I talk honestly and openly about my experiences with mental illness, fibromyalgia, and chronic fatigue syndrome through the lens of feminism, fat acceptance and process theology. I also do recipe and book reviews. My mission is to spread the message that hope is always real for a better life, despite living in a world that is often very harsh.

Sunday, August 25, 2013

July 2013 Book Reviews

Anne of the Island by L.M. Montgomery – I am really enjoying these Anne books!  Anne of the Island is when Anne goes to college and it brought back memories of dating, late night talks, the comraderie between college friends-really, not much has changed in a hundred years!  The book brought back some painful memories too, as Anne’s relationship with Diana began to change.  Most childhood friendships change as interests diverge and people grow up, but that doesn’t mean that it isn’t very painful.  It’s a part of the “growing pains,” I guess.  I’ve experienced it, as I am sure everyone has at some point.  For a long time I blamed the growing apart on my mental illness, so it was nice to be reminded that it is a common experience.  The beginning of the book takes place approximately in 1903, so it is really quite revolutionary that Anne goes to college and is supported in her academic ambitions.  Not only that, but at this fictional college, there are enough other women attending that she is able to rent a house with three other female friends and she had many other female friends who attend this college.  This detail defeats the stereotype that women were never prized for their brains in the past.  I absolutely loved it that Montgomery had the character that was known for being shallow, indecisive and beautiful, also being incredibly good at math and winning a math scholarship, which successfully broke apart the dichotomy of the beauty myth, which has been around a lot longer than perhaps we have realized.  As Naomi Wolf says in her book, The Beauty Myth, “Culture stereotypes women to fit the myth by flattening the feminine into beauty-without-intelligence or intelligence-without-beauty; women are allowed a mind or a body but not both.”  I think reading books that show women being prized for their brains and their beauty is important; I think reading books that show women being friends and not just talking about men being important – although talking about men sometimes is important too!; and I think reading older books that show that these scenarios happened in the past are especially important, because it shows us that what the patriarchy is trying to feed us is a bunch of lies.  Women can be both beautiful and smart; women can be friends and loving towards one another; and there is a basis for a society that values confidant and empowered women.

Anne of Windy Poplars by L.M. Montgomery – Now we finally get to the book that the second movie is loosely based on, which I should watch soon, because it’s been too long a time!  Anne gets her first “real” job as a principal of a private school in a small town.  She has to figure out her to get into the good graces of the Pringles, which are the snooty family that controls the town.  This book is interesting, because it’s written in a different format from all the other books - for the most part it’s in the form of letters to Gilbert, who is away attending medical school.  The book is also interesting, because it hardly references Davy and Dora, who I think are L.M.M’s most annoying characters ever.  And call me a softie, but I do really like the story of how Anne befriends the bitter, cranky teacher in town and gets her to loosen up.  Again, I am amazed at how progressive these books are-a female teacher is nothing new, but a female principal, who is even over a male teacher is something else.  Anne is smart, bold, resourceful, clever, and kind, all of which are qualities not usually put together in one woman.

Wednesday, August 21, 2013

Sunset Beach Day 7 - Bittersweet Self-Care

 The last day of my old job came and went.  I was very stressed out and although I absolutely loved the job, I am glad that it is over.  The last day went well, but I was still very anxious.  Fortunately, ever since then I have been feeling a lot better.  I am giving myself a week to devote to self-care and self-soothing activities before I start deciding what to do job wise.  Yesterday I used birthday money to give myself a massage from my favorite spa and as my tense body was being rubbed and relaxed, an intense wave of gratitude washed over me.  I am incredibly, incredibly lucky and blessed to be able to do this. A lot of people do not have the support, the resources, the time, and the knowledge of how important self-care is.  I am so glad that my decision to make it a priority in my life right now is supported by the people I love.   I have to take care of myself or I will end up relapsing and back in the hospital.  I had to quit my job, even though I did not have a replacement (a common criticism), because I was so anxious that I was making myself sick.  Living in anxiety had become a way of life again and I recognized that I needed to kick it out.  The way I feel now is glorious!  Of course, I have my anxious moments, but they are mere moments now and not a way of life.  (Last week, I was having several panic attacks a day! It was definitely a loud sign that my life needed to change.)

