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, February 22, 2013

Remarkable Creatures, Remarkable Recovery

I am almost done with the book I am reading for my feminist book club and while I don't think it's quite as well written as our last book, Kindred, by Octavia E. Butler, it does have some passages that resonate with me.  Here is one:

"Besides, my words were weak and petty, and did little to help Mary.  I left the shop red-faced, and it was made worse by the laughter that followed me.  I wondered if I would ever be able to speak up for myself without feeling an idiot."
 Amidst the story about the friendship between two fossil collecting womyn is the theme of standing up for yourself.  Elizabeth Philpot, even though she is the older of the two, feels much more self-conscious than Mary and struggles with standing up for herself-perhaps because she is of a higher class and so is under greater scrutiny.  I can definitely identify with that, as I also have a lot of trouble with being assertive, especially with it comes to the people closest to me.  A large part of the reason is my Borderline.  People with BPD often have an intense fear of abandonment-I certainly do.  Sometimes this fear makes it hard for me to be fully honest with a person or to truly share my feelings with them, even if they really want me to, because I am afraid that if I do that they'll then become angry with me and leave me or yell at me.  For that reason, it can be hard for me to develop deep relationships with people, but it is something I am working on. Last Monday I had a conversation with a  friend where I was very triggered.  After I got off the phone with my friend, I had a bunch of emotions that I needed to get out of my system.  I tried calling my sponsor and my therapist, but neither of them picked up the phone.  Instead of acting out, I got my feelings out by writing a poem.  I hadn't done this in a while, but it really helped.  I would share it with you, but I let my writing get as depressing, graphic, and gory as I was feeling and I wouldn't want to trigger anyone.   I looked at it the next day when I was feeling better and I almost laughed at its melodramatic, super suicidal quality.  I had let myself get incredibly self indulgent, but I figure it's better to write out my triggers, urges, and impulses than actually act out on them.  After writing the poem, I then took a long, hot bath.  I let myself zone out and just feel the hot, soothing water on my skin.  I was using the DBT skill of "improving the moment" through relaxation and it worked!  After my bath, I was tired and so I was able to go to bed without having hurt myself-something I might not have been able to do a year ago!  The next day I was able to talk to my therapist.  I ranted and raved and got all my emotions out, which gave me a sense of relief and release.  The outpouring of so much emotion had exhausted me and so I went to sleep.  When I woke up, I felt peaceful and I had a little bit of pride for being able to take care of myself.

Yesterday, I impressed myself by even being able to have a conversation with the friend that had triggered earlier about it.  She wanted to know what she done that was so triggering and how she could help me in the future.  I shared that this was a hard conversation for me to have and she assured me that she would not abandon me or become angry no matter what I said.  She said she wanted our relationship to go deeper and that that could not happen without me sharing my truth.  We were then able to discuss our feelings and set some boundaries.  It was an important discussion and afterwards we both felt good about it.

This Sunday I am going to a meeting to pick up a one-year chip.  It marks a year since I have been hospitalized and a year since I self-harmed.  I must say, I feel very proud of myself.  I think I have grown a lot this year and I am confidant that this year will see a lot more growth.  I have learned how to use Dialectical Behavioral Therapy and how to be more honest.  I have practiced putting myself out there in different social groups, which have helped me conquer my social anxiety and have helped me connect with more people. I have started volunteering with organizations that I am passionate about and I have even started my own feminist book club, just because I wanted to and I have seen it grow.  Thank  you, Recovery!

And thank you, flabulous fatshion.  Here is a picture of me before doing an In Our Own Voice program a few months ago:
Surprise, surprise-it's leggings and a big shirt!  Oh well, I like it.  (shirt: Cato; leggings: no idea; shoes: Rack Room; cami: either Torrid or Target; necklace: JCPenney)  I think it's proof that leggings can be dressy.  I'll have to take a picture of the outfit I put together for Sunday's recovery celebration.

Recommended Links:

 But fear of hypothetical harm is not a valid justification for killing.

Which is something about which we all seem to agree, when it's someone other than a white, straight, cis man doing the killing. In fact, when it's someone other than a white, straight, cis man doing the killing, we seem to have an unreasonably high threshold for what constitutes self-defense. 

                        I Am Not a Political Football
It is unfair to ask a woman to leave aside her personal experience and discuss feminist issues in the abstract. You are discussing the stuff of her life. 

SheWired - Miss. Newspaper's Coverage of Lesbian Wedding Sparks Outrage and Owner's Kick-Ass Reply

"We have stories about child molesters, murders and all kinds of viscous, barbaric acts of evil committed by heinous criminals on our front page," continues the owner, "and yet we never receive a call from anyone saying 'I don't need my children reading this.' Never. Ever. However, a story about two women exchanging marriage vows and we get swamped with people worried about their children."

