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.

Thursday, March 28, 2013

Acceptance is the Key

Tonight, I am telling a story with the help of some passages from the young adult book, The Next Full Moon, by Carolyn Turgeon.

In the first one, replace "Ava" with "I."

Okay, so I haven't had a completely "magical transformation"-my illnesses aren't cured, I don't have a full-time job, I'm still single, etc., but my life has been a whole lot calmer since I accepted that my exhaustion is going to return.  A couple of posts ago, I talked about how I was trying to accept my periods of exhaustion and my life has gotten a lot better because of it.  My therapist often says that resistance causes suffering and I am believing her more and more.  Now that I am not resisting my exhaustion, I do not feel as frustrated-instead of viewing my tiredness as something that I must fight, I view it as more of a relationship that I must honor by taking naps and not forcing myself to do as many activities.  The funny thing is, now that I have accepted it, I have actually had more energy!  I think a big part of the reason is that by accepting my situation, I haven't been as anxious lately.  Anxiety can really make one tired!  This has proven to me the power of acceptance and I truly am beginning to believe that no matter what, everything will be okay.
 I was becoming so anxious and panicky a few weeks ago, because I didn't want life to go on if I was always going to be so tired.  I hadn't yet realized that my tiredness would not last forever-it comes and goes.  Even more importantly, I hadn't yet realized that even if my tiredness did last, everything would be okay if I could just learn to accept it.  Once I accepted my energy level, then I could do something about it and I actually did.  One, I am taking better care of my body-I make sure to take a short nap almost every day and I haven't been socializing quite as much.  I'm still social, but the more relaxed attitude has definitely helped.  Slowly, I am trying to let go of my need to be the perfect superwoman.  Two, I had an honest talk with my new doctor about my energy level and we decided to try some things to counteract it.  First, he got me tested to see if I had a thyroid problem and to my surprise I don't.  It turns out that I am really healthy, which really is good news.  Secondly, he lowered one of my medications and I think that's what did the trick!  The medication is Zyprexa and besides weight gain, it is also known to cause drowsiness.  I didn't think reducing it would produce that big of a difference, but I have really noticed a change in myself over the past few weeks.  I feel apprehensive about my increase in energy, so I am still taking things slowly, but I am hopeful.  Cautiously optimistic.  I have actually had enough energy and motivation to clean several parts of the house, so that is a step in the right direction.  People sometimes say to not have expectations, so you won't be disappointed-well, that is very hard to do, but I am trying.  I do feel like something inside me has changed lately and I like it.  I am handling problems with more grace and I am becoming better at using my DBT skills.  Everything is going to be okay.  I think I am beginning to believe it, because I am seeing it-I had also worried and gotten panicky about seeing a new doctor, but I prepared for it in advance and I had a productive and positive session with him.  Everything is going to be okay.  Everything.  I might always have to take naps.  I might always only be able to work part-time.  I might not get disability.  I might stay single.  But everything will be okay.  Life will not always be easy, but with acceptance, I know that life will always be worth living.

Recommended Links:

As former NFL quarterback Don McPherson said, “We don’t raise boys to be men. We raise them not to be women, or gay men.”

"But he's such a good guy" is not a defense.  It only means that he, like everyone else, is a complex human being capable of multiple behaviors.  It only means that he acted like a good guyaround you.  It only means that he treated you well, not that he treats everyone well.  It only means that you ignored the evidence and waved away the testimony because it made you uncomfortable, and there's nothing people with privilege hate more than being made to feel uncomfortable.

I’ve never gotten an email on “robbery prevention, with advice like, don’t wear expensive clothing or nice jewelry, don’t drive an expensive car, don’t purchase pricey electronics or have too big of a house. The message is simply, “don’t fucking steal” but, in a rape culture, a message of “don’t fucking rape” just never got off the ground. 
Regardless of whether all bodies are beautiful, all bodies deserve respect.

Planet of the Blind-NPR: Unfit to WriteAbout Disability

a nation that believes in work is also a nation that believes in accommodations. 

Saturday, March 23, 2013

People with Mental Illness are Not More Violent-Stigma Busting Two TV Shows

I watch a fair amount of television and unfortunately I have noticed a lot of stigma towards mental illness on crime shows lately.  Crime shows have always been prime material for equating mental illness with violence, which is extremely unfortunate, because those with mental illness have a much higher chance of being victimized than of becoming violent, themselves.

