So What If I am “Crazy”?

I am a strong Asian woman: I survived a childhood trauma; I aced my college; spent years of my single life working for international design firms; I hiked up 6,000-plus-foot mountains; worked for a non-government organization helping communities in difficult circumstances; empowered children who are  orphaned and abused in the Philippines; counseled countless single women; rode the waves down in Puerto Galera islands in a kayak; designed numerous stage backdrops; painted countless murals; ran a full and half mile marathons; traveled to various countries; I’m raising a child with Autism Spectrum Disorder; I’m a multi tasking and get it done woman. I feel the ‘S’ in my chest.

Sampeng Market; Bangkok, Thailand

Sampeng Market; Bangkok, Thailand

I am an Asian woman with a brain disorder, also known as a mental illness — specifically, manic depression, also known as bipolar disorder. I was first diagnosed in 1999. My church minister who i am very close too told me that my emotional behavior was very unlikely and that I should seek a ‘professional help’. I did not want to see a psychiatrist, because “nothing is wrong with me. I’m not crazy!” But I was compelled to see one if I want to be successful in my career and be effective serving in my ministry.

At my first appointment the psychiatrist listened to my tales of trauma, identity crisis, my roller coaster emotions and roidy behavior, and suggested that we consider a mixed of Bipolar I and II as a “working diagnosis.”

I never heard the term “bipolar” before, not in the Philippines as far as I know. I didn’t know that there was more than one type. My psychiatrist explained that Bipolar I is a combination of depression and mania. Bipolar II is characterized by hypomania, which is more of a subdued but ever-changing cocktail of energy spurts, spontaneous irritation, impulsive behavior and inflated confidence.

Like many people, I once felt that having a mental illness was a sign of personal weakness. As an interior designer, I was a perfectionist when it comes to implementing my designs. I was motivated to be successful. I was very ambitious. In my field, there is no room for being weak. I also spent lots of time sharing the scriptures and counseling women but when it was my turn, I felt that going to the psychiatrist was a sign of failure.

Since then I’ve been discreetly undergoing treatment for Bipolar; therapy, medication, the whole nine. Only my very closest friends at church knew what I was going through. They were very supportive and they monitored and made sure that I was taking my medications.

I never spent time in a mental health treatment facility, but I will probably need medication for a lifetime, and sit many hours in a therapist’s office. Most of all, I will need the ‘prescription’ of the bible to remind me of hope and that God is on my side. I’ve got the ‘master of the universe’ and a whole professional team that works with me to keep me sane.

Hiking Mount Pulag with my mountaineering club

Hiking Mount Pulag in the Philippines with my mountaineering club

According to the mythology that surrounds the strength of Asians specifically Filipinos, “falling apart” is just not something we do. We survived the Spanish, Japanese and American invasions; oppression and economic deprivation. We know how to “handle our business,” riding through countless floods and calamities. We see therapy as the domain of “weak,” neurotic people who don’t know what “real problems” are. Instead, to deal with our psychic pain we excessively use alcohol and drugs and act out violently through word and deed, but we do not go crazy. That’s not our culture.

Because being “crazy” means you can’t handle life, and in our story of who we are, we are survivors who can handle anything, which means that we do what we have to do to survive. But this does not usually include a trip to the mental health professional of our choice. It is time to add this to our survival toolkit.

I used to be ashamed and secretive of the reality described in the previous paragraph but proud of the life described in the first. Now it’s an integrated whole. Superhero status is not required. I cannot save the world, and sometimes I’m the one who needs saving.

I thought before I could probably keep it a secret forever to my non-church friends, but also have been wondering what if I did.  I wonder if I even need to. I mean, I lived a double life and for years I knew that something is seriously wrong with me before knowing Christ; a countless string of boyfriends that ended to a break up because I couldn’t figure out how to handle a relationship; obsessive compulsive behavior, alcohol addiction and suicidal thoughts.

Is it really better to medicate myself with alcohol, be depressed and run away from those around me, instead of seeking help for what troubles me so deeply that I choose to self-destruct — though perhaps not in the stereotypical idea of what suicide looks like to me, I don’t think so.

