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.

Thursday, July 30, 2009

Psalm 13

Whoa-two posts in two days-I am rockin'! haha Not really, but it is a sign that I am feeling better and hopefully soon I will be able to write some meatier articles than I have been, or maybe I'll just cook some meat...haha I'm sorry! I've been told my puns leave a bit to be desired...

Here is my thirteenth psalm, but do you think it is too short? Personally, I like short poems and I'll never have the patience to write an epic, but still, tell me what you think-does this version seem complete to you? The original is here at
BibleGateway
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How long must I be forgotten?

Consider me.
Hear me.
Enlighten me.

How long must I be forgotten?

Let me trust.
Let me rejoice.
Let me be thankful.

Wednesday, July 29, 2009

Some Celebrate the Fourth Out of Patriotism-I Celebrate for Food!

Egads! I need to post more food pictures!!! How about what I made for the Fourth of July?
Surely this wholesome, homemade pizza is a cause for celebration!
I spent most of the holiday at work and then I raced home, so that I could make this pizza that I had been dreaming of for a while and it was dee-lish!!! The crust is Kroger brand (coat first with olive oil) and the pizza sauce is, uh, a brand that comes in a can with basil! Don't worry, because the real love is in the toppings:
artichoke hearts
lightly browned Purdue chicken, already flavored with white wine and garlic
3 cheeses: mozzarella, goat, and feta
sundried tomatoes

Then cook for five minutes and voila: a perfect pizza! We made two of these and they were both extremely filling and satisfying.

I made a great dinner for myself tonight, including homemade bread, but I decided to write about this pizza, because tonight is cause for celebration - those who have been following my blog will know that I have suffering from a pretty intense depression for a while now and today I celebrate a depression-free week!!! I still have been struggling with eating as regularly as I know I should, but I am proud of myself for making a wonderful dinner for myself tonight - my specialty chicken salad sandwich with a homegrown, organic tomato and a slice of havarti cheese!
In case you're wondering my chicken salad contains (besides canned chicken and mayo) cranberries, walnuts, and pickle relish. Yum!
Want a bite?

Or a slice?



Friday, July 24, 2009

Psalm 12 and The Road to Recovery


Finally, my depression seems to have lifted! I am feeling productive and it is a wonderful thing! I wish I could write more, but I have got to get ready for work and eat lunch, so I'll just have to leave my version of Psalm 12 to ponder. Compare it to the original here.
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Help Your people, O Godde!
I am afraid.
Your followers are not to be found
And I cannot find holiness anywhere.

You speak in tongues of love
And you do not only comfort the needy,
But are prepared to fight for them.
As am I.

Let Your people speak in love to one another;
Let us also act in love.
You are the Supreme Example;
Let the people follow You.
It is too dangerous to follow any other.

Sunday, July 19, 2009

"Feminism and Psychiatric Diagnosis" written by Arlene Lev

Much is written about mental illness, but alas, rarely from a feminist perspective.

I found this article online and found it to be thought-provoking and well-written and wanted to share it. The article is written by Arlene Istar Lev, CSW-R, CASAC is a psychotherapist and family therapist who specializes in working with lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgendered clients and is the Clinical Director of Choices Counseling Associates as well as an adjunctive faculty member at S.U.N.Y. She is an activist, a writer, a gardener and a mom. Lev is Sundance's partner, and Shaiyah's momma.

This article is in response to a previous one published in The Women's Building News and I regret that I could not find the issue that she is addressing.
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As a feminist therapist, I found the last issue of The Women's Building News on mental illness as a feminist issue to be well-written and timely. I thought Janet Chassman's article was an excellent overview of many of the issues, and the coverage of both cultural diversity and legal issues to be important areas to examine. Despite the cover title, "The Last Closet", may I dare to suggest that there are still many many closets left to open in our feminists communities, and though issues of psychiatric disabilities is one of them, it is certainly not the "last."

Focusing on the treatment of women within the psychiatric system is an important issue, however, I must admit to being somewhat surprised by the lack of critique of the psychiatric system in general. The absence of any discussion regarding the use of language and labeling as a feminist mental health issue -- including such terms as "mental illness" and "psychiatric disorder" -- was glaring in its absence. The psychiatric profession is permeated by Eurocentric, patriarchal, racist, sexist, and homophobic thinking that has done enormous damage to the mental health of women, children and people of color.

