Life thoughts

power of words

The power of words. We often say that words are powerful, that they are able to transform the world, and I think we want to sincerely believe this. I also think we say a lot of things that we want to believe but struggle to fully support. In today’s society, it seems that action is valued more than words. I’ve always been told to “pay attention to how someone treats you, not what they tell you.” This is great advice that I’ve always valued. People can say a lot of things. They can say that they like you, are happy for you, or support you but truly their actions are what enforce these sentiments. But should we totally discount words? Should we be so jaded by the broken promises and empty declarations that are given to us in this world that we don’t even bother to care for the words others tell us? I romanticize things too much to think this way. I’m a classic optimist. Because of this, I’m led to believe that words are very powerful, even more powerful than action. This morning, I sat thinking about the young lady who coerced her boyfriend to commit suicide. How powerful her own words were. She was served a 15-month sentence; she had no weapon for evidence, was far from the crime scene, and unfortunately left questionable doubt in the jurors. I’ve been grappling with our justice system quite a lot here lately, internally, so I’m not sure what I would have done if I had to make a decision in that case. Sometimes I think about our criminal justice system and become appalled, as if I am viewing this world from the sky, watching how we treat other human beings – that’s another topic for another day though. Nonetheless, I am convinced that her words powerfully persuaded someone else to take his own life; and that is worth talking about. This case raises the awareness of how powerful our words are. We can use our tongue to convince someone they’re insignificant, unimportant, or inferior. Conversely, we hold a powerful tool to lift people up, enlighten, and encourage. Our words matter.

I remember with high acuity the times that people said something that penetrated deep and hurt who I am. Sometimes, words cut deeper than a real knife ever could. I would never punch someone, especially someone I love, but maybe I do mindlessly let my words hurt as bad as physical wounds? It’s hard to think like that. It is painful to imagine our words causing pain to someone else, but they do. We separate what we say and what we do so well in this society. You can post all you want on social media, but it doesn’t necessarily follow what you do. Likewise, it makes sense that we are more inclined to ascribe meaning to physical punches than verbal ones. If I hit someone, I leave a visible mark of the damage I’ve done. When I shame someone with my words, though, the mark I leave is invisible. This translates to the unquestionable nature of a physical illness (measurable diseases, like atherosclerosis or hypertension) versus mental illness (less objective measurements like depression or anxiety). Why does this dichotomy exist? Why do we delineate between what is seen and what is said? Haven’t we observed the cruel effects of cutting language and mental diseases, both of which provoke beautiful, purposeful lives to truly consider their worth on this planet? Shouldn’t we start talking about this? I think this case of a young girl strongly persuading her boyfriend to kill himself should wake us up but not come as a surprise of the power of words. Instead, it should serve as a reminder of the power we have to convince and convey ideas, true or false, harmful or helpful. I think this issue moves beyond merely being nice to others but speaks of the false authority we give to tangible, physical qualities (punches, heart disease) over more abstract concepts (language, mental illness). What is the best way to eliminate this dichotomy? I don’t know. But we can always start by talking about it.

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mentality

There’s an epidemic coursing through America, silently capturing the lives of many people. It leaves them internally harmed and demoralized. It is stigmatized, looked down upon, and often viewed as unacceptable. I am personally responsible for contributing to the growth of this problem. But sometimes, life has a way of exposing you to situations and people that will dramatically change your perspective. This happened to me, and I feel obliged to correct my previous ways by being a voice for those experiencing this silent killer.  We can treat it with awareness, compassion, and support. I boldly stand behind the notion that these illnesses are real problems that need real solutions. I want to be a part of a system and country that seeks to address awareness and answers. I refuse to continue being a part of the problem. There’s an epidemic coursing through America, and it’s called depression and anxiety.

