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 26, 2012

I Mean What I Post

[content note: discussion of race, privilege, and the word, bullshit - If this language offends you, then do not read any further.]
The above image is posted on one of my boards on Pinterest.  It got repinned a fair number of times, which felt good, but it also got me called a racist by several people.  I explained why the statement above is not racist on Pinterest to my satisfaction, but in light of the tragic murders of Trayvon Martin and Rekia Boyd, coupled with the very sad and disturbing racism going on with some of the members of the fat acceptance movement, I feel the need to explain the image on my blog.  

First off, you might ask, "Why do you care?"  I mean, I am primarily a disabilities advocate, right?  Shouldn't I just concern myself with the issues that affect me personally?  Yesterday I finally read the blog that is getting so much attention in the fat acceptance sphere and I was absolutely disgusted.  The blogger seems to have the position that an activist should only have one focus-if an ally calls that person out on racism or any other kind of -ism, all they are doing is detracting from the main point.  But, as a commenter on the blog pointed out, while a good activist may have a specific focus, they should be devoted to ending ALL the ways in which people are oppressed.  I one hundred percent agree.  (Note: I am purposely being vague here, as I do not want to inadvertently support the blogger in the FA community.)  Besides, there is such a thing as intersectionality.  That is, all areas of oppression intersect.  For instance, a person may be of color and have a disability, so they have to navigate racism and ableism, very often at the same time.  This fictional person may also be poor and queer.  Now they also have to deal with economic hardship and homophobia or bi-phobia or trans-phobia or asexuality or polyamory.  I, myself, am socially disadvantaged by the fact that I am female, queer, and have several severe mental illness, along with fibromyalgia.  On this blog, I mainly choose to write about my recovery from these illnesses, but as my life intersects across other areas, I sometimes write about other issues too.

One of my critics said that, "By saying the "white racist, homophobic, patriarchal bullshit" instead of simply the "racist, homophobic, patriarchal bullshit" you are perpetuating racist bullshit.  I say that's a bunch of bullshit, myself.  For one thing, it always makes me suspicious when white people who claim to not be racist are quick to point out how whites are victims of racism, themselves.  I always wonder if they would be so quick to defend people of color.  Another commenter agreed, claiming that ""Reverse" bigotry is still bigotry."  Folks, there is no such thing as reverse bigotry.  It's something white people made up.  Racism is being oppressed by the people in power because of the color of your skin, therefore white people cannot be victims of racism.  Why?  Because white people are the people in power.  White people can, however, be victims of prejudice, which is a preconceived opinion not based on reason or experience.  Bigotry is intolerance for others who hold differing views other than your own.  There is no such thing as "reverse bigotry," because bigotry is not about being in power, but is a general term about being intolerant towards others.  Words matter and if you say that I am only crying about semantics (another claim on Pinterest), then I will tell you that semantics are important, for it is how we communicate and understand each other.  Saying something is only about semantics is always said when trying to discredit another person, but it is not the truth.  Semantics actually do matter.

Make no mistake about it-I am one hundred percent against the white, racist, homophobic, patriarchal bullshit.  I am also against transphobic, classist, ableist bullshit too.    At my core, I am a feminist and while there are as many different definitions of feminism as there are feminists, the one thing we should all be able to agree on is that feminism involves a critique of power.  Just because we now have a Black president does not mean that we live in a post-racist society (as another commenter claimed).  Trayvon Martin and Rita Boyd were both killed, because white men claimed they looked "suspicious."  Why did they look suspicious?  Because they were Black.  Are the killers in jail or even arrested?  Nope.  Why?  Because they're the ones in our society who have all the power.  Having power does not always mean that you are the person in public office, but it does mean that general society  considers your argument, no matter where you are, to be more sincere, more plausible, more trust-worthy than others.  In our society, it is the white, cis-gendered, straight, able-bodied, neuro-typical male who holds the most power.  This needs to change.  I don't know about you, but I long for the day when we share our power equally.

One of my critics tried to make the point that it's not actually the white people that have the power, but rich people. But this is simply where the intersectionality I was talking about earlier comes into play.  We all have multiple privileges and multiple oppressions-it's part of being human.  I am not saying that Black people have no advantages at all-the privileges are just not there because of their race.  As I explained to the commentator, a Black man is oppressed by race, but he is privileged in his gender.  See how that works?  So a white person may be oppressed financially, but NOT because of the color of their skin.  I don't think that white people should walk around buried in shame, but I do think that white people need to be aware of their own privilege.  Awareness is a powerful thing.  I try to be aware of my own privileges and I think this helps me be a better person.  When I am aware of my privilege, I am kinder, more open, and more willing to listen to the pain of others.   That's all I want from anybody-consideration.  How does my privilege affect you?  How can I use my privilege to help you in your situation?  Is this a time when I should shut up and listen?  How can I do my part to end all oppression?  These are the questions that we should be asking ourselves and each other.
Sigh.  I also have a bad cold.  sniffle, sniffle

Here is my one recommended reading:

The anti-choicers are absolutely deploying gender essentialism. We don’t have to respond on their terms, though. (unless we, like, really really want to lose. Cause that’s what happens if we let our opponents determine the terms of the debate.)

