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.

Wednesday, December 23, 2015

It's 2015 and It's Still Alright To Cry

You better watch out.  You better not cry. Better not pout.  I'm telling u why - patriarchy discourages men from displaying emotions.  #FeministXmasSongs from Gemma Correll. It's alright to cry. Crying gets the sad out of you. [...] It might make you feel better.  ~ Carol Hall, as sung by Rosie Grier in Free To Be You And Me  
Crying is wonderful and sometimes I need it.  It empties my chest of painful pressure and fills me up with clean energy.  

I cry a lot but I used to cry more.  Fortunately, I am no longer ashamed of my tears.  Growing up, I was.  I cried in school when I was frustrated, which was often.  I self-identify as having a mathematical learning disability and for being a highly sensitive person.  I got teased a lot about being shorter than average as a kid - in fact, dealing with it was the subject of my college entrance essay. Plus, there was the fact that I was a budding intersectional feminist and so was teased about that from kindergarten onward.  

I hated my sensitivity as a child.  I felt embarrassed and ashamed a lot.  Adults used to tell me that they wished that they were that sensitive but I told them they wouldn't if it caused them to cry and be miserable all the time.  I still think I'm right, at least through the eyes of a child.

However, now I am glad.

My sensitivity causes me to be more aware of the world around me and of what is going on with myself, which helps me take care of myself.  I cry now when I need to cry and I am not ashamed.

The other day I had forgot to return something at work and I felt panicked when I realized that I needed to go back to work and return it immediately.  Then I got even more anxious when I realized that my boss already knew about my mistake.  I handed the item to my coworker and informed her that I was going to go to my car and cry before my shift.  She reassured me that I did not need to, that everybody makes mistakes, but I did need to and it wasn't because I did not know that - it was because I could feel the pressure in my chest and I needed to let it out.  When I got to my car I cried for about five minutes and then I was good and ready to go to work.  

Attending to my emotional needs makes me a better worker but many places would deny this.  Most jobs do not want to support the worker and so the unsupported worker develops health problems from holding their emotions in.  Read the book, The Managed Heart, by Arlie Russell Hoschild for proof.

And then this past weekend, I was with a friend and feeling very rushed.  This made me feel very anxious again and I started to cry.  I pulled over and told my friend how I felt.  I just needed to cry for a little bit and so I did.  And after about five minutes I felt a whole lot better.  I laughed and suggested we go to Waffle House.  She agreed and we had a pleasant dinner together. 

That afternoon as I was crying, I thought to myself, "I am so glad that I am a woman and that I am allowed to cry."  Yes, growing up I felt ashamed of my tears but it was not because I was a girl but just because it happened so often.  I did not feel like I fitted in but at least it was not because of my gender.  Of course, the reason why boys are not allowed to cry is because they are not supposed to emulate little girls.  Little girls are weak.  They are emotional and sensitive and fragile....which are all actually very wonderful things.

I wish men were allowed to cry.  I wish when they felt the pressure building up in their chest they would feel safe enough to let it go.  Of course, in most work environments crying is frowned upon and I am very lucky to have a job where I can safely express my feelings but even so, men experience a much greater degree of stigma related to their tears than women do.

Here's our secret: crying cleanses the soul.  I wish women weren't the only gender allowed to be pure.  It is unfair to make us the ones responsible for  washing away the stains of the patriarchy.

It's 2015, almost 2016, and we still need to hear Rosie Grier sing, It's Alright To Cry.


Tuesday, December 8, 2015

Advent Lessons: Do Not Fear, Welcome Strangers, and Start a Revolution of Love

According to the word that I covenanted with you when you came out of Egypt, so my Spirit remains among you; do not fear. Haggai 2:5 The world is a friendlier place than I think it is. (Me)
My laptop became agonizingly slow. Holiday busy-ness made me agonizingly anxious. Hence, little blogging. It was frustrating for everybody.

 Fortunately, I just bought a new ipad and a fancy new keyboard.  Expensive, but so worth it if you are a writer.  I also finally managed to get back into my routine and so I am feeling less anxious and back in the holiday spirit.  Yay!     

I am now the community coordinator at work.  I love it!  Basically, I have found a way to get paid to play.  

