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.

Friday, June 29, 2012

"Discord Can Produce Hope"

But not all discord is bad, and discord is always preferable to becoming numb to the world. Discord and conflict are necessary factors in the process of change. Discord can produce hope just as easily as it can produce horror or pain. (67, Making a Way Out of No Way, Monica A. Coleman)

I'm feeling a little sad.  It's mostly because I am really tired, but it's also partly because I just read a report from my insurance company about my two previous hospitalizations.  It's always hard to see my name and the word, "psychosis" or "suicidal" near it.  Those words bring back some pretty bad memories.  And yet, as Coleman so eloquently states, the discord that was once in my life-the discord that once produced "horror" and "pain"-also produced hope and a change for the better.  The relapses into depression, anxiety, and psychosis prodded me to take my therapy more seriously and to enter into a DBT class.  They got me a new doctor and it pushed my family into family therapy.  All of these things have proved to be helpful and have produced much hope.  My therapist told me yesterday that I am doing better in my relationships than I ever have before and that felt really good to hear her say that.  I could have become "numb to the world" and try to ignore my feelings by drowning in my illness.  Instead, I chose hope.  I chose to take an active part in my recovery and I am glad I did.  Being sad and tired sucks, but I am also alive and full of hope.
(haha, That's my antipsychotic of choice!)
Recommended Link:

Culturally Disoriented - Final Thoughts on American Idol


Friday, June 22, 2012

There Is A Fault in Reality - A Documentary Review

A few days ago, I got contacted to review the documentary on schizophrenia called, There is a Fault in Reality.  (Click on the title to watch the movie.)  It is described as being "about people trying to live with their mental illness of schizophrenia and the journeys that they have gone through to get to where they are today."  Here is a longer synopsis of the documentary from the Snag Films website:
Roughly 1% of the population suffer from something called 'schizophrenia' yet there is little agreement about what this represents, what causes it, or how best to treat it. Despite thousands of research studies, if you've been diagnosed with this 'disease of reality', it is unlikely that anyone will have asked you about your experiences - these are not considered scientifically meaningful. All of these contradictions pose an important question: if schizophrenia represents a fault in reality, with whom does this fault lie? In THERE IS A FAULT IN REALITY, writer, director and psychotherapist Tom Cotton explores the stories of three people – Jon, Peter and Jacqui, who’ve all battled with the diagnosis of ‘schizophrenia’ in different ways, with varying outcomes. Through them, we enter a detailed insider’s view of 'schizophrenia', which bears little resemblance to what we think we know. As their stories unfold, the voices they hear are revealed to have clear meanings, and to have identities that are anything but ‘mad.’
The film is about thirty minutes long and I watched most of it.  Honestly, I would give it about 3.5 stars.  I really like that the goal of the film is to try to reduce the stigma of schizophrenia.  I know from personal experience that schizophrenia is still one of the most stigmatized mental illnesses in our society.  The stigma for schizophrenia is so pervasive that I have heard a lot of it even from members of mental health groups that are supposed to be combating stigma themselves.  Hearing stigmatizing talk from them always makes me particularly sad.  I also really like the fact that the way they are trying to combat the stigma is by letting the people diagnosed with schizophrenia talk about the experience of living with it, themselves.  I also know from personal experience how healing that is.  Every time I tell my story, a little layer of my own personal shame peels off and other people get just a little bit closer to seeing my true self.

On the other hand, I did find the documentary a little triggering.  All of the personal stories include descriptions of suicidal ideations and self-harm-they are not glamorizing them by any means, but still, I found it slightly triggering.  I could tell I was getting triggered, because I could feel my body tensing up, but it certainly didn't ruin my day.  If you are sensitive to hearing those kinds of stories, then I would not recommend watching the movie.  In fact, I really felt that the documentary was more geared towards those who do not have schizophrenia, than to those who do.  I also had a problem with the fact that the movie seemed to me to put a negative spin on taking medication.  Yes, it is true, for most people the medication is not a cure.  It is also true that the medications can have some awful side effects and that it can take a long time to find the right combination.  Still, by mainly showing the negative sides of taking medication, I believe it unfortunately furthers the stigma already surrounding taking medication for mental illness.  It's not that I do not want them showing the downside of medication, but that I would like the story to be a little more balanced.  Show the negatives and the positives, because I have known many people for whom taking medication has proven to be a life saver, even if it is not a cure.

