a better job as mother or wife. You wonder if maybe your family would be better off without you . . .
Stop. Its not true. I know, I have been there too.
You are NOT a failure. You are a beautiful, hardworking, loving mother, who is giving her all. A mother who is suffering from an illness. And it is NOT your fault.
Despite what other's might say, you did not chose this. This isn't some spiritual weakness that you can cure through more prayer. Clinical depression is not despair, nor anxiety a lack of trust in God. They are biological and psychological conditions, not something you are choosing to bring upon your family because you are "evil" or "weak."
You bear a heavy cross. Like all other crosses you didn't pick yours out nor can you choose when to put it down. You are not weak for needing help. Even Christ had help carrying His cross.
Please don't make the mistake of thinking you are not deserving of receiving help! Don't prolong your suffering, thinking that these trials are just something that needs to be offered up. Parenthood presents its own myriad set of challenges and trials for your sanctification, but this does not have to be one of them. You deserve to be well again.
I am not going to insult you by saying if you just do x, y, or z you will feel all better again. Each person's situation is unique and deserves a custom approach to treatment. Find a professional that you are comfortable with and they will be able to work with you to find the course of action that is the best fit for you. Some people are able to find relief just by diet changes, or progesterone shots; others find therapy to be immensely helpful; others find that taking medication makes a world of a difference; still others do a combination of the above approaches. Find what works best for you and don't let anyone shame you for how you choose to treat your illness.
More than anything, I want you to know that you are not alone. How I wish I could be sitting with you and talking about these things face to face, instead of separated by screens. I wish I could be there in person to comfort and encourage you. I don't pretend to have all, or even most of the answers. Heck, I am still trying to navigate this myself. But somehow these struggles become easier when they are shared together.
You are not alone and you are not weak. You are a fighter. You are more than a fighter. You are a mother. That is the strongest synonym for brave that I can think of.
Your Sister In Christ,
Please take some time to check out what the other ladies participating in the blog hop have to say!
Please share this article with anyone you think it might help!
Have you or someone you know ever suffered from depression or anxiety? What was your experience like? What did you learn through the process?Continue reading...
I love the idea of Mother's Day: families taking time to honor those special women who have given so much of themselves. My own mother did so much for my siblings and I, that celebrating her generous love for only one day seems inadequate.
For many people, mother's day can serve as a painful reminder of loss. Perhaps some will be mourning the passing of their mother or grandmother for the first (or even twentieth) time. In other cases, the day serves as a reminder of the child unable to join the celebration through death or separation. Some struggle as they mark another year childless. Maybe, most painfully of all, the day harbors the regret of motherhood lost through abortion, or childhood lost to abuse or neglect.
It is at these times when presence and love are most anticipated and desired, that their absence is most keenly felt.
This mother's day, perhaps the most important gift you can give yourself or a loved one is permission to grieve. No one wants to feel sad, especially on a day when happiness is expected, but feigned happiness is not very helpful in the long term.
In order to deal with emotions properly you have to give yourself permission to recognize them, and accept that they are there for a time. It is so important not to shame yourself for what you are feeling. Telling yourself, "I shouldn't feel this way" does nothing to resolve the situation and only adds the burden of guilt. Find healthy ways to express these emotions, perhaps through writing a letter, creating a work of art, or talking with a loved one.
Although I am blessed that my mother is still living, my husband is not so fortunate. Mother's Day has become one of the most difficult days of the year for him. A day when he needs to take time to grieve.
I have to confess in years past, I was not very supportive of this. I didn't understand why he couldn't choose to focus on celebrating me as mother of our growing family and his grandmothers, both of whom are still living.
Frankly, I was being selfish. He shows me in so many ways throughout the year how much he admires and respects all that I do as mother to our children - I was not in any way suffering from a lack of appreciation. I needed to recognize that he was unable to celebrate in the way that I expected and that he needed space to grieve. He needed me to take a step back and truly listen to what he was saying and give him the space to process all that he was feeling. Sometimes it is so difficult to show true compassion.
