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.

Monday, October 16, 2017

I Am Not A Burden - Accepting Support

Paul countered by speaking of "the wisdom of God" (which he also spoke of as "the foolishness of God" because it is the opposite of "the wisdom of this world") which "destroys the wisdom of the wise." (106, Marcus Borg, Meeting Jesus Again For The First Time: The Historical Jesus and The Heart of Contemporary Faith). 
Mental health professionals do not speak as the "wisdom of God" - listen more to the people that already know and love us.  (Me)
My Mom is my best friend.  She knows how best to support me in a way that no one else does and now that I’m an adult, I support her too.  When I am super, super anxious she is a safe person for me to vent to and cry.  Unfortunately, I like to create problems when there aren’t any so sometimes I obsess over how I will handle life when certain support people are gone.   

One of the reasons I went to the hospital is because I wanted to handle my problems myself.  I do think it is good to be more independent but after a meltdown last week in front of my mom who handled it perfectly, I have come to realize that our connection is sacred. It is wrong to push a wonderful support person away out of fear for the future. 


The second to last time I was hospitalized my mom told me that I am never a burden to her and I think I forgot that.  This last time at the hospital, the “professionals” talked about how we shouldn’t depend on others and stress them out.


I am calling this stigmatizing bullshit.  


Yes, we should not be co-dependent with people and we definitely should not continually go to someone if they are not a good influence or if they signal that they are getting burnt out - we should never try to use one person to satisfy all of our needs. 


However, if there is one thing that intentional peer support has taught me it is that there is nothing more sacred than connecting with others.  I should not pull away from others because I am afraid of my feelings when they go - I should honor our connection, commitment, and love while the person is still here.  I need to trust that I already have all that I need and that moving towards people that genuinely love and support me is never wrong. 


The clinicians at Peachford Hospital do not know the dynamic between my mom and I-if they feel that family members with mental illness are a burden, then that is their stigma and baggage-it does not have to be mine. 


Today I choose to honor the connections between me and my supporters, instead of trying to hold back, second guessing, and holding back my feelings - in reality, people love me, value my authenticity, and they see through my masks anyway.  Hiding my emotions just does not work for someone like me and that is a good thing.  Believing that one’s self is a burden, especially to family members, is a recipe for self-loathing and stigma and those are things I am no longer willing to hold.  (Of course, this is totally different if your family is toxic.)


You can see how I analyzed my meltdown below.  I thought it might be helpful.

Situation: Going home to do scrapbooking; looked at triggering papers right before leaving

Bodily Sensations: Racing Thoughts, Flashbacks, Teary

Thoughts:  I just need to power through; I shouldn’t be dependent on my mom to fix my problems

Action Tendencies: cover up anxiety

Action: went home and cried; took anxiety PRN, vented to mom

Realization:  She was willing to help me.  I need to enjoy letting my mom support me while she is alive.  I AM NOT A BURDEN - I need to counter this lie.

What I Need To Remember: Enjoy connecting with my mom while I can.  Don’t try to hide anxiety from my mom - it doesn’t work anyway.  Ask for help - state what I need.

Mantra:  Connections are sacred - honor them.  Don’t take on other people’s baggage or stigmas.

What I Want To Do Now:  Make a commitment to be more honest when asked to do things that make me anxious.  Maybe something can be done differently.  

How I Feel Now: Gratitude and Love















(Picture taken on the Atlanta Beltline #tinydoorsATL)


Link Love:


Tuesday, October 10, 2017

My World Mental Health Day Message

God is better partnered than fought. (141, Monica A Coleman, Making A Way Out Of No Way: A Womanist Theology) 
Mental health challenges and disabilities are better partnered than fought too. I must love all parts of myself in order to be well. (Me)

It's World Mental Health Day, so I am going to post some of what I wrote on FaceBook last night about mental health.  Every day is a day we should choose to take care of our mind.  The mind, body, and soul are all connected and to be well we need to take care of our whole selves.  Lately I decided that I no longer will go to bed depressed and irritable, so my new nightly practice is to make sure I do something to put me in a better mood if I am not feeling well before going to sleep.


Reading and completing exercises from The Dialectical Behavioral Therapy Skills Workbook for Anxiety are what I chose last night to make me feel better.  You've already seen some of the exercises I've done and I will post later on another one that I did.  I have discovered that almost nothing makes me feel better than writing, so that's why there have been so many posts lately.  I hope when I return to work that I will still be able to write fairly often.


From yesterday:



My BPD & Anxiety (OCD, GAD, PTSD, & Panic - I'm not exaggerating when I say that I'm basically a walking DSM) are back. Amazingly, I'm still grateful for them - they've introduced me to DBT, which dramatically changed my life. 
Right now, I'm really trying to work on my people pleasing and my tendency to overcommit to projects. It's really tough because these have been a way of life for so long, but the thing that DBT has taught me is that 
our personalities are much more malleable than we previously thought.
I no longer want to get rid of my "disorders" but instead find ways to make them useful. I have so many diagnoses, that to hate or want to be rid of them would be hating and wanting to rid myself of myself. 

