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.

Tuesday, December 30, 2014

HALTT-Taking Care of My Vulnerabilities During Christmas

God knows us from the inside out. (Monica A Coleman, Making A Way Out of No Way: A Womanist Theology, 116) But it is helpful if we start to know ourselves well too. Mindfulness is important. (Myself)
I am back from my Christmas vacation and I am glad. Today, as I took a bath to warm myself up, I reflected on how well I took care of myself on my trip. I went on several walks where I noticed how the rainy northwestern weather created lush, green ferns and moss. So beautiful!

 I also took some cool pictures of boats:

 In one of the marinas, a boat was sunk years ago to provide a break for the water and now there are trees growing out of it!  It is really neat looking, although it was hard to get a good picture because of the cloudy weather.

The best thing about the trip was that I finally got to meet my brother's dog, Bee, who is just the cutest!
Like Bee, in the picture, I had to take care of my body and mind while on the trip.  Sometimes, after being inside all day with the same people, I would find myself starting to get really annoyed.  I didn't show it, but I did know that there was probably a reason why I was starting to feel not my best and that I needed to figure out why and how to deal with it, since I could not leave.  That brings me to HALT, which stands for Hungry, Angry, Lonely, Tired and I am going to add an extra T for Temperature.  When thinking about it today, I realized that the main ones to watch out for are the physical, because it is being too hungry, too tired, or too hot or cold that influences how susceptible we are to becoming extra angry or lonely.  When in any of these states, we are extra vulnerable to becoming more emotional than usual and not being able to stay in our wise mind.  It is not a bad thing-it just means that we need to stop and take care of that vulnerability.  Many times when I started to feel myself begin to get irritable, I realized that I was either very tired or very hungry and once I had some more rest or ate some food, I was back to my amiable self.  One time when we spent a lot of the day outside, the temperature dropped drastically and I was not prepared for the colder weather-by the time we got home that day, I was freezing and miserable.  Fortunately, I got out my travel self-soothe kit and took out a packet of bath salts.  After a soak in the tub, I felt so much better.  By taking breaks during the day, I was able to keep my levels of irritation down and I am very proud of myself-in years past, I might not have been able to analyze my moods and find a solution before getting upset, possibly resulting in a meltdown.
During the new year, practice taking care of yourself-your body, your mind, and your friends will thank you!

Link Love:

Suicide rates in the transgender community are exceptionally high, with more than 50 percent of transgender teens reporting at least one suicide attempt by their 20th birthday, according to theYouth Suicide Prevention Program.
Transgender people who need someone to talk to can call the Trans Lifeline at 877-565-8860 or the Trevor Project at 866-488-7386.

This aint livin – I Know I’m Fat, Thanks

I could be the bogeyman. I might come for you in the night and suffocate you in my fatness.

Feminism and Religion - Reading “Women” by Laury   Silvers

every time I hear the words “women” and “men,” I think “meaning what?” “for whom?” and “who is missing from those words?”

Tuesday, December 23, 2014

Confession of Need for A More Introspective Christmas

I write some of the liturgy for my church and one of the things I usually write is called the "confession of need," which is a special kind of confession where we recognize how much we need Godde in our lives and ask how do we invite Her in more and more fully.  I really enjoy writing them!  This is the one for the Christmas season and so I thought I would post it here.  If you are not Christian, then just wait for my next post.  If you are, then I hope the confession inspires you to become more introspective and ponder the story of Christ's birth a little more deeper and to not be afraid if you do not have all the answers or do not know quite what to believe.  Spirituality is a mystery and it is by opening ourselves up to the unknown that we really grow.


In this season of Christmas, it can be so hard to make time for what actually matters, which is to be true to you, O God.   We hurry and worry and put on the top of our list the agenda of making every Christmas party, while resting at the bottom is mindfulness, wonder, and acting in your image.  In this season we need to pause and listen for your call, just like the characters in the first Christmas story listened to the call of your angels so long ago.

How do we do this?  How do we remember what is really important amid the traffic and the obligations?

Let us set aside a time and be quiet.  Let us listen for your call.  Let us ponder the story of Christ’s birth anew, with the ears of a child.  We do not need to have all the answers.  We do not need to believe in things that we cannot believe in anymore, but we do need to re-imagine how Christ’s story affects our own life story.  We do need to nurture our inner child and our inner Christ.  We need to use this season to not race towards our own shallow agenda, but to gather closer to each other and the call of Christ.

