Friday, October 29, 2021

Cross to Bear

Our lives, as different as it may seem, are somehow intertwined with similar events. Some lifestyles are dramatically different, but we still go through situations where we're dealing with illnesses (of various kinds), deaths, a loss of a relationship, divorce or a loss of an animal. We can relate to at least one thing, even if we're so incredibly different. I think that's where empathy comes in. Some people have a lot, while others may seem to be lacking. So here are my thoughts on that. 

This is an old story about a man who wanted to change out his life's problems for somebody else's life problems. Although it's a lengthy story, it's so worth the read: 


The story is told of a man who goes to Jesus wanting to trade out his cross for a better one. He tells the Lord, "I see the crosses that others are carrying and theirs are much more bearable than mine. Why does my cross have to be so cumbersome and heavy? Other people carry their cross with ease and mine is hindering my day to day life.” Jesus leads the man to a room full of crosses. Some are big and others are small. 

The man is instructed to put down his cross and then go select a new cross. The only stipulation was once he made his selection he could never complain or exchange his cross again. 

He searches for hours on end. The big crosses were just as he assumed very large and very heavy. He knew there was no way he could ever carry those crosses. The smaller crosses were shockingly painful. Some had stickers that constantly stuck you in the shoulder or back reminding you of the beams you were bearing. Others were oddly shaped and rubbed the neck raw. 

Finally the man came upon a cross that was perfect for him. Not too big but not too little. There were no sharp prodding objects and it rested perfectly on his shoulder so it would not irritate him as he carried it. 

The man cried out, “Here it is Lord.” Jesus asked the man, “Are you sure? Remember there are no trades or exchanges and no more complaining about your cross.” The man replied, “I am sure. This is the perfect cross for me.” To which Jesus replied, ‘My child, that is the cross you carried in with you today.”

Have you ever felt like other people have it easier than you do? They seemingly go through life without stumbling, and can do everything without complaining?  I remember years ago, I met an old friend for lunch. We both had changed so much in so many ways. She started her family at a very young age. She had four children, and then had two kids later on in life. Her hands were full. On social media, you saw all the vacation pictures of them smiling, having fun, playing games and surrounded by so many family and friends. I always loved seeing their beach trips, their ski trips and their hikes up the Mist Trails near the Nevada Falls. Everything seemed just perfect. It was like photos straight out of a magazine of the perfect family. 

As she drank her third glass of wine, she said, "You are so incredibly lucky, Deb." I laughed, almost spitting up my own drink thinking, "I have not left this town in years!" She said, "No, not that--I mean, you get to do what you want when you want and there are no kids screaming for you every second of the day." 

I paused and just looked at her without saying one word...without judgment. 

"If I had to do it all over again, it would just be my husband and I--no kids. I don't regret having them, because of course, I love them very much, but I would just want it to be my husband and I exploring the world together." 

There was nothing I could've said to that. I also didn't want to make her feel like her feelings were invalid. She felt what she felt and she was honest to a flaw. Here I am thinking about how many times we tried to have kids, or looked into adopting, and in later years, wondered about 'what if I missed out' on having kids. I always thought it must've been nice to have a large family as she did. Some do genuinely enjoy that kind of life, but she felt as though she was missing out in life somehow, even with all that traveling and family togetherness. I saw it so differently than she did, but then again, I wasn't struggling to raise six kids. 

Then you have the flip side of the situation, where you have a large family, and then go through a divorce, end up losing your kids, and find yourself sitting in your living room wishing it were family night again. It's all so subjective and personal. No loss is greater than another. And no life is greater than another. Also, no life is harder than another---no matter how much you try to justify it. Life itself is hard nonetheless, whether emotionally, physically, spiritually, financially, 'howeverly' (yes, I know that's not a word) --but you get my drift. Do not compare your life with someone else's. You'll torture yourself and realize, you would pick out your own cross too. I won't even say the grass is greener cliché. 

When you find yourself in a situation where another friend says, "I'm just so overwhelmed and stressed right now," --- try not to say, "Well aren't we all?" Instead, try saying, "I know." And you do---because you have your own struggles too. Maybe just listen instead of comparing. And if you need to reference your own story, do so, but let that person vent to you first. Let them talk, instead of giving them a "bigger story" of your own. Validate their feelings. Let them know it's okay to feel that way. One of my pet peeves are when people try to 'outdo' someone else's story. It's so common to do, and sometimes we don't even realize we're doing it. In a lighter kind of conversation---yes this is great. But on a deeper level, never compare 'worse vs. worse.' It makes people feel like they have no right to grieve over whatever situation they're sad about. 