Last Saturday, I took a group of peers to a free holiday party, called the Jingle Bell Jubilee.  Corny name, corny music, but still fun.  Octave, Atlanta's all-female a capella group, needs some diversity, but for the most part, they were good.  I almost always enjoy a free concert.  I did not enjoy the two upper class white guys obviously not aware of their privilege and space who were standing and talking right in the middle of one of the doorways to the refreshment tables.  It was a bit uncomfortable to everyone who had to squeeze by them in order to get the food that was advertised to be available to everyone, not just the men who saw no awkwardness in almost totally occupying a doorway.  Now that I am mentally envisioning the scene I realize that I should have asked them to move.  I didn't because I did not already know them but that really is no excuse for not calling out people unaware of their own privilege. Being more direct and assertive with people is a skill that I am trying to improve.  

The party overall was a good idea, but the best idea was to walk to the MARTA station instead of taking a bus.  We also missed the bus.  I would have had us jump on when it stopped by us but we did not yet know exactly where it was going and hopping on a bus with vague hopes that it will get you where you need to be is best experimented with by one's self.  Here's the thing about walking though: it is harder to walk and read than it is to sit and read, therefore walking leads to more possibilities of human interaction and glimpses of natural beauty, at least to a reader like me.  

Here is when I fear many people would respond in fear-you should not talk to a stranger, you should never accept anything from a stranger, you should certainly never step into a stranger's yard.  Except that we are all strangers in that we all have our own private thoughts and revolutions that we never share with anyone else.  I am proud to say that we did all three.

The end result was glorious.

It was really the man's fault - he was just so eager to share his passion for gardening that he called out to us as we walked by, "Hey! Did you know that if you take a branch from this plant and stick it in the ground, it will grow and spread?  Isn't that great?  Let me tell you all about it!"

He had no idea who we were, except that we looked like a happy bunch.  Turned out he is in law enforcement, considers it his duty to try to prevent more youths from going to jail, has major home and garden renovation plans, is actually supremely pleased that the area is pretty gentrified  because he has lived there forever and now his house is worth a lot and oh, yeah, follows HGTV religiously.

"Everything you need to know is on HGTV!" he would burst out about every five minutes.

The man is, was, a character.  We learned a lot and we laughed a lot.  In the end, we also left with a lot, as he decided to generously give purple plants to anyone that wanted some.  He did not just give a little, either.  People were leaving his yard with armfuls of purple-ness.  Bags and backpacks were overflowing.  When we got back to the center, we spread the plant-love to anyone else who wanted some.

Now I am not stupid.  I joked to one person afterwards, "I may venture into someone's yard, but I am not stepping foot into someone's house that I have never previously met."  She nodded and smiled with relief.  

You know, our society is based on a rhetoric of fear.  In the beginning, we feared a certain type of government, so we created our own.  It would have been better if we had decided we did not need any government because we are compassionate and responsible enough to each rule ourselves in a mutually loving way but that is not the way of man, unfortunately.  

Fear now almost totally rules our society and the whole world today.  The whole Republican party has decided that the famous quote, "We have nothing to fear but fear itself," by FDR was a crock of shit and today their motto could be summed up as, "fear everything that is not you (and by you, we mean only those who are white, male, straight, -cis, able bodied, "Christian"and rich).

BUT 

This is advent.  Strangers, more than ever, are to be trusted at this time of year.  Wise ones from the East followed a star, as dirty, out-on-the-fringes shepherds also trusted mysterious celestial beings.  An innkeeper offered a stable when he had no other room to a young, pregnant foreign couple who, as it turned out, had to go home another way because people in power wanted them dead.  Even the wise people, possible powerful rulers themselves, had to go home in secret also.  

Even more so than at other times, this is the time of year when we are called to not fear but trust in divine possibility, no matter how strange or foreign the source.  All who speak of fear at this time should be ashamed.  You ask me how I can be a Christian feminist?  It is because I follow the way of Christ, whose tradition tells us to be fearless and start a revolution of love and joy, not because of capitalistic expectations but because of a more beneficial gain - the power of love, peace, hope and joy that is available to all, especially to those of us with oppressions, challenges of mental health and otherwise and who believe on erring on the side of idealistic goodness rather than promoting an ideology of fear. 

Talk to strangers, open your heart, call out oppression and always, always, let your living be love. 

artwork by artist HappyBloomMarket

Sunday, November 15, 2015

No One is Alone - Recovery Can Heal the World

This world of ours...must avoid becoming a community of dreadful fear and hate, and be, instead, a proud confederation of mutual trust and respect. ~ Dwight D. Eisenhower
I was thinking the other day about how alone people with depression and other mental illnesses feel. Mental illness lies and tells you that you are the only person who cannot get out of bed or has suicidal thoughts. It tells you that you are utterly alone, that you are a burden. These feelings lead to more despair.