Let us be ever faithful, Amen.

Saturday, December 20, 2014

Corey's Travel Tip-Pack a Self-Soothing Kit

Our hopes for the future are implied, and therefore in some way present, in what we have done. (120, Making a Way Out of No Way, Monica A Coleman)

Tomorrow morning I am leaving for Washington state to see my brother and his girlfriend for Christmas and I am excited!  Fortunately, my doctor upped my new medication and I am definitely feeling much better than I was even four days ago, which is a relief.
Here are some pictures from the last time I visited:

(The column is from the famous Seattle Pike Place Market, which was so cool.)
While I was packing today, I made sure to pack my "self-soothing kit"-a coping skill I started practicing last year. The kit is just a bag of small things that usually help me feel better and calm down when feeling stressed out that I have stored in a bag, so I can just pop it into my suitcase when I'm traveling somewhere.  
Mine Currently Holds:
-a small bottle of scented lotion
-bath salts
-packets of tea
-lavender scented eye pillow
-eye mask that you can freeze (good for headaches and panic attacks)
-an easy to read, fun book
Other Ideas:
-markers and coloring book
-a journal
-a small stuffed animal
-a small blanket
-a worry stone or other trinket that feels good to touch
-hard candies or chocolates
I really do not think that I will need it and I usually don't, but it does make me feel better knowing that I have calming things with me.  I also have my journal, camera, a coloring book and markers, my quote book and even my DBT book, so I am definitely prepared.
I want my Christmas to be a fun time full of love, instead of worry, so it is important that I do everything I can to help make it that way.  Of course, not every situation is under my control, but I have become like a boy scout-always prepared to soothe myself in a possible emotional crisis.  It's amazing how just the fact of being prepared helps me feel better about myself.
What items would you put in your kit? Do you have other distress tolerance skills that you tend to use when away from home? 

Link Love:

The St. Louis American - Revolutionary love: Ferguson protest leaders get engaged at City Hall

As they walked out of City Hall, they laughed as Spann jumped up and down shouting, “Revolutionary love, love, love!” They all raised their fists to the air.

We measure success in green instead of the lives we've made better. I don't want to be a part of this kind of world.

Finding your strength and practising keeping your heart open is a spiritual practice. Feminists have enough on their plates, which leaves little time for spiritual practice. However, taking on at least a few aspects of the idea of soft heart would not hurt feminist cause.

Tuesday, December 16, 2014

Mysticism or Mania? Hiking the Doll's Head Trail

Isn't it odd how you can be with a group of people and feel completely different from how everybody else is feeling-or at least seems to feel?  Last week, I was at a gathering and even though I was surrounded by friends I felt very alone, lonely, and out-of-place.  That is an unusual feeling for me now, but a few years ago I felt that way at gatherings all the time.  Fortunately, I was able to reassure myself by telling myself that I don't usually feel that way, so I knew that the feeling would eventually pass.  I reminded myself that these really were my friends, even if I felt out-of-touch for the moment.  I have been struggling with some depression off and on this holiday season, mainly because of a medication change, I think.  It's annoying to experience my moods go up and down more than usual, but I just try to enjoy the good times as much as I can and self-soothe myself during the bad times.  I have started coloring again, which is very soothing to me.  It lets me be creative without thinking too hard about what I am doing.

Another time when I could tell that I was feeling different than the people I was with was actually a very positive time for me-my roommates and I went hiking on the Doll's Head Trail at Constitution Lakes State Park in Atlanta about a month ago and I had an intense spiritual experience looking at the wonderful folk art along the trail.

To get to the trail, you first have to walk on a boardwalk through a marsh, where I took this beautiful picture capturing the turning leaves.
Instead of blazes of spray paint to show the way of the folk art trail, you follow little fishing bobs nailed to trees.
The trail is in the spirit and style of Rev. Howard Finster and other folk art heroes.
The folk art around the trail is made of doll's heads and other trash that have flowed into the area after flooding.