The TV show, Castle, is the first perpetrator in this "crime-"
the episode, "Scared to Death," while a seemingly lighter take on the horror movie trilogy, "The Ring" (or the real original "Ringu" for die-hard horror movie aficionados!), it is actually a much more horrible story.  A man with mental illness is falsely accused of murder.  Even though he is eventually released and found innocent, his reputation is even more tarnished and he becomes ever more isolated and depressed.  In the end, he kills himself.  His grown-up daughter then starts killing off the jurors involved at the murder trial.  Detective Kate Beckett theorizes that the daughter became obsessed and violent when she suffered a "breakdown" a year before.
(the murderess)
One, I am always irritated when TV shows have the serial killer turn out to be a woman, because only 15% of the serial killers in the history of the United States have been women.  Two, the term, "breakdown" is too vague to really mean anything.  It is a term mainly used by people who do NOT have a mental illness and is considered ignorant and slightly derogatory by many people who actually have mental illness.  If you really want to show your ignorance, ask a person with mental illness about their "breakdown" and they will probably roll their eyes.  Most of us would much rather you be direct with us about what you mean.  Still, it is commonly understood to mean when a person is hospitalized for mental illness.  So, does being hospitalized in a mental institution make one more violent?  Hardly-the purpose of being hospitalized is to become stabilized on one's medication and to line up outside psychiatrist and therapist appointments.  These things tend to make a person less violent, instead of more.  So, a woman has a "breakdown," which makes her obsess on her father's death and become a serial killer?  Not very likely, unless she stopped taking her medications and seeing her support team.  And even then, it's still not very bloody likely.  Three, the main characters joke around a lot and the storyline that someone with mental illness would be falsely accused of murder and then kill themselves is just too realistic to be funny.

On to stigmatizing show number two-Body of Proof.
In the recent episode, "Lost Souls," the daughter of a religious fanatic poisons her sisters to make them seem like they are on drugs and are therefore sinners.  Instead, her father thinks they're possessed and tries to exorcise the "demons" out of his daughters.  This was a disturbing episode to me-mainly because I feel that it subconsciously helps people make the untrue connection that all religious people are as unreasonable, illogical, and obsessive as the character portrayed on the screen and this is harmful to people like me who are feminist, liberal, progressive, and religious like me.  Of course, I know that the main reasons for this assumption are the very real fanatics like Pat Robertson and Westboro Baptist Church.  My main reason for feeling disturbed was that at one point Dr. Meghan Hunt (Dana Delany) uncovers the story that the family is descended from an axe murderer who suffered with paranoid schizophrenia (either the fanatical father is a descendant or the murderer just used to live in the house...I can't quite remember how he figured into the plot).  The media loves to pick on people with paranoid schizophrenia, but the truth of the matter is that most people who have it are not violent.  In fact, they are more prone to become isolating and withdrawn.  This is what an article from schizophrenia.com says about it:
News and entertainment media tend to link mental illness and criminal violence; however, studies indicate that except for those persons with a record of criminal violence before becoming ill, and those with substance abuse or alcohol problems, people with schizophrenia are not especially prone to violence. Most individuals with schizophrenia are not violent; more typically, they are withdrawn and prefer to be left alone. Most violent crimes are not committed by persons with schizophrenia, and most persons with schizophrenia do not commit violent crimes. Substance abuse significantly raises the rate of violence in people with schizophrenia but also in people who do not have any mental illness.
It really bothered me that the writers felt the need to throw in a bit about a paranoid schizophrenic axe murderer. It was confusing and really added nothing to the plot, except to further stigmatize one of the most stigmatized mental illnesses out there. Are you as frustrated with TV shows as much as I am now? I must say that I just watched an episode of the show, Whitney, where Whitney very articulately describes why she does not like being called "crazy" - she "has worked hard to manage her illness" - and it really made my heart happy. To see the main character of a television show own having a mental illness and furthermore, be proud of how hard she has worked to be stable is a major accomplishment and I wish more shows would follow suit. In the meantime, I will continue to call attention to stigmatizing TV shows and try to educate people that those with mental illness are just like you and me and in fact, it is possible that I may have mental illness and you just might not know it.

Recommended Link:

Though women now make up a numerical majority of the student body, they are still repeatedly undervalued by higher education institutions, appear less frequently in leadership roles, face sexism in the seminar room, and are frequently ignored or silenced in social contexts.  Nonetheless, the belief amongst much of the media and wider culture that women have “made it” or are taking men’s roles in education and business, provides a compelling explanation for resurgence in exaggeratedly “masculine” behaviour. 