The last day of our vacation was bittersweet.  It was both a wonderful and relaxing day with more opportunities for good food, fellowship, and beautiful picture-taking, but it also contained a terrifying jet ski ride and it meant that the vacation was almost over.

I wanted to include a picture of my uncle cooking breakfast, but lately I've been taking greater care to only include pictures of others unless I've specifically asked the person and gotten their permission to post it.  I am pretty impulsive and carefree when it comes to my pictures, but I know many other people are more cautious and easily embarrassed.  So....no pictures of the great cook, but there is a picture of my yummy last breakfast!  We had cherries, scrambled eggs with cheese and sausage, and hashbrowns cooked in bacon fat.  Let me repeat that last part: hashbrownns cooked in bacon fat!!!

OMG!!!  The potatoes were leftover from the honey mustard chicken and vegetable casserole that I made on day three.  They still had the tang from the honey mustard and the bacon fat gave them a smoky, heavenly flavor.

After breakfast, we went down to the pier.  My uncle and my first cousins once removed went to fish, while the rest of us went down just to sightsee.  Once I got down to the pier, I realized that it was a such a shame that it was the first time that I had made it down there on our trip, because it offered some beautiful views and was very relaxing and peaceful.  I took a bunch of pictures, which I will share with you (of course!).

Take a stroll along the pier with me!

Doesn't that scene look relaxing?

I like the bright colors on the umbrellas below.

I think it looks like a postcard!

I didn't know what "Alligator Ice" was, but I thought it was worth a picture.  Turns out it's a type of slushy.

There were these black crows sitting morbidly on the railing.  I didn't realize that crows were beach birds!

I like the close-up view of the bird the best:

Let's continue on our journey down the pier...

Here is another postcard picture:

Of course, we had to get our own slushie before going back to the beach house!  And no, it was not the "alligator ice" brand.
Mine was Margarita flavored!  Yum!

 Later that day, I did something that was not so relaxing for me-I rode on the back of a jet ski that my dad rented for an hour.  Sounds like adventure and fun, right?  Maybe it would be if I was the type of person who liked things liked roller coasters and motorcycles and just in general fast and dangerous things, but I do not.  I was not planning on riding it at all, but then my dad offered to let me ride on behind him and I thought that perhaps I should not let this opportunity go by without giving it a try.  And oh man, was I wrong!  I absolutely hated it!  The wind going through my hair, the bumpy waves...made me scream and cry in terror.  Hopefully I have learned my lesson and will stick to what I know to be true about myself and will leave the dangerous and fast stuff to my Naval navigator brother.

Fortunately, it didn't take me too long to recuperate.  The whole gang of us gathered on top of the crow's nest on top of the beach house that night to watch the sunset and to take pictures.  It was a beautiful and sweet and slightly sad moment.  Of course, then there was dinner and then there was the hustle and bustle of packing, which was not so fun.  This Sunset Beach vacation was one of the best vacations ever, mainly because it reminded me of what is important-being around the people I love, being mindful and appreciative of good food and pleasant sensations, and recognizing how good it feels when life is taken more slowly and lovingly, instead of in fast, painful gulps of panic.  I am hoping and planning to continue on in this mindful, intentional, pleasurable way.

Thursday, August 15, 2013

Sunset Beach Day 6 - Official Tourist Day

No matter how laid back a vacation, every beach vacation needs to have its official tourist day!  Day 6 was ours.  My family spent that morning browsing in art galleries, thrift shops, and cheap beach stores.  I bought these trendy feather earrings and some cheap Bettie Page post cards - I'm so cheesy. Here I am cheese-tastically modeling in the beach store!
After the shopping, we had lunch.  I cannot remember the restaurant's name, but I do remember that it took forever for our food to arrive and that my stomach was hurting again.  My consistent stomach pain during the vacation was the one thing that I would change if I could. Fortunately, these two things did not affect my sense of humor and I had to take a picture of this:

Do you want some extra livermush for $2.15?  I have no idea what "livermush" is, but it sounds dreadful!  Funnily enough, it was listed on the menu twice!  (You can get it as a side on your "egg plate." Yum?)  I've never tasted liver-I know a lot of people really like it, but I can't get over my prejudices.

