How to Stop Mass Shootings: ACTIVE LOVE

https://www.latimes.com/opinion/story/2019-08-04/el-paso-dayton-gilroy-mass-shooters-data

Today, while researching what to do about mass shootings in America, I came across this article. The author of this article researched what the commonalities between the shooters were. Two of them, made my heart ache: most of the killers suffered from some sort of mental illness, and most of them suffered some sort of traumatic event. As someone who has a mental illness, and someone who has been alone through a traumatic event, I have been there, and I have lived moments where I just wanted to watch the whole world burn, but it doesn’t have to be this way.

I have struggled with anxiety and depression my whole life. I didn’t know how to talk to my parents about it, or how to get help. They didn’t understand what was happening to me, and neither did I, so we just pushed through. I pushed through nightmares, stomachaches, paralyzing fear, fainting, and more. Sometimes, every day seemed like my worst nightmare.

It got worse as I got older. I had to take on more responsibility and more worries, when I was already crushed under the weight of what I was already struggling with. I was constantly yelling at myself for not being able to get it together like everyone else could. I tried to go to counseling, even made it a couple of times, one was really helpful, the other was really not. Counseling was expensive though, really expensive, and I was struggling with money and years of built up money anxiety, so it wasn’t an option.

Something that I think a lot of people don’t understand about depression and anxiety is the brain fog that complicates everything. While some people may just say, “Oh, I’m going to a counselor,” it may not be that simple for someone who really needs it. They may be paralyzed with fear of what the counselor might do if they say the wrong thing, they may be terrified about how the heck they are going to afford the counseling, they may be worried about how they are going to get to appointments, if the counselor is going to judge them, or even if the counselor’s office is going to smell weird. It could be anything, but it’s terrifying. If the person also can’t afford it, or has a hard time affording it, on top of that, it’s really hard to see it as an option.

The thing that sucks the most, though, about depression is the loneliness and isolation. Our culture, especially Christian culture, is hellbent on positivity. We talk about “energy vampires” and negative people, and “debbie downers,” and we encourage each other to back away from them, to keep ourselves healthy. This makes me so angry I could literally spit. These people are the ones who need help the most, and they are the ones who are not getting it. When I was going through my very worst period of depression, nearly all of my friends stopped talking to me. Completely. Then at the end of the year, they were like, “Why didn’t you tell us it got so bad?” This is how we treat people who are struggling, and then, we are surprised that they are losing their minds?

This brings me to a part of my history that is really hard for me to talk about. My miscarriage. When I lost Emma Rose, I was a newlywed with big hopes and dreams for the future that all came crashing down around me. We were navigating the complicated time of figuring out new family relationships while everything I believed in seemed to me to be a lie. We were grossly mistreated at the hospital after waiting for 6 hours, so much so that even three years later, when I complained too late, the hospital held a training session for the doctors.

It’s not just the medical field though, Catholics are great at helping out the people that they think need help. The people that they see as good and holy and fun get an abundance of help when they need it. They get meals delivered to them, flowers, money sometimes, all kinds of things. I DO NOT IN ANY WAY BEGRUDGE THEM THIS. I AM HAPPY FOR THEM, AND I EVEN HELP. However, I was the unpopular Catholic. I got the facebook “I’m sorry’s” and a meal from my mom(who did offer to help more, but we just were so lost we didn’t even know how to ask.) Worse though, my husband and I were treated horribly by the Catholics in our area. A youth group ganged up on us making nasty side comments about birth control and bragging about who got pregnant earliest. We said nothing, though we were pregnant first, but we cried on the way home. Priests gave homilies over and over again about how holy the families with a lot of children were, and I couldn’t bear staying in Mass for one second longer than I had to.

Now, I am struggling with post partum depression, on top of the depression and anxiety I already had, on top of being low income and figuring out motherhood. After months of searching, I finally found a counselor I could afford, then the entire world fell apart every time I tried to go, and then my car broke down and my mom got a job, so now I don’t have the time to go, and even if I did, I’d have to take both toddlers. I have called multiple remote therapy places, and their discount rates are absurd. If you are low income, $180 a month is NOT going to happen. Seriously. Even Catholic Psych’s low income option at $120 a month is crazy. If you are living on a low income with anxiety and depression, this is your worst nightmare.