Broken down into its roots, compassion literally means "to suffer with" someone. Often we focus on doing whatever we can to try to make a person feel better, when in fact what they really need is someone to suffer with them. Suffering alongside someone reveals great love and can foster deepened intimacy.
One of the few good things about grief is that it is a sign of love. No one mourns what they are indifferent about.
I hope that tomorrow is a day of joy and celebration for you and your loved ones. But if it is not, I hope that you are able to mark the day in a way that is full of peace and connection with the loved ones around you. Take time to enter into the day according to whatever season of life you are in. Allow yourself and other's to be fully present in whatever commemoration the current stage of life requires, even when that is out of step with others. As it says in Ecclesiastes 3:4, there is "a time to weep and a time to laugh, a time to mourn and a time to dance."
This Mother's day, I pray that any sorrow you may experience can give way soon to a time of profound joy.
P.S. Here are a few links to ideas that have been bouncing around in the back of my head, while writing this post:
Like most people, I have to fight the urge to complain. When things get more and more difficult, I just want to vent about all of the things that make me feel like I am going to lose it big time.
Lately I have noticed something: venting doesn't help all that much.
Now don't get me wrong, it is super important to have friends and family to confide your troubles to, that is healthy. What I have found to be counterproductive for myself, however, is searching for opportunities to vent to my husband, or mentally writing Facebook posts (that I never publish) about how dang hard life is right now. These type of mental habits are essentially negative feedback loops which are training my mind to be on the lookout for more things that suck, driving me even more nuts.
Instead of building such negative mental habits, I would rather take inventory of the things that are saving my sanity right now.
Reading: I've made no secret about it, I LOVE to read. Immersing myself in a good story, or learning new things feeds my soul and recharges my batteries. Fiction can offer a wonderful escape from the never ending dance of laundry, dishes, cleaning and diapers, while non-fiction can offer me tools to better understand the world and others.
Writing: Perhaps even more than reading, writing puts me in a state of flow where I am completely absorbed in the task at hand and deriving great enjoyment from it. Shaping words and phrases, molding them into the form I desire, its rather like being a child at play, totally engrossed in their work. I may not always like the end product, but the process is very relaxing.
Side note: Does anyonelse have arguments with characters that they are creating in their heads? I just started a short story yesterday, and one of the characters keeps being a real snot. I keep scolding her, but unfortunately she don't seem to be listening. . . that's not how her character is supposed to play out!
Prayer: Though I haven't been doing enough of this as of late, it has helped immensely in calming anxieties.
Babysitting: My sister has been staying with us for the past few weeks. It has been so nice to be able to do things like grocery shopping without two little ones in tow. I swear they tag team sneaking things into my cart. In addtion my husband has been watching the kids for an evening about once a week so I can get together with friends AND have conversations with complete sentances. It has been wonderful.
UPDATE: The kids and I have a GI bug today. Help has been indispensible. On that note, lets add disposable diapers to the list of things saving my sanity.
Date Nights: Man are these helpful! I crumble quickly without enough time with my beloved. It is hard to make the time for these, but man are they worth it!
Counselling: This one can be embarassing to talk about, but I wanted to share in case it helped others get the push they needed to seek help. About once a week I have been going to a counsellor for treatment of moderate chronic depression and a mild anxiety disorder. For months I was too proud to seek help, thinking that because I haven't been through any huge trauma, that I should be able to handle my problems just fine. I was wrong.
At counselling I have been able to get an outsider's perspective, learn techniques for controlling my biological reactions, and work on changing the negative mental scripts that I have been using for years. Slowly but surely, things are getting better.
Friends: I have been abundantly blessed with a group of close friends. Most of us have few (if any) family members in the area and we have become each other's support network. These are friends who know they can stop by whenever, to share a beer or glass of wine and just hangout. They are ok with the toys strewn all over the floor and the half naked toddlers running around. They even help me clean things up! We can and do call each other when we need a hand, or emotional support. I can't imagine life without them.
