Mental Wellness

Hey guys its Gina! So you may be wondering why I didn’t do a Gospel Monday this week . . . and it’s because I forgot. But I asked Sam if I could take over Wellness Wednesday this week, so prepare for some serious wellness.

Yesterday I went to see a psychologist. I am a firm believer that everyone should go to therapy. If you’re sad, angry, or stressed, therapy can bring relief. If you’re going through a major life change, like moving away from home, starting a new career, or adjusting to a new life without a loved one, therapy can ease the transition. And if you’re totally happy with no conflict in your life whatsoever, you should still go to therapy, because who else is going to listen to you talk about yourself for a whole hour?

A lot of people have told me that their experience with therapy sessions have been awkward; one person told me about a psychologist who sat in a chair with a pen and paper staring at her, expecting her to monologue for the entire hour-long session. While I’m sure that’s exactly what some people need, that didn’t work for my friend, and it definitely wouldn’t have worked for me. So, if you don’t hit it off with your new psychologist on day one, try another! Psychologists — and medical professionals of any kind == are people, too, and not all people mesh. You wouldn’t choose your best friend or husband based on a list of people who happen to accept your form of insurance, so don’t lock yourself into a long-term relationship with some rando from the internet, just because they have “PhD” next to their name.

Anyway, I only went to one session and have done shockingly minimal research on the effects of seeing a psychologist regularly, so I’m not even going to pretend to be an expert for the sake of the blog. I just know that after one session with my brand spankin’ new therapist, I felt calmer and kinder than I have in a very, very long time. She even offered me new ways to look at the relationships I have with friends and family that help me to be more understanding of the people who have seemingly abandoned my family and me.

In today’s culture, we romanticize poor mental health. We listen to sad music when we’re already sad, just to truly wallow in our own self pity. And how many teen movies are there with a protagonist who suffers from a mental illness and doesn’t even consider seeking professional help (though, depression, anxiety, and anger all disappear when the protagonist is presented with a love interest)? Just look at how popular “13 Reasons Why” has become. Our culture is fascinated by mental illness.

But there is no glamor in living a life you don’t absolutely love, and there is nothing cooler than mental health.

Oxygen Masks

My dad passed away in October, and I can’t remember a single thing that happened in my life from October to around May. I know I got a 4.0 in both the fall and spring semesters, but I can’t even remember what courses I took. When I finally snapped out of my head enough to go out with my friends again, I realized I was pushing everyone away. I had a problem in every single relationship I had, even my relationships with my mom and childhood best friends. Every time a friend complained about work, school, or drama, I snapped at them, wondering who the heck they thought they were to complain to me. Every time my mom asked me to do something small around the house I snapped at her, wondering why she didn’t appreciate how much weight I was already pulling around the house.

Then I realized, if there was something wrong with everybody I know out of nowhere, the problem was probably me.

One of my best friends from high school started dating an incredible girl during my blackout period, and since most of my friends are guys, I naturally latched right onto the new girl in the group and started spilling my life story on her. One night when I was explaining to her why I cut off ties with some really great people, she said probably the smartest thing ever and it stuck with me ever since:

When you’re on an airplane and the flight attendants are going through the safety protocol, they show all the passengers that bright yellow oxygen mask. They show the passengers how to strap it on, and they explain that air is flowing even if the bag doesn’t inflate. But the most important part of that whole spiel is that you must always make sure your own mask is secured before assisting someone else.

By taking a break from everyone and giving myself a chance to regroup and fix myself, I was just securing my own oxygen mask before I dragged someone else into my crashing plane. Whether it’s just a break from people for a while, a little R&R, or full-blown therapy, you need to take time for yourself before you bring others into your life.

Last Sunday, I was a guest worship leader at United Methodist Church in Center Moriches (aka I just sang a few songs, but “guest worship leader” sounds way more grownup). During the message, a woman spoke about how we are all created in God’s image, and whenever we sin or make a bad choice, we distort the image of God.

From October to May of this past year, I was a mess, and the little bit of God in me was very distorted. There was slim to no chance anyone could see even a fragment of God in me. Still, I expected other people to be the perfect picture of God untainted to me. It was a huge step for me to realize that I had to fix myself before I could fix others. Even now, my oxygen mask isn’t fully secured. But at least I’m aware of it, and now I know the rules.