Ultimately, I thought the film did a fairly good job of showing that people with schizophrenia are not "crazy," which is, of course, the most important thing.  Yes, Jon, Peter, and Jacqui all had psychotic episodes in the past, but they are also all living in the present filling their time with various  fulfilling pursuits.  Two of the people facilitate support groups and another performs his poetry at clubs.  That's what I really like to see-people with mental illness, especially with an illness that can be so devastating-moving on with their lives and promoting positive change in this world.  I know from personal experience that psychosis can be terrifying and incredibly isolating, but I also know that after an episode, with time, one can pick up the pieces and form a life that is still good.
(Sadly, I couldn't find a good picture to represent schizophrenia and hope, so I present you with some squee! named Kelly)

Recommended Links:


*I’ve known women who had abortions, women who gave a baby up for adoption, and women who raised an unintended baby on their own. None of those options are easy. None of those options are any less painful, traumatizing, or side-effect filled than any of the others. They only seem that way to people who haven’t experienced them.

Cnn.com - I Don’t Own My Children - DON’T READ THE COMMENTS!

Would you want your daughter to have sex with her boyfriend simply to make him happy? Parents who justify ordering their children to kiss grandma might say, "It's different."

No, it's not, according to author Jennifer Lehr, who blogs about her parenting style. Ordering children to kiss or hug an adult they don't want to touch teaches them to use their body to please you or someone else in authority or, really, anyone.

ShakesvilleFatstronauts 101  

I'm not trying to lose weight. I'm trying to be as healthy as I can be at whatever size I am—a paradigm so outside the mainstream that people can't look at my fat body in any other context than within a frame that dictates I must be trying to change it.


Where are the stories about women mentoring other women? Where are the stories of women who have been best friends since childhood? Where are the stories where two wacky women are thrown together on an intergalactic adventure? Where’s my female Sherlock Holmes and Watson duo?
Where are my stories of epic sromances (rather than bromances) where the (female) hero would cut through entire armies to save their (female) friend? […]  It’s very bizarre. Because – and I hope SF/F authors and scriptwriters know this – there are a lot of women in the world.  […]  Isn’t it sad that we can imagine faster -than-light-travel, fire-breathing dragons and cyborgs, but we can’t imagine two women talking to each other?

Terrible Minds - On the Subject of Being Offensive 

 I care little about minimizing offense, but I care quite a lot about minimizing people.

Tuesday, June 19, 2012

Another Wonderful Realization-Radically Accepting Pain

In my last post, I talked about a great realization that I had. Now I am going to talk about another realization that I had a few weeks ago. I had the realization on a Thursday two weeks ago. I know that, because I have my Dialectical Behavioral Therapy (DBT) class every Wednesday night and I believe it was the DBT class that prompted my realization the next day. You see, we had been talking about the concept of radical acceptance. I guess you could say that I was having a lot of trouble "accepting" the idea. Basically, radical acceptance is accepting a painful reality for what it is. It can be enormously helpful, but it is also very hard to do at times.
The day after the second week of talking about radical acceptance, I was finally able to apply it to my chronic pain.  I had been doing pretty well in not engaging in suicidal thinking for a while, except when I would have a fibro flare-up.  Then, in an unconscious effort to not feel the pain, I would start obsessing about acting out, usually in the form of some kind of self-harm.  But all this would do for me is increase my anxiety, as I know my job is to resist acting out.  I knew I would not hurt or kill myself, but still I obsessed about it, sending me in a whirlwind of anxiety.  That Thursday something almost magical happened: as my obsessive thoughts and anxiety increased when I started to feel pain, all of a sudden I had an amazing thought-
"What if I just accepted the fact that I am in pain and then dealt with it without all the suicidal thoughts? They don't serve any positive purpose for me anymore. I don't need to obsess about acting out, because I know I am not going to do it anyway! All they do is make me more anxious!"
And with that realization, the obsessive thoughts disappeared.  I had finally accepted reality for what it is and I had come to realize that life is worth living, even when there's pain.  Life lived in reality is really a life worth living.  I had paid attention to my wise mind.
For these past two weeks, my pain has not gone away, but it has diminished.  I believe it is because I am not adding the stress and anxiety that those thoughts produced on top of it.  I have found that when I accept my present, painful reality then it is much easier to do something productive about it, because my mind isn't clouded up with the disorganizing and depressing thoughts.  I'm feeling pain?  Then I need to take some pain medication.  Or maybe I need to rest a while.  Or both.  But I cannot figure out what I need in order to feel better unless I first pay attention to how I am feeling and then simply accept it for what it is.  I don't think that one can hear about the concept of radical acceptance one time and then miraculously be able to do it well.  I think you need to hear and talk about it repeatedly until it starts to make sense.  I know that's how it worked for me and thank Godde it did.

