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.

Wednesday, February 29, 2012

Snickerdoodles or Snickerpoodles?

On Sunday, at church, people said that I "glowed" and looked happy. It's amazing, but true-I am continuing to feel better and better, which is such a relief. I feel alive and at ease with myself in a way that I haven't in a long time. I've even worked on one of my worst bad habits: obsessing about negative past events and dreaming up negative future ones as I drive. This only furthers my depression and anxiety, especially as I drive a lot. Recently, I started saying this prayer while I'm driving to keep my mind from ruminating: "O God, let stay in the present and let me live out to my edges." I'm not quite sure where it came from, but it just popped into my mind one day and I've held onto it. I repeat the phrase over and over in my head and smile to myself. It keeps me in the present, centers my thoughts on wanting to do good things, and gives permanence to the goal of being fully present and fully alive. When I remember to say the prayer, I really do seem to be able to stay more focused and be in a better mood.

BTW, this is what I wore to church:
  Light, cotton skirts in this style look really good on me and I own a lot of them.    It's a common style that's great for the southern heat and the best thing is that they are easily found at Goodwill.  I love Goodwill!  I have found some really unique pieces at great prices, like this skirt covered in yellow and tan pears.  A tip: shop at Goodwills in rich neighborhoods-they'll have designer clothes, but still sell them at the rock bottom prices.  Sweet!

It's National Eating Disorder Awareness (NEDA) week and I must say that I am very happy with the way that I am eating nowadays.  I started taking the medication, Zyprexa, as a mood stabilizer a little over a month ago and it was a very tough decision for me.  I had been on it once before and during that time I was the most stable I've ever been as an adult.  So why did I get off of it?  Because it sparked my hunger in a big way and I gained forty pounds.  I got frustrated with the fact that every time I saw my doctor, I was told that I had gained weight, so in the end, I told my doctor that I wanted off.  He agreed and a few months later, I was completely mentally unstable again.  (I feel the need to add that I was seeing my general practitioner for my psychotropic medications at the time and that is a big no-no.  I had my reasons and one day I will explain why in a later post.  I now have a psychiatrist that I trust and who, I think, is doing a good job managing my medications.)  I tried a lot of different medications, but none of them stabilized my moods in the way that Zyprexa had done.  I went through hell trying out all of the different medications and it took going through this period to teach me just how precious my recovery is.  I finally came to the point where I was willing to try Zyprexa again.  I remembered the joyous days I used to have and that seemed totally out of my reach with every other medication, but I was also really scared too.  Taking Zyprexa again was saying that I will not let the need to feel "in control" run my life and that my eating disordered thoughts will not win the battle for my mind.  When my new psychiatrist found out that Zyprexa had once helped me, he immediately wanted me back on it and I honestly told him my reservations.  He convinced me to try it again anyway. My therapist has started weighing me-backwards, so that I cannot see the number-right before each therapy session.  She told me to pass my need to know my weight onto her and that she would let me and my doctor know if my weight started to dramatically increase.  If it did, we would take appropriate action then, which would not be dieting, but something else, like seeing my nutritionist, lowering the dosage, or getting off the medication altogether.  It was such a relief to pass my out-of-control control issues onto my therapist.  As a Christian, I have been told often to pass my cares onto Godde.  Well, I passed my cares onto my therapist and it felt wonderful.  I feel that we experience Godde through our physical surroundings, including other people.  For me, right now, passing my cares onto my therapist is about as close to giving them up to Godde as I can get.  At first, my hunger and my self-consciousness did significantly increase, but as time went by, the hunger normalized and so did my eating and thinking.  Now, I am delighting in food, but not obsessing about it.  I am listening to my body and trying to stay mindful as to whether I am emotionally hungry or physically hungry and then eating or not eating accordingly.  It is so wonderful to feel "normal" about the way I approach food now-not as something to be feared or obsessed with, but as something to be enjoyed that is vital for my survival.

To this end, I will share with you yesterday's adventures with food:

I discovered snickerpoodles , which are a cookie that you can make for you AND your dog.  Really!  It looks like a snickerdoodle, but it's far less sweet, because it is sweetened with honey.  It has a great texture and surprisingly, a fabulous taste!  It's not sickeningly sweet the way some cookies can be, but the cup of honey gives just the right amount and the mixture of cornmeal and cinnamon gives the snickerpoodle the exact same texture and feel as the cinnamon-sugar on a regular one.  The only thing is, because they're not incredibly sweet, they're very addicting and I kept on wanting more...

