Wednesday, March 14, 2018

Why Are We Afraid To Be Ourselves?

This is going to be a quick blog post since I have my latest EpicPew article due tonight and I'm once again struggling with chronic fatigue.

You know how enthusiastic a child gets when he's really excited about something? How he's just so exuberant about the thing (whatever it may be) that he starts telling everyone he meets about it? That's totally me... and I'm tired of hiding it out of fear of what others will think.

I've never lost that child-like quality for some reason. I get so excited about x, y, and/or z that I tell everyone (I feel comfortable showing that side of myself to) about it. I will talk someone's ear off on the subject if I'm allowed. Many people will say, "wait, I've never seen that side of you before." Well, yeah... that's the whole point of this post.

Lately, I've asked why I've been so afraid of sharing that side of my personality. Was I really that embarrassed about being laughed at for showing that kind of enthusiasm? Well, yes. I've been made of for it in the past; made to feel like there was something wrong with me. I hate to admit it, but I just didn't want people to think of me as some simpleton who got excited over the smallest things... but I do.

I'll also admit that I sometimes fear that people might also think I'm full of myself and am bragging about something if it has to do with me or any happy news I may get. When I share something I'm excited about, the last thing on my mind is how it can make me look good. I just want to share it because, duuuude, it's so cool (!!) or because it's something I'd been praying about and I've seen the fruits of that prayer.

I was reflecting on that lately and I came to the conclusion that things are going to change. I'm going to be as unabashedly excited about things I share because I just want to share that excitement. I'm tired of hiding that side of myself out of fear of what others may think. People may think what they want. I'm sorry but I'm just not going to care anymore.

Does anyone else have the same problem? Do you sometimes think twice about sharing something out of fear of what others may think? Does anyone else want to take this challenge (because it will be a challenge, at first) with me?

Anyway, just a random thought I wanted to share. Okay, fine, and I'm also procrastinating on the article. I'll get to it next, especially since the threat of falling asleep is ever present.

I hope you're all having a lovely week thus far!

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

Friday, March 9, 2018

Blood Work Results, Holy Hour, and Lessons

I'm sorry for the long wait for news but I was super busy the first half of the week and then I fell sick due to some bad carne asada for a couple of days. That triggered terrible fatigue that left me in bed yesterday (stomach issues do that to me) but I'm here now, hoping to post this soon.

I had my rheumatology appointment this past Monday. You know, the one I had that was supposed to tell me what my abnormal lupus panel meant; the one that I was sort of dreading due to the possible lupus diagnosis. I'm relieved to say that the lupus/ANA test came back negative. Insert huge sigh of relief here. I don't show any signs of any serious illness (including rheumatoid arthritis) so the rheumatologist is going to check in on me in 3 months and if things stay as is he'll close my "case" with him.

This doctor said that what came back abnormal was most likely due to the low platelet count I've had for years and believes, like my primary doctor, that it could be depression (and/or low platelets) that have caused the fatigue lately. He did refer me to a new hematologist. I have my first appointment with them on the 20th (in a week and a half). They drew about 12 or so vials of blood for further testing and hope to get those results on that date.

I was so relieved and overjoyed to hear that (so far) there is nothing serious detected. I mean, there is still the possibility that I'll finally get diagnosed with ITP but that's a cross I've been preparing myself for since I first learned that my platelets were on the low side, many, many years ago (even before my father passed away, 9 years ago).

After my appointment, Mom and I went to the local parish to give thanks... and we found that they were having Eucharistic Adoration all this week. It wasn't planned. I had no idea it was going on but it seemed completely fitting that it would occur on the day we went to give thanks. We didn't stay long that day because I was hungry and thirsty. We planned on going the following day but the bad meat fiasco hit and lasted for about 3 days so we didn't go again until today.

On Wednesday, when the urge was strongest, I posted this tweet:

This was my second time doing a Holy Hour... and the first my mom has ever done. We both felt a yearning to spend that hour with Him but things kept getting in the way. I had wanted to do a Holy Hour ever since I heard about it on the Terry and Jesse Show a few episodes ago. The more I read about it, the more I wanted to do it. Even though I'm still feeling tired and a bit lightheaded today, I made it a mission to spend that hour there... in His presence... giving thanks and also asking for that peace which has eluded me for the past couple of weeks.

