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.

Saturday, February 28, 2009

Embroider Me II




My second bag looks pretty cool, I think, though I need to work on getting my stitches straighter. The picture is one I took of a cat I used to have named Cinnamon, climbing the Christmas tree. I printed the picture on this kind of cotton fabric that can be put though the printer. There is a pewter angel ornament sewn above. It's on the same kind of fabric that the first one was on-100% cotton-except in brown. I used a button for the white and gold ornament.





Friday, February 27, 2009

What You Need to Know about GLBTQI Mental Health




Many queer folk have some kind of serious mental illness and need help. Unfortunately, many times these people do not get the help they need, because they are afraid to ask for it or because they do not know if anyone will listen to them without judging. I know this from personal experience.

I am a bisexual, who is more interested in women. In fact, it is only recently that I have decided to embrace my bisexuality and not claim to be a lesbian.

Proposition 8 really messed me up.
I already had issues with feeling less than human, what with my school insurance hardly being willing to pay for my needs, so when the people of California decided that two people who love each other and who also simply happen to be of the same sex should be denied the right to marry, my humanity suffered. Fortunately, by this time in my recovery, I had learned enough coping skills, so that I did not relapse into my illness, but in 2005 that was not the case.

In February 2005, my best friend informed me that she was engaged. I felt incredibly good for her, but also incredibly jealous and sad for me. I was the one who had always dreamed of getting married in a church with the white dress and I had to face the fact that that might never happen.

I was told on a Monday and by Friday I was in the hospital being treated for an eating disorder for the first time. I can barely remember what happened in that between Monday and Friday-I stopped eating completely and pretty much stopped drinking water too. I had no memory-I was a zombie.

Fortunately, I was also attending SkyLand Trail-a wonderful recovery center in Atlanta-at the time and when I told them that I had called a suicide hotline the night before, it was decided that I needed to go to the hospital and I agreed.


The site below has links to all kinds of GLBTQI mental health resources and mental health fact sheets, including a reference guide to the Association of Gay and Lesbian Psychiatrists- many resources offered including a directory of therapists who are gay and lesbian affirmative.

This is so important, for as queer folk become more visible and political, they will need more resources to help them recover. We are all children of God.

Thursday, February 26, 2009

The Highly Sensitive Person

Recovery is all about knowing and honoring your boundaries. This can be very difficult and can involve sacrifice, but it is worth it. Today I did not attend the candlelight vigil for eating disorder awareness week. I really wanted to, because I want to show my support and because I think it is important, but because of my sensitive nature, I decided not to go.

I’m doing really well with my eating disorder-I cook, I eat three meals a day, I don’t even feel incredibly guilty most of the time, which is great, but I do seem to get triggered pretty easily. Like in that instance I wrote about a week ago-all I did was see a woman getting weighed and I was so jealous! My counseling is at the same place as where I was hospitalized and that seems to get to me a little bit too lately. It’s also where the vigil was going to be.

I hope next year I will be in an even better place in my recovery.

Of course, it is reasonable that I would be sensitive to these things, but lately I have come to the realization that I more sensitive than most and that that is okay. In fact, I have learned that there is a relatively new classification called “the highly sensitive person.” I found this on the support group site www.dailystrength.org to which I am a regular and boy, has it been liberating knowing this. Here are some things about highly sensitive people from Elaine Aron, who has written four books on the subject:

• This trait is normal--it is inherited by 15 to 20% of the population, and indeed the same percentage seems to be present in all higher animals.
• Being an HSP means your nervous system is more sensitive to subtleties. Your sight, hearing, and sense of smell are not necessarily keener (although they may be). But your brain processes information and reflects on it more deeply.
• Being an HSP also means, necessarily, that you are more easily overstimulated, stressed out, overwhelmed.
• This trait is not something new I discovered--it has been mislabeled as shyness (not an inherited trait), introversion (30% of HSPs are actually extraverts), inhibitedness, fearfulness, and the like. HSPs can be these, but none of these are the fundamental trait they have inherited.
• The reason for these negative misnomers and general lack of research on the subject is that in this culture being tough and outgoing is the preferred or ideal personality--not high sensitivity. (Therefore in the past the research focus has been on sensitivity's potential negative impact on sociability and boldness, not the phenomenon itself or its purpose.) This cultural bias affects HSPs as much as their trait affects them, as I am sure you realize. Even those who loved you probably told you, "don't be so sensitive," making you feel abnormal when in fact you could do nothing about it and it is not abnormal at all.

Her website at www.hsperson.com has a lot of useful information and a quiz to help determine if you might be a person who is highly sensitive.

