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.

Tuesday, December 6, 2016

A Vegan Thanksgiving?

I am grateful for what I am and have.  My thanksgiving is perpetual.  ~ Henry David Thoreau  
I used to hate Thanksgiving, but every year of my recovery, I am starting to like it more and more.  I actually can appreciate it being about gratitude instead of cynically thinking it is only about stuffing ourselves silly. 

One of the reasons why I used to hate Thanksgiving was because of the rich food.  While traditional food does contain some happy family memories, the richness makes me feel overly full and slightly sick.  I have a very sensitive stomach, so sensitive that even the Morningstar veggie burgers at Burger King are making me feel queasy nowadays.  My brother's fiancĂ© and my mom are both vegan and this delighted me, as it meant I could try my hand at some lighter, healthier versions of classic Thanksgiving dishes.  We had turkey and nonvegan stuffing, but the mashed potatoes and sweet potato dishes were both without dairy.  I was a bit worried about the mashed potatoes, as I do enjoy the ultra rich, cheesy ones I usually make, but I must say that I was very impressed and can truthfully say that I did not miss the butter, cheese, or milk in either dish!

Vegan Mashed Potatoes with Onion Gravy

From the blog, Fried Dandelions.

 Ingredients
3lbs Yukon Gold Potatoes
 2T Olive Oil
 4-6 Cloves of Garlic
 1t Salt
 1 cup nonsweetened soy milk
  2T nutritional Yeast (I didn't have it so I didn't use it and it still tasted great)

 Onion Gravy
 1 Large Onion
 2-3T Olive Oil
 2-3T Corn Starch
 1t Salt
 1 Chopped Garlic Clove
 2Cups Water

  Directions
1. Peel Potatoes and dice them into one inch cubes.
 2. Place them in a large pot of room temp water.  Once all of the potatoes are peeled and cut, place the pot over high heat and bring to a boil.
 3. While the potatoes are cooking, begin the gravy - directions below.
 4. Once the potatoes are fork tender, drain them and return the empty pot to the stove over low heat. 5. Add the olive oil and garlic to the empty pot and lightly brown the garlic.
 6. Mix in the nutritional yeast and salt and mix well.  It will become a thick paste.
 7. Slowly stream in the milk while stirring and mix until well incorporated.
 8. Add potatoes on top and mash until desired consistency.

  For The Gravy:
 9. Heat the olive oil in a large pan over medium heat.
 10. Slice onion into thin half moons.
 11. Place them into the pan and sautĂ© them over medium heat for at least twenty minutes.
 12. Once the onions are translucent and browning, add the corn starch and stir well.  This will form a roux and will be quite dry.
 13. Add the salt and garlic and continue to stir.
 14. Let the gravy simmer for ten minutes to thicken.
 15. Use an immersion blender to blend the sauce.
 16. Pour over potatoes!

 Notes: I was really impressed with this dish!  Who knew that olive oil and garlic could make potatoes taste incredibly rich?  I really didn't miss my usual additions of cream cheese, sour cream, butter and cheese whiz.

  Vegan Sweet Potato Casserole

 From the blog, Happy Healthy Mama

  Ingredients
3.5 lbs Sweet Potatoes
 1 Cup Coconut Milk
 2T Maple Syrup
 3/4 t Salt
 1t Ground Cinnamon
 1/2 t Ground Cloves
 1/8t Ground Nutmeg
 2T Orange Juice
 1/2t Orange Zest

  For The Pecan Topping:
1 Generous Cup Whole Raw Pecans
 1T Coconut Oil, Melted
 1T Maple Syrup
 3/4 t Ground Cinnamon

  Directions
1. Preheat your oven to 350 degrees.  Pierce the sweet potatoes with a fork and place them on a baking sheet. Bake them in the oven until they are soft, 60-90 minutes.  Turn the potatoes once during their baking time.
 2. When the sweet potatoes are finished, allow them to cool.  Once they are cooled, use a knife to cut open the skin and peel it out.  Discard.  Put the sweet potato flesh into a large bowl and mash well.  Add the next 8 ingredients (through orange zest, if using) and mix well.  Place the sweet potato mixture into a 2 quart baking dish.
 3. In a small bowl, mix together the pecans, coconut oil, maple syrup, and cinnamon.  Place the mixture on top of the casserole, completely covering it.

