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.

Sunday, April 29, 2012

Day 29 - A Six Sentence Story

Today's post is inspired by the blog, Six Sentences, and by all of the people living and working at Woodland Ridge.

“Nice to see you-thanks for coming!” the over effusive, middle-aged woman says to me.  She is a regular, always in the front row, at the sing-along I lead every other week for memory impaired, mostly elderly folks.  She sings along to every song with her full out-of-tune voice; when she doesn’t know the words, she hums along.  Last week, I saw her start to cry during my rendition of “May the Circle Be Unbroken” and my heart nearly broke.  It was the only song she did not sing along to, so I chose a lighter song to sing next and by the time we were at the last chorus of “She’ll Be Comin’ Around the Mountain” she was in full-voice again.  “Good-bye-see you next time!” she hollered after me repeatedly and I realized that a tear or two is okay for the both of us.  

I sing different verses than the original, but the tune and the chorus are the same.

Saturday, April 28, 2012

Day 28 - My First Cooked Whole Chicken

It is day 28 and I have to write about the first time I did something.  Just a few weeks ago I baked a whole chicken for the first time.  I know you're thinking, "Finally!  A post about food!"  At least I am!    I love posting about good recipes, especially since I came up for the way I prepared the chicken all by myself.

First, I removed the giblets.  Then I combined EVOO, salt and pepper, and Tajin together.  I coated the inside and outside of the chicken with the mixture.
Tajin is a spice that my mom and I recently discovered at our local farmer's market.  It's absolutely wonderful!  From its red color, you would think that it's spicy, but it's not.  It actually has more of a lime flavor and is sort of addicting.  The makers of the spice must know this, because it even says on the label, "This is not a candy!"  It tastes good on anything with cheese or potatoes.  You can sprinkle it on your soup, use it in a marinade for meat or vegetables, or put it on a grilled cheese sandwich.  I've even used it to season a woefully under-seasoned fish sandwich from a restaurant one time.  

After basting the chicken, I cut up a lemon and stuffed the chicken with onions and the lemon slices.  (The onion was already cut up.  I hate chopping onions, so I usually buy my onion already sliced.  Yes, I'm a wimp...)  I then put it in the oven for about an hour and a half at 375 degrees.  Make sure that the meat thermometer reads 180 degrees when you're done. I am very impatient and I kept checking on the chicken way before I knew it would be done and even started cutting up the chicken and then had to put it back in the oven in pieces to cook some more, because I realized that the inside was still pink.  It's a little funny now that I think of it.

Here is a picture of the chicken not quite done yet.  Still very pretty, I think.
Despite my impatience, the chicken turned out very well.  It was juicy and the skin was spectacular.  I know eating the skin probably isn't the healthiest, but I couldn't help myself.

There are some dishes that every grown-up needs to know how to make.  In 2009, I made my first pork roast and it was so good I called it pork candy.  I felt very grown-up making a pork roast and I felt very grown-up making this chicken.  For some reason, baking a chicken always intimidated me, but it really shouldn't have-the only thing that was difficult about it was being patient.  If you've never cooked a chicken before, I recommend this website, helpwithcooking.com.  The cooked chicken didn't last long in my house and I am looking forward to the next time chicken is on sale!

Friday, April 27, 2012

Day 27 - 5 Challenges & 5 Small Victories

Today is day 27 and I have to write about five challenges and five small victories that have to do with my health topic.  It certainly will be easy to think about the challenges, but I am glad they asked me talk about the victories too, for it is the small victories that give us hope.


1.  Knowing whether I want to stay home and rest, because I am depressed and want to isolate OR if I am tired from having chronic fatigue syndrome and need to rest in order to take care of my body.  It's a tough call and I wrestle with wanting to take a nap and miss some type of event just about every day.  I tend to cut myself more slack and let myself stay home if I have been doing well at attending groups and events for several days.  I also try to weigh how important a group is for my recovery.  Right now, my DBT class is a top priority and I don't let being tired be a reason for missing it, but I certainly might miss an aftercare group if I'm really tired.  I love attending groups and events-I make friends fairly easily and I thrive off of human interaction.  When I miss a group that I usually attend, I really feel the void of not having had a certain amount of human interaction and I usually regret not having gone.  Unfortunately, it is really hard to keep that in perspective when all I can think of is how tired I am.  On the other hand, I think it is really important not to get so busy that I don't have any time for myself.  Sometimes I need a break from people, so I can calm down and recharge my batteries.  The trick is not doing it so long that I start acting out in order to get my attention fix or that I start to become depressed.

2.  Changing old thought patterns, so I can stay in the present. While depression and anxiety are biological, even taking the right medications will not completely fix the disease if I do not address my negative, old ways of thinking.  And I absolutely have to change my thinking if I am going to address my Borderline Personality Disorder (BPD), which does not respond to medication nearly as well.  This is really hard.  Recently, I have realized just how bad and pervasive my habit of reliving past trauma is when I don't have anything to do.  My therapist and I are working to change this bad habit by helping me stay in the present.  She says that my wallowing in the past is a form of self-sabotage, because I am actively changing my mood from being really positive to really negative, which is not the goal.  Just having the awareness of what I am doing has helped me tone it down.  I also have been avoiding the angsty music that I normally love to listen to while driving, as I noticed that I tend to space out and wallow during those songs.  It's hard to stay in the present, but I am working on it.