I remember some adults tried to convince that my sensitivity was a good thing, but I didn’t believe them at the time-I cried all the time! And while it is true that I became depressed at a young age, I have been extremely sensitive since even before the depression. For example, one of my Aunt Janie’s favorite stories is about how when I was a baby, I cried when she barely looked at me. Knowing that there are other people who struggle with this type of personality is liberating. It means that I can feel justified in being easier with myself and it means that this sensitivity is a part of my personality and not part of a disorder. That’s the best benefit that I see so far, because since I take medications for mood swings and yet I am still so sensitive, I have always thought that they weren’t working well enough, but now I know that it’s because it’s part of my personality. Medications are for the disorder, not one's  personality.

In fact, I feel a little pride now about my sensitivity-it means that I am really caring, spiritual, and insightful. Besides, taking care of oneself is the best way to honor those whose battle with their eating disorder ended prematurely.

The NAMI Website: Check It Out!!!

The NAMI website really has everything you need to be a great advocate! I have the link on this site that will take you to its main page and from there you can find the legislators in your state and how to contact them. It also has discussion groups and the latest news on mental health reform. I got these numbers from the Gwinnett Nami site, which you can get to from the main website. These are the representatives in GA that help with NAMI. Give 'em a call! You can also find their addresses on the site.

House Appropriations – Human Resources Subcommittee

Representative District Phone NAMI Affiliate/Counties

Mark Butler 18 404-463-2247 Statesboro
Vice Chair

Jeff May 111 404-656-5116 Walton County Secretary

Earl Carter 159 404-656-0213 NAMI Savannah

Keith Heard 114 404-656-0220 NAMI Athens

Jerry Keen 179 404-656-5052 NAMI Golden Isles

Judy Manning 32 404-656-7868 NAMI Cobb,

Bobby Reese 98 404-656-0254 NAMI Gwinnett

Len Walker 107 404-656-5139 NAMI Gwinnett

Stan Watson 91 404-656-0220 NAMI Dekalb, McDonough Support Group



Senate Appropriations

Senator District Phone NAMI Affiliate/Counties

Jack Hill 4 404-656-5038 NAMI Statesboro, All Chairman

Renee Unterman 45 404-463-1368 NAMI Gwinnett Human Development Vice Chair

Wednesday, February 25, 2009

Our Weakest Links

"A group is only as strong as its weakest link." ~ Anonymous

I have heard the above statement many times and like many anonymous sayings that are now considered trite, it still holds true. "Knowledge is power"is another such statement and my personal favorite.

It's time to stop speaking in vagueries-the "group" I'm thinking of is the United States and "its weakest link" are those with mental illness. Everyone with mental illness is considered weak in this country, for everyone has the potential to cost taxpayers tons, as there is a high percentage of mentally ill in state hospitals and jails. Many are homeless.

There are many others who have mental illness and who lead successful lives (in whatever way you choose to define success), but no matter what way a person in this country who has mental illness stands in this country's social ladder, they are still considered one of this nation's "weakest links."

I received an email from NAMI today outlining several victories in at least Georgia's government:

"Mark Butler and the committee, which oversees the health and human services budget, met yesterday afternoon to make changes to the governor's '09 supplemental budget. A few line items were partially restored:

1. $ 25,000 was restored to suicide prevention
2. $ 91,000 was restored for adults with mental illness for the Georgia Crisis and Access Line
3.$ 2.4 million was restored to the cut for non-medical adult mental health services

The positives:
- Outcome of these changes will provide an opportunity to restore these monies in the 2010 budget as well."

But this is not enough! Read on:

"Clearly, we are disappointed that these cuts were so limited in scope. There was no restoration of money for children's mental health services, addiction services, and supported employment."

Now I do not support a big government-type philosophy, but I do support using the money we already are going to spend for the people that need it the most. Surely children and teens with mental illness need this money.

Here is an analogy about insurance companies that I think also applies to government spending: I could have insurance that pays for my medications, so that I can afford to take them, so that I can get a degree in music therapy, so that I go visit people in a state hospital. I'll make money and pay taxes. Sure, my medications are expensive, but wouldn't it be a lot more expensive to pay for all of my living expenses, as I stay in a state hosital that is responsible not only for my medications, but for my clothes and food and music therapists?

"Now is the time to push the senate hard to make additional dollars available in the 2009 budget for mental health and addictive services."

Tomorrow I will post on how to contact your government officials on these issues.

Tuesday, February 24, 2009

Tickle the Fickle Pickle!

Every other Monday I attend a writing group at Charis bookstore in Atlanta and we always begin the session by doing a quick writing exercise. A couple of weeks ago, we had to write a passage using certain words and this is what I came up with. It is a true story that I will make into a longer story one day. The words were radio, essential, pickle, orange scarf, motorcycle, freedom, lemon, celestial, greedy, man, dragon, and green. If you ever have the time, use those words to make up your own story-I'd love to see the result!
____________________________________________
It is essential when you are dealing with the man to remember: tickle the fickle pickle.

