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, July 1, 2015

A Recovery Revolution

Cause my dry bones to live and breath life into my soul. Awaken my senses. Fill me with wonder. May I speak with Spirit. Ezekiel 23 7:19
Again, you can replace "Spirit" with "Recovery."

As a feminist, I love the word and the notion of revolution.  As a Christian, I think all forms of revolution should be loving and soul-affirming.  That's why I loved the certified peer training - it was continually reiterated that we were part of a mental health recovery revolution dismantling the harmful beliefs and practices of the old medical treatment model.  The old system is patriarchal, dominating and invalidating, seeing people as problems, diagnoses and disorders who need to be controlled.  The new recovery way affirms the whole person, looking to build upon a person's strengths instead of their weaknesses, to motivate and encourage instead of simply stabilizing and managing symptoms.  Yesterday I had a job interview at the Decatur Peer Wellness Center and I was impressed on how the goal is to always support the peer, no matter what.  As I told the director, "if the person is not presenting an issue like a problem, then I won't treat it as a problem."  This is different from the old model that tells you whether and when you are ready for your next step, instead of letting the person decide on their own.  In my experience, when people do not put their own assumptions in the way of my dreams then I soar.

 There was a time while attending the treatment center, SkyLand Trail, that I expressed that I wanted a job.  The staff encouraged me to find one myself in something I was interested in and I got a volunteer job helping a music therapist.  It was great and I flourished.  When I had a family meeting a month later, a staff member said that they were glad that it was working out because they were worried in the beginning that I was becoming manic.  If they had acted on their fear and stopped me from applying to jobs, then my recovery would have suffered and my dreams would have been crushed.  Fortunately, they did not give in to their assumptions and I was allowed to soar.

 When we do not allow people the freedom to make mistakes, we also do not give them the freedom to fly.  Before one flies, one will fall - what we need is support, encouragement and resources for flight, not negativity, discouragement and preconceived notions of what we can do.  There is no way to know what one can do without trying it out first.

 We need to be encouraged to see mistakes as learning and growth opportunities and not as symptoms of our diseases.  We need validation that we are loving beings always capable of doing better.

 We are not manipulative, but seeking ways of fulfilling our needs.  We are not "non-compliant," but dissatisfied with our options.  We are not "attention-seeking," but needing encouragement and validation.

This is my revolution - let us awaken mental healthcare's senses and fill them with the wonder of what we can achieve.

Wednesday, June 24, 2015

Who I Am

I am making a series of videos where I answer questions about mental health.  This one addresses my identity and what I would like people to know about mental health and mental illness.  Enjoy my pictures!

Thursday, June 18, 2015

CPS Inspiration

I am nearing the end of the first week of my consumer peer specialist (CPS) training and I am tired.  I have many topics that I want to write about, but I am too exhausted to put a lot of thought into a blog post and yet I still want to share.  And so, I am going to post something that does not require a lot of thought, but still might be helpful.  As we have talked and learned about so many recovery topics this week, many helpful and inspirational phrases penetrated my mind and each time I wrote them down to remember.  Many times I posted them on twitter! I am going to post the sayings that have helped me - let me know which ones you like best.

  1. Bring the good when everybody sees the bad.
  2. Shared vulnerability is powerful.
  3. When people do not think recovery is possible, they need to see role models of possibility.
  4. It is not the diagnosis, but the beliefs about it that determine the outcome.
  5. You got to meet people where they are at.
  6. There is no growth in the comfort zone.  There is no comfort in the growth zone.
  7. Accepting my mental illness put me on the road of recovery.
  8. Feelings aren't facts, just feelings.
  9. Life breaks us all.  Some of us become stronger in our broken places.
  10. The pain of our past is powerful.
  11. Generational poverty is traumatic.
  12. Bullies are bullies because they do not feel empowered.
  13. Listen to learn and support, not to fix.
  14. What you listen for is what you will hear.
  15. Scars and scabs are signs that healing has occurred or is in the process.
  16. What is it you don't think you can do?  Maybe you can.
  17. What are you afraid of?
  18. Why do you think people think you cannot do something?
  19. What is the story that is holding you back?
  20. We have a right to decide what goes on and in our bodies.
  21. I know myself better than any doctor does.