Saturday, February 16, 2013

Remarkable Creatures and Some Remarkable Artwork

My weeks are very busy, but my weekend tend to be pretty clear, so today I got to experiment with my mom's scanner, Picasa, and Paintbrush.  I had lots of fun!  I know that people like my book reviews, so I've decided to expand on that a little more by scanning in passages that I want to talk about with more depth.  I took the same passage from the book, Remarkable Creatures, by Tracey Chevalier and edited them differently.  It was fun!  I'm interested in knowing which one my readers like best, so let me know in the comments.

Remarkable Creatures is about Mary Anning, a Victorian female paleontologist and is based on a true story.  It is about the friendship between two unlikely womyn, but what I can really relate to in the book is the way that men and womyn interact.  The way the womyn often try to coddle the men and hide their intellect around men unfortunately is something that still happens every day.

So, here is passage A:
"Where is the father, then? I should be talking to him, not to a-" Lord Henley paused, as if saying "woman" or "girl" were too undignified for him.  "He died a few months ago."

Passage B:

Below the dialog it reads: All I've had for breakfast is coffee and Plan B.  There is a Victorian womyn holding a cup of coffee.

Unfortunately, you still see this kind of attitude all the time.  Just think of mechanics, car or appliance salesmen, other types of business men.  I see this on shows like Shark Tank too-female entrepreneurs present the sharks with a great product and then the sharks tell them to leave the room and talk with their husbands before making a decision. But they never tell the male entrepreneurs to leave and talk with their wives.  Never!  It is a source of great irritation to me.  Part of this is the men's fault for not thinking that womyn are smart enough or confident enough to make our own decisions, but a large part  of this is how womyn and men have been taught to behave.  Many girls are not taught the basics about negotiation or car and house repairs.  Many girls do not show interest in these things, because society drills it into their heads to expect men to do these things for them.  Even I will confess that I was not interested in these things as a child.  I seem to have trouble remembering simple automotive things like when to change my oil and when to get new brake pads and I have always wondered if this is because I am genuinely not interested in these things or if it is because of childhood societal messages.  My father tried his best to educate me, but looking back on it now I have my own inattention to blame.  But the thought does occur to me that wouldn't it be wonderful if all teens with a car were required to take an automotive class where they learned skills such as defensive driving, safety, and how to take care of their car.  I think this would increase safety and confidence.  I also think it would be a good idea if all girls learned how to negotiate with men and how to speak their minds.  Of course, for that to happen men would need to make their space a welcoming space for womyn too.  It would take awareness from men and a willingness from womyn (or girls) to give up some of their learned helplessness.  The good thing about being an adult and being aware of my own fears is that I can decide when to confront them.  I do have pretty bad anxiety, but I am also single and don't want to be beholden to any man.  As I get older, to help with this I am both consciously practicing taking chances and making my own decisions and I am making and selecting trusting friends that can help me when I need it, for I believe that self-sufficiency should be balanced with our very real need for human help.

Now, because it is Fatshion February, here is another picture of me:
The outfit is very similar to my last one, except the main color is turquoise. (leggings: have no idea, shirt: Stein Mart, shoes: Abbadabba's - Merrill's)

This Valentine's Day I Loved Myself

There are few holidays that I hate more than Valentine's Day.  Actually, I used to hate Valentine's Day.  In fact, I remember one time I posted a huge rant on facebook about how much I hated Valentine's Day and how all it did was force people to buy cards and chocolates and it made single people feel bad.   I then got in a fight with a friend about it and all I got was looking and feeling bitter.

Fortunately, this Valentine's Day was different.  Yes, I am still single.  No, I did not do anything exceptionally special-I worked in the morning and then I watched a movie with my mom at night.  No one in my family really goes out of their way to celebrate Valentine's, even my parents only gave each other cards.  I did do one thing right though: I worked on loving myself.  One way I do that is by the way I talk and look at myself.  I used to inspect my body every time I looked in the mirror and all I would see are my flaws.  I used to tell myself horrible things and make myself feel bad.  Now I work at telling myself that I am beautiful, even if I am no longer skinny and when my thoughts turn negative, I try to bring the cause of why I am feeling that way into my awareness.  Usually my negativity (and yes, I still occasionally have even suicidal thoughts) is due to the fact that I am exhausted.  Once I realize that I can breath a sigh of relief, because I know the feeling will fade once I get some sleep.  By loving  myself, I have learned how to take care myself.  A couple I know that I thought would last forever recently broke up, reminding me that the only relationship that is guaranteed to last forever is the relationship between one's self and with one's Higher Power.  In feminist circles, Valentine's Day is also a day when feminists typically speak against domestic violence.  Did you know that one in three women will be the victim of domestic violence?  So, during this Valentine season I urge you to love yourself and if you are in a relationship where you are beginning to feel threatened, please get help if you can!

