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, December 27, 2013

A Great Christmas In Recovery

I had a great Christmas! My family opened presents in the morning - I got a new crock pot, so I'll be sure to show you all sorts of new slow cooker recipes next year-then a friend came over for brunch and to watch my favorite holiday movie, Nightmare Before Christmas.
(Christmas Brunch: grits with tomato gravy, quiche, monkey bread, sausage egg casserole and fruit salad)
("Sandy Claws")

But the best thing about this Christmas was that I was not depressed or anxious about the food.  So what if we were cooking and eating some fattening foods?  One way of looking at Christmas is like a Jesus' birthday party and I thought to myself, "If someone was at my birthday party, I would want them to have a good time and to enjoy the yummy, tasty food that I had prepared for the celebration-I wouldn't want them to worry about anything so silly as weight during my party!"  Neither do I think God wants us to worry about anything so superficial as weight during the celebration of Jesus birthday either!  And if you are not Christian, then I still pardon you from worrying about your weight during any time of great celebration.  (And really, you don't need to worry about it at any time at all.)
(Yum!)

I follow mindfulness, which is basically trying to be mindful of my body's hunger signals-eating when I'm hungry and stopping when I'm not.  I don't diet and yet, because of being in the diet mindset for so many years, I still have to give myself pep talks, positive affirmations, and rationals for not letting myself getting sucked back in sometimes.  Fortunately, once I focus in on whatever pep talk, affirmation, rational, etc. that I have chosen to keep me grounded, I am able to carry on my day living in recovery from my eating disorder, which is absolutely wonderful.

Sausage Egg Casserole - Sausage used to be one of my main fear foods and I'm so glad it's not anymore, because the casserole is really good!

Monkey  Bread - Absolutely delicious and very easy to make

Asparagus Quiche - I halved the recipe and used soy eggnog instead of cream, which was fabulous!

I'll post the tomato gravy recipe when I get it-my mom is the one who found it, so I don't know what website it came from yet.

I am having a wonderful holiday season and I hope you are too, but of course, I am aware that the holidays are often difficult for many people-if they are for you, practice being kind to yourself and others, being mindful of the moment and your body, and be grateful for at least one thing, even if it is just for the fact that you are alive or that you know the moment will eventually pass.  Shalom!
(I want these shoes!)

Link Love:
“Oh, no, I’m watching my weight.”
“That must be boring viewing.”
“Why, does it do tricks?

Oppressed people are not required to have a goal of changing their oppressor’s minds.

When some people do certain work we cheer. When others do it we yawn. I appreciated the hosannas when I was strolling down Flatbush, but I doubt the female electrician walking down the same street got the same treatment.

Monday, December 23, 2013

Beat Holiday Stress by Practicing Mindfulness and Apple Pumpkin Soup

I am in the Christmas Spirit!
 But I haven't always been. Two weeks ago, I was pretty stressed out and anxious, only I didn't know it.  That might seem funny, but anxiety is a funny thing-it often manifests itself as physical illness and so can be hard to identify.  I have struggled with severe anxiety all my life and I still have trouble identifying what is anxiety and what is physical illness.  Sometimes anxiety manifests itself as the symptoms of low blood sugar-faintness, irritability, feeling like one needs to eat, shakiness, etc. That's what had been happening to me over the past several weeks, only not when I had been exercising and I had been eating regularly.  Fortunately, my therapist was able to help me see that these were symptoms of anxiety and once I knew that I was able to do something about it.

 I have many coping skills for anxiety, but one that I have really been trying to work into each and every day is the practice of mindfulness, more specifically the concept of "One-Mindfully."  According to the website DBT Self-Help:

Mindfulness has to do with the quality of awareness that we bring to what we are doing and experiencing, to being in the here and now.  It has to do with learning to focus on being in the present, to focusing our attention on what we are doing and what is happening in the present. We have to learn to control our attention. Many of us are distracted by images, thoughts and feelings of the past, perhaps dissociating, worrying about the future, negative moods and anxieties about the present.   It's hard to put these thing away and concentrate on the task at hand.

"One-Mindfully" is when one mindfully concentrates at one task at a time.  It's the opposite of multi-tasking.  And I believe, it is the antidote to much of the holiday stress that is flying around this time of year.  The more things we try to do at a time, the more stressed out we become AND the
efficiency and proficiency goes down quite dramatically too.  It's a myth that multi-tasking is such a good thing.

When I concentrate on one thing at a time, I can feel my body relax and my breath start to deepen.  My thoughts begin to slow down and smiling does not seem like such a foreign concept.  By the end of the task, I feel renewed and re-energized, as if I had sat down for thirty minutes in front of my light box.

You can do any task mindfully and in fact, it has been proven that your productivity will actually go up if you just focus on one task at a time.  I especially like to cook mindfully.  The smells. The sounds. The steam from a good soup or pasta dish-immersing myself fully into the moment takes me far away from the stress of the "real world" and re-energizes and restores my soul.

I'm going to share this recipe from the Brown Eyed Baker of Apple Pumpkin Soup a little differently tha I normally do-interspersed in the directions are two videos I took of the soup bubbling and boiling, see if you can watch them mindfully.  As you are watching the videos, imagine that you are standing at the stove, tending the pot-what does it smell like?  Does the steam hit your face?  Can you hear it bubble?

