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, August 23, 2010

Because of My Friends' Deaths, I Will More Fully Embrace Life

Thursday night, I received some horrible news-a woman that is a regular attendee of my eating disorders anonymous group died due to complications of anorexia. I did not know her extremely well, but she always seemed really nice and kind. I have heard it said about her that she was willing to help everyone else except herself, which is really sad. Fortunately, I was at one of my support groups when I found out the news and they listened to me as I cried and talked. Her death really affected me-I have been upset over the fact that my medicine has made me gain some weight and I was beginning to glamorize my lowest weight. Mary's death reminded me that anorexia is not glamorous and that it leads to misery and death. After my support group, I talked to one of my close friends about it and she said that she tries to honor her friends' deaths by living fully. She reminded me that if I am going to hang around in recovery communities, then I will have to get used to the idea of people dying young. Recovery is tough and not everyone makes it. That statement was surely apparent to me Thursday night, as Mary was not the only person I found out had killed herself this week-I consider eating disorder a kind of slow, agonizing suicide-a man named Jeff had also killed himself. It reminded me of the time in 2005 when I found out about two friends killing themselves on the same day. That year, I was not doing so well as I am now and at the meeting I told everyone that I was afraid being reminded of my friend's deaths in such a real way would cause me to relapse, but they reminded me that I have a choice and that does not have to be my road anymore.

After my support group, I went to a twelve-step group that people in my earlier support group put on for the patients at Ridgeview. It helped me think beyond myself and my hope is that some of what I said helped the people there. I know the things they said helped me.

Later that night, I went to a club called The Masquerade in downtown Atlanta to meet with some friends that I normally don't get to see. I wasn't sure if I should go, but I kept on remembering what my friend had said to me earlier: honor your friends' deaths by staying fully alive. And so I went and I had a fabulous time! I danced to eighties music set to a techno beat-it was eigthties' night-until the early morning. In my mind, I dedicated my dancing to Mary and Jeff. "Your deaths will not be in vain," I thought. "You were living in misery and could not enjoy life. I will learn from your deaths and I will not make the same mistake. Jeff, Mary, my dancing is for you."

As the night, and then the morning continued, I kept thinking about being fully alive. It was like a door had opened in my mind and I was ready to fully embrace life and love. At the club, I started talking to a friend I had not seen in a while. While we were talking, the light switch of love flipped on and I stepped through the doorway that had opened in my mind. We have been spending a lot of time together ever since and we are now officially in a relationship. I don't think I would have let myself become so open and loving towards someone I had not talked to in a long time if Jeff and Mary had not died. Thank you Jeff, and especially Mary-your lives and deaths will not be in vain. I will fully embrace life, because of you.

Thursday, August 19, 2010

In Our Own Voice Update

Ack! It feels as though I've been away from blogging for months, even though it's been less than a week. My days are so busy that a day feels like a week and a week feels like a month! This past weekend was no exception as I attended training for NAMI's In Our Own Voice program. The program was intense, but I am very glad I went. There were about fourteen people there and we spent time writing our speeches about our diagnosis, our treatment, acceptance, coping skills, and our hopes and dreams. Then we practiced saying them in front of everybody. This is to prepare us for when we go out to different organizations later to tell our stories and to try to break the stigma that surrounds mental illness. It was very inspirational to hear the stories of people who have had really hard times and yet have survived them all and have gone on to achieve some really awesome things. The atmosphere was exciting and energetic and I am pumped to get to work dispelling the stigma.

After the training, three things occurred to me:
1) My cynicism is fading. - Depression made me quite cynical for a long time, although I called myself a realist. I used to be always quick to think of the negative side of every situation and I used to think very negatively about NAMI, because of a few unfortunate incidents. Something changed for me at the training, though. I came to realize that here is an organization that is doing its best at making the world a better place. Of course, no entity is perfect, but it was just so clear to me that this organization is really trying. Soon my negativity was replaced with admiration. I still claim to be a realist, but I can now see the optimist's silver lining too.

