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, May 3, 2016

Liar, Temptress, Soldier, Spy by Karen Abbott - A Book Review

The Lord God is my strength; [S]he will make my feet like deer's feet, and [S]he will make me walk on my high hills.  Do not fear, Zion, let not your hands be weak.  The Lord your God is in your midst, The Mighty One, will save; [S]he will rejoice over you with gladness, [S]he will quiet you with His[Her] love. [S]he will rejoice over you with singing. Zephaniah 3:18
Hooray! I really am beginning finally to feeling like my old, good self again.  Today, my mom helped me clean and I signed for DBT again.  It's always helped with anxiety before, so I know that it will help this time too.  I am ridiculously excited-I feel like I am taking back my life.
I am also back to doing book reviews!  I needed to take a break but I have read so many good books that I have just got to talk about them!  It will be easier now that I use my iPad as a kindle and take pictures of my favorite comics.  Kindle is great for leading book discussions because the passages I highlight are saved for quick reference.
 Liar, Temptress, Soldier, Spy by Karen Abbott was the book my feminist book club read a few months ago and it was great!  It was also a bit too long and could have really used some editing.  It is the telling of four women's lives as spies during the civil war, two for the South and two for the North.  I wish that she hadn't jumped around from woman to woman-it made it hard to remember who was who.  However, the book was utterly fascinating!  

  1. It made me understand why there is still racism and anger towards "Yankees" today. The way many people in the South behaved was bone-chilling in their hate and savagery.  After all they did, of course that spirit is still going to survive. That's not a good thing.  
rebels slashed throats from ear to ear. They sliced off heads and dropkicked them across the field. They carved off noses and ears and testicles and kept them as souvenirs. They propped the limp bodies of wounded soldiers against trees and practiced aiming for the heart. They wrested muskets and swords from the clenched hands of corpses. They plunged bayonets deep into the backsides of the maimed and the dead. They burned the bodies, collecting “Yankee shin-bones” to whittle into drumsticks, and skulls to use as steins. (One arithmetic book posed the problem: “If one Confederate soldier kills 90 Yankees, how many Yankees can 10 Confederate soldiers kill?”)
2. It made me understand that the civil war really WAS about slavery.  The Southern states wanted to keep their slaves. Say all you want about preserving heritage or being against big government but just remember that that heritage and that desire was to keep people as property. Saying that is not good would be the understatement of the year. (Nowadays, unfortunately, Republicans seem to think that women are property as they try to control our bodies and make it clear that all we are to them are baby-making machines.) 

 3. On the other side, I can see why Southern states would be enraged about having Abraham Lincoln as president-I didn't realize he had so few Southern votes:   
In Maryland, the Lincoln ticket received less than 3 percent of votes cast; in Virginia, barely 1 percent. Nearly every member of the Confederate government had once been a Federal official and, as such, possessed intimate knowledge of government operations. Jefferson Davis himself had served as secretary of war
4. It broke the stereotype of the damsel in distress and that women long ago were all just helpless, boring creatures:
Young girls carried daggers and pistols in their crochet purses and fired at marks in the street. 
5. It made me see that many more women were soldiers and spies than I had originally thought.  Even more so than today, women were underestimated-they were able to use that to their advantage and get access to places not granted to men:  
For now, at least, her social position and gender served as her most convincing disguise. No one would believe that a frail, pampered spinster was capable of plotting treasonous acts, let alone carrying them out right under the government’s nose. pondered how to contend with female traitors, a situation that had seemed unthinkable before the war began. War, like politics, was men’s work, and women were supposed to be among its victims, not its perpetrators. Women’s loyalty was expected, and even considered a defining characteristic of femininity itself, but now there was a question—one that would persist throughout the war—of what to do with what one Lincoln official called “fashionable women spies.” Their gender provided them with both a psychological and a physical disguise; while hiding behind social mores about women’s proper roles, they could hide evidence of their treason on their very person, tucked beneath hoop skirts or tied up in their hair. Women, it seemed, were capable not only of significant acts of treason, but of executing them more deftly than men.
6. It affirmed that women have always led exciting and interesting, fascinating lives.  Maybe not all of them, BUT not every woman was waiting around for a husband, even in the 1860s.  My two favorite characters were Emma, a young woman who joined the army dressed as a man, so that she would not have to marry. (BTW, there were over 400 women in the civil war posing as men!) : 
“In our family the women were not sheltered but enslaved,” she wrote. “If occasionally I met [a man] who seemed a little better than others, I set him down in my mind as a wolf in sheep’s clothing, and probably less worthy of trust than the rest.” After Emma turned fifteen, her father announced she would marry next, promising her to a lecherous neighbor, a farmer dozens of years her senior. When the time came she would invert Fanny’s plan, becoming a man in order to avoid one.
  And Mary Jane, a slave with an eidetic memory who spied on Jefferon Davis:
No one, not even sister-in-law Mary, knew that Mary Jane was highly educated and gifted with an eidetic memory, capable of memorizing images in a glance and recalling entire conversations word for word.
7. It made me proud to be a woman, for traditional femininity can equal strength and resourcefulness, as women would hide letters in their hair or dresses. They would sew morse code into blankets:  
She devised a system of communicating by needlework, knitting tapestries in specific patterns based on the Morse code, a precise vocabulary of stitches and colors.

