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, March 13, 2017

Call or Write Senator Isakson

The new healthcare bill has many harmful parts to it that are concerning to me.  Here is a nice summary of what they are:

1. It allows health insurance companies to charge older Americans up to five times more.
2. It repeals the employer mandate, causing many families covered by their employers to lose coverage.
3. It will take insurance away from millions of individuals and cripple state budgets by phasing out the Medicaid expansion.
4. It gives health insurance companies a tax break for CEO pay over $500,000.
5. It defunds Planned Parenthood, leaving millions without access to breast exams, birth control, and pap smears.
- Call your representative in Congress. You can dial the Capitol switchboard at (202) 224-3121.
- Tell your friends to call their representatives in Congress.
- Show up at your representative’s town halls.
- Spread the word about this plan on Facebook (COPY/PASTE) and other social media

It also looks like there will be no insurance cap for those with preexisting conditions, making it unaffordable for millions.

In his telephone Town Hall yesterday, Georgia Senator Johnny Isakson said that his decision to support or not the current GOP Health Plan will depend on how it will actually affect Georgians. So, if you have evaluated, for instance, how your ability to afford health insurance will be affected by the Plan, please send him that information and reference his statement at tonight's telephone Town Hall. You can reach Senator Isakson here:
ATLANTA OFFICE
One Overton Park
3625 Cumberland Blvd, Suite 970
Atlanta, GA 30339
Tel: (770) 661-0999
Fax: (770) 661-0768
D.C. OFFICE
United States Senate
131 Russell Senate Office Building
Washington, DC 20510
Tel: (202) 224-3643
Fax: (202) 228-0724

I urge all of my readers in Georgia to call or write  Senator Isakson with how this new bill will negatively affect you.  Here is my letter, which I will send out later today.

Dear Senator Isakson,

You stated in your last town hall meeting that you wanted to know how the new healthcare bill will affect Georgians, so I am writing you to know how it will affect me and my concerns.

I am currently on disability for several mental illnesses, so I am on Medicare.  That is good news, as it means that I will not be negatively affected at first.  However, I would like to be able to get off of disability one day.  I believe that I will continue to get better and may be able to work more in the future.  However, there are practical considerations besides my health that affect whether I will ever get off of SSDI and that includes whether I will be able to afford my healthcare and I am afraid I won’t.  While preexisting conditions will be covered under the new healthcare bill, as I understand it, there will be no cap.  I am afraid that the insurance cost for people with preexisting conditions will be too high for people to afford.  I will never be able to work the kind of fast paced job that will earn me tons of money and I will always be part of a vulnerable population.  I would like to get off of SSDI one day, but if there are no caps on insurance for those with preexisting conditions, then I may never be able to afford any insurance besides the Medicare that I currently use and so my dreams of one day furthering my career are effectively stopped.

I cannot simply just not be on insurance – what if I have to be hospitalized again?  I hope you can see now that no caps on preexisting conditions still discriminates on those with disabilities or who have been sick in the past.  The most vulnerable population should not be penalized for something beyond their control.

Thank you for taking the time to read this.

Tuesday, February 28, 2017

Metro Atlanta Eating Disorder Resources

Since I am in recovery from an eating disorder, I get asked about eating disorder resources in the Metro Atlanta area from time to time.  Recently, I decided to compile them in a list so I could just send it to whomever asks.  I think it's such a good resource that I'm sharing it with you.  Feel free to print it out and give to anyone who needs it.  All of the treatment centers and support groups listed are ones that I recommend.  I do not recommend most food related twelve step groups because I firmly believe that abstinence does not work with food  - it does nothing to remove the obsession, as people who are constantly hungry and deprived are going to constantly still be thinking about food - they are replacing one "addiction" with an eating disorder.  I do approve of Eating Disorders Anonymous because they focus on balance, not abstinence.  I have not attended the Atlanta ANAD support groups but I have friends who have and they come highly recommended.  I would feel comfortable attending these EDA or ANAD groups should I ever need extra support in regards to my eating disorder recovery.  I am very lucky to report that I am doing very well right now with it and am far enough in my recovery that I think I can safely say that I do not see a relapse in my future at all.  Being that obsessed about food takes up a lot of mental energy and I just don't have the time or the energy to be that obsessive anymore!