Hat tip to Anne from ModernMrsDarcy.com for sharing the idea a few months back in her newsletter about looking for the things that are saving your sanity. I had started writing this post back at the begining of the month. I am glad I didn't finish it when I had planned, because Anne is hosting a linkup today for people to share what is saving their sanity right now. Check out her post and the link-up at her blog!
What is saving your life/sanity right now? Tell me about it in the comments!
Also, on a personal note, I would appreciate it if you could spare a prayer or two for me tomorrow. I have a doctor's appointment where I will get some test results back; it is most likely nothing too serious, but the possibility of a thyroid tumor or Hashimoto's disease was mentioned at the last appointment. Thanks!
One winter morning last month, I awoke to a world transformed. An ice storm had come and encircled every detail of the landscape. Pine trees appeared aged, stooping under their new found weight, while bare branches seemed to youthfully adopt their new radiant attire.
Initially, I glanced unimpressed at this scene, viewing it as another dreary winter day. I envisioned the ice holding sleeping blooms of the trees hostage, stifling them, suffocating them. I saw no beauty against the background of the grey sky.
Then I recalled a similar day several years ago. A young woman, just past the cusp of adulthood was out enjoying just such a day. She and her friends shrieked in delight as they struggled to maintain their balance, catching hold of each other. Peppering the outbursts of joy was childlike wonder at the beauty surrounding them. Each tried to capture a piece of what that day meant, one through photos, another through a poem.
A brief search produced the poem my friend had written, and a more extensive one produced the pictures I took. As I savored the words and photos I realized in this very moment I am faced with a choice.
I can choose to be burdened by winter and groan under its weight, like the pine trees, or to revel in the myriad possibilities for beauty that today brings. Perhaps I can reclaim the part of my youth when the sight of snow filled me with wonder at the strange new world it brought, and the prospect of playing in the wonderland it created was a cause for joy.
Imagery is powerful. It speaks to us in the recesses of our hearts, touching on memories and emotions that have woven themselves into the very fabric of our identity, bringing them to the forefront of our minds, often without our conscious decision to do so.
When the imagery is associated with positive emotions and memories, the experience can be pleasant such as the smell of pine at Christmas time, a photo from your wedding day, the sound of a newborn baby crying for the first time.
Unfortunately, when the imagery is associated with a past trauma or occasion of pain, one can be flooded in the present moment with the pain of past experiences. Sometimes you can avoid the triggers, but other times they are things that must be faced.
When facing imagery that evokes a pronounced negative experience, it can be helpful to take a step back and try to shift the associations away from the negative experiences to more positive ones. This can be done in a few different ways. One can reflect on the negative image and try to discover/rediscover positive aspects of it. Another approach would be to try to make new happy memories to associate with it.
One example of how Catholics frequently use this technique to great effect, is when sufferings are re-framed as an invitation to join Christ on His way of sorrows, to pick up the cross you are presented and with open arms to suffer with the Beloved.
The first part of the article shows an attempt to cognitively shift my associations with snow in particular and winter in general from my negative perceptions and memories to more positive ones. In my case, I am working to change my associations with snow and ice from feelings of being trapped, helpless, and afraid.
I was in two car accidents because of snow; in one the car flipped and I found myself suspended upside down in the air, trying to figure out how to escape without falling on broken glass. I had only been driving at 25 mph. Ironically, this accident was less traumatic than the other, because I was an adult when it happened.
After the first accident I was scared of leaving the house if there was any snow on the ground (which in the snowbelt of NE Ohio is pretty much all winter). Every time I was in a car I feared that we would get in an accident, and this time someone would die. Snow represented a very real fear of death.
For me this has been a challenging process. Frankly, I am far from where I want to be in the journey. I have been able to shift some of my perceptions, but many images still are defaced with the scars my mind projects onto them.