Monday, May 2, 2016

Children Mental Health Day 2016

I offer the radical nature of honesty and the intense humanity that is found in seeking truth freely apart from the authoritative pronouncements of yesterday. (spong, Rescuing the Bible from Fundamentalism, 21)  
I won't be able to attend children's mental health day at the Atlanta Capitol but as its for a good cause, I thought I would let y'all know about it.   Host: Rheba Smith 404-758-4500 Thursday, May 5 9am-12:30pm The GA Freight Depot (65 Martin Luther King Dr. NW, Atlanta 30303)



Join Georgia Parent Support Network, Inc. as we bring the community together to raise awareness about children's mental health.  This is a free event, but we ask that you please register to ensure we have enough seating.  Also, don't forget to live tweet Finding Help, Finding Hope  using #FHx2 

  9:00 AM    

  • Registration & Breakfast at The Freight Depot.
  • Cast your vote, in the Blue Room, for the winner of theFinding Help, Finding Hope  art and poetry contest. Remember to tweet  # FHx2

  9:30 AM    

  • Walk to the Capitol for presentation in the south wing
  • Peers from Georgia Parent Support Network, Inc. Welcome
  • Frank Berry, Commissioner, Department of Behavioral Health and Developmental Disability Master of Ceremony
  • Dante McKay, Director, office of Children, Young Adults & Families

10:30 AM    

  • Return to The Freight Depot
  • Last chance to cast your vote for Finding Help, Finding Hope  art and poetry contest. #FHx2

11:00 AM - 12:30 PM 

  • Brief Overview by Erica Fenner Sitkoff, Ph.D. Policy Director, Voices for Georgia's Children
  • "By the Numbers" Presentation by Garry W. McGiboney, Ph.D. Assistant Superintendent, Georgia Department of Education

Sunday, April 17, 2016

"Attention-Seeking Behavior" Can Lead To Positive Change

The Lord God is my strength; He will make my feet like deer's feet, and [S]he will make me walk on my high hills. Do not fear, Zion, let not your hands be weak. The Lord your God is in your midst, The Mighty One, will save; [S]he will rejoice over you with gladness, [S]he will quiet you with His[Her] love. [S]he will rejoice over you with singing. Zephaniah 3:18
Facebook Collected Writings: Responding to a friend who read an article that said talking about illness online is "attention-seeking." Just ugh Articles like those are ableist.  Sometimes illnesses really do need attention.  Problems don't go away if we stop talking about them. In fact, it's the exact opposite.  Those articles just reenforce the status quo. And the status quo is only good if you're a healthy white rich educated straight cisgender Christian male and then it's still an illusion.  :)
When I have no hope for myself, sometimes I can find hope through other people and hearing their stories.  Debbie Corso is a blogger I enjoy and she shares her story that after being diagnosed with Borderline  Personality Disorder, she took DBT and was able to have her diagnosis removed. Knowing that she did that inspired me to give it a try and within two years, I didn't qualify anymore either. I used to think about suicide every day for 20 years but then I finally got tired of hospitals and I really started looking at if I could change my thinking. (That, along with a good therapist, the right med, and support but it all started with me being willing to examine myself.). I don't think about suicide on a daily basis anymore.  What I have noticed is that change always happens - life is change but often times it is a slow slow process instead of the instant gratification that we long for.  Looking for the little ways that my life has begun to change has been really helpful.  

Friday, April 15, 2016

Listen To The Holy One In Your Midst

My heart churns within me; my sympathy is stirred.  I will not execute the fierceness of my anger; I will not destroy Ephraim.  For I am God, and not man, The Holy One in your midst; and I will not come with terror. (Hosea 11:9)
At my job, I talk to a lot of people with different views and I can't always challenge people the way I'd like.  Because we're trauma informed. And sometimes that's really hard.  It forces me to listen though.  Behind prejudice and Trump support, there is fear, some of which is legitimate. When we meet fear with more fear and anger, then things get worse. When we listen, acknowledge, and challenge with compassion, then things get better.
In response to this quote:
Or that you're extra special if you work with them as your job. I used to work with adults with developmental disabilities and one of my pet peeves was being told how wonderful I was for working in that field.  I worked there because I loved it, not because I was some hero. It would be more heroic to do well in a field that I didn't enjoy.
The whole parenting thing is such a sore subject for me.  There was one comment for an article that I realize now was really triggering.  A parent said that "when people who aren't parents say they are exhausted they. Just. Can't."  It made me feel horrible.  Because a part of me really does want children but logically there's no way I could.  I thought to myself when I saw that comment was, "then you don't understand mental illness."  I had to go back down to part time because of my exhaustion level.  That's without kids.  I started having suicidal panic attacks on a regular basis again. I know for a fact if I had kids then I would either be dead or would have to give them up because of my mental and physical illnesses.  I know I shouldn't take what one parent said who has no idea who I am personally but today I wasn't able to let it go.  It brought up all these feelings of inadequacy and just ugh self-hatred of being the way I am.  Being told that someone's exhaustion is worse than yours just because of one factor when nowhere in the awful article did it mention actual panic attacks where one wakes up in the middle of the night and is nearly hospitalized.  Just ugh.  All types of people experience exhaustion and sometimes people who have no kids and have extra time still have ways of being that prevent them from taking the self-care they need.
(I'm mentally and emotionally exhausted! I would have added'physically,' but I can still move my pinky.)