The psychiatric profession has developed a manual to label mental illnesses. This document, The Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders, called the DSM, is in its fourth revision, and is extremely controversial in a number of ways. In my role as a Social Work educator, I teach Master's level students how to utilize the DSM; as a feminist and holistic practitioner I also teach them to be very wary of labeling. The DSM is the primary tool used by the managed care system to determine insurance reimbursement, and eligibility for disability determinations; it is often utilized in legal settings and educational institutions. To paraphrase Audre Lorde's eloquent statement, "Can we tear down the master's house using the master's tools?"

Diagnosis is a political tool. It has been used to medicate angry and powerless women and to take away our children. It has been used to hospitalize political activists and other radicals. In the not very distant past women were routinely diagnosed with Hysteria, and treated with clitorectomies! In the latter part of the 1800's African slaves were diagnosed with drapetomania, which was believed to be a blood disorder, and according to the diagnostic texts, was "cured by whipping"!!! Benjamin Rush, the "father of modern psychiatry" believed that the reasons Africans had dark skin was because they had a form of leprosy which he called Negritude, and to the embarrassment of his biographers, worked diligently his whole life towards a "cure." Other medical textbooks list the size of men's heads to prove that people of African descent had smaller brains, and that people with larger noses (Semitic people) had certain communicable diseases. Homosexuality was considered a psychopathology until approximately 20 years ago, which meant that ALL gays, lesbians, and bisexuals were diagnosed with this "psychiatric illness."

If the above examples sound absurd, or irrelevant, remember that the removal of these diagnoses is only within the last 100-150 years, and as I will outline below, many current diagnoses are equally offensive. The popularity, utilization, and frequency of particular diagnoses changes with the seasons. Whether "illnesses" are viewed as biological, psychological, behavioral, or moral shifts back and forth throughout history. Behaviors that are considered "normal" in one country are considered "psychopathologies" in another. Diagnoses that are considered rare in one part of the country, are considered "rampant" in others.

For example, in the late 1880's upper class white women in England and the U.S. were diagnosed with Conversion Disorder whereas they would suddenly lose the ability to see or walk, without any known physical reason. Women also displayed symptoms of Hysteria -- manifested by fainting, yelling, and depressive "fits." It is interesting to note these illnesses, and behavior manifestations, are today extremely rare, and was considered rare then among poor women, women of color and women from other countries. Today women are commonly diagnosed with Borderline Personality Disorder and Multiple Personality Disorder (now Dissassociative Disorder).

It is clear to most therapists today, -- due to the powerful lobbying of feminist therapists over the last two decades --, that most of the above disorders are the results of trauma, most commonly physical and sexual abuse. Can the same illness manifest in different ways at different times? Do women who are traumatized by abuse, exhibit different symptomologies across class and racial lines? Can it be that human beings manifest certain symptoms in ways that are politically and socially acceptable within certain historical times? Certainly it cannot be true that only wealthy white women in Victorian England were being traumatized, but the symptom and behaviors of other women were not perceived as important, or perhaps poor women and women of color were not "treated" for medical problems, but punished by the penal system.

The DSM does not identify mental illnesses by their etiology (i.e. their causes) but rather by their effects. This means that if three women are sexually abused one might be labeled with depression ,one might be labeled with anxiety, and one might be labeled with bulimia, -- if those are the principal manifesting symptoms. The unhealthy ways a woman copes with the trauma becomes the avenue for diagnosis, instead of labeling the way she was victimized, or recognizing the healthy ways she has adapted in order to survive.

Changes in the DSM are not immune from political pressure. Some changes are beneficial, others more problematic. For instance some positive changes in the past 50 years include the shift from viewing Alcoholism as a moral problem to a medical one, the removal of Homosexuality from the DSM, and the utilization of Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD) in treating victims and survivors of incest, domestic violence, and sexual assault.

Current trends that are more questionable include the labeling of children with Attention Deficit Disorder (ADD) and Gender Identity Disorder. The numbers of children labeled with ADD continues to rise yearly, -- young males, and particularly young African-American males are most often labeled. Are more children having attention problems now than they were 20 years ago, or has something else changed about our society, our school system, or perhaps how we view the normal energy of young males? Is it possible that something about the energy of young Black boys is so frightening to our society that we need to medicate it?

