More Than Serving Tea


Category Archive

The following is a list of all entries from the health category.

Falling Into New Rhythms

It has been a week since we dropped off our firstborn on campus and high-tailed it back to Queens to drown our bittersweet tears and smiles in three perfectly grilled cuts of red meat and a pitcher of sangria.

I am still exhausted from the weeks, if not months, of anticipation, the measured and outbursts of emotion, the moving of a van full of STUFF, and then the goodbye.

It’s also hitting me that I am tired from (but not of) 16+ years of campus ministry. I did take a few breaks, which were also called maternity leave, but any job that requires you to be a combination of pastor, counselor, coach, supervisor, trainer, teacher, speaker, preacher, candlestick maker will drain you even if you have healthy boundaries and rhythms in place.

Somewhere between 1998 and the present those healthy boundaries and rhythms changed and evolved with each new season, and now as a gift to me from my employer – InterVarsity Christian Fellowship/USA – has granted me a six-month sabbatical from the daily rhythms of college ministry.

I’d always thought of sabbaticals as something teachers or academics might take, but the rhythm of work and rest or ceasing is part of my life as a Christian. My day of rest or “ceasing” is often Sunday, but admittedly Sunday’s are often a harried morning rushing off late to church with an afternoon of errands and housekeeping. It’s usually the “get everything set up for the crazy week ahead” day, but that’s not what God intended when He modeled sabbath in Genesis. After creating the universe “God blessed the seventh day and made it holy, because on it he rested from all the work of creating that he had done.” (Genesis 2:3, TNIV)

Blessed and holy rest.

I’m excited and scared out of my mind. I’m scared I’ll miss out on making new connections and fun staff reunions, also known as FOMO or the fear of missing out. I’m scared six months away will mean there will be no place to return to at the beginning of March. I’m scared to ask God about this next season of life because He just might answer. I’m scared current ministry partners will stop praying and stop giving financially to the programs and plans I’ve been overseeing. I’m scared I’ll disappear and become irrelevant. I’m scared colleagues will forget about me.

On the other hand, what would you do if you had six months off of work? Granted, I can’t give up doing laundry or cleaning the house (could I?), and the daily demands of being a wife and mom can be crazy enough. But if you work outside of the home and could put that away for six months what would you do??

But I am crazy excited about organizing the talks and sermons, the training modules and articles, the book lists, the blogger lists, and all the other “administration” that is as much about listening and discerning as it is about cleaning up. Cleaning up the physical mess is a part of digging deep into the spiritual mess because after that many years of ministry there are a few messes to clean up. I’m excited about being a part of a two-year spiritual development cohort. I’m excited about some more space to read, journal, and write. I’m excited to have the permission and the luxury to say “no” to the daily demands and to dream and pray about the future.

Below is a link to my fall ministry update, if you are so inclined. In the meantime, even if it’s for an hour, put away the distractions – put the kids to bed, put the phone away, step away from any screen, and just sit. Doze off. Read. Journal. Go for a run. Or just sit in the silence. It’s a little exciting and a little scary, right?

Fall 2014 prayer letter

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Vitamin L Diary: Motherhood & #flymysweet

Tonight is the night before she leaves for college, and the dining room is filled with laughter and chatter. There are only two other young women in her incredible circle of friends who are still “in town” waiting, and tonight is a night for friendship.

I sat there with them for awhile, laughing at a Facebook post, our lack of sewing skills in comparison to Bethany, and cried a little bit. It has been such an honor to be allowed to be a part of that sacred space of friendship, and it was time to honor it even more by stepping away. It’s time.

Depression haunted me in my childhood, but I remember distinctly coming home from the hospital with this tiny peanut of a newborn who came with no instructions. I was in pain from an emergency postpartum surgery, unable to do just about anything without incredible pain and feeling quite unlike myself. Five months later with friends in from out of town I recall telling them that I didn’t feel right. I didn’t feel like myself. I wasn’t sure if I could feel anything really.

I didn’t look sad in the photos. I didn’t walk around with an animated cloud hovering around my head. I just kept moving.