3.  Setting boundaries - When I was in a treatment program many years ago, I was told that I had no boundaries.  I am a very open person and I have to be very careful to not tell people way more than is appropriate.  I am not the best at being assertive, although I am getting better.  My therapist and I also work on how to set appropriate boundaries with many different types of people and how to stand up for myself.  I would like to think that a decade later from when I was first told that I had no boundaries, that I now have at  least some.  The problem is I often think I have set good boundaries and then I discover that I need to set still more, so that the person will truly understand what I need, i.e. more space, not talking about certain topics, etc.  The fact that boundaries often need to be redefined frustrates me, but each time I tell myself that it is good practice.

4.  Not worrying about what other people think of me and not comparing myself to others.  This is SO hard when many times it seems as if mental illness and fibromyalgia has taken away certain stages of adulthood that many people take for granted.  I can easily look around at what other people have and feel sorry for myself, but doing this only takes away my own power.  What I have lost due to my mental illness, I have gained in empathy, compassion, and a willingness to help others.  When I worry about what other people think, I forget about my good qualities and I forget the essential truth that I am already enough.

5.  Making my health a priority.  So many people take their bodies for granted.  They use and abuse their bodies without a thought, because their bodies don't give them any trouble.  I used to be one of those people, myself.  In fact, in my eating disorder days I was proud of the fact that I barely ate anything-it was proof that I was strong and in control.  Utter bull-crap, I know now.  Now that I have fibromyalgia, chronic fatigue, and many mental disorders, I know just how sensitive my body is to what I do to it.  Instead of having pride in how I can abuse my body, I take pride in how I care for it.  It can be tricky figuring out how to eat healthy and at regular intervals when I travel so much.  I have to make sure I remember to bring a snack with me wherever I go, especially since I also have low blood sugar.  I need regular exercise to keep my joints from getting too stiff and yet there is not a lot of exercise that I can do.  I have discovered a yoga place that I love and I try to attend once a week, which isn't really enough, I know, but it's as much as I can fit into my schedule right now.  I have to make sure that I get enough sleep, which can be hard to do, since I am a night owl.  Sleep deprivation makes my mood and anxiety much worse and some scientists believe it to be one of the causes of fibromyalgia, so I really try to get at least eight hours.  I take my medications twice a day regularly, which is still a little bit of a struggle for me.  I had a really hard time taking my medications as prescribed for a long time and I still have to give myself a little pep talk in the morning and at night to convince myself to take them.

Small Victories

1.  I know what I need and will do what it takes to get it.  For the majority of my life I did not trust my instincts, but I have come to realize that I instinctively know what I need.  I know when I need to be hospitalized.  I know when I need more therapy or when I need to enter a treatment program.  I usually know when I need sleep and when I need to eat.  After many disastrous events when I listened to the  well-intentioned advice of others, I now trust my gut and it serves me well.  Because of this, I now know how to obtain help even when in the midst of a major crisis.

2.  I eat what I want, when I want it.  Because I now trust my body, I trust that my body is going to tell me what kinds of foods it needs when it needs it.  Many people when they hear me say that I eat what I want, when I want it, wrongly assume that that must mean I only eat doughnuts and ice cream, but that is not true.  I eat doughnuts and ice cream sometimes, but for the most part, only when I am truly craving them.  It has taken a lot of hard work, but I have learned how to listen to my body.  I have learned that my body really likes protein mainly in the form of eggs, beans, chicken, and Greek yogurt.  My body loves berries and frozen yogurt-preferably together!  My body likes salads, but only in moderation and they must contain more than just lettuce.  My body loves breakfast food, but does not like greasy or fried food, except for fried okra.  A cup of coffee a day keeps me regular.  My body would probably perish without granola bars and it often craves apple juice.  I am quite proud of the fact that I now feel so comfortable around food.

3.  I do not weigh myself nor do I even own a scale.  Here I must make a confession: I am still addicted to the scale.  My mother has her scale hidden away, so that I will not find it and start obsessively weighing myself.  That being said, I do not go to extremes trying to weigh myself.  Without the scale, I am a much happier person than I used to be.  My therapist does weigh me, but I get on the scale backwards.  The scale is no longer my god.

4.  I enjoy reading, writing, singing, and playing different instruments.  For a long time, I was so depressed that I stopped being able to sing or play any music.  I had to change my major from Vocal Performance to English, because every time I tried to sing I ended up crying instead.  I only wrote dark poetry and I couldn't concentrate long enough to be able to read the kinds of books that I used to enjoy.  Now I am beginning to play piano again and I have been amazed that I have been able to write as much as I have this month.  I belong to a book club now where we read the classics.  My life is fuller than it has been in a long time!

5.  I can sleep without the hall light on.  This is sort of embarrassing, but for a very long time I was afraid of the dark.  Because I've had hallucinations of dark, shadowy figures in the past, I was terrified that I might see them again if the lights were turned off.  With the help of therapy, increased self-confidence, and my cat, I no longer need a lot of light to be able to sleep.  I am no longer in the grips of horrible fear when I go to sleep and that is a relief.

