Proud of you

I recently listened to an episode from Pursuit with Purpose podcast, where Sunny Lenarduzzi shared that she writes herself a letter about how proud she is of herself and I thought it would be a great idea for me to do one especially with all the things I’ve done to pursue my dreams in public and private.

I highly recommend doing this for yourself before the year ends as a way to reflect on all you’ve accomplished this year. If you’ve made it through some really tough moments tell yourself you are proud and why. If you experienced many wonderful things this year, celebrate them. Being grateful is a beautiful way for you to end and begin a new year. 

While I normally don’t share journal entries, I am going to share my letter to myself here in hopes that you write yourself a letter by the end of the year as well.

So here goes…

Dear Maryann,
This has been a tough year of internal work. While you share many things on social media, there was so much more that you battled with in private. I want you to know that I am proud of all you’ve accomplished this year.

You have carved out time to do more physical activity and created a solid workout routine. This has resulted in losing some inches off your waistline and gaining some lean muscles. I know you’ve weighed yourself a few times and while you don’t like the number on the scale, you know that the number doesn’t define you. The goal is to keep your body moving and just getting to the gym. Can we also talk about how insane it is that you have actual knowledge of how to use the cardio machines and free weights!?!? Like that is something you thought you would never be able to do AND now you are doing it at least twice a week. Mind blowing.

Even with this increase in self care, you still had some hard mental health days and that’s ok. I am so proud of how you allowed yourself to feel your feelings even if it was hard. Having dark days no longer defines you or enables the harsh words from your inner critic.

It has been a difficult year of parenting a threeanger and teenagers, your house has had a lot of emotions and learning how to parent in these stages is not easy. You have doubted your parenting many times through the year but you have parented the best way you know how. These chapters in your kids lives is not easy to move through but you reached out to others who have experienced similar instances and utilized their advice. Remember that your kids are significantly more behaved than you ever were as a child and teen, so know that you are doing the best you can even if it feels like everything is going down the drain. Your children are healthy, well loved and fed. 

You and your family made the hard decision to not travel home for the holidays which was a very difficult decision. It is hard to disappoint family but you knew that financially you couldn’t afford and putting yourself in a financial hole is not something you are comfortable doing anymore. While it is difficult to place a boundary around financial, you stood your ground and did was best for your family right now. While you will miss seeing lots and lots of family next week, rest in the fact that you stayed within your comfortable budget and pray that your family will be able to visit next year.

You had the biggest miscommunication and arguments with relatives this year. This was probably one of the hardest events of the year for you. It was hard for you to swallow your pride to admit you were wrong and apologize but you did something that you were never taught to do and I am proud of you for that. Its not easy to be that vulnerable, hold space for other people’s feelings, and then move forward with new boundaries and understandings. Healing from very emotionally heated arguments aren’t easy and I know you had a lot of anxiety about it but you pushed through and made efforts to rebuild relationships anyways. 

This year you have also leaned into your faith and increased your time in serving others in your home church community. What people don’t always see is the amount of prep that goes into serving others in small or large events. You have pushed through your social anxiety and made many meaningful relationships with women. Which is something you thought you could never do. Who would have thought the girl who had all guy friends in high school would now have a tribe of women who support you. That is such a God thing and I am so proud of how you’ve embraced, listened, and unconditionally supported these women. It is impressive to witness.

Can we celebrate launching your blog and actually having people read it. I mean that was a huge fear you had and everything is going better than you expected. While this chapter in yourself is just starting, know that you have done some amazing things this year with stepping outside of your comfort zone.  I’m so proud of how you have become an advocate for the mental health community this year and putting your true feelings on the interwebs. Sharing those unedited feelings isn’t easy and you did it in the best way you knew how and this has helped so many people in the process.