Serving children in difficult circumstances; Baseco, Philippines

Serving the children in difficult circumstances; Baseco, Philippines

I gradually started sharing to my friends and my family about my condition. Like what is expected, my family was in denial, perhaps because they do not know anything about this disorder. Some of my friends would say “NO, you’re not!” or “It doesn’t show!”. It is hard to explain sometimes to people why I feel what I feel and why I do what I do but sharing to them is the only way I can be true to myself and to people. The best person to ask how my disorder is manifested in my life is through Moses, my amazing husband who in spite of all my craziness, stood by me and is faithful.

Recently, I shared to one mother whom I am close to that I have Bipolar disorder and before I knew it, she didn’t want anything to do with me. This made me think, perhaps, I don’t need to share my illness so I don’t have to figure out how to tell people and be subjected to their reactions. I don’t need to be concerned whether I will be accepted or not.

However, I know that at some point I must stop worrying what other people are going to think and get about the business of getting well and moving forward in my life.

So how do we begin to eliminate the stigma of mental illness so that we can get the help we need and support those who need it?

  1. Talk about it. Don’t whisper or gossip about it. Talk about it at the barbecue. From the pulpit. On TV. On the radio. With our doctors. With our loved ones. If we can talk about our “sugar” and our “pressure,” then we should be willing to talk about our depression.
  2. Support others in getting help. We send friends to the doctor for the nagging back pain, so send them to get relief from their mental and emotional pain, too. And don’t forget to ask them how they are doing as time passes; they need friends more than you know.
  3. Let us not stigmatize the brain. It is attached to the body, so mental illness is a physical illness, especially as chemical imbalances are at the root of their expression. Furthermore, the biochemical impacts of a brain disorder are felt throughout the whole body, not just in the brain.
  4. Say, “This person has a mental illness,” not, “This person is mentally ill”. We do not say, “That person is cancerous.” Words have power. Communicating to people with the proper description help others to be aware of the differences.
  5. Acknowledge - that those who survive a brain disorder are as much survivors as family and friends who survive life-threatening diseases.  Understand that we work just as hard to stay sane as the addict does to stay sober. As cancer or addiction goes into remission, so, too, do brain disorders. They are fighting to win over their illnesses.
  6. Support people who share their stories of brain disorders. It is time to show that the faces and lives of people with a mental illness are not just the faces and lives of the homeless person talking to the unseen. It is my face and my life, and the faces and lives of so many other men and women like me.
  7. Advocate for accessible and affordable mental health services. Most people with mental illness do not get help because of the cost of medication and therapy. Help them through surfing online or looking for a network that can provide affordable health services or even better, free.
  8. Encourage people to have a spiritual life. Like any other illnesses and addiction, the most effective way of healing is to acknowledge that there is a higher power that can help you manage your life. Surround yourself with positive and spiritual people who can support and encourage you.      
Sunday afternoon; Bondi Beach in Sydney, Australia

Sunday afternoon; Bondi Beach in Sydney, Australia

“Coming out” requires courage. Like any other consciousness-raising process, a range of role models that represent a variety of experiences with mental illness will change perceptions. I have role models to inspire me in my various endeavors. I need a list of people with Bipolar disorder who have survived and thrived.

No doubt due to the stigma, it is difficult to find names of well-known Asians with a “confirmed” history of mental illness — and this is no place for innuendo or rumor-mongering. Though I’m not well-known, I will start this list with me: My name is Lorraine Edralin, and I have Bipolar disorder. I am a wife, a mother, designer, blogger, runner, kayaker, hiker, traveler, a servant of God and as sane and happy a person as you would ever want to meet. My brain disorder does not define who I am.

“For you created my inmost being;
you knit me together in my mother’s womb.
I praise you because I am fearfully and wonderfully made; your works are wonderful, I know that full well. ”                                                                                                        -Psalm 139: 13-14

How to Deal with Traumatic Experiences

   depresssion

 When bad things happen, it can take a while to get over the pain and feel safe again. But with the right treatment, self-help strategies, and support, you can speed your recovery. Whether the traumatic event happened years ago or yesterday, you can heal and move on.