2) If you trust long enough, life will work itself out. - Trusting is hard, especially when one is depressed or anxious, but life seems to be working out, at least for now. I worked with my minister all summer, getting ready to design an artistic program where I would speak out against mental health stigma. Reading the theology and writing the papers she assigned really helped me think about some big questions and opened my mind to new ways of thinking. In the end, I never wrote my one-womyn show, because NAMI supplied it for me. I was beginning to think I would never get around to writing what I needed to write, but then an event came along where I did just that. I feel like a huge burden has been lifted. Life is working itself out in several other ways too. You see, I am going to take classes on how to write grants, so that I can get a better paying job hopefully in about a year. The job I currently have lasts about a year, so this is perfect. I really do not think that I would be able to pursue a full-time job, go to all my groups, and try to build up my own business, nor do I think I would be able to support myself just doing my show either. My hope is that I will get a job at a company writing grants in about a year and that I will do my In My Own Voice presentation on the side. I think this is doable and I am excited.

3) I am an activist! - I have always wanted to be able to claim activism for myself, but I never thought I could, because I have never marched in a big protest. This is a great fallacy! One does not have to march in a big demonstration in order to call oneself an activist. That is a type of activism, but there are other types too. There is also the type of person who in conversations constantly challenges others to think in new ways. I have tried to do that with my blog. I have tried to bring issues to light that I think are important. What I have come to realize is that my calling is mainly to challenge the main modes of thought regarding disability and In My Own Voice definitely help do that. There are not many people who advocate for those with disabilities and I am proud to do what I can to help dispel stigma and promote justice.

Friday, August 13, 2010

Invite Your Legislative to The Georgia Behavioral Health Legislative Caucus

From a NAMIGA email:

The Georgia Behavioral Health Caucus is fast approaching. It is on Thursday, August 19, 2010. NAMI Georgia needs you to invite your legislator to attend. They have received an invitation from NAMI Georgia in late July. Hearing from you now would help them make the decision to attend. Please pass this along to your members and urge them to contact their legislators immediately.

Below is a link to help you identify your legislators. You simply put in your zip code and find your legislators.

http://www.legis.state.ga.us/legis/FindLegislator.htm


This is the fourth in a series of caucuses over the past year to inform the Georgia Legislature on critical issues related to our behavioral health system. The agenda for the Caucus is attached. Among the timely topics addressed at the Caucus will be an update on the status of the federal USDOJ lawsuit, and we will hear about the serious impact of untreated mental illness on our state’s court system and cost-effective programs that are working to address those problems, such as mental health courts.

Since the deinstitutionalization of mental health in the early 1960’s, Georgia has grown about 30 percent in population, yet funding for mental health services has declined. We are ranked 41st in funding. This is one factor that has contributed to our present crisis: unsafe state hospitals, jails, prisons and emergency rooms crowded with citizens who were not able to get mental health treatment in their communities, and over 20,000 people without homes.

The creation last year of the new Department of Behavioral Health and Developmental Disabilities is only the first step in improving our system of care for our most vulnerable citizens. Advocate groups and individuals who make up the Georgia Behavioral Health Legislative Caucus share a concern that there are not adequate community-based services for those in state hospitals and other “deep ends,” to be discharged to; therefore making recovery from their illnesses even more unreachable.