Tuesday, May 26, 2015

Vlog - Disability is Natural

Here is a vlog that further explains something I was talking about in my recent post, Combating Ableism at a Wellness Fair.
Link Love:

 I recognize that everything might not turn out okay.
To live without acceptance is to live in a world that doesn’t really exist.  It’s to block our reality in the hopes that not mentally acknowledging something will make it not really real.
But it’s also to deprive ourselves of the ability to change situations we don’t like.  Because when it comes down to it, we can’t really change that which we don’t accept.

Thursday, May 21, 2015

Recovery Is... The GA CPS Code of Ethics

I will put my Spirit within you and cause you to walk in my statues, and you will keep my judgements and do them Ezekiel 36:26-27
You can call that Spirit recovery if you want.  Recovery is when you are no longer totally defined by your mental illness.  Recovery is when you want to tell people about your redemption - that you will always have mental illness, but that it does not control or demean you.  Recovery is when you make mistakes, but you do not let them turn your life into a crisis.  Recovery is when you recognize your worth as a valuable human being, deserving of dignity, respect and love.

I am very excited because I have been accepted to the next Georgia CPS (certified peer specialist) training.  A CPS is a person doing well in recovery who helps other people who have mental illness by relating to them as a peer.  Fundamental to the CPS training is the belief that all people deserve respect and to be as integrated into society as much as possible.  We have a code of ethics that I think are pretty great, so for American Psychological Association's Mental Health Blog Day (unfortunately, I am a day late), I am posting most of the GA CPS Code of Ethics.  I hope they inspire you as much as they inspire me.

GA Certified Peer Specialist Code of Ethics

  1. The primary responsibility of Certified Peer Specialists is to help individuals achieve their own needs, wants, and goals.  Certified Peer Specialists will be guided by the principle of self-determination for all. 

  1. Certified Peer Specialists will maintain high standards of personal conduct.  Certified Peer Specialists will also conduct themselves in a manner that fosters their own recovery.  

  1. Certified Peer Specialists will openly share with consumers and colleagues their recovery stories from mental illness and will likewise be able to identify and describe the supports that promote their recovery.

  1. Certified Peer Specialists will, at all times, respect the rights and dignity of those they serve.

  1. Certified Peer Specialists will never intimidate, threaten, harass, use undue influence, physical force or verbal abuse, or make unwarranted promises of benefits to the individuals they serve.

  1. Certified Peer Specialists will not practice, condone, facilitate or collaborate in any form of discrimination on the basis of ethnicity, race, sex, sexual orientation, age, religion, national origin, marital status, political belief, mental or physical disability, or any other preference or personal characteristic, condition or state.

  1. Certified Peer Specialists will advocate for those they serve that they may make their own decisions in all matters when dealing with other professionals.

  1. Certified Peer Specialists will respect the privacy and confidentiality of those they serve.

  1. Certified Peer Specialists will advocate for the full integration of individuals into the communities of their choice and will promote the inherent value of those individuals to those communities.  Certified Peer Specialists will be directed by the knowledge that all individuals have the right to live in the least restrictive and least intrusive environment.

  1. Certified Peers Specialists will keep current with emerging knowledge relevant to recovery, and openly share this knowledge with their colleagues.

Monday, May 18, 2015

Combating Ableism at a Wellness Fair

Recently I attended a wellness fair and on the brochure was this ableist statement:
Health is a state of complete harmony of the body, mind and spirit. When one is free from physical disabilities and mental distractions the gates of the soul open. ~B.K.S
I say "ableist" because it does not acknowledge that the concept of health is on a spectrum and it discounts those with chronic disabilities.
It is ableist to say that a person with a chronic disability cannot still be healthy.
When a person has a chronic disability, their locus of health must be resituated.  Health is no longer not being physically and mentally unwell, but on having peace of mind, on having a life worth living, however differently that may look to each person.  To say that a blind person or a person with depression can never have "the gates of the soul open" is oppressive.  It puts society's view of health on a hierarchy over an individual's view of health.

