I talk honestly and openly about my experiences with mental illness, fibromyalgia, and chronic fatigue syndrome through the lens of feminism, fat acceptance and process theology. I also do recipe and book reviews. My mission is to spread the message that hope is always real for a better life, despite living in a world that is often very harsh.

Wednesday, August 2, 2017

Phone Banking As Self Care

Christ is the change that occurs in humanity, in art, in philosophy, everywhere.  (90, Monica A. Coleman, Making a Way Out of No Way). You have to be open to Christ for this change to occur.  (Me)

You can substitute "Love" for the word, "Christ", if you prefer.  I believe that whenever you are open to trying new, positive ways of being, then Christ is in your midst.  I thank God for the three Senators that were open to Christ and followed what is right instead of what is expected two days ago.  I thank God especially for Senators Lisa Murkowski and for Susan Collins, as they were under the most pressure.  While I am glad for John McCain, I am disappointed that  people are not praising the accomplishments of these women more.

Monday I was open to Christ when I participated in my first phone bank for Planned Parenthood.  The rest of this post is hobbled together from various writings I posted on Facebook that day about the experience.

I began my day by calling my senators, like I do fairly often now.  5 Calls is an app I recommend that makes calling your legislatures easier.  Like practically everything I do, I posted my experience on Facebook, which prompted a friend to ask:


While I admire the effort, why do you call the Georgia senators?  [...] It feels like a waste of time with such hardcore conservative senators in office.

This was my response:


Activism is one of my forms of self-care.  If I didn't do anything, I would be so depressed.  If there is a way to encourage the few that might listen to do the right thing, then we have to try.  If we fail, at least we can say we tried instead of wondering what if.  By focusing on what I can do, I do not get as depressed thinking about how horrible this current administration is. 

I've talked before about how self-care is not just about bubble baths but can also be about being an advocate and an activist.  Although it takes more effort, activism usually feels more satisfying than apathy does. It actually helps, too!  Most of activism is like the ripple effect - one action may not produce an immediate effect but when others see your activism, they may join in.  The more that the common people act, the harder it becomes for those in power to ignore their demands.  One person may be able to make a difference but I believe  that true power comes collectively.


Together we were able to call 2000 people in Nevada in under two hours! (We were calling Nevada because Senator Heller said he would vote no and we wanted to make sure that his vote stayed that way, so we were asking Planned Parenthood supporters if they would call his office and ask him to vote no.).  I was nervous at first but then I reminded myself that I already work at a warmline, so it could not be that much different.  I mostly left a lot of voicemails asking people to call their Senator when they could.  Sadly, Senator Heller did not vote the way he said he would but that is okay.  I know that that may seem defeating but honestly, I am just so glad that the horrifying bill was not passed that I do not care how it happened.  Phone banks do work sometimes but sadly, not all the time.  Fortunately, my experience was pleasant enough that I will definitely participate again if I am available.  Here are some tips that I learned from my first time:

1.  Modify the provided script so that it feels more natural.  The first time I actually talked to someone, I failed miserably.  The script felt too long and so I stumbled and hesitated through it, which prompted the poor woman to say she did not have enough time to listen.  After the call, I promptly removed all of the extraneous material, so that I could get to the point faster.  That way, I was not so concerned about taking up strangers' time and the flow seemed more natural.  I did not have any problems communicating with the people afterwards.

2.  If you reach the wrong person, do not bother reading your script.  The first time I called a number and was told that that person did not live there, I thought it might be a good idea to read the script anyway.  Surely this random stranger was also a Planned Parenthood supporter, right?  Wrong.  The person told me she would be no help because she does not support Planned Parenthood.  Welp!  I should have just apologized and moved on to the next person on the list.

3.  Speak with a smile - be pleasant and polite no matter what!  I tried very hard to always sound pleasant and respectful in my tone.  When I called the woman who turned out not to be a supporter, she actually listened to my whole spiel and then very nicely and respectfully told me that she would not help.  I responded by simply wishing her a nice day before hanging up.  I then marveled to myself that I had just inconvenienced a perfect stranger and yet the whole experience was still pleasant.  If only more people could tell each other they disagree without shouting and disrespecting each other, then this world would be a much better place.

4.  Don't stop and think about each call, just keep going.  The point of phone banking is to make as many calls as possible, so don't stop to debate anyone.  If someone disagrees with you or is busy, stay pleasant, and just keep it moving.