My first year at Berry college, I served the greedy student mouths at the campus grill. These mouths, which claimed to hunger for freedom, when it came to satisfying this so-called obsession with the unknown were like the green cook who used lemon instead of a hot pepper for spice, who chose a motor home instead of a motorcycle.

Thus, it became my obsession to give them a taste of something different, something bizarre,-when they wanted a pickle on their hamburger, I wrote, “tickle your fickle pickle” and made a big deal out of it. When they wanted cheese, I bowed and told them to spread the word-to say “Amen” to cheese!

It was my way of showing the man that he could not squelch my creativity; or at least not my mania. There was a radio in my head that wouldn’t stop playing celestial sounds from the deep. I can still hear it playing every now and then whispering, “Take off your orange scarf and use it to muffle the voice of the patriarchal dragon.

Monday, February 23, 2009

New Job Celebratory Recipes

After my job interview Friday, I returned home to a wonderful dinner. It was a Greek-influenced sundried tomato chicken slow cooker dish that I made for the first time that turned out great!
Here's the recipe:

Sundried-Tomato Chicken
(adapted from the book, "FIx-It and Forget-It Lightly" by Phyllis Pellman Good)

Ingredients:
1TB Olive Oil
3lbs Boneless, Skinless Chicken Breasts, cut into 8 pieces
2 Garlic Cloves, minced
1/2 Cup White Wine
1 1/2 Cups Far-Free, Low-Sodium Chicken Stock
1 tsp. dried basil
1/2 Cup Chopped, Sun-dried Tomatoes
1/4 Cup Onion
1/2 Cup Feta Cheese

1. Heat oil in skillet. Add several pieces of chicken at a time, but make sure not to crowd the skillet so the chicken can brown evenly.

2. Transfer chicken to slow cooker as it finishes browning

3. Add garlic, wine, chicken stock, and basil to skillet. Bring to a boil. Scrape up any bits from the bottom of the pan.

4. Pour over chicken.

5. Put onions into pan and sautee for a couple of minutes.

6. Pour onions and then scatter the feta cheese and tomatoes over the chicken.

7. Cover. Cook on low 4-6 hours.

I added the onions and the cheese, which added a lot of great flavor. Then make a celebratory drink with the leftover wine.

Corey's Black Cherry& White Wine Spritzer

Ingredients:
White Wine
Black Cherry Fresca
Citrus Juice from a citrus fruit can medley

Pour equal amounts (1/3 of glass) of each ingredient in a glass and enjoy!

Sunday, February 22, 2009

Feb. 22-28, Eating Disorders Awareness Week

It's eating disorders awareness week, so I'm reposting my list of eating disorder events and groups in Atlanta.

Sunday, Feb. 22 – Merrick’s Walk – Noon- 5K Run/Walk-
Location: Galloway School
- Honors all who have died and all who still struggle with an eating disorder
- For more info: www. edin-ga.org

Events at Ridgeview Institute – All Free
Monday, Feb. 23 – F.E.D. Support Group - 6-7:30p
(Friends and Family of People with Eating Disorders)
- Location: Young Adult Unit, Cottage E-East, Room 4
- “F.E.D. group is an open community support group which provides education, support and strategies for coping with eating disorders in the home or within a social support network and offers guidance through difficult decision making.”
It is held every Monday, usually until 7p.
- “Alumni and their families will join to share their stories of strength and hope, and be available to answer questions.” I’ll be there!

Wednesday, Feb. 25 – A.N.A.D. Support Group – 6-7p
(Anorexia Nervosa and Associated Disorders)
- Location: Professional Building North Auditorium 1-2- Meets every Wednesday

Thursday, Feb. 26 – Candlelight Vigil – 6-8p
- Candles will be provided
- Includes live music, speakers and a candle lighting ceremony

Saturday, Feb. 28 – E.D.A. Support Group – 10-11a(Eating Disorders Anonymous)
- Location: Professional Building North Room 6- Meets every Saturday

Year-round-
Be aware of eating disorders and their prevention every day by talking about them seriously. Teach our youth and ourselves that being healthy is about eating all kinds of foods in moderation and about getting a moderate amount of exercise, rather than about being a certain size. Remember that the sacred resides in all of us and advocate for better role models, advertising, and quality of life for everybody.

Saturday, February 21, 2009

Condolences

Yesterday's joy is now tempered after the email I received today informing me that Senator Renee S. Unterman's son, Zak, committed suicide. This is so sad.

Senator Unterman was the first woman ever elected into Senate leadership and her causes include conservation, and rights for the elderly and for those living with mental illness. She also has a daughter named Rachel.

I feel so strongly for her-I, myself, have had two friends kill themselves and it is always a tragedy. Having had friends do this and having thought of it, myself, I do have some things to say on the subject.

Often, the first thing that people like to say about those who have committed suicide is that they were selfish-that they did not care enough about the people who love them. And that might be the case if the person was sane. What is hard to remember, but is so true, is that this person was sick-just like a person with a medical illness, this person was sick. They could not think rationally enough to remember or believe that they are loved or that life will get better.