Friday, March 23, 2012

Finding Inspiration in Light and Song

In my last post, I talked about ordering a light box for my seasonal affective disorder.  I had been very resistant in using one, as the notion of artificial light being used to increase energy and mood seemed way too weird.  Also, I was very resentful at the thought of adding another thing to my routine.  That is, until I tried it. And glory, hallelujah!  To my amazement, the blasted thing works!  I had been struggling with depression for several days, I had been crying any time I was alone, and I was beginning to get really paranoid.  I was convinced that my therapist didn't like me anymore and was angry with me and I didn't attend my DBT group, because I was afraid to be around people.  Recognizing that I was beginning to lose my grip on reality, I scheduled a doctor's appointment.  Since yesterday was cloudy, after my therapy appointment, I plugged in the light box, got out a book, and sat in front of it and read for thirty minutes.  I was tired and I was sure that after the thirty minutes, I would need to take a nap.  I grumbled to myself the majority of the time I sat in front of it and yet, despite my best efforts, when I was done with reading, I noticed that I seemed to feel motivated and that the idea of taking a nap didn't seem so appealing anymore.  In fact, yesterday was one of the first days in weeks without a nap!  The result of  me seeming to come back from the dead was literally life changing.  Now I am typing this post while sitting in front of the same light box.  I have used many kinds of therapies and light therapy by far is the easiest.  It now seems all so petty that I got so worked up and resentful about sitting in front of a light bulb while surfing the web or eating breakfast.  If only all therapy was this easy!  After my experiences, I am strongly encouraging anyone that suffers from depression during dark days to get a light box.  I got mine on Amazon for about $50.  The light box, for me, seems more effective for this kind of depression than medication, which just seems unbelievable.  I feel like a totally different person than the person I was yesterday morning.  Then, I was confused and cloudy, unable to make even simple decisions, but today I was able to be fully attentive to others and able to smile and laugh.  I feel like a happy fool.

(As a caveat, I saw my doctor right after writing that last paragraph and he was skeptical that the light box worked so well so quickly.  He majorly upped a bunch of my medications to be on the safe side, but he is glad I got the box.  He wants me to use it twice a day for 30-45 minutes at a time.  So we shall see...)

I also want to share with you some positive music!  On day four of my last hospitalization, I was still on suicide precaution, but I was lucid enough to actually want something to do.  Fortunately, I had my notebook with me and I decided to write down the lyrics that I could think of that inspire me.  As you may know, inspirational quotes really help me and reading those lyrics helped me at the time, at least a little bit.  I have posted all the lyrics to the songs chosen, with the words in bold being the words I could remember when I was in the hospital.  Enjoy!

Life Uncommon
Don't worry mother, it'll be alright
And don't worry sister, say your prayers and sleep right
It'll be fine lover of mine
It'll be just fine
Lend your voices only to sounds of freedom
No longer lend you strength to that which you wish to be free from
Fill your lives with love and bravery
And you shall lead a live uncommon
I've heard you anguish
I've heard you hearts cry out
We are tired, we are weary, but we aren't worn out
set down you chains, until only faith remains
Set down you chains
And lend your voices only to sounds of freedom
No longer lent your strength to that
which you wish to be free from
Fill you lives with love and bravery
And we shall lead a life uncommon

There are plenty of people who pray for peace
But if praying were enough it would have come to be
Let your words enslave no one and the heavens will hush themselves
To hear out voices ring out clear
with sounds of freedom
sounds of freedom
Come on you unbelievers, move out of the way
there is a new army coming and we are armed with faith
To live, we must give
To live And lend out voices only to sounds of freedom
No longer lend out strength to that which we with to be free from
Fill your lives with love and bravery
And we shall lead...
Lend out voices only to sounds of freedom
No longer lent out strength to that which we with to be free from
Fill you lives with love and bravery
And we shall lead a life uncommon

I've Seen: Money come between my best friend and me
I've Seen: Old friend become new enemies
I've Been: Through a couple of litigations
I've Been: Through character assassination.

They Try To Put This Stick In Between My Wheels
But They can't Stop My Motivation (Nothing Will)

Though I walk through the Valley where the
shadow of death is I fear no evil cause I'm protected.