At the end of the phone banking, we participated in a video call where we could share our experiences.  One woman held up her one-year-old baby for all of us to see as she explained that she had had her daughter on her lap the whole time because she wanted her daughter to also become an activist.  Seeing the little baby, I thought of how there is no way of knowing the consequences of what we do in the moment.  Even though we had not reached Senator Heller, by passing on the tradition of activism to this woman's daughter, there may be a great change that we will never know about.  In fact, I am realizing more and more that there is no way to ever know the full extent of how my actions may affect another, which is why I believe it is important to strive for loving kindness and bringing truth to power always.

My favorite interaction between me and another caller was when I called a man named Gary who interrupted me and told me that he agreed with everything I was saying and in fact, was on the other line trying to reach that particular senator already.  I laughed and congratulated him.  I told him to keep up the good work and that I appreciated what he was doing.  Even though phone banking for Planned Parenthood did not achieve its goal of convincing Senator Heller to not change his vote, it did much to counter my skepticism of men: to my surprise, most of my callers identified as male.  

In this society, we are constantly surrounded by negativity, and the negativity constantly in the news lately has been proven to affect people with mental health challenges more intensely.  A number of close friends have been struggling more so than usual and I cannot help but think that it is at least partly due to our culture's current diet of negative news.  To counteract the negativity and the resulting apathy, we must look for ways to uplift ourselves.  Activism can do that, for it lets the oppressed person know that they are not alone in their fight for justice.  Once a people know they matter and are not alone, then their power will become greater than they ever could have imagined, for they will be following the will of Love.

No Justice, No Peace - Know Justice, Know Peace

Black Lives Matter

Healthcare Is A Universal Right  

Femininity Is Power

Link Love:




Tuesday, June 27, 2017

Expressing Gratitude for Bipolar Disorder

And now, isn't it wonderful all the ways in which this distress has goaded you closer to God?  You're more alive, more concerned, more sensitive, more reverent, more human, more passionate, more responsible. (The Message Bible, 381)
I often attend Javamonkey Speaks, which is the open mic spoken word held every Sunday at Javamonkey, a coffeeshop near where I live.  I went there two weeks ago with some peers; when I go with peers I usually make a deal with them that if they present a poem, I will too, but I just wasn't feeling it that night.  I told them I would just support them this time.  But sometimes when I tell myself that I will be quiet at a function, something will happen that will make me feel compelled to speak anyway.  First, my favorite Javamonkey regular announced that he had been diagnosed with bipolar and that it was very hard and challenging.  I felt bad for him, as even though we haven't talked together much, I hold a lot of fondness towards him.  He is one of the most vulnerable poets I know, very quirky and special.  That night, he did a hilarious monologue as a German radio show host that  made me laugh until I cried.  I felt for him but I did not yet feel compelled to say anything.  A few poems later, another regular came on stage and announced that she had bipolar too.  It was the way that she said it that made me feel that now it was time for me to speak up.  She is a teen who I admire for bluntly putting her struggles out there week after week.  Unfortunately, being a melodramatic teen, her poems are almost always epically cringe-worthy.  This one was no exception.  Her life, as she sees it, is terrible, pure misery, and having bipolar disorder just makes it that much more excruciating.  I get it, I do.  When I was first diagnosed with my illnesses, life was hard.  It was excruciating and I was melodramatic too.  Yes, it was reassuring to talk with other people who were struggling but what I truly needed was hope, which unfortunately, very few people gave me in the beginning. Hearing this teen's troubles let me know what I needed to do.  I quickly found a poem that I didn't mind too much and signed up to share.  When I got on stage, this is what I shared, as much as I can remember:

I also have bipolar disorder but I want to say that I am actually grateful for it.  Yes, life is hard, but life is hard for everyone for different reasons.  Because of my experiences with bipolar, I have learned how to have more compassion, be less judgmental and I have met many wonderful people.  I have gone through many hardships but each time it gets easier and I have found that getting through hardships is what gives us resiliency, which is essential for a good life.  