I wish that I had made the videos longer, but this was my first time really experimenting with the video on my camera.  Tell me what you think in the comments!  (Also, I have now started a Hope Is Real facebook page, which you can follow by clicking on the link on the right.)

Apple-Pumpkin Soup

INGREDIENTS:

1 tablespoon olive oil
1 small onion, diced
2 Granny Smith apples, peeled, cored and diced
½ teaspoon kosher salt
6 cups vegetable stock
2/3 cups natural (no sugar added) applesauce
½ teaspoon ground white pepper
½ teaspoon ground sage
½ teaspoon dried thyme
¼ teaspoon ground nutmeg
2 (15-ounce) cans pumpkin
¼ cup brown sugar
½ cup heavy cream Spiced Latte Coffee Mate Creamer!


DIRECTIONS:

1. Heat a Dutch oven or large soup pot over medium heat. Add the olive oil and heat until it shimmers. Add the diced onion, apples and salt. Saute until onions are translucent, about 7 minutes. Add the vegetable stock, applesauce, white pepper, sage, thyme and nutmeg. Bring to a boil and cook until apples are very tender, about 5 more minutes.



2. Add the pumpkin and brown sugar and cook for 10 – 15 minutes over medium heat. Use an immersion blender to blend soup until it's smooth. (You can also use a blender to blend the soup in batches.) Add the cream to the soup and heat through over very low heat. (You can add more cream or water, if desired, to thin out more.) 
.
 
Remove from heat and serve. Garnish with sliced pumpkin seeds or dried apple slices
I did neither and opted instead for shredded parmesan cheese.   

This soup is killer!!!!  I used spiced latte coffee creamer instead of heavy cream
-you could also egg nog, I'm sure. Aren't I just naughty?  lol I also used loads of fresh thyme.  It's a thick, hearty soup that is sweet and filling, perfect for the holiday season and for practicing mindfulness. 

 Let me know about your own experiences with mindfulness over the holidays!  

Link Love:

Plenty of well-known feminists have been known to use ableist speech—language invoking disability as a metaphor, typically in the pejorative.

By Kasey Edwards
Every moment we spend worrying about our physical ‘‘flaws’’ is a moment wasted, a precious slice of life that we will never get back.

I’m always a little bit amused when somebody feels like I should care whether they “approve of my lifestyle.”

Friday, December 20, 2013

Battling the Season of Insecurities with Pumpkin Pie Cupcakes

Thanksgiving is supposed to be about being thankful for what we have, but for people who are socially conscious with little money themselves, they can be the start of what I call the "Season of Insecurities."

Immediately after Thanksgiving is Black Friday and then Small Business Saturday, Cyber Monday and Giving Tuesday!  Whew!  That's a lot of spending!  If you go to church, many churches start their campaign to know how much people will be tithing in the next year. Many organizations will push for members to pool moneys together to buy an expensive present for their leader(s).  There are the many holiday parties with the $10-20 gift exchange, which may not seem like much until one considers the fact that I have been invited to nine-NINE!-holiday parties! Only three of them are having a gift exchange and I am only attending one of those three, but you can see the potential for a financial problem.  There's the Salvation Army ringing its bells at the grocery store and the Toys for Tots drive as advertised on the radio and the plethora of well meaning social and religious groups seem to constantly talk about "adopting" families for Christmas.  These things are all great, unless you're someone who doesn't have a lot of money or time to spare and then it's time to remember who you really are.

Who I am is a beloved child of God.  I am enough, even if I do not buy everything on my loved one's Christmas list.  I am still a kind person, even if I do not sponsor a child, promise to tithe, or buy a toy for a tot.  I can be kind to myself by reminding myself of these things and I can be kind to others by doing small acts of kindness towards them, even if I can't do big, showy ones.

I used to feel very insecure whenever the word, "fundraiser," was brought up and I will admit that it's still something I struggle with sometimes, but remembering all the little ways that I contribute on a daily basis helps me stay in reality. People with borderline personality disorder often have an unstable sense of self (identity) and so struggle with feeling insecure and empty a lot.  Making a list of ways that you already contribute to the world can help remind you of your real self and your self-worth.

Here is a List of Some Ways That I Contribute to My World:

  • Make Dinners for the Family
  • Grocery Shop for the Family
  • Feed Cat
  • Volunteer at an Assisted Living Home 
  • Take My Medications
  • Work On Staying Peaceful In My Recovery
Those last ones are BIG!  Even if we cannot do much monetarily, taking care of ourselves and our recovery is a big way that we can give back to our community.  If I can sponsor tons of poor families and buy tons of presents, but I am always in crisis and am stressful to be around, then how much pleasure, joy, and thanksgiving am I really contributing to the world? 

I usually make a fair amount of the gifts I give for Christmas.  I really enjoy making them and as I make them, I think about the person and my blessings go into the product.  A recent foodie gift were the pumpkin pie cupcakes I made for the church Thanksgiving feast a few weeks ago.  Supposedly, the small size makes them an easy way to have a smaller portion, but considering the fact that I ate three the day I made them, I'm not so sure...They're really addicting!  I got the recipe from the blog, Culinary Couture.

Pumpkin Pie Cupcakes


Ingredients:

2/3 cup all-purpose flour
1 and 1/2 teaspoons pumpkin pie spice
1/4 teaspoon baking powder
1/4 teaspoon baking soda
1/4 teaspoon salt
1 and 1/2 cups pure pumpkin
1/2 cup granulated sugar
1/4 cup brown sugar
2 large eggs
1 teaspoon vanilla extract
3/4 cup skim milk
(I just thought the eggshells looked pretty!)