The good thing about scars though, is that they are wounds in the process of healing; they don't bleed or throb anymore. The One Who accompanies me in this journey has scars of His own. Scars which fill me with great hope, for they speak to me of love's power to heal even the most painful of wounds.
None of this is intended as psychological or medical advice. I am not trying to play psychologist, just trying to pass along information that I have found helpful.
Have you ever used cognitive reassociation? Did you find it helpful?
If you found this article helpful, share it with others!
"The invitations you sent out for Sammy's birthday were so cute," a friend complimented at a recent play date. "It is so sweet that you are doing a themed party. It makes me think that we should put more effort into our children's birthday parties. They are so inadequate."
"Um . . . thank you." I stammered. "I wasn't originally planning on doing a theme, but Sammy asked me and wanted to be very involved in the planning. It entertained him and kept him out of trouble when we designed the invitations together. I totally wouldn't have done it if he wasn't so interested. And you are selling yourself short! We all have a lot of fun at the birthday parties you host. There is nothing superior about having a themed party, especially if it drives you crazy in the process!"
This type of conversation has recurred a few more times in recent weeks with different friends and over different topics. One friend pondered whether home made Halloween costumes were superior to store bought. Another claimed she was "unmotivated" for not working on organizing her sewing and crafting supplies and fixing up her house (while pregnant).
Throughout each conversation I was puzzled as to why they were judging themselves so harshly.
Don't they know??? Don't they know that I compare myself with them and find that I come up lacking? One friend is in great shape, another incredibly intelligent (and an AMAZING cook), a third is an engaging teacher, who really invests herself in her students. There are so many things that they are doing better than me.
Don't they see how talented they are?
In the comparison game everyone eventually leaves a looser, distracted from using all of their unique talents and qualities.
No one has the time or capacity to be good at everything, no matter how it might appear on the outside or from one's carefully controlled internet presence. Time spent on one thing is time not spent on another. We need to invest our time wisely and prioritize it on the things that play to our strengths.
So, please my friends (both in real life, or online), please don't spend your energy regretting all of the things that you aren't doing (or aren't doing as well as someone else), and instead reflect on your gifts and use them in all the ways that only you can. If you enjoy planning themed birthday parties with your kids, or sewing them costumes, that's great. If you don't enjoy doing these things, then that is awesome too, and nothing to be ashamed about.
You are an amazing unrepeatable individual. You have a combination of talents, dreams and passions that has not been seen previously in history. You have been put on this earth for a purpose and have a mission no one else can accomplish. Please don't spend your time comparing yourself to others.
You are capable of doing great things. You are doing great things. Even if it is something as simple as selflessly giving to your loved ones day in and day out or as small as keeping your cool when the toddler has drawn on the wall with a permanent marker. Especially then.
The most important part of "greatness" is loving without counting the cost.
And that my friends is something I see you doing incomparably well.
For those of you who are experiencing snow this week, you have my deepest sympathies. Should you actually be enjoying the snow, let me know and I will make a point of sending mine to you when it comes.
This time of year can be especially difficult for those with Seasonal Affective Disorder (SAD), which is a form of winter depression brought on by the decrease in sunlight due to the shorter winter days. Even for those who are just suffering from winter doldrums or cabin fever, this time of year presents its share of challenges.
I have been managing my SAD for the past decade and have picked up a few tips for coping and even thriving in winter that I would love to share with you:
1. Maximize sun exposure and daylight hours. Rise earlier to enjoy as many hours of sunlight as possible. I know this one is easier said than done since SAD leaves you completely exhausted, but every hour of sunlight helps. Make sure to get outside for a while everyday even in the cold to derive greater benefit from those glorious rays.
2. Use a SAD light. Even maximizing natural daylight, often isn't enough. Using a SAD light such as this one (I don't own this type, but it is similar to mine) can help to synchronize your body clock and help with energy levels.
3. Break a sweat. Exercise can help with energy levels and flushing toxins from your body. Also the post work out "high" can temporarily help elevate mood.