What is emotional and psychological trauma?

Emotional and psychological trauma is the result of extraordinarily stressful events that shatter your sense of security, making you feel helpless and vulnerable in a dangerous world.

Traumatic experiences often involve a threat to life or safety, but any situation that leaves you feeling overwhelmed and alone can be traumatic, even if it doesn’t involve physical harm. It’s not the objective facts that determine whether an event is traumatic, but your subjective emotional experience of the event. The more frightened and helpless you feel, the more likely you are to be traumatized.

Causes of emotional or psychological trauma

An event will most likely lead to emotional or psychological trauma if:

  • It happened unexpectedly.
  • You were unprepared for it.
  • You felt powerless to prevent it.
  • It happened repeatedly.
  • Someone was intentionally cruel.
  • It happened in childhood.

Emotional and psychological trauma can be caused by single-blow, one-time events, such as a horrible accident, a natural disaster, or a violent attack. Trauma can also stem from ongoing, relentless stress, such as living in a crime-ridden neighborhood or struggling with cancer.

Commonly overlooked causes of emotional and psychological trauma

  • Falls or sports injuries
  • Surgery (especially in the first 3 years of life)
  • The sudden death of someone close
  • A car accident
  • The breakup of a significant relationship
  • A humiliating or deeply disappointing experience
  • The discovery of a life-threatening illness or disabling condition

Risk factors that increase your vulnerability to trauma

Not all potentially traumatic events lead to lasting emotional and psychological damage. Some people rebound quickly from even the most tragic and shocking experiences. Others are devastated by experiences that, on the surface, appear to be less upsetting.

A number of risk factors make people susceptible to emotional and psychological trauma. People are more likely to be traumatized by a stressful experience if they’re already under a heavy stress load or have recently suffered a series of losses.

People are also more likely to be traumatized by a new situation if they’ve been traumatized before – especially if the earlier trauma occurred in childhood.

Childhood trauma increases the risk of future trauma

Experiencing trauma in childhood can have a severe and long-lasting effect. Children who have been traumatized see the world as a frightening and dangerous place. When childhood trauma is not resolved, this fundamental sense of fear and helplessness carries over into adulthood, setting the stage for further trauma.

Childhood trauma results from anything that disrupts a child’s sense of safety and security, including:

  • An unstable or unsafe environment
  • Separation from a parent
  • Serious illness
  • Intrusive medical procedures

Symptoms of emotional and psychological trauma

Following a traumatic event, or repeated trauma, people react in different ways, experiencing a wide range of physical and emotional reactions. There is no “right” or “wrong” way to think, feel, or respond to trauma, so don’t judge your own reactions or those of other people. Your responses are NORMAL reactions to ABNORMAL events.

Emotional and psychological symptoms of trauma:

  • Shock, denial, or disbelief
  • Anger, irritability, mood swings
  • Guilt, shame, self-blame
  • Feeling sad or hopeless
  • Confusion, difficulty concentrating
  • Anxiety and fear
  • Withdrawing from others
  • Feeling disconnected or numb

Physical symptoms of trauma:

  • Insomnia or nightmares
  • Being startled easily
  • Racing heartbeat
  • Aches and pains
  • Fatigue
  • Difficulty concentrating
  • Edginess and agitation
  • Muscle tension

These symptoms and feelings typically last from a few days to a few months, gradually fading as you process the trauma. But even when you’re feeling better, you may be troubled from time to time by painful memories or emotions—especially in response to triggers such as an anniversary of the event or an image, sound, or situation that reminds you of the traumatic experience.

Grieving is normal following trauma

Whether or not a traumatic event involves death, survivors must cope with the loss, at least temporarily, of their sense of safety and security. The natural reaction to this loss is grief. Like people who have lost a loved one, trauma survivors go through a grieving process. This process, while inherently painful, is easier if you turn to others for support, take care of yourself, and talk about how you feel.

When to seek professional help for emotional or psychological trauma

Recovering from a traumatic event takes time, and everyone heals at his or her own pace. But if months have passed and your symptoms aren’t letting up, you may need professional help from a trauma expert.