It is okay to be angry at them and at your higher power! These feelings are natural. When my friends, Dan and Bryce, killed themselves-in the same weekend, no less!-I was so angry. I felt betrayed, because we all attended the same recovery program and we were supposed to help each other, but no one knew just how depressed those two young men were.

I was very angry with them, with the recovery program, and with God. I remember one afternoon I was looking over the bulletin before the service and once I saw the confession, I had to leave. There was nothing widely different in it from any other week, but I suddenly felt betrayed. Church was too structured, too contrite, for me in my desperate state. I remember telling my minister right before I left church that day that I had nothing to confess-that it was God who was at fault. Fortunately, my minister understood and she told me to take my time and to only attend what I could stand. And to be gentle with myself.

I hope people are going to be gentle with Senator Unterman and her daughter. I hope that they will continue to fight for the rights of those who have mental illness and I hope that they will not become bitter. I cannot imagine what it is like to lose a child to mental illness, but I have lost some friends, and I know that if one can keep living day to day, then one will eventually rediscover the hope of a better tomorrow.
To Senator Unterman and Rachel-I pray for your peace, but I know that that will be a long time coming.

*If you or someone you know is considering suicide, please either call 911 or 1-800-SUICIDE.

Friday, February 20, 2009

So Happy! I have a job!


Well, I was going to do a clever post about Cosmo, but that's for another day... I'm too excited about my own current events right now! I have a job! It's a full-time job with health benefits! I'm so excited I want to go dancing and I want to paint and sing and laugh really loud all at once!

I'll be working at Discovery Mall, which is just down the road, at an Outlet Sears selling clothes. $8.50 an hour! Full-time! With benefits!

If I do really well, then I could move up to appliances, which would be on commission and it all would add up to approximately 10-12 dollars an hour!

I get to work during the day and I'll still be able to go/play at church and attend NAMI. Really, really happy! Talking about NAMI-I got a message from one of the members about upcoming elections for board members and she said to call if I wanted to run and I'm thinking maybe?... Elections aren't until the first week of April, so I've got some time to think about it. I'd like for there to be more creativity in the group and for us to be more visual. Then again, I haven't been a member that long, so maybe I should wait and make sure that I settle into this job well first.

This issue does have a feminist slant to it, actually. My boss is a young (I think she's in her thirties) African-American woman. Score! She seems really nice and to have a good business-sense, but the best part of all is that because of this I don't feel as nervous about working in retail as I did previously. The Sears I'm working is relatively new to having clothes and the other main worker in that section is also a woman. This is very important to me, as I had two male customers that would sometimes come to JCPenney's and sexually harass me when I worked there and I didn't exactly know how to handle it. I did my best to keep things strictly business, but I always felt like my supervisor wouldn't quite understand my concerns about them, for my supervisor was a man who made me extremely nervous. He could be quite rude and condescending and even though he's in his fifties and has a severe hunched back, I would catch him flirting with the female customers in a way that sometimes seemed a bit odd to me. I hated working with him around me.

One thing you need to understand about me-it is not hard to make me nervous. I have schizoaffective disorder and people with this disorder get stressed out incredibly easily AND when they do, the stress manifests itself in ways that are similar to schizophrenia-hallucinations, delusions, paranoia, etc. AND obsessive compulsive behavior, hence the eating disorder. I, of course, take medication and I have learned a lot of coping skills, but it sucks all the same.

Transitions are hard and it took me a little while for my emotions to begin to normalize after returning home and giving up my preconceived notions of what I should be doing. I'm still sad, but I'm much calmer now. I am hopeful. I don't have to do this job forever, but it seems like a job with a fair bit of security, which I need right now. I feel safer and with guaranteed benefits and full-time hours, much more valued too.

I needed this. Safety. Security. Female empowerment. Last year was hard, but things are evening out. Godde of the Universe, thank you,- for my soul is happy!

Thursday, February 19, 2009

How can I claim to be a radical feminist and yet have an eating disorder?


I am hesitant to write about this, but I feel I must, so here goes:

A couple of weeks ago, I was standing in the hall near my therapist’s office writing out her check and I see her out of the corner of my eye help her next client step onto a scale. All at once, I am consumed with envy! And then shame. How can I claim to be a radical feminist and yet want to be sick? And it’s true. The woman on the scale was crying and I was and am still insanely jealous.