PS thank you Amanda!!!

New York’s NASCAR Home Track

Last Saturday night, I gathered up a bunch of my family, and we headed over to  Riverhead Raceway for Fireworks Night.

Working at a car dealership has its perks. Since a few of my coworkers race at Riverhead, they hooked me up to sing the National Anthem at the Raceway from time to time. Saturday was one of those times. Because I was doing the National Anthem, I was able to go behind the gate (I keep calling it backstage because I don’t know what it’s actually called!) and see some pretty cool stuff, like a guy underneath a car and the Raceway’s mascot without its head on. When it came time for me to do the Star Spangled Banner, I got to ride down to the track in one of the coolest cars I’ve ever been in. According to Sam, it was an El Camino, but all I know is that it had an all red interior and strawberry air fresheners so it smelled red too! How cool is that?

Anyway, after that whole ordeal (complete with a burnout leaving the track), the races started. My family doesn’t go to the races very often, and I’m sure everyone around us could tell when it came time for the Figure Eights. I pretty much chewed my finger nails off watching one of my good friends go through the intersection of the figure eight, and Sam screamed even when there were no other cars around.

In addition to the usual races, Riverhead Raceway also had a whole bunch of adorable little kids race Big Wheels right on the track. They even interviewed the winners as if it was a regular race. So cute!

With fireworks and a demolition derby that night, I was up way passed my bedtime and wasn’t even dozing off in the stands. Scroll down for a whole gallery of photos from Saturday night, and see if you can find time to head to Riverhead Raceway this Saturday night; word on the street is it’s gonna be a good one!

Escalator to Heaven

For those who don’t know, I teach eighth grade religious education at my local parish. This morning, I was going through my notes from this year’s religion classes, and I found a little scribble in the margin of my Gospel print out: “escalator to heaven?” That day, my topic for the class had been our duty as Christians to help others find Jesus. I tried to explain that in any relationship we are in — whether its a friendship, romantic relationship, or even a parent-child relationship — our primary goal should be to help the other get to heaven. I remember trying to discuss this with my religion class, but spring fever had already hit them hard, and honestly, I’m still not sure if any of them understood what I was trying to say. So, hopefully this makes sense! If not, you have my permission to send me an angry email.

Obviously, we are responsible for ourselves and our own choices. Eve’s experience in the garden showed us that neither temptation nor peer pressure is a valid excuse for disobeying the Word of God. But, if all your friends are going to go out and sin until the cows come home, is staying home that night enough to obey God? Is sitting on your couch while your friends are all out breaking Commandments willy nilly okay? I don’t think so.

Led Zeppelin has a Stairway to Heaven. But stairs are exhausting. Build an escalator to heaven. Make it easy for others to seek and find God. Better yet, become the escalator yourself! Make it so that all people need to do to reach Jesus is simply latch onto you. Deliver people safely to God and His ways.

Ask your friends to volunteer somewhere with you, or ask if they’d like to come with you to church. I find a lot of my friends made their Confirmation in eighth or ninth grade and treated it as a graduation from religion class, never to set foot in a church again until their wedding day. But our faith is one of constant growth. Nobody ever graduates or retires.

Don’t allow your friends, parents, sisters or brothers to lose their relationship with God as they age. Promote that relationship. Screw Led Zeppelin’s stairway to heaven; nobody wants to take the stairs when there’s a perfectly good escalator right next to them. Be the escalator.

That’s Amore

Yesterday, my mom and I were looking for something fun to do instead of binge-watching Netflix all day. So naturally, we decided to go out for lunch. Since Sam was working, we strategically picked a very gluteny restaurant so that Sam couldn’t be mad at us for going without her; we headed to The Pie in Port Jefferson for the best pizza ever. (Side note: Sam was still a tiny bit mad at us for going without her.)

Anyway, it turns out they do offer gluten-free pastas. Sorry Sam.

The Pie has a really great lunch menu with all different types of sandwiches in addition to their regular pastas and sides, but my mom and I opted to split a small margarita pie and each get a house salad. Although their house salad is a little pricey for its size, the walnuts, croutons, and house dressing are to die for. I’m mildly allergic to walnuts, but ate every single one anyway because it was just that good.