Here's another picture of me featuring my earrings, this time at the beach house:
My eyes are closed, but I really like it.

 Here's my thoughts on why we should appreciate pictures of ourselves (A common theme on this blog): You guys know that I'm going through a bit of a tough time right now-my last day on my job is tomorrow and I've been having periods of depression and anxiety for the past couple of months weeks in dealing with it and some other things. I think it is especially important to recognize the aspects about ourselves that we like and what we are doing right in our recovery during these times when we are struggling the most.  The fact that we are struggling makes it harder to see our beauty, our intellect, and our successes, but it is worth the extra effort.  Making that extra effort and recognizing our effort gives us a dose of reality and reminds us that we are really doing much better than we sometimes feel. That is why I am really loving circling what DBT coping skills I have used at the end of the day on my DBT skills sheet and I am really loving posting what I am grateful for on Facebook, instead of dwelling on all the negative aspects of my day, which sometimes would be much easier to do.  I also realize that it is considered weird for a female to admire a picture of herself and that doing so is in itself a revolutionary act.  Proper self-care during anxiety and depression is particularly hard, because the line between getting proper rest and having healthy alone time and isolating and hiding away can be hard to detect.  I talked to a friend earlier today about just how hard it is.  I think I am balancing it fairly well though.  I've let myself off the hook for not going to most of my support groups and taking extra naps this week, but next week I plan to be more active. Still, even if I am not being very active right now, as you can see, I am still taking positive steps in my recovery.  I urge anyone who is struggling with depression or anxiety symptoms to start appreciating at least the positive small things that they have done that day-that is something that anyone can do, even if they do not have the energy or motivation to get out of the house.

But back to my vacation!

So after lunch, we went back to the house and relaxed, but later I accepted my cousin's invitation to go with her family to visit Myrtle Beach.  I had never been to Myrtle Beach before and we had fun!  It definitely is a tourist trap though and I am glad that our beach house was in a more laid back atmosphere.

First, we stopped at this cheap-o beach store.

Isn't that the greatest entrance ever?  Unfortunately, that was the only great thing about the store and the store is about to close.  But what a fabulous picture!

We then played a round of miniature golf at Professor Hacker's Lost Treasure Golf.

OK, so I came in last, but I still had a really fun time. I really recommend this golf course-the kids absolutely loved the outrageous sets and everybody enjoyed the train ride to top of the course-the course is at the top of a giant hill and you putt your way down.

We ate dinner at an Italian restaurant that was sort of funny, because everyone there looked like they were vacationing from Jersey Shore.  Our last stop of the day was at Callahan's at Calabash, which is the Disney World of souvenir stores in North Carolina.  It's huge and worth visiting if you enjoy souvenir shopping at all.  It has a giant Christmas section, fudge, t-shirts, and a whole room full of Duck Dynasty stuff!
(You know you're a redneck when you take a picture of Duck Dynasty products in a souvenir store...)

I almost consider watching Duck Dynasty a part of my recovery, because it makes me literally laugh out loud.  Yesterday, I watched a new episode right before going to bed and as I was laughing I realized that it was the first time that day that I had laughed.

Day 6 was fun.  I am having trouble not wishing that I could go back to that day instead of moving forward, but I know that that kind of attitude is counter productive.  Life is not so black and white and should not be faced with so much dread. Tomorrow is also my art therapy day, which I usually enjoy and I am then going to spend the evening with one of friends, so there is still plenty to look forward to. What is one thing that you are looking forward to?  Perhaps we can cheer each other up!