  Notes: Like the original blogger, I never understood why sweet potato casseroles usually have so much sugar - they don't need it!  With some maple syrup and coconut milk as sweeteners, the casserole is plenty sweet and very tasty.

Having healthier food this Thanksgiving helped ease my food fears, my body felt better and my taste buds were still happy.  However, if you love the traditional rich fare, do not feel guilty.  Recovery is all about being able to enjoy the present moment and I hope you enjoyed your Thanksgiving.  Six years ago, I was incapable of feeling gratitude and now I feel it every day, even on my bad days.  I hope that you are able to experience some gratitude too.

   

Sunday, November 20, 2016

My Letter to Governor Nathan Deal

Your silence will not protect you.  ~ Audre Lorde
Last Thursday, like many people, I was devastated.  I cried and did not want to interact with anyone, even though I had a job to go to.  Worse yet, at my job I am expected to be an optimistic person who embraces recovery, but I did not feel that way at all then.  I am still devastated, but fortunately I am no longer in the pits of despair.  Just because Trump is the president elect does not mean that all hope is lost - it does mean, however, that no one with a conscience can rest and be silent anymore.  A friend of mine said that we just need to wait and trust in the Lord, well, my theology is different.  I believe that the Lord acts through us and so the time for waiting is over if we truly want to show others that ours is a God of Love and not a God of discrimination.  Activism, for me, is also a form of self-care.  It makes me feel powerful and useful and it prevents the darkness from consuming me.  I decided to write my governor about my concerns and I urge you to do the same.  I decided to keep the letter positive, so that he would be more willing to listen to me and I kept it personal.  I think it's important for our elected officials to know how their policies and actions actually will affect their constituents.