 Something that has helped me learn to love myself is the practice of taking pictures of myself when I feel good.  Showing the pictures to my readers makes me feel good too and is the reason why February is now one of my favorite months!
(Shirt from Stein Mart, Leggings from Dillard's, shoes from Marshall's)

Another way I like to love myself is through my cooking.  Here is a recipe from allrecipes.com

Vegetable Chowder:
1/2 cup chopped onion,
1/4 cup butter
1 cup chopped celery
1 cup diced carrots
1 cup broccoli florets
3 cups water
3 cubes chicken bouillon
1/2 cup all purpose flour
3 cups 2% shredded cheddar cheese
salt to taste
ground black pepper to taste
1 1/2 cup milk


  1. In a Dutch oven or soup kettle, saute the pepper and onions in butter or margarine until tender.
  2. Add remaining vegetables, water, bouillon, salt, and pepper; bring to a boil. Reduce heat; simmer covered for 20 minutes, or until the vegetables are tender.
  3. Combine flour and milk until smooth; stir into pan. Bring soup to a boil; cook and stir for 2 minutes. Mix in the parsley. Just before serving, stir in the cheese until melted.

(I have a confession to make-I labeled the picture "vegetable chowder" before realizing that it is a different kind of soup.  I believe it is instead of a vegetable,  northern bean, and ham soup.  I can't find the recipe for it anywhere.  Both the vegetable chowder and the bean soup are good.  Unfortunately, you only get the recipe for the chowder.  Sorry!)  Cheesy vegetable soup doesn't get much better and February is an excellent month for soups.  Show yourself some love and eat some healthy, hearty, homemade soup!

Recommended Links:

Shakesville: Getting Real
That is a life that feels real to me, and fuller than my life without the internet, which is a tool that helps me actively maintain relationships with my dear and deeply valued friends, in spite of the social anxiety that constantly invites me to retreat.

Wednesday, February 13, 2013

Fat Tuesday, Fat Me

I absolutely love pancakes!  Not being Catholic, I never really celebrated Fat Tuesday growing up, although the church of my youth did honor Lent.  The church I belong to now is not Catholic either, but it does celebrate the liturgical calendar and so I have been introduced to Fat Tuesday and I love it!  Lent is the time when some Christians spiritually prepare for Easter by fasting or otherwise sacrificing something in order to make room for Godde.  To tell you the truth, I've never been a Lent fan.  I think it's sort of depressing and I'm not sure why we should only make room for Godde for forty days.  But what really bothers me about Lent is that typically it becomes a time when some Christians like to talk about what they're giving up as a kind of spiritual boasting and it gets on my ever-loving-last-nerve.  If there is one thing I can't stand it's religious bragging!  BUT I do love me some Fat Tuesday.  Fat Tuesday is the day before Ash Wednesday, when Catholics used to cook up all of their lard and butter and flour in order to prepare for the fasting.  Translation: a religious holiday where people gather to eat pancakes.  Yummy!
Don't those look good? Although I gave you reasons why I don't especially like Lent, I've noticed that this year I'm not dreading it like in years past.  I think it's because I know my emotions are better regulated than they used to be and I'm not worried that the somber reflections during Lent are going to upset me.  My psychiatrist recently lowered one of my medications and it has been absolutely amazing to me how much more energy I now have!  I feel so good that I am determined not to let a season that comes every year get me down.

Something else that doesn't really bother me anymore is that I am fat!  To be honest, I am trying to watch what I eat a little bit just so that I don't gain more weight, but I wouldn't say I am dieting.  And I'm certainly not afraid to show you my pictures now, just the way that I am.  These pictures are not from Fat Tuesday, but actually from a few months ago when I was going to some concert - I just wanted to show these pictures, because it's Fatshion February.  I really love the way this dress looks on me and it's pretty comfortable too.
(Dress: Ross; Cami: Target; Necklace: Garage Sale)  Sorry the pictures a little blurry.  Below is a close-up of my necklace, which was a great find at a garage sale.  I just love a good sale!
And so I am entering this Lenten season by giving up on one thing: my expectations of negativity.  Good things may happen in the next forty days and I am making room for them to happen.  For at least this moment, I hold no negativity towards my body or in my mind.  And those are things that are almost as good as pancakes!