When I'm trapped in my own pity party of one, I list down things that I'm grateful for. It helps put things in perspective for me. What's good in your life? What makes you happy about what you have? How grateful are you to wake up with air in your lungs, a hot cup of coffee or someone to wake up to? The richest people in the world want one thing: what they already have. They're not chasing after the next best thing---they're thanking God every single day for every blessing that's ever been bestowed upon them. And if you're fortunate enough to have many blessings in your life, the beauty of sharing is never regretful---monetary or not. No one has ever gone poor by giving---and that's a fact. We all have crosses to bear, some seemingly more difficult than others, but challenging nonetheless, no matter what you may think.

For more of Deb's articles, please visit: www.debrapasquella.com or join her on Facebook and Twitter. Check out her cooking blog at DebsCucina.com for some of her famous recipes!


Wednesday, October 20, 2021

Is There a Cure To Anxiety?


Panic attacks and anxiety disorder can be debilitating to live with. I bet you can remember your first real panic attack---how you felt, the pins and needles, the breathlessness, and the pounding heart. It's scary and we automatically assume that something must be wrong with us. I've been reading the book, "Dare," by Barry McDonagh. It's a book based off the teachings of Dr. Hazel Claire Weekes. Weekes found that many of her patients suffered from anxiety disorders, such as agoraphobia, panic attacks, phobias, generalized anxiety disorder, and obsessive-compulsive disorder. In her books, she chose to avoid the term "nervous breakdown", as much as possible, as she considered the term unscientific and unnecessarily alarming. She also avoided the term "Anxiety State", as she felt it was too "medical". She decided to replace the terms with "Nervous Illness" instead. 

She was concerned by the severe long-term effect the disorders had on her patients' lives and by the failure of psychiatric treatments such as psychoanalysis, that many had tried. Instead, she developed her own unique treatment program. She noted, for example that patients did not suffer from these problems because they had flawed personalities or traumatic childhoods. Rather, the problems were caused by the patient having a habit of fear-avoidance, made worse, or caused, by a very responsive "sensitized" nervous system. She was critical both of Freudian approaches and of attempts by behaviorists to "desensitize" their patients using relaxation. This method is meant to cure anxiety---not to just cope with it. That's why doctors are against it. 

This is different than just everyday kind of stress. This is a panic attack, which develops a fear of another panic attack. This vicious cycle ultimately creates "anxiety disorder." Barry McDonagh explains it like this: there's flash anxiety and response anxiety. Let's say you're taking a shower, and all of the sudden, you find yourself gasping for air, your heart's pounding and you feel like you're going to pass out. Note one thing---you can never pass out because of a panic attack because most of the oxygen produced in the fight or flight response goes directly to your brain. Anxiety "disorder" is created when we find ourselves fearing another panic attack. It's the avoidance of going to the same place where we had the panic attack. Some people will avoid the shower! If they had the panic attack in a grocery store, most will avoid shopping at all costs. I remember having a terrible panic attack while I was stuck in traffic driving toward New Jersey one day. I was in the left lane and I couldn't pull over even if I wanted to. My heart started pounding, the palms of my hands started sweating and I truly thought I was going to die. As soon as I pressed the SOS button in my car, once the representative said, "Hi Debra, how can we assist you today?" The traffic started moving, and so I said, "I'm so sorry! I hit the button by accident trying to find the light." He wasn't bothered at all, and life went on--so did the traffic. But after that episode, I avoided high traffic areas, or going out of town by myself. 

The techniques both Dr. Weekes and Barry McDonagh uses helps so much, that (knock on wood) I haven't had a panic attack since. And when I feel one coming on, I respond totally differently now. So when you feel one coming on, invite it in. "Bring it on! Let me find out more about you!" Invite the panic attack to come on stronger. Your heart is meant to palpitate from time to time and work a little faster. Your brain has an innate response to each issue or function in your body. Maybe your body needs to release a little energy, so you feel your heart pounding a little faster. Let it. Your heart is healthy and strong. (Assuming you have been checked out by a doctor with unknown health issues.) Whenever I feel my heart trying to speed up, I just think of it as an easy exercise session. I don't even have to move. But it doesn't last long, because my brain already said, "Who cares!" 

It works.

If you already know me, you know my avoidances. You know that I get Instacart way too much. I'm not a fan of going into crowded restaurants. Well, so far during the past couple of weeks, I have gone shopping in a large grocery store and made it out alive. I have gone to farms and shops outside of my comfort zone. I have also went out to dinner with my better half and had an amazing time. I didn't even have an ounce of anxiety whatsoever. I also know that there will be setbacks, like in recovery in anything. Maybe it'll set me back some, but I'm trying my hardest to do things that are UN-COM-FORT-ABLE. What's the difference between a panic attack at home and one in a grocery store, or one in the middle of traffic? They all can be managed regardless. 