Here is my letter that I wrote last night to Governor Deal of Georgia.  I kept it focused on two main areas - standing up to discrimination and religious freedom bills and to increase mental health and social security funding. I hope that you will become more active in your local politics too.

 ~~~~ 
 11/19/16 

 Dear Governor Deal,

 I am writing you to thank you for some of things of you have done this year.  I was very proud when you stated that you, “do not think we have to discriminate against anyone to protect the faith-based community in Georgia,” in response to HB 757.  I want to urge you to remember this powerful statement during the next four years.  As a member of the LGBT community, a Christian, and a Georgian, I hope that you will remember your previous words if another “religious freedom” bill comes forward and never take them back.

 I am also very proud that Georgia is a state with mental health courts.  We need extensive criminal justice reform in our country and mental health courts are a big step in the right direction.  I am a constituent who is evidence that recovery is possible.  I am a certified peer specialist that works at the Decatur Peer Support and Wellness Center.  We are a nonclinical, trauma informed environment that works to prevent psychiatric hospitalizations and empower our peers.  I am also on social security disability insurance.  Many people think that getting on SSDI means that a person’s life is over but for many people it is the beginning of a wonderful recovery journey.  It was for me.  Because of obtaining SSDI, I was able to move out of my parent’s home and work on myself.  It enabled me to move towards my true life goals and now I have a wonderful career where I do not feel stigmatized.  I would like you to remember people like me during the next four years when pressured to make cuts to the budget.  Mental health services and social security funding needs to be increased – recovery is real but is hard to obtain without the right supports.

I am a Georgian constituent whose life has been made better by some of your decisions – please continue to fund mental health services and to veto discrimination during these next four years no matter how much pressure you face – the very lives of many Georgians depend on it.

Thursday, November 3, 2016

DBT Class Over But I'm Not Done Growing

All around us we observe a pregnant creation.  The difficult times of pain throughout the world are simply birth pangs.  But it's not only around us, it's within us.  The Spirit of God is arousing us within.  We're also feeling the birth pangs.  These sterile and barren bodies of ours are yearning for full deliverance.  That is why waiting does not diminish us, any more than waiting diminishes a pregnant mother.  We are enlarged in the waiting.  We, of course, don't see what is enlarging us.  But the longer we wait, the larger we become, and the more joyful our expectancy.  (The Message Bible, 322)
It's hard to believe that I started my third Dialectical Behavioral Therapy class six months ago, but it's true.  I wish I could say that my life is magically stress free now, but that would be a big, fat lie.  What is true is that I am able to handle my stressors a whole lot better than I could before.  Now, when I am stressed out, I try to focus on the moment.  When that doesn't work, then I cheerlead myself by repeating mantras to myself that make myself feel better.  
Everything's gonna be alright. 
 Things will eventually work out.
 Everybody gets in trouble sometimes.
 This situation/emotion is going to change.
I know now that my recovery/sanity absolutely cannot withstand putting myself down anymore - my goal is wellness and when I put myself down, I instantly start spiraling into an anxiety that is out of control.  I really try to check myself and turn my thoughts around when I realize that I am putting myself down.  Fortunately, I have many supporters who help me check myself too. 

Besides being able to handle stress better, my energy is a whole lot improved too.  That's because of many factors:
  1. I recognize my sadness now.  DBT got me more in touch with my emotions - I had no clue how much sadness I was carrying around!  When I first took the class, all I knew was that I was always exhausted.  I was tearful and miserable.  The therapist asked me what I felt and the only feeling I could identify was exhaustion, so imagine my surprise when she told me that exhaustion is actually not a feeling but a physical state.  I learned that sadness often shows up as tiredness/exhaustion.  Of course, this is not always the case, but it is a helpful thing to remember.  When I become tired and there's no logical explanation, then I look inward to see where my sadness lies and I meditate on it.  Confronting and exploring my emotions helps relieve them a lot faster than just shoving them down does.  Similarly, I have begun to work on recognizing my anger also - another emotion that I am used to just shoving down deep.
  2. I pace myself better now.  I do still have chronic fatigue syndrome - no amount of emotion exploring is going to negate that, so I have become a lot more conscious of how I spend my time.  I take more naps; I spend more time in quiet.  I am still very, very busy but in order to be happy amidst the busy-ness, I have to factor in moments of stillness.  
  3. I go to bed a lot earlier now. I know that probably seems like a very obvious solution to the problem of tiredness but I had to do a lot of inner work in order for me to feel ok going to bed at an earlier time.  I discovered that I had a lot of harmful preconceived notions around the idea of going to bed early - that I would become a boring person or would miss out on something great.  What I have replaced those harmful notions with is the drive to be well.  I do not want to dwell in exhaustion, panic, and negativity anymore - I want to be well from the depths of my being.