I say the gates of the soul are open whenever someone has an open mind, heart and spirit.  Whenever a person is willing to entertain the thought that there might be more creative, more positive ways of living then their soul is opened.  Whenever a person is willing to forgive or love more deeply then their soul is opened.  Whenever a person strives towards justice and peace instead of vengeance then their soul is opened.

It is healthy to strive for less "mental distractions" even if one is still experiencing them.  It is healthy to try to take care of one's body, even if one's body will always be disabled in some way.  As I have said over and over on this blog, all bodies will become disabled one day - disability is a natural process that happens as one ages and so it is also ageist to say that physical and mental handicaps automatically make one unhealthy.

Our society likes to put people in divisive categories such as, fit and unfit, well and unwell, healthy and unhealthy, but it would actually be a lot more accurate to put people's conditions and characteristics on a spectrum.  One can be disabled and still be healthy. One does not need to be in perfect health to have an open and willing soul.
 (in Ashville)

Link Love:
Sadly, we spend just under 50% of our life in the present moment. “That means for almost 50% of our waking hours we’re worrying about the future or ruminating over the past and not engaged with, or enjoying, what we’re doing in the present moment,” says Soloway.

New research suggests that in matriarchies, there is no divine masculine per se, because though men have their own important roles, both males and females are encouraged to embody the values associated with mothers and mothering—in other words to be loving, giving, caring, and generous. In this context there is no opposition or sharp contrast between the divine masculine, the divine feminine, and any other divine gender or transgender.

People with SEID needed a term to better describe what’s going on in their bodies: systemic (affecting the whole body); exertion (associated with both mental and physical exertion); intolerance (specific impairment, like in gluten intolerance); disorder — a very real and very serious medical condition.
He adds that parents shouldn’t be concerned that serious talks about mental health will somehow suggest suicide to teens. “Adults are often worried that if they talk about suicide it will put the idea into their kid’s head. This just isn’t how it works

Monday, May 11, 2015

Faraway - A Book Review

Here is my last Speakeasy book review for a while:
Faraway: A Suburban Boy's Story as a Victim of Sex Trafficking by R.K. Kline and Daniel D. Maurer  - I must say, I was a little wary of reading a book about sex trafficking, but I was pleasantly surprised.  The book is a fast read and actually enjoyable, although tragic.  I would NOT recommend finishing reading it at your psychiatrist's office like I did, as you will have to quickly dry your tears.

We first saw Daniel D. Maurer's work in Sobriety, which I thoroughly enjoyed, and he expertly makes R.K. Kline's important story engaging.  Kline's story is important because it highlights how common sex trafficking is in suburbia and for boys.  It is a misconception that all sex trafficking victims are women, but it is women and girls who get the most attention because of homophobia and misogyny.

 Homophobia is the real villain in this book.  From an early age, Kline knew that it was not okay to be out as gay.  His desperation for intimacy and validation from other men was part of what made him such an easy target for the sex trade.  The knowledge that he could not tell anyone of what was happening for fear of being outed made the situation that much worse.

It is sad to note that the place that put young Kline in danger also provided him with his most real and faithful friends.  Through shared adversity, Kine found friends that acted as surrogate family and protectors.  The place that showed him what true friendship and validation is also ended up being the thing that destroys his and his friends' lives.  Now Kline lives with PTSD and wants people to know more about the complex issues surrounding male sex trafficking.  I was very glad for the afterward by Drs. Anthony Marcus and Ric Curtis that detailed relevant research about today's attitudes and issues surrounding teenage sex trafficking.

Faraway is a sobering book that will shock and sadden you and yet it is very readable.  I recommend it for parents and activists alike.  You can also follow Daniel Maurer on facebook and on twitter.

Link Love:
Dippyman - Throwing the book at depression
If you can find something positive in each day, however small, it starts a positive cycle. It gradually builds up so that you’re encouraged and reminded to keep looking – and when times are particularly hard, the stuff you’ve written down is your evidence against the accusing voice telling you you’re not good enough and that nothing good ever happens

CNN - 'Alone time' is really good for you

Our brains need to rest and recharge in order to function as well as we want them to. So even if you're not an introvert, alone time is still important for processing and reflecting.