Looking back on this list, I can see that these so-called "small victories" are actually huge!  And one day the things that are so challenging right now will be victories too.  Life may be hard, but truly, I am blessed.
funny dog pictures - If pigs can fly  dammit so can I
Recommended Links:

Shoutout for JMU! - In Defense of Feminism: Tips for Speaking Up

This Ain’t Livin’ – What’s So Bad About Feelings, Anyway? 
One thing I do know is that the only rational way to deal with emotions is to talk about them. Is to take the elephant in the room by the tusks and dance with it.  […]  Women are not allowed to say ‘this hurt my feelings’ or ‘I am having a terrible day’ because these are viewed as further evidence that women, as a whole, cannot deal with the world.

they aren't messed up.

anyone who went thru what they did would be reacting the same way.
would have the same fears, terrors, pain, agony, confusion.
anyone would.

so if you look at it that way.......couldn't it be seen as a healthy reaction?

if they do indeed have the split personalities, can't we see that as an amazing strength
to survive and cope?

Wednesday, April 25, 2012

Day 24 - My Mental Health Mascot-Dorothea Dix

Today is day 24 and my mission is to present you with a mascot for my health issues.  Sorry it's not a cute animal or a celebrity, but I choose Dorothea Dix.

Unfortunately, as it is past midnight and I have to get up relatively early tomorrow, I will  only provide you with the Wikipedia link (click on her picture).  Dorothea Dix was a woman who was one of the first people to advocate for mental health reform.  It's sort of ironic that in the mid-1800s, mental health reform meant getting the mentally ill out of their homes and into institutions, because they were being mistreated in their homes.  Nowadays, we are trying to get people back into the community and out of the institutions.  Mental health reform may have changed a lot since it first started, but still we must pay homage to those that paved the way for positive change in the mental health world.
Recommended Links:

This Ain’t Livin’ - Genre Snobs Bore Me 
If you like The Sparrow, or Jane Austen, or Umberto Eco, or Wilkie Collins, don’t tell me you don’t like science fiction, or romance, or fantasy, or mystery. Feel free, however, to tell me that you don’t like bad science fiction, or romance, or fantasy, or mystery. Because I don’t like bad books either, and that includes bad literary fiction.

Shakesvile: Shakespeare’s Sister
I cannot walk away from misogyny for a moment, and so I cannot for a moment walk away from feminism, either. I cannot set it aside any more than I can set aside my womanhood. No—I will not.The choice is mine, and I choose to face the world equipped at all times with the only tool of self-defense I have against inequality. Feminism is my sword and my shield, which I carry because the world is hostile to me, not the other way around.

Sunday, April 22, 2012

Day 22 - Remember This

Today’s prompt is inspired by the blog “The Things We Forget.”  Write yourself a reminder. It can be in the form of an online post – or a picture of an actual Post-It like the ones from the website.

Here's mine:

I obsess when I'm anxious. I AM OKAY.

I obsess a lot, because I am anxious a lot.  My therapist has taught me that if I realize that I am obsessing because I am anxious, then that simple realization will actually take away most of the anxiety's power and it will stop the obsessive thoughts.  I thought she was overly optimistic when she first told me that, but it actually works.  I tried it out for the first time last week.  I was at the mall and I purchased a small milkshake, but as soon as I paid for it, I started obsessing about how I shouldn't have ordered it in the first place.  Eating disorder thoughts came into my head and I told myself that I shouldn't have something that's unhealthy, that I shouldn't finish it, that I should throw it away, but that would waste my money, but that is an eating disordered thought and I don't want to give in to ED, oh no, I'm really not in recovery, I'm a failure...  All of those damaging thoughts went through my head in a matter of seconds and as you can see with each anxious thought, the scenario that I put myself in just got worse and worse and worse.  I was catastrophizing in a big way.  But before my thoughts manifested themselves into actual eating disorder behavior, I had a moment of clarity where I thought to myself:  
Wait a minute!  My therapist said that eating disorders are caused by anxiety.  I am thinking this way, because I am anxious.
and poof! Just like that the oppressive, anxious thoughts went away.  I was able to enjoy my milkshake in peace.  My disease had wanted to trick me into believing that I am not as recovered as I usually think I am, but I kicked it to the curb with my moment of clarity and reality.  As I enjoyed my shake, I knew the truth that I am okay.  I have used this trick now several times and it usually has helped me shake the negative thoughts.  I know that it will take a lot of practice for me to be able to catch myself obsessing and to remind myself what I am doing more quickly, but the peace of mind that results from it is so worth it.
(That's the creamy, oreo shake I enjoyed minus the whip cream-very delicious!)

Saturday, April 21, 2012

Day 21 - Madlib Poetry and Madness, Itself

You can grab any passage from a magazine, newspaper, favorite book, blog post, or past entry you’ve written. Take out several of the worths and ask a friend or family member to fill in the words according to whether they are a noun, verb, adjective, adverb. Just like Madlibs.

This is my attempt:

A sour man plays in the river, cars wanting
behind him.  The water is the playground, remembering,
There is no park but Alaska.  There is only Alaska.