I then read a poem that I posted here way back in 2011.  How life has changed since then for the better and how I can now trust it will continue to change for the better, even as these good times will, I know, be interrupted by hardships from time to time.  I think people were a little shocked when I followed my diagnosis with the statement that I was grateful for it but I really truly am.  I am never thankful for it when in the throes of depression or anxiety but I am thankful that I at least have the tools now to get me through it.  Earlier today, I had an anxiety attack, which was frustrating but at least I knew what to do and why it was happening - I was experiencing some joint pain and pain usually triggers anxiety for me, so I took some Advil, took my anxiety PRN, and turned up the air conditioning to get myself comfortable again.  I really would make a terrible homeless person because being physically uncomfortable isn't just annoying for me but actually triggers my anxiety.  In a pretty short while, my anxiety passed, and I laughed at myself out of relief, so grateful that I know how to manage myself now.  I believe everyone has their own challenges but as long as we keep trying new things and reflecting on what works and what doesn't, we will grow and get better, despite our setbacks.  

I hope this post provides some encouragement; feel free to share it with those who are struggling, especially with a new diagnosis.

Wednesday, May 17, 2017

What An Ally Looks Like

Nobody's free until everybody's free. - Fannie Lou Hamer
 Recently I read an article from the queer point of view and was surprised at how many people were defensive about the advice given.  Of course, I should not have read the comments but it did prompt me to think about what I consider to be the hallmarks of a good ally. Here is what I have come up with - none of it is really original thinking but hopefully it is helpful to someone.  I have written these guidelines in generic language because there are many types of oppression and I do not believe that any oppressed group should be freed before another.  We all need to be allies to each other in order to end ableism, racism, sexism, classism, ageism, size-ism homophobia, transgender hate, environmental abuse, and the rise of fascism.

1. A Good Ally Does Inner Work & Sets Aside Their Ego
I think sometimes people think they can be successfully supportive without doing inner work and that is just not true.  In order to knock down oppression, we must set our own egos aside.  All of us have biases and prejudices - it is the responsibility of all of us to be willing to examine ourselves and what we may be doing that is problematic.  If we do not understand what are doing that is wrong, then we cannot change our behavior and we cannot change our world.  The process towards understanding can be painful but is necessary to make a more peaceful community.

2. A Good Ally Wants to Learn
Some people want to say that they are supportive but they do not want to put any effort into learning about the issue.  Curiosity is a wonderful thing and I believe that a desire to learn is one of the greatest ways that we can show value - showing interest in another's experiences and hardships shows that you value them as a person.

3. A Good Ally Studies Their Own Culture
Of course, a good ally strives to understand the worlds of others, but if they do not understand their own world, then they will not be able to truly change it.  Black people understand the world of White people more than most White people do-that's why most Black people I talked to were not surprised when Donald Trump became president.  I was, because I did not take the time to understand my own culture-I stayed in my own liberal bubble, not understanding what has always been a part of white culture.  But this does not apply to just white people-heterosexuals, cis-gender, able-bodied, thin, neuro-typical, Christian, young, rich-you, we, all need to understand yours, ours, culture.  We need to understand the way it brainwashes us and the way it hurts us-the way it convinces us that we are superior to someone else.  Until we look closely at our own selves, we will not be able to change.
   
4. A Good Ally Does Their Own Research
I used to have a friend that would constantly ask me to define words I used and it got very aggravating.  It is disrespectful to repeatedly ask a person to explain themselves.  We live in an age with google, so use it. Taking the time to do research shows others that you respect their time. If a person tells me that they looked things up but still have questions, then I feel gratified and respected and I have no problem with answering a few questions.

5. A Good Ally Practices Empathy
Sympathy is feeling sorry for a person-empathy is feeling what they feel.  Sympathy involves a sense of superiority, while empathy brings mutuality and connection.  We do not want to do advocacy work because we feel sorry for another but because we feel connected to another and know that their struggle is our struggle is everybody's struggle.  I am not free until everyone is free.  Empathy involves active listening and admitting when we do not know what to do or what to say - in fact, I think admitting that we do not have all the answers but being willing to stay with someone through the uncomfortableness, through heartache, and say, "I do not know what to do, but I am here," can be very healing.  It is not the ally's job to solve all problems, but it is the ally's job to empathize in a way that others do not.  I think a person that strives to be empathic will be more willing to learn, to listen, to apologize if needed, and to ultimately act in a way that is helpful than a person who says they want to support/help but doesn't take the time to truly understand what the oppressed party is feeling and experiencing.