My therapist last week also asked me why I wanted to be sick. That evening, right before my writing group, as I was convincing myself to eat a turkey and cheese sub at Savage Pizza, I wrote out my thoughts on the pad of paper that I carry with me wherever I go. This is what I wrote:

“I feel the need to accomplish something great and that is how I, a radical feminist, can fall victim to an eating disorder-somehow-and I do credit society with this-I have internalized the message that to be superskinny-to be thin to the point of death-is a great and wonderful accomplishment. And I fully blame society for this. When “The biggest loser is a big hit on TV, when Jessica Simpson is labeled fat, when Jessica Alba is lauded for working out so hard to get back to her pre-pregnant weight that she cries, when subsisting on a liquid diet that includes maple syrup and cayenne pepper is deemed a healthy and acceptable way to lose weight (Beyonce), then I have every right to be angry and to blame society for murdering the souls and bodies of people in this land. I grew up watching and idolizing TV and by, I believe, simply growing up in this country with the added bonus of having the mental illness called schizoaffective disorder wired into my brain, it is no wonder that I struggle with an eating disorder. In fact, I believe it is much more miraculous to be doing as well as I am!”

Perhaps I should have said, “media,” instead of society, but I’m not going to change a single word of what I wrote in that moment. Of course, there is more to it than the media. Eating disorders are strongly linked with obsessive compulsive disorder and with family relationships, but I sometimes wonder how my OCD would manifest itself if it wasn’t spent obsessing about food and weight and looks.

2008 was a rough year-I feel like a victim of a war between the gods struggling to cope with the aftermath. I relapsed in my eating disorder and had to be hospitalized; I moved in with a friend, only to realize that she too was unstable and so lived in my car for two weeks; I was sexually harassed by a psychiatrist and by several customers at the store where I worked; all leading me to the conclusion that I could not, at least for now, finish my education to fulfill my dream job of being a music therapist, but must instead leave the negativity that seems to reside in the lovely little town of Milledgeville and move back home.

But I can write and embroider and college and play piano and attend writing groups and get involved with NAMI (the National Alliance on Mental Illness-America’s largest grassroots mental illness advocacy group). And be honest!-which is what radical feminism to me is all about! I no longer care about much about discussing fancy theories, but in telling my truth. My personal is very political! Georgia’s public mental health care sucks and that’s putting it nicely! The insurance from the college I just came from, Georgia College and State University, would not pay for my reviving had I tried to commit suicide! And I tell you, when I first read that statement in my insurance policy, I finally knew what it felt to feel inhuman-that according to law, a person with mental illness (for those who commit suicide do suffer from an illness) is better off dead. As I write this, I feel fury gather in my veins, and I tell you feminists-it is time you include the women and men who live with mental illness-that skinny woman crying on the scale may be your embarrassment, but she is still a woman!

(BTW, this post was featured on the great blog by Renee, http://womanistmusings.blogspot.com/)

Tuesday, February 17, 2009

Embroider Me

Right now, like many other people right now, I do not have a paying job. Sometimes it’s a tough blow to my self-esteem, though the worst part is that my time is not structured enough. Sure, I could set my alarm clock and get used to a set schedule, which would probably be a wonderful thing, but making me follow a schedule is incredibly hard and I just can’t seem to do it. Though if I’m honest, I guess it’s because I don’t really want to-I mean, I don’t like waking up at noon, but I also don’t like feeling groggy all day, which is what usually happens when I set my alarm.

Fortunately, I don’t need a paying gig to make me feel useful and I don’t need money to define me. Fortunately, I am very creative.

My latest creative venture is embroidery and I love it! Here is my first attempt:

The picture is sewn on a green, soft, 100% cotton canvas tote and I’m now working on tote #2. I’ve always wanted a job as an artist, although for most of my life, the art was music. I’m thinking that perhaps one day I can make my bags into at least a side job. I’ve even thought of my company name – “Embroider Me.” Cute, huh?

Saturday, February 14, 2009

Two Recovery Poems

What Do I Want?

Do I want to lose or want to win?
If I should lose the weight,
Will I win my own self-worth?
If I should lose my body
Will I regain my soul?

No!-my soul is a part of my body
And my body is a temple.
I must take care of it
Or I will not live.

And what is living?
Is it a skeleton zombie
OR
Is it curves of strength and wisdom?

Perhaps to lose is to win
Maybe it’s more like surrender.
If I give up what I want,
Then perhaps I will get what I need.


(I wrote this poem the last time I was in the hospital using only magnetic poetry.)

Life's Rhythm

Rhythm in us
Ecstatic voice
Sing red and orange
Our time is full.

When you slather
Sea, dirt, and air
Leave your lounge
Wait for this storm.

Imagine popsicles
Orange and red
Leave lunch
Taste life!

Friday, February 13, 2009

Burned Woman's Family Asks, "WHY?!" (from AJC.com)

Gold Pak, husband of the victim and father of the suspect, is questioning why Georgia Regional Hospital in Decatur had released his daughter, whom they believed was not ready to leave the facility after a seven-week stay.
“My daughter should stay in regional hospital a couple more months, but they say ‘that’s OK, take her home,’” said Gold Pak, adding with a mournful wail “nooo… that’s not right!”
When Gold Pak and his adult son went to pick up his daughter Jan. 29, he said they pleaded with the hospital staff to keep her longer. Yong Pak had refused to sign the discharge form and told a nurse she wouldn’t take her medication, the family said. The hospital sent her home anyway.