 Recovery is different. Being in recovery means that you take risks and that you talk to other people. Opening up is scary as hell, but so is remaining quiet. There comes a point when a person must decide whether to suffer in silence with no hope of getting better or to take the risk of opening up and possibly achieving a more meaningful life. Opening up is risky. One might be ostracized, bullied or traumatized by certain forms of treatment and unfortunately, all of those things do happen. There is one thing wonderful thing that will happen too though - one will finally realize that they really are not alone at all. Whether going to a hospital, calling a warmline, attending a support group, participating in group therapy, spending time at a peer center or even just talking to a stranger or friend, one will start to make connections.

My first forays into the world of standard mental health treatment were not good. I attended a hospital's outpatient program and I was the only one diagnosed with schizoaffective disorder and the only one experiencing hallucinations. To top it all off, the professionals spent a lot of their time arguing about my diagnosis because while I experienced hallucinations, I did not experience delusions. Apparently, that's weird. I felt like a freak.

On the other hand, at the college I attended I got wonderful support from my friends. It's a little embarrassing when I think of how needy I was. Like the hospital's professionals, the campus therapists had no idea what to do with me - a theme I experienced at college after college - my friends, however, were there for me. I felt reassured when I realized that a lot of my friends were also seeing the same college therapist, even though we had different symptoms.

 It took five years to find a treatment center that actually helped me instead of alienating me. SkyLand Trail was the first place where I met people who had the same diagnosis as me. It helped me feel a lot less alone. Apparently, I was not so weird after all.

As the years went on, I attended different treatment centers and different support groups. Some places and groups were really helpful and healing and some I will have to value just for their learning experience...that I will definitely not attend there again. But here is what I have learned - no one is alone. No matter how weird your diagnosis, there is someone else with the same symptoms. And even if it takes a while to find that person, more people will identify with the recovery process than you will think.

Here is something else that I have learned and some might find it surprising - a person in recovery is blessed with understanding friends and peers in a way that many people are not. I have been seeing a lot of posts lately by friends who are not in recovery about how hard it is to make and keep friends. I do not have this problem at all. In fact, I have so many friends that I struggle to maintain meaningful relationships with all the people I value. This is a good problem to have, although overwhelming at times.

One article that has been circulating my friends' facebook feeds says that it is hard to make friends after college because people today stay holed up in their homes more than they did in the past. People tend to meet less people on a regular basis and so have fewer opportunities to make connections. I am so glad to say that this not true for me. At the Peer Support and Wellness Center that I work at I am blessed with ample opportunities to develop relationships with different people. I work at a place with a supportive atmosphere that makes it relatively easy to open up and get to know both my coworkers and my peers in a deep, meaningful way. All this is not counting the other people that I have met at previous centers and support groups.

Of course, there are other ways to make friends. I have many connections formed at my church, book club, and past colleges, but none that I see or talk to as regularly as my recovery friends, with the exception of the people that I am dating. Even if I did not work at a recovery center, I would still have many recovery circles that I could go back to and receive support from if needed. Even people in rural areas have access to our warmline, as long as they self-identify as having a mental health challenge. Many times I have felt sorry for the common person who does not have a mental health challenge, for they do not have access to as many forms of support and I fully believe that all people need support and opportunities for genuine connections, whether having an illness or not.

Today I am grateful for my mental illnesses because they led me to recovery, which has led me to meet some amazing people. I am inspired and supported by many people on a regular basis. I have the opportunity to inspire and support other people, in turn, too. I think, though, that those of us who have learned how to be good supporters should perhaps take extra care to reach out to our friends who are not involved in the recovery social circle. Not that one needs to be involved in recovery to know how to be supportive, but it does help.  I would like there to be an effort to add support and sharing in spaces that are not specifically recovery oriented.

What if colleges did not trigger mental illnesses in the first place because they promoted positive coping skills for stress? What if all work environments had supportive atmospheres? What if there were more community centers, especially in rural areas, that had many avenues for learning and communing with different people? What if childcare and transportation were more affordable so that people would have the ability to get out of their houses? In short, I would like there to be a radical shift in our culture - recovery is not just for those living with mental illness or addiction, it is a way to heal our world.