Directions:

1. Preheat oven to 350 degrees F. Line a muffin tin with 11 foil cupcake liners (If using regular cupcake liners, make sure you spray them generously. It is highly recommended to use foil liners so the cupcakes will slide out easily).

2. In a medium-sized bowl, whisk together flour, pumpkin pie spice, baking powder, baking soda, and salt. Set aside.

3. In another bowl, using an electric hand mixer, beat together pumpkin, sugars, eggs, vanilla, and milk until well-combined. Then, stir in dry ingredients until well blended.

  (What a beautiful orange color-I just adore pumpkin!)

4. Pour batter into prepared muffin cups, filling each cupcake liner 3/4 of the way full. Bake for 20-25 minutes.

5. Let cool in tin for 20 minutes, then transfer to a refrigerator and chill for 30 minutes. Top with a dollop of whipped cream before serving. 
I baked them for the full 25 minutes-the top will be firm and the bottom will be slightly custard-y.  The tops will sink, but that's just because they want you to fill them up with whip cream!  And do refrigerate them-I know it's hard to wait, but they do taste better cold.
If only we had Willy Wonka-like computers and could reach into the screen and grab that cupcake!
I packed them up and everyone enjoyed my gift of cupcakes!  They're nearly gluten-free, since they have very little flour and I used Splenda, so they were basically spiced vegetables, right?  Right?  Well....
Beautiful! A swirl of Redi-Whip makes them complete.  They're light and tasty and completely addictive.  Everybody was appreciative.  So what if I cannot always give in big, showy ways?  I can give in tasty, caring, and peaceful ways and that is enough.

Link Love:



Conventional thinking has it that pursuing success will lead to happiness, but research has shown that it may be just the opposite. Pursuing happiness leads not only to happiness itself, but also to success, according to Shawn Achor, author of The Happiness Advantage.


I don't know if I'm a sex positive feminist, because I've seen that defined a lot of different ways, some of which resonate with me and some of which don't, but I am without question a consent positive feminist. 



Why does it matter that Saving Mr. Banks sabotages its supposed heroine? Because in a Hollywood where men still pen 85 percent of all films, there's something sour in a movie that roots against a woman who asserted her artistic control by asking to be a co-screenwriter. (Another battle she lost —Mary Poppins' opening credits list Travers as merely a "consultant.")

Planet of the Blind - Disability and the Middle Ages, or, How to Count Your Blessings Stupid

There are two interesting rhetorical questions here. We know why the fraud has become a joke: disability has never stopped being a joke. It was always a joke because god willed it so—the infirm, the unseeing, the deaf were put on this earth to make “fit people” count their blessings. This is why American churches are not required to conform to the Americans with Disabilities Act. Don’t delude yourself: the cripples are not among the elect. They never were. 


Wednesday, December 11, 2013

Emotions are Normal

To tell someone not to be emotional is to tell them to be dead. ~ Jeanette Winterson, from Why Be Happy When You Can Be Normal?

I have several blog posts that I want to do about some wonderfully happy times that I have experienced lately and I will review a book soon.  I really want to do a post about mindfulness, but first I want to address the fact that just because I am in recovery from Borderline Personality Disorder does not mean that I will not still be an emotional person.

It seems obvious, but in my recovery pink cloud after I had just been declared to be in my remission I forgot that truth.  I had a few good weeks and then disaster struck-my dad became mysteriously very sick and no one knew why.  His sickness and pain continued for about a whole month.  It was very stressful and though I continued to practice my DBT skills, I would still sometimes have times of anxiety, panic and tears. "Why am I reacting this way?" I moaned to my sponsor after a mini-meltdown and she replied to me,
"Stress is stress!  Just because you don't have BPD anymore doesn't mean that you won't still go through stressful situations.  It's normal to feel stressed out in response to a stressful situation-anyone would!"  
My dad finally got diagnosed with pleurisy and got the help he needed and is now better.  I self-soothed and got better.  I talked about it in this post.

Then I had some more wonderful times, until a combination of really awful weather - I have SAD - forgetting to get one of my prescriptions filled and so going several days without one of my most important medications, some really stressful relationship issues cropping up between me and a whole group of people caused me to be really stressed out and tired and exhausted and emotional and slightly depressed.  "Oh no," I thought-"Am I back in Borderline-land?"

This time I realized myself that emotions are normal.  Even having mood swings are normal when life goes majorly up and down as it sometimes does and it often does around this time of year.  So the forgetting to get my medication filled was not a good thing, but everything else could not be helped and I did eventually get them filled and now I am better.

 What is the major difference between me now and me with BPD was that even though I recognized that I was moody and exhausted and depressed, I didn't self-destruct.

  I kept on using my DBT skills, even when sometimes they didn't work as well as before-mindfulness is hard to do when you're depressed!  Most importantly, I pushed myself not to isolate-I kept my volunteer obligations and my appointments and I even wouldn't allow myself to go back to bed after getting up, even though I often wanted to. I practiced opposite to emotion actions and would force myself to watch something funny or listen to happier music until I felt more energized and a little more uplifted.  It always worked, at least for a little while.  I got out my light box and I use it almost every day now.