It's been 11 weeks since I last went to Mass and confession. 11 weeks of fatigue, body aches, dizziness, physical weakness, car issues, and a number of other obstacles. The fatigue has lessened in the past 2 weeks, with yesterday (terrible relapse) and today being the only days on which fatigue has debilitated me. Again, I'm pretty sure it has to done with what I ate and that usually lasted no more than 3 days for me (yes, I know how my body works) so I hope to be well enough to attend confession and Mass tomorrow or Sunday morning, whenever the rain and cold cooperates with both my car and my own system.

You know one really good thing about not going to Mass and confession for so long, but being able to do a Holy Hour? It makes me thirst for the Eucharist, Sacraments, and Mass even more. Not being able to go adds to my depression... and adds to my frustration which makes me lose my temper... which makes it easier for me to sin. I've come to see how, the longer I go without the Eucharist and confession, the weaker I am spiritually and mentally. The longer I go without being able to go to Mass, the more I value and miss it. That's not to say that I didn't before, but it's made me so much more aware of just how necessary it is. What did St. Augustine say? "Our heart is restless until it rests in you." That's how I feel.

All of these trials -- the health issues, the lack of the Sacraments, the lack of Mass -- have been good for me. I know it sounds weird but it's done be a world of good. My relationship with God is getting stronger. I'm noticing what I need to work on to try to live a more saintly life. My trust in God is growing. I'm noticing His love and mercy more clearly and easily than before. It's been a terrible, horrible time, physically and emotionally (at times), but I cannot think of better crosses to have had the privilege to carry these past couple of weeks. Again, it sounds weird but that's how I feel.

I also wanted to thank you all, from the bottom of my heart, for covering me in so many prayers over the last couple of months. I've endured more physical pain and weakness in the past couple of months than I have all my life. I've endured more emotional pain (which I'm not comfortable sharing anytime soon; sorry) in the past 2 months than I have in years; since my father died. Nevertheless, I've felt the power of your prayers and they've given me the strength to continue to endure it all and to offer it up. I'm never going to be able to repay you all but please know that you're all in my prayers, every single day.

Anyway, I just wanted to give y'all an update on this. I hope that things slow down a bit so I can share more news (yes, there's more; non-health related) with y'all. :)

I hope you've all had a great week and that you have a lovely weekend.

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

Wednesday, February 28, 2018

Some Good News and More Waiting

I had my doctor appointment this morning. Well, the one with my new doctor, not the one with the specialist (more on that in a bit). I explained my symptoms and she checked my blood work once again and came to one very simple and obvious yet overlooked possible root cause: depression.

She prefaced it all with saying that, yes, there were two abnormalities in my lupus panel but that 1) it was on the low side for both and 2) the results were beyond her field of expertise which is why she referred me to a rheumatologist. She said that it could be lupus or rheumatoid arthritis or something else but she thinks it's actually depression that's causing all of my symptoms.

It makes sense. For privacy issues and out of respect for the other person involved, I haven't blogged about what's been happening to me but this particular situation has been causing a lot of problems on  a number of levels. It's something that I cannot currently escape but it's definitely caused a lot of grief... to the point where those who are in the know are concerned about my well-being. I'm not in any physical danger but I can't say the same for my emotional and mental health. It's a toxic situation (wow, that's the first time I've been able to say those words) and one that won't get better until there's some distance between myself and the cause of these problems. I tried to work through it last month and that was okay for a couple of weeks but the attempts to fix things have broken down and they seem irreparable.

Looking back at it, I can pinpoint the fatigue and the symptoms getting worse around the same time that the breakdown got worse. I had a couple of good fatigue-free days shortly after my attempt to fix things but as it's broken down once again, my symptoms have gotten worse.