You wont get the best of me even though you broke my
heart. I'm gone pick up the pieces. [2X]

I Was Thinking: Maybe this isn't the life for me.
I Was Thinking: Maybe I should leave the music industry
I've Been: Betrayed by the people I trusted
I've Been: Oh seriously disgusted.

They Try To Put This Stick In Between My Wheels
But They can't Stop My Motivation (Nothing Will)

Though I walk through the Valley where the
shadow of death is I fear no evil cause I'm protected.


You wont get the best of me even though you got my
money. I'm gone pick up the pieces. [2X]

MC Lyte Mix:

You can't Get The Best Of Me Cause Of My Destiny
Not To Be Less Than Me But To Be More.
So, don't Question Me..
I Came And I Conquered, I Soared
To New Heights And Still I Explored
In My Fight To Survive,
Lyte Is Too Right
Keep My Eyes On New Sights
I Continue To Plight
So, When Try To Hurting Me
Even Deserting Me
Know That I Am Designed To Overcome Adversity~
Want To Bring Out The Worst In Me IT WONT HAPPEN!
Because I Take Responsibility For My Actions.
My TenacityWell It Has To Be Everlasting
Cause Even When Comes To BackstabbersIM LAUGHING!

You wont get the best of me even though broke my
heart .I'm gone pick up the pieces.

You wont get the best of me even though you got my
money. I'm gone pick up the pieces. [2X]

You wont get the best of me because by the grace of GOD. I'm gone pick up the pieces. [4X]
Prince Of Darkness
My place is of the sun and this place is of the dark
I do not feel the romance I do not catch the spark
I don't know when I noticed life was life at my expense
The words of my heart lined up like prisoners on a fence
The dreams came in like needy children tugging at my sleeve
I said I have no way of feeding you, so leave
But there was a time I asked my father for a dollar
And he gave it a ten dollar raise
When I needed my mother and I called her
She stayed with me for days
And now someone's on the telephone, desperate in his pain
Someone's on the bathroom floor doing her cocaine
Someone's got his finger on the button in some room
No one can convince me we aren't gluttons for our doom
But I tried to make this place my place
I asked for Providence to smile upon me with his sweet face
But I'll tell you
My place is of the sun and this place is of the dark
I do not feel the romance I do not catch the spark
My place is of the sun and this place is of the dark
(By grace, my sight grows stronger and I will not
be a pawn for the Prince of Darkness any longer)

Maybe there's no haven in this world for tender age
My heart beat like the wings of wild birds in a cage
My greatest hope my greatest cause to grieve
And my heart flew from its cage and it bled upon my sleeve
The cries of passion were like wounds that needed healing
I couldn't hear them for the thunder
I was half the naked distance between hell and heaven's ceiling
And he almost pulled me under
Now someone's on the telephone desperate in his pain
Someone's on the bathroom floor doing her cocaine
Someone's got his finger on the button in some room
No one can convince me we aren't gluttons for our doom
I tried to make this place my place
I asked for Providence to smile upon me with his sweet face
But I'll tell you
My place is of the sun and this place is of the dark
I do not feel the romance I do not catch of spark
My place is of the sun and this place is of the dark
(By grace my sight grows stronger, grows stronger)
I do not feel the romance I do not catch the spark
(And I will not be a pawn for the Prince of Darkness any longer)
Second Time Around
 The second time around, you know it really got me down.
Sister don't you judge it, just keep it to yourself now. And
If you ain't got nothing good to say, don't say nothing at all.
I go bitten by the bitter bug, and now I just can't get enough
Of ill will and my own conceit. I'm weary of the world it seems.
I'm weary of the world, weary of the world it seems.
It's sort of always gone my way. I'm just a little bit off these
Days. Like I've had hard knocks all my life, like I'm a Bible
Belt wife. Like I didn't see it coming, like I didn't walk it Willingly.
See, I never want to sing again. La la la like a butterfly.
Without my wits about me, without my heart in line.
Third time's a charm and this mine.
You said you heard Loretta sing and felt the loneliness
Seeping in. The cowboys made you uneasy, you're a
God-fearing lesbian. So you learn not to yearn and you
Take it on the chin again.
Here's what I find about compromise-Don't do it if it
Hurts inside, cause either way you're screwed, eventually
You'll find. You may as well feel good; you may as well Have some pride.
Come August we'll go to Cherokee and hear Loretta do
Her thing. Pack it into the Indian casino and make the
Hillbilly scene, kick up our heels and join in.
Are you my ally or my enemy? Do you have
Self-loathing or empathy? Can you keep me in your prayers
Sister. Can you keep me in there somewhere? And
Sister if you ain't go nothing good to say: don't say Nothing at all.
Now for my recommendations:

 Body Love Wellness - Fix It or Accept It?
It may seem strange, but I’ve found in my own life that accepting an ailment often is more healing than trying to fix it. I’m not saying that you should ignore symptoms or not get treatment for ailments, but I do think that life comes with more discomfort than we might like to admit, and sometimes the most healing thing is to relax into that discomfort, rather than to try to make it go away.
The Crunk Feminist Collective - The Love of Black Mothers and the Care of Black Children
But from our position, the position of the underground and submerged, the position of the marginalized, we know of our lives differently. The sorta political-economic world in which we exist needs for joy and love to be a limited resource rather than a radical commitment to allowing others to live, and thrive in that living. But this other position, we know of the joy of inhabitation, of the new song. We know it because we experience it daily but there are massive and strident attempts to make such abundant life unavailable. But we make this abundance life, not because of the brutal conditions of the world, but in spite of those conditions.
Shakesville - Water Wet. Sky Blue. Maher a Dirtbag.
Womanist Musings - Puberty, Sex Education and Heterosexism
I am however sure of one thing, discussions about sex, sexuality and puberty are not complete, unless they include the entire spectrum of human experience.

Sunday, March 18, 2012

I Am Not Perfect and That Is OKAY!

There is a positive way of dealing with the disharmony and conflict in the world. We can focus on the new possibilities that are available to us rather than the influence of the past alone. (Monica A. Coleman, Making a Way Out of No Way, 67)
I was doing really well in staying positive and motivated about my recovery until I started comparing myself to others. I already talked about in my last post about how that practice can lead to feelings of shame. Well, this time it led to feelings of resentment. It started one night when a group of friends started talking about their dieting and I could not participate. You would think that this would be a good thing, but diet talk really triggers me. I remember how in control I felt when I used to diet and I start missing it. And if I listen to diet talk too long, then I start to glamorize my eating disorder. Then I'll become really sad and resentful, because I know I can never diet again, for if I do, my addictive behavior will start again and I won't stop restricting until I have made myself so depressed that I am back in the hospital. Usually I am strong enough to stand up for myself when people start talking about their diets and I will try to either tactfully change the subject or will start talking to someone else in the group, but this time I was in pain due to my fibromyalgia and so I had a harder time saying, "no" to my depression, resentment, and eating disorder. The subject did eventually change, but I did not. I went home feeling sorry for myself. I kept on thinking about all the things I need to do in order to stay healthy and I wished that I was like everyone else. The next day, I woke up to extremely cloudy skies, which affected my mood. They almost always do. My doctor wants me to get a light box to help boost my energy on dark days and I thought about that and then I thought, "another thing. It's just another thing I have to do." And I felt defeated. I already have a Dialectical Behavioral Therapy (DBT) class that I am taking, which involves homework every week. I already have to exercise and watch what I eat. I already have the twelve steps and a DBT workbook to complete. I already have doctor and therapy appointments. I already have support groups to attend. I just canNOT do one more thing. No matter that ordering a light box would only take five minutes to do-I just felt defeated. I was certainly not focusing on new possibilities.

 Monday night, I finally ordered a light box and I am eagerly awaiting its arrival. I have heard that its use can really help increase energy and a positive mood. Of course, what helps increase a positive mood more than a light box is to stop thinking "not another thing," but to embrace the changes in my life that I must make. My thoughts starting Sunday were like a disease spreading throughout my soul, dragging me down with negativity. I did not like feeling the way I was feeling and yet I was resisting change. My therapist told me my resistance was causing me my suffering. After several panic attacks, I finally really examined my feelings on Thursday and I realized that I had been way too hard on myself. I did not want to do anymore emotional work, because I felt pressure from myself to do it perfectly. I wanted results and I wanted them NOW, which isn't usually how life works. So I have a new mantra for myself: I am not perfect and that is okay. Now I am trying to look at the things I do as possibilities for positive change, instead of as burdens to be endured.
  funny pictures - My  Nu  Yearz  resolushun  iz  tu  maintane  my perfekshun.  U  howeber,  needz  sum  wurk.(My Nu Yearz resolushun iz tu maintane my perfekshun.  U howeber, needz sum wurk.)

 BTW, WEGO Health has declared April health activist writer's month and I am participating in their challenge. I am going to attempt to post thirty blog posts in thirty days, using their prompts. This will stretch me as a writer and I think it will be fun. Go here if you want to participate too. Follow @wegohealth on Twitter during April, as they'll be sharing the different posts.