The best part of the trail, to me, were the inspirational quotes and sayings on old bricks and other "trash."  Many of it was urging people to be more ecological and many more was urging people to love one another.
"There is purity and strength here
and places sacred to the People
Places strong in the oneness of
earth and sky and of all things
Absolutely I am earth's child.
~Navajo Song of the Earth

"Be true;
An eye for an eye will leave everyone blind."
"Keep searching-you never truly find who you are."
"Spread love. It's easier than you think."

Taking in the beauty of nature and the beauty of all the positive, loving words really lifted my soul.  I felt light and enraptured.  I love the symbolism of turning "trash" into meaningful works of art, just like what can happen to our lives when we immerse ourselves into a DBT program.  I believe God and I together have made my life into something very positive and hopeful when previously it was full of negativity and despair.  

I walked very slowly through the hike, taking dozens of pictures, very glad that my patient roommates would wait for me at every fork in the road.  I realized that I was the only one having a spiritual experience when in reply to my exclamation of how much I loved seeing the artwork, one of my roommates said that she thought it was creepy.  Creepy!  Yes, we were surrounded by doll heads sticking out of the ground and lone limbs reaching out to the sky, but in my mind, I was witnessing the transformative power of God and humanity working together, which is beyond beauty.

As we left the park, I carried the many messages of love with me everywhere I went.  It actually took several days for the feeling of overwhelming peace and rapture to fade.  I was very emotional and sensitive during this time and I started to wonder whether what I was experiencing was mystical and beautiful or just an episode of mania.  

I really did not want my experience to be pathologized as a symptom of bipolar.  I felt like I was having an intense mystical, spiritual moment, but many times the world does not see our feelings and experiences in that way. When I had my next counseling appointment, I told my therapist about my intense hike and said that while I had experienced heightened emotions and feelings of ecstasy, I had not experienced the other symptoms of mania, like increased energy or excessive speech.  I wanted to know if I could count on my experience as being a genuine spiritual encounter or if I should make an appointment with my psychiatrist.  To my relief, she said that she believed my experience really was spiritual-that just because someone has a diagnosis of bipolar does not mean that they are not allowed genuine spiritual and mystical experiences.  Of course, if other symptoms of mania appeared then I may want to reassess the situation, but at that moment in time I seemed very sane.

How validating!  Her words validated that I can trust my own intuition and that there is nothing wrong with being a naturally sensitive, spiritual being.  Sometimes when people are being treated for mental illness, our sense of our own spirituality can be diminished or even mocked.  I am glad to know that there is a place for extra sensory wonder, even when diagnosed with a mental illness.
Link Love:
If you understand why telling people without boots to pull up their bootstraps is indecent garbage, then it shouldn't be too difficult for you to understand why sneering at someone with triggers "I got over it" is indecent garbage, too.

This aint livin – A Case for Universal Design
When accommodations must be specifically requested and they stand out from the environment, they can have the effect of leaving disabled people feeling not just like nuisances or people getting ‘special treatment,’ but also like people who are isolated in what should be an inclusive environment.

HuffPost - NYC Clergy Join Black And Latino City Council Caucus 'Die In' To Protest Eric Garner Killing

The clergy also called the lack of accountability within the police department "a spiritual problem," citing the work of faith leaders like Mahatma Gandhi, Rabbi Abraham Joshua Heschel, Dorothy Day, Ana Karim, Fannie Lou Hamer, Malcolm X, and The Rev. Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr who preached nonviolence.

Wednesday, December 10, 2014

November 2014 Book Review

I Know Why The Caged Bird Sings by Maya Angelou – This was my feminist book club’s selection for November and it is fabulous, of course.  I read it first in seventh grade, but I got so much more out of it during my recent reading.  I really recommend listening to it be read by Maya Angelou herself, which is what I did.  She is the best narrator I have ever heard and at times, it was almost eerie to hear her tell her own story.  Her story touches on many tough issues-racism, sexuality, rape, just to name a few-and we discussed what we each thought were the most disturbing or painful aspects of her early life.  To me, the saddest theme was that children and adults were adversaries in the book.  Maya and her brother do not feel that they can ever trust adults and the adults in the book do not give them any reason to-children are to be tolerated and disciplined and that’s about it.  It’s an us vs. them mentality that I find very disturbing.  In my view, children are to be loved and they should know they are loved.  Yes, children need discipline, but not at the expense of their humanity and I believe that adults should not be against children, but rather protectorates and advocates for more rights for children.  It is true that if a man hits a woman, then that is recognized as domestic abuse, but not always considered true in the case for children and I think that that is tragic.  Reading the book made me want to read the rest of her memoirs and I will start working on reading more in 2015.