Like I've said, just because I handle stress better now, does not mean that I don't still have it in my life. It is a wonderful thing though to no longer feel controlled by the effects of stress.  It still gets me down but I no longer feel totally crippled by it. To support me in my transition from a weekly DBT class to none, I am increasing my individual counseling sessions and I am continuing to track my progress using the The Dialectical Behavioral Therapy Wellness Planner by Amanda Smith.  It's a shorter, easier diary card that is helping to keep me motivated. 

I hope that hearing about my progress gives you hope if you are struggling.  Change is the only real constant in life and I do believe our lives will change for the better if we work hard for it.  We cannot eliminate stress but we can increase positive ways of living with it.  I am very happy and proud of myself for my hard work and subsequent change in my personality and life.
         

Wednesday, October 19, 2016

Everything's Gonna Be Alright

 Recovery is a whole series of storms, storms that help to sprout new growth, storms that flush clean our own clogged drains.  The peace that comes after a storm is worth singing about.  ~ Each Day A New Beginning: Daily Meditations For Women by Karen Casey
A few weeks ago, I performed with The Rise Theater as the goddess of creativity.  I strolled around a recovery fair and sang songs to people with flowers in my hair: 
 
One of the songs I sang was the Bob Marley song, Three Little Birds.  If you can't recall the song, it's the one where the chorus sings, 
Don't worry 'bout a thing 'cause everything's gonna be alright
 
It's a really lovely song and I enjoyed singing it.
 
About half a week ago, I was late for an event and I was beginning to lose it.  I could feel myself begin to become agitated in the car when the song lyrics popped into my head.  Internally hearing the song lyrics again enabled me to be able to pause and take some deep breaths.  I was able to reassess the situation: I was not actually going to be late but right on time.  I would have to cook my dessert as soon as I got there but it should be done in about an hour.  Well, that's fine - the guests will still be there and besides people usually eat dessert after any meal, anyway.  I realized that, in essence, everything would really be fine and that I had blown an annoying situation out of proportion.  As I made my way to the event, I kept on taking deep breaths and chanted to myself that everything was gonna be alright.
 
And the event was more than alright - it was a great success and I was quite proud of myself.
 
I wish I could say that I have not had more incidents of anxiety but I would be woefully wrong.  In fact, the past few days have been painfully anxious and overwhelming for me at times.  I really hate it that I am not perfect!  Sometimes I think it would be nice to be a programmable machine but then I would not be to sing at all and the arts really are my saving grace.
 
Fortunately, these lyrics have continued to help.  They have not been able to save me from making mistakes but they have provided me solace.  When I have started to struggle, I eventually am able to remember the lyrics and then reflect that no matter what happens, everything will eventually work out.  I don't mean that the situation is guaranteed to work out in the way that I want - of course not - I mean that life is change and eventually what stresses me out today will barely be a memory.  Accepting that is the key to maybe not bliss, but probably contentment. 
 
To me, that is a life worth living.
 

 

Tuesday, October 4, 2016

Grieving for My Younger Self - A Poem

Through the heartfelt mercies of our God, God's Sunrise will break in upon us, shining on those in the darkness, those sitting in the shadow of death, then showing us the way, one foot at a time, down the path of peace. (The Message Bible, 121)
Clinical words can hurt immensely - the picture they paint seems so drastic and horrible at times, which if you think about it, is sort of funny considering that usually clinicians are trying to get us away from all or nothing, doom and gloom thinking.  The other day I was cleaning up my art room when I stumbled upon a big binder with no label.  Curious, I opened it to discover that it was my clinical records from when I attended an outpatient program a few years ago.  As I thumbed through the pages, I was overcome with sorrow and empathy for the person I had been at the time.  Memories of a much worse time flooded me and I cried.  Sometimes I just wish that I could go back in time and treat my younger self with loving kindness - the kindness that I and others denied it then.  I want to give her a big hug and tell her that everything will eventually work out, although I know that she would not have believed it.  I wrote a poem about my feelings that I thought I would share with you:

  Grieving For My Younger Self

 She was so vulnerable, 
        So scared,   
              Corned into a box of clinicians.
 One day she found the strength  
        To overturn their boxes
 And now she runs,  
         Turning boxes over,      
                Trying to find the girl she used to be.
 She is stronger now,    
         And wiser too.
                 But all she wants to do
 Is give her younger self a hug    
     And cry over all that was lost-
 And all that will be even more triumphed    
          Through great pain,         
                   Misery,            
                         And yet,                          