Thursday, September 24, 2015

Hugging Does Not Always Help Anxiety - A Lesson in Rape Culture

They pretended to know it all but were illiterate regarding life. (308, The Message Bible)
A couple weekends ago, I attended an arts festival with some friends. I enjoyed spending time with them, even though the festival wasn't quite as good as I thought it would be. At one point, the booths got closer together and the noise got considerably louder, both of which made one of my friends anxious. We were trying to get away from the noise when we came upon a group of young people who had a booth for "free hugs." They were blocking the road, shouting "Free Hugs!" at the top of their lungs and would step towards people, whether the person wanted them to or not. My friend did not want to hug them. To be honest, neither did I.

 "No, thank you," she replied to their advances.

"Oh, come on, everyone loves hugs!" they said.

 "Not right now, I don't," she countered.

 "Yes, you do!" they enthused. They continued to push.

"I HAVE ANXIETY!!" she finally yelled.

"Hugging is good for anxiety!" they said, laughing.

Amazed at their lack of insight and genuine listening or caring, we rushed to the other side of the road, onto the grass as far as we could, so that we would not be forced to hug against our will.

I am not against hugging. But unlike some people, I do not feel like hugging 100% of the time, especially when I am stressed. Contrary to what those young people thought, touch is not always good for anxiety. In fact, many times it is not. When I am anxious and on the verge of a panic attack, my plan of defense is to be as alone as possible in as quiet of an area as possible. Touching may trigger tears, which I am trying to avoid when in public. In those times, it is far better for me to get to where I can be alone, take a few minutes of deep breathing and pull myself together, so that I can enjoy the rest of my day without further incident, instead of hugging someone, crying my eyes out and causing a scene. This need is not unique to me but is probably what my friend was feeling and how I know many people deal with anxiety.

I am amazed at the hugging enthusiasts' lack of boundaries. Why is it that there seems to be a lack of boundary respect in our society? If a child does not want to hug a person, I will hear otherwise progressive people force the child to experience unwanted touch.

This is rape culture.

 It appears harmless, but we are a culture that has grown up knowing that our boundaries are not our own. That we should let people comfort us the way they want to comfort us and not the way we actually need. We learn to put other people's touching needs ahead of our own and over time, it becomes hard to internalize that it is our right to set sensory boundaries. If we teach children that they do not have the right to say no to a hug, then they learn that they do not have the respect to say no to sex later. Likewise, if we tell people with mental health issues that they do not have the right to say no to hugs, then they learn that they do not have the right to make their own healthcare choices. Many people at the center I work at are used to being told how to manage their lives, for they have been taught by well-meaning people in the past that they cannot adequately make decisions about their needs.

We start by respectfully listening to one another. We start by honoring one's request for more or less space, no matter how we personally feel about the activity. We start by making sure that people know that even hugging can be harassment.

Free hugs are great, but only if they come with consent.
Some "Free Hugs" are creepy. 

Sunday, September 20, 2015

A Letter To My Younger Self - Conflict Is Not Inherently Bad

quality of life is directly proportional to the delight you can take in discussion. (19, Plato's Podcasts: The Ancients' Guide to Modern Living, Mark Vernon)
I facilitated the creative writing activity at the Peer Support and Wellness Center a few days ago and my prompt was to write a letter to your younger self.  I've posted similar posts here before.  This time, my writing had a specific theme in mind - that conflict is not always bad.  This is a concept that is very hard for me to get, as I have spent my life petrified of causing and being involved in conflict.  Raised voices trigger me and I am quick to feel invalidated and defensive.  I was amazed when talking with a friend the other day when she said that she actually loves conflict and is good at it.  She sees conflict as a positive learning and growing opportunity.  Her point of view strikes me as very healthy, but very hard for me to wrap my head around.  She encouraged me to confront a person who I thought was not treating me very well.  I had been furious with this person for several days and had promised my friend that I would stand up for myself, instead of being passive aggressive.

I was all set.

I was going to set boundaries and be ferocious.

I was also terrified.

I made the call to set up the appointment for a face-to-face encounter.  She, of course, could only speak on the phone.  I went ahead and asked the question I needed to ask before really letting her have it.....

......and she was nice and polite and totally gave me the answer I had wanted.

There had been no reason for me to be angry in the first place.  There had been nothing wrong - I just needed to have the courage to ask her some clarifying questions.

Once again, my assumptions made an ass out of me.

Immediately after having this conversation I facilitated the creative writing group and so it was with this lesson in mind that I wrote my letter:

Dear Corey,

It is good to stand up for yourself.  Conflict is not bad and does not have to be scary.  Conflict helps people grow.  You are not a bad person or need to feel guilty if you have to ask questions or advocate for yourself.  Even if you have to cause another person discomfort in order to get your needs met.  You deserve to be happy and to have what is important to you understood.