The original passage is from a poem by Rumi, one of my favorite poets.  I found a small passage, so that I wouldn't annoy people by asking for too many words and asked for my friends to supply me with different words on Facebook.  I guess everyone was in a playfully outdoorsy mood, because the end result sounds like an advertisement for Alaska state parks!  Sort of like this song by John Denver:

I would love to go to Alaska one day and hopefully see the Northern Lights.  My parents went on a vacation to Alaska several years ago and while they had a great time, I did not fare so well.  I tend to really struggle when my parents go out of town for more than a few days.  My therapist thinks it's connected to my anxiety and to my borderline.  People with BPD (Borderline Personality Disorder) struggle with feeling abandoned very easily.  I was already unraveling before they left, because of some trauma I experienced at a writing camp a few weeks before, but of course, I didn't tell them that anything was wrong.  I know better now. 

Each day while my parents were in Alaska, my anxiety got worse and worse, until finally I was panicking about my suicidal ideations.  One night I called the suicide hotline, but the operator couldn't help me since I wouldn't really kill myself.  She told me that I should either go to the hospital or hang up the phone, so I hung up the phone.  Then as I walked past the stairs, I saw a dark, shadowy figure standing at the top of the stairway holding an axe in his hands.  I knew it wasn't real, but I was terrified nonetheless.  I was afraid that if I stayed in the house one more second then I would totally lose my grip on reality, plus I was terrified of the hallucination, so I frantically escaped to my car and left.  I ended up going to the hospital, after all.  I got to the closest hospital at midnight and I described my hallucination to the receptionist.  I told her I was scared.  I knew that I sounded crazy, but at that point, I really didn't care-I knew I needed help.  I saw a psychiatrist soon after and after talking with me, he changed my diagnosis from bipolar II to schizoaffective disorder, bipolar type.  I got an injection of I don't know what to calm me down and I went to sleep.  I stayed in the E.R. for the rest of the night and then was taken to the nearest mental hospital in the morning, where I stayed for several days.  Fortunately, my hallucinations were short-lived, and I never truly believed my delusions, which I now know is a feature of BPD.  Borderline apparently mimics a lot of mental disorders, as it is often mistakenly diagnosed as bipolar or schizoaffective disorder.  I called my uncle, who lives in town, and he very nicely let me stay at his house after I was let out of the hospital until my parents came back home.  I actually had a great time with my uncle and I wish that I had let him know that I was having trouble with my anxiety before it spun out of control.  Most likely, I would not have had that breakdown if I had stayed with him and his partner the whole time.

I don't talk about my hallucinations and delusions much on this blog and it's not because I am ashamed of them.  It's because I try to keep this blog mostly in the present and I don't deal with those things on a regular basis.  I used to experience tactile hallucinations as a burning sensation on my wrist that told me where to cut myself a lot, but after tons of therapy, I have learned how to ignore those hallucinations/delusions.  I have found that distraction works incredibly well and now I only feel those particular sensations when I am really stressed out and fortunately I am so used to them that it doesn't usually bother me that much.

I hope that my story provides people who struggle with hallucinations and delusions hope that life can be manageable again.  I used to wish that medication would cure me of my hallucinations, but as I learned how to deal with them, I learned that I could live with them instead of against them.  I did not have to let the hallucinations and delusions ruin my life, but could and can live well despite them.

For a long time, I couldn't say the word, "Alaska," without feeling a chill of terror.  The memory of my psychosis was incredibly frightening to me and I thought I would never be over the trauma of my own mental illness.  Writing this story has made me realize that I have finally healed over some of my trauma and that is very reassuring.  Being diagnosed with a severe mental illness and being hospitalized is always a traumatic thing, which many people do not adequately understand.  Now I am able to have faith that one day I will be healed of the traumas I suffered when my diagnosis was changed to BPD and when I was hospitalized not that long ago.  Time and a willingness to learn new coping skills will bring about great healing.  Looking back on the event, my therapist and I have agreed that the next time my parents leave town for weeks at a time, I need to have more honest communication with my parents and I should probably stay with others to help me feel more calm.  I am grateful for healing time, my family, my therapist, new coping skills, and for lessons learned. vacation travel photos - Anchorage, Alaska
Recommended Links:


One of the key problems with supporting community-based care comes up in the type of support offered. People may be able to access a place to live, assistance with food and hygiene, medical appointments, and other basic needs. What they don’t have is support in their communities, which effectively devalues their lives, reducing people with disabilities to objects that need to be fed, watered, and turned, but not given a fully enriched, loving, and dynamic environment. We are not plants, but some government agencies certainly treat us like it.  […]  In other words, you live in the community, but you are not a community member. […]  Nondisabled people are living in a world tailored to them without being aware of it; they think their lives are worth more than ours because of the disability divide, when really it’s a social and infrastructure divide.

The Guardian - Toni Morrison: 'I want to feel what I feel. Even if it's not happiness'

Toni Morrison:
She never took drugs, she says, not even as a teenager when everyone around her was smoking dope. "I did not want to feel anything that did not originate with me. Because the big deal, as they described it, was that it made you feel so good. I did not want to feel something that was dependent on it. I want to feel what I feel. What's mine. Even if it's not happiness, whatever that means. Because you're all you've got."

Friday, April 20, 2012

Day 20 - A Miracle Cure for Stigma

HAWMC Day #20: Miracle Cure. Write a news-style article on a miracle cure. What’s the cure? How do you get the cure? Be sure to include a disclaimer

*DISCLAIMER* Except for the discovery by "scientists," this story is actually true!  There is a cure for stigma, but it involves all of us working together to rediscover love and acceptance.  

Mentally Ill People Rejoice-No More Stigma!