I am feeling better now, but I had some tough sh*t to work through.  We all do, even totally healthy, non mentally ill people do.  And it's the holiday season, which can be tough sometimes-we can feel pressure to buy the right things or to look the right way or to act the right way in front of certain people.

 It's a hard holiday season for those that are grieving.  Even if you're pretty calm about the state of a certain relationship or death for most of the year, the holidays can really stir up longings for the past that must be attended to and honored in order to move forward.  I had to do that, because I am human, because I am not dead.  

I hate how people love to use the phrase, " you're so emotional," to denigrate others and make them seem weak, but it is only a weakness if you consider being human a weakness.

The new church that I've started going to's theme for Advent is "Awake, My Soul," from the Mumford & Sons song of the same name.  Let us all re-awake this Christmas season and come into our alive-ness acknowledging our need for emotions that connect us to each other and ourselves.  Let us remember that we are human and be compassionate towards one another and each other.  May I always remember that, "to tell someone to not be emotional is to tell them to be dead."

Link Love:


Instead of talking to boys and fathers about “What It Means to Be a Man,” focus on what it means to be a good person.

I could go on and on, but you can see where I am heading with this. The struggle from apartheid, I am sure, is not over in South Africa, nor is the struggle against apartheid and slavery over in America.


I know you will say that how dare I say you don’t love your child. Well, show me. Accept your child. Stop demonizing autism because when you do, you demonize the autistic. There isn’t a way to separate autism from us. Help your children speak up and listen to them. Ask them what they think about the A$ rhetoric. And be patient. Everyone understands things, feels things. We live in this world, even when some of us cannot (yet) communicate. Invest on your child’s education and find a way to help them communicate in a way you understand (something A$ is not doing). Only then you can actually be a good advocate for your children.


I'm for putting disabled people in positions of power, real power.


I actually wish that the conversation about health within fat politics would shift more to a social model of disability perspective — which means affirming that people naturally come in a diverse array of different bodies, and rather than labeling some bodies “right” and other bodies “wrong,” and setting up societies to only accommodate “right” bodies, and then seeking to address the resulting inequities by forcing the “wrong” ones to more closely resemble the “right,” it is actually the responsibility of society at large to ensure that all bodies are accommodated, valued, and given equitable access to the human world.

You know, associating all people with mental illness with mass shooters every time you announce a mental health initiative comes at a steep cost to people with mental illness. And that $100 million is terrific, but it won't buy us an existence free of stigma.


Thursday, November 28, 2013

October 2013 Book Review

October was the month for hits and misses-some books were fabulous and some books were absolutely awful!
Graceling was the book my feminist book club picked out for October and it was fabulous!  It’s the first book of a trilogy and I will definitely read the other two.  I so enjoyed watching the tale unfold that I will actually try not to spoil the story too much for you.  It is the story of Katsa who was born with the grace, which is like a special talent, for killing and fighting.  She meets the prince Po, who become friends and together leave to save his cousin Bitterblue from the clutches of King Leck.  The book is a feminist allegory, which makes it a delight to read, in my opinion.  My book club thought King Randa represents the patriarchy in the way that he controls Katsa in the beginning of the book and I think they’re right, but I also think King Leck could also represent the patriarchy, but I won’t say why, because that would spoil too much of the book.  (Look at that, me being all nice!)  I fell in love with the book on page 79 when Po and Katsa fight together-they are both graced in fighting and so they fight as equals.  I wrote down in my notes that it was, “satisfying and refreshing” and that was how I felt reading the whole book.  It was refreshing to see a relationship between a man and a woman where they viewed each other as equals.  It was refreshing and satisfying for the male to be the one in the sensitive, more emotional role and the female to be more impulsive.  Po, the male, was the one who appreciated beauty.  I thought the book was very effective in teaching feminist lessons to teens, much more effective than probably a scholarly lecture ever would be.  Probably the most effective lesson taught was that every woman should know self-defense and it really would have been appropriate for my book club to have ended the night by looking up a self-defense class.  In fact, as I write that, I realize that that is still not bad idea.  It is a sad fact that we live in an extremely dangerous world and one way to not let the patriarchy have power over us is to feel more confident about our ability to defend ourselves.  I’ve felt a little intimidated about signing up for a self-defense class before but after reading Graceling I realized that that is a very foolish way to live and I just might sign up for the next class that comes along and that, my friends, is how you write an effective feminist book!  Towards the end, the book even brings up the point that one can have a disability and still be a whole person, which is incredibly progressive and lovely.  I cried a little when I finished the book, which was only unfortunate, because I was at Starbucks.


