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 14, 2019

Rebellious Wellness

God is love.  When we take up permanent residence in a life of love, we live in God and God lives in us.  (The Message Bible)
When I live in Love, all is well no matter how I feel. (me)
"I'm too tired to take my medicine" is the familiar refrain in my head.

It's the refrain that has tripped me up again and again.

I decide that I'm too tired to take my meds, that one night without won't hurt.  The pattern repeats until I am in some sort of crisis.

But not this time- something within me has changed.

I am a Wellness Rebel, Wellness Rebellious!  No longer will I listen to the evil voices inside that are trying to bring me down. "No, I MUST take it!" I counter the voice.

More and more I am countering the voice of self destructiveness and victimization:  

I WILL take my medication every day.
Yes, I WILL put my clothes away before bed.
Yes, I WILL make my bed after I get up.
Yes, I WILL clean the litter box before going on vacation.
Yes, I WILL get my tire pressure inspected when the light first comes on the dashboard.

These declarations may seem funny in their ordinary-ness but for me they are huge.  Depression and anxiety and intense moods have lied to me most of my life; they tried to convince me that I am not capable of taking care of myself well-that messiness and procrastination are an inherent part of me, just like I am a naturally depressed and anxious person.  

Except, I am not.

My life is the life I want now.  I got a new job that pays well but has low hours.  I go to fairs and sell my artwork.  I write and people want to read it-people pay attention to what I have to say. This actually has been happening for a while but with the new job, I feel like I am stepping onto a higher plane.  I am not willing to give up where I am.  No longer will I let shame trick me into not taking care of myself.  No longer will I let inner shame block my path in recovery.
Today I choose wellness.
I laughingly told my therapist last week that I'm a "wellness rebel-rebellious wellness!" She laughed along with me and said that she is proud. I am rebellious to all the ways depression tells me I can't and anxiety tells me I shouldn't.

I have been practicing wellness/DBT skills for years now and the effort is finally coming to fruition in a big way.  More and more I am finding that I can do more than I can't.  I know that I am not perfect and that pain comes to everyone eventually but I am at a point where I am ready to face the pain of life and ride the wave out until it crashes instead of running away into a worse situation.  It makes me feel powerful knowing that intense emotions don't have to pull me back. 
I can be intense and be well.
I can feel pain and be well.  
I recently read the book, "Radical Acceptance: Embracing Your Life With The Heart Of a Buddha" by Tara Brach and she was able to help me more fully understand that allowing myself to feel intense emotions won't kill me. When we feel intense emotions, it is natural to want to push them away, but that just makes the situation worse.  When we radically accept the painful emotion and let ourselves feel it, then we are no longer held captive  by its fear.  Her book taught me a way of being mindful that is pushing my confidence to a higher level.  

I listen to myself now and I say yes.

I feel like crying, so I cry.  

I feel overwhelmed, so I let myself experience the overwhelm.

I feel it, and while the problem may not be solved, the intensity of the emotion passes more quickly that I would have thought.  

I can even feel the resistance in my personality that wants to procrastinate, to victimize, to wallow, to diminish-I feel it and then it passes.   Letting myself feel more fully is freeing and healing.  I embrace my mental health challenge when she knocks at my door, I give her a hug, and then we walk hand in hand to face life and love together.

I embrace my mental health challenge and she turns into recovery.

You only look back to se where you come from but victory lies ahead. " ~ Howard Finster

Sunday, March 17, 2019

Discomfort Signals Growth

Newness is possible; the future does not have to replicate the past; the dream of God is alive. (Marcus Borg, Reading the Bible Again for the First Time)
I'm going through a lot of change and that is good.  It is also stressful.  I started worrying that my increase in anxiety was a signal that I would relapse into my illness.  I am so glad that I finally completed my big goal of publishing a book but trying to figure out how to not overdo it has been really hard.  Fortunately, we had another intentional peer support training at the peer center where I work and it prompted a few "aha" moments.