 Here are my recommended posts:

 Fat Heffalump - Dear You, Volume 3
Let me tell you a little secret. All those confident people you see around you that you admire but think you could never be like them? You are already like them. Not only because you are taking that step out into the great world of self acceptance and positive self esteem (which is awesome!) but because they feel just the same way as you do. They feel scared, they feel like screw ups, they feel like imposters, they feel ugly, stupid, not good enough. The difference is, they know that those feelings are normal to have, and that they’re not always accurate depictions of themselves. They acknowledge those feelings first, and then they examine why they are feeling them.
ShoutOut! JMU: Your Source for Feminist Discourse Mythbustin’ Monday: If We Know That Sex Does Not Equal Gender, Why Are We Cissexist?
[...]even our very language can limit and constrain identity politics. What I do know is this: since sexism and the” War Against The Female Body” is rooted in misogyny and biological determinism (male is “superior” to female because of biology) and the hierarchy of social difference seeks to maintain male supremacy, then it is ESSENTIAL that we recognize that cissexism is rooted in a desire to maintain that hierarchy of difference (nothing would dismantle it faster than if we all collectively realized that sex and gender are not hard and fast rules or absolutes.) What we can do, before having some revamp-the-jargon-fest is very important conversations about cissexism and cisgender privilege, when we have it and what we gain from it, and how it excludes just as much as the other isms.
Body Love Wellness - How To Get Started With Health At Every Size
One of the beautiful things about HAES® is that each of the 3 main principles interact with one another. Respecting the natural diversity of body sizes and shapes may lead you to respect your body more, which may lead you to eat and exercise in a more intuitive healing way. Paying attention to your hunger may allow you to notice what else you’re hungry for in your life, which may lead you down a very healing path of connecting with yourself and your desires. Moving your body with joy may allow you to see the beauty in a variety of bodies and your own body.
Excitable Gurelle: The Queen of Bipolar - When I Grow Up
Wrinkles, sagging skin, arthritis and all the other signs of aging aren’t fun, no doubt, but they are symptoms. Hopefully this also means we have grown wiser from time. We are young enough to still grow and change yet old enough to know what probably needs to change. Tonight I’m grateful for aging.
Healthy Place - Your Addiction Recovery Comes First
You deserve a life free from addictions, eating disorders, self-harm, etc. You deserve to value yourself. You are worthy of your own self love and acceptance. Begin now. Love yourself first.

Saturday, March 10, 2012

Who Cares about Kelsey? Event plus links

To learn more about the movie and to see a preview, go here.

It looks like an excellent movie and it's about an important topic-how to help teens with emotional and behavioral problems graduate high school.  I won't be able to attend, which is a shame since it's not offered on Netflix yet.  Teens that really could do well in school often do not, because they are labeled as "problem" students and are bullied.  This is a problem that I fear many people do not care about solving-often times it seems to me that those who have power do not want to help those that are a "problem," but want to criminalize and "other" them instead.  But perhaps I am wrong-I certainly would like to be!

And, here are some noteworthy blog posts:
from PsychCentral - My 3-Year-Old Son Wants To Be Cinderella!
The imagination at work in play can create a safe place to act out anger, happiness, fear, powerlessness, loneliness and even self-discipline. They pretend to be mothers, fathers, siblings, Batman, Superman, wizards, apprentices, Peter Pan, Tinkerbell, the Lion King, Beyonce and Cinderella. Typically, gender has nothing to do with it.

It is wise to accept your son’s play for what it is: play. Your approval will contribute to his self-confidence and pride. Indulge him by playing out the characters with him. This is his Cinderella time. He’ll move on to another character soon.

To untangle the social angle of eating disorders, we need to look beyond the mere existence of the thin imperative and look at what it says about the role of women: that we are to be perfect, controlled, managed, and compliantthemes that come up repeatedly with eating disorder patients, themes that get to the crux of the matter more directly, without taking the meandering detour through our bodies.  
CaptainAwkward.com#201: Guest post: How can my girlfriend and I prevent body issues from derailing our awesome love story?

If talking about your girlfriend’s weight with her makes you feel horrible about yourself and derails your own self-acceptance, you have every right to tell her so, and to draw a boundary there. Please note: I do not mean that you should tell her she’s responsible for your feelings! First of all, that’s incorrect; secondly, that will likely make her feel worse about herself. What I mean, rather, is that you say something like, “I am so sorry that you are feeling bad about your weight gain, and I think you should talk to someone about that—but I don’t think that person can be me, because I’m working really hard on actively embracing my own body and having those conversations makes it much harder.”
The Fat Nutritionist Diabetes is Hilarious*

I do not hate freedom, free speech, or America ™. I also don’t have any problem with people using humour to cope with their own lived experience. But when humour is used to further marginalize people, while betraying and promoting loathsome, sophomoric stereotypes…no. I don’t think it’s hilarious.