Thursday, August 12, 2010

Spiritual Quote of the Day

As a teacher of wisdom, Jesus was not primarily a teacher of information (what to believe) or morals (how to behave), but a teacher of a way or path of transformation. [...] From a life in the world of conventional wisdom to a life centered in God. (75, Marcus Borg, Meeting Jesus Again for the First Time)

Wednesday, August 11, 2010

Coconut Pecan Chicken

How my cooking life has changed! When I first started cooking, the only thing I would do to my chicken is saute it in a little bit of olive oil. Now I soak it in butter and cover it with nuts and coconut! Life is much sweeter with recovery added into the mix. A week ago I decided to try a recipe that once again covers chicken in coconut, but instead of dunking the chicken in butter, I covered it in yogurt. I really enjoyed this recipe, because it involved getting my hands messy. As I covered the chicken in yogurt and then in the coconut mixture, my hands were also covered and I delighted in the sensations I was feeling. This is another testament to how my cooking life has changed! When I first started cooking, I never would have gotten so physically involved with my food. Food was a scary contaminent, not the delight it is now.

I recommend this dish. It is fun to make and to eat, as the chicken strips resemble coconut biscotti-if there is such a thing-and could probably be finger food, although I did use a knife and fork. The reason why I made it is because I already had all the ingredients, except for the panko. Look for more recipes with panko in the future, as I have a lot left.
Ingredients:
1 1/2 cups plain fat-free yogurt
2/3 cup sweetened coconut flakes
2/3 cup panko (Japanese-style bread crumbs)
1/2 cup finely chopped pecans
1 1/2 pounds chicken breast
Cut chicken in 1-inch wide strips - I really thoroughly covered my chicken in the yogurt and coconut mixture, so there wasn't much left over after making only about 1/2 pound of chicken strips. Fortunately, it all worked out, since that was exactly the amount needed for three people. If you are planning on using all of your chicken, then I would use more yogurt and more of the mixture.

Preheat oven to 450 degrees. Put yogurt in a small bowl, and set aside. In a shallow pie plate, combine coconut, panko and pecans.

Dip chicken strips in yogurt to cover, then roll in panko mixture. Place strips on an oil-sprayed baking sheet. Spray top of chicken. Bake 15 minutes. Reduce heat to 350, and bake 15 more minutes. Check that coating browns but does not burn. If desired, broil 2 minutes for an even crunchier top.
(before)
(after)

My mom actually likes this recipe better than the coconut cashew chicken that I like to make. I think it's a fun take on chicken fingers and I liked how the coconut was sweet and crunchy, while the yogurt kept the chicken moist. I still have some coconut and a lot of panko left over, so look for recipes containing those ingredients coming soon!


Tuesday, August 10, 2010

Psalm 47

Clap!
Shout!
Godde is victorious!

Presidents,
Prime ministers,
Kings and queens:
Gather round and
Worship the Most High One.
Godde is divine, not you!

So let us sing
And shout praise forever.
It is love that rules our hearts!
*******************************
To compare it to the original, go here.

Monday, August 9, 2010

Spiritual Quote of the Day

In Christ there is neither straight nor gay. (59, Marcus Borg, Meeting Jesus Again for the First Time)
This statement is an add-on to one of my favorite verses, which so happened to be a part of the lectionary the last time I preached: Galatians 3:23-29

Before faith came, we were under the constraint of the Law, locked in untl the faith that was coming would be revealed. In other words, the Law was our monitor until Christ came to bring about our justification through faith. But now that faith is here, we are no longer in the monitor’s charge. Each one of you is a child of God because of your faith in Christ Jesus. All of you who have been baptized into Christ have clothed yourselves with Christ. In Christ there is no Jew or Greek, slave or citizen, male or female. All are one in Christ Jesus. Furthermore, if you belong to Christ, you are the offspring of Abraham, which means you inherit all that was promised.

We are all equal. This does not mean that we are all the same-we all have differences that need to be recognized and celebrated, but we are nonetheless all equal and deserve equal treatment.

We are all children of Godde. Knowing this within one's whole being has a transformative effect upon people, especially the downtrodden, which Howard Thurman writes about in his book, "Jesus and the Disinherited."(I heartily recommend this book!) In September, I am going to start classes in order to become certified in writing grants in order to help me obtain a job that would offer me more security. My mother suggested I take the courses and it took a little convincing, but I have been trying to listen to the Spirit and what I keep hearing over and over again is that I deserve it. As a child of Godde I deserve a better life, but not at the expense of anyone else. We are all equal and we all deserve a better life. I do not deserve anything that you do not deserve-no one is above or below me or you. So do not give people your power, but instead realize your power, your potential, for the betterment of all.