Seek help for emotional or psychological trauma if you’re:

  • Having trouble functioning at home or work
  • Suffering from severe fear, anxiety, or depression
  • Unable to form close, satisfying relationships
  • Experiencing terrifying memories, nightmares, or flashbacks
  • Avoiding more and more things that remind you of the trauma
  • Emotionally numb and disconnected from others
  • Using alcohol or drugs to feel better

Finding a trauma specialist

Working through trauma can be scary, painful, and potentially retraumatizing. Because of the risk of retraumatization, this healing work is best done with the help of an experienced trauma specialist.

Finding the right therapist may take some time. It’s very important that the therapist you choose has experience treating trauma. But the quality of the relationship with your therapist is equally important. Choose a trauma specialist you feel comfortable with. Trust your instincts. If you don’t feel safe, respected, or understood, find another therapist. There should be a sense of trust and warmth between you and your trauma therapist.

After meeting a potential trauma therapist, ask yourself these questions:

  • Did you feel comfortable discussing your problems with the therapist?
  • Did you feel like the therapist understood what you were talking about?
  • Were your concerns taken seriously or were they minimized or dismissed?
  • Were you treated with compassion and respect?
  • Do you believe that you could grow to trust the therapist?

Treatment for psychological and emotional trauma

In order to heal from psychological and emotional trauma, you must face and resolve the unbearable feelings and memories you’ve long avoided. Otherwise they will return again and again, unbidden and uncontrollable.

Trauma treatment and healing involves:

  • Processing trauma-related memories and feelings
  • Discharging pent-up “fight-or-flight” energy
  • Learning how to regulate strong emotions
  • Building or rebuilding the ability to trust other people

Trauma therapy treatment approaches

Trauma disrupts the body’s natural equilibrium, freezing you in a state of hyperarousal and fear. In essence, your nervous system gets stuck in overdrive. Successful trauma treatment must address this imbalance and reestablish your physical sense of safety. The following therapies are commonly used in the treatment of emotional and psychological trauma:

  • Somatic experiencing takes advantage of the body’s unique ability to heal itself. The focus of therapy is on bodily sensations, rather than thoughts and memories about the traumatic event. By concentrating on what’s happening in your body, you gradually get in touch with trauma-related energy and tension. From there, your natural survival instincts take over, safely releasing this pent-up energy through shaking, crying, and other forms of physical release.
  • EMDR (Eye Movement Desensitization and Reprocessing) incorporates elements of cognitive-behavioral therapy with eye movements or other forms of rhythmic, left-right stimulation. These back-and-forth eye movements are thought to work by “unfreezing” traumatic memories, allowing you to resolve them.
  • Cognitive-behavioral therapy helps you process and evaluate your thoughts and feelings about a trauma. While cognitive-behavioral therapy doesn’t treat the physiological effects of trauma, it can be helpful when used in addition to a body-based therapy such as somatic experiencing or EMDR.

Emotional and psychological trauma recovery tips

Recovering from emotional and psychological trauma takes time. Give yourself time to heal and to mourn the losses you’ve experienced. Don’t try to force the healing process. Be patient with the pace of recovery. Finally, be prepared for difficult and volatile emotions. Allow yourself to feel whatever you’re feeling without judgment or guilt.

Trauma self-help strategy 1: Don’t isolate

  • Following a trauma, you may want to withdraw from others, but isolation makes things worse. Connecting to others will help you heal, so make an effort to maintain your relationships and avoid spending too much time alone.
  • Ask for support. It’s important to talk about your feelings and ask for the help you need. Turn to a trusted family member, friend, counselor, or clergyman.
  • Participate in social activities, even if you don’t feel like it. Do “normal” things with other people, things that have nothing to do with the traumatic experience. If you’ve retreated from relationships that were once important to you, make the effort to reconnect.
  • Join a support group for trauma survivors. Being with others who are facing the same problems can help reduce your sense of isolation and hearing how others cope can help inspire you.
  • Volunteer. As well as helping others, volunteering can be a great way to challenge the sense of helplessness that often accompanies trauma. Remind yourself of your strengths and reclaim your sense of power by comforting or helping others.