No parent can afford to be neutral on social justice issues.  An absence of real and meaningful conversations, teaches children to internalize harmful isms as normal and good, because each day kids are bombarded with messages that enforce and support privileged bodies.  It happens in schools, their exposure to media, interactions with friends, churches, sporting teams etc,. Silence means acceptance, and this is why there can never ever be a neutral position when it comes to human rights.

Gaia Rising - 21st Century Cosmology and the Gospel of John: PartVIII – Lazarus

Second Century people were no more likely that Twenty-First Century people to take such a story as literal truth, but nonetheless, to put it in contemporary terms, the story of the raising of Lazarus is perhaps about as useful as Elvis Presley sightings – except for one word that  John’s Jesus says to Martha: I AM the resurrection and the life.  The verb is present tense, not past or future.  The power of Jesus’s message is the certainty of eternal life here and now, not there and then.  […]

Raising the dead is not about bringing back Elvis.  Raising the dead is about returning from Exile.
BUT, if you only read one, read:
 Honor Yourself: Bone Sigh Art-I’m Likin’ This Line

and sometimes when i get lost in that and think 'yeah, we were meant to be'....
it doesn't last long. cause then i think of all the work.
and i think 'shoot, we MADE it work. there was no meant to be about it.'

and i laugh.

i think maybe it's both.
there was magic....and we made it work.

and that's got me thinking....
that's prolly the deal about all of life, isn't it?

Thursday, March 8, 2012

Shame, Poetry, and Cupcakes

Even though I write a blog about recovery from a mental illness, have facilitated NAMI Connections group in the past, and am a NAMI In Our Own Voice presenter, I still struggle with feeling ashamed of my mental illness at times. It mainly happens when I compare myself to people that do not appear to struggle with mental illness.  Of course, mental illness is often an invisible illness and so, I really should know better than to compare myself to other people, but sometimes I do.  Sometimes I look at other people my age who have partners, live on their own, or have a well-paying job and I feel dissatisfied with my own life and sad about what could have been.  It's tough dealing with these emotions, especially if I am feeling depressed, but before I can combat them by being grateful for what I do have, I need to process and give voice to the feelings of shame, so that I can lay them to rest and move on with my life.  Here are some poems I have written recently about shame, depression, anxiety, and hope.

Garments of Shame

Is a garment I wear-
A burka,
It covers me over
And I am over-flowing with emotion.

Over the childhood I lost;
At injustice;
Full of wrath
At the way I hand over my power
To all or nothing thinking,
To worrying that I am not good enough
To the lie that I will stay stuck here forever,
Mired in the quicksand of endless anxiety.

I want renewal.
I need reassurance
That I am okay;
That I am Enough, but not too much;
That I am worthy and deserving
Of being my own person,
Living with no apologies.

And yet, here I am,
Feeling sorry for my own existence,
Worshipping the crown of self-pity,
And wondering if I dare
Take off a scarf,
Loosen a belt,
Remove a shoe,
Undo the sheath of shame
That encircles me,
Oppresses me,
And quickens my death.

Leaving Shame Behind

Is a house I live in-
A mansion of despair with many empty rooms.
There are stairways to nothing,
Every door a dead-end.
They’re locked, bolted, and chained.
And I rattle, shake them, and I scream,
But all the doors stay shut.

How will I escape?
I open the window of Hope-
My present does not have to continue.
On hands and knees,
I crawl out the window
To meet the Architect
Who will help me design
A home of my own choosing.

Mental Illness
Consuming Disorders

My Soul is in Shackles.

Again and Again and Again

One Step at a Time
Minute by Minute
“Keep Coming Back”
I’ll Get There One Day.

 A Prayer

Depression stretches out my days
Until I am pulled apart so far
That I am afraid I’m going to snap
Or break.

O God of My Understanding-
Energize me, so that my days
May be short and free
And I will look forward
Towards eternity.
One thing I am not ashamed of any longer is eating and trying out new delicious foods.  One day last week, I went with the teenager I work with to Sweets on the Square-home of the square cupcake-in downtown Lawrenceville, GA. We decided to each get a different kind of cupcake to share.