Gratefully, it has been five years since I sought treatment – a combination of counseling and an antidepressant. I continue to shake off cultural stereotypes and stigma associated with depression, anxiety, and medication. There are some who do not understand how a faithful, evangelical Christian could depend on medication to fight off something that perhaps more prayer and faithfulness could overcome. There are some in my own family who do not approve of my sharing publicly that I am on (whisper) medication. Depression and anxiety do not define me, but the reality is that my mental health is part of me. It is a part of any human being – a God-ordained intersection between soul, mind, and body. We share the earth with other living things, but there is no other living thing quite like us humans.

And I realized again today, as I sat with my son at a medical appointment, that depression and anxiety are a part of my life as mother and a part of my children’s lives. We were asked about family medical history. “Is there anyone in the family with depression or anxiety? Is there anyone in the family who has committed suicide?” Yes, there is heart disease and high blood pressure as well as depression and suicide. Even as my children grow up and mature, their family history follows them and is a part of their story as well.

So as we come to this part of my story as a mother of a college freshman soul, mind, and body intersect. The tears are right there, clinging to my eyes ready to roll out at a moment’s notice. My heart is pounding in anticipation of the incredible things she will see and do in college. I can imagine her rehearsing, choreographing, learning to connect her soul, mind, and body, and I smile like a madwoman. And I know we will drive home with one less body in the car with her smile and spirit lingering. My soul is appropriately, gloriously conflicted, and my mind and body start to take over with tears, smiles, and fear.

How will my brain translate all that is going on in my soul? Will the depression and anxiety come to visit as I enter into a quieter season or will the 10 milligrams keep doing their thing? Will I have the courage to set aside fear and seek out help, ask for the company of friends or a walk with my husband?

Worse yet, will my daughter lose the genetic crapshoot and experience a new dark night of the soul? Will the transitions overwhelm her in an unexpected way? Have I given her the tools, the words, the freedom to know the signs and ask for help? Have I done all that I can do before she goes?

There is no way to know, but there is a way to cope and live. Dear Readers and friends, please hope with me. Pray with me. Pray for daughters and sons launching off into new experiences and their parents who all know there is little we can do to protect them forever. Pray that the lies of stereotypes and stigma don’t keep them from getting help. Pray for friends and mentors who aren’t afraid to offer and get them help. And I pray history and story will ground my daughter and hope and faith will shape her future.

#flymysweet

 

 

 


The Vitamin L Diary: Fear, Faith & Deep Breaths

I see my doctor every six months to make sure the Vitamin L (Lexapro) is doing its thing. Today was that day, which included a flu shot (too late for poor Corban, my second) and an unexpected encounter with the bleeding woman and a dead girl.

My doctor asked me about my mood and whether or not I was having any anxiety attacks. I was honest, telling her there have been several times in the past six months where I have had to take some deep breaths and mentally go “there” – dig deep, to breathe, close my eyes literally or metaphorically, and slow…things…down…to figure out the trigger of the anxiety, the fear.

Instead of asking me about dosing alprazolam, she sent me to the very passage in the Bible that I had used a few weeks ago when preaching at the Asian American InterVarsity chapter at UW-Madison. She sent me to meet the bleeding woman and the dying girl.

My doctor and I have talked about the stigma of mental illness and of using drugs to help address depression and anxiety, and today she addressed it head on by reminding me not to be afraid of fear.

She said to remember that whenever God shows up in a big way, through angels or a vision, God says, “Do not be afraid” and then offers some sort of assurance that He is with them. That fear seems a rather natural physical and mental response, the kind that keeps people from speaking and acting, the kind expressed on your face or in your body language. Fear happens even in the God’s presence. In the gospels of Mark and Luke, Jesus encounters people who were afraid of the demon-possessed man, the bleeding woman who trembles with fear having been “caught” healing herself by touching Jesus’ cloak, and Jairus who is afraid because his daughter has died.

If that kind of fear and anxiety exists in scripture, why are we so afraid to deal with it?

I am certain there will be many moments and seasons of fear in my life. The drugs don’t make it all go away. They do not erase or eliminate emotions. But what I have found most freeing in this journey has been to take that which festers in the darkness and elicits fear and to bring it out whether through my blog or when I speak publicly. I do not want to be afraid of fear,

of anxiety,

of depression,

of what people think when the read whatever I’ve written and disagree with me,

of disappointing my husband or my kids or my parents (it’s a cultural thing),

of bombing a speaking gig or not doing what I imagine would be my “very best”.