Trauma self-help strategy 2: Stay grounded

In order to stay grounded after a trauma, it helps to have a structured schedule to follow.

  • Stick to a daily routine, with regular times for waking, sleeping, eating, working, and exercise. Make sure to schedule time for relaxing and social activities, too.
  • Break large jobs into smaller, manageable tasks. Take pleasure from the accomplishment of achieving something, even it’s a small thing.
  • Find activities that make you feel better and keep your mind occupied (reading, taking a class, cooking, playing with your kids or pets), so you’re not dedicating all your energy and attention to focusing on the traumatic experience.
  • Allow yourself to feel what you feel when you feel it. Acknowledge your feelings about the trauma as they arise and accept them. Accepting your feelings is part of the grieving process and is necessary for healing.

Staying grounded: A trauma self-help exercise

If you are feeling disoriented, confused, or upset, you can do the following exercise:

  • Sit on a chair. Feel your feet on the ground. Press on your thighs. Feel your behind on the seat and your back against the chair.
  • Look around you and pick six objects that have red or blue. This should allow you to feel in the present, more grounded, and in your body. Notice how your breath gets deeper and calmer.
  • You may want to go outdoors and find a peaceful place to sit on the grass. As you do, feel how your body can be held and supported by the ground.

Trauma self-help strategy 3: Take care of your health

A healthy body increases your ability to cope with stress from a trauma.

  • Get plenty of sleep. After a traumatic experience, worry or fear may disturb your sleep patterns. A lack of sleep can make your trauma symptoms worse and make it harder to maintain your emotional balance. Go to sleep and get up at the same time each day and aim for 7 to 9 hours of sleep each night.
  • Avoid alcohol and drugs as their use can worsen your trauma symptoms and exacerbate feelings of depression, anxiety, and isolation.
  • Exercise regularly. Regular exercise boosts serotonin, endorphins, and other feel-good brain chemicals. It also boosts self-esteem and helps to improve sleep. For maximum results, aim for 30 to 60 minutes of activity on most days.
  • Eat a well-balanced diet. Eating small, well-balanced meals throughout the day will help you keep your energy up and minimize mood swings. While you may be drawn to sugary foods for the quick boost they provide, complex carbohydrates are a better choice. Foods rich in certain omega-3 fats—such as salmon, walnuts, soybeans, and flaxseeds—can give your mood a boost.
  • Reduce stress. Making time for rest and relaxation will help you bring your life back into balance. Try relaxation techniques such as meditation, yoga, or deep breathing exercises. Schedule time for activities that bring you joy—favorite hobbies or activities with friends, for example.

Helping someone deal with emotional and psychological trauma

It can be difficult to know how to help a loved one who’s suffered a traumatic or distressing experience, but your support can be a crucial factor in their recovery.

  • Be patient and understanding. Healing from emotional or psychological trauma takes time. Be patient with the pace of recovery and remember that everyone’s response to trauma is different.  Don’t judge your loved one’s reaction against your own response or anyone else’s.
  • Offer practical support to help your loved one get back into a normal routine. That may mean help with collecting groceries or housework, for example, or simply being available to talk or listen.
  • Don’t pressure your loved one into talking but be available when they want to talk. Some trauma survivors find it difficult to talk about what happened. Don’t force your loved one to open up but let them know you are there to listen whenever they feel ready.
  • Help your loved one to socialize and relax. Encourage them to participate in physical exercise, seek out friends, and pursue hobbies and other activities that bring them pleasure. Take a fitness class together or set a regular lunch date with friends.
  • Don’t take the trauma symptoms personally. Your loved one may become angry, irritable, withdrawn, or emotionally distant. Remember that this is a result of the trauma and may not have anything to do with you or your relationship.

Helping a child recover from trauma

It’s important to communicate openly with children following trauma. Let them know that it’s normal to feel scared or upset. Your child may also look to you for cues on how they should respond to traumatic events so let him or her see you dealing with symptoms of trauma in a positive way.