Scientists have discovered that just as mental illness is primarily a disease of the brain, prejudice and its evil twin daughters, stigma and shame, are diseases of the heart.  They are communicable diseases that often start in the family.  The root cause of the illness seems to be fear of the unknown.  Prejudice, stigma, and shame can tear families apart and it sends many people to jail.  Fear of what people will think, also known as stigma, causes many people with mental illness to not seek the help they need.

Fortunately, there is a cure and it is love.  Love gives people the strength to turn away from fear and to embrace recovery. Love opens people’s hearts to new possibilities and broadens it with empathy.  This empathy breeds acceptance and abolishes shame.  With shame gone, those with mental illness are free to explore recovery and to accept help.  With love and acceptance, neuro-typical people are glad to offer help, provide support, and yet are willing to provide space too when needed.  Another outcome of this cure is that positive communication between the two groups of people are increased a hundredfold. 

The one drawback to this cure is that it requires a lot of work.  Love is at times painful and the task of accepting another’s illness or the illness in one’s self stretches a person beyond their supposed capabilities.  There will be many mistakes and misunderstandings, but if we, as a people, are really passionate about becoming better people, than we will take the time to pursue love, openness and acceptance.  These things may not do away with mental illness, but they would lead the people to understand that mental illness is not the enemy.  Mental illness is something that causes extreme hurt, but it also causes extreme growth and for those who live with it daily, it is a part of their being.  Curing their mental illness would erase a part of who they are.  It is the belief of these scientists that a far more productive goal is the removal of prejudice, stigma, and shame and embracing instead a healthy life in recovery.

Here are my links:

Womanist Musings - Born With A Burden: Are Black, Disabled Children Being Mistreated?

Doctors and nurses are all a part of our faulty society and though they are charged with caring for those in need,  because they have been steeped in a world which places unequal value to people based on race, this means any interaction between medical staff and disabled people of colour must be examined through a lens of both disability and race.

Scientists develop first blood test to diagnose depression

One of the major goals of identifying biomarkers for depression is once you can measure it in a similar way as you would diabetes, you are at least partially removing the stigma, because it’s very difficult to say something like, ‘Get yourself together and control your liver function,” Redei said.  “It’s something you can objectively detect and follow and bring into the realm of medicine.”

“In the future, we could be able to define depression much more profoundly and clearly with a blood test,” Redei said.  “It could explain why some drugs work for some patients and not for others.  It’s also could help develop new types of antidepressants.  Right now, we are guessing.  Even the best psychiatrists can’t do anything but prescribe one to three different types of drugs or treatments based on prior experience and trial-and-error.”

Read more: http://www.foxnews.com/health/2012/04/17/scientists-develop-first-blood-test-to-diagnose-depression/?intcmp=features#ixzz1sLjCORh9

Yin and Yang - How Psychotic AmI? 
Still I believe that mental illness and recovery from mental illness is a psycho-spiritual process, one that requires that you stand up for yourself.  If you don't stand up for yourself, for your basic goodness, there's a good chance that you could be swallowed whole by the negative aspects of the illness. […]  Instead of internalizing the core of the sickness, hurting myself and possibly others, I learned to detach and defend the part of me I loved.

Monday, April 16, 2012

Day 16: Welcome to Pinterest

Today's mission is to create a board on Pinterest for my blog with at least three pictures and share. This was fun and I must be an overachiever, because I have forty-one pins to my Hope is Real! board. It's filled with inspirational quotes and pictures and videos that were originally posted on this blog. It also has some really cool feminist pictures that are more political than I usually cover in my posts. This is a feminist blog, after all. I suggest you follow my board if you need some inspiration either for recovery or feminism. It actually helped me yesterday, as I was feeling rather sad and perusing all of the pictures helped distract me from my self-destructive thoughts. (Distraction is a Dialectical Behavioral Therapy skill, by the way...)

It was hard to choose the three pins to share. I decided not to show any that have been on this blog before and surprise, surprise, they're all quotes!

The first one is a gold medallion that says, "my recovery comes first."

Source: healthyplace.com via Corey on Pinterest       This is a true statement if there ever was one-my recovery must come first, for anything that I place before my recovery, I will surely lose.  Recovery means different things for different people. For some, it means staying sober or clean and attending 12-step meetings. For others, it means taking one's medications, going to therapy, and not isolating. It may mean making sure that one eats balanced meals and exercises regularly. Recovery means all of these things to me and more. I suppose recovery can be boiled down to living life on life's terms, which for me, means I will not purposely self-harm myself to take me away from my emotions, but will deal with them head on.

The next pin is a quote from the book I recommended a few weeks ago, Man's Search for Meaning by Victor Frankl.
Source: google.com via Corey on Pinterest
"The one thing you can't take away from me is the way I choose to respond to what you do to me.  The last of one's freedoms is the ability to choose one's attitude in any given circumstance."  I believe this to be true, although I do believe that can be an extremely hard thing to do.  I must note however that choosing to have a positive attitude despite one's circumstances is probably much easier to do than if one has mental illness.  I often wondered when reading Frankl's book how it would have been written if was not such a well-balanced person already. 

The last is my favorite quote by feminist writer and activist Audre Lorde: "Your silence will not protect you." 