I

do

not

want

to

be

afraid.

I want only to breathe and believe that God

is

with

me.

 

 

***Don’t worry. My doctor knows I am a Christian, and I have told her I welcome these candid conversations as she is taking my vitals and vaccinating me. I am blessed.***

 


Urban Outfitters, Why? WHY???

The whole “hipster” thing is a bit fascinating and strange because new things made to look like old things are made to be cool and hip…and expensive. Which is odd to me because my old things rarely were expensive, and rarely were they cool. But now “vintage” is cool if its new, and you’re making a statement.

But what kind of statement are you making when you buy something like this:

According to the company website, Urban Outfitters offers "a lifestyle-specific shopping experience for the educated, urban-minded individual in the 18 to 30 year-old range". Why does an 18-year-old need these? Why does anyone need these?

According to the company website, Urban Outfitters offers “a lifestyle-specific shopping experience for the educated, urban-minded individual in the 18 to 30 year-old range”. Why does an 18-year-old need these? Why does anyone need these?

Better yet, what kind of brand statement are you trying to make when you sell stuff like this?

Last night I spent a few delightful hours with a few delightful women talking about  how this world is going to hell. Girls dressing like prostitutes. Grown women dressing like little girls. Pastors referring to their spouses as their “smokin’ hot wives” and honestly believing that is a compliment. (It really, really isn’t.) Some of those same pastors refusing to be taught by women because their God-given femininity gets in the way but books written by women are generally OK because the woman isn’t in the room.

And that rant actually has something to do with this ridiculous stuff Urban Outfitters is selling.

Bratz dolls. Baby doll dresses on grown women. White evangelical pastors talking about their “smokin’ hot wives”. John Piper and his stance on learning from women. None of it is OK. I am so tired of trying to keep a sense of humor in a world that has lost its marbles. I know there is at least a few others tired and outraged because a dear friend let me know about syringe shot shooters through another blog post.

Seriously. When did selling hipster drug paraphernalia become OK? This isn’t a Domo toaster (which I saw on the UA website and thought, “That would make breakfast awesome!”). This along with a few other items on the website make prescription drug abuse a tongue-in-cheek gag, and that is so wrong. The target audience might officially be 18-30 year olds, but as a mother of two teenagers I’m not stupid, even if UA thinks I am. The actual audience is younger. And even with parents hovering over them like helicopters they are soaking up images, messages, values, ideas faster than we can protect them because the grown-ups who care can’t keep up with this stuff, and the grown ups who don’t care will sell it to you.

Real drugs or hipster versions.

I am so tired of this kind of garbage. Are you? Please tell me some of you are.

E-mail the CEO and chairman of Urban Outfitters, Richard A. Hayne:
richard.hayne@urbanout.com

Or keep the US Postal Service busy and send snail mail to the company:
Urban Outfitters Inc.
5000 South Broad St.
Philadelphia, PA 19112-1495

Do you tweet? How about connecting @UrbanOutfitters

Or comment on Facebook.

E-mail Oona McCullough, their Director of Investor Relations at oona.mccullough@urbanout.com

No plans right now? How about emailing the board of directors and other important people who care about profits.

And by the way, the same company owns Anthropologie and Free People.

My parents still tell me that here in America the squeaky wheel gets the grease. Here in America, corporate America pays attention to the bottom line and they now also have to manage their social media presence. We have a voice…it gets louder when others join us.

(Credit goes to My Life as 3D for blogging about this first.)


The Vitamin L Diary: Day 8

Last year I blogged about anxiety, depression and being on an anti-depressant. My journey continues as I now go in annually to follow-up with my primary physician regarding my prescription. Drugs are not the cure-all, but they can help. I’ve told my doctor I don’t ever want to stop taking my vitamin L(exapro), but she reminded me that the end goal isn’t to stay on the drug but to make sure the drug is helpful and necessary.