Remember that more people will try to help you and be receptive to your input and ideas than you will give them credit for.  You live in a world of fear, but the world is far more wonderful than you can comprehend.  Spend more of your time basking in the sun of love than in the shadow of fear.

Remember your worth.  

Remember your rights.

Be strong knowing who you are.  You are a person uniquely made and qualified to help make the world a better place and in order to do a good job you must speak your mind.

Your mind is worth sharing.

Never forget,

Love,

Your older yet still learning and growing self.

Tuesday, September 15, 2015

Sight In The Sandstorm Book Review

Sight In The Sandstorm: Jesus In His World And Mine by Ann J. Temkin is the latest speakeasy book that I have recently read.
I thoroughly enjoyed this book.  It is easy to read and makes the gospels come alive with the way Temkin expertly weaves together stories from her own life with stories about Jesus and his disciples.  I really liked that Jesus and his followers seemed like real people with real character defects and struggles.  I liked even more that Temkin especially focuses on Jesus' humanity.  She shows him as a person that struggled with confusion and frustration, often exasperated by his followers failure to get what he was trying to say.  He was someone who wanted support and who often failed to get enough.  Since Jesus was human, he was a person that made mistakes and experienced complex emotion.  Temkin gives us insight as to what some of his mistakes and emotions might be.  I appreciate that kind of insight, as I cannot relate to a perfect person as my savior.

My favorite chapter was chapter 17, "On the Hill Beyond Time," which is about Jesus' execution.  Her writing is very effective and really touched me.  I loved how she equates the suffering that Jesus experienced with all the sufferings that people have experienced throughout all time past, present and future.  Often Jesus is portrayed as this superhuman who has no worries at all, but Temkin knows this cannot be so.  Her Jesus sees his mother at the foot of the cross and is consumed with guilt and worry over her.  He feels unable to do anything to comfort her and in reality, he is unable.  He simply has to deal with the pain that he is experiencing right now and receives no comfort from God.  Oddly enough, this image of an uncomforted Jesus gives me much comfort.  If even the son of God felt totally alone and abandoned by God at times, then I can take comfort in knowing in my times of anguish that I am not alone.  Sometimes, for whatever reason, we cannot hear the voice of God, but Jesus' experience proves that God is still there.  Feelings are not facts.  Recovery from borderline personality disorder has taught me that sometimes I cannot trust my intense feelings, but must instead cling to what I believe to be true.

I recommend this book for an insightful, emotional and thought-provoking read.

Thursday, August 27, 2015

The Blues Beast Will Help You Learn Mindfulness

Do not fear, Daniel, for from the first day that you set your heart to understand, and to humble yourself before your God, your words were heard and I have come because of your words. Daniel 12:3
Today at the Decatur Peer Support and Wellness Center I led creative writing for the first time.  I showed my peers a picture I took and asked them to write about how it inspired them.  I thought I would post the picture and the short story that I wrote about it because people said it was comforting.  I was thinking of how good I usually feel when I walk on the beltline looking at the art, which is where I took the picture.  I asked myself, "what would this piece of art say to me?"  I hope this bit of writing makes you feel better too.


I love walking on the beltline.  I walk my blues away.

Today is different - I feel restless and sad.

I see a monster painted onto a small building and I sit down beside him.

"He must be lonely too," I think.
"Maybe we can be lonely together."

All of a sudden, I feel a puff of stale air at my back and then there is a huge yawn.

"Oh!  I am so glad to have some company today," the monster says. "Do you feel blue? The people who come to me are the special people who need some love.  I know I look scary but appearances are not always what they seem.  I am the Blues Beast and I eat up people's blues.  I have claws and fangs and horns to scare them away.  People pass me by not knowing how hard I am working, but I can be your friend.  Stay right here for a while and you will feel better.  Listen to the birds, feel the breeze, surrender to the moment and I will chase your blues away.  All you have to do is sit back and relax."

"Thank you, Mr. Monster, sir."

I sit down and feel comforted.  Not all monsters are bad.  The monsters in plain sight are certainly better than the monsters in my head.
*******************************************
Basically, what this monster is advocating for is known as mindfulness, which is the art of appreciating the present moment.  Being mindful makes it easier to appreciate the world around you and it has transformed my life.  If you would like to work with me on becoming better at mindfulness, contact me at hopeisreal42@yahoo.com.