Dena Smith, spokeswoman for state Department of Human Resource, said she could not confirm whether the hospital treated Yong Pak due to federal patient privacy laws, but she warned against dismissing a patient’s personal responsibility for managing their mental illness.
“I’m sure there is a lot of confusion and if someone’s loved one has been hurt or killed, then people are trying to make sense of that,” Smith said. “But not at the expense of the rights of people who have mental illness. Personal responsibility of managing mental illness should definitely be brought into consideration. It’s only fair to people who every day manage and live in the community with mental illness."

WTF!!! Personal responsibility, my ass!!! It was the hospital’s responsibility to keep a person who is unstable in the hospital! NO EXCUSES!!! She was refusing her medication, because she was not in her right mind. Dena Smith, you should be in jail, not Na Yong Pak!

Since 2007, Georgia Regional Hospital/Atlanta has been a primary target of a federal investigation into problems at the state-run mental hospitals.

A report by the U.S. Justice Department last year called conditions at the Panthersville Road facility “critically deficient.” Besides patient safety problems — and preventable deaths — Georgia Regional also was cited by federal investigators for poor planning for patient care after hospital discharge. Last month, the state of Georgia reached an agreement with the federal government on a five-year plan to make dramatic improvements at Georgia Regional and its six other psychiatric hospitals.

NAMI-The Time for Cute Signs is Over!!!

Yesterday, I went to the "Have a Heart, Save a Mind Rally & Press Conference" at the GA capitol and unfortunately, it was quite disappointing. Did we get in the news? No. Did anyone really pay attention? No. We were a quiet, small gathering on the steps of the capitol-a nice speech was given, as were some awards, and that was about it. We had some small, cute signs in the shape of hearts that read, "Have a heart, Save a mind!" I don't think it worked.

The reasons why were staring us right in the face, as across the street a group, who did not even have an official permit, promoting the rights of poor people were able to earn a spot on the nightly news. They were enthusiastic. They were loud. They had signs that clearly stated their purpose. "Have a heart, save a mind" is cute and catchy, but if no one besides a select few know what it means, then it is useless, whereas a sign reading "Human rights for ALL" is easily understood by anyone who can read.

Next year, I expect something different! I expect more involvement from consumers and more creativity! Spend some time on awards, but spend more time being heard, please. What if there had been big signs with quotes from the recent articles about how America, and GA specifically, is failing its constituents who have mental illness? What if our slogan had not been cute, but shocking? Perhaps, "Obama, Don't Forget Us!" I mean, that's the sentiment that I was hearing from the people in the crowd! What if we ended with a skit or spoken word by consumers? Look for those things next year, because I am now a member of NAMI (National Alliance on Mental Illness) and I am full of creative ideas that need to be implemented!

Yesterday, there was an article in the Atlanta Journal Cconstitution about a woman who was tragically released from a mental hospital too soon. Her parents begged the hospital to keep her in, but they refused. This woman, who was by no means stable enough to be let out, was released anyway and ended up killing her mother. Now she is in jail. This could have been avoided and it should be the hospital director in jail, not the woman, for if the hospital had done their job, then she would not have killed her mother.

When it comes to advocacy and mental illness, the time for cute signs is over.

NAMI, Mommy


"I'm one of the class clowns here at NAMI," she laughingly said to me. "NAMI, mommy, I say, because come here and NAMI will take care of you."


This last Tuesday was my second time at NAMI and these words were spoken by one of the group leaders of the consumers support group and I can now say with certainty that I will be a regular member. At a NAMI meeting, there are support groups for consumers and for family members. We talk about coping skills and support, which I needed Tuesday, because I felt really down. I was allowed to talk about what I was going through and people shared their own coping skills with me and by the end of the hour, I felt much better. I had been listened to without judgement and my feelings had been validated, which is what I had needed all along. Afterwards, I felt more stable than I had all day and finally ready to interact with the people at home. I will always be eternally grateful for this.


I have a link to NAMI on this site-take a look! There is a NAMI group in just about every county in the USA-even in Baldwin county, the county of the dreaded Milledgeville! Tuesday at 7:30 pm at Lawrenceville Presbyterian Church is when NAMI meets in Gwinnett County. I hope to see you there!