I meant to include this last month because July is National Minority Mental Health Awareness Month and Asian Americans continue to face some daunting statistics related to mental health (according to the National Alliance on Mental Health):

  • Asian American girls have the highest rates of depressive symptoms of any racial/ethnic or gender group;
  • Young Asian American women ages 15 to 24 die from suicide at a higher rate than other racial/ethnic groups;
  • Suicide is the fifth leading cause of death among Asian Americans overall, compared to the ninth leading cause of death for white Americans;
  • Older Asian American women have the highest suicide rate of all women over 65; and
  • Among Southeast Asians, 71 percent meet criteria for major affective disorders such as depression—with 81 percent among Cambodians and 85 percent among Hmong.

Any who, this is Day 8 (May 2010) of that private experience. My hope is that “talking” about anxiety and depression might help someone out there take one step closer to loving & honoring her/himself. My hope is in Jesus. Treating my anxiety and depression has only deepened my hope.

May 25, 2010

Can I sleep any more? Argh. I’m really, really, really disliking the sleepy, fatigue crap – can’t keep my eyes open, falling asleep while I’m reading a book at the kitchen table after 8 hours of sleep the night before.

And the water retention. I feel like I swallowed a pool. I do not like getting on the scale and seeing things creep up, and really if you’re trying to treat depression, even mild depression, didn’t anyone think of the possibility that weight gain would not be a helpful side effect?

But, the upside is that I do feel a bit more mellow and grounded. The things that I would normally bite someone’s head over – spilled something or another, running late, forgetting something for the umpteenth time – seem to annoy me but not to the point of screaming. Just annoyed. I can live with annoyed.

The other thing is that I have no desire for sex. I can’t say that my libido was running strong before this, but now all I can think about is taking diuretics and sleeping. Sex? Really? No. Really.


Asian American Women: Your Experiences Matter

Asian American women, ages 18 and older, your experiences matter. Your stories matter.

I came across this in my reader and wanted to spread the word. I don’t know Pauline Chan but the topic of her study (the connection between social experiences and well-being) interests me, and it may interest you.

My name is Pauline Chan, a graduate student in the Counseling Psychology doctoral program at Boston College. I am a second generation Chinese American and am working on my dissertation under the direction of Dr. Belle Liang. The study focuses on the social experiences of Asian American women. The study has been approved by the Boston College Office for Research Protections Institutional Review Board (Protocol #12.172.01A).

I am writing to ask Asian American women to participate in my online dissertation research survey and to offer an opportunity to be entered in a random drawing for an Amazon.com gift certificate for participation in the survey (5 $20 gift certificates and 2 $50 gift certificates available).

To participate in the study, participants must:

  • Be 18 years or older, and
  • Self-identify as a woman who is Asian American or a member of an Asian American subgroup

In this survey participants will be asked questions about social experiences in different contexts, social attitudes, culture and well-being. Click here for the survey. The survey will take approximately 35-45 minutes to complete.

In exchange for their time, participants will be given an opportunity to enter a random drawing for an Amazon.com gift certificate when they have completed the survey. Participants who complete the survey will also be offered access to the results of the study once it is completed.

The survey responses are completely anonymous. Any name or email information given will not be linked in any way to the responses and will only be used for the purposes of distributing the gift certificates. Any individual demographic information will also remain confidential and will not be linked to any names or email addresses. Participation is completely voluntary and participants may withdraw from the study at any time.

As there are limited studies about the Asian American experience, all participant responses will be helpful in contributing to our knowledge about Asian Americans. It is my hope that the results of the study will provide insights that will help to improve the life experiences of Asian American women.

If you have any questions, please contact me at chanpa@bc.edu or 617-966-4001. You can also reach my dissertation advisor, Belle Liang, at liangbe@bc.edu or 617-552-4079. Thank you in advance for your help and your time.


What Would You Do If You Saw Him Yelling?

What would you do if you saw a young man verbally abusing a female companion in a public space, calling her names that should make you cringe in a voice loud enough to make heads turn? Would you stare? Would you step in? Would you call security? Would you look down and say a silent prayer?

Is there a difference between what you would hope you would do and what you probably would do?


