I’m more than my mental illness | Edge of 30


Lindsay Steele
The Catholic Messenger

When I was growing up, I felt different from everyone else. I didn’t know what was wrong with me. I didn’t know why I couldn’t talk to my classmates. I didn’t know why I was scared of everything. I just knew I wasn’t like everyone else, and not in a good way. I felt like a disappointment to my parents because they were always telling me to change, and I couldn’t. They thought it was a phase. I knew it was just who I was, but I didn’t know how to communicate that to them.

Finally, when I was 15, I managed to break through to them and they got me an appointment with a psychiatrist, who diagnosed me with Generalized Anxiety Disorder. Thus began several months of therapy, along with a medication regimen. For the first time in my life, I began to feel some relief.

Twenty years later, I have everything I could have ever wanted back then. I have a job I love, a wonderful husband, the most adorable son in the world, and amazing friends. But my anxiety disorder is always with me.

It still causes me to dwell on worst-case scenarios sometimes, though I’ve gotten better at dealing with that. I can talk to just about anyone now — and, admittedly, I talk TOO much — but I still feel “different” sometimes. I feel like I have to make excuses for myself because I missed about 15 years of social development. Sometimes my anxiety leads me to act in ways that hurt the people I love. I’ve lost important people because of it. My biggest insecurity is feeling like I’m a burden to people. I’m scared that the people I love will grow tired of putting up with me and eventually leave, because it’s happened before. My anxiety makes me feel like less of a person.

But, I know I’m more than my anxiety. I am a strong, smart, creative, independent woman. I’m resilient and resourceful. I ask for help when I need it. I still seek counseling as needed. I’m always going to be a work in progress. I can’t allow myself to feel like I’m “less,” because all of us have one thing they wish they didn’t have to deal with. But I’m dealing with it, and God has blessed me with an amazing support system of family, friends and coworkers who lift me up and make me feel special in a GOOD way. Even when I’m at my worst, they don’t make me feel crazy. They acknowledge my struggles and accompany me as I work through them. My companions on the journey reassure me of my worth, and reassure me that I’m not just loved, but lovable.

Anxiety is a part of me. It is not all of me. Mental illness is a part of me. It is not all of me.

(Lindsay Steele, a reporter for The Catholic Messenger wrote this column during Mental Illness Awareness Week, which was Oct. 4-10.)

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Edge of 30: Our new little valentine


By Lindsay Steele

For those of you who saw my picture in last month’s Messenger and noticed I’m a little rounder than usual — yes, I’m expecting!

It seems like a miracle, and I find myself in disbelief constantly. It seems like it’s taken a long time to get to this point.

Contributed Baby boy Steele is about 20 weeks gestation in this ultrasound image.
Baby boy Steele is about 20 weeks gestation in this ultrasound image.

I’d always suspected pregnancy might be difficult for me to achieve, and doctors confirmed my fears in the summer of 2014. As a Polycystic Ovary Syndrome (PCOS) sufferer, my hormone levels were off just enough to prevent ovulation each month. Without ovulation, pregnancy cannot occur.

I wasn’t sure what to think at the time of diagnosis. I thought I was fine with the possibility of not being able to have biological children, but over time it became increasingly difficult to look at burgeoning baby bumps and wonder, “Why them and not me?”

My husband and I did have hope in the form of oral ovulation-regulating medications. Still, I struggled a bit emotionally and spiritually with the idea of treatment. The treatment is church-approved and allows for natural conception, but I wondered: was my infertility diagnosis a sign from God that I wasn’t supposed to have biological children? Was I supposed to adopt instead? Was I playing God if I went forward with treatments?

A fellow St. Mary’s-Davenport parishioner helped ease my fears. She explained that, even with the medication, it would still be up to God to determine if we achieved pregnancy. I realized she was right – ovulation-regulating medications are not a guarantee. Statistics from the American Society of Reproductive Medicine show that women on these medications for up to six months have a 20-30 percent chance of getting pregnant and carrying a baby to term. The odds are about half of what they would be for a healthy couple trying to conceive within the same time frame.

Last summer, my husband and I decided we were ready to try the treatment. Though I sadly admit that I don’t pray as often as I should most of the time, I found myself fervently praying for God’s will and the ability to accept the outcome. My grandmother and her prayer group, in turn prayed for St. Gerard’s intercession.