Sunday, August 8, 2010

Quote of the Day

Compassion, not holiness, is the dominant quality of God, and is therefore to be the ethos of the community that mirrors God. (54, Marcus Borg, Meeting Jesus Again for the First Time)

Saturday, August 7, 2010

Is It a Chocolate Cake or a Spare Tire? Either Way It's Yummy!

The first Sunday of every month at my church is a potluck supper. When I was thinking about what I should make, I remembered that I still had a lot of packets of instant pudding and decided that I wanted to make another pudding cake. I also decided that I would not make another poke cake, because I knew that there must be many ways to incorporate pudding into cake. I looked up some recipes online and found a winner: chocolate pudding fudge cake! The recipe has sour cream, which makes it really moist and the chocolate chips melt while baking, making it even more moist. This cake just melts in your mouth! The recipe also has instructions for making a glaze, but I think the cake is so rich and moist already that it does not need it. I did not make a glaze and was completely happy, but if you feel the need, follow the original recipe... My only complaint about this recipe is that it made a little too much batter and I ended up throwing some of it away, which made me very sad. I put as much batter as I thought I could into the pan and the cake almost rose over, but since it did not and it did taste great, no worries.

Ingredients
1 (18.25 ounce) package devil's food cake mix
1 (3.9 ounce) package instant chocolate pudding mix
1 cup sour cream
1 cup milk
1/2 cup vegetable oil
1/2 cup water
4 eggs
2 cups mini semisweet chocolate chips
(The original recipe did not specify "mini" chocolate chips, but a lot of the reviewers recommended using them, so I did. I recommend the mini too.)

Preheat oven to 350 degrees F (175 degrees C). Grease and flour a 10 inch Bundt pan. (I used, of course, my silicone Bundt pan. Love, love, love it! But still grease.)

In a large bowl, combine cake mix, pudding mix, sour cream, milk, oil, water and eggs. Beat for 4 minutes.

Mix in 2 cups chocolate chips. (I know, it's really hard not to lick off all the batter. Since this recipe makes so much, feel free to stick your finger in.)
Pour batter into prepared pan. Bake in the preheated oven for an hour, or until a toothpick inserted into the center of the cake comes out clean. Cool 10 minutes in the pan, then turn out onto a wire rack and cool completely. (The original recipe said 40 to 50 minutes, but there's just no way. A full hour is what this cake needs. Maybe the cooker just couldn't resist the yummy smells coming from the oven?! Try to resist for an hour, because then the cake will be perfect!) Look how big it is! More to enjoy!
My Bundt pan makes the cake look sort of like a spare tire. Some of my church friends laughed at the shape, which was not very nice, but fortunately all liked the taste.
When I got home I had another piece. The cake tastes great paired with blackberries!

Friday, August 6, 2010

Spiritual Quote of the Day

And to complete the imitatio dei, to "be compassionate as God is compassionate" is to be like a womb as God is like a womb. It is to feel as God feels and to act as God acts: in a lifegiving and nourishing way. "To be compassionate" is what is meant elsewhere in the New Testament by the somewhat more abstract command "to love." According to Jesus, compassion is to be the central quality of a life faithful to God the compassionate one. (49, Borg, Meeting Jesus Again for the First Time)

People with Developmental Disabilities are Proud Too

Recently I had a job where I helped take care of an autistic boy during the day. He loves to go to Wal-Mart, so often we would go there and look at the toys in the toy section. This boy is mainly nonverbal, but is still very good at communicating his wants and needs. As we would walk through the store, he would make noises that probably seemed like nonsense to the average person and it occurred to me that some people might be embarrassed walking with someone that does elicit stares from other people, but I am not. I am not, because I believe we all have a right to be ourselves in public. We are all children of Godde and deserve to be treated as such. Years ago, people with autism and other forms of developmental disabilities were kept hidden from society in attics and basements. Some people still think that people with developmental disabilities should not be seen much in public, but I think the time for keeping certain people hidden from society is over.