Becoming a person who shares their life on the interwebs is not easy. There have been many battles with your inner critic about your abilities and capabilities BUT you still pushed through the negativity in your head and moved closer to your dreams and goals. This brings up the biggest feat you’ve begun – going back to school to become a life coach. With all that you are currently doing, I didn’t believe you would be able to pull it off and you have with so much grace. There have been many late nights and times when you had to miss out on events because you made your schoolwork a priority but those sacrifices allowed you to move closer and closer to an amazing way you will serve your community local and around the world. I cannot wait to see how you help those around you with all that you learn from this certification.

With all that is going on, you are still able to make your marriage a priority. You and Chris has really invested more time in your relationship and being creative with how you spend time together. Gym dates and just hanging out is your new favorite way to spend time with your forever partner. Who knew you could become even closer to him even after 20 years together. Proud of you guys.

I encourage you to reread this letter next year to remind yourself of all you’ve accomplished. 2019 was a hard hill to climb and you’ve handled it with grace and grit. Keep believing in yourself or at least pushing yourself through your fears because you are doing amazing. 

Blessings and love,
Me

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Recovering people pleaser

Hi! My name is Maryann. I am the a daughter of the King of Kings. My current struggles are people pleasing and codependency. I also have been diagnosed with depression and anxiety.

If you have ever attended an Al Anon meeting or Celebrate Recovery meeting (Christian recovery small group), my statements above are a normal way to introduce yourself. It also allows me to accept my flaws and move towards more healthy habits/boundaries.One of my main unhealthy boundaries is being a people pleaser. It is still something I struggle with today but I have learned how to navigate the feelings and thoughts around this boundary in a way that still allows me to fill my cup – as they say – with desires/interests/passions. 

Currently I am involved in the following:

  • Creating content for my blog
  • Managing the multiple social media platforms linked to the blog
  • On the MOPS (Mothers of Preschoolers) leadership team
    • Leading a MOPS table of 9 women
    • Running the Facebook group for MOPS
      • Creating content & graphics
  • Serving on the events team for the women’s Christmas event at our home church
    • Lead for guest services/greeters
  • Work part-time remotely for a software consultant company
  • In school to be certified as a life coach
  • Preparing to launch a new project at the beginning of the year
  • Researching how to launch my life coaching business next year

Oh yes, my everyday life also includes:

  • Managing a home with
    • A husband
    • five kids
    • 2 dogs
    • 4 hamsters

When I list everything out it is no wonder I am exhausted all the time. You would assume that I should subtract a number of things but the crazy thing is that these events/meetings/functions bring me great joy. Sigh. Guys, I am notorious for overscheduling myself. I like to be included in all the things even if it doesn’t make sense with all that is going on in my life. My husband says quite often that there are too many things I have my hand in right now. That I need to make sure to not overcommit because I will get burnt out. It has happened more than a handful of times. You would assume I have learned my lesson but of course I didn’t. 

The art of saying ‘NO’  

This year has taught me how to choose what functions, events, and meetings I will say ‘no’ to. It hasn’t been an easy to say that simple sentence. Guys, did you know that the word ‘NO’ is a complete sentence. Yup learned that recently and I am floored. I however am not able to say ‘NO’, it triggers all of my codependent feelings and thoughts. So I have learned to say a simple statement that I use on a regular basis – “My plate is full right now.” This statement allows me to put a boundary while still giving a vague explanation of what my schedule is like right now. 

Bayanihan. Pronounced like “buy-uh-nee-hun,” bayanihan is a Filipino word derived from the word bayan meaning town, nation, or community in general. “Bayanihan” literally means, “being a bayan,” and is thus used to refer to a spirit of communal unity and cooperation1.

I know in the Filipino culture, it is frowned upon to say no. Moreover, boundaries are more of a western concept so learning to politely decline isn’t always easy. As it is part of the bayanihan spirit to always lend a helping hand. I have lived my life this way for as long as I can remember – helping those around me. I have also taught my kids the bayanihan spirit and they are the type of kiddos who will always lend a helping hand. This collectivist culture has its benefit as we will always help other but it can also be hard to set boundaries on what we can help with because it is ok to say ‘no’. 