She bought an Irish Cream cupcake with chocolate icing....
and I ordered a maple bacon cupcake.  They were both moist and full of flavor, but I must say, I liked the maple bacon cupcake the best.  In fact, it may have been the best cupcake I have ever tasted in my whole entire life and I was dreaming about eating another one, even the next morning!  It tasted almost like a breakfast cupcake, for even though it was very sweet, the sweetness was balanced out by a nice savory flavor.  The maple flavoring was rich and reminded me of maple syrup.  Sweets on the Square was named the best bakery in Gwinnett in 2011 and I could certainly see why.
After writing my poetry, my feelings of shame practically vanished-addressing them left room in my heart for recovery and thoughts of gratitude, for there are a lot of things to be grateful for and I do have a lot of privileges.  I have loving parents who are still alive and are willing to provide for me.  I have medications that work and therapists and doctors that respect me and treat me with kindness.  I have a church, other support groups, and friends that give me support and validation.  And I have cupcakes to appreciate!  Something as simple as enjoying a delicious cupcake reminds me of the joy in this world and how far I have come from my eating disordered days.  I'm sure I will be back to Sweets on the Square some day and if you're ever nearby, I would encourage you to support them-as they like to advertise, "enter as strangers, leave as friends..."

Monday, March 5, 2012

Atlanta Event-Unlocking the Red Door

National Women and Girls HIV/AIDS Awareness Day Conference: Unlocking The Red Door Hosted by The SAVED SISTA Project (The SAVED Sista Project is a faith-based, peer-led substance use recovery and HIV prevention program that targets African American homeless, substance using women.)
Date: 3/10/2012 - 3/10/2012 Time: 9:00AM - 2:00PM
Partner organization(s): Dekalb County Board of Health, Absolute Care, and Red Pump Project Atlanta
Location: The Loudermilk Center 40 Courtland Street, NE Atlanta, GA 30303

 Description: The premise of “Unlocking the Red Door” is that each door holds a specific issue that makes women and girls vulnerable to HIV transmission. We will have sessions on self-esteem, body image,HIV education and prevention, and decision making, to name a few. Participants will be engaged, educated, and empowered through this one-day conference. This is a public event and is open to the general public.

Fee: This is a free event
Event activities/topics: Prevention of HIV; Free or low cost HIV testing;  Where/how to get tested for HIV; Living with HIV/AIDS; Treatment for HIV/AIDS
For girls and women

For more information about this event, call:  Phone: 404-289-0313 extension: 227
For more information about The SAVED SISTA Project: Address: 3423 Covington Drive Decatur, GA 30032 Phone: 404-289-0313 extension: 227 *********************************************************
I'll be there! I am so proud that my church, Circle of Grace Community Church, will have a table there. Many churches, especially in the early days of HIV awareness, judged, ostracized, and stigmatized people who contracted HIV. And still today, many conservative churches are against safe sex education, even though wearing condoms are the most effective way to prevent HIV/AIDS. As my minister said on Sunday, we are there to show people that there are religious people out there that do not judge people with HIV/AIDS. We are there to show compassion and solidarity towards those who have HIV/AIDS and we believe that having safe sex is an important way to honor one's self. Whether you think one should wait to have sex until marriage or not, the truth is that people have sex and it is far better to teach safer sex than to pretend that nothing is happening. Because something is and that something is 290,000 women in America are living with HIV.  One thing I really like about this event is it is the first of its kind targeting girls-the conference offers classes to girls aged ten to seventeen, which I think is fantastic!  Many people seem to think that teaching girls about prevention will inspire them to do immoral activities, but to me, that makes no sense-teaching girls how to protect themselves teaches them how to honor their bodies and how to be assertive.  Really, it is just the opposite, for a girl that knows all her options and who knows that it is up to her to make her own decisions, is a girl who has freedom.
My Blog Recommendations: Excitable Gurelle – Breathe In      
When you wake up tomorrow morning, be sure to think about what you would have missed if you weren’t around….then go do it.
The Daily Beast from Newsweek - Women and the Leadership Gap   
"We have fallen into what I call the 16 percent ghetto, which is that if you look at any sector, be it aerospace engineering, Hollywood films, higher education, or Fortune 500 leading positions, women max out at roughly 16 percent,” Spar said. “That is a crime, and it is a waste of incredible talent.” [...]the nation actually ranks 71st in female legislative representation, behind Bangladesh, Sudan, and United Arab Emirates.

It seems to me that Cameron needs to really sit down and think about what love truly means.  It's not about judging others, or putting conditions for the continuation of love. It is about complete and total acceptance of another and embracing who they are.  As a straight Christian woman, I know that I get a lot of stuff wrong, but I know deep within my gut that I am right about this.  I believe that God loves me and every single member of the GLBT community, because we are all his children and as an imperfect being, I know it is not my place to question the will of God.