4. Maximize nutrition. In the winter more than any other time of year, I hear the siren call of carbs and sugary foods. They tell me, "Oh you're tired? Eat me, I will give you the energy you so desperately crave. " They lie. Invariably I always feel worse when I dramatically increase my carb and/or sugar intake.
In addition to eating healthful foods, supplements can be very helpful. This year I started using this brand of fermented cod liver oil to help improve my vitamin D levels, and have noticed a marked improvement in mood since incorporating it into my routine. Even if you are maximizing sunlight, it is almost impossible to get enough vitamin D from sun exposure alone in the winter due to overcast skies, and the need to be bundled up. Supplementing can help fill in the gap. My doctor told me that of all the people he has tested for vitamin D deficiency the vast majority were deficient or barely adequate. Bottom line: pretty much everyone can benefit from some Vitamin D supplementation.
5. Engage your mind. Find something to keep your mind occupied: take a class, join a book club, volunteer. The distraction and mental stimulation can help, as wells as having something enjoyable regularly scheduled to anticipate.
6. Take a winter trip. I know winter is far from an ideal time to travel, but changing things up, even with just a day trip, can help provide a much needed change of pace and something to look forward to. Resist the temptation to hibernate like a bear.
If possible, you could even take a trip somewhere warm and sunny. Who says vacations are only for the summer months? Taking one in the winter can help to break up the season into smaller parts.
7. Form new associations. There was probably a time when you were a small child that winter was a season of wonder and beauty. Pause frequently in the moment when you catch yourself thinking about winter to challenge negative associations and form new more positive ones. Make new more positive memories in which winter isn't merely accidental, but rather essential to the experience.
How about you, do you enjoy winter? Ever suffer from cabin fever, or SAD? What are some of your coping strategies?
Since there are seven of these tips, I will be linking up with Jen from ConversionDiary.com for 7 Quick Takes. Happy Friday!
Update: This week 7 Quick Takes is actually at thisain'tthelyceum.org. God Bless!
Disclaimer: I am not a doctor, nor am I trying to play one on the internet. If you think you have SAD talk to your doctor about strategies that you should adopt for your unique needs.
If you found this article helpful share it with a friend!
Recently I posted this article written by a college classmate on my Facebook page. Later that day, a friend asked me to contrast that article to this one (be warned, the article contains vivid descriptions of what it is like to die a lingering, suffering filled death). This post is born of thoughts I had after reading both.
Because of the intense suffering and break down of the body that occurs with death, some call it ugly. To the atheist, the suffering that accompanies the final days of one's life could be described as "a tale told by an idiot, full of sound and fury, signifying nothing." If pain is devoid of all meaning and purpose, than the most reasonable thing in the world is to "take arms against a sea of troubles and by opposing, end them."
When faced with excruciating, seemingly pointless suffering, some individuals consider suicide a an appropriate response to such a fate, perceived worse than death itself. As holocaust survivor Viktor Frankl, a man well acquainted with suicide from his time in a concentration camp, wrote: "Life is not made unbearable by circumstances, but by a lack of meaning and purpose."
Advocates of suicide and euthanasia make the bold proclamation that the sufferings preceding death (or even those throughout life) are devoid of meaning, not worth enduring. or simply unbearable. As a result, they promote suicide as a means of escaping suffering out of despair or fear.
For death to become bearable, one must first find meaning in suffering; this meaning can be seen from both natural and supernatural perspectives.
Every time that I have been a part of someone's final days, I have been struck by suffering and deaths' ability to transform, to drive change by forcing one to confront their own mortality. The person grapples with understanding what it means to have the span of their days on this earth numbered, perhaps imminently.
Death dispels the illusion of being in control. The one who suffers through it watches his very body turn on him. He faces an experience he can try to fight, but cannot escape. As Viktor Frankl noted, "When we are no longer able to change a situation, we are challenged to change ourselves." Death, then, offers the ultimate challenge, one that can compel us to change ourselves for better or for worse.