When I was taking music therapy classes in Milledgeville, I worked with a program called "Creative Expressions" that lets adults with developmental disabilities showcase their creative talents. My favorite was the drumming group! Working with these individuals was great fun and I learned that creativity is separate from intellect. I also learned that these people are truly individuals with distinct personalities, wonderful senses of humor, giving spirits, and the capacity to greatly love. Society often forgets that people with developmental disabilities are distinct individuals and that through their creativity adults with developmental disabilities can contribute to society. That is why I loved it when I saw these pictures from Studio Viohl taken of the adults involved in Creative Expressions. I urge you to take a look at these pictures, so you can see each individual's personality shine and I commend the photographer for showcasing people who are truly special.

Wednesday, August 4, 2010

Quote of the Day

I use inclusive language not as a matter of "political correctness" but because of its intrinsic importance. (18, Marcus Borg, Meeting Jesus Again for the First Time)

Monday, August 2, 2010

July Books


“Phule’s Company” by Robert Asprin – This is the first book in a science fiction series, but I probably will not be reading the others. It’s a fun, lighthearted book, which was sort of its problem-there was no real conflict! This book was certainly not deep at all, nor was it a page turner. It really seemed more like a book I would have liked when I was a preteen.
“The Secret Life of Bees” by Sue Monk Kidd – Now this book is a page turner! I read this book in two days and the way it combined spirituality with race reminded me of Alice Walker’s “The Color Purple.” I also really liked how this book addressed mental illness. In it, there is a character who struggles with a mental illness and her character is dealt with both kindness and honesty. I found this book inspiring. It gave me a lot to ponder.
“What Looks Like Crazy on an Ordinary Day” by Pearl Cleage – Great book! The characters were interesting and very realistic. The book expertly deals with a tough subject and I like that while the main character is HIV positive, the book is not trying to make us feel sorry for her. Instead the main characters through the course of the book become more and more fully alive, as they grow and recover from life’s tragedies. This book brings up how vital life-giving community is and how horrible life can become when it has no meaning. The book also reminded me a lot of the blog, _______, because Faith often talks about how black women need to get away from the thinking that they need to stay with black men at all costs and instead need to find communities that are truly life-affirming.
“Jesus and the Disinherited” by Howard Thurman – Another great book! Although the book was written in the 1930s, it is still very applicable to today. The book is refreshing in that it addresses the plight of the “disinherited” – the poor, minorities, etc – and what they can do. As a person with disabilities, I also feel like I am one of the disinherited and so this book really spoke to me and inspired me. It reminded me a lot of twelve-step programs, because like Thurman, those programs have a spiritual answer for a physical problem.

“Matters of Life and Death” by John Cobb – This book’s title makes me laugh, because it sounds so heavy! It really is a good read and I do recommend it. This book looks at four controversial issues with the lens of process theology. The topic “right to kill” about animal cruelty really got my attention. I found the whole book to be really thought provoking.

Sunday, August 1, 2010

Psalm 46

Earthquakes demolish,
Storms flood,
Tsunamis ruin,
But my faith stands firm
For God is with us.

Chaos seems to reign
As countries are levelled
By war and natural disaster,
But my faith stands firm,
For God is with us.

God is in the tears
And the pain of the downtrodden.
The Holy One hears our cry.

Look! There is hope
For our God uses the earth
To make us come together-
As the land has been crumpled,
So may we crumple the rulers of injustice.

There will come a day of peace
And we will make it happen,
For God is with us.
******************************
To compare it to the original, go here.