Saturday, March 16, 2013

Come and Find The Quiet Center With Me

Way back in 2010, I posted a video of myself singing and playing the piano and I said that videos of my musical abilities would be a regular occurrence.  Surprise, surprise, I didn't keep my promise.  At least not until today! I was asked to sing the song, "Come and Find the Quiet Center" at my church on Sunday and I think the words are actually very applicable to what I am currently dealing with.  Here are the words:

1 Come and find the quiet center
in the crowded life we lead,
find the room for hope to enter,
find the frame where we are freed:
clear the chaos and the clutter,
clear our eyes, that we can see
all the things that really matter,
be at peace, and simply be.

2 Silence is a friend who claims us,
cools the heat and slows the pace,
God it is who speaks and names us,
knows our being, touches base,
making space within our thinking,
lifting shades to show the sun,
raising courage when we're shrinking,
finding scope for faith begun.

3 In the Spirit let us travel,
open to each other's pain,
let our loves and fears unravel,
celebrate the space we gain:
there's a place for deepest dreaming,
there's a time for heart to care,
in the Spirit's lively scheming
there is always room to spare!
A video of me singing it is below.  (I'm sorry that blogspot did something slightly odd with my voice.  I might record myself using a different method next time.)
To me, finding "the quiet center" is about being calm in the midst of trouble, because one knows that despite it all, everything is all right.  It means that one is serene, instead of falling apart when things don't go as planned.  It means being able to trust that the Holy One will always support you.  I have been struggling with this lately.  I seem to cycle through periods of exhaustion and it is really frustrating to me, because I never know on what day I am going to become saddled with an exhaustion so severe that getting out of bed seems almost impossible.  I don't think it has to do with depression, because on the days that I am not tired, I am in really good spirits.  Right now, I have  a lot of energy and so I am able to write this blog post-on the days without energy, I'm barely able to move.  Earlier this week, I had about four days of the mind-numbing exhaustion and I did not handle it well.  The tiredness makes me more emotional than usual and I get so frustrated with it, that I become panicky.  I start thinking that I don't want to live if living is going consist of me being so tired all the time.  Tuesday I called my therapist and left a message stating that I couldn't take it anymore.  She texted me back that I would feel better after I rested and much to my chagrin, she was right.  Now that my energy level is back up, I feel sort of embarrassed.  I talked to a nurse friend, who thinks that I may have a problem with my thyroid.  I actually hope she is right, because then my exhaustion could be cured with some medication.  I am going to get blood work done this Thursday and then the next Thursday after that I will get my results.  I can hardly wait!  Still, I know that most likely my tiredness will come back before then and I am determined to handle it better when it does.  This time, I will try to accept the fact that my exhaustion is back and will take care of my body as best as I can.  I will try to reassure myself that the exhaustion will not last forever and that I just need to ride out the storm.  I will remember my resolution to be kinder to myself and to trust that my life is a life worth living, even if I am sick.  I don't want to fight the exhaustion anymore, but accept it, make peace with it, and find my "quiet center."  Hopefully, medication will eventually be able to fix my problem, but in the meantime I must learn how to cope with it.  Right now, I am looking forward to the future with hope and optimism-I'll keep you posted on the results!  In the meantime, pray for whatever is best to happen.

Recommended Links:

Captain Awkward - #459: Do I have to destroy my health to be in grad school?

 the “gleeful masochism” of academia is in fact a profoundly ableist cultural norm. 

There is a lot wrong with the way we spread and internalize information. Rape exists everywhere. Rape plagues people’s lives everywhere and that doesn’t let America off the hook. So, can we stop presenting other countries as “third world” and “uncivilized,” especially when we refuse to acknowledge similar atrocities affecting people right here?

Just because the face in power looks like yours, does not mean that they are on your side.

Saturday, March 9, 2013

Adventures in Recovery

"I've come to get you.  Let's have an adventure!" "Right now?"  "Yes!  You said you wanted to have adventures, right? Let's have one now! The mayflies are out, the green drakes.  We can go down to the creek and watch them."(from the book, The Next Full Moon, by Carolyn Turgeon)

Come on!  Let me take you on an adventure!  Look at how I'm smiling-it'll be fun!