Sunday, August 11, 2013

Sunset Beach Day 5 - Beach Birthdays!

I'm back!  Life got busy really, really fast!  I had an absolutely wonderful vacation, which ended way too soon.  When I returned home, I felt re-energized and re-charged, for a few days anyway.  Then life got busy again and I ended up having to make some major changes in my life.  I've been hinting for months now that life had gotten really stressful and I think the time away from the stressful situations during my vacation helped me finally get to the point where I was really ready to do something about them.  So I made some big decisions, which made me really excited and full of energy for about five days and then I totally crashed.  Earlier in the week, my therapist convinced me to take a self care day and spend the day relaxing and making sure that I got enough rest.  I stayed at home and watched a movie with a friend and by the end of the day, I felt re-balanced, which was a fabulous feeling.  Eventually I will write about the changes in my life, although I will go ahead and tell you that one of them is that I am retaking my therapist's DBT course.  I am very glad to be taking it again, as I am sure that I will need extra help in remembering my skills as I navigate this different time in my life right now.

I guess I should finish telling you about my vacation.  So onto Day 5!

Day 5 was pretty laid back.  I still wasn't feeling that great physically, but I managed to have fun.  Some of us made terrariums using collected sand, shells, and other found objects put in these pretty glass bowls that we had brought with us.  They were fun, although I must admit that I think my younger cousins made the ones I liked the best-theirs seemed the most imaginative and creative to me, which isn't a surprise, since imagination is the more fertile the younger you are.

Here's mine:

And mine again:

My mom got the idea from this really cool antique store in Atlanta called Paris in Ponce.  If you've never been and you live in Atlanta, then you need to make a date to go pronto!  It's huge, it's fun, with a collection of antiques, new art, hipster crafts, and funky furniture.  They even have a red party room that you can rent out for events.  One of their vendors has a stall totally focused on terrarium items, with glass bowls, funky plants from Venus fly traps to all kinds of mosses and even small animal skulls! The potential for fun is almost overwhelming.  Their inventory constantly changes too, which also makes it fun to go back again and again.  It's where my aunt bought my birthday tiara.

That night was our big birthday celebration, since we had three people in our company with July birthdays, including my father. In honor of the occasion, my uncle made his famous shrimp newberg.

It's shrimp and scallops in a creamy mushroom sauce over rice and is absolutely freaking fabulous! Seriously, this dish could easily be featured at an expensive, gourmet restaurant.  The scallops were incredibly tender and just melted away in the mouth.  The sauce was rich and slightly sweet.  The shrimp...oh, I shouldn't go on anymore-I'm about to swoon.  I'm a bit bitter that my stomach was hurting a lot that night and so I couldn't eat nearly as much as I wanted to.  So sad!

Then came the birthday cake!

I had made two cakes earlier that afternoon-carrot cake, because it's my dad's favorite, and a red velvet.


Here is a shirt that my dad received from my cousins:

I really like it.  I'm showing it to you, because it is designed by Guy Harvey, who is a very popular conservationist and marine wildlife artist in our area.  You could see products with his marine illustrations in every store in coastal North Carolina and they're really beautiful.  He is incredibly prolific - I guess he's the Steven King or Walt Disney of the tourist marine world.  There seems to be a whole Guy Harvey subculture!

I'm glad that I'm back embracing life and showing you all what I did on my vacation.  Soon I will write about day six.  On day five of the vacation. we celebrated three birthdays, but I think that I may need to have a celebration for myself fairly soon.  I've initiated a lot of changes in my life recently and they keep on coming-this Friday will be the last day of my current job.  These changes are hard, but they're healthy.  Even today, I checked off the DBT skills I did on my daily DBT skills checklist for the first time. In fact, I do know that I am going to treat myself to a massage with some late birthday money that I got recently.  I need to go ahead and set the date-as a therapist told me recently, it is so easy to get caught up in the drama of change, but it more important to stay present in the positive and healthiness of the moment.

Are any changes going on in your life?  Are any of them positive?  What are you doing to reward yourself?