Questions to ask yourself

I have learned over the last few years questions to ask myself before I commit to another event/function/meeting. The next time an opportunity arises and you are presented a function you are unsure if you can add it to your current schedule, please ask yourself the following questions:

  • If I do this [insert event/function/meeting here] am I ok with missing [family time/self care time/etc here]?
    • If the answer is no, then do not commit to the event/function/meeting
  • Is my answer an absolute ‘YES’?
    • If not, it’s a no. You will hold resentments towards the individual who invited you. 
    • The Christ Follower caveat to this is to listen to what God has told you about this event and if it is in line with His promises. His promptings will always be in line with His Word.
  • What am I willing to give up if I commit to [event/function/meeting here]?
    • Again, if its a ‘no’ then don’t do it. 

There are many versions on these questions but you generally get the point. Sometimes saying no means sacrificing time with those most important to you and most of the time, I am not ok with doing that. So I will decline the invitation. I recently decline an opportunity to lead a women’s bible study table as well as attend a women’s bible study at a friend’s home. I politely decline the first invitation but agreed to the second invitation. Committing myself to the second invitation proved to be too much for my schedule, so halfway through the bible study, I politely removed myself from the group. It was not an easy decision and I don’t regret the interactions I had with the ladies in the group but I had too many things on my plate (see above) and I was beginning to feel very very overwhelmed. Once I left that group, I was able to focus more on my current obligations.

How to say ‘NO’

This might be an easy thing to say to people but for me it is the hardest sentence to muster. Here are a few ways I have said ‘NO’ in the past few months.

  • I’m sorry my plate is full.
  • I don’t have the mental capacity to add another thing to my schedule right now.
  • My schedule is jam packed right now. I can’t.
  • No but thank you for thinking of me.
  • I am not able to right now but please keep me in the loop for the next opportunity to serve.

Theses statements allowed me to say ‘NO’ in the most polite way possible without disclosing my current schedule as well as my feelings towards the event. I challenge you to use one of these. They work.

I tried to add one more thing

As of this week, we will be on break from MOPS until January and the two women’s Christmas events will be completed this week. For the women’s event, I knew that I wanted to participate but didn’t want to immerse myself in the event that I would have to not serve on the events team. So I asked if I could serve as head greeter for both nights. That would only include recruiting volunteers to help checking in, greeting, and assisting our guests with anything they needed. It has proven to be a great compromise for my current schedule and it allowed me to pour my Christ Follower heart into the women coming through those doors. I will tell you the event was a great success and we received wonderful feedback. I am so proud of myself for only signing up for an attainable responsibility. This is a huge step forward for me. 

I am happy to report that I will be focusing on more quality family time, self care, and filling my cup with things that will sustain me until the next wave of events. I pray that this post gives you the strength to put up healthy boundaries around your time. It isn’t easy to set these limitations but know it is for you to have a healthy mental space because that is the most important space for everyone. 

Remember…its ok to NOT be ok. Tomorrow is a new day!


Darkness during the holidays

As we enter the holiday season and the end of year, I would like to talk about unpopular, heavy subjects – self harm, seasonal affective disorder, and triggered feelings. Before you think that I should talk about all the lovely beautiful things during this season, I want you to know that not everyone feels the same way.

**TRIGGER ALERT: If you are triggered by talks of self harm ideation, please skip the end of this post.**

Triggered Feelings

In the Filipino culture, we celebrate the holidays with the entire family, like eeeerrrbody. We will pack 50 people in the smallest space possible. Its the only way to spend the holidays, amirite? Seeing family you haven’t seen since the last “family party” or even the year prior is my favorite parts of the holidays. Its always a time when I love to catch up with cousins and eat all the delicious staples dishes of the holidays until an Auntie says, “come on, eat some more.”

This season also brings inappropriate comments, questions and unsolicited advice. Lord help me, this was the hardest part of theses get-togethers.