Okay, so I know this may sound cheesy, but the adventure I am talking about does not involve mayflies or drakes, but the adventure of recovery-recovery from mental illness and addiction.  I told you a few posts ago that I would have to tell you about getting my one-year chip and show you some pictures, so here they are below.

What I wore:
(shoes: Bob's; Leggings and Cami: Target;  Skirt: Torrid; Shirt: Outlet Ann Taylor; Necklace: a gift)
Here's a closer look at my haircut and my necklace.  I love them both!  I got a lot of compliments on my outfit and I felt very cute.

After the meeting, some of my friends and I had dinner at a great Thai restaurant in Atlanta called, Top Spice.  I splurged and ordered honey butter shrimp: "jumbo shrimp lightly fried with chopped onion and  bell pepper-served with steamed broccoli and honey butter sauce."
Look at that buttery sauce!  Here's another picture:
I loved it!  The sauce was rich, but with the rice, steamed broccoli and lightly fried shrimp, the flavors and textures were nicely balanced.  Usually when I eat rich food, my stomach feels a little queasy afterwards, but this combination was perfect.

I got a one-year chip for having a year free from self-harm and from being hospitalized at a mental institution.  I definitely do not want to stigmatize being hospitalized by putting it in the same category as an addiction, but for me, it sort of was an addiction.  I have been hospitalized six times in ten years and been in outpatient programs approximately nine times.  All together, I have over a whole year of treatment.  Each time I hated having to go to the hospital, but I loved having the attention.  I did not feel safe and at the time, I did not know any other ways to cope with my feelings, but now I do.  Shortly after being hospitalized for the last time, I realized that I had had enough.  I took Dialectical Behavior Therapy (DBT) training for five months and to this day, I still practice the coping skills that I learned with the help of my therapist.  I got a new sponsor and she is really great!  Her big thing is that she is trying to get me to see the positives and improvements in my life instead of dwelling on the negatives and it really is working, for the most part.  Crisis-wise, my life has calmed down dramatically-my therapist even said that I handled my bout with hypomania recently "perfectly"-socially, my life has gotten very busy, but in a good way.  Just in these past two weeks I have gone bowling, danced at a club, saw part of a drag show, and hosted a book club.  I have also attended a prayer group and a Bible study, visited friends who are sick and had a friend teach me a new way of painting.  All of this while still battling depression, anxiety, an eating disorder, bipolar disorder, and Borderline Personality Disorder by using my coping skills.  Life is good, although hard.  I just can't wait for another year in recovery!

Tuesday, March 5, 2013

February 2013 Books

The Iliad translated by Samuel Butler - I had two months to read this book for my classics book club and I couldn't follow through-I read about two-thirds of the book and then I decided to move on to another book.  The Iliad, as you probably know, tells the story of the battles between King Agamemnon and Achilles during the Trojan War.  I liked it at first-I think it's funny the way the Greeks' gods are just as petty and proud as their human worshippers are and I liked reading the way the gods interact with them too.  What I did not like is that the book is just one battle scene after another.  I usually skim over battle scenes in books, but I don't want to skim hundreds of pages-I want to sink deeply into a book and learn to care deeply about the characters and the story.  There were too many characters, too many side stories and too many battles in my opinion.  But I will admit that the way it was written may have been the majority of the problem-people that love The Iliad claim that the translation is everything and Butler's way of writing just wasn't captivating to me.  A friend of mine recommended Rosemary Sutcliff''s version, so I will have to check hers out some time.

Remarkable Creatures by Tracy Chevalier - This was the book I picked out for my feminist book club. I wasn't wild about the way it was written-too much foreshadowing and a little slow, BUT I could really relate at times to one of the main characters, Elizabeth Philpot.  The most intriguing thing about this book is that it is about actual remarkable women.  Elizabeth Philpot and Mary Anning are two women who become friends, despite their differing social status, because of their love for fossils.  Philpot had a kind of fish named after her and Mary Anning discovered the first complete ichthyosaur and plesiosaur and discovered the first British pterodactyl.  Pretty amazing women, right?!  All this in a time when dinosaurs were still a theory.  It's funny, I wasn't wild about the book while I read it, but I keep on thinking about the story and so I am actually liking the book more and more.  I give it about four stars.