Snickerpoodles

1/2 cup vegetable oil
1/2 cup shortening
1 cup honey
2 eggs
3 ¾ cups white flour
2 teaspoons cream of tartar
1 teaspoon baking soda
½ cup cornmeal
2 teaspoons cinnamon

Mix vegetable oil, shortening , honey with eggs. Beat well. Add flour, soda and cream of tartar. Knead dough until mixed well. Shape dough by rounded teaspoons into balls. Mix the cornmeal and cinnamon together in a bowl and roll balls in mixture. Place 2 inches apart on a greased cookie sheet . Press the balls down with a fork. Bake for 8-10 minutes at 400F. Cool on a rack. Store in airtight container.


 Both of my dogs loved their cookie.  This is Sadie.

Yesterday, I had made the cookies with the girl I work with.  Later that same day, we went to the mall and had frozen yogurt from Tutti Frutti.  I know this will sound un-American, perhaps, but I actually like frozen yogurt better than ice cream!  It's less sweet and tastes great with fruit.  This is passion fruit and coconut frozen yogurt with blackberries, kiwis, and passion fruit jellies.  So yummy and pretty!

Then, for dinner, I made a fabulous pasta dish: Pesto Squash.  I got the idea from allrecipes.com, but I made it my own by adding in other ingredients.

Ingredients

  • 4 zucchini, sliced
  • 1 cup basil pesto
  • 4 tablespoons Parmesan cheese
  • 3 cans of chicken
  • walnuts
  • 1 lb. corkscrew pasta

Directions

  1. Place zucchini in a steamer over 1 inch of boiling water, and cover. Cook until tender but still firm, about 2 to 6 minutes.  Or us the Zip Steam bags, like I did.
  2. In a serving bowl, mix everything together..



Wow!  What a great way to end the day!  The walnuts gave great crunch and the noodles helped absorb the oils from the pesto.  This was a very tasty dish that could easily be served hot or cold.  Enjoy NEDA week by enjoying good food and by treating your body and the bodies of others with kindness.
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Here are my blog recommendations:


Dances with Fat-When Good Intentions Go Bad


The evidence suggests that shaming kids about their weight leads to disordered eating (both under and over eating), low self-esteem, and bullying. The evidence suggests that promoting weight loss behaviors in kids predicts eating disorders and weight gain but not weight loss. So if we follow the evidence we would choose to focus on health, and promote programs that encourage kids of all sizes to develop health habits.


Womanist Musings - Disability Click Moments

Coming to terms with disability means understanding what your limits are, and loving and accepting yourself for who you are today. This can be a difficult journey, because we are all taught that disabled people are to be pitied.
 

Womanist Musings - Men, Sexism and Faux Oppression This is a must read, especially for males!


Saturday, February 25, 2012

El Shaddai - The Breasted God

Once upon a time, a woman knocked at my door who wanted to share her faith and I invited her into my apartment. "I'll listen to you talk about your beliefs if you'll listen to mine," I said and she agreed. She told me what type of Christian she was,-I don't remember what kind anymore-what she believed, and how wonderful it was. Then it was my turn. I talked about being a Feminist Christian and how my way of following Christ was wonderful for me. I told her that one of the main differences between her and my church is that we are all inclusive, even down to our language about people and especially about Godde.

 "Sometimes we refer to Godde as He and sometimes we refer to Godde as She, as we recognize that Godde contains aspects of both genders," I said. This seemed to blow her mind.

 "But the Bible only refers to God as He!" she said.

 "Ah, but the Bible refers to God in the third person and the people who wrote the Bible used He, because they lived in a patriarchal society," I said.  "But Godde never refers to herself as He or She, because that would be weird. Godde does refer to Herself as "I AM," which is gender neutral. You see, it is men who decided that Godde must be male, not Godde, Himself."