I have seen death bring about great increases in humility, love, forgiveness, and patient endurance. I have seen it provide a chance for loved ones to express their affection through gentle service and keeping vigil at the bedside, and for the dying to humbly receive that love. Often it takes the form of holding the dying person's hand and whispering "I love you" countless times as you suffer together.
Facing the permanence of death has a way of reminding one of what his true priorities are. The noisy distractions of life fade away and relationships have an opportunity to come to the forefront. Love may intensify and be purified from selfishness and vain attachments.
Suicide robs the dying and their loved ones of the opportunity to share this deepening of love, the fullness of which can only be realized through the unique process of natural death. In a sense, our lives are not simply our own; they belong to others. We cannot be truly happy in this life except by giving of ourselves to others. Our ties in the human family are closer and more profound than we often realize; each life touches so many others. When someone deliberately chooses to terminate his own life, he tears a gaping hole in the fabric of his community. Whether intentional or not, committing suicide communicates to others that escaping one's own suffering takes priority over the time and love that could have been shared otherwise within the natural death process, however painful as it may be for all involved.
The most significant relationship one facing death may no longer ignore is a relationship with God. Death prompts one to take a final stand and decide what type of relationship they want to have toward God: one of love, apathy, or defiance.
For those who choose to draw closer to God, suffering holds an even greater purpose. They are in the unique position of being a visible sign of Christ crucified to the world. "Always bearing about in [their] body the mortification of Jesus, that the life also of Jesus may be made manifest in [their] bodies" (2 Cor 4:10). In their pain and trials, the Christian shares in "the fellowship of his sufferings" (Philipians 3:10). Love is proven, not in the heights of ecstasy, but in the crucible of suffering. Love "bears it out even to the edge of doom." (Shakespeare, Sonnet 116)
With their bodily sufferings, the dying can fill "up what is lacking in Christ's afflictions" (Col 1:24). This is not to say that there is anything insufficient about Christ's suffering and death on the cross, rather that, in His love, Christ has given us a means of applying the merits of His suffering and death to our own soul and the souls of others. Accepting the sufferings one is presented, is a powerful way of taking up the cross and following in the footsteps of the savior.
Looking back on my own life and reflecting on my sufferings, I see that the moments of greatest pain and sorrow were not pointless. These heartaches ignited the fire of passions, previously unknown, and increased my capacity to love others. They prepared me for gifts I had not previously been disposed to receive.
Perhaps then the sufferings which precede death are merely preparation for receiving the greatest gift God has to offer: eternal life. A life where every tear shall be wiped from our eyes, "For now we see only a reflection as in a mirror; then we shall see face to face. Now I know in part; then I shall know fully, even as I am fully known" (1Cor 13:12).
Do you see meaning in death and suffering? Are there reasons that you find suffering meaningful (or not) that you care to share?
P.S. Prolonging death unnecessarily will be addressed separately in another article.
I have aspirations of also writing on the idea of what constitutes a meaningful quality of life, but I am a slow writer, it will probably be quite a while.
If you appreciated this article please share it with others!Continue reading...
To think a person's value is determined by what they produce is a form of slavery whose subtlety allows it to run rampant. Viewing all relationships in terms of what can be gained is a poor way to live life; and yet the philosophical lens of utilitarianism has colored so many aspects of how we look at others and even ourselves, as human beings.
How many times has a woman been viewed too unattractive to love, though she is a thoughtful, generous, charming person. No, her value must be measured only by her ability to produce arousal in the opposite sex.
How many times will the homeless man sitting on the corner be deemed unworthy of the same care that one gives their dog? No, investing any time or money into helping him would just be "enabling him and draining resources."
How many times has an unborn child been condemned to die because that extra chromosome means that their life isn't "worth" living. (Who gets to make the call on whose life is worth living and whose is not?)
I know for my part how hard it is to escape utilitarianism's pervasive influence. Even if I no longer evaluate others based on what they can do for me, my estimation of my own value as a person is influenced by my abilities, or perceived lack there of.