As an aspiring physician, I hope to treat patients holistically and with a purely patient-centered focus one day. I am particularly interested in heart diseases. Who knows what type of physician I will become, but I find it fascinating the heart is uniquely connected to other body systems and plays a fundamental role in regulating normal functions. If a patient presented to me with symptoms of cardiovascular disease, I would certainly identify the origin of the problem and seek to address it with a canon of treatment options. It would be absurd to think that physicians would allow their patients to carry around undisclosed symptoms due to fear. If a patient came to me and failed to mention severe chest pain, it would greatly alter the course of treatment and would likely lead to poor outcomes for that patient. Why is it then, when a patient presents with a mental disorder they often feel restricted or discouraged to tell their family members and physicians? Like our hearts, kidneys, lungs, and immune system, alterations in the mind can lead to a “sick” mental state as well. These problems are real. I was someone who paid little attention to mental disorders before this summer. I don’t really know why there was a disconnect for me, but I do know that I wasn’t convinced that mental disorders were real. It gives me great shame to say that. We as individuals, communities, and a country must seek to understand the needs of patients with mental disorders and try to alleviate the deeply rooted stigmas these individuals are faced with.

From a humanistic standpoint, I previously thought anxiety and depression could be controlled and cured by an individual person. A lack of willpower, I suppose, would cause a person to suffer from chronic mental illness. I am revealing these very derogatory  ways of previously thinking to illustrate what I believe to be a common theme throughout American opinion; however, from a purely scientific standpoint, a chemical imbalance in the mind cannot be controlled by individuals. Chemicals, specifically these types called neurotransmitters, control so many of our regular processes in the mind and ultimately throughout the rest of our bodies. A deficiency or over-production of certain neurotransmitters can wreak havoc on a person’s homeostatic levels of these chemicals and can lead to subsequent pathway activation or inhibition. I am not a brain biochemist, and I’m certainly not claiming to be one, but I can at least attest to the fact that the brain is infinitely complex and chemical imbalance theory likely plays a significant role in depression and anxiety. This means that in combination with other factors, chemical imbalance is a problem that people cannot control. Neuroscientists across the United States and world are working tirelessly to understand the basic mechanisms of depression and anxiety to hopefully develop better treatments and cures (insert: future blog post on the necessity of basic scientists vs. clinical and translational researchers). Furthermore, we can do something as non-scientists and as friends, family members, and individuals that interact with people who have mental disorders on a daily basis.

I propose a few key points.

The first: Let’s stop stigmatizing people who struggle with chronic illnesses of the mind. My initial point was the synonymity between cardiac diseases and mental disorders. Maybe this is hard for some people to understand (as it once was for me), but these are both simply problems that happen to the human body. I had trouble even typing the words “mental disorder” because the word disorder has such strong negative connotations surrounding it. The main reason I chose to use that term, though, is that I would not hesitate to write heart disorder or kidney disorder. In order to eliminate the stigma associated with depression and anxiety, we must treat them as we would treat any other human illness: as just that. It is a disorder. One that we must fight to normalize and identify. Mental disorders happen, and they will continue to do so as long as our brains hold the ability to change (which they will continue to do so). So let’s work hard to make these individuals feel less like outcasts in the world and accept them for being just like we all are: highly imperfect and flawed.

The second: Anxiety and depression affect a combined 25.1 million people in the United States (Anxiety and Depression Association of America). That’s a lot of people. It is very likely that you will encounter someone who struggles with these illnesses at some point in your life, probably daily. I suppose that these people look as if they have no struggle, they likely speak positively, and may even deny any kind of illness. Instead of trying to identify every person with a mental disorder, let’s seek to create a welcoming environment for someone who may need to talk about their mental struggles. Let’s become a more openhearted community and country and invite these special people to share what they’re going through. Much like a person with the threat of a stroke should let their family and friends know, we must be able to accept the responsibility of trust from these people. I desire to be a comforting hand, listening ear, and unbiased friend to anyone who needs to talk about what is happening with their mind. We can all be these types of people.

