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 30, 2009

You May Buy My Product, But You Cannot Buy Me!

I have worked in retail off and on for a long time, which unfortunately-as anyone who has worked in retail knows-means that I have been abused for a long time. Sears is no exception, but fortunately I have coworkers that make me feel comfortable and that told me that they would throw out any customers that tried any sexual harassment. I am very grateful for the support.

Now, I understand that sometimes when you do not get what you expected or are disappointed by the service you received that it is easy to get upset. But when I had a lady yell at me when I didn't even sell her the refrigerator that did not have the butter dish lid that she wanted, I decided that I need to write some rules of conduct when dealing with someone in sales. This advice also applies to dealing with anyone in the service industry, from fast food service to janitors to loaders.

1. When you are really angry about your service, step back for a minute, and think hard about what just happened. Is this valid anger? Is what happened really that bad? Will your life REALLY crumble just because the delivery man did not deliver the butter dish lid?

2. When you are yelling at the person on the other end of the phone and you are tempted to exclaim, "You're not listening to me!" Consider that perhaps you are not being clear enough for the other person to understand you.

3. Don't ever call a worker, "sweetie," "honey," "cutie," or anything similar to a worker-even if you are an elderly man from a quaint little southern town. It's fine to call someone those names when you know them, but if they are working, stick to "ma'am" or "sir" - it's what we call you!

4. Similarly, don't pat anybody on the head. It is offensive and demeaning to anyone who receives it. We are not little children who are grateful you gave us candy-we are adults who are doing our job.

5. Do not ask personal questions. It does not concern you whether I have a significant other or how old I am or where I live. I will not ask these things about you, as they are none of our business. I am trying to sell you a refrigerator, not my body.

6. Do not try to set up a worker with your best friend, son, daughter, or really, anybody else. I'll say it again: we are trying to sell you products, not our bodies.

7. Do not quiz us on our product knowledge if you already know the answer just to see if we know as much information as you. And don't laugh after doing this-it is extremely condescending and to people like me who have trouble with anxiety, extremely anxiety provoking.

8. Think before tarnishing a company's reputation over the mistakes of one individual. For instance, if a salesperson tells you that they would order you a butter dish lid and it would delivered to the house, but it is not-go back to #1! Think before you accuse someone of lying or of accusing the company of, "not being what it used to be." Even during those grand ole times that you remember when everything was lovely and worked right, workers sometimes got confused or tired or forgetful. Just like then, if someone made a mistake and then apologizes for it and then offers to do what's right, then things are still working right. Do not immediately jump to conclusions just because the person you are dealing with looks or talks differently from you.

Remember this: we are selling you a service and/or a product, not our bodies, souls, minds, love, or even friendship. We are business partners-you are not above me, nor are we above you. Treat us with respect and let us both keep our dignity and self-respect in tact.

Sunday, March 22, 2009

There is Strength in Happiness Too!

"What doesn't kill you, will make you stronger," is good advice that one probably hears often, but lately I have found that strength can be found in happiness too.

You see, for most of my life, I have believed that I wasn't meant to live a life with long-lasting moments of happiness-just brief enough glimpses of happiness-or mania!-to keep me away from suicide. Unless you consider an eating disorder a slow form of suicide, which I do. I have heard that C.S. Lewis did not believe that people were meant to have the goal of pursing a happy life and that God did not really care if we were happy or not. There are bigger, more important things to care about and for the most part I believed that.

It was tough at first, adjusting to a life away from college, but back with my parents. I considered my life a failure. It was once again confirmed in my mind that I was just not meant to be happy.

But you know what? I soon rediscovered happiness! Joining groups like NAMI and the writers group at Charis and being able to play for my church again gave my life new meaning. I also now had time to work on my writing and cooking and this gave me a great sense of satisfaction. I always dreamed of having a glamorous job and I think this period was instrumental in my realization that I am more than a job and more than having the "right" amount of education. I am a person first, before anything else. A person, in fact, who is very creative and thinks critically, who wants to be an advocate and likes learning about different people. I've overcome mental illness and will continue to do so and surely that is something to be proud of!