Wednesday, February 11, 2009

Super-bowl Dip Recipes

7-Layer Greek Dip (from betterrecipes.com)

Ingredients
8 oz hummus
8 oz sour cream
1 cup jarred roasted red peppers, drained and chopped
1/4 cup crumbled feta cheese or to taste
1/4 cup minced red onion
12 kalamata olives, chopped
1/4 cup lightly packed coarsely chopped fresh parsely and fresh mint combined or to taste
Optional: Cavender's All Purpose Greek Seasoning or salt and pepper1 box baked wheat crackers, bread wedges or pita chips

Method
Layer dip ingredients into an 8 inch round or 6 X 6 square dish. Season, if desired, with the Greek seasoning or salt and pepper to taste.
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Yummy Lentil Dip

Ingredients
1 can of lentil soup
2% Mexican blend shredded cheese
Reduced fat Sour Cream
3/4 can of diced tomatoes
1/2 cup of salsa (Newman's tequila salsa works well)
1/2 cup roasted red pepper hummus

Method
Dump all ingredients into a pot on medium heat. Measurements are approximate-I just dumped in the whole can of soup and then put in the amount of other ingredients until it was at the consistency I wanted. Thus, this recipes can either be a stew or a dip, depending on how thick you make it.

Monday, February 9, 2009

Crackers

Memory by memory, I am writing a memoir about my life and dealing with mental illness. The story below is the first story that I have written and I will post other stories as they are written. The names have been changed. I hope that people enjoy them and will give me feedback, as I would like to publish them someday.
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I was afraid to eat the crackers.

I had been sick all day, but I was afraid to eat the crackers.

Now before you go thinking that this is about some lame girl with an eating disorder, let me tell you that I was far more sickly than just that. Why was I afraid of the crackers? Because of the relationship between me and my codependent roommate.
This was the scene I remembered – This was the scene that made me wince even as my stomach made me wince with the stark physical pain. Why I was afraid of eating the crackers.
I had been sitting alone curled up on the coach, watching an awful movie – a British retelling of Emily Bronte’s Jane Eyre – a retelling that took all of the joy out and left only pain.
So Melissa called and asked if I wanted to join her for dinner with Nathan at The Pickle Barrel.
“The Pickle Barrel? Ugh. I’ve heard that place’s food is so greasy. You know I don’t do greasy! […] No, really, I’m fine. I’m watching a horribly bad British movie and you guy’s wouldn’t like it. Seriously, I’m alright.”
And I truly was! Even though the adaptation wasn’t good, it felt good to watch it by myself. It felt good to know that this was something I wanted to watch, and finish, with only myself to please. I was loving myself and nobody else.
A few hours later and I am so intensely glad that the miniseries is over – the male lead’s acting was terrible, though I did admire the furrows in the brow of he woman who played Jane Eyre – I commended her for having the courage to be faithful to the role assigned – a true PLAIN JANE.
I sighed to myself and turned on my computer, “Should I write or actually do homework?” when my phone rang.
It was Melissa again. “Hey Corey! Do you mind if I bring over Nathan and Laura to watch a movie? We’ll be quiet.”
“Oh, sure. I just finished my movie, so I’ll watch it with you.”
I don’t remember what we watched – I was too busy trying to be social, of which I did not do a very good job.
Nathan and Laura and Melissa bustled in amid laughter and I turned off my computer. “What’re we watching?” I asked.
I got no answer, except for a loud shriek followed by the exclamation, “You can’t have the window open! We’re wasting air! We’re wasting money!”
Huh? What window?!
I was so confused. “What window?!”
“The bathroom window!”
“What bathroom window?” I cried. Oh my God, I was SO confused.
“The long, narrow window near the ceiling!”
I stared at Melissa stupidly. I had no idea what she was talking about.
I got up from the couch, slowly walked to the bathroom and peered inside.
“Oh.”
There it was.

Inside the shower was a tiny, extremely narrow window right before the ceiling started. I had had no idea that that window was ever there. Well, I certainly had NOT opened that window. I’m a freakin’ little person! I relied on a tried, but true adage: When you don’t know what to say, proclaim your own stupidity out loud.
“Well, I didn’t open it, because I didn’t even know it was there.” I said curtly.
Melissa quieted down.“No, I guess you didn’t.” she said, measuring the distance between the bath tub rim and the windowledge. "It must of have been so and so. She did take a shower here last night.” Melissa looked at me and then back at the window. “You wouldn’t be able to reach it.”
“This is getting just plain rude,” I thought.
“I could too.” I protested. “I could have reached the window if I had stood on the rim of the tub, but, I didn’t…”
Melissa stepped over the tub rim, stretched, and closed the window. Laura and Nathan sat down on the couch and pushed play. I sighed.
I was still a little hurt. Why did she have to yell at me like that? Didn’t she know that I hate yelling?! And I didn’t even deserve it. In fact, I was left feeling incredibly stupid. I had lived in this house for three and a half weeks and I had never known that there was the potential for someone to get their kicks while I was taking my shower. Great.
I sighed again. And waited on the couch until the movie was over and our guests would leave. The house was silent, except for the laughter of people paid to laugh on a world that isn’t real. No one besides these folks was going to be happy in this house if I had anything to say – or not say – about it.