               More joy.
                        

Sunday, September 11, 2016

Morbid Positivity

The acceptance of death gives you more of a stake in life, in living happily, as it should be lived.  Living for the moment. ~ Sting 
You're blessed when you're at the end of your rope.  With less of you there is more of God and Her rule. (The Message Bible 18)
This is something I wrote during a concert at DragonCon:

 (I am such an introvert that I had to get away from the crowd and instead plopped down in a corner, pulled out my tablet, and started blogging.)

 Listening to Voltaire and feeling sentimental.  He just sang Hallelujah. sigh  Shortly before that, he told a story about how he was bullied in school growing up because he wouldn’t play football and liked puppetry and sci-fi instead.  He was called horrible names  and told to kill himself. (What a horrible thing to tell anyone!)  One day, he accepted death and said that he would kill himself the next day – but that for this last day on Earth, he would stand up for himself.  That day, he found that all the people that bullied him were so shocked that he stood up for himself that they basically ran away.  That night, he realized that he had the best day of his life and that he wouldn’t kill himself in the morning…but maybe the day after….and that has been his motto ever since – accept death, because once you realize that you’re going to die, nothing can be worse than that.  That’s how I live too and it’s why I think morbidity is a positive thing.  I accept death, and that makes me a happier person than if I was trying to run away from it.  When I accept death, it is easier to stand up for myself and to take care of myself – my days are numbered, so I need to make every day count.  (I often think of how I need to read more because the worst thing I can think of is dying before reading certain books I haven’t read yet – I can’t die before I’ve read more Audre Lorde and all of Anne Sexton, for instance.).

I once had a sponsor tell me that my morbidness was one of my character defects and I've always been offended by that - there is nothing wrong with being morbid, especially if it leads to a greater appreciation of life.  I think morbidness oftentimes makes other people uncomfortable if they themselves are not comfortable with death.  I feel sorry for them - to not be comfortable with death is not to fully embrace our life on Earth.

I love all of you all readers and I hope you do not fear death, but a life lived in ignorance of its importance, sacredness, and inherent motivation to make the most of our precious time while alive.

BTW, I started a Facebook group called Morbid Positivity and Voltaire could be our mascot.  He is a very personable, friendly guy who is wonderfully morbid.  Here is a link to my favorite song of his - Death, Death (Devil, Devil, Evil, Evil) Song - it's very positive, actually!

Morbid Positivity

The acceptance of death gives you more of a stake in life, in living happily, as it should be lived.  Living for the moment. ~ Sting 
You're blessed when you're at the end of your rope.  With less of you there is more of God and Her rule. (The Message Bible 18)
This is something I wrote during a concert at DragonCon:

 (I am such an introvert that I had to get away from the crowd and instead plopped down in a corner, pulled out my tablet, and started blogging.)

 Listening to Voltaire and feeling sentimental.  He just sang Hallelujah. sigh  Shortly before that, he told a story about how he was bullied in school growing up because he wouldn’t play football and liked puppetry and sci-fi instead.  He was called horrible names  and told to kill himself. (What a horrible thing to tell anyone!)  One day, he accepted death and said that he would kill himself the next day – but that for this last day on Earth, he would stand up for himself.  That day, he found that all the people that bullied him were so shocked that he stood up for himself that they basically ran away.  That night, he realized that he had the best day of his life and that he wouldn’t kill himself in the morning…but maybe the day after….and that has been his motto ever since – accept death, because once you realize that you’re going to die, nothing can be worse than that.  That’s how I live too and it’s why I think morbidity is a positive thing.  I accept death, and that makes me a happier person than if I was trying to run away from it.  When I accept death, it is easier to stand up for myself and to take care of myself – my days are numbered, so I need to make every day count.  (I often think of how I need to read more because the worst thing I can think of is dying before reading certain books I haven’t read yet – I can’t die before I’ve read more Audre Lorde and all of Anne Sexton, for instance.).   I once had a sponsor tell me that my morbidness was one of my character defects and I've always been offended by that - there is nothing wrong with being morbid, especially if it leads to a greater appreciation of life.  I think morbidness oftentimes makes other people uncomfortable if they themselves are not comfortable with death.  I feel sorry for them - to not be comfortable with death is not to fully embrace our life on Earth. I love all of you all readers and I hope you do not fear death, but a life lived in ignorance of its importance, sacredness, and inherent motivation to make the most of our precious time while alive.
BTW, I started a Facebook group called Morbid Positivity and Voltaire could be our mascot.  He is a very personable, friendly guy who is wonderfully morbid.  Here is a link to my favorite song of his - Death, Death (Devil, Devil, Evil, Evil) Song - it's very positive, actually!