Allowing yourself to be loved after loving

In November I helped lead a retreat that really changed my life. I gave my testimony, lead a small group, and found Jesus all over again. I loved more than I ever have in my life, and leading the girls on retreat was one of the best experiences in my life. I put my entire heart into planning and leading this weekend.

And then it ended.

Don’t get me wrong, my desire and need to love others continued, it continued intensely. But, I was unable to allow myself to be loved, by God or others.

The relationships I had made on the weekend were incredible, founded on vulnerability, openness, and a desire for relationship with Christ. But many of these friendships were with girls who I had led, who I was supposed to lead to Christ. After that weekend, vulnerability and openness about my hurts, pain and struggles was nonexistent with these beautiful women I considered sisters.

In my testimony, I talked about my depression. It’s a taboo topic for me in some ways, I hate admitting my mental illness, and often I feel like once I admit my flaws and allow my loved ones to see me at my worst, they’ll be afraid and run.

What if the people I trust run away from me? 

It’s a common fear, being afraid of our own flaws and what will happen when others see them. Fear is the reason we keep these flaws in the dark.

In the Gospel of John, Jesus says: “I am the Light of the world; he who follows Me will not walk in the darkness, but will have the Light of life.” – John 8:12. We are not meant to live in darkness, no matter how scary, awful, and just plain dark our lives get. We are the people of light and love. Let there be light.

At Jesus’ most vulnerable, the night of His death, he was alone. The man He told to build His Church denied even knowing Him. One of His best friends put a price on his life. What was it? Twenty pieces of silver for a friend? Throughout His mission, people followed him all over, He had twelve steady apostles who all said “Aw, bro, yeah, we’ll do anything for ya!” When He was carrying His cross, a complete stranger was the one who helped out. Not one of the people who declared Him Lord, not the blind man who was now able to see, but a random man picked from the crowd. Besides His Mother (God love her), complete strangers were the one who carried His cross, wiped His face, wept for Him.

At the foot of the cross was John, a young boy, Mary Magdalene, who may or may not have been freed from demons (no one really knows, but she’s still a boss), and His mother.

How could this be? Jesus is God. He didn’t have to be so alone. When picking His disciples, He could have chosen people who would’ve stuck by Him, but He chose these sinful, flawed people, knowing full well the abandonment that was to follow.

Please, I beg you, don’t let fear ruin your chances of loveAllow people to see your wounds and scars. There is no deeper love than the love of one who sees them, and sees beauty and strength. You deserve that love, whether in a friendship or romantic relationship. Allow yourself and your scars to be loved. 

You are worthy of love. Real, true, heart racing, lay down my life for love. Seek friendships and relationships that encourage this love.

“We love, because He first loved us.” – 1 John 4:19

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The Letter Project

Last weekend, I was feeling incredibly sad. No, not sad. I was desolate. I was in my bed, just sobbing, and it felt like all of my limbs had fallen asleep. I wanted my brain to turn off, but everything that was upsetting me just kept replaying in my mind, and I kept falling further and further as my internal voice taunted me, telling me I didn’t deserve love.

But the thing is, I know I’m worthy of love, and more than that, I know I am loved! So, when I began to feel better, I called upon the people I knew loved me and asked them to do me a favor.

I asked them to write me a letter and mail it to me. My plan is to put these letters, unopened, somewhere safe. Then, whenever I feel the way I felt last weekend, I can pull out a letter and read words of love and friendship from someone I know loves me.

I’ve already gotten three letters, and I haven’t opened one yet. That’s great, but also, I really want to read what’s in them.

Know that you are so, so loved. I know that you have people in your life who would do something similar in a heartbeat, or even quicker. Those who love you want you to know their love. If you feel like this letter project is something that could help you, I urge you to reach out to your loved ones, and I know that they will respond.

Keep Calm and Carry On.

Those who struggle with mental illness know this: coping skills are key to a successful recovery as well as life with mental illness. I’m going to make a “master list” of coping skills that either a) I’ve tried or b) YOU’VE tried and would like to share. If you’re interested in adding a helpful coping skill that is not on the list, simply fill out the form below. 

Happy coping!

Coping Skills 101

1. Journal

2. Write a letter to someone.

3. Call a friend.

4. Color.

5. BLAST music

6. Go on a walk

7. Look at pictures of puppies!

8. Rip paper into teeny tiny pieces.

9. take a warm shower, and sing as loud as you want.