Thursday, April 14, 2016

Chronicles of Hope

Come see me this Saturday at The Strand Theater in Marietta.  There will be an art show at 6pm, performance at 7pm and a Q&A at 8:15p.  It's free, so go to Gmhcn.org to print out your ticket.  Watch a powerful performance of people telling their recovery stories in creative ways.

Sunday, March 27, 2016

Magical Thinking Does Not Work

 "Teenage girls engage in emotional reasoning, which is the belief that if you feel something is true, it must be true. If a teenager feels like a nerd, she is a nerd....There is a limited ability to sort facts from feelings. Thinking is still magical in the sense that thinking something makes it so." Author: Mary Pipher
Just because I feel something is true does not mean it is true.
Just because I want something to be true also does not make it true.

wanted for respite to completely reset my energy and so enable me to continue to stay at my job full time. I also knew that this probably wouldn't happen, as I had nothing in place for that energy to stay with me upon return.  

Unfortunately, I was right.      

Magical thinking does not work.  
There are more clinical definitions of magical thinking, but I define it as thinking that life will dramatically change for the better without doing anything different to cause that effect to actually happen.

It is true that life always changes.
It is also true that life seldom changes in the way we want without some action on our part.  If my goal is to have more energy but I change nothing in the long term, then I will continue to charge towards burnout.

In fact, respite seemed to accelerate my burnout upon returning to work because respite had given me such clarity about how much I desperately needed to simplify my life and without making the necessary changes quickly, I began to experience alarming symptoms on a grand scale.

Panic attacks multiple times a day.  Nightmares.  Neediness.  Forgetfulness.  Depression.  Doom and gloom thinking.  Sensory overload. Isolating when not at work. Headaches, stomach aches. Emotional instability.  Intrusive thoughts.  Impulsivity..... 

The symptoms were quickly becoming alarming, worrisome, and dangerous.  I was able to hide them from peers but the people who know me best were seeing the signs of a potential downfall.    

SO.... I am returning to part-time.

Miraculously, I should be able to stay at the thirty hours I was at before, even though I am still on disability, as long as I get the proper documentation to prove that I need extra money for my medications and other mental health services, which I do.

There was a time when I would have felt like a failure for not being to stay at full-time but not anymore.  I am not called to be normal, average, or non-disabled - I am called to be myself.  Myself, like all selves, has limits that need to be honored in order to be well. Apparently, that limit is to work around thirty hours a week and that is certainly more than the amount I used to be able to do.
I am not called to be more than I am.
I am enough.
(And so are you too)   
      (I painted this during my respite in Cleveland, GA.  I promise I will post more about it soon!)  

Sunday, March 13, 2016

Mindfully Getting Away

If you want to conquer the anxiety of life, live in the moment, live in the breath. (Amit Ray, from Om Chanting and Meditation)
Living in the moment can be so hard when one is feeling anxious and overwhelmed.  I went on vacation - more on that later - and I was hoping that I would return feeling back to myself, but when I returned to work, it was busy as usual and so I am still struggling with feeling overwhelmed.  I do not like being as busy as I am and it is easy to spin out when thinking about everything I have to do.  But that is why practicing mindfulness is so important!  Being in the moment, taking things one at a time, just doing the next right thing, really does help ease my anxiety.  

 How to do that though? 

 Sometimes I need to get away.  When I'm feeling overwhelmed, sometimes I need to escape, even if just for a few minutes.  Right now, I usually put Pandora on some relaxing classical music and read for about fifteen minutes.  It takes me away from where I currently am and puts me in another world. I made a graphic for an activity I do on mindfulness at the center on the second Wednesday of the month.
I took peers to a nearby park with a creek and we listened to the water bubbling as it played with the rocks.  We looked up at the clouds.  We talked about the sounds and sensations that soothe us, like rain on a tin roof or the birds overhead.  I felt back to myself in that moment.  Silence, introspection, relaxation, meditation, mindfulness are so important and so undervalued in this world.  I need to set  aside more intentional quiet time for myself every day, for I have come to believe that the way I will get back to myself is to listen deeply to myself in quiet.