  Ridgeview Women’s Unit (Only inpatient unit in GA but would be fairly short term – I recommend it though if someone needs to go inpatient)
 http://ridgeviewinstitute.com/pat_serv_womens.html

  ACE – Atlanta Center for Eating Disorders (Intensive Outpatient Center – been in Atlanta a long
time – I’ve heard good things. Average length of stay is 12 weeks.  Only place in Atlanta that treats boys and men with eating disorders)
 http://www.eatingdisorders.cc/ 

  Renfrew Center (New to Atlanta – seems good but its too new for reviews – treatment that would be the most long term)
 http://renfrewcenter.com/ 

Veratas Collaborative
Child, Adolescent and Young Adult Outpatient Treatment in the Dunwoody area
Also too new for reviews, but has therapists that are respected.
https://veritascollaborative.com/eating-disorder-treatment-locations/atlanta-georgia

  MANNA  (Christian based eating disorder treatment for adolescents in Lawrenceville) http://www.mannatreatment.com/  

Eating Disorder Therapists

Tara Arnold
  http://www.taraarnoldinc.com/ 404-964-6629
  WholeHeart Psychotherapy
http://www.wholeheartpsychotherapy.net/

Dr. Judi Lee Webb
http://newdirectionsatlanta.com/staff/judi-lee-webb-ph-d-ceds/

Dr. Dina Zeckhausen
(Founder of EDIN)
http://www.atlantapsychologist.com/eating-disorders.html

    Eating Disorder Nutritionists
  Jacy Pitts (love her – I’m sure she could recommend others) http://newdirectionsatlanta.com/staff/jacy-pitts-ms-rd-csp-ld/  

Page Love
770-395-7331
Http://nutrifitga.com
(Two free groups of hers are recommended – one is her monthly “Breakfast Club” and the other is her “Fit for Life” group)

Christine Engstrom
Private Practice at the Ridgeview Institute in Smyrna; also works at ACE
404-683-6557

Support Groups:

EDIN – Eating Disorders Information Network 
http://www.myedin.org/
 http://www.myedin.org/groups-in-the-community.html
 (Fabulous resource - lists all the ED support groups in GA)

  ANAD (Anorexia Nervosa and Associated Disorders-Support Groups) 
http://www.anad.org/get-help/find-support-groups-treatment/
 ANAD Helpline: 630-577-1330. Hours Mon-Fri 9am-5pm Central Time
(The one started by Page Love at St. Luke’s Presbyterian Church is highly recommended.
10-11am. 1978 Mount Vernon Rd., Atlanta, 30338)


  EDA (Eating Disorders Anonymous – “Balance – not abstinence – is the key to recovery”) http://www.eatingdisordersanonymous.org/meetings.html
 There are meetings in Lawrenceville, Tucker &aAtlanta

Saturday, February 25, 2017

Tips on Navigating The System

When everything was hopeless, Abraham believed anyway, deciding to live not on the basis of what he saw he couldn't do but on what God said he would do.  (315, The Message Bible)
I was recently asked to speak about “navigating the system” to a NAMI group.   I decided to share some of the lessons I’ve learned after almost fifteen years of receiving mental healthcare.  Here are my notes:

 1.CSBs – Every county has a community service board.  They’re not the best but if you don’t have insurance they can be a lifesaver.

 2.Use Insurance if possible 

3.Good therapists may require to pay out of pocket – my therapist does

 4.A good fit is key – change service providers if not a good fit; if a service won’t allow you to change, then it is not a recovery oriented service; ask your child what therapies, services THEY are interested in, don’t force them into something they don’t believe in – no matter how great it is recommended, it will fail without the consumer’s interest and belief

 My Story: Depression after first year of college.  Mom recognized it and took me to see her psychiatrist.Took years to find the right medication.  Terrible doctors and incompetent therapists – if I
could do over, I would spent more time looking for the right fit in both.  Someone who is knowledgeable and compassionate and takes a person seriously and has good rapport is important, especially for young people.  I wish I had taken finding the right person more seriously instead of getting worse with people who weren’t helping.