No, I am not my mental illnesses, but I do see the world through a lens that most people fear. However, I see it as a strength: 
through and because of the intensity of my emotions, I am learning how to care for myself and set boundaries at a younger age than many. 
I love how DBT was designed for a population usually incredibly stigmatized but now is promoted as a tool helpful even for people with no mental health challenge - it's just good stuff.
From the workbook:  "and over time, DBT has come to be the most scientifically supported therapy for people who struggle with BPD. [...] BPD and anxiety disorders often go hand in hand. Therefore, a lot of people with anxiety disorders have been treated with DBT; they just happened to have BPD as well. However, beyond the fact that many people with BPD have anxiety disorders, evidence suggests that many DBT strategies and skills may be very helpful for a lot of the problems that go along with anxiety disorders. For example, studies (see Robins and Chapman 2004, for a review) have found that DBT can be quite useful for: anxiety disorders and symptoms, depression, substance-use problems, eating disorders, and trauma. In fact, the skills taught in DBT are so practical and based in such common sense that almost anyone could potentially benefit by at least knowing something about them."
*****
I am very aware of the language I use and I change how I label myself often to get different points across. I don't usually like identifying as a "mentally ill person," as that just seems so impersonal and objectifying, although I will sometimes say it if I'm trying to make a point about accepting people with mental illness. 

However, I do absolutely identify as a disabled person. 

My challenges do affect how much I can work and other areas in my life in a way that not everyone else does. But this is not necessarily bad - I think disabled people grasp the evils of Capitalism much better than the general population and it is this understanding that pushes us to seek better ways. (I think about how evil Capitalism is quite a lot these days - if anyone has any books to recommend on how to positively change the current system, please let me know in the comments!)
*****
Tonight's final thought: as my roommate and I were walking in the neighborhood together just a few hours ago, we talked about how even though we are both experiencing some mental hardships right now, we are both in a better place than we ever dreamed.  We are both astounded at the quality of friendships we have now. Somehow, we have managed to find people that truly understand and relate to our challenges and who support and encourage us on our paths towards wellness.  

On this world mental health day, try not to get so caught up in material things and instead work on your connections.  Connect with your body, your creativity, your soul - connect with those who support and encourage too.  Pursue positivity while accepting where you are.  We all have mental health needs, so let us talk about them openly with all who will listen with an open heart and mind.


















(exercise 1.2 from The Dialectical Behavioral Therapy Skills Workbook for Anxiety)

Link Love:

Levar Burton Reads 'Good Night Moon' to a Sleepy Neil deGrasse Tyson - Seriously, this is the best video you will watch tonight.  Major Major Good Feels



Friday, October 6, 2017

Checking Anxiety's Facts

I will set free the people that you ensnare like birds.  I will tear off your veils and save my people from your hands, and they will no longer fall prey to your power.  Then you will that I am the Lord.  Ezekiel 14:20-21

Anxiety and fear do often ensnare me.  Sometimes I feel like I am trapped in low self-esteem and societal expectations.  Sometimes I become trapped in other people’s fears and do not even investigate to see if the fears and anxieties are mine to worry about in the first place.  Since one of the main reasons why I was recently hospitalized was due to extreme anxiety and panic attacks, I am slowly going through The Dialectical Behavioral Skills Workbook for Anxiety.  

Two things I like so far in the workbook is that it stresses how common the experience of anxiety and panic attacks are and how the feelings of fear and anxiety can also be useful.  
 Around 11 percent of people have experienced a panic attack in the past year, and 28 percent of people say that they have had a panic attack at some point in their lives (Kessler et al. 2006).
[...]both fear and anxiety serve a very important purpose: they tell you that you may be in a situation where there is risk of harm. That’s good information to have! Anxiety also has an additional function, however. Specifically, anxiety can tell you that something matters to you, or is important and meaningful to you. Think about it. When you are about to interview for a job that you really want, you are probably more anxious than if you are about to interview for a job that you couldn’t care less about. This is because the job matters to you.

So many people struggle with anxiety that I thought showing my process might be helpful to others.  The original exercise stops at, “action,” but I realized that if this exercise was really going to alter my feelings and thoughts then I needed to do even more self examination.  I added a mantra section because they are so helpful for me during times of high stress.  Often when I notice that I am coming close to a panic attack, I will examine my thoughts, realize that they are not grounded in total reality and then counter them with a more realistic or empowering mantra over and over again in my head until I believe it and my worry has diminished.  (In CPS language, we call this “Catch It, Check It, Change It.”  In DBT language, we call this, “Checking The Facts.” Either way, it is a very effective tool for self examination and for changing one's perspective). 

I’ve noticed that I often struggle with the same anxieties, just in slightly different ways.  I will continue to go to doctor’s appointments and I won’t always feel well, so I need to remember that my doctor will not penalize me for being honest. (I’m talking about my specific doctor - I cannot speak for any other.) I will get nervous at the beginning of another meet up, so I need to remember that what happens is what needs to happen; that I cannot control the outcome - just myself - and that what I have to say is important and needs to be heard.

Identify How I Experience Anxiety and Fear

Situation: Doctor Appointment

Bodily Sensations:  Sore throat, metallic taste in mouth, chest pressure

Thoughts: If I’m honest about how I still feel, I’ll be put back in the hospital.

Action Tendencies:  lie

Action:  was honest; did some research & realized that     those were symptoms of a panic attack, so I took my PRN when I got back home and napped.

Realization:  Being honest didn’t put me in the hospital, but I was able to get my medications adjusted some more. 

What I Need To Remember: My doctor is a good doctor and very transparent.  If he thought I needed to be hospitalized again, he would say so first.  We would be able 
to have a dialogue.  He would not 10-13 me over my feelings.

Mantra:   My doctor is a good doctor.  My doctor is transparent.  My doctor trusts me.  It is okay to ask questions - He will not laugh.

What I Want To Do Now:  I want to thank him for being such a good doctor.  Most doctors aren’t as good as he is.  He lets me stay longer for a session if I have a lot of 
questions, he validates my feelings, and he has open dialogue with me instead of making assumptions.

How I Feel Now: Gratitude















Situation: Audre Lorde meetup

Bodily Sensations: metallic taste in mouth, chest pressure; tense muscles

Thoughts: People aren’t going to like what I say;  people won’t show up and I will have organized this for nothing 

Action Tendencies: complain; be angry; not share my points, even though I think they will add something new

Action:  accepted that people were just going to come late; spoke my points but was also aware of my space, so that I didn’t talk the whole time. 

Realization:  We had the perfect sized group by 8pm.  My honesty brought the conversation to a new, deeper level.

What I Need to Remember:  Things will often work out if I just let go of the time and accept the fact that whoever shows up will be the people that really need to come.  I am 
a socially appropriate person and a thoughtful and smart communicator.  Even if I am not the most oppressed person in the room, my words are still important and worth hearing, as long as I come from a genuine place and not become 
defensive if challenged.  Despite my anxiety, the evening turned out absolutely perfect.  I am better at being socially aware and a facilitator than I often think I am.

Mantra: Let go and let God.  What will be is what it needs to be.  My thoughts and ideas are important and offer a new and needed perspective.  People will appreciate what I have to say.

What I Want To Do Now: Organize more meet ups in multiple platforms, so to reach more people. I am really good at this!  Feminist meet ups with more diversity makes me feel good and is a passion of mine.  More Please!  


How I Feel Now: Excitement!















(I made carrot cake cupcakes with homemade maple buttercream frosting for the event. I've found that I can get away with boxed cake mix, as long as I make my own frosting. YUMMM)
















(I organized a Sister Outsider book discussion/potluck and of course I had to bring Kamala Khan, aka Ms. Marvel, with me!)

BTW, my organization is Metro Atlanta Feminists and you can find us on meet up.com and on Facebook.

Tuesday, October 3, 2017

Resources for Anxiety

Yet God is not simply the destination, but one who is known on the journey.  It is a journey from the life of bondage to life in the presence of God.  (Marcus Borg, Meeting Jesus Again For The First Time, 125)
You can substitute the word, wellness, for God, if you want.  I am on a journey towards wellness and to help me on my journey, I bought several workbooks yesterday that deal with PTSD and other forms of anxiety.  I figure that since I have some extra time on my hands, that it should be useful.  I am posting yesterday's gratitude list because I thought people might be interested in some of the resources.

Gratitude
My Dad Coming To The Rescue
and Taking Me To The Doctor
(I startle too easily to drive far.)

My Doctor Writing The 
PrescriptionThat He Forgot 
For The New PTSD Med
(He apologized too.)

My Anti Anxiety PRN
(apparently, a sore throat

Naps

Waking Up & Realizing I Needed
To Stop Feeling Sorry For Myself
(much easier to do after a nap)

Decluttering The Spice Cabinet

Other Worry Symptoms
(ordered it for the Kindle -
figured it would help me do
the inner work that I need to do,
especially since DBT has already
helped me in other ways)

(also ordered for the Kindle) 

Doing Better With Food
(dinner: flatbread with 
veggie cream cheese,
green apple slices, parmesan, 
balsamic vinegar)

Cuddly Scully












Link Love:
by Dan Whisenhunt 
The ordinance changes the penalty in the Atlanta Municipal code for possession of marijuana less than an ounce from the “general penalty” –which is a fine of up to $1000 and up to six months in jail–to a maximum fine of $75 and no jail time.
The legislation had been held since May. A key fact presented during the debate is that in Atlanta, the overwhelming number of arrests for marijuana-related offenses are African Americans (92%), even though studies have determined usage is at similar levels across racial demographics.

Sunday, October 1, 2017

Whatever It Takes For My Recovery

Anyone who holds on to life just as it is destroys that life.  But if you let it go, reckless in your love, you’ll have it forever, real and eternal.  (The Message Bible, 218-219)

Recovery is not a linear path - sometimes you have to go back to a place you thought you had left behind to pick up unresolved baggage.  Last Tuesday, I discharged from Peachford Hospital after spending a week and a half there.  I went for many reasons, including trouble with severe insomnia that triggered continuous panic attacks and a stirring up of old, traumatic memories.  I am now doing inner work and am decluttering the house to help me feel better.  I am taking a break from work but fortunately I had the good sense to contact HR and work it all out.  The whole experience was the most surreal time of my life, concluding with a complete psychotic break, and so I feel compelled to share all the connections, the gratitudes, the insights, and the issues of this last hospital stay.  One way I do that is by writing very honest gratitude posts every night - I hope I can keep it up, as it has inspired a lot of good dialogue.  

Tuesday’s gratitude post inspired a lot of conversation and likes, so I thought I would condense and share a little bit of what I wrote.

Gratitude

The support of so many friends and family-
The good thing about being part of so many communities is that I have so many people who care.  My roommates took care of my cat and even bought me some smoothies for when I returned.

Peace and Quiet
(No Yelling, Cursing, Slamming Doors or Fighting! YES)

Cuddles with Scully

Breaking The Pattern of Revolving Door Hospitalizations
(First Time Ever Discharging and not being worried about being leaving too early or having to go back soon - 
I think I've Broken My Old Pattern of After Hospital Panic)

The First Time Ever That I Did Not Feel Internal Shame For Going To The Hospital - 
Even Through It All, I Am Proud and Even Grateful To Be Disabled and Mentally Ill - 
It Gives Me A Perspective I Otherwise Wouldn't Have - 
Life May Be Hard, But I Still Wouldn't Wish This Away
(Life's Hard for Everyone)

Taking Time For Self-Care and Healing





















I am very happy with the way I have handled this hospitalization and am actually very excited about taking some time for creativity and healing and self care. I am especially proud of the fact that I was able to be dialectical (as my therapist would say) in regards to work. I am sure that many will be relieved to know that I did this in a responsible way and did not quit my job. I worked it out with HR in the hospital and will be returning after some time. I never would have done that before - I would have just left and added more trauma and heartache on top of what was already there.
















I had a very big mind shift/epiphany just a couple days before I checked myself in that has been incredibly helpful for me. I realized that:

  1. I would do whatever it takes for my recovery, even if it means being incredibly honest with my doctor or going to places I already knew would not be ideal; 
  2. that I really am grateful for all of my illnesses/disabilities - not to discount the pain, but to acknowledge the positives that others do not get to experience; 
  3. that because of these two realizations, I no longer had any mental health shame and no more fears with sharing more intimate parts of my story with others. This is my experience and the last few weeks have been so full of meaning and revelation that I feel compelled to share it and then publish it. I'm finally ready to seriously work on writing a real book. I really don't give a care about what people think of me anymore because that doesn't do me any good. I cared before and I ended up way overcommitting myself to other projects and burning out. I realized in the hospital that if I don't want that to happen again then I need to do what I need to do and not worry so much about what other people want me to do. 
During my break from work, my goals are to declutter the house, write and create art, and do a lot of inner work - more intense therapy than I have done one a while.  It is also to take a break from side jobs. I love providing resources and support for others and I would actually like to create a monthly newsletter with resources and knowledge for my supporters, but at least for the month of October, I am taking a break from the amount of emotional work that I used to doing.  It is time to work on myself.  

What’s cool is that I have been successfully saying no and setting boundaries lately.  Not only am I trying to declutter my house, but I am trying to declutter my life.  I am trying to only say, “yes,” to things that either I need to do or intensely desire to do.  I only have so much energy and I realize now that I was draining myself.  I have always been intimidated by the thought of being honest and direct because I thought it would seem rude, but it turns out that people seem to appreciate it.  No is a complete sentence that needs no apologies or excuses and I am glad that it is back in my vocabulary.

Take care of yourselves.  Seek support if you are feeling overwhelmed or burned out.  Do whatever you can to get enough sleep and to eat enough good food.  Move and be creative.  Do not be so focused on getting by that you forget how to live.