How children react to emotional and psychological trauma

Some common reactions to trauma and ways to help your child deal with them:

  • Regression. Many children may try to return to an earlier stage when they felt safer and more cared for. Younger children may wet the bed or want a bottle; older children may fear being alone. It’s important to be patient and comforting if your child responds this way.
  • Thinking the event is their fault. Children younger than seven or eight tend to think that if something goes wrong, it must be their fault—no matter how irrational this may sound to an adult. Be sure your child understands that he did not cause the event.
  • Sleep disorders. Some children have difficulty falling to sleep; others wake frequently or have troubling dreams. If you can, give your child a stuffed animal, soft blanket, or flashlight to take to bed. Try spending extra time together in the evening, doing quiet activities or reading. Be patient. It may take a while before your child can sleep through the night again.
  • Feeling helpless. Being active in a campaign to prevent an event like this one from happening again, writing thank you letters to people who have helped, and caring for others can bring a sense of hope and control to everyone in the family.

Source: Sidran Institute

Our Journey to Financial Peace

My husband Moses and I are busy again, but it’s a fulfilling busyness though. We are coordinating our 4th class and the first one for the New Year from Dave Ramsey’s Financial Peace University. You might ask, what’s our credentials to facilitate a financial class? None. But let me tell you about our journey and why we ended up facilitating a financial class.

In 2009, our friends in Florida who own a clothing company hired me to design their new office. So they flew me to Orlando, FL for a 3 day work excursion and when I arrived, I was so impressed as to how they progressed in their lives. On top of owning a thriving business, a 5 bedroom house, the latest BMW and Mercedes Benz and travelling around the world, I couldn’t deny the fact that I was envious. Then something caught my eye on their coffee table called Dave Ramsey’s ‘The Total Money Makeover. My friends who are Bible believers shared that although they are set up financially, they really don’t know the Godly ways of handling their money. I was inspired. She gave me the book for me to read and encouraged me to register for the Financial Peace University class.

fpu logo

I came back to LA and to my shame I never opened the book for awhile. Fast forward to 2012, Moses and I were struggling with our finances that was affecting our marriage. We didn’t know what we were doing. We fell into the bracket of debt-filled, ‘hopeIess’ Christians trying to survive from paycheck to paycheck. I woke up one day and was having extreme anxiety, I couldn’t breathe. I was anxious of not having enough savings, college funds, funds for Austria’s autism special programs, a retirement fund and a decent life insurance just in case one of us pass away. That same year, Moses was in and out of the hospital due to gallstones and swollen gallbladder and medical bills were piling up.

Being bipolar didn’t help because my anxiety was magnified 10 times more and I became resentful of my life and my marriage. Obviously, my faith in the sovereignty of God was out the door. I reacted to my emotions and did more stupid things that made our situation worst and hurt our marriage more. Deep inside, I was crying out to God for help. I was familiar with this feeling of hopelessness that I experienced in my 20′s when I thought of committing suicide before I knew about God’s salvation. He was just waiting for me to be still and trust that he is looking out for our needs. God was waiting for that moment of humility from us. We needed to be humble in asking for help because his answers to all our financial miseries and insecurities are all in the bible.

After all this, I remembered the book my friend gave me about Dave Ramsey. I pulled it out from my bookshelf and read it. I searched more about ‘handling money God’s ways’ in his website which led me to discover the Financial peace classes. I told Moses we need to register for this class and shared with him the hope that I have for our struggling marriage.

I remember on our way to our first class, we had an argument. I felt like I was more enthusiastic than him and i was just dragging him to this class. I cried with frustration, my eyes were red and puffy coming to the class. I did however consider the fact that he didn’t have the proper knowledge to deal with our finances and was overwhelmed as to how to lead our family financially.

During the class, I was praying, hoping that this endeavor would provide direction and enlightenment for us. Again, God was gracious for answering my prayers. After watching the first video, we looked at each other with mixed emotions. We were stunned, convicted, encouraged, enlightened and empowered. We took a deep breath, held each other’s hand, we hugged and since then there was no turning back. We were committing ourselves to a path of handling money God’s way.