The Vitamin L Diary: Day 3

Earlier this year I blogged about anxiety, depression and being on an anti-depressant. My journey continues as I go in every few months to follow-up with my primary physician. Drugs are not the cure-all, but they can help. I’ve told my doctor I don’t ever want to stop taking my vitamin L, but she reminded me that the end goal isn’t to stay on the drug but to make sure the drug is helpful and necessary.

Any who, this is Day 3 (May 2010) of that private experience. My hope is that “talking” about anxiety and depression might help someone out there take one step closer to loving & honoring her//himself. My hope is in Jesus. Treating my anxiety and depression has only deepened my hope.

Well, things started off differently – at 6 a.m. differently. Oh, and as a side note, the past two nights I’ve been a restless sleeper – waking up at 2 a.m and then 4 a.m. and then 5 a.m. This morning I needed to be at Wheaton College by 8 a.m. so it was an early start. I opted to wait until later to take my pill because I was afraid of being exhausted and sleepy on the drive home.

I took the pill around 9:30 a.m and that damn nausea hit. I drank water since my tongue feels like I stuffed it with cotton, but fortunately I’ve not felt the headache or fogginess. I am a little dizzy sometimes, but fortunately I’m not behind the wheel. I kept sipping water throughout the panel discussion of which I was one of the panelists. I hope I didn’t look nauseated.

The fatigue didn’t hit as hard, but I was a bit sleepy on the drive. Fifteen minutes with my eyes closed on the couch and then it was go-time with the kids. I was wiped out by 10:30, hanging on by a thread. I didn’t even want to watch FlashForward so you know how tired I was.

We’ll see how I sleep tonight…


The Vitamin L Diary: Day 2

Yesterday I briefly wrote about going on an antidepressant. Apparently I’ve struck a chord. Thank you for the private messages many of you took the time to send. I realize that not everyone is in a position to talk publicly about their depression, and it really is such a personal thing. I had waves of the sadness, but what I realized was that the other proactive things I was doing – exercise, regular schedule, better eating, less caffeine, etc. were no longer keeping things manageable. The antidepressant commercials always depict depression as people who walk around sleepy or sad. I had those days but I also spent a lot of energy to keep moving, so my depression also was expressed in irritability. I felt prickly like my cranky dial was turned up to 11.

And then there was that day in my kitchen.

My doctor, a lovely woman who turns out loves Jesus just like I do, asked me what I had been through during the last few years. And there I sat in the office on that crunchy paper, crying and telling her a few facts but feeling a bit numb. I told her I didn’t want to be numb. I told her I wanted to feel joy and laugh from the belly again, which seemed like such work at the time. I wanted to want to write, which had always been a place of physical, spiritual and emotional connection for me.

She warned me about the side-effects but told me to hang on because the first few weeks are the hardest. She told me that my brain had slowly rewired itself to deal with the stressors – death, illness, transitions that overlapped over extended periods of time, etc. – and that the medication was going to help reset things.

I’ve been mulling over this for a year now…I wrote in my private journal a few lines each day for three weeks about what I was going through because writing was one of the disciplines I committed to during that time of wanting to crawl out of my skin (which is how I felt for awhile on the meds). I didn’t want medication to be the only thing doing the hard work. There were patterns in my emotional and spiritual life that had been reset to cope and those had to be addressed as well. However, the online discussions about the drug I am now on scared me. I rarely found anything positive. I hope this is a little bit of that positive I was hoping to find.

One year later I am still on Lexapro under the care of my physician. It doesn’t work for everyone but it can help.

Here is Day 2:

So, I went to work out this morning hoping the rush of endorphins would help ease the fatigue I experienced yesterday. It did. For an hour. By the time I was driving home from Elias’ ortho appointment (around noon) I was crazy tired. I tried to read and then gave up. A little nap is all I need, I thought.

Three hours later I was thinking “what did I do?”.

I’m feeling nausea all day long so that is getting in the way of eating. I have to be careful that I don’t do the tired eating thing – eating to stay awake, but I was doing that before Lexapro.

I haven’t been experiencing too much dry mouth or the cotton-head feeling, but I have moments of being woozy.

Honestly, what I’m terrified about is the rumored weight gain on this drug. Seriously. My depression isn’t bad enough that weight gain is cancelled out by the drugs’ effects on my depression. Gaining 20 pounds would put me in a bad place.