My point is not to ask any of you to feel sorry for me. My point is that, in a lot of ways, I am a person with MORE help than usual. Not less. In fact, a LOT more help than most people have. People who are dealing with traumatic events, and dealing with mental illness, or heaven forbid, both, are falling through the cracks. I can promise you that is the truth because I am fighting a hard battle to try not to fall through the cracks and I am seeing the other people who fall.

We HAVE to get more and better help out there for people who are struggling. We HAVE to have people looking for those who are struggling and offering them a helping hand instead of turning them away. WE HAVE TO HELP THEM. We are all struggling, I know, and we are barely holding our heads above water, but we all have to help each other, and we have to watch out for the people who are getting missed.

Please, next time a friend of yours is upset more often than you want her to be, or a guy friend is acting weird, or struggling, don’t turn them away. Please give them a shoulder to cry on, not just to prevent the violence, but to heal the hurt that is all over this world right now. Please do whatever you can to help the mentally ill. Use your talents. Whatever you are good at, DO IT. Help them. Help our world to be a better place. There is so much pain, please help anyone you can.

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5 Years Ago Today: Trigger Warning-Miscarriage

Trigger Warning: Miscarriage

5 Years Ago Today was the day I lost my first child.

5 Years Ago Today was the day she died.

Today, I lived my life like nothing was wrong.

I played with my double rainbow babies.

I did the dishes.

I cleaned the house.

But I saw a butterfly and I asked if it was her.

I asked her to be with me, but only if she wants to be,

Because I hope she’s happy in heaven without me,

Even though she’s without me, and I’m without her.

5 Years Ago Today, I screamed like I had never screamed before.

5 Years Ago Today, I held her body.

5 Years Ago Today, there was blood all over the floor

Of the tub. I didn’t know that that could happen.

Usually I don’t bleed when I shower,

But when you’re losing them it doesn’t stop, even for the water flow.

5 Years Ago Today, I thought I would die if it didn’t stop.

5 Years Ago Today, she died and I did not.

Walls: Start with Love

Lately, I keep finding things that people say are rules or how things should be that are hard for me because I have walls up because of things that have happened to me. I learned this because I read a blog post about giving God our pain, and as I have been offering up my hurt to Him, God has repeatedly comforted me, and then shown me where my pain is making something I have learned impossible to understand.
This lent, I went to confession shaking and consumed with guilt and shame. The priest condemned me and even maybe mocked me, and it made it even worse. When I came out of confession though, “Reckless Love” was playing and it was as if God was telling me, “That’s not how I feel about you, I love you. I love you. I love you.” That gave me the courage to pray with some people who were there, and they prayed through my fear and pain with me. Only after their prayer, and God’s reassurance was I able to see that the sins I was accusing myself of were not sins, they were barely even mistakes. I felt like the most evil horrible person in the world, when in reality, I am just going through some things that make it really hard to keep up with doing everything.
The most intense example though, is seeing how much of my anger and hurt at the Church, and resentment of her teachings, came from my pain from being pregnant with and losing my first little girl. I was not treated well by the Church when I lost her. I was snubbed because groups thought I used birth control. I couldn’t bear being in Church and hearing the litanies of how holy people were if they had a ton of children, I was looked down on because I didn’t want to try again.
At the same time, resentments started to build in me against the Church. Pregnancy was my worst nightmare, and the Church demanded that women be pro-life. I was so angry about it. I felt like a baby-making machine, and if I was not making babies, I had no worth, not only that, but I felt punished by all of these Church rules that kept coming up to rule over my married life that was already hurting enough. I had experienced a loss I could not bear, and instead of being given comfort, I was given judgement. I was lost, and I was condemned, not loved. I wanted to hate the Church, I wanted to hate children, I wanted to hate God. Instead, I subconsciously put up walls to protect myself, and I waited to deal with what I was feeling until I felt like I could handle it.
That is not what the Church is supposed to be. No one should ever feel condemned or abandoned when they come into Church, let alone cry when they feel like they have to go to Church because it is the most painful place to be in the entire world. The Church should be a place where we have an encounter with the living Christ, where people pray for healing for us, where people embrace us in our struggles, and help and heal us. There are places where the Church is that way, but it is far from universally that way, and even in the Churches that are that way, it is easy to get missed if you are not good at saying what you need, or don’t know the right person to talk to.
I don’t know all of the answers in a practical way for these problems, but I do know that Love is the only thing that will change any of it. Everyone needs to stop fighting each other about rules and regulations, and LOVE each other. Only when I felt loved did my walls start to drop enough that I could understand anything I was learning. Only when we start to love will we be able to heal the crisis of pain that our world is consumed by.