“Ay nako (OMG), you got fat/gained weight!”
“When are you having kids?”
“Are you going to try for a girl/boy?”
“When are you guys going to get married?”
“Anak (baby), tell Tita (Auntie) about your job?”
“How much did you buy your house/purse/car for?”
“Why are you breastfeeding? Bottle feeding is better.”

“Why aren’t you breastfeeding? It’s free milk.”
“Who made the [insert dish here]? Mine is better.”
“Why don’t you become a nurse? It’s a good job.”

“You put your kid(s) in daycare? Why?”
“When are you going back to work?”

While your Aunties, Uncles, and Grandparents mean well, these statements can be internalized negatively especially for those of us who were not born in the Philippines. Contrary to western culture, where we would never bring up touchy subjects such as weight, socioeconomic status, and marital affairs, it is common practice to talk about when everyone comes together. I would like to offer you some help to enjoy the holidays despite the hurtful conversations.

How to survive hurtful conversations

  • This is how they show their support.
    • I will create an entire post – in the near future – about how I internalized comments/statements/questions from relatives. For now, I want you to understand that theses statements are how our family members show their support. While this doesn’t erase the hurt you receive, know that this is their way of showing they care about you. I promise, it is true.
      • My husband is a great at doing this! He has heard many times that he has “gained weight” or “you got fat”. He just politely says “thank you” gives them a kiss on the cheek or a hug and makes his way towards the food.
  • If a conversation becomes too much, it is ok to politely excuse yourself from the conversation.
    • Setting boundaries is important especially when the conversation becomes uncomfortable. While you cannot change the relatives’ words towards you, you can control your reactions and responses towards them. If you are not able to continue in a constructive way, excuses yourself as politely and as quickly as possible. Even better, have another person be your scapegoat for excusing yourself from the conversation – your partner, sibling, or cousin. In this way, you will be able to have support while setting a boundary.
      • I’ve done this by excusing myself to tend to my kids and it works like a charm. It is one of the perks of being a mom since kids always need something. I have also been the person to “rescue” a relative from an uncomfortable conversation by asking them to help me with something.
  • NO. – Is a complete sentence.
    • As I stated in the last bullet point, you are allowed to set boundaries around conversations and ‘no’ or any form of it is an acceptable answer. You are not required to explain your life decisions. While I absolutely understand that Auntie wants to know why you are [insert life decision here], she does needs to agree with how you are living your life right now. Again, this is their way of showing they care but an explanation is not warranted.
      • When the husband and I decided to move to Arizona, we were grilled by almost every relative imaginable. In fact it was probably a daily occurrence once our house was on the market. “Don’t you want to stay in California?” “No.” Over time, the husband and I became very good at just saying no or a version of it. It wasn’t easy but it was a great way to practice boundaries.

Seasonal Affective Disorder

I only learned about this mental disorder when a relative reached out and talked to me about their symptoms. While I am familiar with depression, I never knew that individuals would experience this disorder during certain seasons. Here is some great information from the Mayo clinic:

Signs and symptoms of SAD may include:

  • Feeling depressed most of the day, nearly every day
  • Losing interest in activities you once enjoyed
  • Having low energy
  • Having problems with sleeping
  • Experiencing changes in your appetite or weight
  • Feeling sluggish or agitated
  • Having difficulty concentrating
  • Feeling hopeless, worthless or guilty
  • Having frequent thoughts of death or suicide

Fall and winter SAD

Symptoms specific to winter-onset SAD, sometimes called winter depression, may include:

  • Oversleeping
  • Appetite changes, especially a craving for foods high in carbohydrates
  • Weight gain
  • Tiredness or low energy

Spring and summer SAD

Symptoms specific to summer-onset seasonal affective disorder, sometimes called summer depression, may include:

  • Trouble sleeping (insomnia)
  • Poor appetite
  • Weight loss
  • Agitation or anxiety

Seasonal changes in bipolar disorder

In some people with bipolar disorder, spring and summer can bring on symptoms of mania or a less intense form of mania (hypomania), and fall and winter can be a time of depression.