May is a Good Time to Talk about Vitamin L

Today is my one-year anniversary on vitamin L, and it’s finally time to talk about.

I struggle with anxiety and clinical depression, and I take vitamin L – or Lexapro to be exact – to treat it. It’s been one year since I decided enough was enough. I was tired of being tired. Tired of being sad. Tired of always feeling on edge about almost anything.

Last spring I finally sought out the help I needed all along, and took some concrete steps in overcoming depression and the cultural stigma mental health issues carry within the Asian American, American and Christian cultures. And that is where I find convergence, because May is Asian Pacific American Heritage Month and it is also Mental Health Awareness Month. I couldn’t have orchestrated it better myself.

I don’t know about you, but I grew up being taught directly and indirectly that suffering was part of life and dealing with suffering meant swallowing it, sometimes ignoring it whole.

Tracey Gee in More Than Serving Tea writes:

In the Asian worldview, suffering is simply an assumed part of the way the world is. Sickness, disease and famine are accepted as natural part of life. In contrast, the American worldview sees suffering as an abnormal state.

In many ways, I suspect what we saw in Japan and how the Japanese reacted to the earthquake and tsunami was the Asian worldview playing out in realtime. I recall hearing news reporters almost gushing over how the Japanese would stand in line waiting patiently for emergency supplies. Other reports mentioned how there were no reports of looting despite the crushing need for food and water. No one person’s need to overcome the suffering was greater than another’s. The nation collectively swallowed suffering, saved face, upheld harmony and moved forward.

Reporters, in trying to draw a contrast, would allude to the perceived and actual chaos and looting that followed disasters here in America. But what 30-second television spots didn’t go into is that our worldview here in America is different. “How could this happen in America?” was a phrase oft repeated as images of looting, devastation, scarcity and suffering flashed on our screens in the aftermath of Katrina.

So growing up, I was a bit confused about suffering. My church upbringing addressed suffering as being temporary because one day all our tears would be washed away. I believe that, but what was missing was addressing the present tears and the sadness that haunted me. There weren’t enough church retreats, revival nights, youth group meetings, prayer meetings and praise nights to string together to keep me from the depression and anxiety.

I prayed. Sometimes I would pray for the ability to endure the sadness and suffering. Other times I would pray that it would all just go away, but when prayers failed to act like a holy vending machine I realized I couldn’t “Christian” my way out of what was going on emotionally and mentally.

Too bad it took so long to learn that lesson, but it’s been learned. I’ll probably have to learn it again sometime soon.

Anyway, last year when I first when on Lexapro I thought about writing about it because the other reality is that Asian American young women have the highest rate of depression than any other racial/ethnic or gender groups. While I technically no longer fit the “young women” category I am the grown-up part of that demographic. Depressed Asian American young women don’t necessarily grow out of their depression any more than I could pray my way out of clinical depression.

But where can we talk about this? Despite commercials and advertisements for antidepressants attempting to depict treatment, it’s never really that easy. I hesitated for years to seek medical help because health insurance, drug coverage and pre-existing conditions are things that the grown-up me worried about. I read stuff on the internet about different drugs and their side-effects, and there were great on-line threads but I wondered if there would be a real-life community for me to talk about this journey. And ultimately, I figured if I wasn’t suicidal I could suck it up, and I did for a long time.

Standing in my kitchen last spring, crying and feeling like the world was heavy and overwhelming forced the issue. I didn’t want to enter into my 40s swallowing that kind of suffering. I didn’t want to be a statistic. I didn’t want untreated depression to be a legacy I passed on to my daughter (and sons).

I picked up the phone and made an appointment. I had the prescription filled right away, and I endured the transitional 2-6 weeks of nausea, dry mouth, drowsiness, restlessness, etc. for the drug to help my brain chemistry re-set. I slowly shared with friends about my vitamin L and I am finding that I am not alone. Asian American young women may have the highest rate of depression, but they don’t have to go untreated. We just never talked about it.

So where can we talk about depression, swallowing suffering, avoiding pain and seeking help? I suppose we can talk about it right here if you want and if you’re willing.