The Rock and The River by Kekla Magoon – This is the book the “edge-y” young adult book club I attend read for November and it was also great.  Kekla Magoon is a new-ish YA writer who is not afraid to tackle tough subjects and this book is about Chicago during the time Martin Luther King Jr. was assassinated told through the eyes of Sam, a Black teenager who is trying to decide whether he will join The Black Panthers or not.  I admire Magoon for writing about this tough time and gearing it towards youngsters.  I learned a lot about the Black Panthers by reading the book and the book could not be more appropriate for our times.  Many times I wonder if the Black Panthers will reemerge in today’s turmoil, but then I think no, for I think in some ways times have gotten worse, not better, than how they were in the late sixties.  The Black Panthers would follow police officers around openly carrying guns in order to keep police officers in line and they could do that because of open carry laws that were around at the time.  Unfortunately, whether there are open carry laws in an area or not, I think a Black person openly carrying a gun near a police officer (or anybody) would be shot on sight today.  Fear against Black “thugs” seems to have increased as the years have gone on, instead of decreased and if The Black Panthers come back, I think they will have to at least slightly change their old tactic.  This book won the 2010 Coretta Scott King-John Steptoe Award, plus many others and I highly recommend it.

The X-Files Graphic Novel by Spotnitz; Wolfman; Moench; Denham (2009) – I read two X-Files graphic novels last month and this was the one by far that had the best graphics.  I liked seeing the Lone Gunman in one of the stories (it was four short stories).  Unfortunately, I found the short stories exceptionally implausible and not very memorable.  Of the four stories, my favorite is the last one, as it was the most suspenseful and original, in my opinion.  The book ends with some really cool art pages-I recommend this book more for the art than for the storytelling.

The X-Files: Dead to the World Graphic Novel by Stefan Petrucha, John Rozum and Charles Adlard (1996)  – This graphic novel did not have as good art, in my opinion, but I enjoyed the stories so much better! These stories actually felt like they fit in the format and storytelling style of the TV show much more. I appreciated the reference and play on the famous short story, “The Most Dangerous Game” – this time featuring Big Foot!  I also appreciated the story about the chupacabra, as I remember being obsessed with that myth in the nineties.  I thought the characters and plot twists were much more plausible and interesting in this novel and really recommend it as a fun read for X-Files fans.

Citizen of the Galaxy by Robert A Heinlein – This was an audiobook that my family listened to on our way to Virginia this past Thanksgiving.  Like I Know Why The Caged Bird Sings, I first read this book in middle school-I read all of Robert A. Heinlein’s books during that time period-and I enjoyed listening to it again.  While doing research for this post, I discovered that there was recently a graphic novel of this book published and I am sad to note that it is already sold out!  I would love to read it.  The novel is about a boy (Thorby) who is sold as a slave to a man against slavery and this man (“Pop”) is the first person to show Thorby kindness.  After’s Pop’s death, Thorby is adopted by a starship captain and eventually is reunited with his original family on Earth.  He then must fight to retain rights to his family’s business.  The book is heavily influenced by Rudyard Kipling’s Kim and ends with Thorby continuing his Pop’s fight against slavery.  The book was interesting and I liked how the main character went from a slave to one who fights against slavery.  I would not say that it was as good as the first two books I read this month, but it is good escapism, as Heinlein usually is.
Click on the picture to get a better view.

Link Love:

I’m not anti-cop. And I am finding that many police want change as well: The good officers in the state of Wisconsin supported our bill from the inside, and it was endorsed by five police unions.

The problem is that cops aren’t held accountable for their actions, and they know it. These officers violate rights with impunity. They know there’s a different criminal justice system for civilians and police.

You don’t need to share an experience to provide support, and you don’t need to get depression to respect that it exists and people need support to manage it effectively.