The third, and the last: If you find yourself struggling with a mental disorder, please know that it is okay. Someone with heart disease would have their health compromised if they felt the need to hide it from others as well. The best way we are going to solve this problem is if we have people come forward to be ambassadors for change. Mental illnesses are real. We all experience them at some point in our lives, maybe temporarily or perhaps chronically. Know that what you are experiencing is okay and be open to reaching out and talking with someone. We can all spread awareness, and we can all push for ending the epidemic that harms so many lives each year.

As a future physician, I pledge to create a welcoming environment for my patients to tell me about these things. I will seek to treat a patient holistically, including issues of the mind. Until I am a doctor, I will be a friend to those who need me, pray for those who are struggling, and try to spread awareness of the highly stigmatized illnesses of depression and anxiety. Our friends, brothers, sisters, mothers, fathers, pastors, professors, aunts, colleagues, and the world need us to band together and fight to end this epidemic.

 

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adaptability

It’s time to talk about change. I’m not talking about national campaign agendas or world peace or equality or restoration of the constitution or any of the pressing issues that are featured in the tabloids and news websites. I’m talking about the changes we experience on a personal level throughout our lives. Change is undoubtedly hard. Our human nature encourages us to maintain an inertial groove that we have established for ourselves. We hardly discuss the mechanisms that are necessary to deal with change, and especially the methods that we use to deal with change that can actually optimize our lives during change.

We often experience change. Throughout our entire lives we move through school, changing grades every year with new teachers, new material, and possibly new classmates that we see everyday. Some people may have experienced more profound changes, like moving schools, houses, or even states. We experience change when we switch jobs, learn something new, or gain failure or success. Our lives are constant waves of change, sometimes small and unnoticeable and other times crashing, extraordinary waves. I think our reactions to change largely determine what we gain throughout the experience.

I speak from a very personal experience with change right now. Nothing in my life right now is as it was this time last year. For the first time in 17 years I had to leave my family vacation early, I flew home alone and stayed at my house alone washing my clothes and packing myself to move away for the summer, I am not being in my hometown for the summer (for the first time in my life), I am living with people I have never met in a place I have never lived doing something I have never done. I am experiencing one of those crashing, extraordinary waves of change. I have learned a few things about change that have really modified the way I both approach change and deal with it.

The first thing involves perspective and the second involves emotions. When it comes to change in life I feel there are many ways to view it. The two most important ones for me personally are terms I have identified as reflective perspective and progressive perspective.

Reflective perspective puts your vision in the past, focusing on the ways in which your life is different now than what it was previously. Reflective perspective invites feelings of nostalgia, past memories, and often times, homesickness. This type of mindset encourages you to compare your life during change to your life pre-change and can entice feelings of anxiety, worry, and uncertainty. I think reflection is really important but not at the brink of change. A reflective perspective means that you are constantly contrasting your past to your present, and with it the person you were then, the people you had around you, and the experiences that you had during that time. You live in the past and find yourself yearning for that time. Reflective perspective can make change seem inconvenient and negative.

Progressive perspective is the vision of where this change is taking you. Although not all changes are necessarily positive, their outcomes can always be. Progressive perspective means that you are controlling your change and not letting it control you. When we experience great movements of transition we typically feel helpless and out of control. A progressive perspective means that you view the change as what you can extract out of it for the future. Instead of the change compromising what you had in the past, you actively use it as a tool to enhance your future. Progressive perspectives rely on comparing your current situation during the change to where you are headed in the future. I have found progressive perspective to give a more positive aspect on change. Although it is surely scary sometimes to imagine where life is traveling towards, it is important to be watching out the front window towards the future than staring blindly through the back.

I mentioned emotions as another important part of handing change. I want to briefly mention this and plan on writing about it another time because it is very important to me and has transformed the way I hold myself towards my emotions. Emotions are entirely controllable. 100%. We are thinking humans with the ability and the capacity to manage our emotions. Emotions are these tricky little things that can really alter the way we behave and view our world. Emotions can send someone from smiling and laughing into a raging fit of anger. They can turn a truly enjoyable experience into one that is anxiety-inducing. When you learn that you have control over how you feel towards certain things you can learn how to create the best possible outcomes for those things. I’ll give an example.