Recommended Links:

Two from This Ain't Livin'


 ‘SHE CAN’T BE POOR! SHE HAS A CELL PHONE!’


The hatred of poor people who have cell phones turns the cell phone into a symbol. It’s troubling to see people harassing people in poverty for owning cell phones because of what it implies. It suggests that poor people shouldn’t be trying to find work and find ways to address their poverty, which is effectively what people are saying when they claim that people with cell phones aren’t ‘really’ poor. Furthermore, it indicates that people believe poverty should be socially isolating, that poor people do not have a right to communicate and that the existence of social networks precludes an actual state of poverty. If you’re poor, you shouldn’t have friends or a social life.  […]  Acknowledging that poverty is not something that can necessarily be defined by the possessions people have is critical, and yet many people seem to have serious resistance to the idea. That includes progressives who don’t seem interested in interrogating their own ideas about what poverty looks like and what the lives of poor people involve; it’s present in the sneers implied in comments about homeless people having cell phones or someone ‘claiming’ to be poor and having a laptop. 

TO EACH ACCORDING TO THEIR OWN ABILITIES: DISABILITY AND ENVIRONMENTALISM

There’s also a tendency to present ecologically-friendly practices as ‘easy and simple’ but also ‘required if you care about the Earth.’

In fact many of these practices are not easy and simple, and it is disingenuous at best to suggest that they are. Some of them are actually extremely difficult, requiring time, energy, physical strength, and specific cognitive skills. Not everyone has all of these things all the time, and that includes nondisabled people as well as disabled people. By recognising that, we can create an environmental movement that welcomes each according to their own abilities; not just in general, but on a day to day basis 
 Shakesville  Today in Misogyny: Geek Culture Edition

Further, the use of rape (or threatened rape, or other sexual assault) as an experience that turns one into a superhero is so incredibly insulting to the millions of people who have experienced it, it's hard for me to even fathom the callousness, the cruelty, of making it a trope in a videogame.  […]   Rape isn't some weird, exotic threat. It's an everyday threat that affects women disproportionately, whether because we have experienced it, or whether because we live in a culture that is saturated with it
  

Tuesday, June 12, 2012

Spring Green Lime Cupcakes

Spring is my favorite time of year, as it brings light breezes, fragrant flowers, my birthday, and Mother's Day. It is represented by green, the color of luck and growth, so it seemed fitting that my mother requested lime cupcakes for Mother's Day. I had never had lime cupcakes before, but I found an easy recipe on BettyCrocker.com. I wanted to make key lime cupcakes, as the recipe does, but unfortunately I could not find any key lime juice at the grocery store! That made me sad, because my family absolutely key lime juice. Fortunately, one cannot be sad for long when making cupcakes! The only other change I made with the recipe is that I didn't make two frostings, but only made the lime glaze. A lime and powdered sugar glaze with cream cheese frosting on top seemed like overkill to me. I know a lot of people just love cream cheese frosting, but I usually find it a little too rich. If rich cream cheese frosting is more your style though, then click on the Betty Crocker link for the recipe.

Ingredients

Cupcakes
1 box Betty Crocker® SuperMoist® lemon cake mix
1 box (4-serving size) lime-flavored gelatin
3/4 cup water
1/3 cup Key lime juice
1/3 cup vegetable oil
3 eggs
2 or 3 drops green food color, if desired

Glaze
1 cup powdered sugar
2 to 2 1/2 tablespoons Key lime juice

 I actually couldn't find the Betty Crocker lemon cake mix, so I bought the store brand. It worked out fine.