Sunday, August 23, 2015

Wisdom Comes From Experience; Recovery Comes From Practice

Those who are wise shall shine like the brightness of the firmament. Daniel 12:3
Wisdom often comes from experience and from working hard. People seem to view wisdom as something coming spontaneously and naturally, but in my experience, it is usually acquired through hardship and lots of intentional practice. I certainly do not think that one can be wise without a whole lot of self-awareness. 

 Tomorrow, a co-worker and I are sharing our recovery stories and our coping skills with an audience who have recently been diagnosed and are learning coping skills themselves. 

This is some of what I will be sharing:
Because I was impulsive and had suicidal feelings, but did not want to continue the cycle of always going to the hospital, I really had to invest my time (and money) into learning coping skills. I practiced the coping skills taught in DBT every day and I still use the skills I learned on a daily basis. Some of them are distracting myself when I feel impulsive, doing something pleasurable every day to keep my mood more pleasurable and to spend more time appreciating the world around me and the good things that are happening instead of dwelling on the bad. 
I also know how to validate myself and self-soothe myself when feeling bad. Other things I know I must do are eating fairly healthy and balanced meals, getting enough sleep, having regular “me” time, journaling out strong feelings or racing thoughts, learning how to ask for what I need, setting healthy boundaries and saying “no” when I need to, belonging to communities, such as my church and my book club, exploring my creative side and talking with people. I do see a therapist once a month and a doctor every few months. 
I have found talking about my mental health journey to be incredibly rewarding and validating. I speak at events whenever I can and write a mental health blog. Being able to talk about my experiences and help and support others is incredibly empowering and gives meaning to a time when I felt there was none. I encourage everyone to talk about their recovery with others, even if it is just one other person. Realizing that people will not run away scared when confronted with my story, but are instead impressed and inspired inspires me to keep reaching for my dreams and to keep on sharing my story. It validates that I have a story worth sharing and I firmly believe that all of you do too. 
If I could leave you with three things, it would be: practice, practice, practice. People that only have gotten to know me in the last year or two think that I have always been mentally healthy. That is absolutely not so. Becoming a healthier person has been intentional and a slow process, often very frustrating. Fortunately, over time, I have witnessed my life becoming better and better and myself becoming more and more capable at handling it. Becoming better takes a lot of practice.
 (Maybe I am able to be focused and practice more easily because of my early piano lessons. Photo by Woodleywonderworks, a creative commons license.)

Monday, August 17, 2015

My God is Loving and Good and Angry - A Book Critique

My new job is very fulfilling, but it gives me less time to read and to review books.  Here is my book review for the Speakeasy book, A More Christlike God by Bradley Jersak.  I have read other books, some that I have liked a lot more, but unfortunately I might never review them because of time.
I feel conflicted about this book.  On the one hand, there are many beautiful passages about God's love that I wrote down in my quote book, but on the other hand, I disagree with Jersak on many points.  His main point is that people put their own inadequate images of God on God, but that the most accurate description can be found in the story of Jesus the Christ.  An interesting proposition and I am not sure if I agree or disagree.  What I do know is that I believe Bradley Jersak does not paint an accurate picture of Jesus and so I do not think he paints an effective or accurate description of God either.

According to Jersak, Jesus never seems to get angry and when he does get angry it is just satire or metaphor.  He also does not think that God has feelings - that saying, "God is angry," is just anthropomorphizing.  I find both of those ideas abhorrent.

I think God and Jesus are furious.

No, I do not think that God is going to send anybody to Hell because I do not believe in a physical Hell, but I do think that God is angry.

You see, there is a difference between righteous anger and self-righteous anger.  It is good to be rightfully angry - it is not good or helpful to be self-righteous and full of one's self.  Righteously angry is Jesus - self-righteous are the Pharisees.

It is right to be angry about injustice.  Anger is an emotion that propels many people to change evil systems.  I am part of a mental health revolution right now fueled partly by anger at the many ways the traditional medical model messes people up.

It is not right to be angry that your privileges as a white male are being levelled out.

You see the difference?

My God experiences emotion.  If Jesus shares my pain, is human and yet is also God, then God shares my painful feelings.  Therefore, God experiences emotion.  I think to deny God the full range of emotion is to deny Her a relationship with human beings.

Therefore, God experiences anger, rage, and fury, especially when confronted with the injustices in our world.  Anger is not a bad emotion, but it does need to be handled responsibly and constructively.  I believe God is the force that allows us to turn from tearing people down to building people up.  God is the force that allows us to turn unadulterated rage into something positive.