Friday, February 8, 2013

My Instruments of Peace are Food and Fatshion

A picture from my "Color Me Calm" coloring book:
It says, " Instruments of Peace." I really like how this picture turned out.  I think what the picture is illustrating is that you can have peace by mindfully doing the things you love.  This man is fully in tune (haha) with playing his saxophone and his beautiful music is helping to bring peace to the world.  He is at peace and bringing peace-at least, that's what I'm imagining.

The other day I learned to be at peace with pie crust.  That may sound funny, but I used to be one of those annoying people who refused to eat the pie crust, because I was afraid it would make me fat.  Well, I now have three points to make: One, I am now already fat!  Two, not all pie crusts are fattening.  And three, pie crust tastes good, so now I eat it.  Not only do I eat it, but I cook it!  I made an asparagus and ham quiche the other day.  Isn't it pretty?
 This quiche is different than any I've ever made before, because it uses coconut milk instead of regular.  I got the recipe from the blog, "Milk Allergy Companion."  No, I am not allergic to milk-I found the blog on Pinterest.  I wanted a recipe that used coconut milk and asparagus, because I already had those ingredients and that is what Pinterest camp up with.  I am so glad it did too-it turned out great!  The quiche was slightly sweet and the asparagus cooked perfectly.  I used a pillsbury pie crust.

1 pillsbury pie crust 
6 eggs
3/4 c coconut milk
1/2 tsp. salt
1/8 tsp. pepper
1 dash nutmeg (optional)
3 T all purpose flour
1/2 tsp. baking powder
1 small onion, chopped
1 T olive oil

1 bunch of asparagus

Pre-heat the oven to 350 degrees F.  Follow pie crust recipe and pre-bake for 10 minutes.  While baking, whisk together eggs, rice milk, salt, pepper, nutmeg (optional), flour, and baking powder.  Set aside.  In a frying pan, sauté onions and other desired fillings (that need sautéing)  in 1 T olive oil.  When pie crust is ready, take out from oven and place sautéed vegetables (asparagus) and desired meats into pie dish.  Pour egg mixture on top, shaking lightly to allow mixture to settle in-between ingredients.  Place in oven and cook for 40 minutes 55 minutes, or until a toothpick inserted  comes out clean.  Quiche will rise while baking, but should settle back down once you remove it from the oven. 
 Yum!  The quiche is good hot or cold.

I am also learning to be at peace with my body.  I do this by taking pictures of myself and by saying, "Self, you are beautiful!"  I know it sounds cheesy, but it works most of the time.
And I can honestly say that I like this picture! (pink flower shirt - Cato's, purple leggings - Dillards, I think)  When I was younger, I wore a lot of tight fitting shirts and now I wear a lot of loose fitting shirts and tight leggings.  Isn't it funny how times change! Big, loose shirts are comfortable and I feel less self conscious, because I am not so focused on showing off my body.  Tonight, I am feeling peaceful as I mindfully blog.  Writing is another instrument of peace for me.  What are your instruments of peace?

Wednesday, February 6, 2013

A Beautiful Nightmare and Some Fatshion

Last Sunday night I had a dream that I at first thought was a nightmare, but upon further reflection, I think the dream was very helpful in processing some complex feelings I was having. I dreamed that one of my close friends jumped off a building and hurt herself. I was visiting her in the hospital and she told me,
"Right before I hit the ground, I saw Godde."
And then when I woke up, I had this phrase stuck in my head:
My pain has made me beautiful.
Deep, huh? Funnily enough, even though I was a little creeped out from the dream, I still felt pretty good. In fact, when looking in the mirror for the rest of the day, I would smile and tell myself that I was beautiful, which isn't something I do naturally. I think the reason for the dream was that I was in Milledgeville visiting a friend, which is where I went to college for several years. I had been conflicted about going, because I was afraid I would feel triggered and bad about myself. I had never finished my music therapy degree that I had started there and for a long time I felt like a failure for not doing so. Milledgeville is a town full of unpleasant memories for me, but through those bad times I have learned a lot and have really matured. I think that is what the dream was telling me. My life in Milledgeville was as bad as jumping off a building, because I was not living in recovery, but through my pain, I saw Godde. I found a renewed sense of purpose and hope and I now know that I am truly strong. I am beautiful from the inside out and that is partially due to my painful experiences. Because of my pain, I am a more compassionate and understanding person. I am a fairly good listener and I am in touch with my feelings. These are all very beautiful things. Speaking of beauty, it's time for February Fatshion! I still have a lot of pictures of myself from last year and hopefully I will have the chance to catch up on showing them to you.