Vampire Kisses: Immortal Hearts by Ellen Schreiber - Thank Godde, this is the last book in the series!  Unfortunately, there are still two books in the series that the young woman I work with hasn't read yet...  This book was alright, I suppose.  Alexander's younger sister comes to visit and I really did like seeing her becoming good friends with Raven.  ***SPOILER ALERT***  What I did not like is the fact that Raven and Alexander bonded for eternity (become vampires forever bound together) in their teens without consulting their parents.  I know that that's probably an uncool objection to have, but it really bothers me.  Their best friends and siblings know and approve, but who cares about what the parents think, right?  I wanted to find out how she was going to break it to her parents that she is now a vampire and how was she going to college when she can only be out at night?  There are just too many practical questions left unanswered to be an enjoyable read.  The whole series has not one bit of complexity to it at all and I find that really frustrating.  Don't waste your time with these books unless you have to.

Friday, March 1, 2013

I Vow To Be Kinder To My Body and Mind

February is over and it occurred to me that I haven't done a post about it being National Eating Disorders Awareness month yet. To be honest, I've been very anxious and depressed this week. Fortunately, I am feeling much better after having talked about my feelings with friends and in support groups. The main reason why I have been stressed is because I am too hard on myself. To further elaborate, I went to a candlelight vigil for eating disorder awareness last week and it triggered some of my old eating disorder thoughts to come back.  I heard some stories of recovery and all I thought to myself was, "I didn't get sick enough.  I'm a failure."  I didn't even realize I was thinking this way until my therapy appointment a few days later.  Once I realized how eating disordered my thoughts still were, I beat myself up emotionally.  For days I would alternate between wanting to be sick again and being angry at myself for feeling that way.  But tonight when I shared during my support group, I was reminded by several people that those feelings are just part of the disorder.  I am not fully recovered, but am "in recovery" and I will always have to fight my eating disorder from time to time.  It's just a part of my life.  I was told that instead of beating myself up for having some eating disordered thoughts, I should congratulate myself for not acting on them.  They're right-I am WAY too hard on myself.  I think I am going to start making a list every night before I go to bed of at least five things that I have done that day for my recovery.  It can be small things or big things, but I need to start being kinder to myself and I think this will help.  I will post them on my tumblr page.

So things that I can continue to do that will help my eating disorder recovery are taking pictures of myself when I feel good and by cooking nutritious and yummy food.  Here is my last February fatshion pic for the year:
(Don't worry though, I'll still post fatshion pictures throughout the year.) I just LOVE the top!  Isn't it fun and flirty?  I got the shirt from Hot Topic and the pants from Torrid.  I must say that Hot Topic's sizing is frustrating, as this XL fits me perfectly, but other shirts in the same size sometimes run way too small.  I have learned the hard way to always try on their clothing before buying.

And then there's this foodie beauty: Cheese Grits Quiche
Isn't it beautiful?  It was my idea to add the sliced tomatoes.  I also substituted turkey bacon for the ham in the recipe.  Southerners know that few things are better than cheesy grits.  The texture was perfectly creamy and I loved that this was a healthy comfort food.  I will definitely make this again!

I think there is no better way to honor National Eating Disorders Awareness month than by promising to be nicer and gentler with myself.  I will work on treating my body and my mind with greater care and mercy.  I know that this will be hard for me, but it is a worthy goal.  I challenge you to be kinder to yourself too.

Recommended Links:

Displaying a surprising ignorance of (and careless indifference to) proper diagnostic practice, these psychologists routinely and rotely misdiagnose mental disorder in rapists who are on fact clearly no more than simple criminals. They repeatedly state as misguided (in)expert testimony that committing rape is by itself an indication of psychiatric illness.

These pseudoexperts are not dissuaded by the facts: that rape as mental disorder has been rejected by all the DSM's and is almost universally opposed by the experts in forensics and in sexual disorders.

Feminist Armchair Regime - Identities Are Not Insults

"We never use people's looks, where they're from, what they sound like, how their bodies or minds work, or who they love as insults.  If we do that then we are saying that being that way is bad and wrong and every person like that is bad and wrong.  That is a very mean thing to do. How would you feel if people used something about you or your name as an insult?"

The New Yorker - Seth MacFarlane and the Oscars’ Hostile,Ugly, Sexist Night

 The women were not showing their bodies to amuse Seth MacFarlane but, rather, to do their job. Or did they just think they were doing serious work? You girls think you’re making art, the Academy, through MacFarlane, seemed to say, but all we—and the “we” was resolutely male—really see is that we got you to undress.