The Power of Mourning Together: Intimacy after Trauma

Recently, I went through a period where I was thinking about my miscarriages a lot. I had made a short film about Emma, and I was grieving some other people who had died, and I had to work through some leftover anger at God for what happened with her.

It is very hard for my husband when I talk about miscarriages, especially Emma. He copes with things by focusing on the good, and talking about Emma is not a helpful way to do that, because there’s not much good in that situation for us. Unfortunately, I heal and process what happens to me through talking it out, so that sucks for him sometimes.

So of course, when I was suddenly processing all of this stuff about Emma, it was very difficult for him to handle. We had some Grade A, level 5 fights going on. I was bogged down by the problem of evil, and he was just trying to live life.

One day I wrote several pieces about Emma, one after another. I felt like he completely blew me off once I convinced him to read them. We had a history-making fight over that one. It ended in us feeling hopeless about resolving it collapsed on the floor in the bedroom.

I was so angry, but I took a second to tell him that I know how hard it was for him, and that I’m sorry. He came over to the rocking chair I was sitting in and laid his head in my lap. We had a completely honest conversation about how painful losing Emma was, and how hard it was that our marriage started out like that. We talked about how much we had stuck together through, and we cried together about how much it hurt at times.

And then, we had pretty much the best sex that has ever been had, ever.

There has been so much pain from the beginning of our marriage, and dealing with the loss of a child at the most hopeful time in your life is devastating. Our hopes and plans were destroyed and we were flailing trying to find each other and ourselves again after going through a severe trauma, but in a different way. He struggled with religion and wanted nothing to do with it for a while, while I bounced back and forth between clinging to Jesus like a life raft, and raging out about how hateful the Church is and how I wish I had never been a part of it, and raging at God.

We had these amazing ideas for making movies together, and being artistic and talking philosophy, but when the only philosophy you can think about is the philosophy of grief and the problem of evil, eventually survival instinct takes over and forbids you think about it anymore.

So we grew apart in some ways for a while, because neither one of us were being ourselves. We stayed close deliberately, but there was this space between us that kept coming up. Over the years, we have had little healing moments like this recent one, and they are getting deeper and deeper. Healing through a tragedy like losing a child, at any age, is incredibly difficult, and it comes out in many ways.

The reason I mention sex is that I think a lot of people may not think about how much unresolved issues can play a part in intimacy. Especially men, I think don’t realize how much of a difference emotional intimacy makes for women.

Women’s bodies physically respond to feeling emotionally heard. My body responded to that, I could feel nerve centers of my body that had been dead sizzling back to life, and I was able to breathe in a way I hadn’t been able to, for as long as I could remember. I was as hungry as a teenage boy. Every touch felt like he was a master of contact, where I had struggled with feeling the awkwardness of sex at times. I wasn’t afraid to tell him where to touch, what to do, but it wasn’t because I was bossing him around but because the heat of the moment swirled around us. It was so natural, and carnal, it was really and profoundly “making love.” We were making love out of trauma, love out of tragedy, and it was incredible.

We connected in a way we hadn’t for a long time that night. I tell you this because my husband and I are very open and emotional people, and we still struggle with this. I can only imagine that people who are not this way would struggle even more, first to find the words to talk about this stuff, but even more to work through it no matter how hard it gets. I believe though, that nights like this are what make marriage work. So, maybe see if your husband will talk about anything you think might be blocking you from enjoying intimacy with him. If you need to, let him read this to understand how much of a difference it makes. We need to be heard, and our body responds to that, and your relationship will respond to that too.

What the New York Abortion Bill Means to Me

When I found out I was pregnant with Emma, my husband walked away from me, went upstairs and blared slipknot. I trembled downstairs in fear.

When I was pregnant with Emma, my husband and I fought every single day. These were not little, meaningless spats. They were screaming arguments, “How are we going to pay for that? How are we going to take care of her? What are we going to do?” We would scream at each other for hours and break down into the kind of sobs that take over your whole body, and your guts come out through your eyes.

It never stopped. Every single day we erupted in terror at the only person we could talk to about it.

We were Catholic. There were no options. We were stuck, and we were screwed. We had no insurance because we couldn’t afford it, but because we were paying rent we couldn’t get Medicaid. We didn’t have our own house. We were living in a tiny bedroom, sleeping together in a twin bed as I grew enormous in a matter of weeks. My mom has always said that using NFP meant that you didn’t really trust God, and I had had virtually no sex education so it didn’t occur to me how quickly you could get pregnant, if you were married(obviously you get pregnant if you even think about having sex if you aren’t married.)

Our marriage was ruined, we had no idea how we would survive, or how she would. I was terrified of hospitals, and we couldn’t afford one anyway.

I had fleeting thoughts of wishing I would miscarry, but I could feel her. She was present in me and I knew her, but I couldn’t stand the pain of knowing that she would always be afraid because we couldn’t provide for her.

It got so bad that I considered abortion. Not fully, not seriously, but for a second, I thought about it. It is almost impossible for me to admit that as a Catholic.

Later, I don’t even know how it happened, but one day I realized I was reading a how-to on committing a natural abortion. I think I may have been searching for vitamin safety during pregnancy, and then saw this article and was so shocked it even existed. I had been taking a ton of vitamins that weren’t safe to stay healthy while I was so run down, and again, for a split second, I thought, “What if I just kept doing it?”

It couldn’t be a sin right? It’s just taking a vitamin, for my health. It’d be an accident. I’d like to think I didn’t mean it, but I was so scared.

We lost her a week later.

In the most horrifying, tragic moment of my life, I miscarried our honeymoon baby.

I don’t know if it was the vitamins I was taking unknowingly, the lack of sleep, the exhausting work I was doing, the stress, or just my body’s inability to form the baby correctly, but whatever it was she was gone. She IS gone.

There isn’t a day that goes by that I don’t feel some repercussion of losing her. She is my butterfly effect proof. She is everywhere. She was all over my periods every time I questioned whether they were miscarriages or not. She was there every step of my pregnancy with my rainbow, and my double rainbow. She is there when I check my babies breathing at night. She is there when I hear stories of women losing their children. She is in me still, even though she’s not for anyone else.

I cannot believe now that there were moments I did not want her. Now, I would give anything to take those moments back, to have her back. I was so scared, and I try not to blame myself, but losing a child, whether it is your fault or not, is the worst thing that can happen to a woman. It is the greatest pain that you can imagine, and it isn’t healed by time. The thought fades, thankfully, but the grief never does.

In the face of the New York bill, what I want to say to you, is that you do not know what these women are feeling. A woman who is losing her child, has lost her child, or could lose her child, is in a kind of pain that you cannot imagine if you have not been there. There are women who are pro-life who have held their own children lifeless in their arms, and they cannot stand the idea of another child being lost. There are women who are pro-choice who have faced the worst nightmares and had to ask “what do I do?” No matter who you are, you do not know what is in the hearts of who you are against. You do not know what drives them.

So? You ask. What do I do with that information? Find out. Learn from the pain of others how to address problems in a way that helps everyone. Ask the mom who is contemplating abortion what she needs, and help her find it. Start a fund for women who are struggling. Be compassionate. If you are pro-choice, ask the pro-life women what are they worried about, what is wrong with the bill? What do they want?

More than anything, tell your story, tell it as loud as you possibly can, until you are heard. Stop telling everyone else what’s wrong with them, and speak your truth.

What’s Wrong With Me?

I’m feeling so sad and I don’t even know why. Everything I try to do to make it better makes it worse. I feel like I can barely breathe. Like I can breathe into my stomach but there’s this spot in my chest that just locks up. Am I just afraid I’m going to puke again? Or is this really some deep sadness or exhaustion that just won’t let me move on. What am I even sad about? Is it the sadness of pain and fear I couldn’t feel while I was sick? How do you feel that well enough that it stops hurting inside you. I really thought I was going to die there for a minute, and Willow too. But everything was so awful for both of us that I couldn’t even feel it or it would literally make me vomit. It hurt so much though. I was in so much pain, so humiliated, so disgusting, so tired and weak, hungry and miserable. The world was spinning around me and I shook freezing cold. Willow was so sick too, she almost had to go to ER for fluids and what’s worse is I wouldn’t have been able to go with her. That thought hurts my heart so much. I was so afraid I was going to go into early labor and this baby would die because I was sick, or that because we hadn’t gotten the flu shot Willow and I were going to die. I need to be on Facebook less, I’m getting all these anxieties I never would have thought to have. It was really hard. It only makes it scarier for me that there is worse out there. There are women for whom this is almost daily in their pregnancy. I’m afraid to be them and I’m afraid for them. It is terrifying to be in that much pain. I don’t really know how to express the crippling feeling I have now. All I know is it hurt and it was scary and I’m still scared and it still hurts or rather the memory hurts.

I think part of why I have such a hard time with the little things is that I am so terrified of the big things and everytime the little things happen I am haunted by how bad things could get. I always feel melodramatic for it, but I really did think she was going to die, and me too, and not in a I’m kinda nervous way, in a “ok this is the moment where I just accept it kind of way.”

There was a missile alarm in Hawaii today. They said it was a mistake, nothing was ever wrong, but we have stories of mothers and children hiding in their basements, praying for help. Hurricanes and monsoons and floods and fires are only getting worse every year. Some say there is no climate change, but we have people dying and homeless who are suffering at the ends of something. I am so scared, not just selfishly that these things will happen to me, although that too, but at the fact that they happen at all. How can we live in a world where in one moment everything is ok and peachy and the next minute we are dead, or dying, or wish we were? What kind of a world is this?

Or worse, at the risk of blasphemy, what kind of God is this? Let’s forget for a moment the terrifying thought that some of it may be our own fault, horrifying evils performed by humanity or by their neglect. What kind of God allows the death of a baby inside a mother? Is there anything more horrifying than a mother crying in agony about a baby she never got to touch? What kind of God forbids anything when He knows His people are lost and desperate and the last thing they need is guilt? What kind of God allows the things that are our fault? If you knew, and I mean, really knew that throwing away a can would kill all the baby seals, would you do it? Or is it the sense that what I do doesn’t matter?what difference do I make unless I find a way to do everything, and I can’t do everything so what’s the point of even a little?

I tried to put my babygirl to sleep tonight and she just screamed louder and louder. I felt so helpless. How can there be days when I know exactly what to do and others where she wants nothing more than for me to go as far away as I can get? Am I just selfish wanting to hold her when I thought she was slipping away so recently? How do we live in this world where things could be taken away so quickly? How do I live in a world where this beautiful life inside me could suddenly be gone and I could go through the worst human pain imaginable and never see her face? (Please God protect my baby, I’m just asking) Women have held their lifeless children in their arms. I never held my first and I never will. Women suffer untold horrors to bring life to the world, and horrible things happen to people just minding their own business. But why? It hurts. The whole earth bleeds with our own mistakes and and injuries. Why?

I don’t understand how some people can hear the trite “God brings good out of everything” or “God has a plan,” and think that somehow makes it ok. What plan could ever excuse Rachel crying in the wilderness, or the moment I screamed in my husbands arms about the death taking place inside of me? What plan excuses the children in pain all over the world from starvation or abuse? What plan excuses powerful men who would rather see vast amounts of people die than share a country with them? I pray often that God doesn’t strike me down because I just don’t understand, and I’m afraid I’ll go to hell for saying it. But there are times when the cruelty of the world is suffocating me and I have to say something.

My grief is that of the whole world. (She said arrogantly) I feel the death of Samson for his worst mistake, I feel the sin of Judas and his desperation for forgiveness. I feel the fear of the children in gas chambers, and I feel the anger of a young Adolf denied his chance to speak. I feel the pain of those who have hurt me sometimes more than my own at being hurt, until my own ability to feel rises and comes into my own throat to shred me into tiny bits like carrots in a shredder. (It’s a crass comparison, but that’s the point) I will never be a good enough Catholic because I feel the faith of the Buddhists, and I feel the anger of the atheists, I feel the abandonment of those who would give anything for just one thing to believe in, but can’t.