As for the pizza, I can’t even explain how great it was. I’m hoping that all of my readers are familiar with Dean Martin’s “That’s Amore,” so just bear with me here . . . the pizza from The Pie tastes exactly how “That’s Amore” sounds. It’s authentic, high-quality brick oven pizza. Amazing. I’ve eaten the same exact plain pizza from The Pie at least fifty times in my life, but I’m still surprised every time by how good it is.

Do yourself a favor. Grab a few friends and get yourselves a pie in Port Jeff. And also, please bring me with you guys.

Sorry again, Sam. Love you.

Always Seeking, Never Ceasing

We all have friends that fly under the radar until they need something: advice, a ride somewhere, someone to show up to the party with. Of course, I have nothing against these friends. I love them just as much as all my other friends, and kudos to them for having the courage to ask for support (or a shirt to borrow) when they need it. But last week, I discovered the complete opposite of this kind of friend.

If you couldn’t tell from my post last Monday, last week was rough for me. I was beyond angry at God and everyone else in the world. I was even considering finding coverage for the Saturday mass I sing at, just so that I didn’t have to face God. Then, on Thursday, I got a text from a friend I had barely spoken to in months, inviting me to a Christian youth group Friday night. Out of nowhere, right when I needed it the most, she was there for me to restore my faith and provide support and healing in one of my lowest moments.

God is this kind of friend. He asks for nothing but love and trust in return for a lifetime of support and healing. God does not reach out to you only when it benefits Him; God is constantly seeking us, even when we have stopped seeking Him.

After attending the youth group with my friend, I felt more at peace with life than I have in months. Understanding and revelation filled my weekend, and I feel much closer to God. I know that He sent my friend Mary Kate to me at that moment to pull me back into His arms and to save me from myself.

When you start listening and watching for the Lord, it is so abundantly obvious that He is always seeking us and calling us back when we stray too far. Find friends that not only support but encourage your ever-growing relationship with God.

I cannot be any more grateful to Mary Kate for showing me the way back to the Lord.

Fatherless on Father’s Day

I would like to start by saying that I love Father’s Day. There is nobody in this world more deserving of a BBQ and a couple handmade cards than the dads of the world. I am so glad to see so many people spending time with their dads and telling them how much they love them while they’re still here. On the other hand, Father’s Day for someone who has lost an incredible dad (me, in case you didn’t put that together) SUCKS.

For a solid month, every store is filled with “Best Dad Ever” merchandise, and ever since the dawn of technology, it’s even worse. Advertisements for “the perfect gift for dad” take over Instagram, Facebook, and even Twitter. Radio stations play songs about fatherhood for a whole week, and my favorite radio station even spent all of Father’s Day weekend having listeners call in and share their favorite stories about their dads. Once Father’s Day finally rolled around, everyone on the planet posted pictures of them with their dads. At first, I thought I was angry at everyone for still having a dad. Then I realized I was just sad.

Kids my age posted pictures of their multi-generational Father’s Days with their fathers and grandfathers. People older than me shared pictures of their father-daughter dances at their weddings, and photos of their fathers holding their brand new baby. All of these people got to watch their dad become a grandpa. They got to dance with their dad on their wedding day. My dad won’t even get meet whoever I end up marrying.

Then I realized I actually was mad. At God.

Why would a loving God take away my dad? My dad was funnier than all the other dads . . . nicer than all the other dads . . . he even gave a brand new umbrella to a homeless man in Manhattan even though he still needed it. Why why why would God take such a positive force off Earth?

A few weeks after my dad passed away, my mom and I attended a mass with a homily that stuck with me like no other. The priest told the congregation that he often has people come into confession to say that they were angry at God. But he said that isn’t a sin.

Think about a few different relationships you have with others and try to think of times that you were angry with them. You should notice that the people you are closest to and love the most are also the people you get angry at the most. The priest told us that anger at God is just a sign of a living relationship, and the fact that we get angry at God rather than simply abandoning Him is a testament to that relationship.

So yes. I spent the whole week leading up to Father’s Day hysterically crying in public, and all of Father’s Day weekend boiling with anger, and hopefully tomorrow will be better, but if not, that’s okay.