 "Hmmmm..." It was like I could see the gears in her head turning and then she brightly smiled. "Well, I am glad that you are a Christian and it was nice talking to you," she said, and then departed. I was awestruck as I closed the door, for I realized that I had just been a part of a miracle-that is, two people who normally would think of each other with fear, dread, and anger put aside their differences and talked calmly about their beliefs. Y'all, this does not happen often in the South! I was expecting to be told that my kind of Christianity was wrong and she was probably expecting me to slam the door in her face. We had had an experience that is rare in our culture-a discussion, or to put it in more scholarly terms, a dialogue. It seems to me, at least from what I have observed from interactions on Facebook to the politicians on television, that our society argues a whole lot more than we calmly discuss. What would our country look like if we actively listened to one another instead of trying to change one another? I think there would be a whole lot more peace and acceptance, for it is true that the only person that one has control over and can make change is one's self.

 But back to her assertion that the "Bible only refers to God as He." I didn't know it then, because I didn't know as much about the Bible in 2005, but the Bible actually does refer to Godde as She quite a lot. I never knew it, because until very recently the translations of the Bible to English removed most of the references and so only the scholars that studied the Greek and Hebrew knew the truth. Now I have not studied Greek or Hebrew, but I do go to a church that includes aspects of the feminine into how we worship the Divine. I have learned that ancient Christians referred to the Holy Spirit as "Sophia." Sophia is also the name used for Wisdom in the original texts. Yesterday, as I was reading from The Inclusive Bible, I found another wonderful feminine surprise-it was translating El Shaddai not as the Almighty, but as "the Breasted One:"
The name El Shaddai is usually translated "the Almighty," under the assumption that it derives either from the word shadad,which means "burly" or "powerful," or from shadah, which means "mountain," making the name mean "God of the mountains." There is growing opinion, however, that Shaddai may derive from the word shad or "breast"-thus El Shaddai may be a feminnine image of God meaning "the Breasted God." Then again, since mountains are frequently shaped like breasts, these two interpretations are not mutually exclusive. (12)
Study these verses with the new interpretation:
When Abram was ninety-nine years old, YHWH appeared and said, "I am the Breasted One. Walk in my presence and be blameless. I will make a covenant between you and me, and I will increase your numbers exceedingly." Gen. 17:1-2
In this instance, saying Godde is the Breasted One makes sense to me, because She is promising Abram that She will increase his numbers-in essence, She is promising him fertility and what better sign for fertility is there than the breast, which becomes full of nourishing milk as the baby is about to be born. Breasts are a comforting pillow and Godde's promise of fertility is a comfort to Abram and Sarai. I like this image of Godde-a nourisher, a comforter, and one who gives life. I have looked at several other verses that contain the phrase "the Breasted One" and they seem to always be used when Godde is connected to the Israelites. The Israelites, as the story goes, were Godde's chosen people and Godde gave them nourishment to grow as a people. This view of naming Godde nourishes and comforts me, as I prefer to think of Godde as the source of my strength, but in a nourishing way-not in the destructive power-over-another way that the name "Almighty" sometimes implies.

 BTW, when I first read that passage in my Bible, my immediate reaction was to laughingly sing to myself Amy Grant's song, "El Shaddai": "Breasted God, Breasted God, El-Elyon na Adonai, Age to age You're still the same, By the power of the name." I betcha won't hear it the same way again!
I'm going to start something new!  Since I like to read blogs and I love to share, whenever I write a blog post, I'm also going to post the blog posts I've read lately that are worthy of my recommendation.

First are three posts about a new game at Disney World that unfortunately stigmatizes fat children.


This isn't about the bad habits at all. Its training children to adopt the socially dictated bigotries around fatness.
Dances with Fat – Deeply Disappointedin Disney

Do we really want to create more fear of being fat when we know that there is a 112% increase in the number of hospitalizations for kids under 12, UNDER TWELVE, who have eating disorders?

In our culture, with the War on Childhood Obesity, where we focus on children's body size, we are teaching discrimination based on the physical characteristic of body size.  This teaches our children to discriminate against each other and that they are entitled to bully each other.
Then, Dances with Fat writes about weight loss medications in It's About My Heart.


[...] fat is not a diagnosis.  It’s a descriptor.  Obesity is not a disease, it’s a ratio of weight and height.  There are perfectly healthy obese people (and very unhealthy thin people).