I think about this quote often and I believe it.  It is often tempting to be silent when others are being persecuted, but that is not what we are called to do-not as an activist, feminist, or fellow human being.  People often mistakenly believe that if they remain silent, then they will be protected from the same persecution, but life makes no such guarantees.  I think this quote also means that we must stick up for ourselves.  There have been many times when I have remained silent, so as to let the uncomfortable or dangerous moment that I was enduring pass as quickly as possible, but it did not work.  Honest, assertive communication is a very powerful thing that I am only beginning to realize.  I think back at some of my relationships and wish desperately that I had spoken up when my rights were being trampled upon, but at least I have learned better now.  Now sometimes it is better to remain silent in dangerous situations, but ultimately living a silent life will never protect someone.  And I hope you know that when I say a "silent life," I do not mean it literally.  I mean someone who never stands up for herself or for the rights of others.  There are many people who do not audibly speak, i.e. some deaf people, some autistic people, etc. who through the use of their hands, machinery, props, or an assistant are still able to "speak" up for themselves.

What do you think of the pins I picked out?  Go to my board to see others!

Here are my additional links:

Shakesville – Today In Your Feminist Backlash
So, basically, Newsweek has allowed a writer to invent the claim out of whole cloth that US women are "dominating" in public and at home—despite 16% female representation in Congress and 15% representation among corporate CEOs, and despite the fact that study after study finds male-partnered women still doing the majority of housework and childcare, even if both partners are working full-time—and pair that specious contention with the popularity of a few random pieces of pop culture—despite the fact that relying on Girls as evidence of any phenomenon is pretty wild, considering it just premiered last night, and is produced by well-known feminist Judd Apatow, lulz—in order to implicitly claim that feminism is bullshit because all women REALLY want, deep down, is to be dominated by men.

The Crunk Feminist Collective – Big Girls Need Love, Too: Dating While Fat (and Feminist)
What I’m getting at is something much more fundamental.  Because desire is socially constructed (no matter how much folks justify their limited dating choices based on ‘natural preference’),  the fact that we live in a fat-hating culture greatly affects who we’re attracted to, and what we find attractive.  The idea that we’re only attractive within a range of sizes is absurd. And narrow. And it is absolutely a function of patriarchy. And yet, I live daily with those realities.

Sunday, April 15, 2012

Day 15 - My Writing Style

Today is day 15 of the WEGO Health health activist writer's challenge and today I am asked to describe my writing process. Most of my posts come from something that during the day inspired me-maybe it was a new coping skill that I recently learned or a new way of thinking that opened my mind. I always try to end the post, even if it's something on the negative side, with a feeling of hope, for that is the purpose of this blog-to spread the word that despite having mental illness, hope for a better life is always real. I try to balance out my posts by sprinkling in a mixture of recipes, spiritual musings, quotes, funny pictures, political pieces, posts about my real trying times, and posts that are more lighthearted. I know that most successful blogs have a more narrow focus, but one I want to be sure people know is that mental illness is just one part of me. I am a whole person with a lot to share. I refuse to be confined to one label. I am a very open person and I want to share the whole me with the world, not just a part of me. I also strive to be real on this blog. Sometimes when I share a new positive thought or coping skill, I am afraid that I sound too positive and perhaps fake. I want people to know that living in recovery is hard, really hard, but oh, so worth it. I do not ever want it to appear that I am not acknowledging how hard it is, because I know for me that I can get very turned off if I think that someone is making light of a very difficult experience. It can be hard trying to balance the seriousness of how hard life can be with the lightness of optimism and hope, but there it is. Eventually, when I write a post, I have to stop thinking about what the reader will think and just send my ideas out into the internet. I am a fast typist and it generally does not take me long to write the post once I get started, but I do spend a considerable amount of time editing. Posts with pictures take the longest, especially ones with recipes, because I am usually not just sharing a recipe, but also some insights that I gathered while cooking, so I have to write, arrange the pictures, add links....which is why there are not as many recipe entries as I would like. Writing takes the shortest amount of time for me and many days I am short on time or I am not feeling well, so the writing is all I do. I consider it a treat when I have the energy to do a post where there are recipes or tons of pictures. I hope you do too!

 I love writing this blog. It's a great creative outlet and I really feel like I am making a difference in the world. This blog gives me a meaning and a purpose as it is a means to spread hope for recovery, which I believe is my mission in life.

Here are my additional links:

 Shades of Grey – How to Have Sex with an Asexual Person
Always be aware that consenting to sexual activity is a process of continual negotiation, and anything they tell you they think will be fine can change. You need to respect that and be ready to stop.
The f word blog – “I Don’t Remember Raping Her”
A medical condition or disorder does not exclude personal responsibility.

Saturday, April 14, 2012

Day 14 - My Dream Day

My Dream Day. Describe your ideal day. How would you spend your time? Who would you spend it with? Have you had this day? If not – how could you make it happen? 

My "dream day" has actually already happened!  It happened in 2006 when I graduated from Georgia State University with a B.A. in English and music.  Getting to the point of graduation was perhaps the hardest thing I have ever done and I used graduation as my motivation to keep striving for recovery for many years.  I was hospitalized three times and took a break from school for eight months while I attended SkyLand Trail, a mental health treatment center, all the while still holding onto my dream of graduating from college.  The stress from school triggered hallucinations, including the one where I was afraid of a shadowy figure upstairs who was carrying an ax.  The stress also triggered a restrictive eating disorder, but still I kept on pursuing a healthier lifestyle and a college degree, knowing that both would lead to a better and brighter future. 