The first month was unsuccessful. I didn’t have high hopes for the second month either, but I suspected something might be up when I began to feel abdominal discomfort coupled with an uncharacteristic craving for spicy food.

The “Am I? Am I not?” dialogue played over and over again in my head. After a few days of ruminating, I finally got up the courage to take a test. Almost immediately, the telltale second line showed up. I didn’t cry or scream: I just looked at the test, stunned.

To our great relief and joy, all of the ultrasounds and heartbeat checks so far have indicated that our little one is healthy and growing well. Last month, we found out it’s a boy. I’ve begun to feel him move around, and I love to rub my stomach in response, even though I’m sure he can’t feel it yet. We are so excited to meet our little guy and shower him with love.

As I near the third trimester, I find myself wondering why God allowed me to get pregnant. So many of my acquaintances with infertility are still waiting and my initial question has been reversed: “Why me and not them?” I don’t think I’ll ever fully understand.

Regardless, I thank God for the gift of life growing inside me and ask for your prayers – both for the health of our little one and for all couples struggling with infertility.

(Editor’s note: Lindsay Steele is a reporter for The Catholic Messenger. Contact her at steele@davenportdiocese.org or by phone at (563) 888-4248.)

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Waiting is hard in an instant gratification culture


By Lindsay Steele

Advent is a time of waiting.

Anne Marie Amacher
Lindsay Steele stands next to a grandfather clock, whose arms are perpetually stuck at 11:56, at St. Vincent Center in Davenport Dec. 11. In her column, Steele discusses her personal battle with impatience and why the Advent season offers an opportunity to reflect on the need to wait with grace.

Most people don’t really like to wait. I recently read an anonymous reflection on fullycatholic.com that said, “Waiting is not something we normally celebrate; we like to have things instantly.”

My generation in particular has been accused of living in an instant gratification culture. At a recent young adult seminar at St. Patrick Church in Iowa City, the crowd erupted with laughter when Veruca Salt’s image appeared on the PowerPoint slide. “Don’t care how, I want it now,” the caption read.

I believe we laughed because, at our core, we hate having to wait for what we want.

We get annoyed when someone doesn’t text us back right away. We get annoyed by a red traffic light, whether we are running late or not. We are annoyed when a friend shows up 10 minutes late for a lunch date.

Well, maybe some people have the patience not to be bothered by such things, but regrettably I am not one of them. I have never been known for my patience.

I recall being a child and waiting for Christmas morning. Oh, how the days dragged on while the neatly wrapped gifts sat beneath the tree, seeming to mock me.

I remember waking up every hour, on-the-hour as Christmas morning slowly approached. At 6 a.m., I’d wake my parents, but they’d remind me that we couldn’t open presents until my sister awoke. Much to my dismay, no amount of “accidental” noise making seemed to wake her from her slumber.

Not much has changed since then, unfortunately. Even here in the office, I notice myself doodling or squirming in my chair if staff meetings run a little long.

I’m sure God knows that waiting is hard. Maybe that’s why four weeks every year — Advent — are dedicated to waiting and the virtue of patience.

I am beginning to realize that waiting with grace is important, perhaps because it is hard to be joyful with an impatient spirit. What I’ve learned over the years is that the time I spend being upset or anxious about waiting is not spent in the present moment. I recall going to California with college friends just after graduation. I was so upset about leaving behind my boyfriend at the time that I spent most of the trip calling him or being upset that it wasn’t time to go home yet. I even considered leaving early. I remember so little of that trip and regret that now. I could have had a lot of fun and built lifelong memories. My friends’ patience is a little better than mine — despite my faux pas, we’re still close.

Especially now, as my husband and I wait for God to (hopefully) bless us with children, I must remember to stay in the present and wait with grace. So often I say that we hope to start a family, but the truth is we do have a family right now — each other, our pets and our extended families. If I spend all my time being bitter about my infertility issues and anxious about the months that pass as we explore our permissible options, I won’t be able to be present and enjoy what I have right now. We could be waiting for years; I’d be wise to live them with a sense of gratitude.

I do not have the anecdote for an impatient spirit, though certainly I’d make a great test subject. Still, in the spirit of Advent, I feel challenged to give a healthy dose of patience a try.

(Editor’s note: Lindsay Steele is a reporter for The Catholic Messenger. Contact her at steele@davenportdiocese.org or by phone at (563) 888-4248.)

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