Now, I do think that Jersak was right in asserting that God is pure love and pure goodness.  But again, I think constructive righteous anger IS loving.  It is love for humanity and God that propels a person to be angry at injustice in the first place!  If we did not love and care for each other, then we would not consider anything wrong with oppressing other people.

Of course, it is all too easy to become stagnant and say, "yes, I see the problem," but do nothing about it.  It is true love that will prompt a person to change, to prompt a person to work towards a constructive positive solution for injustice instead of just giving up in apathy or giving in to homicidal impulses.

My God is good, loving and kind.  She is also angry  - angry enough to be able to turn people's hearts from mere stone to a pulsing organ of love.  She is angry enough to cut through the bullshit and turn people towards the truth.

My God is angry and I am glad.  I am angry too and with our anger we can change the world into the kindom it was originally intended to be.

Blessed be.

(Side note - I had other disagreements with the author, but these points were the ones I felt the most strongly.)

Friday, August 14, 2015

'Not In My Community' Mentality Helps No One

It was a place to stand. Sing to new stars; speak to new dirt. Two planted legs to help keep me upright for the next couple of decades. First we love music. Then we love food. Many years later, we evolve high enough to love another - if we're lucky. (from Variable Star by Robert A. Heinlein)
The Peer Support and Wellness Center where I work is a place where people have evolved high enough to love each other.  We sing, we cook, we eat and that's just what happens at a staff meeting!  It's a truly special place.

After tonight's staff meeting, I was pulled over by a cop because apparently I did not fully stop at the stop sign.  I thought I did, but it is certainly possible that I did not.  I will say that I was definitely embarrassed since he pulled me over on the same street as the center and I was afraid that a co-worker was going to drive-by any second and wonder why there was a flashing police car stopped behind me.  The police officer was very nice and even made some small talk, which was a little weird.  I told him that I was coming home from work and when he found out where I was coming from he informed me that it must be a good place because he hardly ever had to go there, which is a backhanded compliment if I ever heard one.   He also said that a lot of the neighbors in that residential area didn't want us there when the center was first formed.  That information did not surprise me, but it did make me very sad.  I still feel a bit upset.

People seem to agree that there needs to be community services and support for people with mental health challenges.  Our society seems to now know that locking people up in hospitals is not usually for the best.  We also seem to have substituted hospitals for prisons and that is very disturbing, but every major consensus seems to be that we need more community support.  More treatment and support options near people's homes would lead to more people staying well, which will lead to a more stable economy and society and yet when the reality hits that it's time to build a community support for people with mental health challenges, people in the residential area get upset.

Yes, we need more community support options....just not in my community.

This mindset infuriates the hell out of me, because it's not as if one out of every four people in the United States does not live with a mental health challenge.  It's not as if there are not people hiding behind their doors worried that others will find out about their diagnosis.  It's not as if mental illness is not already a part of every community, all the time.  Talking about mental health and supporting those with mental health challenges in one area will not hinder progress, but propel it.  The only way to break the stigma surrounding mental illness is to talk about it.  The only way to get support for mental health challenges is by reaching out and the only way to get out of stigma's depression is by surrounding one's self with people who understand.

We, at the Peer Support and Wellness Center understand and because we understand, we are more compassionate people.  We are people who know how to offer support and a listening ear, a kind touch.  We know how to laugh, how to create art and how to feed each other's souls.  Now wouldn't you want people like that as your neighbor?

Of course, if you believe the stigma and the media's hype then you would assume that we are dangerous.  Surely we must be loud, annoying, highly dramatic and ticking time bombs intent on murdering everyone in the neighborhood.

 Actually, it is the opposite.

 We oftentimes have to support our peers at the center who are afraid for their lives because of the stigma of mental illness.  I have heard from many people that they are afraid of harassment from the cops, their employers, their church members, family and friends if word should get out that they are living with mental health challenges.  Like I have said before, a person with mental illness is far more likely to be abused and bullied than to inflict that pain on others.

How do I know?

Because every time a community member says, "don't build here - stay away from me," then violence is being done to a person with mental illness.  Ironically, the action claiming to be for safety is actually creating more fear and violence for others.

Those who work at the Peer Support and Wellness Center have worked really hard on their recovery and on becoming more stable people.  In fact, in reality we may be the most mental healthy people in town.  I have found that those who were once the most mentally broken can become the most mentally whole and as such are highly worthy community teachers and supporters.