After I graduated from GSU, I immediately moved down to Milledgeville to try to get another degree, this time in music therapy.  I completed two years of school and got an award for best second year music therapy student that I am still very proud of.  Unfortunately, all the years of stress finally got to me and after relapsing into my eating disorder and depression in Milledgeville, I was just never able to keep myself together enough to complete the schooling.  I might have been able to if there were adequate mental health resources in middle Georgia, but despite being home to the largest state mental hospital in the Southeast, there were hardly any good resources nearby.  I wanted to do music therapy, because I am good at it.  I have a passion for helping people by using music, especially elderly folks.  I switched my degree from music to English the first time round, because I went through a period where I became too depressed to sing or play piano.  Also, I have severe anxiety and this anxiety often makes me afraid to sing without my music.  In Milledgeville I did wonderfully in all of my music therapy classes, but I struggled in my regular music classes.  They wouldn't allow considerations for my anxiety to be made, saying that it would be unfair to give me special treatment.  It would have been more than fair though, because none of the other students had my kind of extreme anxiety.

I still want a degree in music therapy.   While it does benefit me to have a degree, the English degree didn't exactly prepare me for the kind of job that I want.  I am good, really good, at helping people with music.  Better yet, when I am in the role of a music therapist, I am practically devoid of anxiety-I am doing what I love and am loving every second of it.  My dream day would be to have a repeat of that day in 2006-to graduate from a college with a degree in music therapy this time.  Maybe I am being greedy by asking for two of the same type of dream days to happen.  I do know that if I ever deem myself stable enough to return to school that I will do a much more thorough job in researching the mental health community near the school.  I would also make sure that disabilities department would be much more willing to work with me and to provide me the kinds of accomodations that I need.  I think it's sad that so many schools do not have adequate mental health resources.  I honestly believe that most schools do not want students with severe mental health illnesses attending their school.  We simply cost too much.  We're way too much trouble.  And we certainly don't present a nice image for the school.

I honestly don't know whether to give up on this dream or not.  I know that the idea of school is very overwhelming and that my next step in my quest for independence is to pursue disability.  I do have a volunteer job where I lead a sing-along at a nursing home and I love doing it.  But I cannot help thinking that I have more to offer.  I am not a patient person, but I know that for right now, I need to wait.  It's so frustrating and the poem "A Dream Deferred" by Langston Hughes comes to mind.

What happens to a dream deferred?

Does it dry up
like a raisin in the sun?
Or fester like a sore--
And then run?
Does it stink like rotten meat?
Or crust and sugar over--
like a syrupy sweet?

Maybe it just sags
like a heavy load.

Or does it explode?
It is my hope that if this dream does not come true that something else will take its place-something that is more wonderful and fulfilling than I could have imagined.

Friday, April 13, 2012

Day 12 - Stream of Consciousness

Today is day 12 of the WEGO Health writing challenge and it's stream of consciousness day.  I don't really want to do this, mainly because I'm in so much pain that it's hard to write, but I am interested to see what this writing experiment will create, so here goes.

I've got an abcessed tooth and it is killer painful.  My face is a little swollen, although fortunately barely noticeable.  Monday I'm having a root canal and I'm not anxious about that at all, but am actually looking forward to it, because I want this tooth fixed!  This really sucks.  I have to take two of the pain killer pills for them to help the pain and they barely work at that.  I was a little afraid to be prescribed the pain killers, because of my addictive tendencies, but as they're barely working, I'm really not worried about becoming addicted anymore-I just want the pain to stop!  I'm sorry that I am complaining so much, but the pain is almost all I can think about.  The awful part is that the infection has affected my fibromyalgia too by making me have a flare-up.  My hips, legs, and feet hurt and while the pain isn't as bad as the pain in my teeth, it's enough to make me irritable and frustrated.  I want to get back into my regular routine.  So far, I've missed my DBT class, my volunteer job, an alumni group and aftercare.  For the second week in a row-I missed these things last week, because of my vacation.  Partly I hate missing meetings, because I am afraid of what people will think.  I am afraid that people think I am not dependable or that I am flighty, and the truth is they would be partly right.  But not because I have some awful character defect, but because my fibromyalgia, chronic fatigue syndrome, and my mental illnesses cause me to feel pain, extreme fatigue, and other things like anxiety that makes me miss things that I would rather not.  A lot of people don't understand and if I say I am tired will urge me to push through it, but I've tried that and it doesn't always work.  Sometimes when I push through, then the next day I am even worse.  I am working on treating my body with more kindness and that is hard when society pushes us to push.  Treating our body with kindness, especially when ill, is actually a DBT skill.  One of the skills that I have learned in my class is to take care of any physical illness, so that I will not be prone to negatively acting out on my emotions.  (DBT is all about regulating emotions and preventing potentially harmful, impulsive behaviors.)  It helps me when I try to take care of my body to remind myself that I am practicing a coping skill that is therapist approved, because then I feel less guilty.  It's sad that I should feel guilty for taking care of my body and that I care so much about what other people think, but it is something I am working on.