But get this, for most of my life, I could not count on happiness-I have a mood disorder and if I was happy one minute, it did not mean that I would be happy the next. But I have seemed to have-finally!-found the right combination of medications for me and my life is wonderfully low on stress, which is my biggest trigger, by the way, and so happiness is becoming more regular. It's different, it's wonderful, and it's shown me that life can change. Now I know, of course, that something will happen that will cause this reign of happiness to end, but my hope is that when that happens, that I will be able to recover more quickly than in the past. NAMI has provided me with a wonderful support group and I feel more comfortable knowing that I finally have a big support system.

So to a person with an eating disorder and schizoaffective disorder, who has had very little stability in her life, knowing that long-term happiness is possible is wonderfully strengthening and empowering. Life CAN get better. It happens when you finally decide to follow your life's path, instead of following assumptions about your life's path. When you say, "These are my limitations and I need to respect and honor them, instead of thinking that I must always fight. Maybe happiness IS possible!"

I, personally, don't think that God wants us to be happy all the time and to not address societal problems, but I do think that God wants what's best for us and sometimes that does include being happy and content. I have a lot of experience with dealing with pain, so I thank God that I have been fortunate to finally experience happiness!
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Because of this happiness, I have been willing to try cooking more "bad" foods! First, it was bacon and now sausage. Admittedly, it was turkey sausage, but still a great accomplishment with the result that I discovered that I really like sausage! I don't think I'll ever like sausage patties, but sausage links are really wonderful! Good taste and texture! I cooked it for the first time ever about a week ago. I made a pretty simple pasta dish-it was ziti, parmesine cheese, broccoli, tomato sauce, and sausage cooked in Worcester sauce and parmesine cheese. Yum!

Wednesday, March 18, 2009

Soup and Picasa

I got my idea for posting pictures of my meals from my friend Sophie, on her blog, "Burp and Slurp," but I've always wondered how her pictures are so much brighter and better looking than mine! She informed me that she uses a free program called Picasa and I love it! My pictures DO look brighter, though it will probably me a while to get mine looking as good as hers.
This is a crockpot cream of broccoli soup I made about a week ago from my old standard cookbook, "Fix-It and Forget-It Lightly" by Phyllis Good. If you can't tell by now, I really like broccoli! I had leftover chicken, so I added that, but the original recipe is vegetarian. I also made corn muffins and crumbled them up into the soup-after taking the pretty picture, of course.


Cream of Broccoli Soup

Ingredients:

1 Small Onion
1 T Oil
20-oz. pkg. Frozen Broccoli
2 10 3/4 Cans Fat-Free, Low-Sodium Cream of Celery Soup
1 10 3/4 Can Fat-Free, Low-Sodium Cream of Mushroom Soup
1 Cup Grated Low-Fat American Cheese
2 Soup Cans Fat-Free Milk
2 Chicken Breasts
Any Handy Herbs (Rosemary, Thyme, Italian...)

1. Saute onion in oil in skillet until soft. Drain. Place onion in slow cooker.
2. Combine alll ingredients in slow cooker.
3. Cover. Cook on low 3-4 hours.
4. 30 minutes before serving, sautee chicken and baste it with your favorite herbs. I used rosemary, thyme, and some italian seasoning.

Tuesday, March 17, 2009

I Will Fear No Bacon!!!

Today was a good day-I was able to sleep in until noon, I made a great dinner, and then I had a great time socializing at NAMI. Dinner was a really yummy cheesy broccoli and potato casserole that I came up with myself. The casserole had bacon in it, which on my list of "bad" foods is much worse than butter, so I was quite adventurous today!

I decided to use bacon, because it was in the potato seasoning packet that I used for the casserole. Sargento brand cheese has a new product out where it packages together several products to make a really good salad or baked potato and since I had a coupon for it, I bought one of the packages for baked potatoes yesterday. I discovered, though, that the potatoes I had bought were too small to be tonight's entree by itself, so I decided to make them into a casserole instead and I'm glad I did.
I had originally decided to serve the potatoes buffet style, so that I could avoid eating the bacon bits, but when I decided to make it a casserole, I lifted up the package and stared at it for a few good seconds before making the committment to use all of it. I didn't want good food and money to go to waste. Plus, I thought of my friend talking about how she likes bacon and who also has an eating disorder and I thought to myself, "If she can do it, then so can I!" And so I dumped the whole bag into the casserole container. The bacon bits were from real bacon, not that weird imitation stuff, which I have never liked-even before ED came into my life.