 Directions
Heat oven to 350°F (325°F for dark or nonstick pan). Place paper baking cup in each of 24 regular-size muffin cups. In large bowl, beat cupcake ingredients with electric mixer on low speed 30 seconds, then on medium speed 2 minutes, scraping bowl occasionally.
It looks like gaucamole, doesn't it? Well, it tastes even better!

 Divide batter evenly among muffin cups, filling each about two-thirds full. Bake 19 to 24 minutes or until toothpick inserted in center comes out clean. Cool in pan 10 minutes. Remove from pan to cooling rack. With toothpick or wooden skewer, pierce tops of cupcakes in several places.  In small bowl, mix 1 cup powdered sugar and enough of the 2 to 2 1/2 tablespoons lime juice until glaze is smooth and thin enough to drizzle. Drizzle and spread glaze over cupcakes. Cool completely, about 30 minutes.
 
These came out light, moist, and so green they reminded me of St. Patrick's Day.  I thought the light, lime glaze paired beautifully with the lightness of the cake-the whole cupcake seemed to melt in my mouth.  Yum!

Something that has made me feel even lighter than this cupcake is the realization I had in my last therapy session that I no longer have an eating disorder!  Sure, I still don't trust myself enough to own a scale and I will never let myself start dieting again, but I am not afraid of food anymore.  Currently, the foods on my "fear foods list" are zero and that is a wonderful feeling.  Also, while I still get the craving to purge sometimes, I now have enough confidence in myself to know that I can withstand the uncomfortable feeling safely until it passes.  While the cupcake was delicious, truly there is nothing more delicious than recovery.

Recommended Links
Dances with FatMe and Hilary Clinton    
I think that it is extremely unfortunate that, as a society, our desperate fascination with unattainable photoshop perfection means that we care more about how women look than what they can do.  […]  we can change things ourselves, so let me take this opportunity to highlight the option of opting out of this part of our culture.

This Ain’t Livin’ - FAIRTREATMENT FOR FARMWORKERS: A NON-NEGOTIABLE ASPECT OF ETHICAL FOOD


This is a reflection of larger social attitudes about farmworkers; the labour that goes into food production is often not factored into discussions about ethical and sustainable food. People may claim, for example, that food is cruelty-free and ethical when this is not in fact that case, because workers were exploited to produce it.


Health Secret    

Thursday, June 7, 2012

Hometown Prophet by Jeff Fulmer - A Book Review

I belong to Speakeasy, an organization that releases new spiritual books before they hit the mainstream market to bloggers to review.  I just joined and I think it's a fun way to get some free reads in a genre that I already enjoy.  My first Speakeasy review is for the book, Hometown Prophet by Jeff Fulmer.  Here is a trailer for the book:

I had never heard of a book having its own trailer before, but there you go.

The book is a story about Peter Quill, a man in his early thirties who moves back home to live with his mother.  He feels very discouraged and ashamed of himself until he starts having prophetic dreams.  Peter never knows exactly what his dreams mean, but he knows that he needs to share his visions with others.  Through the telling of his dreams, some people come to worship him and some people come to hate him, but Peter comes to have more confidence in himself by telling others what they do not want to hear.  Although Peter comes from a charismatic, fundamentalist church, Peter's dreams tell of an inclusive God that cares about the environment and loves all people.  This message stretches the minds and hearts of many kinds of people, including Peter's minister.

 I resonated with the feelings of the main character in the beginning, as I am also in my early thirties and living at home.  I know what it feels like to feel ashamed of where I am and I also know how one needs to develop an attitude of gratitude in order to appreciate the blessings one really has.  I liked the scenes where Peter stands up for the outcast in our society and I enjoyed watching him grow into a   more self-confident person.  In fact, it was interesting reading Peter's story, because even though a diagnosis was never mentioned, Peter obviously suffers from social anxiety.  Having some social anxiety myself, I could definitely relate to Peter's constant questioning of himself and self-doubt.  I could also relate to his sexual insecurities-even though he does not believe that sex before marriage is wrong, he still feels slightly guilty about it at times.  So did I for a long time-I credit the church I grew up in for that particular damage-and it was refreshing to see what must be a common issue to grapple with in the Bible belt dealt with so unashamedly.  With plenty of action, a love story, and a climatic biblical throw-down in a church, I could easily see this book transformed into a movie.  This book is definitely geared towards Christians and even one who doesn't know their Bible well enough might feel a little lost with some of the biblical references.  I recommend this book to Christians who believe that God's grace extends to everybody or at least to those who are willing to be challenged in their beliefs.

