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.