Saturday, November 29, 2014

Thanksgiving 2014 in Pictures and Ferguson Activism

We can creatively transform the past to decide how we should move into the future. We can also draw power from the lives of those who have come before us. ~ (101, Making A Way Out of No Way, Monica A Coleman)
Thanksgiving and other holidays can be hard.  I have been with my extended family since Tuesday and sometimes I have been enjoying it and sometimes I have been very triggered and depressed.  I don't like this emotional flip-flopping around and I am trying to calm myself as best I can, but it can be hard when I sometimes feel like I am so different from my family.  I knew it would be difficult when I heard that Darren Wilson was not going to go to trial after all-I have been keeping up with activist bloggers and photographers and believe that justice has not been served at all-I also know my family very well and knew that I would be the only person who felt this way.  I was right.  I wanted to go protest on Tuesday, but I had to ride with my family up to Virginia that day in order to try and beat the snow.  I feel weird not being able to do the things I want to do and to have to keep my feelings and thoughts to myself and sometimes my hidden thoughts seem overwhelming.  I am using my tried and true coping skill of trying to be mindful of beauty when I see it.  I have captured some really beautiful photographs with my camera and being creative that way makes me feel good.

 First, read this article, 10 Ways You Can Help  Ferguson, Missouri, from Huffington Post.  Once I get home, I will read the article more thoroughly and actually act on some of the things it mentions.  We must not give up on hope-I am hopeful that through the deaths of so many people due to police brutality that perhaps one day there will be a change and at least they will be required to videotape everything they do.  That would be a truly great thing.  We say we are a nation of "checks and balances," but who checks on the police?  Apparently nobody.  It would be justice indeed if we were to put in a few checks for our police.  I have heard that departments that use video now have a significant reduction in police brutality and a dramatic increase in community goodwill.  The article above contains some ways to try to make this happen.

Now for some beautiful photography.
My cousin Alice and her family live on a beautiful farm and it was covered with snow when we arrived.

The beagle, named Georgia, actually played with one of my cousin's dogs, which was a joyous sight to see, as she hardly ever runs or plays.
This is one of my cousin's dogs, Boo.
I had fun learning how to play poker-I did pretty well!
After a day at the farm, we then went to Washington D.C. and visited the National Gallery of Art.
The gallery has many beautiful fountains.
It also has really beautiful architecture.
I love how you can see one of the major buildings in the window.
That's my aunt's dog, named after me.  Isn't she the cutest dog you've ever seen?
This is Fort Washington, our nation's first permanent military fort.  The best thing about it is the trees.  
I liked the fort because it is full of spooky places.  Above is an old jail cell.  
It also has creepy old doors.
This may be my favorite picture though-it tells such a story.  I just wanted to go sit beside the woman on the bench in silence.  Even though I will never know her, I feel a kinship when I look at this picture because I felt like her-alone and contemplative, enjoying the silence and wanting to be away from people.  I wonder what she was thinking and feeling.  I hope she was enjoying the silence-it's what I've been craving for all week.  I have had many delightful adventures, but I will be happy when I can be home and quiet, taking action against injustice.  (Not all protests are loud-I will be writing letters, making phone calls, and sending meditations of peace to the world.)

Link Love:

Nate Pyle: We Might Talk About Jesus the Same Way We Talk of Protestors

And when those who can no longer ignore the injustices being done against them and their brothers and sisters, they flip tables. When that happens, we are faced with two choices. One, we can condemn them like the men above by demanding they play by the rules of the system we belong to. Or two, we can listen. - See more at: http://natepyle.com/we-might-talk-about-jesus-the-same-way-we-talk-of-protestors/?