 5.Pursue recovery oriented services – individualized; honors choice; no coercion; collaborative; can choose own doctors/therapists; offers more than medication; validates the individual; talks about wellness more than illness – SkyLand Trail, Wellness Centers

6.Research treatments – research services in your area, especially if going to college or about to move – be prepared – I learned that from going to rural colleges and relapsing after not getting my needs met

7.Advocate for what you need

8.Obtaining disability may be the key to independence!  I thought my life would be sad as a “disabled person” but the extra money enabled me to move out of my parents’ house.  I ended up being ready to work just six months later.  I became a CPS and I discovered that one can still work while on disability.  Getting disability escalated my recovery, instead of diminishing it, so beware of inner ableism.

9.There are people called Benefit Navigators whose job it is to info you on how to go back to work while on disability.  They are fabulous people.  Sally Atwell is the benefits navigator that serves the Atlanta area and is a great resource. There are a lot of myths out there about working and disability but don’t despair until you find out the facts!  Her phone number is 404-350-7589.

10.Notice cycles/patterns of behavior and ruts – a change may be needed – for goodness sake, if someone keeps on going back to the hospital, ask yourself what they are needing and see if it can be accomplished outside of a hospital setting – Breaking cycles and patterns of behavior is key in recovery

11.Always remember that recovery is consumer driven.

12.Art and music and horticulture can be just important to recovery as medication or talk therapy.

13. Medication is not the cornerstone of recovery.  I take medication but… Medication is great
For some and not for others.  It is never a cure.  If a service is more focused on medication than the individual then it is not recovery oriented have found sleep to be the most important factor in my wellness.  Healing begins with validation and feeling heard.

14.Do not underestimate the value of peer support.  DBT is the therapy that changed my life but I was introduced to it long before I took it seriously.  What made me take it seriously is seeing results with other peers and hearing how excited they were.  I was inspired by peer bloggers and wanted what they had.  When someone is in the depths of despair, the only thing that can reach them is validation
and being heard and this is easiest supplied by someone who has already been there.

I wish that I had been introduced to peer support earlier.  When I first started hearing and feelingthings, I felt so stigmatized and weird.  If I could have been introduced to someone else who
experienced those same things but was doing well, my life would have been saved much earlier.  I would have been given hope when the professionals were not providing it.  This is why I am so excited to get training in the hearing voices network and to offer their support groups soon.

To sum up, I want to leave you with three things that I have learned:

Advocate for yourself – no one knows what you need better than you.

Secondly, if you believe you need clinical care, then spend time making sure you have the right fit.  Feeling heard and validated by your mental health professional leads to trust and being able to trust others is essential to one’s well being.

Finally, believe in yourself and in your loved one.  You are worth fighting for and you are worthy of being heard, validated and treated with respect.  No matter what obstacles are in your way, I firmly believe that every person has the right and the ability to lead a better life for themselves if only they will put forth the work.  I believe in you!

Friday, February 3, 2017

Rising Out Of Fire

In my creative writing activity at the center where I work, I had peers write their thoughts in response to this picture:
This is what I wrote:

It used to be that all I could think of was my pain.  It was all I felt. I called my story The Girl Who Couldn't Stop Crying.  It seems a bit melodramatic now but it was how life was.  Eventually I wore myself out.  I got tired of always being miserable.  I got tired of always crying and wanting someone else to fix me.  Gradually I learned that I had to validate myself.

I had been through the fire but I was not burnt.  I had scars but underneath everything, I was okay. 