I can't count how many times I have looked in the mirror and have not noticed a body that can bear and nurse my babies, but rather have remained fixated on the many ways motherhood has left its unforgiving marks.
Or I recall in college berating myself over getting a B+ in a particularly challenging class.
Even now reflecting back over my day with my children it doesn't matter how many stories were read, songs were sung, diapers changed, projects completed, dishes washed, floors scrubbed, all that I focus on is that I failed to meet my goal of having dinner on the table when my husband came home from work.
In all of these areas my thoughts are, "You are a failure. How could you be so incompetent? You are lazy and stupid and until you improve, you are not worthy of love." And you know what? I am done with living life like this. I am tired of measuring my perceived worth against my accomplishments and finding it lacking. I may be a weak and imperfect person, but I am NOT worthless.
I am going to resist the temptation to list my accomplishments in an attempt to prove that to myself. Because as I keep having to remind myself: they do not determine my value.
One Who has far superior judgement has already determined what I, and you, and the plain woman, the homeless man, the baby with Down Syndrome, and all the rest of mankind are worth; and it is nothing less than every drop of His Blood, every ounce of His strength and every beat of His pierced Heart.
As a mother, I look down on my sleeping children and recall all of the sufferings that have brought us to this point and I think to myself, "You are worth it all." So too, I imagine that, God has looked at each of us and weighed our lives against all of the sufferings He endured, and declared, "You are worth it all, my child."
Have you ever struggled with viewing yourself or others with a utilitarian mindset? What helped you to combat it?
As a side note, I hope no one misinterprets this post as a desire to boost my confidence by fishing for compliments. This has been a difficult post to publish, but I wanted to share it in case it could be of help to others who are going through similar struggles. I know that it is a hard place to be in. I just wanted to let you know that you are precious and have inestimable value, regardless of your accomplishments or skills. Its a lesson I am still struggling to learn.
If this post was helpful to you please consider sharing it.Continue reading...
In January, frustrated with the chaos I was encountering, I decided to seek to thrive in all that I did. I set goals for various aspects of my life: relationships, health, prayer, etc. (I hope to share them with you sometime soon, to help keep me accountable to them.)
While I have been progressing in my goals, and life is becoming more ordered and running smoother, this progress didn't bring me as much satisfaction as I had hoped. In my mind, thriving was still eluding me.
As I pictured it, thriving meant managing all of the duties and responsibilities of my life with perfect competence. I figured that, if I tried hard enough, I really could have it all together. You know, a perfectly clean house, with delicious all-organic paleo meals on the table promptly at 6pm, children whose days are spent engaging in a variety of stimulating learning activities (definitely not with any television), picture perfect health, and extensive periods in the day for prayer and recollection.
While all of these things are good and desirable, it wasn't until recently that I realized that I had missed the point. In my naivete, I had thought that sanctity- which is what true thriving is all about- necessitated having it all together.
With relief I recalled the lives of saints who share my vocation as mother. If I held them to the same standards that I had proposed for myself, then Sts. Monica, Gianna and Frances hadn't really thrived. St. Monica had difficulties in her relationship with her son and husband; St. Gianna suffered from cancer; and St. Frances was constantly interrupted at prayer by her children.
When it comes to thriving, only one thing is needful: to draw closer to our Lord through the circumstances of our daily life. I may not be able to control the chaos and trials in my life, but I can control whether these trials bring me closer to God, or lead me further away.
Thriving doesn't just happen when everything is going right; it happens when you are being tested in the furnace of adversity and are molded into what you are supposed to be.
Is it even possible to thrive without trials?
The challenges and chaos aren't distractions from my goal for a life well lived; they are a means of pushing me closer to it. It is up to me to use them wisely. Maybe then I will experience what it looks like to thrive.
How about you? Have you ever experienced a trial that helped you become a better person? I would love to hear about it in the comments!Continue reading...