6. A Good Ally Gives Preference To The Other's Lived Experience
It may be tempting to assert your own opinion on a topic, but when an oppressed person tells their story or preference, it is your job to listen.  If what the person says bothers you, take some time to think about it and set your own ego aside before critiquing them.  The person with the lived experience knows more about what their oppression is like and what they need than you do.

7. A Good Ally Tries Not To Take Criticism Personally
Often times advice may be given in general terms - if it doesn't apply to you, then it's not about you.  Try not to get defensive when someone is sharing anger.

8. A Good Ally Does Not Get Offended By Anger
Oppressed people have a right to be angry about their oppression - don't police their tone or tell people that you would listen if they were nicer.  That makes the issue all about you and not about their own experience.  Remember, if it doesn't apply to you, then it's not about you.

9. A Good Ally Supports The Work Of Others
Once a person gets it, it can be tempting to want to save the day, but that is really putting the focus back on you.  White feminists have a long history of doing this.  Instead of forming your own rescue mission, find out what advocacy groups are run by the oppressed group and support them.  Become a follower rather than a leader if you are not part of the oppressed experience.

10. A Good Ally Uses Their Privilege To Speak Out
While it is good to let the oppressed group take the lead, you do have an important part to play in the move towards equality.  Talk about oppression and ways to combat it with your friends.  Do not let the people you know get away with using oppressive words or speech.  It is not that we are trying to be politically correct but that we are trying to create a more peaceful world.  If I hear a friend use the word, "retarded," I will gently ask that friend to use another word.  Here is what I usually say, "Please don't use that word-I have friends with developmental disabilities and that language has been used to hurt them.  Just say what you mean."  Be sure to have some suggestions ready in case they ask what they should say instead.  The appropriate term is developmental disability, although most people that say the r-word are actually referring to people they do not like or think are ignorant.  I have never had pushback when people hear that it is actually hurtful to use certain words and when given other words as options.  As a person of privilege, others will especially listen to you.

11. A Good Ally Promotes Dialogue
This is a hard one. I am troubled by how all or nothing our society has become and I believe it is  dialogue that can help save us.  We must be willing to have hard conversations with people who deeply disagree with us that are not shouting matches if we are to build unity.  It has become popular to make a grand pronouncement on Facebook telling people who do not agree with a certain issue to just go ahead and unfriend us and I find that disappointing.  The more separated our society becomes, the easier it is to turn certain people into an other and an enemy, which paves the road to fascism and genocide.  Here is my caveat though - in my quest for dialogue, I will not tolerate abuse and negativity in my space - I do not unfriend people just because they disagree with me but if they are rude, negative, demeaning, abusive, trolling, etc., then they have to go.  I promote dialogue, but I do not tolerate negativity in my sacred, safe spaces.  (That's called having boundaries.)

12. A Good Ally Owns Their Mistakes
We are all human and we are all going to make mistakes.  If a person makes an inappropriate assumption or uses the wrong language, that's okay.  Listen, learn, apologize, and then commit to not doing it again.  There is no need to beat yourself up or shower yourself in guilt, for no one is perfect.  Sincere apologies and dialogues can be healing, as it shows that a person really cares.

13. A Good Ally Practices Self Care
This actually applies to everybody.  You cannot help others if you are totally burned out.  Take good care of yourself.  Tell yourself good things and be with people that lift you up.  It is easy to get overwhelmed by all the negativity in the media but an atmosphere of despair helps no one.  Activism and protesting actually can be a wonderful form of self care, as it brings people together and helps people feel like they are being productive.  No, protests alone will not change the world but the coming together of many people for a single cause should never be underestimated.  It benefits the current social order to keep people isolated and think they are alone.  If you cannot protest, then do something else and do not feel guilty - there are many ways to bring about peace and they are all important.  This includes taking care of our wellbeing - the patriarchy feeds on isolation, negativity, and despair and we must fight it with optimism, unity, and hope.  These are not shallow feelings, but ways of being that require concrete action.  Pursue community, curiosity and creativity in healing and kind ways always in order to create a more just, equal, and peaceful society.