I used to love bacon as a kid. I liked to chew on the juicy, chewy, white, fat parts. My parents did not cook bacon very often, so it was usually more like a delicacy in our house and yet I know that by the time I was in fifth grade, it was relegated to the "bad" list. I now know that bacon every once in a while is not bad, but I still had to convince myself today that it was okay to eat. In my quest for control, I seem to have convinced myself that if I eat certain foods, life as I know it will end. But what would happen, I don't know! It's as if I expect the sun to blow up, the mountains to crumble, and the sky to fall onto my head if I break one of my rules. But you know what? None of that stuff ever happens! It's as if I am not in control!!! If I eat bacon or butter or cream, the world will not end, but my life will instead began to get even better as I realize that there is more to enjoy in this life than I ever thought possible.
Corey's Easy Cheesy Potato Casserole

Ingredients:

3 Medium Potatoes
1/4 Cup Milk
2 Bunches of Broccoli
1 Package of Sargento Broccoli & Cheese Baked Potato Starter Kits

1. Preheat oven to 400 degrees.
2. Cut the potatoes into bite-sized pieces and put them into a pot of water on the stove.
3. Cut the broccoli into bite-sized pieces and put them into a glass casserole dish.
4. Pour the contents of the Sargento package into the dish.5. Add milk and potatoes to the dish and stir.
6. Bake for 30 minutes and then enjoy!
I made this dish for dinner, but it would also be great for breakfast too!
Mandarin oranges taste good with the dish too!




Monday, March 16, 2009

Thank You, Connie and Karen

For starters, I am sorry that I have not been blogging as regularly as in the past, but my job has kept me really busy! Even though I am part-time, it is not by much and I am really trying to prove myself, because if I get a lot of sales then I will make full-time. As a result, I am often very tired and not able to blog, but I will try to keep blogging as regularly as possible.
Saturday I attended an extremely special wedding that lifted my spirits and gave me hope. It was between my minister, Connie Tuttle, and her partner of fifteen years, Karen O'Kelley and they got married on their fifteenth anniversary. They had a beautiful ceremony in the chapel at Agnes Scott College and a fun celebration at the Avondale Community Center.

It was great seeing old members of the church again that moved away years ago. It was great meeting new people, eating fabulous cake, and dancing the "electric slide." I really enjoyed myself, as I let myself let loose and dance in a way I haven't since high school. I also loved watching the kids dance, as they each had their own unique and freeing kind of dance. Connor and Arden, who are both around four, spun around and around and would then fall to the fall in giggle-fits, while Becky spent at least an hour holding hands and whirling around with Shawna, who although she just turned eleven, looks and seems much older. I was happy to note that Shawna seemed perhaps the happiest that I've ever seen her be, probably because an adult was spending quality time with her. And I will always remember dancing the last dances of the night with thirteen-year-old Lucas, who is probably the sweetest teenage boy there ever was. He is also blind, so we practiced holding hands and moving back and forth to the beat. Lucas even started shrugging his shoulders and nodding his head to the beat, under the direction of Ellen, Becky, and I. I told him that this was great practice for when he goes to his first school dance-I'm sure that he will have trouble keeping the girls away from him soon!