Turn From Fear Towards Possibility

Discomfort Means I'm Growing

"Aha!" I said. This additional anxiety is not so bad - it doesn't mean I'm relapsing; it means I'm growing! I need to not run away from my fear and discomfort but embrace the change instead. I feel comforted by the fact that I don't need to pathologize my emotions.  I decorated a page in my journal to remind me of the direction I want to keep going in my recovery.

donot worry - choose joy
My thoughts are like butterflies - they flit and move on!
Be mindful! Slow down!
Affirm my self worth
I am valuable!

Does this mean that I should strive to always be anxious so that I can always grow?
Ugh. NO
But it does mean that I can appreciate it, even if not enjoying it.


But it does make me feel victorious when I remind myself that every low point in my life has prepared me for something wonderful later.  I don't think God intentionally gives us suffering to punish or teach us but I do think that through mindfulness we can be open enough to see the creation of good even despite our suffering.

How to do this?

I remind myself that my thoughts are not real - a bad thought does not make me a bad person.  I can choose to give my thoughts power or I can choose to simply notice the thought and then go to something else.  Creativity, watching kid's movies, cuddling with my cat, and talking to my supporters are probably the biggest and best ways I distract myself from my intrusive thoughts.  I will also say that taking my medication is another key for me.  My anxiety is just too severe without it; it is much easier to simply notice my thoughts when I have some medical help.

This is all hard but so important.  I read an article the other day about the difference between a "fixed mindset" and a "growth mindset."  Someone with a fixed mindset has been told that they are talented and so they feel pressure to keep up with their accolades.  This means they feel like a fraud and don't take as many risks-they are even more prone to lie about how well they are doing in order to keep up their talented image.  However, people with a growth mindset have been praised for their hard work.  This means they enjoy a good challenge and taking risks.  They have less inner conflict because they don't see mistakes as failure in themselves but as another challenge to overcome.  They are more honest and content.

This is the type of person I want to be.

Growth isn't always fun but it is satisfying.  

Embrace your discomfort and take care of yourself. Validate your self-worth and grow.
(from the graphic novel version of A Wrinkle in Time-an excellent read.)

Saturday, March 2, 2019

You Can

"Whatever I have, wherever I am, I can make it through anything in the One who makes me who I am." (The Message Bible) 
"Why don't they ever tell us that we can recover? 
Why don't they ever tell that us that we can be well? 
My doctor and therapist never told me that my symptoms can go into remission and that I can be really well! 
It's true, because I am!"
These were the words said by a peer a few days ago in a conversation about dynamics with mental health clinicians. I am grateful to have a mental health professional team that I trust, but so many people don't.  If you are uninsured, you have to take what you can get and often these clinicians are over worked, under paid, and burnt out.  They don't have time to share hope anymore.

In case your doctor or nurse or case worker or therapist or social worker doesn't say it, I will:
You can recover from mental health challenges.
You can be well.
You can go into remission from mental health challenges and substance abuse and experience a life worth living.
Will there be more hard times too?  Of course.

Will you relapse or lapse?  Most likely, but each time you will come back even stronger and this will build up resiliency.  Life will get better more and more often.

Life is like a roller coaster - sometimes we are on the top of the hill and sometimes we are hurtling down in a stomach turning rocket.  The one constant in life is change and your roller coaster keeps on going.  At first, riding the roller coaster is very scary but after a while, you start to get used to it.  In fact, you eventually feel thrilled and excited by the twists and turns - it's a hard experience, but it's also an adventure.  You learn that you are strong and can keep on going.  You scream and laugh.  You swear that you will never take another risk again, but then discover that you are standing back in line to ride another adventure roller coaster ride.

My life has gotten better since I started thinking of my life as a grand adventure.  Sometimes it sucks, but there are always changes that surprise me and keep me going.  There are new lands to discover and people to greet.  There are new lessons learned and exciting foods to try.

I am well, although still disabled.  Most days I feel pretty good and I accomplish a lot.  This triumph comes from knowing myself and from taking care of myself.  I take my medication; I balance sleep and food; I create art.  I participate in many communities and I both receive and provide support to others.  The only reason why I still say that I am disabled is because my wellness comes with stipulations.  If I worked the hours of a full-time employee, I would probably not be as well as I am.  I have to take extra care of myself so that I will not be burnt out and exhausted-rather a lot like the social worker who no longer can provide hope! I believe there are many people who are not well in positions of power.