14. A Good Ally Holds Hope
If a person says they are a support person for a person with mental illness but does not believe that person will get better, then they are not really a support person.  This may be the hardest requirement for an ally, or anybody, to do though.  It's really hard to be hopeful when the world is as it is. Personally, I try to look for articles that report on the good side of things-what things that are being done that are actually positive and who are the people that trying to do good.  I follow groups and people that are trying to make change and participate in the ways they suggest.  I think hope is something best cultivated in community and action-it is hard to keep hope alive if all one does is sit at home and read/watch horrible stories all day.   I do not think we can be hopeful all the time-or empathetic or non defensive or any of the things I am suggesting.  I put these ideals out there because I think they are important-not because I think it is remotely possible to be this kind of person all the time.
*****
This writing exercise sort of turned into a monster-I had no idea that I had so many things to say when I first started writing this!  I came to the realization that these guidelines really transcend being a good ally and could be considered guidelines to being a good person.  Our society needs to support each other by employing empathy, understanding, compassion, kindness, dialogue, and love or else we will continue down our path of destruction and end up annihilating us all.  No one is perfect but together we can make a difference.

Nobody's free until everybody's free. - Fannie Lou Hamer

Saturday, April 15, 2017

The Hearing Voices Network Introduced Me To First World Trauma

Let us not ask, "What is wrong with you?" but, " What happened to you?"
I recently took a life-changing, empowering, and validating training to be a support group facilitator for the Hearing Voices Network (HVN).  HVN is an organization that started in England and is now worldwide that provides nonclinical, nonjudgmental support groups for people that experience voices and visions, so that they can find their own meaning in their unique experiences.  I am so excited to be a part of this social justice movement that is trying to change the mental health system by giving the power of meaning back to the people, instead of in the hands of clinicians.

A key value of the Hearing Voices Network is the trauma informed model, which recognizes that people with mental health challenges, including those who experience "symptoms of psychosis" are 500 times more likely to have experienced major traumas in their lives.  The symptoms that are usually labeled as psychosis are actually the brain's way of processing traumatic experiences and so are a natural and normal way for a body to process an abnormal event.  We should not be asking people what is wrong with them, as if they are a problem to be fixed, but what happened to them, because they are actually people in great pain deserving of empathy and validation.  This turns the idea of mental illness on its head: what if we did not have to call ourselves sick in order to gain compassion, but instead received compassion simply because we are all human beings with the capacity to experience great pain in different ways?

In the training, we learned that disturbing voices and images can be looked at as metaphor that is in our best self interest to explore.  For instance, a person who hears voices telling herself to kill myself may actually benefit from learning from those voices and asking herself what in her life does she need to kill - certainly not herself, but perhaps a destructive relationship, job, community, belief, etc. needs to go.  This is a much more compassionate and holistic way of looking at experiences that the behavioral health industry typically looks at as bad and as something to be feared.  In my experience, what gives us the most fear may be the very thing we need to explore.

Also, the word trauma is commonly used in a dangerously narrow way which discounts and minimizes experiences that are really traumatizing.  One of the most popular phrases that I hate hearing is the phrase, "first world problems," as if the people in first world countries do not face real problems and traumas.  I thought of this the other day after hearing about the U.S. military dropping the "mother of all bombs" in Afghanistan-as a person who believes in nonviolence, I was horrified
 about us dropping such a large bomb and felt ashamed to live in the country I do.  I began to have very negative thoughts towards myself that started to scare me and I wondered if I should call my doctor to up my dosage and then I thought, "NO!  Living in a country where a leader I did not vote for and do not support is doing things that I find immoral and horrifying is traumatic.  My disturbing thoughts are a normal and natural way of dealing with an abnormal and unnatural situation!" Once I came to that realization, my negative thoughts ceased to have power over me and I held myself in compassion and acceptance of my sadness.

First world problems may be different than third world problems but they are still full of trauma.  It is traumatic that our country has the highest rate of people held in prisons; that healthcare is inaccessible to many; that we have racism, sexism, ableism, classism embedded into the fabric of our police system, the system that is supposed to protect us-indeed, it is embedded into our very society; that mass shootings have become almost commonplace; that our jail systems have essentiallyreplaced
 mental institutions; that students leave college mired in debt; that we treat children like machines, always to be kept busy; that we value production over mental well being.  We are proud that this country is so rich and frivolous - look at me, with my Starbucks coffee, we say - but this richness erodes our sense of self and overall serenity.  We constantly crave more in order to fill the raging hurt inside of us at being lied to all these years, for even if we possess great privilege and power in this society, somewhere deep inside we know that all is not right and good.