After dinner, guests lined up to the microphone and one by one proposed a toast or gave a blessing. I did not, as I was for some reason, caught by surprise and could not think of how to adequately express myself. I wanted to sing something and decided that "Let's Do It (Let's Fall In Love)" by Cole Porter would have been perfect, but I was too nervous to do it without practicing first. Here is the toast that I wish I had proposed:


I want to say, "thank you," to Connie and Karen, because witnessing this beautiful wedding has given me hope, as it was everything I could ever want in my own. Until this very moment, I have felt bad about my own sexuality and my future, because I felt like because of who I am that I could not have the kinds of experiences that I have dreamed about since childhood. I remember a Will & Grace episode where they were going to a "gay" wedding and Will commented that they weren't going to a "real" wedding. That made me sad, especially since I believed it, but now I'm happy, because I now realize that a wedding ceremony is just as real between two people of the same gender as it is between two people of the opposite gender. Whether this marriage is legal in the eyes of our government does not matter, because I have no doubts that this celebration and blessing is legal in the eyes of Godde. Your love is so apparent to anyone that sees the way you two look at each other and since our God is the Godde of love, I know that you have the Holy One's approval and who needs anything else?! I love you both and I thank you for giving me hope. I thank you for showing me that there is a better world than what is usually shown and that our God truly is the Godde of Love.

After the party, instead of throwing rice or blowing bubbles, we lit sparklers and waved them about in the air. It was beautiful and creative. Just like them and just like how I want my own future to be. The issue of gay marriage has caused me a lot of depression in the past, but hopefully it won't anymore.

Wednesday, March 11, 2009

Georgia's Addictive Services Need Our Help!

Here is the latest news from NAMI about budget cuts for addiction services. It is easy to blame the person for their addiction, but the fact is that addiction IS a disease in itself. It is not the person's fault that they are an addict, though it is their responsibility to actively seek recovery.
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Last week, the Department of Human Resources, Division of MHDDAD, presented the 2010 budget to the House Appropriations Human Resources Subcommittee. The proposed cuts to the substance abuse prevention and treatment delivery system are devastating. More than 3,000 Georgia citizens will not have access to addiction treatment on an annual basis.

These cuts will affect:
1,100 adolescents needing community supports
675 men and women needing core services
Over 600 women and their children in both residential and outpatient care
300 parolees needing intensive outpatient treatment
250+ children and adolescents needing core services
1,000 people addicted to opiates
120 various providers of substance abuse treatment services
Workforce development initiatives across the State in training and quality improvement

We know that treatment for addiction is cost-effective, both financially and socially.
Treatment:
Cuts drug use in half
Reduces criminal activity as much as 80%
Increases employment
Decreases homelessness
Improves physical and mental health
Reduces medical costs
Reduces risky sexual behavior
And yet, addiction treatment services are being cut 24% while cuts to all other human services are between 5 - 10%. The economic realities of today are tough and sacrifices have to be made. But slashing direct services to a vulnerable population at this rate is just irresponsible.

ACT NOW and Send this message to the following legislators who have the ability to affect the proposed cuts:

Speaker of the House, Glenn Richardson: Speaker Richardson
Rep. Ben Harbin, Chair of Appropriations: Representative Harbin
Rep. Mark Butler, Vice Chair: Representative Butler
Senator Jack Hill, Chair of Appropriations: Senator Jack Hill
Senator Tommie Williams: Senator Williams

Click here to get a list of the members of the House Committee on Health and Human Services, and send each of them the message by clicking on their names to get their e-mail addresses.

Click here to a list of the members of the Senate Committee on health and Human Services and send each of them the message by clicking on their names to get their e-mail addresses.

MESSAGE TEXT (copy text below and paste into an email message):

In times of economic and personal stress, we need to ensure that Georgians who abuse substances and who are battling the disease of addiction have the resources to aid them through the crisis. The Governor's 2010 proposal is to cut Addictive Disease services by 24%. This will eliminate entire programs and severely impede the effectiveness of others. The proposed cuts will also affect the ability to draw down federal dollars beginning in FY2010, thus reducing the overall funding for addiction services even further. Please act now to minimize the severe cuts to addiction services. Without your intervention, the costs will be tremendous in emergency rooms, jails and prisons, and will be a heavy financial and social burden on Georgia citizens for years to come.

Tuesday, March 10, 2009

A Different Kind of Pride

I am very proud of myself! Today I had my story, "Crackers," which I posted here last month critiqued at my writing group. It was ripped apart, but the good news is that I did not get overly emotional! For one thing, it was constructive criticism, instead of something like, "it's just no good." And it was valid-mostly about how the story needs more details. It was a little hard hearing "my baby" being criticized at first, but I really value these people's opinions and I know that they're not just saying these things just to say them.