You get a new job at a new place. When you arrive, you keep thinking about the old job and the people that you will miss and the memories that you have there. The people at your new job are kind, welcoming, and attempt to make conversation. You are so consumed with feeling sadness for the loss of your old job (reflective perspective) that you are incapable of allowing the future to come into play. You then decide that this is your new job and you feel excited to have the opportunity. You make friends and decide that you can use this to strengthen your portfolio and gain skills for your future (progressive perspective). Throughout all of this, you have fleeting emotions of anxiety, worry, joy, contentment, excitement, and uncertainty. I don’t think you should suppress these very real emotions, in fact I think they are a fundamental human trait; however, I don’t think you should allow emotions to control your perspective. Feel them, acknowledge them, but then remember your ultimate goal is to embrace the change and maintain a steady emotional peace. Truly experiencing and allowing these emotions to capture your mind will feel like a roller coaster during times of immense change. Just food for thought (and discussion) on the importance and adaptability of emotions and our control as humans over them.

I am going through change right now with my research internship. It is new, exciting, overwhelming, encouraging, and has required some shifts in perspective and emotions. I cannot wait to experience the next ten weeks, accompanied by all of the failures and successes that I will encounter. I know that change is inevitable but with mindfulness and contemplation, there is a best way we can all seek and attain optimal joy, fulfillment, and happiness.

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open #oneword2016

Open.

A trend I stumbled upon on wordpress was this #oneword2016. After reading through a few articles I got the impression that this is a one word “mantra” dedicated to 2016. I started contemplating some of the words that I would like to implement into 2016. Some of the words that came to mind were words like real, strength, imagine. All of these words were fitting for my life, but for some reason I felt inclined to think of word that didn’t “fit” my life. A word that wasn’t something that didn’t just come to the top of my mind. A word I had to search for.

Then I thought of Open. I would like to be more open in 2016.

Open to having coffee with a stranger.

Open to reading books I don’t think I will enjoy.

Open to having meaningful conversations at odd times in the day.

Open to change.

Open to suggestions.

Open to commitment.

Open to challenging myself mentally.

Open to challenging myself physically.

Open to creating novel ideas and writing about them generously.

Open…

I would like to be more open. I dedicate 2016 to the year I step outside of my comfort zone, explore new ideas, learn more about the world, make silly choices, and be a more open person.

I encourage you to find your #oneword2016. Analyze where you could use some remodeling in your life. We all need to rearrange our perspectives sometimes.

Comment your #oneword2016 so I can be a part of your journey to liberation, success, and happiness!

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handcrafted.

This weekend is recruitment weekend at Belmont University. This has been a decision I have been poring over for a while now. Contrary to state schools or larger schools, Belmont’s Greek Life is very different. It is my personal values to stay true to myself and what I find fundamentally important. But the atmosphere and the demeanor of the women in these sororities is so authentic and so humble. I have had conversations about how God works in our lives in various ways, I have talked about my dreams and plans with women who have genuine interest, and I have felt so at ease and so welcomed by every Greek chapter. But this post isn’t about Greek Life at Belmont. It is about creating your own mold.

I am a biochemistry and molecular biology major here at Belmont. I adore science and learning about the amazing and beautiful world around us. You don’t fully understand how complex and intricate God is until you study our world at  molecular and microphysical levels. I adore these things. I get so, so excited about these things. So I worried maybe being in a sorority would be “unfit” for me. Maybe that defies the stereotypical science major and pre-med profile. Maybe that will distort the scientific image of myself that I have. Maybe others will think of me differently.

two things I was taught this past week in my classes:

  1. “I am not who I think I am. I am not who you think I am. I am who I think you think I am.”
  2. Profound and groundbreaking scientists usually have a very curvaceous and sometimes circuitous path.
The first one: read it again and think about it. We develop the images of ourselves based on the perceptions of others. We are who we think others perceive us to be. YOU CAN BE ANYTHING OR ANYONE YOU WANT TO BE!
The second one: everyone’s path to success and stairwell to their dreams is often littered with obstacles and differences. It is supposed to be that way! Your path to greatness is going to be haphazard. The best thing is you can face any obstacle, roadblock, or frightening mountain in your life with the presence of God by your side! He sees your talents, your beliefs and values, and your grandest desires. He wants you to be experienced. He wants you to gain wisdom. He might allow you to experience some set backs or conundrums, but He will be there holding you tightly if you allow Him to embrace you!
So I concluded my thoughts about this internal battle of “who I should be”, “who I am”, and “who I want to be” with this: I am creating my own, one-of-a-kind mold. I am becoming someone novel and unique. I am going to be who I chose to be, not based on my past experiences or future hopes. Today I choose to love me as I am, to love who I am going to become, and to welcome challenges that are going to shape me. I hope, and I pray, that you choose to defy the standards set for you and to create your own wonderful, special, and hand crafted mold.
“I praise you because I am fearfully and wonderfully made; your works are wonderful. I know that full well.” Psalm 139:14
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plastic hands

flower envelope.

I started college this past week, and I already have the addition of so many unique experiences. I have been to an outdoor free concert in downtown Nashville, I have exchanged “hellos” with more people than I thought imaginable, I have made friends that I plan to hold onto, I have ran and explored around my magical campus, I have had moments of homesickness, I have attended interesting lectures, I have attended boring lectures, I have eaten at amazing restaurants, I have heard fantastic musicians, and I have most recently spent quite a bit of time in my dorm reading and writing notes and trying to decipher scientific text into simpler terms for my own understanding. But tonight as I write notes over chemistry concepts, my thoughts keep navigating towards neuroscience…

Plasticity is the brain’s ability to adapt to change and conform to new environments, new demands, and new experiences. It is a rather novel concept but to me it is absolutely awe inspiring. Our mind is the single most complex organism on our planet and remains the most complex system even when we extend to the Milky Way that envelops us in its gravitational embrace. Our minds, the envy of computational and electrical engineers across the world, is able to physically adapt to change. It is living, growing, and becoming more dynamic with every encounter we have and every memory we form. Your neural connections are on fire as you read this very sentence. Your brain is processing every bit and piece of information and deciding instantaneously where it is to be stored. Why does all of this fascinate me? Because I sometimes feel we as humans forget that we too have this plasticity feature. We are not supposed to remain complacent or dormant. We are not encouraged to become comfortable as the character we were cast for the play of Life. If the brain has the unique quality of changing when needed, of becoming better adapted for the role that it is required to fill, then we need to replicate this quality in our everyday lives. Open up your mind, your home, your heart, and your eyes and look for ways you can become an asset to the vast world around you. Find your passion and fall deeply in love with what it takes to pursue it. Be adaptable. Be the moldable human being God designed you to be. Stretch your beliefs, stretch out your hands to others, and stretch yourself vehemently in ways previously unthinkable. It is my belief that when we use our plasticity as humans, and as lovers, and as sons and daughters, and as warriors, and as citizens, that we have moved towards the bright and hopeful road of satisfying the great Creator.

So go out here. Look for the changes you need to make to be a better person, to make better decisions, and to make the world a better place.

I pray you find your ability to change and use it.

“His master replied, ‘Well done my good and faithful servant! You have been faithful with a few things; I will put you in charge of many things. Come and share your master’s happiness!'” Matthew 25:23.


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weighting on the world to change

I am not a writer. I cannot formulate words into the sentences I want them to be read. I hear my thoughts and I want other people to hear them, but it is often hard for me to communicate my thoughts to other people. I am an awkward person. I am a real person who gets uncomfortable in situations. This post is going to be careless. Not careless in the way that I don’t care what I am writing, but careless in the fashion that my grammar may be wrong at times. I may not make sense. Actually, I probably won’t make sense (that is how my brain functions). I am going to write my thoughts as I think them, not as I want them read. I have always enjoyed writing, whether it be prose fiction or research papers. I enjoy writing, but why?