 Excitable Gurelle (The Queen of Bipolar) gives thanks for science and medicine in It's Medication Time!


Imagine my life and health if this was fifty or more years ago. I doubt I would even be alive let alone comfortable most days. Where would you be if it was 1950?
          Tonight I am grateful for science and medicine.


BUT, if you only read ONE of the posts that I recommend, then read You're Cured Right Now by Womanist Musings!



As a disabled person, I am constantly encouraged to rise above.  The super crip narrative is absolutely universalized.  What rarely gets discussed is the fact that when disabled people do actually push themselves and rise above, it is taken as proof that a disability no longer exists, and that accommodations no longer need to be made.

Happy reading! 

Tuesday, February 21, 2012

A Quote, A Recipe, and Lots of Fatshion Fun

Without God, we are completely determined by our past. ~ Monica A. Coleman, "Making a Way Out of No Way"
Without God, we would be doomed to always repeat our mistakes, to never learn, to never grow, because I believe Godde is the force that continually urges us to a newer, better, more lovely way. Godde is Love and Godde is Hope. It is not that our past is so bad, but that our past should only be a part of who we are-not our totality. There should always be hope that life can be better than it currently is.

 Just a few years ago, I did not enjoy cooking, because all I could think of was the fat grams and calories that I was about to consume. Now I love to cook! A few nights ago, I made Mandarin chicken for dinner.

Mandarin Chicken Skillet Dinner

Ingredients

  • 1 cup fresh broccoli florets
  • 1 tablespoon butter
  • 2 pounds skinless, boneless chicken breast meat - cubed
  • 1 1/2 cups sliced fresh mushrooms
  • 3 teaspoons all-purpose flour
  • 2/3 cup water
  • 1/3 cup undiluted, thawed orange juice concentrate
  • 2 cubes chicken bouillon
  • 1 (11 ounce) can mandarin orange segments, drained
  • 1/4 cup sliced green onion

Directions

  1. Place broccoli in a steamer over 1 inch of boiling water, and cover. Cook until tender but still firm, about 2 to 6 minutes. Use a Zip'N Steam bag.  Drain, cool and set aside.
  2. Heat butter in a large skillet over medium high heat. Saute chicken in butter until browned. Remove from skillet and set aside.
  3. Saute mushrooms in skillet for 1 minute; remove from skillet and set aside. Stir in flour, water, orange juice concentrate and seasoning.
  4. Heat to boiling, stirring. Simmer, stirring, for 4 minutes. Return chicken and mushrooms to skillet; stir in orange segments, green onion and broccoli. Heat through and serve.


I didn't use mushrooms, because I didn't have any.  But don't let that stop you-mushrooms are great!

Serve this dish atop rice, like I did.  Everyone liked this light, citrus-y, sweet dish.  It's very easy, especially since my visiting aunt chopped up the chicken.  I love mandarin oranges and I think their color makes any meal look festive.

Something I also never used to do before I started blogging was to take pictures of myself.  Why would I?  In my body-hating opinion, looking at a picture of myself was simply an excuse to gaze at my flaws.  I would scan the picture looking for instances of body fat and other perceived flaws.  I just could not be satisfied with myself.  And if I did want my picture taken, I would passively wait for someone else to offer to take my picture.  If no one did, then I would silently wallow in self-pity for the fact that no one could read my mind.  It was proof, I thought, that no one liked me or thought I was important.  It was not true, of course, but what was true was the fact that I was passively letting other people control my life.  I still do this sometimes, but now it is something I am working on letting go.  And if I want my picture taken?  If I think I look good?  Then I'll take the damn picture myself, just to be sure I've got one!

Here are some pictures I have taken of moi in the past couple of days.  It's Fa(t)shion February and I just had to join in on the fun!



I really like this picture of me!  I am wearing my "holiday party" sweater-you may not be able to tell, but the smaller lines are sparkly.  The sweater and the pants are from Torrid.  The cami is from Target and the shoes are from DSW.













This is what I was wearing when I was cooking the mandarin skillet dinner.  I just bought the shirt last week on clearance at Torrid!  The shrug is from Marshall's, I think.  I have no idea where the leggings are from, but the shoes are from Rack Room.
This is my most recent outfit and I really like it.  Jeans are from Torrid, the shirt is from Target, the sweater is from JCPenney, the shoes from Rack Room, and my parents bought me the necklace for my birthday at an arts festival last year.
"Hope is the thing with feathers that perches in the soul"  This is one of my favorite necklaces, as it contains a line from one of my favorite poems, by one of my favorite poets-Emily Dickinson.