As a person who is so sensitive, I have a rich herstory of not taking criticism well-when I was younger, just hearing a voice raised to a certain level would make me cry and want to hide. In fact, the main reason why I decided to have my concentration in English be in literature and not in creative writing was solely because I did not think that I would be able to handle criticism well at all. I've spent half of my time in school crying, both before college and during, and so have spent the other half figuring out how I can avoid crying, therefore I did not submit myself to the torture of having my work critiqued before I was ready.

And I'm really glad I did that! I am really glad that I was able to recognize and honor some of my boundaries at a time when I could barely recognize most of them. Besides, by concentrating in literature, I got to figure out what kinds of writing styles I like and would like to use myself. Stephen King, in his book "On Writing: A Memoir of the Craft," explains it like this: "If you want to be a writer, you must do two things above all others: read a lot and write a lot. There's no way around these two things that I'm aware of, no shortcut." (145)

King continues to make the point that reading is just as important as writing and advises that a serious writer reads and writes at least four hours a day. "The real importance of reading is that it creates an ease and intimacy with the process of writing; one comes to the country of the writer with one's papers and identification prettty much in order. Constant reading will pull you into a place (a mind-set, if you like the phrase) where you can write eagerly and without self-consciousness." (150)

I don't usually read or write for that long during a day, but it is a goal of mine, hampered by the fact that I like spending time watching TV with my parents. I do realize, though that if I want to be a serious writer, then the TV needs to turn off-at least for a longer period of time than it does now. Except that for right now, I'm trying to not take things quite so seriously, but to just experiment and enjoy what life has to offer-there will be plenty of time for seriousness later!

And keep watching for a retelling of my "Crackers" story and tell me what you think!

Friday, March 6, 2009

I Will Fear No Butter!


I used to be afraid of butter. Actually, I used to be afraid of a lot of things and a lot of foods. I know this may seem unbelievable to many, but I remember that when I was hospitalized in 2005, just how revolutionary the concept of putting butter on my bread was.

I thought about that last week when I made buttery roasted red potatoes for church. Unfortunately, church was canceled due to the snow, but I made them anyway. I followed the recipe and I found that I would have preferred less butter, but I was very proud of myself for following the recipe in the first place. I never would have known if I hadn't tried it out first!

And then today I made a yummy crock pot chicken dish with mandarin oranges. Let me just say that the crock pot is a great thing, because you just throw in the ingredients and then when you get home hours later, dinner is done and the meat is tender. I was especially appreciative of that today, as it took me over an hour to get home after my counseling appointment-I didn't get home until 7:45! I hate rush hour traffic in Atlanta and I'm always pretty emotional and a little drained after my session, so if I hadn't already made something, then I would not have felt like making anything.

I'll have to remember that when I'm not living with my parents! Right now, since I made a loose agreement with my parents that I would make dinner if I was home, I have an incentive to cook and eat, even when I don't feel like it. Cooking ahead of time is something I used to think would take a lot of extra time, but I have learned that planning ahead really does save time! I know that seems like common sense, but I am a procrastinator who has always been low in the common sense department.

Recovery is not just about taking medicine, though that is a big part of it! But is also about learning, planning, and trusting in common sense-once one has regained their common sense, of course.
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Mandarin Orange Chicken (from "Fix-It and Forget-It Lightly" by Phyllis Good)

Ingredients:
4 Boneless, Skinless Chicken Breast Halves
1 Medium-Sized Onion
1/4 Cup Orange Juice Concentrate
1 tsp. Poultry Seasoning
1/2 tsp. Salt
11-oz Can Mandarin Oranges, Drained, with 3 T Juice Reserved
2 T Flour

1. Place chicken in slow cooker.
2. Combine onion, orange juice concentrate, poultry seasoning, and salt. Pour over chicken.
3. Cover. Cook on low 4-5 hours.
4. Remove chicken and keep warm. Reserve cooking juices.
5. In a saucepan, combine 3 T reserved mandarin orange juice and flour. Stir until smooth.
6. Stir in chicken cooking juices. Bring to a boil. Str and cook for two minutes to thicken.
7. Stir in mandarin oranges. Pour over chicken.
8. Serve with rice or pasta.