Thursday, November 20, 2014

Book Review - Dying to Control

Here is another Speakeasy book that I read recently.  I would only give it two out of five stars, maybe 2.5.  I actually like the author's blog better than the book, I think.
Dying to Control: The 21st Century Dilemma by Leon R. Hayduchok - Hayduchok's basic premise is that what was wrong about Eve and Adam eating from the tree of knowledge of good and evil was that they were trying to live as they saw fit and not as God saw fit-they thought they were in control.  Okay, I can go with that-Hayduchok seems to that this his premise is radical, but it does not seem that radical to me.  What I cannot buy is that he thinks God cursed the ground and animals in order to help people-to remind us where our priorities should be, but curses do not seem loving to me.  Hayduchok even writes that, "To curse someone is to wish that person misfortune or doom.  Curses tend to be spite or vindictive, and they typically don't have redemptive intentions," (85)  With that in mind, I have a hard time believing that God would even curse animals or the earth that She made.  To love someone is to wish them the best, so I really do not see how a God that curses can be compatible with a God that loves.  I must turn back to what Sea Raven insisted in her book, "Theology from Exile," we must ask ourselves if we believe the nature of God is "violent or nonviolent" when reading Scripture (7).  I believe our God is nonviolent, towards all beings, including Mother Earth, so I must look at the curse in a different way.  I believe "the curse" may be our interpretation of how we feel when life gets harder, but do I really think God cursed anybody?  No.  I may feel cursed, but I am not cursed.  It is much easier for us to raise our fists and cry, "God, you made the Earth hard and not to our liking and you made women feel labor pains!" but that is abdicating our responsibility to see life as it really is.  The fact is that life is hard and we do not need to blame God for it to be so.  It just is.  I do agree with Hayduchok's assertion that life is harder when we try to control everything on our own, but instead of saying that we should leave everything to God, I say that we should do things together. As I review what my options are for the day, I should listen for God's call for the better way, but it is up to I to act.  And it is up to myself to not just do what God says, but rather to dream with Her and to offer my own ideas in prayer and to see what seems like the best way.  My relationship with God is more like a partnership-sometimes I receive encouragement and sometimes I get a scolding and sometimes I praise God and sometimes I am angry at Her and all of that is okay.  We try to do things together and in those moments of harmony are when the world is restored, for it is true that the world is out of balance, but I do not believe it is because of a curse, but because the world and God are not working together.

Hayduchok brings a lot of reflections about his personal troubles into the book, which again, at first I appreciated, but after a while, something else began to bug me: he never uses the phrase, "mental illness."  He talks quite extensively about having a "breakdown" and anxiety, even suicidal thoughts, but instead of saying that he had a mental illness and needed treatment, he says that all he needed was, "perspective" (95).  He seems to think that the total reason for all of his problems is because he was not letting God be fully in control of his life, but I think this is a dangerous idea.  One can follow God and be depressed-look at Mother Teresa, who was depressed for the majority of her years.  Depression, anxiety, are mental illnesses, not a lack of perspective.  While I do think that thinking positively and being in communion with God can offer relief and goodness, sometimes a mental illness is so pervasive that it prevents a person from being able to do so, which is why they need compassion and affordable treatment-not a lecture or "perspective."  I know I was only able to gain a new, healthier perspective after I started taking my current medication.  My medications, therapy, and DBT treatment are the conduit that have allowed my brain to be able to focus on God's will and love, not the other way around.

I started out liking the book and by the end, I was annoyed, so I do not think I would really recommend the book.  It is helpful if you want an overview of different theories about the Eve and Adam story, but otherwise, I would skip it.

Link Love:
Loving your body is an act of sheer courage and revolution in this culture.

this ain’t livin - You Are Never Required to Stay in a Dangerous Situation

You are not under obligation to stay in a situation where your safety is at risk, no matter how much you love someone. 

Tuesday, November 18, 2014

Book Review - Theology from Exile

I had to take a break from reviewing books, as I was getting a little burned out from doing so many, but I have read so many good books lately that my book reviewing days are back again.  Of course, the first books I have to review are from Speakeasy.