This one was a complete miss!  DO NOT buy it or even borrow it from the library!  My nutritionist recommended that I read some books on the subject of mindful eating and she said that any book that was on a certain website would probably be good.   I picked this book out, because it was available at the library, but apparently that was not a good enough reason.  Mindful eating is a practice that I believe in, but like all practices there are those practitioners who err on all or nothing thinking.  Jan Chozen Bays is one of those people and my nutritionist and I agreed that she seems fanatical and extreme.  The first time I tried to read the book it majorly triggered me and brought out my perfectionist tendencies.  Fortunately, the second time I started to read it I realized that the problem was hers and not mine.  I say that because while in mindful eating a person is supposed to ask themselves how hungry they are before and after they eat, Bays wants a person to ask themselves how hungry they are in seven different ways before they eat!  That is ridiculous!  That is perfectionistic!  And for someone who claims that they are going to have a person rediscover a healthy and joyful relationship with food-what she is suggesting seems awfully obsessive and eating disorder-y and I cannot support that.  I expressed my concerns to my nutritionist and was quite relieved that she agreed with me and even apologized she had somewhat encouraged me to read that book.  There was only one point she made that I liked and that she replaces the stigmatizing term “emotional eating” with “heart hunger” and says that it is okay in moderation-that while we cannot eat enough to fill the hole inside if what we are yearning for is really comfort, love, affection, or touch, but we should take care to listen to our hearts and what it is really hungry for-does it long for a food that reminds you of home?  Then mindfully eat it.  Does it need a hug?  Then hug a friend or stuffed animal.  (By the way, I got most of this from the blog, A Weight Lifted – I still wouldn’t read the book.)


I only very, very cautiously recommend this book.   I found this book also on the mindful eating website and yes, the book is on mindful eating, but it was not the type of book that my nutritionist wanted me to read about, but about being conscious of where your food comes from and whether it was treated/raised ethically or not.  Once I realized that I was a little annoyed, but it was a subject that I was already interested in, so I continued reading.  I found Jane Goodall to be presumptuous and classist and arrogant, which sadly, did not surprise me too much.  It did make me very sad though, because I have always been fascinated by her work with animals.  She made great points and I recommend it, because it really did convince me to change some of my habits.  I only cautiously recommend it though, because the graphic explanations about the violence towards animals could be triggering to people and her classist attitude may be more than some are willing to read.  For instance, she is vegetarian and even though she would repeatedly talk about ethical ways to eat meat, she almost always would follow it up with some form of comment about how it would still be better to be vegetarian.   There were subtle and some not-so-subtle classist digs all over the book.  I nearly threw the book down in disgust when she showed a picture of a nameless fat boy eating a big sandwich over the words similar to, “the obesity crisis is happening to our children.”  The nerve, she didn’t even let the kid keep his own name, but took away his agency and turned him into a symbolic fat child.  I think that is incredibly, incredibly disgusting and dehumanizing behavior.  So yes, read it to learn about where your food comes from and then write a letter to Jane Goodall expressing what was so problematic with her book from a humanistic standpoint. (Please let me be clear-I still enormously admire Jane Goodall, I just think she is out of touch with the common person and especially with the problems of poor people.)


I love good children’s books and am in the process of reading all the books I should have read as a child.  My mom says that I did read the book and that I didn’t like it then, but I don’t remember that at all.  I find it hard to believe, considering that I do remember that I liked the 1988 movie.  I found the book fascinating, especially since the book was written in the 1940s.  Pippi is great!  Okay, so sometimes she seems a little bratty to my adult sensibilities, but overall she’s fabulous.  I love that she has superhuman strength, stands up to bullies, and thinks outside the box.  There’s no princess-girlie crap, but a strong girl descended from pirates who can take care of herself, which makes her appeal to both boys and girls and a strong role model.  Pippi is very sure of herself, which is very nice in this age where I feel like girls are constantly pressured to please everyone else and so do not have the foundations for strong and stable self- images.  I also liked that there were several passages where the children (Pippi spends a lot of time with her two next-door-neighbors) are so full from eating that they lie down, satisfied in being stuffed.  There can hardly be any better measure of perfect childhood than that!  It’s not that we shouldn’t teach our children about mindful eating and listening to our bodies, but I think in our anxious, body-conscious culture we often go too far.  Most little girls are not happy with their bodies.  From the National Eating Disorders Association website, “81% of 10 year olds are afraid of being fat” and that was way back in 1991-unfortunately, I’m sure it’s gotten worse.  That is why the thin-girlie-princess motif needs to go and the strong girls like Pippi need to come back-and why the fat acceptance movement is so important!  Fat ain’t something to fear, it’s a part of our body and I shouldn’t have had to find that out in an inpatient unit, sick with ED-NOS.   Also, I hope you followed the author's link-it turns out that in her later life, she became an awesome activist speaking out on issues related to economics, ethical treatment of animals, and against corporal punishment for children. Speaking out for others is another lesson that our children should learn.
A Great Picture of Astrid Lindgren

Link Love:
RD Magazine-"Flipping the Script" to Win Gays Back to the Evangelical Church
If God declares that it is not good for the human being to be alone, if God says we should have a partner who fulfils us, then surely condemning gay people to lives of singleness and celibacy opposes divine will. (Amy-Jill Levine)

 What do you have to say to naysayers out there who say things like "Stop being so sensitive!" and "It's just a word!" 
I have no interest in addressing them. My energy is limited—I am raising a kid, I have a job, I write, I have a life. My energy is for moving the conversation forward with whoever I think can help me. The reality—the word is a reflection of how we view "these people." That is true whether someone means that when they use the word or not.This sounds very grand but my goal is to help change the world in favor of people like my son. I cannot be pulled down by people who want to plant their flag on saving a hateful word.

This is a pivotal time in LGBT history, one in which transgender people need our support. The outdated bigotry we see on TV, particularly on some of CBS’ comedies, gets in the way of progress for everyone.

Why does tagging someone as “probably queer” automatically mean that if they’re dating someone of the opposite gender, they’re deceiving themselves or flat-out lying?