In the last issue it was stated that "1 in 5 children/adolescents may have a diagnosable mental disorder." Statistics like these frighten me, and I am left wondering who was the researcher who studied this social malady. Could it perhaps be the pharmaceutical companies, or perhaps, the administrators of psychiatric hospitals? As managed care has become more and more resistant to paying for services for adults, the concerns for young children have suddenly risen. Many managed care programs are willing to pay large sums of money to support the "care" of disturbed young people, and many psychiatric hospitals have suddenly re-focused their entire treatment programs on the care of young people. We cannot ignore the role that profit plays in the diagnosing and treatment of vulnerable populations.

One of the common "new" diagnoses that young people are given is Gender Identity Disorder. This diagnosis is for children whose behavior and manner deviate from the accepted socially sanctioned appropriate gender behavior of boys and girls. Since Homosexuality was removed from the DSM in 1973, this has become the new diagnosis for young gays and lesbians. It has been used to treat gender transgressive young people who are gay, transgendered and/or just plain rebellious with shock therapy, medications, and hospitalizations in some cases lasting for 5 and 6 years. Can you tell me that this is not feminist backlash? The psychiatric profession is an institutionalized arm of a sexist, heterosexist, and transphobic patriarchal system. Diagnosis, I repeat, is political.

In the last issue of Women's Building News, the word Depression was frequently used as a psychiatric label. I am aware that this is technically correct (i.e. Depression is listed in the DSM) and I am also aware that severe or chronic Depressions can be debilitating and disabling. However, most people do experience some depressive episodes in their lifetimes, and I would argue that, like colds and intestinal flues, they are a part of the ebb and flow of health and illness within a "normal" human lifecycle. Depressions require familial and perhaps therapeutic support -- and maybe even pharmacological support --, but calling it a psychiatric illness??? "Depressions" can also be times of transformational change in people's lives -- spiritually referred to as "dark nights of the soul", -- times of reflection and self-examination.

I want to be clear that I am not in anyway denying the pain that human beings experience or the horrible realities of addictions, depressions, behavioral disorders in children, or dissociation in trauma survivors. I have dedicated my life to working with people who are struggling with these realities. I am saying that it is not entirely clear to me what words like "mental illness", "mental health", "psychiatric disorder" -- or even words like "treatment" -- mean. I am saying that diagnoses have been used historically to hurt and repress women and children, homosexuals and bisexuals, people of color, people who are genderly "different", and that I am very very leery to use the language of that system without clearly asking what it means and to whom.

Feminism has taken the psychiatric profession to task in the last few decades questioning the overuse of psycho-pharmacological intervention, and questioning diagnoses like Co-dependency, Pre-Menstrual Syndrome, Battered Women's Syndrome, and Borderline Personality Disorder. I was surprised that in a feminist publication there was so little questioning of the institutional sexism of the psychiatric system, and only a focus on how the system can better serve women who are already victimized by it.

I believe that as feminists who care about the mental health of women, children, and those we love, we must look at the patriarchal system of labeling illness with some skepticism. We must, of course, dismantle the stigma attached to "mentally ill" people, and work toward humane treatment and adequate resources. However, we must also examine the mental health system as a tool of the patriarchy, and cease labeling human differences as psychopathologies. We must stop hiding behind psychiatric diagnoses and examine the realities of trauma, oppression and abuse on the lives of women and children.

Saturday, July 18, 2009

Psalm 11 and Feeling Better

I will trust in You, Godde,
Even if others say I am foolish;
I will still trust in You.
Others try to destroy You and Your people,
But Your shield can block the swiftest bullet.

Godde is holy.
She deserves praise.
The Holy One may test the righteous,
But the righteous have no need to fear.

For Godde is righteous;
She loves righteousness
And smiles upon her righteous people.
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For the most part, it was a horrible week. A board of wood flew off the back of a truck and cracked my windshield and later that same day I had an accident with another car! And I am still unhappy with my work situation.
But I did have a wonderful meeting with my nutritionist. I told her about how my work stress is affecting my health and she reminded me of something really important-that my mental health is more important than a job. Imagine that! I am trying to keep that in mind, as I look for something better and in the meantime, keep on checking out my other blog, Femi-Nation, and keep on sending me positive energy.

Saturday, July 11, 2009

Psalm 10

The wicked do not know what is coming.
The wicked are not ready,
And never will be as long as they only look after their own shadow.