I learned to move towards people that emphasized my okay-ness, that do not put me down or dwell in the land of troubles all day.  I learned that it is okay to ask people for reassurance and that it is okay to let myself believe it.  I learned that although life is hard, it is full of joy too.  I learned to embrace the joy and be grateful for the simple things in life.  I grew into the free person I am today. 

I may have been through fire, but I am still cool.   

Thursday, January 19, 2017

Shrill by Lindy West - A Book Review

Saturday, I and thousands of other people, will be marching all over the United States, raising our voices to tell Donald Trump that we will not let his administration take away our rights.  Lindy West is an author who is famous for raising her voice and so it is fitting that I review her book, Shrill.  
The beginning of Shrill reminds me a little too much of Libba Bray's Beauty Queens - the humor almost seems to downplay the seriousness of her topics - until I read about her stand-up comedy.  Obviously, I did not know enough about her before starting the book!  As the book goes on, however, her issues become more and more serious and her writing reflects this.  The passage that resonated the most with me was this:
When you raise every woman to believe that we are insignificant, that we are broken, that we are sick, that the only cure is starvation and restraint and smallness; when you pit women against one another, keep us shackled by shame and hunger, obsesssing over our flaws rather than our power and potential; when you leverage all of that to sap our money and our time - that moves the rudder of the world.  It steers humanity toward conservatism and walls and the narrows interests of men, and it keeps us adrift in waters where women's safety and humanity are second to men's pleasure and convenience. (19)
Our society uses its beauty myth and its rape culture to make women want to be small.  It brainwashes us into believing we should take up as little space as possible and it is wonderful to read about a woman who is refusing to do that.

West has appeared on television to talk about rape culture and has written many feminist articles and for that has paid a heavy price: countless dehumanizations by the tweets of trolls.  It absolutely floors me how many people seem to think that the internet exists in a vacuum and how many hours they spend on hateful speech.  Words hurt, no matter if they are spoken out loud or if they are typed.  The fact that these words are made public makes it even worse.  When hateful, hurtful words are directed by the thousands in response to feminist statements they are beyond personal attacks but are an attack on womanhood, itself.  The people writing these tweets and emails are miserable people, but it would be much better if they would work on themselves, instead.

What I don't understand is why more feminist internet publications do not moderate their spaces.  They claim they don't want to lose readers, but personally, I seldom read blogs that aren't moderated.  I think that feminists should create their own spaces and should not worry about keeping the readership of misogynistic assholes.  Feminist spaces should be safe spaces as much as they can be in order to promote female empowerment.  Feminism should be about building women up instead of
maintaining the status quo or being complicit in holding them down.  For this reason, I do not read
Jezebel or other mainstream feminist sites that do not moderate - by not respecting women enough to
keep the space safe for them, I do not think that they are truly feminist.

Of course, at least the moderator will be seeing the harmful comments and I do not really know what the answer to that is. It seems like there could be some kind of computer algorithm that could automatically delete hateful words, but I suppose not.

 Actually, I do know what the answer is - for people who are threatened by others to look inward and for more people to read Lindy West's book, Shrill, so they can know that no matter how many people threaten or demean another, a person can still create positive change and be an empowering voice for others.  In this new era of conservatism, do not let Trump's administration or his supporters shackle or starve you - risk being called shrill and raise your voice this Saturday and every day.

Sunday, January 15, 2017

All Emotions Are Okay

It is only the women whose eyes have been washed clear with tears who get the broad vision that makes them little sisters to all the world.  ~ Dorothy Dix
In this age of social media, it is easy to get caught in an endless quest for validation.  I definitely get caught in wanting more likes, more comments, more approval from strangers I don't even know.  And yet, I am much better than I used to be!

It used to be that I did not know how to give myself validation and I thought all of my deep, intense feelings were horrible and wrong.  I thought I was "too much" - my feelings were a sign that I was mentally messed up.  Then I discovered blogs where people spoke of their intense feelings as gifts and Marcia Linehan's DBT, where she said that we could learn how to regulate our own emotions, gave me a lot of hope.  My therapist taught me how to ask for validation when I need it, instead of being melodramatic and passive aggressive in order to make someone give it to me.  I was thinking about all of this the other day when I driving in my car and feeling some intense emotions, because I was able to smile and tell myself that I am ok.