The book goes into great detail about each circumstance. You can get the audiobook (which is great too) or the hard copy. I seriously recommend this book because it goes against the grain of textbook psychology. In fact, many psychologists and big pharma would advise against this book because they know they'll lose money if everyone tries this approach. 

Give it a shot! 

For more of Deb's articles, please visit: www.debrapasquella.com or join her on Facebook and Twitter. Check out her cooking blog at DebsCucina.com for some of her famous recipes!

Friday, October 15, 2021

If They Gossip About Others, They'll Gossip About You Too


Generally, I love people. I love the uniqueness of what each individual can bring to the table, whether they teach you something, give you companionship, share a cup of coffee with you or just say nothing at all while you vent. Some friends can be great sounding boards. But it should be even more than that---a bond, a 'knowing' that, "Hey, I got your back--" and a trusting of some kind. For me that's important. That's what I look for in a friend. Humor is a plus. But sometimes, humor isn't needed 24/7. Too much humor can belittle someone else's feelings sometimes...depends on what it is of course. 

Religious Talk

Through experience, I've learned a few things. This may sound blunt, but this is how I think and sometimes, I'm wrong. As a Christian, I don't bring up God to my friends or try to get them to hop on the bandwagon to get baptized and start dancing in some born again church somewhere. If they ask me about my relationship with God, I am more than happy to answer. I'm not ashamed of God---as you can see from my blog. Most of my close friends and family know about my blog, so they have all the info they need if they want to know where I stand. Religion and politics should kinda be on the back burner. If you want someone to know about your God or spiritual practices, then just be a good example of it. 

Sexual (Unnecessary) Stories

Anything of a sexual nature makes me uncomfortable. For instance, detailed events of what you did last night is none of my business. In light 'general speaking of'---that's fine. But detailed smut---please no. I don't want to visualize my friends in any sexual extravaganza, or if they were hanging off the chandeliers in leather suits. Save it, with all due respect. 

The Childless Giving Parental Advice

There's also an unspoken rule about people giving advice about parenting. If you don't have kids, your advice should be taken with a grain of salt. Sorry, but that's the way it works. I could never tell some mother or father how to raise their child. Never. I can listen, have a compassionate ear, maybe tell my thoughts if asked, but I am not the person to rely on for parental advice. People who jump at the chance to tell you how to parent, when they have no children are not the right ones to talk to. 

If They Gossip About Others, They'll Gossip About You

I only trust very few. And it's sad, because I want to trust everyone. One of the biggest red flags to look when seeing if you can trust a friend is, if they are gossiping about everybody else. Because if they gossip to you, they'll gossip about you. I shut it right down. I can see chatting about an event that happened---but this is different. I'm talking about discussing someone in a derogatory way. If you insult a mutual friend, and trying to poison me with your skewed outlook of them, I will shut it down right away. I will never tell you anything personal again. If the person lies even once, then everything out of their mouth is questionable and not to be trusted. You can still be friends with these people, (if you want) but never tell your personal issues to them. I've had my shizizzle blasted to so many people, the game of telephone had me "knocked up and married in Vegas somewhere." 

The 'Entertaining' Pathological Liars

People love to tell a good story, especially insecure people. They want to be entertaining, funny and witty. But when it comes at the expense of insulting the people who you care about, it becomes more of an evil attempt to look good, when in fact like they look like complete fools. Some are pathological liars just for the mere chance to appear entertaining. They need a good story like a tabloid journalist. They gotta be the first ones to tell you too. And 70% of their stories are fabricated. It's actually a psychological personality disorder. Just know who you're dealing with before divulging personal info, because it'll get elaborated and printed out to the masses. They usually exaggerate things, they keep on changing their stories, and they live in a false sense of ‘reality.’ If confronted, they act defensive and never admit that they are liars. Lastly, they hold no value for truth. Usually, it is observed that people with attention deficit hyperactivity disorder (ADHD), bipolar disorder, and borderline personality disorder resort to lying compulsively. So to give them credit, it may not be intentional. It may be a disorder that they can't help. 

In the bigger scheme of things, it's always great to be welcoming. I always say, give everyone the benefit of the doubt until they show you otherwise.  But if they've already shown you their true colors more than once, don't try to paint another picture of them. You can either just accept them (with the knowledge of never divulging personal info) and keep it kind of surfaced, or you can simply get the hell outta Dodge! 

For more of Deb's articles, please visit: www.debrapasquella.com or join her on Facebook and Twitter. Check out her cooking blog at DebsCucina.com for some of her famous recipes!

Emotional Self-Preservation

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