When to see a doctor

It’s normal to have some days when you feel down. But if you feel down for days at a time and you can’t get motivated to do activities you normally enjoy, see your doctor. This is especially important if your sleep patterns and appetite have changed, you turn to alcohol for comfort or relaxation, or you feel hopeless or think about suicide.

Treatment

Treatment for seasonal affective disorder may include light therapy, medications and psychotherapy. If you have bipolar disorder, tell your doctor — this is critical to know when prescribing light therapy or an antidepressant. Both treatments can potentially trigger a manic episode.

**TRIGGER ALERT: If you are triggered by talks of self harm or suicidal ideation, please skip the rest of this post.**

Self Harm

While the CDC reports that suicidal attempts are lower during the holiday season, I have experienced first hand that these ideations increase in frequency during this season. Last year, sadly a relative took their own life days after Thanksgiving. This year, I had a friend reach out after one of their relative’s attempted to take their own life. So while this is a very difficult conversation to have, please know that self harm is prevalent and needs to be talked about.

If you or someone you know needs help getting to a more positive mental space, please reach out immediately.

  • Call your local law enforcement or dial 911
  • National Suicide Prevention Hotline 1-800-273-8255
  • Veterans Crisis Line 1-800-273-8255, press 1
  • Lifeline Chat
  • Hospital Emergency Room
  • Mental health facility

I also talk about tools and resources on a previous series, Asking for help. Please feel free to read through that series on all the ways you can help yourself or others.

There is hope

This post was quite heavy and may have triggered negative feelings or past hurtful experiences. For those who are triggered, I offer you a virtual hug and the notion that you are still here to help others who are in need or immediate crisis. Know that you are not alone during the holiday season even if it feels that way. Please reach out of you are in an unsafe mental space. You can even reach out to me, I am more than happy to be a supportive person for you. I am thankful for you and appreciate your support of this blog and most importantly, bringing awareness to mental health. Together we are stronger.

And remember… it is ok to not be ok. Tomorrow is a new day!


The battle with my mind

Disclaimer: This is a journal entry that I wrote in the very beginning stages of creating this blog. I am sharing this very raw entry because it is truly what I hear in my mind. While I do still hear these lies, I am learning that I am strong than my thoughts. I am strong than the inner narrative I have for myself.

I am writing this in the wee hours of the morning because I can’t sleep and my negative self talk is filling my brain with words that hurt my spirit. The hardest thing about this blog is not content, I have a lot to say about my experience with mental health in the Filipino community. My biggest obstacle is myself, the negative self talk screaming at me all day long. There have been many nights that my mind fills with so much negativity that I didn’t want to create this blog. I have spent more time pushing through all of those thoughts that at times, I nearly want to call it quits. I know the information in my mind needs to be shared because I KNOW there are others hurting who can no speak for themselves.

Have you ever spoken to a person who is trying to manage their mental health and they say they are so exhausted from the day? Even if they haven’t “done much”? The reason they feel so exhausted is because they were battling the lies their mental health has fed them for years. These lies have become what they believe for themselves. What I believe of myself.

Negative self-talk

I am my own worst enemy. I am my own worst best friend. If I were to say the things I say to myself outloud, well you wouldn’t believe them. So I’ve decided to write them here because deep in my heart, I know they aren’t true.

What my mind tells me:

  • This is stupid. NO one is going to read this.
  • What you say isn’t important.
  • This isn’t even good content.
  • You are wasting time and money.
  • Who told you this was even a good idea.
  • This is awful. Just stop now.
  • You will not succeed. You will fail like everything else in your life.
  • No one cares.
  • What you say don’t matter. It won’t help.  