Being well requires a lot of hard work and a little bit of luck, but it can be done.

And...sometimes it can't.  Sometimes we can't sleep no matter how hard we try-our bodies hurt and from no fault of our own, we are not well.

It's true.


It's also true that we can be well.

If you are struggling right now, take comfort in the fact that life is change.  You will get better. You will fly up and then hurtle towards the ground in a free fall - you will laugh and scream.  You will learn and grow stronger.  If no one has told you this lately, then let it be me:

You can be well. 
You can recover. 
You can possess a life worth living. 
You can.

At a recent blog-to-book workshop with recovery authors Bicchiere Alta and Ashley Smith.  (left to right) 

Monday, February 25, 2019

Upcoming Events

Friday, March 1

 Saturday, March 2

Saturday, March 9 & Sunday, March 10
The mental health first aid workshop is free for members of Kirkwood United Church of Christ and $20 for non-members.

Saturday, February 2, 2019

Both Broken and Whole

"Life is funny like that, when the dust settles at the end of the day - and we’ve said all we can, we’ll realize every part of us, even the loving ones, were a little broken.” 
I like that you're broken Broken like me Maybe that makes me a fool I like that you're lonely Lonely like me I could be lonely with you
~ Broken by lovelytheband
The song, "broken," by lovelytheband is on the radio a lot and it's my current favorite pop song.  It's catchy, musically very similar to Pumped Up Kicks by Foster the People, which was the big song on the radio a few years ago.  Catchy melodies are nice, but the reason why I love this song so much is that its words speak to my soul.  It seems sort of funny to me that such a pop-y song can make me cry, but it sometimes does.

We are all broken and it is refreshing to hear a song that acknowledges that deep, spiritual wisdom in an accessible way.  Now when I say we are all broken I do not mean that we are bad or wrong.  I've heard the sentiment from many a troubled warmline caller, so let me be clear:

You are not broken because you have emotions or cry
You are not broken because you have a mental health challenge
You are not broken because you struggle with addiction
You are not broken because of the way you look
You are not broken because you take medication or go to therapy

You are perfect and whole just the way you are.

We are all human and humans feel complicated emotions.
Humans cry and struggle and face challenges.
Disability is natural.

Having a disability does not mean that one is broken or defective or bad or wrong; it simply means that one needs extra support in order to make money in our society. (Literally, this is how the American government defines disability-it's all about whether a person can keep a job.)  Money helps people live but it does not give a person moral value.  (Sorry, Trump.  #sorrynotsorry)

When I say we are all broken, I mean it in the way of Audre Lorde:
“I am not free while any woman is unfree, even when her shackles are very different from my own.”
I am broken because our world is broken.

It's another dialectic:

I am a whole person who can declare her goodness to the world - I don't have to let the world convince me that I am bad.

Like the beginning intro to the music video, we are all a little broken due to the trauma of living in this world.

Immigrants and their children separated, mass incarceration of people of color, gun violence in our schools, emotional abuse in mental hospitals, women giving birth while in shackles for nonviolent crimes, hate crimes, rape culture, genocide, dead zones in oceans - There is no way a person can listen to the news and not acknowledge that something in our world is very wrong.

It is our ego.

When we think of ourselves only, we are living in brokenness - when we think of ourselves as inseparable from all, then we are closer to wholeness.

Being disabled is not a deficiency but a world that does not want to recognize and include the talents and gifts of those with disabilities is.

Do you understand the difference?

I like the song, Broken, because it speaks to my experience.  I am dating and I am looking for someone that is willing to admit that they are sometimes lonely and who recognizes the brokenness of this world.  But I also want someone who values themselves and is confident.

One can be vulnerable and confident at the same time.  One can admit their brokenness and still value themselves.  In fact, maybe those states of beings help each other out-perfectionism often comes from a person feeling so completely inadequate that they feel the need to go too far in the other direction.

I am a broken person and my heart aches.

I am a whole person and my heart sings.

I am both and that is good.