My doctor's recommendations were that I get out more. She said that even if I feel tired, fatigued, and out of it some days, that I should get out and walk at least 5 minutes... especially when the sun is out. Sure, someone should go with me but I need to get out and occupy my time and mind with things outside the home. She also helped me get my April 2nd rheumatologist appointment moved up to March 5th; next Monday. I'm not sure how she managed it but she did. Again, there is still a chance that I could have some autoimmune disease but she believes it's depression. The fatigue (and occasional insomnia), the body aches, the tears flowing more easily (I've always been a sensitive gal but I tear up more easily these days), the feeling of excessive hunger (though I feel full as soon as I begin eating), the lack of concentration, etc. Factor in the fact that I was basically kicked out the SLPA program last December (when my symptoms got worse) along with the situation I can't publicly talk about... yes, it makes sense that it could all my depression after all. In fact, the SLPA program and the situation are also tied together so... it all makes sense.

My mother said that when she was praying for me yesterday, the name of St. Vibiana popped up in her mind... and she didn't know why. We knew that she was the patroness of Los Angeles (the county where we live, where I was born and raised, and where I was baptized) but I didn't know that not only is her feast day September 1st -- which is my baptismal anniversary -- but that she's also considered a patroness of mental health issues. Um, hi. Holy Spirit... was that you talking to my mom? I only found out today of her patronage, too. I'm not saying that it was a definite sign but I'm loving the coincidences.

As I mentioned yesterday, my friends have basically disappeared but most of the ones who are local aren't that local (it's a long drive to the nearest friend) so I don't know who would be willing to come see me and want to hang out with me but I hope that I can eventually work my way up to getting out of the house on my own without the fear of fainting like I nearly did yesterday. I'm going to keep on trying to find writing work to do as I feel like God is still calling me down this path, trying to do what I can to make sure I can work through the depression (which will include trying to find a good therapist since I'd rather try that before I take the medication route), and trying to keep myself mentally, physically, and spiritually healthy. It'll take one day at a time but I'm willing to put in the effort to get through this as well as I can.

That's my update for now. I still have the specialist to see on Monday. My doctor said that he would explain to me whether he would need more tests to rule things out but that I should mention that she believes the symptoms are depression-related in case the abnormalities were not significant enough to worry about for now. I'm still praying it's not lupus and that, if it is, God gives me the courage and strength to endure it. I will be asking both my patron saint for medical issues, St. Giuseppe Moscati, and St. Vibiana to intercede for me if possible. I'll even add in a promise to visit the remains of St. Vibiana (which are kept at the Cathedral of Our Lady of the Angels in downtown L.A.) as a way to thank her if the root cause to my health issues does end up being depression.

Alright, I should go catch up with my emails since they've been neglected over the past couple of days. Oops!

I hope you're all having a great week thus far!

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

Tuesday, February 27, 2018

A Potential Diagnosis, Fear, and Loneliness

I was going to wait until after I got my official (preliminary) results on April 2nd but I'm going to share with now with you for two reasons 1) I need the prayers and 2) I'm going to see my doctor tomorrow after a near fainting experience I had at the grocery store today.

My blood test results from earlier this month came back with good news... and some not so good news. The good news is that my iron level has gotten better and my platelets went up a bit. The (very) good news is that while my white blood count went down a bit, it was still within normal range which it hadn't been for about 2 years or so. The bad news, I'm borderline anemic... and for the first time ever, my lupus/ANA panel came back abnormal.

My doctor called to give me the news the day after my last blood draw, less than a month ago. She said that I had to see a specialist (in rheumatology) because of what was found in the blood test. There are several possibilities -- it could be that I have rheumatoid arthritis (which would explain both the fatigue and the nagging right shoulder pain that has been presented since early January), it could be lupus (which, again, would explain the pain and the fatigue), or it could be a fluke. I believe about 3% of blood tests have shown an initial abnormality in otherwise healthy individuals and have then been discounted as a fluke. I'm hoping for the latter... for preparing myself for either of the former.