It's sort of funny, but the time I hated myself the most was the time when society thinks that I would love myself the most.  I was already suicidal when I was skinny and I was sure that I would kill myself if I ever got fat.  I'm not proud of this, but in my mind, fatness equaled being out of control, wild, and unloveable.  I would look at a fat person and think to myself, "I would kill myself if I looked like them."  I thought a lot about killing myself in those days...  I am ashamed that I was so judgmental and that I believed society's lie.  I actually thought that it would be impossible for a person to be fat AND happy and that if I ever had to gain weight, that I might as well give up on living.  It sounds shallow, but it was really more about my need for feeling in control.  Now, because of my medication, I am fat.  And I love myself.  And I am happy, at least most days, lately.  And I have self confidence and I even have sex on occasions.  My fatness has not slowed me down and now I know that if I start thinking about killing myself, then I need to see my doctor and my therapist right away.  Losing weight will not fix my problems, but losing the expectations that society tries to shove down my throat will be many steps in the right direction of my recovery.

BTW, this post by The Fat Nutritionist about feeling fat is fabulous.  She should be required reading for anybody in recovery from an eating disorder.

Monday, February 13, 2012

All Bodies Can Be Sexy!

I was watching the new show, Smash, the other night, which is about a musical being written about Marilyn Monroe and the two women that want to have the leading part. One of the ladies was bemoaning about how hard it is to get called back from auditions and was hypothesizing that she was too skinny and not sexy enough. "I wish I were fat," she moaned. The audience, of course, is supposed to understand that fat people are never sexy and that this woman-I don't remember the character's name-is seeing fatness as an escape. "Oh, if only I were fat, then I would never have to worry about my looks-there'd be no use!" I call this bullshit. Being sexy is all about being comfortable in one own's body. It's about self-confidence and chemistry-only fools think it's purely about size. I should know-I am fat and I am sexy! I'm sexy in the times when I feel good about myself and I take pride in my body. I don't feel good about myself all the time, but when I do, I am hot and captivating. So are you to at least someone, no matter what your weight is. I took these pictures several months ago on a day when I was feeling good and sexy about my body.


Aren't those leggings fun?  I wish I knew where my mom found them!  I got the shoes from Goodwill.

On a side note, it's hard to feel sexy and to take pride in one's body when one is in the clutches of mental illness.  Whether the illness is depression or anxiety or schizophrenia, taking care of the body just doesn't seem that important when one is striving to take control of one's own mind.  Now that I am feeling better, I have noticed that I am wearing lipstick and styling my hair more often.  Hell, I am showering more often!  Perhaps there will be some more recent pictures of me soon...

Saturday, February 11, 2012

January Books 2012

Patternmaster by Octavia E. Butler - This is a good book, but it's not my favorite in Butler's Patternist  series.  It's the semi-typical story about a hero on a journey to prove his manhood, which is a little unusual for Butler.  But then again, this was her first novel.  Butler is a fabulous character writer and I did love her character, Amber.  I especially appreciated the fact that Amber is bisexual.  It is so refreshing to read a science fiction book with a bisexual female character and not feel like the reason for her addition is to please the minds of men.  It was also refreshing that Amber was the one to teach Teray how to defend himself.  I love strong, complex female characters and Butler is the best author I know that provides them.  I might just have to reread some of her other novels for more!

Mental Health Awareness Week-Surviving Suicidal Impulses is Living into Recovery

**Trigger Warning-Self-Harm and Suicidal Thoughts Discussed**

Well, it happened.  In my last post, I wrote about being full of gratitude, because of not being depressed and yet I knew that the depression would eventually return.  Here is what I wrote:
I'm trying not to make a big deal out of it, because I don't want to be too disappointed when a day of depression comes again.  One undoubtedly will-depression, as one of my therapists keeps on telling me, is a recurring disease.  He keeps telling me that, so that when I start feeling depressed again, I can work towards staying in peace instead of totally giving into depression. 
Actually, it wasn't so much the depression that came back, but the anxiety.  The horror started gradually-I had wonderful, depression-free days, but at night I had a lot of trouble sleeping.  As I lay in bed trying to sleep, my mind would just obsess about made-up scenarios.  My thoughts raced around as my frustrations would build.  On Wednesday, I made an appointment with my doctor for Monday, but that wasn't soon enough, because all hell broke loose on Friday...