Sunday, March 4, 2012

February 2012 Book Review

A Song to Sing, A Life to Live: Reflections on Music as Spiritual Practice by Don and Emily Saliers

I was very excited to read this book, as Emily Saliers is one of the musicians in one of my all-time favorite musical groups-The Indigo Girls.  It's a good read, but I was a little disappointed, as I thought it would have specific musical activities that could be used as a spiritual practice, which I thought would be fun to try, but it did not.  The book is basically about listening to all kinds of music in a non-judgmental manner and in finding instances of the Sacred in both secular and non-secular music.  I already find spiritual inspiration in a lot of non-secular music, so most of the message of the book was not new to me.  Emily calls her music "Saturday night music," because it is considered secular, but I have always had trouble with that label for the Indigo Girls.  Most of the time their lyrics are so meaningful to me that I feel more connected to the Divine than I do to many of the popular Christian songs with repetitive and unimaginative words.  The Indigo Girls' songs often have religious overtones and I have often wondered if they are considered secular, because they are two open lesbian singers.  Consider the lyrics to "Everything in Its Own Time," an Indigo Girls' song that is often referenced to in the book:
Remember everything I told you, keep it in your heart like a stone /And when the winds have blown-the winds have blown things round and back again /what was once your pain will be your home /All around the table the white-haired men have gathered /Spilling their sons' blood like table wine/ Remember everything in its own time/  The music whispers you in urgency hold fast to that languageless connection/ A thread of known that was unknown and unseen seen dangling from inside the fifth direction /Boys around the table mapping out their strategies/  Kings all of mountains one day dust/ A lesson learned a loving God and things in their strategies/ Kings all of mountains one day dust /A lesson learned a loving God and things in their own time/ In nothing more do I trust /We own nothing, nothing is ours /Not even love so fierce it burns like baby stars /But this poverty is our greatest gift /The weightlessness of us as things around begin to shift/  Remember everything I told you, keep it in your heart like a stone/ And when the winds have blown things round and back again/ What was once your pain will be your home /Everything in its own time/ Everything in its own time
I especially love the phrase, "What was once your pain, will be your home."  I'm sorry, Emily, but your music is not secular, to me!

The chapter that taught me the most was chapter six, Music Divides Us, because it talks about not letting  your personal preferences divide you in your relationships with other people.  Emily says on page 103 about some people's extreme distaste for rap music,
"But whenever someone is borderline vitriolic about not liking music, I think there is something deeper going on than simply taste.  When people say, "I hate that music," they are really saying, "I hate that culture."
That quote really shook me up, as I used to be one of the ones who was "borderline vitriolic" about not liking that particular type of music.   I held onto the images of misogynistic rap that caught my attention, but I never looked deeper for proof that there may be other songs with redeeming value and so I slighted a whole culture.  By examining my bias, I feel I am now freer to explore other genres of music that I would have previously overlooked.  And more importantly, I am freer to appreciate other cultures and be a friend to others.

I enjoyed this book, because it gave me an insight into the mind of Emily Saliers and her father, but I wish that it had had specific musical ideas to practice that might help bring me closer to Godde.  Perhaps one day I can come up with some of my own!  One day I will also have to read this book again, as I read it in the hospital when my mind was still very spacey and I often had trouble concentrating.  I'm sure I would get a lot out of reading it at least one more time.

My Blog Recommendations:
Dances with Fat – But What Do You Know?
If we were making health decisions based on evidence we would have long ago suspended the practice of recommending dieting on the basis that there is no evidence that would lead us to believe that it is possible for most people and there is evidence to suggest that it may be dangerous. One of the reasons that dieting continues to be recommended by healthcare “professionals” who should know better is that they are confusing what they think for what they know.  That’s dangerous, and for those who get paid to sell weight loss it borders on perpetrating a fraud.
The Crunk Feminist Collective –Birthday Sex  
Free sexual expression allows us to feel fully human. And anything that helps us colonized peoples—Black, Brown, Indigenous—to know how fully human we are is dangerous. That is why we live in a world hell-bent on regulating our expressions of sexuality.
The Brown vs. Board of Education Supreme Court decision brought an end to segregation in schools, and for the first time, Black students were exposed to White teachers.  This has not necessarily been positive for Black children.  The history that is taught in schools is framed through a lens of White supremacy, with additives like Black History Month being thrown to mask enormous inequalities in education. Today’s students are forced to learn the oppressor’s truth by a white supremacist educational system that presents heavy-handed biases into history, language, and even the arts.
These last two are about victim blaming:

Shakesville – Rape Culture and Bad Math
When I was about seven or eight, I sort of obliquely come into contact with the idea that there are people who like to lure children away to hurt them. I didn't really understand what that meant, but I knew it was bad, and I knew, somehow even at that young age, that it was somehow my responsibility to prevent myself from falling into the grips of a predator. The rape culture does start its indoctrination early.

Why are we teaching our kids how to avoid being bullied and to have sympathy for bullies, instead of teaching them how not to be a bully?