Challenge your thoughts

Awful right? Like down right hurtful, cruel, insensitive. I know — these statements are not true — my voice matters; and what I have to say needs to be heard. When my head fills with this horrendous self talk, I force myself through an exercise my therapist taught me:

  • Acknowledge your thoughts
    • These thoughts exist in your mind and they are real. Don’t dismiss them.
  • Know you have power over your thoughts
    • Your thoughts have power but you are even more powerful over your thoughts.
  • Speak truth statements – words of affirmation
    • I am a child of God.
    • I am worthy.
    • I am fearless
    • I will help someone with my journey
    • What I have to say matters
    • God knows my heart
  • Make a choice of what you would like to do once you have spoken truth into your life.
    • Know that these thoughts are temporary and they have no hold on you.
    • Choose to move forward and challenge those negative thoughts
      • The more you challenge the negative thoughts, the more they will not have a hold on you. It takes practice but over time, it does work.

Standing in The Word

Why is this important? I want you to know that you matter. God placed you on this earth because he has a purpose for your life. You are enough. These tests in your life will be a testimony. The mess you feel your life is, will be a message for others. You are so loved and wanted. I am here for you because you matter to me.

When I am consumed by negative thoughts and feelings, I blast my favorite worship music. So if you see me in my minivan and I’m rocking out to some worship music, its because I’m reminding myself who’s I am.

I have embedded two of my favorite songs right now. I hope it helps you wherever you are.

Lauren Daigle – You Say
Who You Say I Am – Hillsong Worship

What do you do when your mind is consumed with negative self talk? Comment below. I’d love to hear it!


Husband’s reaction to mental illness

I joke a lot about how my husband wouldn’t survive if we got a divorce. In my defense, he also jokes about how he isn’t able to function without my help either. While playful banter comes easy to us on a daily basis, mustering up the courage to tell him about my depression felt next to near impossible.

As I explained in the Asking for Help Series, I can confidently say that is not typically how I tell him my feelings. In fact, its far beyond how I share how I feel. I usually fall into his arms and cry. He, in turn, will hug me tightly and ask what’s wrong. This guy has known me for 20 years. So he has learned that sometimes all I need is a hug and the statement “It’ll be ok.” So this shower talk business wasn’t typical and I know I caught him by surprise.

I have asked my husband, to give his honest reaction and response to when I told him about my mental health. This journey is his as well. He has been there from the beginning.

Husband’s reaction

M: What did you first think when I shared my depression and anxiety diagnosis with you?

H: I recall that when you shared your depression and anxiety self-diagnosis with me, I was rather quick to dismiss how you felt, merely chalking it up to a bad day.  I never associated the fact that how you were feeling at that time were true symptoms of what would later be confirmed as having depression.

M: How did you feel?

H : I felt helpless in a way, primarily due to the fact that I knew next to nothing about depression and anxiety.

M: What did you do after my diagnosis was confirmed?

H: I then began researching and reading articles online regarding depression and anxiety.  It was important for me to understand the challenges and obstacles associated with depression and anxiety, so that I can help in the areas of support and encouragement.

M: How has your opinion on mental health changed from the first diagnosis to now?

H: I’d say that I have a deeper appreciation now for the importance of mental health.  It’s certainly an important topic that I believe deserves more credence.

He makes me better

I credit my husband’s unconditional support early on in managing my depression for my success in managing my depression today. More importantly, he will continue to be a big part of why I have been successful at managing my mental health. His unconditional support motivates me to be the best person I can be. On my worst mental health day, he gave me something that many can not grasp in the darkness – hope.

He would text me everyday to ensure I got out of bed. If I wasn’t able to, he would give me a pep talk to make it a goal for the next day. He made himself available during work hours, which is very hard in his profession, for me to call if I needed to talk my feelings through. He was supportive in allowing me to find my self care routine even if that meant I would try unconventional treatments. My husband is a large reason why I am able to share my story with you today.

I absolutely understand that this isn’t a typical response from a Filipino man but I want to encourage you to share those deep parts of yourself with someone you trust. It is the only way you can help yourself begin accepting and managing mental illness.

Do you have someone you can trust to talk about your feelings? Comment below and share with that person why they mean so much to you – today.

Remember – its ok to not be ok, tomorrow is a new day! See you next week.