Friday, I woke-up at 5:30am in the middle of a panic attack.  It was horrendous.  Panic attacks are only supposed to last around ten minutes, but this one continued for hours.  Panic attacks are terrifying, because I feel like I am losing my mind and fast.  I called my doctor as soon as his office opened and then I called my mother.  We tried to think of coping skills that I could use and I decided that I would take a shower to try and calm myself.

It worked too well.

As I was standing in the shower, hot water hitting my face and thoughts still racing around my brain, I thought to myself, "I don't want to do this anymore."

My world fell silent and it seemed that I separated into two people-a person that still wanted to live and be in recovery and one that only desired to kill the other.  The second, suicidal self answered the thought with another, "I don't have to."  Now I wasn't trying to survive the panic attack, but my urge to kill myself.

I struggled with wanting to call someone to tell them the "good" news that I had discovered the answer to my pain and that that answer was to end my life, but I knew that they would not see it from my point of view.  I knew the person I called would want to keep me alive and the recovery self called my sponsor.  There was no answer and the suicidal self stifled my cries and hung up the phone.  "She won't call back, " I thought.  "I'll be able to do it after all."  But I didn't.  I took a knife and held it in my hands and stared at it longingly, but I didn't.  And as I was pacing the room, about ten minutes later my sponsor called back.  I don't remember much of what was said, but we talked for about thirty minutes and the talking stilled the suicidal voice in my head long enough for me to see my doctor.

By the time I saw my doctor that day, I was rational enough that my doctor did not understand just how dangerously anxious I was.  He told me to go to Ridgeview's access center and see about getting into their night PHP program, but I knew that wasn't going to happen.  I knew that if I went to the hospital that I was going to be admitted and that my suicide would not be successful.  I went anyway.  My recovery self won.

I spent six days inpatient, four on precautions, which is the side of the unit where suicidal patients are kept.  It took several days for my medications to start working and I am embarrassed to say that I self-harmed by scratching my wrist with sharp objects I found in an effort to lessen the emotional pain.  Despite my self-harming and my suicidal thoughts, there was a part of me that wanted to live, because I always told on myself shortly after starting to self-harm and gave up whatever object I had been using.

By the sixth day, I was feeling much better and I am continuing to improve.  My new medications really seem to be working the way they should-I am no longer feeling depressed OR anxious.  I am seeing my therapist twice a week and she is going to start teaching me coping skills to deal with depression and anxiety for people with Borderline Personality Disorder, called DBT or Dialectical Behavior Therapy using a workbook.

The thing is, the whole time I was at the hospital, I kept on hearing talk about how to keep the patients out of the hospital, as if being in the hospital is a bad thing.  I think that kind of talk though is stigmatizing.  We don't chastise a cancer patient when they have to return to the hospital for treatment, so why does that happen to mentally ill ones?  Let me ask you this: Was I still in recovery when I was feeling so suicidal?  When I handed my pen cap to the counselor, because I wanted to use it to scratch myself?  When I shouted at the weekend doctor that I wanted to slit my wrists? Yes!  Because I had not fully given up-I was getting the help I needed, so that I would stay alive long enough to learn how to thrive.

Some people think that a person in recovery never needs to go to the hospital, but unfortunately that is not always so. A person in recovery gets the help they need and never gives up.  I am tired of the stigma of the hospital that prevents some people from getting help.  Two weeks ago, I got a standing ovation by one of my support groups for going to the hospital and getting the help I needed.  This week is Mental Health Awareness Week and I urge you not to further the stigma.  I wish all patients got a standing ovation for going to the hospital.  I wish the emphasis was not on making this the person's last hospitalization ever, which inadvertently heaps shame and guilt unto the patient, but on comforting, validating, and loving the patient as much as possible.  The most important thing in recovery is to never give up-holding on to the slightest of hope always brings better days in the end.