I can remember being in Oklahoma amongst a lot of different tribal people when I was in junior college and Thanksgiving was coming around and I couldn’t come home—it was too far and too expensive—and people were talking about, Thanksgiving, and, yeah, the Indians! And I said, yeah, we’re the Wampanoags. They didn’t know! We’re not even taught what kind of Indians, Hopefully, in the future, at least for Americans, we do need to get a lot brighter about other people.

Thursday, November 21, 2013

I Still Remember...On Forgiveness and Mental Hospitals


"I still remember..." every condescending remark or insensitive joke that a staff member made while I was inpatient or outpatient at a mental health hospital.  Fortunately, there haven't been too incredibly many, but what with how sensitive I was feeling at the time due to my illnesses and due to the enormous stigma, especially during the time when I was diagnosed with schizoaffective disorder, every remark was like rubbing salt on a wound.  One of my biggest resentments that I've had to work on was on forgiving staff members for less than stellar treatment and it has taken many therapy sessions until I finally believed that hospital staff are people too and so are prone to mistakes just like everybody else.

Being in the hospital is tough, tougher than "regular" people will ever know.  There is stigma that follows it, sometimes even inside it, and each time a person comes out, while hopefully there are improvements in the person's well-being, there is usually some kind of emotional damage also.  It's sad, but true.

Of course, different treatment centers will do better and worse at handling this, but in any case, as long as our society stigmatizes mental illness so much, going to any hospital will remain a traumatizing experience.  That is why it is so important for staff to be on their best behavior and to always try to treat their patients with respect and care.  I think it should be mandatory for all mental hospitals to require all staff, even doctors, to complete periodic sensitivity training where they would practice putting themselves in the patient's shoes and imagining what it would be like to live in a world that still considers mental illness to mean one is lazy or "crazy."  In my ideal world, staff would get better pay and vacation time to help prevent burnout.  I believe a hospital that values its workers values its patients.

I wish there was a way that I could go back in time and talk to my sickest self and try to convince her not to hold a grudge, not so much that she could be a better person, but so that she could have a freer mind.  That is something that I have learned in recovery: forgiveness is something we do for ourselves to liberate ourselves from personal bondage.  Deep, isn't it?  Think on it for a while.  The first time I heard that it really changed my life.  I've also learned that forgiveness, acceptance, and letting go is something that I have to do over and over again.

I will always remember those caustic jokes and remarks, but now they no longer cause me any suffering-they are now a reminder to be kinder to the people I meet and to myself.

Sunday, November 17, 2013

Most Embarrassing Mania - It Gets Better

Today's prompt asks me what my most embarrassing moment since being diagnosed and I would say that it would be the times when I have not been able to stop talking during periods of mania.

I have bipolar II. Fortunately, my symptoms are pretty well managed now with medication and a regular sleep schedule, but this was not always so.  Bipolar II does not have the kind of mania that you hear about in the news or that makes for a good, dramatic movie-instead, it has hypomania, which gives you a nice kind of energy that can be quite beneficial.  Hypomania can be great, especially for someone who has periods of depression, because it gives one productive motivation and energy.  I've even had doctors that try to keep people with bipolar II at a slightly hypomanic state, so that they will be able to stay productive and motivated, instead of depressed and avoidant.

 I've often heard people that only know what depression is like remark that they wish they could experience mania.  I can understand why they would wish that, but there is a misconception among people that have not experienced it that mania is all roses and happy times and it is not.  At its best, hypomania makes one productive and motivated, but go a little past that and one is uncomfortably restless and talkative, with energy that embarrassingly cannot be stopped.  I can remember several manic incidents where I embarrassed myself and while they are funny now that they are over, they are a good reminder to others that no mental illness is to be envied.  

My Two Most Embarrassing Manic Moments:

I had many struggles with mood swings at Berry College, as that was when I was first diagnosed and so I was not on the right medication, had enough therapy, or knew how to take proper care of my body.  Plus, college is stressful.

1. There was the time when I first started working at food service and I was working with a guy who was very quiet-I had a mood swing and could not shut-up.  I had nothing of value to say to him, so I just kept on introducing myself ("Hello, My name is K.C.Jones, Hello, My name is K.C.Jones, Hello..." you get the point), which I knew was a stupid thing to do and so I felt very embarrassed-self-awareness was always the worst part of mania for me.  Fortunately, when I later told him how ridiculous I realized I had sounded, he said that it was fine, he thought it was funny, and he still liked being my friend.  From that time forward, I realized that it is better to be a embarrassingly talkative hypomanic than an irritable one.

2. There was another time when I started talking in rhyme-this is actually a common symptom of mania!  I remember I kept on calling this guy, who I didn't know very well, "kangaroo with a didgeridoo!" and laughing hysterically. And I had seen him play a didgeridoo a few days before, so I wasn't completely out of it, but he avoided me after that.  I still don't think he had a good sense of humor...

Many years later when I was attending a different college, I had a short bout of hypomania where I started talking really fast, laughing louder than usual, and rhyming a little bit again return.  Fortunately, I realized what was happening a lot sooner and as soon as I did I left the area. That way, I could be alone and wait out the mania until the potential for embarrassment passed.   I also immediately called my doctor and made an appointment to see what could be done medication-wise.  Regular hypomania is nice, but talking in rhyme is closer to true mania than I'd like to be.