“One definition of maturity is learning to delay pleasure. Children do what feels good; adults devise a plan and follow it. “                                           –Dave Ramsey

The next 13 weeks was a true journey. We laughed, we cried, we argued and we became unified. It challenged us to take personal responsibility, it corrected our character of being undisciplined, it showed us practical ways as to how to save, invest, set up our kids’ college fund, build wealth and secure our retirement. We fully embraced all the biblical, practical and relevant pieces of advice in the class. We tackled our debts with full intensity and saved tremendously. We ended up in better shape than we ever thought possible. There was a bit of regret, we wished we have known this earlier in our single years before getting married. :) The decision to do “FPU” helped increase our faith that God is taking care of our needs. But the most rewarding part of the class is capturing God’s heart of giving.

We felt refreshed going through the life saving series of classes. We were truly grateful that God showed us His answers of having true financial peace. Because of this experience, we were compelled and excited to share this with our friends. It’s like having that feeling of redemption when God forgave us of our sins. We realized a lot of our friends and members in our church who were also drowning in debt, struggling with giving or not even giving at all to church. On top of that, a number of them have marriage problems because of finances. So we made a decision, that we will share this to our friends and that we will not be defined by other people and by societies definition of what we have or don’t have in lives.

So if you ask, do we have financial peace now? Yes. Not that we have a million in the bank, a fully paid house or a diversified portfolio, but we have peace because we have a direction, a blue print as to how to get there. And for some who are already there, I believe that no matter how much money you have, you will still need to learn how to handle God’s money and how to give it away. :)

      “A good man (and woman) leaves an inheritance to his children’s children..” Proverbs 13:22