10. Say a rosary, and concentrate on your breathing. Hail (Breathe in) Mary (breathe out) Full (breathe in) of (breathe out)… you get the picture.

11. Write God a letter. Tell Him how you really feel. Don’t worry about fancy language.

12. Have a playlist of stupid, funny youtube videos you can watch when you’re feeling down.

In Honor of National Suicide Prevention Month.

As you may know, September is National Suicide Prevention Month. In honor of this, I have some special projects and posts which I will be unveiling throughout the month.

One is a project that I have been working on since news of Robin Williams’ suicide was made public. I’m really excited to share it with you, and am proud of all the work that has gone into this. If you have struggled with depression and would like to help, please email me at cloudywithachanceofcatholic@gmail.com .

I’m also fundraising for To Write Love On Her Arms, so if you are able to donate anything at all, I would really appreciate it 🙂

Thank you so much 🙂

I think we need to have a chat about suicide.

As you know, the other day, beloved comedian, actor, friend, father and husband Robin Williams lost his battle with depression. When I heard the news, I was devastated.

My heart ached for his family, friends, everyone who he loved, and everyone who loved him.

But mostly, my heart ached for him and the pain I know he felt.

Maybe that’s why Matt Walsh’s article caused me so much anguish.

This semester, I found myself in a pretty bad depression. I felt alone, like no one cared, and I was hours away from any of my family or friends at home. One sleepless night, I found myself contemplating how easy it would be for me to simply roll off my lofted bed and end the pain I was feeling and the pain I was sure I was causing others.

Thank God that I never went any farther than that, and a breakdown after daily mass and discussion with the chaplain of my school forced me to reach out to others. But, this isn’t the first time I’ve felt like ending my life was the only option, and other times, I had a plan, and attempted to commit suicide.

I have been at the brink of life and death. I have found myself grasping for relief and peace from my suffering. I have seen the light come in the form of ending my life.

So when someone says something about how, by commiting suicide, you are showing “The willingness to saddle your family with the pain and misery and anger that will now plague them for the rest of their lives”, I’m bound to disagree. Vocally.

Were we there when Robin Williams sadly ended his own life? No. no one was, not even the all mighty Matt Walsh. Maybe when he chose to end his life, he thought he was relieving his family, and in a way setting them free of various burdens that he could have felt were put on them. Maybe he realized the wrong too late. Maybe as he died, he regretted it and cried out in sorrow.

We don’t know, and it’s wrong to assume that anyone who committed suicide suicide understood what his family would have to endure after his actions.

In memory of Robin Williams, reach out to people. Love them, show them that they and life are beautiful.

Holy Archangel Raphael, appointed by God to guide, protect and heal, I entrust to you all people who at this moment are contemplating suicide. You guided young Tobias on his journey and protected him from the spirit of death which sought to destroy his life. I ask you to protect all people from the road that leads to physical and spiritual death, especially those in most danger of despair and suicide. Just as you led Tobias by the hand, lead them away from the sadness of addiction to peace and joy. O holy Raphael, whose name means, “God has healed”, bring them the Lord’s healing. Lord God, hear the prayer I make together with your faithful servant Raphael. Amen.

 

Newsflash! Women don’t suffer from lust!

Just kidding. We do. We really do.

However, it seems to me that the world doesn’t quite understand that yet. Women are the ones held accountable for keeping their brothers out of sin. No one seems to realize that women can face the exact same struggles.

I began looking at porn when I was around twelve years old. I found my grandfather’s stash, and with a mixture of what was disgust and curiosity, I flipped through magazine after magazine every time I visited. I eventually discovered that pornography was easily accessible from the internet. It went from something I looked at on occasion to something I looked at at least once a day, if not multiple times.

When I first realized I had a problem, I looked up resources (Catholic, to be specific) to help me stop what I thought was a simple sin and bad habit. Everything I found was for men. Although I’m sure that many of the methods would have helped me if I had given them a shot, they made me feel like a freak. I felt like the only woman in the world who struggled with lust.

That’s a lie.

Women do struggle with lust, and they struggle with pornography. If you are a woman who struggles with this, I’m writing this for you. You are NOT alone. You are not a freak. You are worthy of love, real, true love, and already beloved by a Father in heaven.