As some of you (who have been reading this blog for a while) may remember, I had an acute kidney injury from dehydration a year and a half ago. The possibility that it could be lupus and that my kidneys are in danger honestly worries me. Those of us who get pop-culture news know what a potential lupus diagnosis can mean; we've heard the stories about how Selena Gomez nearly died because her kidneys began shutting down and how her friend, Francia Raisa, saved her life by donating one of her own kidneys. We've heard about how Nick Cannon also nearly lost his life due to kidney failure from lupus complications. I mean, these stories -- while turned out well for those involved -- worry me about a potential lupus "life sentence." But, this is the worst case scenario. The best case scenario is that it's a fluke or that it's rheumatoid arthritis (which I can deal with; I would prefer this between lupus and RA).

I'm not going to sugarcoat or be alarmist about my own symptoms; I'll just be honest. My fatigue has gotten worse in some ways. I spent more days fatigued last month than I have this month. I've only spent 12 days bedridden this month, though I've felt very fatigued about 16 out of 27 days, but when the fatigue hits, it's really bad. This month I began experiencing frightening moments where I feel like I can't walk or move, at all. I've had to rely on my mom to get from my bed to the bathroom, only a couple of feet apart, on at least two occasions. I would be lying if I didn't say that this not only freaked me out but it also reduced me to tears out of both frustration and fear.

In the past week, I've had two near-fainting experiences and an additional day on which I was so lightheaded that I thought I was going to pass out all day. There's a chance I caught the same stomach bug my mom also had last week (we've had similar symptoms) but I decided to get checked out either way because, as I said, my weakness and fatigue has gotten much worse in the past month.

All of this has come at the best time -- Lent! No, that's not sarcasm. It really is the best time to experience this stuff. Not only am I having so many memento mori moments that bring forth my own mortality (which has, honestly, always scared me; I've been scared of dying since I was a little girl... don't ask me why because I don't know what triggered it). The fact that I haven't been well and I haven't been able to go to Mass and confession for the past 10 weeks just compounds the feeling of frustration and restlessness that I feel. I'm hoping to have a priest come over to hear confession and bring the Eucharist sometime this week because I just need it. I can't explain it but I don't feel right going this long without either. My soul yearns for both. I have my moments in which fear that I won't be able to go to confession or receive the Eucharist again. I have no doubt that it's part of spiritual attacks but it happens and it never fails to reduce me to tears.

One more thing before I wrap up this blog post, because I just feel like I should share this: all of this has left me feeling incredibly lonely. Want to know who are your "through thick and thin" (or "ride or die") friends? Go through something like this. I've seen so many of my friends disappear, even when I try to maintain some form of communication. I'm incredibly grateful for the amazing, supportive friends I have. My friends -- my "ride or dies" -- have gone above and beyond to make sure I have what I need to keep going and that includes ordering me food for local restaurants who deliver when I'm too sick to go out and have nothing to eat. But, sadly, everyone lives all over the country (and as far as Italy at the moment) so I don't get to see them. I'm grateful for social media and phones and whatnot but it's not the same.

Not only that, I had a fella basically fall off the face of the earth late last year as I started getting more sick. Yeah, I know, I don't typically talk about this area of my life but I'm willing to share this. The guy was interested, sure, but I guess he didn't want to deal with my health not being perfect so he disappeared. It all makes me think that, if it's God's will that I bear this cross, I feel like it's going to take a miracle to find someone who will love me for me and not care about what physical and medical crosses I will have to bear. I know good guys exist out there -- I've seen guys marry and start families with girl friends and acquaintances who have leukemia and other types of medical issues -- but the longer I stay single, and the worse my symptoms get, the harder it is not to think that perhaps I discerned my vocation wrong and that perhaps I'm called to stay single for the rest of my life. It stinks because I've had my heart set on one day becoming a wife and mother but God knows why things happen and why they sometimes don't. It's a sad thought that adds to my feeling of loneliness but it is what it is.

Anyway, I didn't mean to end this post on a downer but I wanted to get all of this out of my system because I've been carrying it around with me for weeks. I hope that I get some news regarding my blood work tomorrow and that I don't have to wait another month before I know one thing or another.

Please say a prayer for me -- that I may have the courage to bear whatever news is coming my way, that I may never lose hope that things will get better (even when things are seemingly getting worse) and that my faith never wavers during this time.

I will keep y'all updated on any official news I get tomorrow and/or on April 2nd.

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

Monday, February 19, 2018

Becoming Benedictine

I've had Sara Bareilles' "I Choose You" stuck in my head for the past couple of days. As I drowsily wake up from whatever dream (or nightmare) I'm having, the chorus keeps repeating in my mind...

"Tell the world that we finally got it all right,
I choose you.
I will become yours and you will become mine,
I choose you..."

What does this song have to do with the blog title? Well, perhaps the fact that after years of going back and forth on third orders (it was a tie between lay Carmelites and third order Dominicans with the Dominicans edging them out in recent years), I've finally settled on a lay order that (seemingly) came out of nowhere.

Ladies and gentlemen, I've finally decided on becoming a Benedictine oblate.

"Wait, Benedictine?" you may be asking me. "Since when were they on the radar?" It's kind of a long story but I'll try to condense it for y'all.

When I first got the idea to look into third orders -- when I was sure I wasn't called to become a religious sister -- I looked at ALL the third/lay orders. I will admit that I dismissed the Benedictine oblates because they didn't seem to be a right fit for me. Even my spiritual director at that time thought I was a good fit for the Dominicans because of my academically-inclined mind and nature. My favorite saint (well, blessed), Bl. Pier Giorgio Frassati, was a lay Dominican. I loved St. Catherine of Siena. I had a fire to teach others about the faith and defend it, especially when I was an undergrad at my CINO (Catholic in name only) college. With one of my dearest friends discerning his vocation with the Discalced Carmelite Friars and so many of my friends leaning Carmelite -- as well as finding a kindred spirit in St. Therese of Lisieux -- I also considered the Carmelites as frontrunners. I think I kept going back and forth between these two orders because, as much as I loved the people associated with them and the orders themselves, neither felt like the right fit for me.

How did the Benedictines win me over? I believe it started with reading The Benedict Option by Rob Dreher last Lent. Yes, I know... I know. A controversial book, but I got my first real taste of Benedictine spiritually from it. After reading it, I was intrigued to learn more about the order so I read The Rule of Saint Benedict. All this happened last Lent. Little did I know that everything (and I mean everything) that began last Lent had planted the seeds for what I was going to go through for the rest of the year. I had no idea that it meant me also choosing to become a Benedictine oblate before this year's Lenten season began.

When I knew I was finished with school, my former spiritual director's words kept coming back to my mind, "Wait until you finish school to discern. Wait until you finish school to discern..." Then I met a lovely lady who talked about discerning with the Monks of Norcia and it all clicked for me... including the thought of discerning with them as well. There has always been something about them that has a struck a chord with me (those who have been reading this blog long enough may remember I even donated my entire royalty check (and then some) of the last novel sale of 2016 to their earthquake relief fund).

I'm lucky that they accept overseas oblates. It will mean a lot of hard work in the future because it will mean that I'll have to make a trip out to Italy once a year but I'm willing to do all the work to make it happen. (btw, if you do want to make a trip to visit them -- even if you aren't a discerning oblate -- there's one coming up this year). I've also looked into the local Benedictines (at St. Andrew's Abbey) but there's something in my heart that really wants my discernment to be with the Monks of Norcia. I've already contacted them and now I have to wait to see what happens.

If you're wondering if there was one specific thing that sold me on the Benedictines, the answer is "no." I took a lot of things into consideration: their spirituality, what was required of its oblates, the orthodoxy of the particular abbey, my strengths, my weaknesses, my temperament, what gifts God has given me, what I felt He has planted in my heart (which I have yet to share with the world), where I felt He was leading me to, etc. Most importantly, I didn't do it on a whim... which I tend to do when I get excited about things. I took the time to think about it, research it, pray about it, and make sure it felt like the path God was leading me down on.

And so my journey begins. I don't know where it'll end but I've felt both very excited and at peace about this decision for a while now. I can't wait to see what God store in store for me. :)

That's it for now. I'm still feeling weak and terrible (I've actually written this blog post in parts over the past 2-3 days.

I hope you all have a lovely week!

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