That's what experience has taught me-a return of symptoms doesn't have to mean the end of the world.  If I notice a return of troubling symptoms, I call my therapist, make an appointment with my doctor, and talk to my sponsor or a close friend if need be.  Then I wait it out.  I use my DBT skills. I didn't always believe it to be true, but all things do in fact pass, even mania, and even embarrassment.

Link Love:


11 Indispensable Life Lessons Every Woman Can Learn From 'Anne Of Green Gables'


Saturday, November 16, 2013

Who Do I Follow?

Wego Health has declared November National Health Blog Post Month, with topics for us healthcare activists to write about every day.  I have not been participating, because many of the topics have been repeats from past years, but I will put more effort into writing about them.  Today's topic is what social media people and sites do I most follow?  The last time I did this topic was in April, so some of these sources will be repeats, but there will be some new ones too!  The sources are grouped by topic.

Borderline

Healing from BPD This is a blog written by Debbie Corso, a young woman who is in recovery from BPD.  She is a wonderful success story, because by practicing dialectical behavior therapy for two years, she no longer has the diagnosis of BPD.  Her articles are about using DBT skills and you can even purchase two books that she has written on the subject.  Her blog post, An Open Letter from Those of Us with BPD is a must read for loved ones that want to understand more about BPD.  My mom read it and she said it was very helpful.  Her website also has a good list of BPD resources.  I find Debbie Corso to be incredibly inspirational and a great writer!

My Recovery from BPD - Another DBT blog by a person in recovery from BPD!  Aeshe is a trans woman and a sexuality educator, who writes practical tips about using DBT. 

Schizophrenia

Overcoming Schizophrenia - This is a blog written by my friend Ashley Simpson.  She also has an inspirational story, because even though she was diagnosed with paranoid schizophrenia in prison, she now is an advocate with her own nonprofit spreading the word that people with schizophrenia can lead a successful and productive life.

Suicidal No More: Choosing to Live with Schizoaffective Disorder - Jen Daisybee writes about how hard it is to live with a schizoaffective disorder and trauma that isn't completely controlled by medications and yet she continues to put one foot in front of the other.  I find that inspiring too.

Fat Acceptance

Dances with Fat - Fat acceptance has helped me come to terms with my body and accept other's bodies.  It has helped me become a much, much kinder and compassionate person all around and I strongly urge everyone to become familiar with the fat acceptance movement no matter your size.  Sadly, many of my favorite fat acceptance blogs are no longer being produced, but at least Ragen Chastain still writes.

Feminism

Shakesville - This is the go-to blog for all feminists.

This Ain't Livin - S.E. Smith is a great writer and doesn't always write about the usual topics.

The Crunk Feminist Collective - This is a great site on feminism and how it pertains to race and pop culture.  Sometimes they even talk at Charis Books and More in Atlanta, although I have yet to see one of their talks-I'll make it, one of these days!

Mental Health Spirituality

The Beautiful Mind Blog - This is written by my friend, Monica A Coleman, a theologian who also sometimes struggles with depression.  She's the one who introduced me to process theology and I love her writing on spirituality and mental health.

The Naked Pastor - David Hayward used to be a pastor and now he writes biting Christian political cartoons.  He also developed his own online spiritual community called The Lasting Supper.

Those are just a few of the blogs that I frequent - have fun and let me know your favorite blogs in the comments section below!

Link Love:




A report released by the Defense Department earlier this year estimated that more than 26,000 cases of unwanted sexual contact and assault occurred in 2012. In at least half of these cases, female survivors indicated they did not report the crime because they feared nothing would be done. What’s even more alarming is that in the first three quarters of the current fiscal year, the rate of sexual assaults has increased by nearly 46 percent over the same period last year. The problem has gotten worse, not better

Thursday, November 14, 2013

Removing Stigmatizing Language Part III: Heeding Godde's Call to "Holy Adventure"

Growing up, my dream was to be a concert pianist and then to be an opera star-I was going to be The Queen of the Night in Mozart's The Magic Flute!

I took both piano and voice lessons and I was well on my way when emotionally unsafe collegiate surroundings triggered my already misfiring neurons to cause me to fall victim to severe mental illness.  Did I fall sick with severe mental illness, because Godde needed a way to put me on the right path?!

 Not my Godde, because my Godde is not one who manipulates!

 Instead, I believe that Godde mourned with me when we realized that I was too sick for performance art. (Eventually I will get around to reading my copy of God in Pain: Inversions of Apocalypse by Slajov Zizak and Boris Gunjevic, which I believe will shed some light on this topic.) And so, my Godde gently urged me towards other doors that might be more beneficial and more loving to myself and others as we dealt with this new information.  I do not believe in a Godde that is omniscient, but rather is wise and full of compassion.  A "wise" person is humble and knows they do not have the answers to life and so Sophia, I believe, is the same-She humbly lifts us up when we feel we have failed, She grieves with us, and yet reminds us of who we are-Her loving children, perpetually loved and called on to better ways of being.

As both Godde and I worked on accepting my situation, Godde continued to urge me towards different callings.  Since my Godde is not a manipulator, She has to continually present me with different opportunities as my life changes for me to choose.  Did I misinterpret previous God's Call?  No, but my circumstances in life changed as they do for us all.  Besides, at the core of this Mystery, what does Godde really call for us to do anyway, but "to act justly and to love mercy and to walk humbly with your God" (Micah 6:8)  That's it.  That's all.  It is up to us to trust our intuition and grab on and hold on and believe that whatever the next right thing we tried to do was following Godde's Call for us at the time whether it works out or not.