Theology from Exile Vol. II: The Year of Matthew by Sea Raven
I really enjoyed this book!  It is the second "in a series of commentaries on biblical scripture that follows the three-year cycle of Christian liturgical readings found inn the Revised Common Lectionary"  (Sea Raven 1).  Sea Raven takes each Sunday in the second year of the lectionary and expounds upon the scripture in a progressive, postmodern way.  It is a book targeted towards scholars and ministers, to help them in their research and sermon preparation, but I enjoyed it all the same.  I like that she acknowledged that the RCL often cuts scriptures short or put seemingly random scriptures together in order to serve their own ends (to support traditional, outdated theology, for instance)-she calls these annoying edits the work of "the elves."  Even more, I liked that she used simple language and did not mess around with metaphors in getting her point across-"Jesus is dead," she said over and over again and curiously enough, those words were balm to my soul.  It was so good to read someone who enjoys studying the Bible, does not believe in taking it literally, and is not afraid to say so in extremely clear language.  Many times when I am in church, I feel like I do not know what people are really talking about, because there is so much double speak-"He is risen!,"
 we say and I have to think to myself, "well, metaphorically, but I do not really believe he rose from the dead-can't we talk about resurrection of the soul without making it seem we believe in supernatural nonsense?  Can't we talk plainly for once and say what we really mean?"  By talking in metaphorical double speak at churches, I will sometimes feel alone, because I do not know if people are having the same internal conversations and scruples than I am with the language-I do not know if the majority of the people around me actually believe that Jesus rose from the dead or if they believe that story is a beautiful myth with lessons to teach us, like I do.  The need for intellectual clarity is something that I sometimes long for and I wonder if other people long for it too.

Sea Raven posits that there are four questions that one must ask one's self when reading Scripture:

  1. What is the nature of God?  Violent or nonviolent?
  2. What is the nature of Jesus's message? Inclusive or Exclusive?
  3. What is faith? Literal belief, or commitment to the great work of justice-compassion?
  4. What is deliverance? Salvation from hell, or liberation from injustice? (7)
She says,
"The answers for the authoritarian right (Empire) are: violent, exclusive, literal belief, and salvation from hell in the next life.  The answers for the countering partnership on the left (Covenant) are nonviolent, inclusive, commitment to the great work, and liberation from injustice in this life, here and now. (7)"
I hope it is obvious that I am on the left. I recommend this book for seminary students, ministers, and scholarly laypeople, like myself. Each section is short-sometimes too short, in my opinion-creative and insightful. I am looking forward to reading Vol. 1 and Vol. 3 sometimes in the future.

  Link Love:

Your Color Looks Good - Is it Really Important to Have a Positive Attitude When Dealing With a Chronic Condition? 
In my personal and professional experience, I’ve found that most people suffering from chronic pain and chronic illness want acknowledgement that what they are going through is real and that it is okay not to be okay sometimes. Pressure to be optimistic all of the time can lead to increased negative emotions. By allowing sufferers of chronic conditions to experience the uncertainty and frustrations that come along with having a chronic illness or chronic pain, family, friends and loved ones are actually making way for more positive feelings because not only can the patient express their feelings during difficult times rather than holding it in, the pressure to be optimistic all of the time is gone.

 Shakesville – Sartorial Misogyny, Feminist Concern Trolling, and the “Little Things” in Science and Elsewhere 
Because feminism by design functions to address all manner of issues, big and small. That women can (and do) utilize the tenets of feminism in every aspect of their lives does not undermine the history of the feminist movement, but instead does it a great honor. Feminism was never meant to be restricted to suffrage and genital cutting, held in reserve like a finite quantity in danger of depletion if it's used for "the little things." Feminism is a renewable resource. 

Wednesday, October 29, 2014

Recovery Questions

I am applying for Georgia's certified peer training.  It is a really great program.  Basically, when one is doing really well in one's recovery and would like a job helping others who have mental illness, they can apply to be trained and certified as a CPS.  They are trained on how to use their life experience as someone in recovery in a way to help and reach others and they will have a respected credential that will help them get jobs.  I had to answer a lot of questions about my recovery on my application yesterday and I thought a few of my answers might be interesting to you.  Here they are:

What does recovery mean to you?

 I do presentations about my recovery on a regular basis and I always say that recovery is when a person believes that “mental illness is a part of a person, but does not define the person.”  I am in recovery, because mental illness no longer controls my entire life.  I will always have to acknowledge its presence in my life and cope with it, but I am a person who refuses to be defined by mental illness alone.

What are some of the important factors in your own recovery?

1.      . Taking responsibility for my own recovery-no one can utilize my own coping skills and take my own medication but me.

2. The wonderful, supportive relationship I have with my therapist, family and communities.  I know that isolation is a death sentence and that my recovery depends on the healthy relationships between me and supportive people, which is why I am an active participant in my church, several book clubs, an alumni mental health group and a support group.

3. Providing hope to others.  Posting to my blog, Hope is Real!, and speaking about recovery for NAMI and seeing how my actions influence other people for the better gives my life meaning.  Having a purpose to my life keeps me positive, motivated and away from the pits of depression.

