Thursday, November 29, 2012

today marks month 11 without my dad, and quite honestly, i'm dreading the next four weeks. i'm having a hard time getting into the christmas spirit knowing that he won't be with us this year, and i sure as heck don't want to face that dreadful day that follows four days later.

last christmas was beautiful. it was round two of 'operation spoil our parents', an idea my siblings and i came up with to bless my mom and dad's socks off. i'll never forget the look on my dad's face when he saw us pull out another gift, and another. he just kept smiling, shaking his head, and saying, "this is too much".

or the joy he had when we were all together eating his favourite brushetta. "i'm going to eat this on boxing day", he said. having been sick for as long as i can remember, food was one of the only things that brought him joy in life at this point. food and family. and he had both of those right in front of him that day.

if i close my eyes i can picture his face when he opened the rascal flatts CD that he wanted, and can hear him talking about his favourite song [i still can't listen to it]. i could barely keep the tears back when my mom told me he spent his last day listening to the CD over and over, right before they went out to his favourite restaurant, east side marios, with the gift card we gave him. it was a perfect day. perfect except i wasn't there to share it with him; and oh how i wish i could've been there to share it with him.

he was a real trooper that man. he endured several heart attacks and surgeries, a stroke, kidney failure, the loss of his legs and his independence, and the list goes on. yet he kept going, inspiring me each and every day. inspiring me today.

love you and miss you, dad.

Tuesday, November 27, 2012

i, paula castrucci, have a 'thorn in my flesh', which just so happens to come in the form of a disease by the name of 'premenstrual dysphoric disorder' [sorry, fellas, i promise not to get graphic].

in grade eight, i had my first bout of depression. i had no idea where it came from either. i was in the running for female athlete of the year [at 32, i still 'got game'] and an english award, i had friends, good grades, you name it; but all of a sudden, this 'thing' hit me. i went from feeling happy to hopeless, and though i didn't know it at the time, deeply depressed, which seemed to be a monthly battle from there on in.

fast forward to my 27th year. i was living in edmonton at the time and hit my deepest bout of depression yet. after spending four very long days in bed [and 15 years battling this demon], i decided that i needed to get some help. days later, i began tracking my moods on a calendar.

if i had a good day, i drew a happy face. a normal day, a normal [?] one, and when i felt depressed, i drew a sad face. it didn't take me very long to realize that these episodes were surrounding my period. [again, sorry, fellas].

so i did what any one of us would do: i googled it [which i don't highly recommend as it usually leads you to a hypochondriac who convinces you that you have some form of cancer]. i very quickly came across a disease called 'premenstrual dysphoric disorder', and within minutes, i had the answer to a question i was asking myself all of these years: "what the heck is wrong with me?"

i took my findings to my doctor, was diagnosed with PMDD almost immediately, and put on a mild anti-depressant for six months to help me cope.

in addition to this, i started seeing a counselor and began looking at ways in which i could combat this battle of mine every month.

six months later, as mentioned above, i was taken off of the anti-depressants and began fighting this demon with the tools i had been given through counseling. i had good days and bad days. i lost some friends, and quality of life, but i finally came to a point years later where i could function during these two weeks each month, even though my emotions were still too intense for me at times.

thankfully, my last bout of depression was august 2010 [right before i moved to ottawa]. I WAS FINALLY FREE AND HAD NEVER FELT BETTER. i felt content. happy. fulfilled even.

then my dad passes away. add that to the fact that i was working for an unhealthy organization, and BOOM - all of a sudden my emotions become even more amplified and i no longer [feel like i] know how to cope with life. and soon after, the depression episodes reappear.

i withdrew. cried myself to sleep more often than not. felt hopeless. suicidal even. i tried everything. praying. reading my bible. all the things people in the church have told me i need to do in times like this. only nothing seemed to be working. life just kept getting darker and darker.

so a few months ago, i went back to the doctor, got some meds, and put myself on a ten week waiting list for cheap counseling, because, friends - if you get anything out of this blog, get this - there is no shame in needing [or getting] help.

do i feel better? not always. more hopeful? sometimes. am i bored stiff and discouraged because my job prospects keep falling through and i seem to be living the same day over and over? most definitely. but do i think that this will always be the case? not at all. i will get better.

and so will you.

Wednesday, November 21, 2012

i've been laying in bed the past few days trying to come up with words to describe the battle i've been fighting, but even my prayers have come up empty. please excuse my feeble attempts at processing my thoughts as i sit here and type.

i think the biggest thing is how lonely and out of place i've felt here lately. i've become extremely frustrated with north american culture and our inability to put our phones down for ten minutes and carry a meaningful conversation, and our need to spend 1000's of dollars on stuff that moth and rust destroy, when people in our own backyard are dying without the bare necessities. [ranting done]. i feel like God is doing a deep work in me when it comes to living a simple life [even more simple than i am now] and giving me a deeper love for the poor, but with that comes frustration with the culture we live in. as a result, i find myself constantly fighting against being judgemental towards people who 'don't get it'. forgive me. [disclaimer: in no ways am i saying that it's wrong to work hard, make money, and spend it on nice stuff - that's not my point].

my heart aches for the church and longs for the type of community i read about in acts so bad! i was reading a book about the types of pathways that connect people to God and according to the author's theories - which i found very accurate - i was designed to learn relationally, which means i learn about christ and draw closest to him through deep, meaningful relationships. on the contrary, i feel empty and unfulfilled without them.

the crappy thing is, my love languages are the two that people have the hardest time giving: words and quality time, so i'm continually battling feeling unloved no matter which approach others use to show me otherwise. [if you have no idea what i'm talking about, you should check out dr. gary chapman's book 'the five love languages'; it may change your life].

more thoughts later ... maybe.

Wednesday, November 14, 2012

believe it or not, i'm a sucker for documentaries. i love learning about creation, social issues, and people. give me an interesting documentary and its' images will be engrained in my mind for as long as i live.

take terry fox for example. i've known about his story for as long as i can remember, but something stuck out to me as i watched a documentary on him a few years back.

terry got tired. here he was running across canada with a wooden leg and cancer in his lungs. sweat poured down his face. fear could be seen in his eyes. yet he had a cause; a focus, and he chose to keep his eyes on that with every step.

but his cause wasn't all that kept him going.

people did.

just when he wanted to give up, someone gave him a pat on the back, yelled a "we believe in you, terry or a "keep going, you're going to make it!" from the sidelines.

this is what my recent trip to kansas was for me; a much needed reminder that i, paula castrucci, am believed in.

prior to my trip, i was fighting discouragement and battling depression, caused by none other than the time of the month, the fact that i am unemployed and have far too much time to think, and the fact that i have yet to find peace in light of my dad passing away almost a year a go. i woke up the morning of my flight not having the energy to get to the bus station to ensure i made it in time for my flight, but something in me told me to get up and go any ways. and am i ever glad i did.

after a long day of travel, i was greeted at the airport by some of the world's greatest youth equipped with welcome signs and hugs. within seconds, i felt an enormous amount of love, which carried me through the night, week, and is carrying me through the unknown even now.

i can't tell you how special my family in kansas made me feel. from home cooked meals, to starbucks, to warm hospitality, i was well taken care of. not to mention the fact that the student ministry there blessed me with several books and resources for ministry, which included a whole bible commentary set; an investment that has left me speechless to this day.

prior to the trip, i didn't have much fight left in me and had lost my focus. just when i wanted to quit i heard a "come on, paula - you can do this. im fighting with you" coming from the sidelines. a few people showed genuine concern for me. some embraced me. others prayed, and all encouraged.

it may have been the documentary that first reminded me of the crucial role that those cheering terry on from the sidelines played in his journey, but it was those cheering me on this past week that reminded me of the crucial role that you and i have in each other's lives today.

who is spurring you on? who are you spurring on?

"by no means do I count myself an expert in all of this, but I’ve got my eye on the goal, where God is beckoning us onward—to Jesus. i’m off and running, and i’m not turning back. so let’s keep focused on that goal, those of us who want everything God has for us. if any of you have something else in mind, something less than total commitment, God will clear your blurred vision—you’ll see it yet! now that we’re on the right track, let’s stay on it" [philippians 3:14-16 MSG]