I do not wish for third world problems - I wish for a world where people are allowed to be their authentic selves and not be judged, where people can ascribe their own meanings to phenomena without being diagnosed, a world in which total freedom means living in total interdependence with one another and in supportive, accessible community.  Next time you are about to minimize your seemingly tiny problem by labeling it a "first world problem," stop and acknowledge your frustration as valid and with compassion - the frustration you are experiencing, even if it is just for being stuck in a long line at Starbucks, is really the tip of the anger iceberg at living in such a  seriously flawed and messed up Capitalistic system.

In a society that wants to tell us what our meanings are, I am refreshed to belong to a organization that encourages its members to find their own meaning out of their unique experiences.  For them, it is up to the individual to decide what works for them-medication and therapy can be wonderful helpmates if handled skillfully and carefully, but they can also be destructive and debilitating if handled without skill and care.  It is up to us to decide how we want to address our distresses.

I think it is worth noting that it has been proven that people are not bothered by their voices and visions when they are allowed to ascribe their own meaning to them and in countries where those people are considered shamans, holy people, or healers, mental illness is far less stigmatized and those with unique experiences are far more happy with themselves.  This kind of thinking is what is found in many of the countries considered third world and less than our own.  (That is not to say that these countries do not have other horrible flaws and traumas inherent in their system.)

I believe that we should look at people with curiosity, empathy and love and that it is traumatic to live in society that instead looks at people as dollar signs.  I want to be part of something that helps to right this demented system and I hope the Hearing Voices Network, and other similar networks, continue to push back against the current paradigm.  I believe that pushing back in love may be the greatest thing we can do to heal ourselves and our first world trauma.

Link Love:

HVN International Site

HVN USA Site

Wednesday, March 29, 2017

Accepting The Limitations Of Creativity

Because of the extravagance of those revelations, and so I wouldn't get a big head, I was given the gift of a handicap to keep me in constant touch with my limitations.  (388, The Message Bible)
About a month ago, I heard someone who was in a position of power make the statement in front of a group of people that everyone can get their needs met if they are creative enough.  I have been thinking about that statement ever since and I have got to say that it is a bunch of privileged, ableist bullshit.

I learned way back in elementary school that needs are the things that keep you alive - you need them to survive.  The fact of the matter is that there will come a day for every single person when they will not be able to use creative means to stop their own death.  We all know that death is as certain as taxes...or do we?  Perhaps for some it is easy to deny that death will ever really happen to them but I seem to have escaped that ability.  I think about death a lot and I do not believe that there is anything wrong with that.  As I have written before, I believe my morbidity is one of my greatest strengths.

I think it must be fairly easy to not think about death if one is able in both body and mind, white, male, and of a higher class but what if one is not?  Was Sandra Bland not creative enough to get her out of the binds of being a woman of color?   What about Jaquarrius Holland, Chyna Gibson, Ciara McElveen, Mesha Caldwell, Jamie Lee Wounded Arrow, Keke Collier and Jojo Striker - the seven transgender women of color who have been killed so far this year in the United States for the crime of disregarding racial gender norms?  Was Anthony Hill's death due to a lack of creativity or to the stigma of mental illness and lack of proper police training?  What about all the poor people I know that cannot afford their medications?  Would a more positive attitude erase their need for medication or would it enable them to bring in more money on their own?  I do not think so.

I keep thinking of the picture of the little Syrian toddler, face caked with tears, blood and dirt, made famous a few months ago and how his needs are most definitely not being met.  He may be physically alive but he is bereft of home, family and safety.  I was taught in DBT that when one is in a situation where their needs are not going to be met, a person has the option to radically accept it and in so doing, may at least experience peace.  I am struggling to make sense of the fact that that famous little boy probably does not have the maturity and brain power to radically accept his situation.  He is in a miserable situation and I see little way out.  I can try to console myself that one of the workers
perhaps has adopted him and that he now has a good home but there is no way to know this for sure.
Reality insists that I have no way of knowing what has happened to him and that he very well may be dead.