Fulmer's Blog
Hometown Prophet HQ

Saturday, June 2, 2012

May 2012 Book Review

  

Vampire Kisses 4: Dance with a Vampire by Ellen Schreiber - The effects of reading a book should linger with you long after reading it, but just a month after reading this book I had to read a synopsis to help me remember what the book is about.  That is just pitiful and time wasted.  From what I remember, this book confused me.  Jagger's little brother, Valentine, is in town and Raven once again overreacts to the situation by suspecting that he is up to no good.  I thought Valentine was a mildly cool character, especially with his extra supernatural powers.  I wish Raven and Alexander had paid more attention to what he tells them about their thoughts-he obviously was a smarter character than they are.  I was frustrated by Raven's judgmental attitude towards Valentine-she condemns him for the way he dresses when he dresses in the same goth style that she does.  I had some trouble understanding the plot, but I didn't care enough about the story to take the time to reread a few passages.  Fortunately, I like the book that I am currently reading with my client a lot better.

As You Like It by William Shakespeare - I am not a huge Shakespeare fan, even though I have an English degree, but it was the book my classics book group picked out for May.  We decided to read it, because the play is at the Shakespeare Tavern this month and we thought it would be fun to read the play and then go see it.  I decided to keep an open mind while reading it and I'm glad I did, because I actually really enjoyed it.  The play is a lighthearted comedy where people fall in love at first sight, women pretend to be men, and love triangles abound.  It would be a very interesting play to analyse using queer and feminist theory.  I did have to remind myself several times that it is a lighthearted comedy and that the situations in the play are not supposed to be taken seriously, because almost all of the plot points in the book are not realistic.  All of the characters are shallow people who make major life decisions, like getting married, in an instant and seemingly on a whim.  Their actions seem pretty unbelievable, but then again, as one of the women in my book group pointed out, the people during the Renaissance only lived to be about forty, so perhaps they did have to make their major life decisions much faster than we do.  I think Shakespeare meant this play to be a satire though, on how silly the idea of romantic love can seem,especially since romantic love was a very new concept during Shakespeare's time.  It was fun reading this comedy and I can't wait to see the play.  BTW, the play also contains some of Shakespeare's most famous lines, such as this one:
"All the world 's a stage, and all the men and women merely players. They have their exits and their entrances; And one man in his time plays many parts" - (Act II, Scene VII).
Blood Child and Other Stories by Octavia E. Butler - Of course, this was my favorite book I read in May!  If you're a regular reader of this blog, then you know that I absolutely adore Octavia E. Butler and I am very distraught that there is only one book of hers left to read.  I could not put this book down.  My mom read it after I did and she said the same thing.  We both read the book in a few days time.  The book is a collection of science fiction short stories and they are quality work.  The title story won both the Hugo and the Nebula award and Butler was awarded the MacArthur Fellowship on the basis of this book.  This book is the exact opposite of Shakespeare's As You Like It-the characters are deep, complex, fully-formed persons very carefully making moral decisions that will affect their lives and in about half of the stories, the lives of all of humanity.  Most of the stories contained in this collection are post apocalyptic and yet despite their nightmarish quality, they all end with some kind of hope-they may be frightening, but they are not despairing, which is a quality of Butler that I really admire.  My three favorite stories are The Book of Martha, Speech Sounds, and The Evening and The Morning and The Night-all feature a strong female character and all offer the question of can one person redeem the human race.  I heartily, heartily recommend this book!cute baby animals - Now Repeat the Heart Sutra After Me
Warm fuzzies for all!  Squee!

Recommended Links:

This time, it's all about self promotion!