life is not a sprint, it is a marathon…

Some friends asked me why do I love running. I don’t. A year ago, I was going through challenging times in my life due to an episode of my bipolar disorder. The effects of my illness combined with my weaknesses have caused a lot of pain in my family. I was becoming hopeless and thinking of just giving up. One day, I heard a voice in my head, “Run, Lorraine, Run”. You know, it’s like that film Forest Gump but I kinda knew it was a whisper from God. I didn’t have any experience in running and I’ve never tried a 5k or a 10k or a half marathon let alone a 26 mile run but I registered anyway for the LA marathon. There were thoughts of the unknown. Am I gonna last? Am I really gonna finish it? I was anxious a little bit because it’s my first time and I did not train the way I should. I only slept approximately 4 hours the night before the run, my thoughts were racing. I’m just so blessed to have my loving husband who supported me since the very beginning of my training.  photo (5) It was a very cold morning and good thing the organizers provided a heated tent. I was comforted seeing a sea of people lined up for this marathon. I had full energy and unexplainable excitement. The first 10 miles were both exciting and amusing. There were live entertainment bands plus hundreds of strangers cheering for us. I posed for the official cameramen while running. I drank liquids to get hydrated when I had the chance and took energy gels as I ran non-stop. After finishing the 20th mile, I was relieved and surprised that I was still running and my energy was still there. However, as I was I approaching the last 6 miles, I could feel my body was slowing down. I started to feel the fatigue and exhaustion but I pushed myself. I denied the pain in my legs. Entering the borders of Santa Monica gave me some hope. Im near…im near…just a little bit more! But the more I pushed myself, the more it seemed the finish line was getting farther and farther. I was feeling really cold in the last 2 miles. Hypothermia was creeping in. My bones and knees started to lock. I was tempted to walk away and just give up. The cold was crippling my legs. I just could not run anymore so I started brisk walking, I was running out of energy. I knew if I don’t do anything, I will not make it. I took the courage to ask another runner if I could borrow his thermal. I was surprised he was very kind to give it to me although his lady companion gave me a shrug and a look of disbelief. I did not care what she thought, all I cared is to finish the race. The thermal gave me so much comfort and heat that helped my contracted muscles to loosen up. As my body became warmer, I started running a little bit, and more. When I finally saw the big banner at the finish line, I ran as fast as I could. I can make it! There was a rush of excitement as I came closer. 10 yards, then 5, then 2 ’till I reached the finish line! I was exhilarated! I got my medal! 26 miles in 5:56 hours. :) photo (3)  The marathon experience is just like my life. God wanted me to experience and learn practical things in life. He was teaching me to push more, deny more, and persevere no matter what struggle, what illness, what storm I go through in life. I’m on a race. My life is not a sprint, it’s a marathon. I have learned and accepted that I can’t just run fast and finish in a breeze. A marathon is a long stretch of miles and it pushes your body to extreme lengths. Like a marathon, I’ve learned and accepted that my life is not about ‘getting there’ quickly and getting things done right away and easily. Like a marathon, you will experience and meet different kinds of people in life. Some are kind and generous, some just care for themselves. Some will push you and knock you down. Some run to beat their athletic records, some run for the prize, some run for a cause, some run for fitness and some run just for fun. Like a marathon, there will be times you will get tired and you feel like giving up. But you push yourself anyway because you have a goal, you want to finish the race. You need encouragement to stay in the race. You need people who can cheer and will believe in you that you can do it. In a marathon, you need those Gatorades and gels to replenish your energy. In the same way, in life, you will need spiritual energy to drink to finish the end of your life with a bang and a celebration. Jesus said when you ‘drink’ him (meaning digest his teachings), you will never get thirsty and even if you do, you can always be refilled again and again. He is just there, he isn’t giving up. He is available for those who are thirsty. Sometimes we ignore the things that will help us finish the race. In my experience, I did not prepare or bring a thermal. I was a bit arrogant in my training and ignored the warning of the weather. I thought the thermal will just add ‘weight’ and a nuisance in my running. Besides carrying a thermal doesn’t look good in the camera. I was putting more attention what I’d look like in the photos. Like life, we put too much emphasis of what people would say about us. We are too concerned of our appearance to other people. If I brought a thermal, I would have been prepared and perhaps enjoyed my last 6 miles. But God always gives us a way out in life. I knew the only way I can finish the race is to be humble and have the courage to ask for help.photo (2) Like life, God puts people in our life to give us support, provide encouragement and cheer for us. But we have to decide and take courage to ask for it. There are people who will lend their help and can provide ‘thermals’ to help us go on. When we ask for help, God is teaching us humility because in reality, all of us need help. When we ask for help, it trains us to be vulnerable of our weaknesses and the things we have to change. It helps us to face the truth and deal with our pain. In the beginning, I did not know why God wanted me to run and I finally figured out at the end of the race. He wanted me to learn a character of perseverance. In 1 Corinthians 9:24, it says “You know that in a race all the runners run but only one wins the prize, don’t you? You must run in such a way that you may be victorious.” To sum it up, I can say the race was a wonderful, enjoyable experience and I felt victorious! I imagined God was cheering for me and I didn’t want to disappoint him. I celebrated it with the most important people in my life, Moses and the kids. My next marathon is now for a cause, for my daughter. I’m running to support Autism awareness so watch out! San Francisco marathon, here I come! photo (4).psd

Lightbox or Prozac?

It’s the holidays again and knowing my pattern, this time of the year triggers my depression, ( actually feeling more sad and lonely because of the cold, gloom and some sad Christmas songs ).

Recently, the memories of my past ordeal is poking me and I had several unpleasant dreams. Although yoga and meditation has been helping me, I went to see my psychiatrist anyway to help me prevent these unnecessary emotions.

He gave me a choice, take Prozac or use a light box for bipolar disorder which costs $360. What?! I asked what in world is a light box. It was my first time to hear such treatment. He explained very little so when i went home i had to google it. Light therapy for seasonal affective disorder (SAD) has been studied for some time now.

Usually it comes to mind with the onset of depression in winter. But more applications have been coming to the forefront. You can find more about it from this article of Psychcentral. 41ld6lJI7hL

Although I was hesitant to take another medication, I chose Prozac anyway since i would only take in every 4 days and i’ts a very low dosage. Not bad.

He said he’ll stop prescribing the medication once winter is over. But I’m really curious what the light box can do. I’m considering buying one but at the back of my head, is it really worth it? 

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