I am very much alive, with my physical needs currently being met, but I have many unmet inner needs.  I have a deep longing for a world right with God, a world that honors the sacred in everyone, a world in peace and harmony with all living beings.  I am continually disappointed as I am assaulted with the knowledge that this will never happen while I am alive.  In a way, I wish I could delude myself to believing that if I am creative enough, I can meet all my needs and desires but I am smart enough and disabled enough to know that I cannot.   I have fibromyalgia, chronic fatigue syndrome and a host of different mental illnesses - no matter how healthily I live, the possibility of developing an illness that I cannot manage well one day is always a concern of mine.  Ironically, it is precisely when I accept this reality that I experience the most inner peace.

Currently, I carry the burden of loving the life I have built for myself and the job I have but also wanting to attend seminary and become a theological writer.  I have a feeling the speaker I heard a month ago would say that there is a creative solution in which I can have it all, but I know the truth - I am not Wonder Woman and if I were to become seminarian and career writer then it would be the death, at least for a while, of the mental health career that I love.  I absolutely do not know what to do.  Fortunately, this decision is not life or death but I do believe that easing the longing for perfection in this imperfect world may be a need that will always be partly left unmet.  Perhaps that is one of the great joys of life - accepting that there will always be some kind of dissatisfaction in this life, for without dissatisfaction, I would never strive to be creative and to be creative is to be one   universe, with the one who co-created the universe to be.  Therein lies the paradox that I tried to explain to the man - when I accept my permanent state of dissatisfaction then I enjoy the highest sense of satisfaction.  I imagine that I will wrestle with dissatisfaction my whole life until the day it is that I cease to be and who knows what will happen then!  Until that day, there is no way to creatively get out of being a disabled woman and all the vulnerabilities that come with that fact.  Perhaps one day I will develop Alzheimer's and so forget who I am - all the more reason to appreciate who I am now and call out bullshit as I can.  

Monday, March 13, 2017

Call or Write Senator Isakson

The new healthcare bill has many harmful parts to it that are concerning to me.  Here is a nice summary of what they are:

1. It allows health insurance companies to charge older Americans up to five times more.
2. It repeals the employer mandate, causing many families covered by their employers to lose coverage.
3. It will take insurance away from millions of individuals and cripple state budgets by phasing out the Medicaid expansion.
4. It gives health insurance companies a tax break for CEO pay over $500,000.
5. It defunds Planned Parenthood, leaving millions without access to breast exams, birth control, and pap smears.
- Call your representative in Congress. You can dial the Capitol switchboard at (202) 224-3121.
- Tell your friends to call their representatives in Congress.
- Show up at your representative’s town halls.
- Spread the word about this plan on Facebook (COPY/PASTE) and other social media

It also looks like there will be no insurance cap for those with preexisting conditions, making it unaffordable for millions.

In his telephone Town Hall yesterday, Georgia Senator Johnny Isakson said that his decision to support or not the current GOP Health Plan will depend on how it will actually affect Georgians. So, if you have evaluated, for instance, how your ability to afford health insurance will be affected by the Plan, please send him that information and reference his statement at tonight's telephone Town Hall. You can reach Senator Isakson here:
ATLANTA OFFICE
One Overton Park
3625 Cumberland Blvd, Suite 970
Atlanta, GA 30339
Tel: (770) 661-0999
Fax: (770) 661-0768
D.C. OFFICE
United States Senate
131 Russell Senate Office Building
Washington, DC 20510
Tel: (202) 224-3643
Fax: (202) 228-0724

I urge all of my readers in Georgia to call or write  Senator Isakson with how this new bill will negatively affect you.  Here is my letter, which I will send out later today.

Dear Senator Isakson,

You stated in your last town hall meeting that you wanted to know how the new healthcare bill will affect Georgians, so I am writing you to know how it will affect me and my concerns.

I am currently on disability for several mental illnesses, so I am on Medicare.  That is good news, as it means that I will not be negatively affected at first.  However, I would like to be able to get off of disability one day.  I believe that I will continue to get better and may be able to work more in the future.  However, there are practical considerations besides my health that affect whether I will ever get off of SSDI and that includes whether I will be able to afford my healthcare and I am afraid I won’t.  While preexisting conditions will be covered under the new healthcare bill, as I understand it, there will be no cap.  I am afraid that the insurance cost for people with preexisting conditions will be too high for people to afford.  I will never be able to work the kind of fast paced job that will earn me tons of money and I will always be part of a vulnerable population.  I would like to get off of SSDI one day, but if there are no caps on insurance for those with preexisting conditions, then I may never be able to afford any insurance besides the Medicare that I currently use and so my dreams of one day furthering my career are effectively stopped.