We are emotional creatures and all emotions are okay.  Happiness and joy are grand, but the lows of depression and the jumpiness of anxiety and anger are liveable too.  It is all okay, because they all go away; no emotion lasts forever, a concept that took me a long time to believe.  Happiness makes life worth living, but so does anger, as it can propel a people to make much needed changes. Anxiety can stimulate a person to plan for the future.  All emotions can be useful if a person can reassure themselves that through it all, they are okay.  And if you can't reassure yourself in the moment, it is totally fine to find someone you trust and ask for reassurance.  We all need it sometimes and right now, I think we need it more than ever.  My own emotions have been fluctuating from joy to boredom to a whole lot of anger the past few weeks and I think that's to be expected with Trump being president-elect.  I expect that I will experience a whole lot more anger when he is in office.  I will use this anger to act and I will continue to look for moments of joy, peace, and happiness.

Validate yourself and if you can't do it yourself yet, then listen to me: your emotions are fine, you are fine, and you have the right to feel whatever it is you feel.  You are not wrong or too much, but you can learn how to stop resisting and just be in the flow.  Come join me.

Sunday, January 1, 2017

Book Review of Beauty Queens by Libba Bray

          Beauty Queens by Libba Bray is a delightfully bad B movie of a book.  It is cheese-tactic.  It is not a book striving for believability but for outrageous laughter that slips in quite a few feminist lessons for the teen girl (or woman) reading it.  It is about teen beauty queen contestants who get stranded on a deserted island.  It is not Lord of the Flies, more like Princesses of the Butterflies.  I would not say this was the best book ever written or even that I want to read it again, but it was the perfect beach vacation novel.  It is definitely an intersectional feminist book, as Bray explores nearly every popular trope and what they need, from the Black funny sidekick to the lesbian dropout to even the transgender pop star.  The only problem was that Bray tried so hard to capture everything that I never got any true depth of character or plot, but then, I don't think that's what she was trying to do.  It's light reading, but the feminist girl power passages make it worth reading.

 My two favorite passages were about Mary Lou, who discovers it's okay to be a "wild girl," and discovers her good sexual power and Sosie, the deaf dancer.  I could relate to Sosie's struggle to always be the good kind of disabled person and her story was the one that actually choked me up a little.  Her story has actually made me think a lot about why I perform so much inner work in order to not be bitter about what I go through and I want you all to know that it is not so that I can be the acceptable, inspirational disabled person but so that I can be as happy and content as I can be.  I do not want to be miserable.  However, I am not a magical nonangry person and hopefully I will never be so happy that I cannot be a voice for those who cannot speak about the injustices facing people with disabilities.        
When the virus stole most of Sosie’s hearing, it also stole her right to complain. She figured out early that nobody liked an angry disabled person. It messed with their sympathy, with the story in their head about people overcoming adversity to be shining lights in the world. People wanted to think you were so okay with it all so they wouldn’t have to expend any energy feeling guilty. (Chapter 12)
I am not okay with the fact that it is a world that does not accommodate my differences that makes me disabled - not the other way around.  However, I am okay with myself the way that I am.

Mary Lou's epiphany that our bodies are not curses I found immensely satisfied and I thought applied to both young women:
It was not a curse to fully inhabit your body. You were only as cursed as you allowed yourself to be.  (Chapter Fifteen)
It is not a curse to be disabled, except for in the ways that society makes us feel cursed, which is why we must continually push back against what society says about us.  In a few weeks I am attending the Atlanta March for Women and Social Justice and after much thought, my sign is going to be about disability rights in some way - I am tired of intersectional feminist articles still shoving us to the side.  I'm leaning towards "eating disorders are a feminist cause" OR "Half of all people killed by the police are disabled." That's pretty shocking, isn't it?

This new year claim to fully inhabit your body, disavow curses, complain as much as you want and be as happy as possible.