Thursday, March 5, 2009

Healthy Anger

Let me get this straight-there is nothing wrong with being angry!

I am an angry woman and I have been angry a very, very, very long time. My anger is not the problem. The only problem that comes from being angry is when someone does not know how to handle the anger or even worse, when they think that having anger makes them a bad person. What angers me the most is when I see parents tell their small children not to be angry. I remember one time when I was working at JCPenney's and as I watched a young couple leave with their young, moody child, I started to boil with rage, for I heard them tell him, "Don't be angry! You won't get pizza if you're angry!" I wanted to go over, pull the parents aside, and inform them being angry is healthy, but that telling their son how to feel is not and that they will damage their son's emotional growth if they try to control their son's feelings. But I didn't. The boy perked up and they left smiling, but I was left wondering what will happen to their relationship a few years down the road.

I was reminded of this when one of the facilitators at NAMI told a new person to not be angry. I responded by telling the new person that there is nothing wrong with being angry, but that she needs to find healthy ways of expressing her anger. You see, anger is not the problem-knowing what to do with it is.

I was an angry child-I see that now, but it took me a long time to realize that and I am only now learning how to positively handle my anger. Growing up there were constant yelling matches between my parents and my brother, who is three years older than I am. When I was in sixth grade, my brother was sent to a military academy and I am not mad about that. It made life easier and it did seem to help my brother-he and my parents get along much better now and he's got a great job as an officer in the Navy. But it did leave me angry at the time with no clue as to how to deal with it, so I starved my emotions. Anger, like fat, was designated "bad" in my mind, so I concentrated on how little I could eat, instead of dealing with my emotions. In fact, for a long time, I didn't even think I was capable of anger-just sadness. And that makes me sad.

So let me say it again-anger is not "bad," but not knowing how to deal with it is. Fortunately, that can change! One can learn how to constructively deal with anger. Express it! Talk about it! Don't let it remain stagnate!

Writing about my anger works well for me. Creating art that expresses how I feel works well too. Sometimes I need to do something mindless, like bearing down hard with a red crayon on a piece of paper, over and over and over again. Playing and singing to loud music does wonders. So does humor, so I will leave you with this quote from Stephen Colbert, "I retain all my vitamins, because I am always steamed!"

Remember, it is far better to be angry than apathetic.

What works for you?

The Rev. Monica Coleman Lecture on Spiritual Practice and Depression


http://us.mc562.mail.yahoo.com/mc/showMessage?.rand=2100477830&fid=Inbox&mid=1_44818_ANhu%2FNgAAYUYSbAkbgmW0HXndac&noFlush=&mcrumb=v54YA%2FlcN5P#
Click on the link above and you will be able to view the video of my good friend, Monica A. Coleman's lecture "On Baking and Biking: The Theological (and Neurological?) Value of non-Contemplative Spiritual Disciplines as Spiritual Practices in the Context of Depressive Conditions." This was part of a conferences on Neuroscience and Spiritual Practices at Claremont School of Theology in October 2008.

Coleman is a theologian at the Claremont School of Theology in California, who has also suffered through depression. When she spoke at this conference, everyone else spoke about the importance of mindfulness, but Coleman chose instead to speak about how for a person who is depressed, mindfulness is not always desired. For instance, if a person is suicidal, then they do not need to concentrate on their own thoughts or if a person is manic, then their thoughts are too scattered to be able to be mindful either.

She discussed doing activities that get the body moving and that provide a sense of accomplishment, such as baking and biking. She suggests that it is important to have activities that one can do even when a person does not feel like it, for feelings cannot always be trusted. By doing mindless, repetitve activities, one can find comfort and even God in a space where one could not before.


It it often said that one needs to be mindful of the moment to experience God, but Coleman makes the claim that this is not true, for God is in everything and in every moment. And isn't that what faith is all about? Being willing to experience God in the times when one cannot feel the Holy One's presence?