When I realized that I am too anxious to perform without music I felt resentful and cheated for a long time.  "Why has Godde given me mental illness when it disrupts pursuing my passion?" I would cry inside.  Gradually I came to realize that I wanted to use music to help people and believed my Call was to become a music therapist and work with the elderly-most likely as an activities coordinator at a nursing home.

  How cheated and like a failure I felt when my mental illness caused me to have to quit music therapy school!!!  

But my Godde is a Godde of Redemption and I realized that when I started to see ways in which my schooling helped me in life after all.  Imagine my surprise when I was informed that I did not even need a degree to be an activities coordinator at most places and that my two years of music therapy school were an advantage, not a hindrance to my dream!  Now I am looking for a job as an activities assistant and I plan to work my way up to that of an activity director of a nursing home-at least that is my dream, my following of Godde's call in my life today.

But my journey with mental illness has shown me that that plan may need to be changed as soon as tomorrow.  If it does, is it because I did not have a good grasp of Godde's Calling before?  My Dialectical Behavioral Therapy (DBT) training urges me to get out of that all or nothing thinking pattern and move instead into a faith where I embrace the fact that there are no sure answers, that Godde's Holy Wisdom in all of Her glory offers me not a comfort based on surety, but based on the knowledge that we are loved and that we are Enough. I can have a new calling without debasing, degrading or invalidating the old one.  They are both true, for they were and are both the legitimate responses of the Divine to my circumstances at the time and in the present.

Let us be willing to let go of our need to label and instead dive into Godde's Mysterious Power and trust that as long as we do the next right thing, then we are where we are supposed to be-in serenity co-creating with Godde.   I will leave you with these words from Bruce Epperly's book, Holy Adventure:
Divine wisdom called each one of us into existence and invites us to choose our own adventures as the world unfolds in surprising ways each new day.  Our everyday lives are part of a multibillion-year cosmic adventure that is still evolving in our ongoing partnerships with the Holy Adventure that we call God" (9).

Removing Stigmatizing Language Part II: God's Will

There is Christian language that can be deeply problematic and I believe needs to be re-examined too.  I am thinking of the language of "God's Will" or "Call," which is so often heard in recovery twelve-step groups and in traditional churches.  

I don't believe in a God of manipulation, but it can be hard to stay true to that belief when the language of manipulation is used so often in our Christian culture-or when a perfectly open word like "call" is used to passively aggressively manipulate us into fear.  

I believe that God calls us to be a people that seek justice and follow the way of loving kindness.  

What that means is then up to us.  In short, all I believe is that Godde calls us to do "the next right thing."  Is that generic and vague?  Yes.  The statement is purposely so, because our Godde is a Godde who lives in the Mystery and we must step in the Mystery to meet Her.  We state that Godde's "ways are mysterious," but then state that we must be absolutely, fully sure of Godde's Intricate Will or Call for us.  I say that is B.S.  We can never be certain of anything in this life except for a few simple truths.  Some of mine are that God is Love and that following the Call of Divine Love is never a wrong choice, even if it does not turn out as we had planned. 

 What are some of yours?

The popular doctrine of trying to be so sure about the specifics of a "Call" is a doctrine centered, it seems to me, on fear and Bruce Epperly in his book Holy Adventure: 41 Days of Audacious Living agrees.  On the back of his book it says, "You've probably heard it before: God has a plan for your life, and it's up to you to discover it, or you may miss out on God's will for you."  Isn't that thought terrifying?  At least in the American South, it's a common thought process when hearing words like call or God's will. Even though I don't believe in that sentiment, I still find myself worrying sometimes over whether I have missed my one chance to please or fulfill Godde's plan for myself. Fortunately the next line then states: "Bruce Epperly counteracts this idea, asserting that God invites us to companions with the divine in creating our future."    

An affirmation I came up with that really helps me when I feel the anxiety rising about Godde's Will and possible missed opportunities is that "I believe in a Godde of second chances!" 

We think that if we can just figure out exactly what Godde wants us to do, then we can be safe in the security of knowing that everything will work out, but that just is not so.  People follow the call of Godde all the time and then something horrible happens and they must change their course and they must figure out next where God is calling them to be.

Those who grow up in the church know that the pressure to know the call of God for sure is the ultimate worst for the person who gets "called" to ministry.  What if we were a little more compassionate with ourselves and this need to know God's Call?    

This is an extreme example, but say a person who felt called to ministry got cancer during their schooling or during their career and had to stop in order to take care of their physical and mental health, would we say that Godde must not have really been calling them to the ministry in the first place?  What if they died?  (Like we all will one day...)  Some people would actually say yes, but I hope you would agree with me that no, horrible changes in life happen to us even when we are doing everything right.  I have had callings interrupted by my mental illness, but after much thought I do not think that my diagnosis and need to change plans made them a calling any less.

Just because we are following Godde's Call does not mean that everything will work out, even though we are following the correct call.  Why?  The flippant answer is that life is unfair.  Another, wiser answer is that the only thing constant in this life is change.  To quote Octavia E. Butler in her book Parable of the Sower, "God is Change."  

My Godde continually urges me to follow a better way, the way of Self-Love and Lovingkindness towards others and this better way changes as our relationship with Godde changes and as our own needs change with each new life circumstance.