I cannot simply just not be on insurance – what if I have to be hospitalized again?  I hope you can see now that no caps on preexisting conditions still discriminates on those with disabilities or who have been sick in the past.  The most vulnerable population should not be penalized for something beyond their control.

Thank you for taking the time to read this.

Tuesday, February 28, 2017

Metro Atlanta Eating Disorder Resources

Since I am in recovery from an eating disorder, I get asked about eating disorder resources in the Metro Atlanta area from time to time.  Recently, I decided to compile them in a list so I could just send it to whomever asks.  I think it's such a good resource that I'm sharing it with you.  Feel free to print it out and give to anyone who needs it.  All of the treatment centers and support groups listed are ones that I recommend.  I do not recommend most food related twelve step groups because I firmly believe that abstinence does not work with food  - it does nothing to remove the obsession, as people who are constantly hungry and deprived are going to constantly still be thinking about food - they are replacing one "addiction" with an eating disorder.  I do approve of Eating Disorders Anonymous because they focus on balance, not abstinence.  I have not attended the Atlanta ANAD support groups but I have friends who have and they come highly recommended.  I would feel comfortable attending these EDA or ANAD groups should I ever need extra support in regards to my eating disorder recovery.  I am very lucky to report that I am doing very well right now with it and am far enough in my recovery that I think I can safely say that I do not see a relapse in my future at all.  Being that obsessed about food takes up a lot of mental energy and I just don't have the time or the energy to be that obsessive anymore!

  Ridgeview Women’s Unit (Only inpatient unit in GA but would be fairly short term – I recommend it though if someone needs to go inpatient)
 http://ridgeviewinstitute.com/pat_serv_womens.html

  ACE – Atlanta Center for Eating Disorders (Intensive Outpatient Center – been in Atlanta a long
time – I’ve heard good things. Average length of stay is 12 weeks.  Only place in Atlanta that treats boys and men with eating disorders)
 http://www.eatingdisorders.cc/ 

  Renfrew Center (New to Atlanta – seems good but its too new for reviews – treatment that would be the most long term)
 http://renfrewcenter.com/ 

Veratas Collaborative
Child, Adolescent and Young Adult Outpatient Treatment in the Dunwoody area
Also too new for reviews, but has therapists that are respected.
https://veritascollaborative.com/eating-disorder-treatment-locations/atlanta-georgia

  MANNA  (Christian based eating disorder treatment for adolescents in Lawrenceville) http://www.mannatreatment.com/  

Eating Disorder Therapists

Tara Arnold
  http://www.taraarnoldinc.com/ 404-964-6629
  WholeHeart Psychotherapy
http://www.wholeheartpsychotherapy.net/

Dr. Judi Lee Webb
http://newdirectionsatlanta.com/staff/judi-lee-webb-ph-d-ceds/

Dr. Dina Zeckhausen
(Founder of EDIN)
http://www.atlantapsychologist.com/eating-disorders.html

    Eating Disorder Nutritionists
  Jacy Pitts (love her – I’m sure she could recommend others) http://newdirectionsatlanta.com/staff/jacy-pitts-ms-rd-csp-ld/  

Page Love
770-395-7331
Http://nutrifitga.com
(Two free groups of hers are recommended – one is her monthly “Breakfast Club” and the other is her “Fit for Life” group)

Christine Engstrom
Private Practice at the Ridgeview Institute in Smyrna; also works at ACE
404-683-6557

Support Groups:

EDIN – Eating Disorders Information Network 
http://www.myedin.org/
 http://www.myedin.org/groups-in-the-community.html
 (Fabulous resource - lists all the ED support groups in GA)

  ANAD (Anorexia Nervosa and Associated Disorders-Support Groups) 
http://www.anad.org/get-help/find-support-groups-treatment/
 ANAD Helpline: 630-577-1330. Hours Mon-Fri 9am-5pm Central Time
(The one started by Page Love at St. Luke’s Presbyterian Church is highly recommended.
10-11am. 1978 Mount Vernon Rd., Atlanta, 30338)


  EDA (Eating Disorders Anonymous – “Balance – not abstinence – is the key to recovery”) http://www.eatingdisordersanonymous.org/meetings.html
 There are meetings in Lawrenceville, Tucker &aAtlanta