On the flip side, I am very grateful for my cat, who cuddled with me for hours today in my bed.  Hearing him purr and feeling his soft fur gave me lots of comfort.  I am thankful for a dad who offered to make me dinner and a mom who gives me a heat pack and her best medical advice without asking (she used to be a physical therapist).  I am grateful for a sponsor who called me back and gave me some encouragement when I needed it.  Basically, even though I am in pain, I am grateful for all the supportive people in my life right now and I am especially glad that although I am experiencing great physical pain, irritation, frustration, and fatigue, I am not depressed, anxious, or hallucinating.  I would take physical pain any day over the pain of mental illness.

Wednesday, April 11, 2012

Day 11 - My Theme Songs

Today's prompt asked me to think about what my own theme song would be like-little did the creators know that I already consider not one, but two, songs to be my theme music!  These are songs which motivate, inspire, and just generally make me happy.

The first song is by my favorite 90s alternative group, The Cranberries.  I adopted one of their first hits as my theme song immediately when I first heard it in middle school.  It's called "Dreams" and even though it's about being in love, I resonate with the general feeling of seeing and feeling your life change as your dreams come true.  It's also very upbeat and I love to bop around to the beat.  Sometimes this song even inspires me to play air drums!  lol

All my life
Is changing every day
In every possible way

In all my dreams
It's never quite as it seems
Never quite as it seems

I know I've felt like this before
But now I'm feeling it even more
Because it came from you

Then I open up and see
The person falling here is me
A different way to be

I warn more
Impossible to ignore
Impossible to ignore

They'll come true
Impossible not to do
Impossible not to do

Now I tell you openly
You have my heart so don't hurt me
You're what I couldn't find

Totally amazing mind
So understanding and so kind
You're everything to me

All my life
Is changing every day
In every possible way

And oh my dreams
It's never quite as it seems
Cause you're a dream to me
Dream to me
The second song is what I call my "eating disorder recovery" theme song and it is "Get It Together" by India Arie.  I love the lyrics about taking care of, respecting, and healing the body and heart.  When one starts to take care of one's physical body, healing of one's mind and spirit will follow.  I used the lyrics as the discussion topic one time when I led the Eating Disorders Anonymous group I sometimes attend.

One shot to your heart without breaking your skin
No one has the power to hurt you like your kin
Kept it inside, didn't tell no one else
Didn't even wanna admit it to yourself
And now your chest burns and your back aches
From 15 years of holding the pain
And now you only have yourself to blame
If you continue to live this way

Get it together
You wanna heal your body?
Get it together
You have to heal your heart
Whatsoever you sow you will reap
Get it together

You can fly fly

Dark future ahead of me
That's what they said
I'd be starving if I ate all the lies they fed
Cause I've been redeemed from your anguish and pain
A miracle child I'm floating on a cloud
Cause the words that come from your mouth
You're the first to hear
Speak words of beauty and you will be there
No matter what anybody says
What matters most is what you think of yourself


The choice is yours
No matter what it is
To choose life is to choose to forgive
You don't have to try
or hurt him and break his pride
Just shake that weight off
And you'll be ready to fly

One shot to your heart without breaking your skin
No one has the power to hurt you like your friends
Thought it would never change but as time moved on
That ugly duckling grew up to be a swan
And now your chest burns and your back aches
Because now the years are showing up on your face
But you'll never be happy
And you'll never be whole
Until you see the beauty in growing old
you can fly fly fly fly...
you can live or you can die
you know that life is a choice you make
you can give or you can take

you can fly fly fly fly
you can fly fly fly fly...

I hope you enjoyed the music!  I'm interested in what your theme song would be.  Leave your song in the comments.

And, here are my recommended links.  Womanist Musings has been on a roll lately with great disability posts and I include three of hers (two on disability and one on teaching children not to use gendered slurs).  The fourth is about April being Autism Awareness month and how horrible the group, Autism Speaks, actually is.

Womanist Musings – I Still Have a Lot to Learn About Disability 
It did not occur to me that I had a right to my own privacy, and that questioning my needs, or my decisions as it relates to my disability constitutes an act of ableism.  […]  As much as I am angry and I am hurt, I know that I learned a very valuable lesson.  I will no longer be justifying my needs, my disability or my life choices.
Womanist Musings – So…What’s the Cane for?  
Their body is their body, and having something wrong with it doesn't suddenly make it public property. If they want to explain, they will probably tell you. But for the most part, needing a mobility aid isn’t something that is worth pondering for them. They need it, they use it.

Womanist Musings  Talking to Children About Gendered Slurs

We don't have to like someone to respect their basic human rights.  Just because a marginalized person is an asshole, does not mean that we have to debase them.  We can counter the behaviour of an ass simply by calling them an ass. One of the amazing things about the english language is that we have so many options for expressing ourselves.  There really is no justification for using a slur, or any other debasing language.

Tiger Beatdown  Autism Speaks–But YouDon’t Have To Listen

This is a common problem in disability advocacy. Instead of focusing on people with disabilities and their own lived experiences, including what they have to bring to the table and their differing opinions on policy and other issues, the focus is on their parents and other loved ones and how disability impacts them. This inherently positions disability as an externality, something that happens to someone else, to people who are not quite real, to faceless and amorphous individuals rather than actual human beings. It also positions disability, typically, as something that requires endless sacrifice, work, and misery from the people around the disabled person. And, of course, it suggests that disabled adults don’t exist.