Why do you think it is important to tell your story?

 Our stories provide hope-hope to consumers, hope to families and hope to us. Many people still believe that one is stuck being trapped in an eating disorder or having BPD forever. I am proof that that is not true. Many people believe that they are stuck always being depressed or anxious or in the throes of schizoaffective disorder or the mood swings of bipolar disorder. I am proof that one can learn to manage all of those disorders, because yes, at one time or another, I have been diagnosed with just about every disorder, which makes me very relateable and also living proof that one can have any disorder and still live through it and still have a productive and extremely satisfying life. Our stories of hope are the most important thing for the world to hear in a time when mental illness is equated with gun control laws.

Link Love:
Crunk Feminist Collective

 Clair Huxtable is Dead: On Slaying the Cosbys and Making Space for Liv, Analise, and Mary Jane

Shakesville - This Is Rape Culture
Many of the men who tell apocryphal tales of former brothers-in-law and distant cousins whose lives were "ruined" by rape allegations (which are always, always, presumed to be untrue) really mean that those men were inconvenienced for a little while. Embarrassed. Not that their entire lives were ruined. Or even meaningfully changed.

Monday, October 20, 2014

Enforcing Boundaries-No Diet Talk

"It is not mean to enforce firm boundaries; I respect myself." ~ Myself

It is rude to talk about weight and dieting at the dinner table.  I know that that is not how the commercials see it, but they are trying to sell you a product-they do not actually care about the well-being of your body or soul and they certainly do not care if the behavior they promote will make you popular.  The only people who appreciate diet talk at the table (or really anywhere) are those who are dieting themselves. I DO NOT appreciate it when people talk on and on about how they hate their body and what they are doing to change it in my presence, especially while I am eating-it triggers me and annoys me.

Fortunately, people do not talk this way in front of me very often-I pick my close friends very carefully.  However, it still does happen from time to time, just like it did a few weeks ago-in the past, how I would have dealt with it would have been to try to make a side conversation with someone else in order to try to ignore the harmful dieting conversation, but I was glad to note this time that I have now outgrown that tactic and have become an even better boundary maker - I simply firmly addressed the whole group and said, that since we were all in recovery (which we were) that I thought it would be best if we kept the conversation away from dieting and food talk, as that might bring up issues for some people.  The offending member got the message and said she had no idea that she might be triggering someone.  I reassured her that we were not mad at her, but that there were better topics for us to talk about-everyone else gave me extremely grateful looks.  We did talk about other more neutral topics for the rest of the night and we ended up having a lot of fun.

Later that evening, another friend pulled me aside and praised me for being so direct.  She said that she had been trying to change the subject for a long time and was getting desperate, especially since she had brought a friend who had recently come out of treatment for an eating disorder.  Later that particular person thanked me for changing the subject.  That obsessive dieting topic just had been no good for anybody.

And yes, we were all of us, a group in recovery from eating disorders, so you might say our aversion to diet talk is unique, but I really do not think it is.  I know that if one is dieting that it is tempting to talk about everything that one is doing with everybody, but I sincerely ask to keep it to one's self or at least to talk only to one's dieting group.  It is hard for anyone to enjoy their food when they are constantly being told how many calories it has or how long they should exercise after eating it.  Life is full of wonderful and varied experiences, most of which have nothing to do with whether one is fat or not.  Talk about those experiences - just this last weekend, I attended my book club at the cute Sugar Hill Bakery, took pictures at the Little Five Points Halloween Parade, and did a successful In Our Own Voice presentation for a NAMI family to family class.   If one does not have anything to talk about besides dieting, then one does not have a fitness problem, but a life experience problem.

I must say, I was and am really proud to see how far I have come in setting boundaries.  There was a time when I would have suffered in silence.  I would have quietly fumed and let the offending woman get away with ruining my happiness when all I had to do was to firmly set some boundaries.  I was not mean; I was just firm and there is a big difference, which I did not used to understand.  Understanding that I now have the ability to set my own boundaries in a way that people will listen is empowering- I am no longer a victim, but in charge of my own happiness.

I wish the same for all of you and I believe you can do it too.

Now for your cute moment of the day from the Halloween parade: