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.

Sunday, April 20, 2014

An Easter Message for the Brokenhearted, And That Includes Me

My heart is shattered.

I rub my face in the towel and I feel like it will rub away.

And yet something within me has changed-I no longer feel despairing or abandoned.  I see with my wise mind.

I had to end a truly wonderful romantic relationship far too soon.  For this post, the details are unimportant, just know this-it was short and special, loving and intense, almost perfect and I am crumbling inside.  The thought that I cannot and I know that I should not for both of our healing call her shakes me up inside and so I distract myself by keeping myself busy and trying to soothe myself as often as possible throughout the day and night.

Yesterday's Distraction and Self-Soothing Skills:

  • Drinking Hot Tea (Honey Chamomile) 
  • Eating an Ice Cream Sandwich
  • Cooking a Yummy, Healthy Dinner (Asian Chicken Salad & Sweet Potato Rolls)
  • Soaking in a Menthol Bath
  • Crafting
  • Mindfully Finishing Listening to I, Robot by Isaac Asimov
  • Praying
  • Cuddling with my Cat, Arlo
  • Sleeping In
  • Taking Care of My Appearance
  • Showering
Yesterday as the hot shower water was washing my skin away and my dismembered hands were climbing up the walls, I was surprised to hear this song start to play in my brain:

Hallowed Be Thy Name
You are Love, you are Light, you are Lord over everything. Alpha, Omega, Jehovah, the King of Kings, Wonderful, Waymaker, Worthy of my offering.  Hallowed be Thy Name.
You're the answer to all of my problems, and you solve them.  Hallowed be Thy Name.
You supplied all my needs and I call you Abba Father. Hallowed be Thy Name.
You're the Almighty Fortress in a time of tribulation.  Hallowed be Thy Name.
And I am more than a conqueror in every situation.  Hallowed be Thy Name. 
You are Love, you are Light, you are Lord over everything.  Alpha, Omega, Jehovah, the King of Kings, Wonderful, Waymaker, Worthy of my offering.  Hallowed be Thy Name.
You're the only God(de) and there never will be another.  Hallowed be Thy Name.
And ten thousand angels could not tell how much I love you.  Hallowed be Thy Name.
I'm gonna lift you up, higher and higher.  Hallowed be Thy Name.
And everybody will see that you set my soul on fire.  Hallowed be Thy Name.
You are Love, you are Light, you Lord over everything. Alpha, Omega, Jehovah, the King of Kings, Wonderful, Waymaker, Worthy of my offering.  Hallowed be Thy Name.
Hearing the song in my head gifted me with a quiet joy and a solemn peace.
Yes, one can know joy during the darkest dismembering pain.  My pain does not have to turn into suffering.  Even when my pain causes me to not feel whole (hence all of the disconnecting, dismembering metaphors), I can find a tinge of joy that will always provide me with peace by reminding me that I am truly whole.  I can trust my positive affirmation that I believe in a Godde of second chances.
It is Easter.  A time of death, but a time of resurrection as well.  Whether you believe in the literal story of Christ's rising up or not, one can believe in the powerful truth of new life.  I do.
My recent relationship gave me new life and now I am dying.  But that is okay.  Right now I am on a family vacation and I will use it for distraction, help with healing and a time for renewal.  It is the cycle of life, love remembered, love died, and then given out again-an Easter story for everyone.

Saturday, April 19, 2014

Belated Good Friday - Life's Lonesome Valley

I like HAWMC's Wordless Wednesdays - "We all know a picture is worth a 1,000 words. Post/share a picture that relays a message or story to the viewer." 

My church did something artistic for this Good Friday - we submitted pictures for the stations of the cross. I signed up and was assigned the third station, which emphasizes how alone Jesus felt walking down the road being taunted by the very people who had praised him just days previously!

Here are my pictures:
Sculptures on the Atlanta Beltline
Part of A Painting I Once Completed

I can relate to this station.  No one can take away my pain and no one can feel my feelings for me.  In that sense, it is true what they say about every person having to walk alone.

The Fairfield Four
You got to go to the lonesome valley
You got to go there by yourself
Nobody else can go for you
You got to go there by yourself
Oh, you got to ask the lords forgiveness
Nobody else can ask him for you
You got to go to the lonesome valley
You got to go there by yourself
Nobody else, nobody else can go for you
You got to go there by yourself

Still, I believe that Goddde is always with me and that Godde's Spirit is within me and when I am in pain, Godde is in the pain and when I experience joy She does also-when I have both, she holds the dichotomy sacred. This provides me with comfort.
Of course, we cannot be all things to everybody, but we can attempt to mindfully listen to and empathize with the people in our lives. This is something we can practice whether we are a believer or not. Nonjudgementally listen and hold their hearts, feeelings, and circumstances as sacred-the world would experience a lot more peace and love and harmony that way.

Friday, April 11, 2014

HAWMC Day #11 - Date Night - What I Need

It's WEGO Health's HAWMC Day #11 - Date Night: We’ve seen some posts from Health Activists on dating tips when you have a chronic illness. What tips do you have for those looking for the one fish in this big pond?

I'm ready for a date!  

I don't feel like I have stellar words of wisdom for dating, as I have not done tons of it, but I can share with you my dating/relationship needs, which I have learned from past relationships-perhaps they will help you!

I need someone that will not equate fibromyalgia or chronic fatigue syndrome with depression.  While it is true that those illnesses are worse when I am depressed, they do not magically go away when I am not and telling me that I should just get my depression or anxiety under control minimizes my situation.   
Basically, I need someone that will take me as I am and will not minimize me or my illness.

But I need someone that knows how to have fun too!  Someone that puts me at ease-that does not raise my anxiety levels, but is considerate and easy-going.  Someone that I can have passionate conversations with that have nothing to do with mental or physical illnesses, that I go on walks with, out to eat with and just in general, explore the city and each other in mutuality and lovingkindness.
That's what I need and I think it is helpful idea to write your intentions and needs down in regards to love and dating for anyone, as suggested in the book All About Love: New Visions by Bell Hooks, which I read recently.  
Good luck on your own dating adventures whether you have a chronic illness or not-I hope you get what you need!

Thursday, April 10, 2014

HAWMC Day 10 - I Thank Myself and My Godde

Today is WEGO Health's HAWMC Day #10!

And the winner is… You! You just won an award and are on stage, holding your trophy. Write an acceptance speech. Who do you want to thank? How did you get to where you are today? Don’t worry, we won’t rush you off stage!
Recently I made my first altered book and I entered it into my first art contest! (An altered book is a hardback book that has been artistically altered in some way.) That was a big deal for me, as it was the first time that I have had enough self confidence to submit a piece of my own art into a contest to be judged.  I called it, "Corey's Book of Truth:"

I filled it with page after page with my own positive affirmations.`
My very first page was an acceptance speech of sorts-it was the page where the author typically thanks all the people that helped her write and publish the book, except that I chose to thank myself and my Godde.  When it comes to recovery, I think it can be so rare for credit to go where it is really due-I remember one time when I was attending a treatment center and at one of their events, they focused all of their gratitude on the staff and it made me angry, because I thought and still think that we, the patients, should have gotten some of the credit for all of our hard work!

So here is my recovery acceptance speech, as I remember it from my altered book:

I thank myself for never giving up,
                     for being vulnerable,
                     for trusting others,
                     for being open.

I thank my Godde for always being with me, 
                           for being my positive source of power
                           that continually urges me to choose the better way.     

HAWMC #9 Wordless Wednesday - Beauty Walks: A New, More Mindful Approach to Exercise

It's time for WEGO Health's April Health Activist Writer's Monthly Challenge! Today is number nine (I will be participating sporadically...)  We all know a picture is worth a 1,000 words. Post/share a picture that relays a message or story to the viewer.

"Walking is a great way to integrate mindfulness into your everyday life and has been practiced as a meditative technique for thousands of years." by Headspace from Huffpost Lifestyle; Meditation in Action: Turn Your Walk Into A Mindful Moment
What do you think of when you think of the word, "exercise?"  Do you think of the numbers on an elliptical machine telling you of how many calories you burned or of how many miles you walked?  That's what I used to think of, but those numbers caused me a lot of stress, obsession, and anxiety.  It got to the point where I stopped doing any exercise at all-going to the gym caused me stress and most exercise hurt my joints anyway.

And then I discovered mindfulness.

Now I like to exercise, but it's because I don't think of exercise in terms of numbers-specifically how many calories I need to burn, but how I can appreciate the world around me.  I like to go on walks outside and bring my camera and take pictures of the local flora, fauna, sculptures, and other art.  Nowadays a bunch of beautiful bright purple tulips is more likely to make me think of exercise:
Recently some of my friends went out walking at a nearby park and the sun gave out beautiful light and shadows as it was setting:
I have found that I much more motivated to walk when I think about it being an exercise in beauty and in being mindful in the art that is around me in nature and in the city.  Many times after my therapy appointment, I go to the Atlanta Beltline, which is nearby and walk for a little while.  What I like about the beltline is that it has a lot of art and shops nearby, so that while there is not as much nature, there is still a lot of beauty and interesting things to see.
Last Fall, I took some pictures of the trees changing colors at the Camp Creek Greenway Trail:
What I like about being mindful is that it is also about paying attention to your body.  I am much better about bringing water and a snack, like a granola bar or a banana with me than I used to be.  When my body says, "hydrate!" or "eat!," I listen and do so.  I no longer believe deprivation correlates with strength.  I instead believe strength correlates with how well I respond to what my body tells me-so if my joints are aching and are telling me to slow down or to turn back, I do and I do not consider myself weak, but congratulate myself for treating my body right.  I am happy that I enjoyed the time outside that I did and look forward to the next time I am outside.  Although my walks tend to be short, I try to not focus on the numerical value and instead focus on their positive, mindfulness value, which is immense, as ever since I have made that shift in my thinking, my stress level has gone down tons.  

I hope these pictures have brought you some beauty into your life.  More importantly, I hope that they have inspired you to think about exercise in a different, more peaceful and mindful way.

Link Love:

I take back my worthiness, my belonging in the world of beautiful and diverse beings. I live without apology for the straight lines and curves, living tissue, vulnerable heart that hold my living, breathing manifested story.
I will not confuse thinness for health.

Friday, March 28, 2014

Coloring Helps Me Cope with Stress and Exhaustion

God does not give up on us, but calls each and every one of us to God self, to relationship, to community and to God's ideal vision.  And we, imbued with that kind of calling, have the power to change the world. (77) Making a Way Out of No Way by Monica A. Coleman
The hearing was very hard-one of the most stressful things I have done in a long time.  My lawyer was very nice and the psychologist was on my side, but still, talking about my diagnosis with people I had never met before was intimidating and even though I knew why my lawyer had my files, it was not comfortable.  

It absolutely wore me out and unfortunately talking about old urges and symptoms brought some of them back.  Anxiety returned and I was having trouble finding peace of mind, so it was time to figure out what coping skills would work until I returned back to normal.  It's funny how different coping skills will work at different times and I found last weekend that art did the trick-it seemed the only time that I experienced peace of mind was when I was painting or collaging or coloring.

Here are two pictures from the Color Your Heart with Joy coloring book by Claire Christin (You can buy it at Donna Van Gogh's in Atlanta):
"Slow down and listen to your heart."

"Children need love most when they deserve it least."

I love this coloring book!  I used fine point sharpies and I was able to mindfully fully immerse myself into the activity and so forget about my stress.  I stayed in the art room all day Monday working on my art project and fortunately by the end of the day I felt rejuvenated and back to my old self.

I did not give up on myself, but was gentle with myself, which was something I absolutely did not know how to do a few years ago.  I believe "God's ideal vision" is for us to not give up on ourselves and to trust that the bad time will eventually change; not only will it change, but one can find comfort by focusing on this truth.  I have found that there is always at least one thing that can distract me and bring me peace during a hard time.  And when we find peace during hardship, we show others that they can achieve that too and so "the power to change the world" has begun it's rippling effect. Even though I consider myself a Christian, I also see Godde in my therapist, in my art, and in the DBT principles.  I see Godde anywhere that seems to promote healing and love.

Link Love:

Nobody does life perfectly.
Nobody gets it right the first time out.
Which is a deep shame because, well, we only get one shot. So the one shot we have is a shot that will be marked by mistakes and missteps. We’ll try to avoid adding to the shit around us, but inevitably we will add to it, pile it on, and step in it.
And then we’ll probably put our foot in our mouth.
Which means we need to learn grace. It needs to permeate our interactions and expectations.

$400 million: The amount of money the US federal government and state governments could save in ink costs if they exclusively used Garamond fond on printed materials, as determined by clever and curious 14-year-old Suvir Mirchandani "when he was trying to think of ways to cut waste and save money at his Pittsburgh-area middle school."