So here I am. Afraid to eat the crackers. But I guess that I haven’t adequately explained the situation yet.

You see, I helped Melissa decide on what to buy for an event and no one ate the crackers and she was planning to return them, so she wouldn’t be accused of spending her professors’ money exorbitantly.
But my stomach really hurts and the only thing that sounds acceptable to it is soup and crackers. I look at my watch. It is now 3:30 in the afternoon and I have now finally made up my mind. I am going to have those crackers! Recovery comes first and I need to eat!
I put a couple of dollars in a little bowl – surely that will be enough to compensate and as I am picking up the bright red box, the phone rings.
“Hello?” I answer.
“How could you do this to me?!” shrieks Melissa.
“What?!” I shriek back in stupid disbelief.
“Oh, no!” I think to myself. “Don’t tell me that yesterday is repeating itself – I can’t take anymore of this!”

Well,it did. Yesterday repeated itself.
Melissa had seen a note I had written on facebook, jumped to conclusions, and yelled at me again for something awful I had done without even being able to.
And I lost it.

I yelled and I shrieked back and told her that I was leaving. And I did. I spent two weeks living out of my car and sleeping over at my friend, Natasha’s. I never ate those crackers – but I’m not afraid of them anymore either. I left them and the nice, good girl who was afraid to eat them behind. For good.

Friday, February 6, 2009

Superbowl-Super Dip!




I've always had a love-hate relationship with Superbowl Sunday. Mostly hate. And there are many reasons for this: 1) I think football is stupid and I’m pretty sure that it produces stupid people as I’m absolutely sure that football players bang out their brains with each fumble and tumble and tackle 2) because of the first reason, I think watching football is pretty stupid too 3) superbowl parties have really scary (to me), fattening, high-caloric food 4) until about eight years ago, X-Files was on and I had to call my parents to make sure that it was being taped or ALL HELL would BREAK LOOSE!!! Really. My life for a long time was spent being concerned about my fat/caloric intake and the lives of some really awesome FBI agents. The only two things good about superbowl Sunday were: 1) a party and 2) commercials, with the commercials being the best part.

Until Superbowl XLIII.

My church, Circle of Grace, which has its services at 5pm decided to make sure its service was done n time for us to watch the superbowl immediately after and we were told to bring superbowl-type finger food for a one-of-a kind potluck. Well, I like my Circle of Grace people and decided that a party would be fun, especially since the X-Files are over. And I did have fun. I learned a new way to play dominoes and I ended up being one of the last people to leave, with the result that I almost enjoyed watching football. But the best part was that I did not dread the food. In fact, I made a sizeable contribution with two homemade dips, with one being my own recipe!

They were both pretty healthy, which made me happy, but it made me even happier that they were both widely enjoyed! The first one I made was a Greek seven-layer dip-I made my minister try it out first, because I had never had kalamata olives before and I wasn’t sure if I liked them, and as if turns out-I do! The second is a mixture of lentil soup, sour cream, cheese, tomatoes, and Paul Newman salsa. Yum! If you want me to post the recipes, let me know!

Monday, February 2, 2009

Don't Shame Me, Woman!

I’m going to talk about recovery in a broader way right now. All women’s recovery! We, women, cannot ever hope to gain equality if we keep tearing each other down. I think, sometimes, that we are our own worst enemy in keeping alive the harmful patriarchy.
I feel the need to write this after following a friend’s note on facebook. It started with him writing about an incident where a girl asked him a very racially ignorant question and he simply asked for our opinions. Mostly women responded and what began as good dialogue eventually turned into a rant by one woman about how a certain celebrity is a slut. What?!
Slut, to me, is one of the worst words out there. It’s a derogatory term for a woman who sleeps around. It pisses me off, because if a man sleeps around, well, he’s just a man-while we are sluts. Oh, sure, you could call him a bastard, but most people don’t. And a bastard is just another shot at a woman, as a bastard is someone who was born to an unmarried woman, you know, like a slut.
Being called a slut implies that there is something wrong with having casual sex and I don’t buy it. Or at least I don’t buy that it is wrong for one sex and not another. And another thing, calling women sluts only helps rape women. I will say it again: Calling Women Sluts Only Helps Rape Women! As long as a woman who has sex is afraid of being labeled a slut, a whore, a ho, promiscuous, a harlot, wanton, a hag, a bitch, a cunt, easy, a jezebel, or I’m sure any number of other hurtful names, then she will want to remain silent when she is raped or harassed.
What’s more, when sex is what it should be-when it is wonderful-we can’t talk about it; we can’t share our joy and delight. That is also wrong. For if sex is viewed as something that can be joyful and wonderful and yummy, even when not married, then women will demand to be in a position where they can receive joyful and wonderful and yummy sex. We will demand respect! And that will mean less rape and less abuse, but as long as we put down those who we do not even know personally, then womanhood will always be reduced to shame.