Maybe I’m wrong, but in my experience, it is next to impossible to just stop lusting and looking at porn. I haven’t hit a point where I’ve permanently stopped, but I’m at a point where I realize the gravity of the sins I commit and am working hard to stop. Here are some things I’ve found helpful.

Ask God to help you see your true worth

It is important that you realize how beloved, important and cared for you are. Read scripture, religious writings. Surround yourself with positive people who uplift and love you. If you do not truly, fully believe that you are loved without end, without restrictions or conditions, I’ve discovered that you will continue to treat yourself as a purely sexual object, subjecting yourself to pornography.

“The LORD your God is in your midst, a mighty one who will save; he will rejoice over you with gladness; he will quiet you by his love; he will exult over you with loud singing.” – Zephaniah 3:17

Get all of your extra energy out

I noticed that when I worked out, even for just twenty minutes, it helped me a whole lot in the midst of temptation. Even if you’re super super busy, think of exercising as a way of pampering yourself, and just do it.

Understand Your Triggers

What is it that causes the temptation? Try to understand what situations lead to your temptations. For me, it was late at night when I was restless or bored and my phone was handy. I would put on nature sounds and concentrate on my breathing to help myself fall asleep. I would put my phone under my sheets so it was harder to reach in times when I’d falter. Maybe for you it’s reading romance novels or watching romantic movies that can cause you to feel a longing for connection, but not in a good way.

Jessica Harris of Beggar’s Daughter has a whole series on the importance of identifying triggers, and the different type of triggers here.

Your body craves porn but the moment and your mind justifies it, but the moment you are finished, your heart cries out “How could you!” and your mind says, “Yeah! How could you?” – Jessica Harris

Tell a Friend and ask them to hold you accountable

Being honest about your problem can lead to some surprises, including the understanding that you are not alone. It also gives you the power over the sin. If you are ashamed and humiliated by it, you are letting sin control you, and have power over you. God died so that we might have power over sin. Ask a trustworthy friend to hold you accountable with your struggles.

Jessica Harris also wrote a series on the importance of accountability here.

Bottom line: we have to have people.  Pornography does not draw us toward people.  It draws us into ourselves.  It confines us to hours and days of secrecy, darkness, isolation, and fear, and many of you might be feeling the effects of that.  You feel socially awkward, even paranoid.  You feel depressed or lifeless.  You feel like you’re drifting. – Jessica Harris

Reconciliation. Lots, and lots of reconciliation.

I know the sacrament of Reconciliation can seem scary and intimidating. For years, I could not say the name of my sin in the confessional. I always confessed my involvement with “some impure things”. It wasn’t until I (accidentally) said the name of the sexual sins I struggled with that I realized that they had no power over me. Through His death and resurrection, Christ has freed us from the bondage and shackles of sin.  You are strong. God has given us power over our sin. Don’t let the sin have power over you.

O death, where is thy victory? O death, where is thy sting? The sting of death is sin; and the power of sin is the law: but thanks be to God, who giveth us the victory through our Lord Jesus Christ. – 1 Corinthians 15:55-57

Take advantage of the Eucharist

Did you know all Catholics have a secret weapon? Seriously.

Go often to Holy Communion. Go very often! This is your one remedy. – St. Therese of Lisieux 

Our one remedy! The Eucharist is our hope! When we receive the Body and Blood of Christ, we get so many graces. Did you know that the reception of communion wipes out venial sins, and gives power to stand strong in the face of mortal sin. If you can go to daily mass, go. Maybe it cuts into your Netflix time (guilty), but going to mass, and listening to the word of God, and receiving Christ’s body and blood is worth cutting into that House of Cards marathon. There is nothing like the mass and the reception of the Eucharist. Nothing.

Hold On Hope

Hope is the theological virtue by which we desire the kingdom of heaven and eternal life as our happiness, placing our trust in Christ’s promises and relying not on our own strength, but on the help of the grace of the Holy Spirit. “Let us hold fast the confession of our hope without wavering, for he who promised is faithful.” “The Holy Spirit . . . he poured out upon us richly through Jesus Christ our Savior, so that we might be justified by his grace and become heirs in hope of eternal life.”

You may stumble and fall, but know that our God is good, and that He wants to heal you. He wants you to spend eternity with Him.

Persevere

Let us not become weary in doing good, for at the proper time we will reap a harvest if we do not give up. – Galatians 6:9

I am praying for you, sisters.