(a journal entry from a few weeks ago) 

Saturday, January 12, 2019

Gratitude for 2018 - Excitement for 2019

A devout life does bring wealth, but it's the rich simplicity of being yourself before God. ~ The Message Bible
2018 was my year for healing and for accomplishing my goals - I completed my book challenge by reading thirty books in a year!

My Favorites:

Graphic Novels/Comics:

Can't We Talk About Something More Pleasant? by Roz Chast

Mary Shelley's Frankenstein: A Graphic Novel adapted by Pete Katz

Ms. Marvel Vol. 7: Damage Per Second

Ms. Marvel Vol. 8: Mecca

Supergirl: Being Super by Mariko Tamaki

Young Adult:

The Absolutely True Diary of a Part Time Indian by Sherman Alexie

Self Help:

The Posttraumatic Growth Workbook: Coming through Trauma Wiser, Stronger, and More Resilient by Richard G Tedeschi

You Are a Badass: How to Stop Doubting Your Greatness and Start Living an Awesome Life by Jen Sincero


Hope in the Dark: Untold Histories, Wild Possibilities by Rebecca Solnit

More Than Two: A Practical Guide to Polyamory by Franklin Veaux

Women Who Run with Wolves: Myths and Stories of the Wild Woman Archetype by Clarissa Pinkola  Estes

The Complete Poetry of Anne Sexton

At the end of the year, I self-published my own book!

Hope Is Real: I Have A Purpose.  

You can now read the journey of my recovery after my last hospitalization, available on Amazon as a paperback or for your kindle.

In between, I started my own online mental health newsletter and I started my own business:

Hope Is Real Mental Health LLC

My business is the vehicle for my mental health presentations, art workshops, books, and art.

I led an LGBT Cultural Competency Workshop at the GMHCN St. Simons Conference to rave reviews.

I performed with the R2ISE Theater at Emory - I wrote a piece called, "The Gift of Psychosis."

I led a few mental health workshops for my old youth group with lots of enthusiastic participation.

I sold some art.

 I helped my church qualify for the United Church of Christ mental health designation (Mental Health  Hope and Wellness).
Holy Shit!  I did a lot!!  
lol. That's not even everything!
Last year was for completing goals and new beginnings-this year is to see those new beginnings grow and blossom!  Out of my trauma grew many redemptions fed by the waters of hope, love, and support.

When I reflect on all I accomplished last year, I am filled with gratitude.  Surely, I could not have completed any part of it without the help and support from my family, my therapist, my peers, my friends, my church.  I would say, "my God," except that I feel like that name puts human limits on a force that is so much bigger than what we can comprehend.

I will leave this post with a gratitude poem I wrote last year:

Thank you for air conditioning.
Thank you for water.
Thank you for the ability to be happy with myself.
Thank you for coffee, half and half, and Nutella brownies.
Thank you for all the foods society says is “bad” and “guilty”-
We both know that there are more serious things to feel guilty about.
Thank you for laughing with me over the ridiculous seriousness
That people attach to things that could give a lot of joy.

May I always take joy in the simple things of life.
May I always be grateful to be myself, 
While never forgetting that I am not actually a single person,
But just a part of this astounding universe.

May I renounce my female pronouns and embrace they-
We are all a “one” and a “they” all at once -
Many parts make a whole.

God is everywhere, filling in the cracks.
There is gold in between my joints!
May my movements shine with joy-
I am the Georgia humidity and 

God is the air conditioning unit with no power bill.

Sunday, December 9, 2018

Hashtags as Agents of Social Change

I post on Instagram almost every day to promote this blog, so of course, I experiment with hashtags.  Common hashtags I  use: #alifeworthliving #focusonthepositive #focusonthegood #bethechange #mindfulness #gratitude #gratefuleveryday #artheals #mentalhealth #mentalhealthrecovery #recovery

A lot of my posts are about recovery from mental illnesss/mental health challenges, and since I am privileged (*rolls eyes*) with so many of them, I will often times just go down a list of my disorders.  When doing this, I began to pay attention to how many other people use those same hashtags and I found it interesting:

Mental Health Recovery Hashtags by Instagram Popularity

#edrecovery 3,453,807
#edwarrior 1,361,899

#depressionrecovery 182,629
#depressionwarrior 24,095

#ptsdrecovery 167,424
#ptsdwarrior 28,879

#anxietyrecovery 131,513
#anxietywarrior 89,209

#bpdrecovery 79,089
#bpdwarrior 8,824

#ocdrecovery 15,999
#ocdwarrior 1,106

#bipolarrecovery 5,559
#bipolarwarrior 5,198

#schizophreniarecovery 362 
#schizophreniawarrior 1

#schizoaffectiverecovery 21
#schizoaffectivewarrior 0

Chronic illness is sort of its own category since it is the one where warrior is more popular.
#chronicillnesssrecovery 644
#chronicillnesswarrior 126,880

I think the results are fascinating. According to instagram, the most popular recovery hashtags are "#edrecovery" and "#edwarrior."  I have found that in the regular world, eating disorders are very rarely talked about, unless about a celebrity or model.  For the most part, they are seldom believed.  A   person doesn't have binge eating disorder - they are "uncontrolled;" a person doesn't have anorexia - they are "perfectionistic," "particular," etc. In our toxic culture, there is no such thing as too thin.

So why are those hashtags so popular?

1. Pretty food pictures!  A lot of eating disorder recovery (edrecovery) is naturally centered around food and food pictures are attractive.  There is a potential trap though - it can be easy to get caught up in the healthy eating world and substitute an eating disorder with an extreme "healthy" diet, with a millions wide audience cheering on.

2. Teenage demographics.  In my experience, the majority of people who get help for their eating disorders are teenage girls or young adults with supportive parents. Who uses instagram the most? Teenagers and young adults.  There is a potential trap though-in the eating disorder world, anorexics are popular and revered-to be so thin that one is sick means to have envied powers of control.  In fact,  there is a super dangerous online world where anorexia is promoted.  I am not going to say its name because of fear that my readers will go looking it up.  Don't. I looked it up once after reading a news article about it and I instantly regretted it.  I cried hard seeing an online world of pure evil.

In the end, I suspect there are so many eating disorder pictures because in the teenage girl world, anorexia is considered an  achievement and almost cool.  I don't know if I would have said that phrase out when I was a teen, but it surely was what I thought. The positive in the large ED recovery world is the feeling of a recovery sisterhood. I find it in a lot in Borderline Personality Disorder (BPD) posts too, as it is another disorder often given to young women.  I like that we cheer each other on the pathway to a better life.  There is a community of us.

You know what is not cool? Schizophrenia and schizoaffective disorder.  It makes me sad that so little is said about these diagnoses and the things that are are usually stigmatizing.  Schizophrenia does not innately make a person more dangerous. The white male mass shooters are not all "schizo," but are examples of toxic masculinity.  I remember when I was first diagnosed with schizoaffective-I had never heard the term before and I felt weird and alone.  Because being in a different reality can seem "bizarre," people with schizophrenia are often made fun of and these hashtags confirm their low status.

It is not true.

I have many friends with schizophrenia and schizoaffective disorder who are doing well.  We probably all felt stuck at some time, but in time, we became unstuck.  I have schizoaffective disorder, bipolar type, and I am a success anyway.  Seeing the unpopularity of the schizophrenic and schizoaffective hashtags makes me want to use them more often. When creating a positive image of people with schizophrenia, I am using hashtags as an agent for social change.

I'm still going to post eating disorder hashtags. Pretty food pictures and selfies are fun! But I am also going to post about the less popular mental health challenges too.  I want the conversation of recovery to represent all mental health challenges because we all can recover.  We can recover our identities, our goals, our enjoyment, our purpose as people, our place in society.  I will proclaim success with every mental health hashtag I can think of because my message of hope's reality is available to everyone, no matter what the stereotypes say.  But do not get caught up in the labels - in the end, these are the hashtags that I prefer to guide my life: #alifeworthliving #focusonthepositive #focusonthegood #bethechange #mindfulness #gratitude #gratefuleveryday #artheals #mentalhealth #mentalhealthrecovery #recovery.

My favorite hashtag: #foodporn !