I guess I know what my sadness is now, but what do you do when your sadness is everything evil that exists? When the fact that pain is an experience that happens is the most painful part of being? When you can’t get air into your chest because something bad will happen to someone in any given minute? How do you stop feeling everyone else’s pain and your own? Is it just forgetting and moving on until something else bad happens and you remember again until you are paralyzed, and then you have to learn to breathe again? Maybe the idea is that I just don’t have the answer and never will, or maybe this is why people go to therapists. Will my counselor teach me how to live with knowing we all die and grieve before we do?

An Impossible Task

Babies are born when a mommy and daddy love each other,
And the stars all align,
And no one gets sick,
And all the genes add up correctly,
And the mother is perfectly still,
But not so perfectly still that the baby dies,
And if the mothers doesn’t take hot baths,
But takes warm baths,
And if the mother doesn’t drink,
But maybe if she drinks just a little red wine,
And if all the mothers hormones are perfectly balanced,
In a world that jacks up your hormones with everything you eat,
Milk, GMO anything, lunchmeat is bad, some veggies are bad
Which ones depends on who you talk to,
Doctors don’t really want you having babies either,
So it’s not like they get it.
Having babies is easy,
Just natural old childbirth.

Motherhood DID Ruin My Life

I keep seeing all these posts from other women that are supposed to be jabs at “the liberals” for talking about how miserable having lots of kids makes them.(I know I know Stereotype but it’s not my stereotype it’s theirs!) Instead it just makes me feel like they are showing off how awesome their life is.

Now I know they aren’t doing this on purpose, but having kids has been the most miserable experience of my life. For 26 years I looked forward to being married. I was so excited for everything about it but a big part of how excited I was was the sex! So obviously hubby and I had sex every chance we got when we first got married. 9 times the first day, and at least once after that.

Until we lost Emma. Now, losing Emma was not as simple as it looks in the movies. I gave up a job I had been working for for 2 years to keep her safe, Hubby and I worried constantly and panicked about the insurance and taking care of her and where she was going to live, I was miserably tired and sick the entire time I was pregnant and SO fat. I gained a whole size the 9 weeks I was pregnant with her.

Then actually losing her was the most horrifying thing you can imagine. Huge blood clots, blood constantly steaming out of me, so much blood it just constantly streamed even when I was the shower, insane cramps, and panic attacks so severe you can’t imagine. Even most of the women I know who’ve had miscarriages don’t seem to have panicked as severely as I did. I was sure I was going to die.

Then she was gone. I did not even get to hold a beautiful baby girl at the end of it. I got nothing good, just loss and utter misery. And worse, now sex, which I looked forward to for 26 years, became a nightmare. Every time we are together it becomes about avoiding a baby, no simple love anymore. Charting, dating, recording, timing. All conspiring to make it really hard to just enjoy each other.

Then I got sick of it. We tried again. Lost Charlie at 3 or 4 weeks. I didn’t even get far enough to feel like I can grieve him. But I know he was there, and that was a miscarriage clot. I NEVER have clots at the time of the month, and that time of the month was way too early to not be losing my baby boy. That was followed by quite a panic attack.

Then, I find out that my religion forbids oral sex. I asked priests for 2 years if they did, but I don’t find out they forbid until it becomes the only way I survive our time avoiding. So my religion is in tatters and has become a weapon against my survival.

Now if I go to Church I have to listen to them talk about how great women are if they have lots of babies. And if I go to a Catholic young adults group my husband and I get stares, and glares, and other couples boasting about getting pregnant after “only 3 months” of being married. Well, I TRIED. I did not want to have kids, but I gave it a chance because I love my husband and my Church wanted us to have kids, and I did not want to do NFP. And only 3 months? We were pregnant within a week. And in that week we lost our chances for a blissful first year of being newlyweds.

And that is just a taste of everything motherhood has done to me.

So, motherhood didn’t ruin your life? Great. Good for you. I am glad you got so fucking lucky. But I didn’t. Motherhood ruined me. I am a completely different person now, and I don’t want to be her. This isn’t who I am. But now it is.

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