They do not think of Godde,
But only upon their own power.
They do not realize that all their power comes from Godde!

They crouch behind the doors of the poor,
Silently, waiting for weakness.
O Holy One, make them weak!

The time has come to show real power.
The time has come to show true justice.
The time has come for Godde to reclaim Her name!
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As always, go to http://www.biblegateway.com to compare.

Depression is a Cotton Stuffed Head

Depression makes my head feel like it's filled with clouds or stuffed with cotton.

I have so many things I want to say and do, but I just cannot convince myself to start them and whenever I do manage to start something, it just takes so much longer than normal. I am dedicated to talking about my depression openly and honestly-though not too honestly, for I am not quite ready to divulge all that I feel-so that people will know that those who suffer with depression or any other kind of mental illness cannot simply pull themselves up by their bootstraps! They are not lazy or simply complaining either. I am not giving up hope and I hope that the few people that follow this blog will patiently wait for the meatier articles that I will someday have the strength and motivation to write again.

Thursday, July 9, 2009

Humor and Recovery Go Hand in Hand

I have been really depressed off and on ever since not getting the call back for the NAMI job and yesterday was one of the worst for my depression. I am slightly ashamed to say that I spent most of the day in bed. When it got really bad, I called my minister for some encouragement and though I did feel a little better afterwards, not enough to get out of bed for long. But days like that happen in recovery-not everyday is going to seem as hopeful as the last and I think the best thing to do on those days is to be gentle with one's self.

So I spent most of the day in bed. So what? Today I'm working like I'm scheduled to and I did at least do three very important things yesterday:

1. Took care of the most important business: paid my bills!

2. Called a friend for encouragement

3. Let myself laugh!

Laughter is so important! My family's guilty pleasure is watching "Wipe-Out" together. I hate to say it, but this show makes me smile more than just about anything else right now. The people and the commentary is so ridiculous, I can't help it! Laugh along with me and feel your endorphines rising:

Friday, July 3, 2009

Psalm 9

I try to sing Your praises,
But all that comes forth are the same old clich├ęs.

From my pinkie toe to the top of my head
Does my body radiate praises to You.

You have destroyed the Powerful-
Do not destroy me!

You have remembered the needy-
Remember me!

May all remember who You are
And may we remember who we are also.

May we not destroy anymore,
But grow to love Your ways more and more,

For those that destroy will eventually be destroyed
And those that love will find peace.
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To compare, click here I picked up two poetry publications that tell about the latest contests and I think I might submit a few of my poems. If anyone has any constructive criticism about my poetry, don't be shy!

Wednesday, July 1, 2009

Homegrown Tomatos-John Denver had It Right!

There is almost nothing that is more satisfying to me than eating a homegrown tomato!

One morning, I made eggs with diced tomatoes and cheese with a side of toast.

So, so good! But here's the thing, I was still hungry! I thought about it, and decided to keep on eating! So, I made a sandwich!
Soft wheat bread, tomato slices, American cheese, and mayo. A southern classic! All the flavors just melded together and made me happy in a little kid kind of way.
And I was still hungry, and the cheese-tomato combo tasted so good that I cut up the remaining tomato and ate it with little pieces of cheese on top!
I cleaned up and left for work, completely satisfied and proud of myself.
Why? Because I ate until I was full. This is hard concept for me, because this lets go of control. You see, the amount that makes someone feel full differs from day to day and people with eating disorders desperately want to feel like they are in control, so to eat a different amount from day to day can be agonizing. To eat more-or less-than I originally planned requires a lot of thought and convincing. I do not talk about my mental work very often, because I feel like if I pretend I am normal, then perhaps one day I will be. Well, "normal" in the context that whether to eat will not be a question in my mind...
The only thing is that when I do not talk about my still daily struggle with eating enough is that since I am not underweight, I know many times people assume that my struggle with food is over or nearly over and I only wish that that were the truth. What, when, and where are questions I always wrestle with when it is time for me to eat. I know everybody else also asks these questions, so I guess the way mine are different is the amount of stress and anxiety it causes. Also, I am not just asking, "Where should I eat?" but "Should I eat at all?"
Life is not controllable and we are not in control. My appetite will change from day to day and I wish that that were not a scary idea to me. Fortunately, the cure for this fear is a wonderful one: Pass me a tomato, please!!!



Had to include this-it's the tomato's theme song and always goes through my head when I'm eating them!