Here I am wearing a pretty shirt with a butterfly on it.  The butterfly is a symbol of transformation and so I think it is pretty apt for this post!
(shirt from Cato's, black pants from Torrid, and sandals from Rack Room)

I really like this picture:
I look so happy!  And I am a lot happier lately.  On my way home from my Milledgeville trip, I had some more revelations: one, that I very glad that I am not in school anymore - school was stressful and hard and I do not have to do that anymore!  Two, instead of thinking of moving back home as a failure, why not think of it  as knowing my limitations.  I knew that I was not happy anymore and that I needed to move back home.  I made a choice to respect my limitations and that is a good thing.  And a beautiful thing.  My pain has made me beautiful and has enabled me to see parts of Godde.  Of course, that is not all that my pain has caused, but that is what I am going to focus on today.

Recommended Links:

 “A poem is a sword,” Saheera Sharif, Mirman Baheer’s founder, said. Sharif is not a poet but a member of Parliament from the province of Khost. Literature, she says, is a more effective battle for women’s rights than shouting at political rallies. “This is a different kind of struggle.”

Culturally Disoriented - Letter to Melissa Harry Perry
Indeed, talking about mental illness as the source of gun violence isn’t just factually incorrect. By talking about “the mentally ill” as though they’re all ticking timb-bombs, ready to explode into violence and aggression, we are further stigmatizing people with mental illness.

Tuesday, February 5, 2013

January Books 2013

**Trigger Warning - This book review discusses self-harm.  Skip to the next book if that bothers you.**

Sharp Objects by Gillian Flynn -I got this book for Christmas and I must admit I was a little worried when I saw the picture on the cover that I would potentially be triggered when reading the book.  I started reading the book on the plane ride home from my family vacation and I was slightly triggered until I realized that I was tired.  Once I realized that being tired would make me more sensitive to topics like abuse and cutting, I was able to reassure myself that my feelings would subside once I got more sleep.  I consider that a sign of great progress.  On to the book-I really liked it.  Flynn wrote the currently popular novel, Gone Girl, which I also got for Christmas and I can see why she is popular.  I finished the book fast, because I couldn't put it down!  It's a mystery story that explores dysfunctional and abusive familial relationships, especially relationships between mothers and daughters.  I thought it was very interesting that the story is told from the point of view of a woman who is in recovery from cutting.  This isn't a book that glamorizes cutting, at least I don't think it is, but instead is a book that emphasizes that one can stop an addictive behavior and that one can use specific and positive coping skills in order to combat the urges.  Now the main character does abuse alcohol to cope with some of her cutting urges, so not all of her coping skills are positive, but isn't that like life-we often have to go through recovery in baby steps, giving up one addiction at a time.  I recommend this book for the intriguing story and characters and because I think it is so important to read and write narratives that explore the complex reasons why someone might cut, because it is a behavior with a lot of stigma surrounding it.  Despite my recommendation, there is a lot of alcohol abuse, sexual abuse, violence, references to self harm and dysfunctional/abusive mother daughter relationships.  If these topics trigger you, don't read it.

Rants to Revelations: Unabashedly Honest Reflections on Life, Spirituality and the Meaning of God by Ogun Holder - Cute drawings by The Naked Pastor.  I give it three out of five stars.  I've already done my main review.

The Enoch Factor: The Sacred Art of Knowing God by Steve McSwain - I give it two stars, because you can cut out the quotes and use them in colleges.  The full review is here.

Evolution's Purpose: An Integral Interpretation of the Scientific Story of Our Origins by Steve McIntosh - Boring and inaccessible.  Full review here.

Kindred by Octavia E. Butler - Five out of five stars!  This was the book my feminist book club chose and I have read it and reviewed it before.  We all enjoyed it and it certainly provided a lot of fodder for stimulating conversation on race and racial roles, feminism, white male privilege, history, assumptions on people's capabilities...  The novel is a modern slave narrative, provided with the imagination of a great science fiction writer.  Different things stood out to me on this second reading, which just shows what a great book it is.  I will give a content/trigger warning that there is violence, racism, rape, and mental illness described in the book.

Recommended Links:

"Do you also think it's odd that white men commit the overwhelming majority of mass murders," wondered Nancy Hogshead-Makar, Senior Director of Advocacy for the Women's Sports Foundation, "but that people don't identify that as a causal factor? Instead we talk about mental illness and gun control. If it were Asian women or Jewish men or elderly African-American, it would be topic number one. But not white men." In fact, the media response to mass shootings often reimagines white men as victims.