I enjoy learning. I thoroughly enjoy learning. I am a creative thinker. I love to create things in my mind. Scenarios. Problems, realistic and scientific. Stories. I love learning about new people. I love discovering new places. I am passionate about gaining knowledge in every aspect of my life. I have always said I have a curious mind but honestly I think I have a curious heart. I am passionate about learning about other people. Their likes, dislikes, loves, hates, emotions, worries. I love learning about people. I often silently watch others and just soak up what I observe. How they speak, how they articulate their words, how they choose to love, how they choose to breathe even. Every body is different. And I mean that in every body is different.

I hate the media.

We as women are so often, for lack of better words, tricked into believing lies. Skinny women are everywhere. NO, photoshop and hungry celebrities are everywhere. This post is written for myself. The average weight of an American woman has gone up 11 pounds in 20 years according to thehuffingtonpost.com. The ideal weight for an American woman is 140 pounds. We, on average, weigh 156 pounds. Now, I don’t weigh 156 pounds. Or 140 pounds. I know women that do though. I have a petite frame. I have always been naturally skinny, but I am just as victimized by the unrealistic idea of beauty that is portrayed in the media as my other lady accomplices that weigh 156 pounds.

I hate the media.

I looked myself in the mirror this morning and kind of freaked out. Not because I was embracing my typically atrocious morning hair. But I thought to myself (prepare for the messy thoughts I conceive), this is who I am. I am this face, I am this hair, I am this body, and these eyes. I am those feet and these hands. To other people, this is who I am. But to myself, I am not those things. 90% of the day I never see my face. The other 10% I am taking snapchats or fixing my messy hair in the bathroom mirror. The 90% is who I really am. I am my thoughts. I am my actions. I am my words. I am not my body weight or jean size. I am not my brown eyes or green nails. My body is merely a camping place for my brain and my heart. One day, my two most important inhabitants will get up, and leave. And my body will be left here. The exact thing I have been agonizing over and perfecting for all this time will be left behind. What will be left of me?

Oh yeah, those two things we oh so frequently forget about. The first, my brain. What did I leave in this world. Did I make a difference? Did I learn all of the things I wanted to learn? Did I learn about people and places and things and emotions? I want to learn about those things before I leave. Did I create something beautiful? Or did I destroy something beautiful? Did my thoughts build me up or break me down?

The second, my heart. Did I love passionately? I hope I gave. I hope I graciously and openly always gave. I want to give to others. Love, hope, and faith. Did I share my feelings? Did I tell every single person I knew that I loved them? I hope I created something beautiful. I hope I loved openly. I want to embrace my heart. I hope I was sensitive. I want to be sensitive to others. I want to invite others into my tent. If someone can make it past the flaws in my camping place, they can fully embrace my delicate brain and complex heart. If someone can see past their own camping grounds. Their own flaws. The rocks they have lying around their grounds. The wind that affects their tent. The trouble that storms have left on their place. If someone can move past all of those imperfections and enter into the tent of their beautiful mind and heart, they have won. They have beat the media, their own minds, the words and actions of others, and the war against themselves. See past your imperfections. See past your flaws. See past your weight and hair and face and clothes and image. Look inside your tent and care about your mind and your soul. Care about the things you hold inside you.

Our bodies are a camping place that one day the greater things inside us will get up and leave. Make sure what you take with you is greater than what is left in the ground behind you.

some thoughts

  1. We are more than the things we see every day
  2. We are the words we say and the actions we perform
  3. A weight cannot make you beautiful
  4. You can beautiful at any weight
  5. The media lies to us
  6. We choose to accept those lies
  7. We need to stop accepting those lies
  8. Everyday is a beautiful day
  9. There are ugly moments in every day
  10. We must embrace them
  11. Beauty truly comes from within you
  12. A heart that gives is more beautiful than a hand that gives
  13. number 12 might not make sense
  14. Give loving words in private not loving gifts in public

I love you guys and I pray we all, talking directly to myself here, love ourselves for what we are worth on the inside. Not the outside.

xoxoxo

mary catherine

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