Monday, March 24, 2014

Women Writing About Men by Jane Miller - A Book Review

This was the book my feminist book club chose for February and it lent itself to one of our best discussions!  The book is definitely academically focused and can be dry at times.  I do not think I would recommend it for pleasure reading, but if you want another way to think about the classics, then this book may be for you.  In it, Miller focuses on the “Great” female writers and looks at how they wrote about men.  I’m going to share the ideas and quotes that I think are the most interesting and intriguing.

Miller introduces the concept of “learned androgyny”- that women writers in order to be successful must try to write “like a man” in order to be taken seriously.  Women who are known as women have a lot more to fear. “Let us pause to consider androgyny and the possibility that women have been schooled in androgyny.  Any such notion must be permeable, for they have also been schooled to be women and to be women for men.  They must avoid mannishness and monstrousness, they must keep their cool.  Yet women readers who have unlearned their androgyny, or have at least started on the process, become attuned to the expression of danger and of fear in women writers.  They learn to recognize fear about writing as a fear about love.” Furthermore, in order to be the “right sort of woman,” the woman writer should be able to detach from her identity as a woman.  (24)

One of the most notable ideas is that a woman’s adventure ends with marriage, while a man’s adventure lasts throughout his life.  It’s a sad narrative that is extremely familiar-we saw it with Austen and we see it today with Disney.  It’s a narrative that made all of us very mad, for we are tired of missing out on adventure-we want a life and to read about lives that are just as full as any man’s!  I want to read about women that do not complete themselves by becoming married, but by having adventures and experiencing life in all its fullness, with or without a man by her side.

Miller also said that mother’s experiences are silenced; that they don’t speak for themselves, but for their sons and husbands (110).  This made me think about the prevalence of “mommy bloggers” and I wondered if this dynamic has changed with this new medium, or is framing it as a “mommy blogger” still silencing?  In a way, I think so, because the concerns and joys of mommy bloggers are often considered less important or frivolous to any other kind.  I would love to hear your thoughts! 

Miller had some interesting insights on heroes and I agreed with them:

If a woman loves a hero that is more likely to make her a wife of a mistress than a heroine.  This, I think, has presented male readers with difficulties, for if they approve of a heroine they would like her to marry a man’s hero.  They are disconcerted to find that women do not propose such men as the husbands for their heroines.  Indeed, many women’s novels centre on the dangers for a young woman of loving or marrying her hero. 

On George Eliot: They expected this phenomenally intelligent writer to recommend that her heroines marry men’s heroes rather than their own, and they have ignored the possibility that it was her intelligence, which was a woman’s intelligence, not a male accretion, which demanded that a woman understand her own sexual nature and needs when she offered to spend her life with a man.  Hanging about, alertness to the needs of a remarkable man, are not good enough for George Eliot’s heroines.  […]Critics who judge that Stephen Guest or Will Ladislaw are unworthy of these complex moral women ignore the fact that both Stephen and Will have what the other men in their novels notably lack: they have a direct, instinctive, powerful sexual presence, and in matters of sex they are driven to know what they desire and to develop love from desire.  Both behave well to the women they come to love, though both are in positions where their love is substantially prohibited by custom, social propriety, good taste.  They are sexually honest, and they communicate their sexual feelings clearly to the women they love, and they develop morally through contact with them.  (141)

 Basically, women's heroes are good, moral, and sexually mature, which is as much of a hero as I want.  What most men do not understand is that if a man treats a woman with equal respect to anyone else then he is hero enough, for that is not a truly common practice.

A book like Miller’s is important, because as she says on page 31, “Projecting women’s problems as apolitical, as personal and untheorised, has made women vulnerable to kinds of masculine political analysis, whether reactionary or revolutionary, which subsume women’s concerns into more general ones, concealing their specificity and ignoring women’s accounts of them.” But if men’s works and problems can be seen as political and All Important, then surely our culture can one day turn around and do the same for subjects written by women.  

And how do we do that?-By not pooh poohing women writing about women’s issues (mommy bloggers, victims of domestic violence, fashionistas, feminists, for example) and by holding up the concerns of women to equal importance as those typically of concern to men.  Only then will the right to bodily autonomy be seen as automatic as the right to buy Viagra.