My roommate told me tonight that all people are concerned about is how much value their housing area will have - we with mental health challenges have much to offer of value.  Acknowledging, supporting and engaging with people with mental illness adds value to one's community because it will lessen fear and open up gateways for redemptive friendships.

I hope the neighborhood that our center is at now considers us a worthy neighbor.  Because we are.  People with mental health challenges have much to offer the world if the world will only let us.  Stigma and mental health bias hurts everyone - let us love everyone instead.


Saturday, August 8, 2015

Mindfulness Leads to Acceptance, Change and Gratitude


O [wo]man greatly beloved, fear not! Peace be to you; be strong, yes, be strong! Daniel 10:18


I recently did a presentation on mindfulness at NAMI Augusta's Women's Empowerment Conference and for those of you that missed it, here is part of my speech:

Mindfulness is taught through DBT, but one doesn’t need to take a class or have a diagnosis in order to start receiving the benefits.  I believe that most people can learn mindfulness if they have patience and an open mind and that it can definitely benefit everyone.

Mindfulness is about staying in touch with one’s “wise mind.” Wise mind is the state that balances one’s emotions and one’s logic.  In DBT and in Buddhism, one tries to be with one’s wise mind instead of living with the extremes of logic and being detached from life or the extreme or emotion and becoming too impulsive.



Mindfulness lets one stay in the present moment and I would say that being in the present is one of the keys to happiness.  Most people stay stuck in the past or worry about the future and while it is good to reflect on the past and learn from it and it is good to plan for the future, constantly thinking about the past or the future will keep a person stuck in a dark or worrisome mood.  Mindfulness is about accepting one’s current reality, instead of hiding from it. Paradoxicallly, when a person can accept their current situation, then they are better able to change it because they are no longer running away from their problem or uncomfortable feeling, but facing it head-on.

Pay attention to your body.  How does your body feel like when you are becoming stressed?  Learn to listen to your body and if you catch yourself tensing up, do some mindfulness exercises then and see if you can prevent your anxiety from getting worse.  Deep breathing.  Breath deep from your diaphragm – you are breathing through your nose and will feel even your back opening up.  Purposely make your inhalations and exhalations slow.  Some people find it helpful to count.  I have trouble concentrating on numbers, but I do concentrate on words.  As I breathe in, I think of a positive word or phrase, like “Love,” or “Thank you” and then I let it go when I exhale.  This helps me concentrate of the positive word, instead of what I was previously anxious about.  It is helpful to know that if you struggle with this, you’re not alone.  Many people struggle with mindfulness in the beginning.  When you notice your mind start to wander nonjudgmentally bring it back to the word or number and start deep breathing again.  The more you practice, the easier it will be.   

Mindfulness can also bring me back to an attitude of gratitude.  When I start to feel anxious or just grumpy, I look around me for something to admire or to feel grateful about. This is called “participating” in DBT. That way, I am not stuck in my head, but in the present moment admiring the beauty of the world around me.  I may look out the window and notice how gorgeous the sunset is or how mysterious my cat’s eyes seem to be or try to think something that happened recently that I can feel good about.
(The sunset at Sunset Beach)

  I find that when I write down what I’m grateful for often enough, I start to notice positive things more often, which in turn helps me feel more positive in the long run.  It’s not that we are running away from problems or never have to feel uncomfortable, but that when we notice the positive things in life, we are less stressed, which will give us the peace of mind to handle our problems in a more constructive, clear-headed manner.   I write down what I am grateful  for several times a day on an app called Happier and I write a gratitude list every night before I go to bed.  It really does help even my moods.

 Those are several of the ways that I use mindfulness.  There are many more ways.  If you would like to learn more about mindfulness, you can study DBT, Buddhism, listen to recordings.  You can also contact to work with me.  (look at the top right side of this page for my contact info.)
  

Tuesday, July 28, 2015

Mental Health Anarchy

You see, love is energy. The soul is a huge vast place, and lots of it is dark, and it's full of energy and power, and thus can be bad, but it can be good, and that's the work, to change bad energy into good, when we desire good things and are attracted magnetically by them. (Plato's Podcasts: The Ancients' Guide to Modern Living by Mark Vernon, 20)
I was telling my dad the other day about how there are no badges worn at the place where I work to differentiate the staff from the other participants, he exclaimed,  
That's anarchy!
I smiled inwardly in delight and agreed.  Yes, it is anarchy to have a place where everyone is a peer - staff and participants alike are equals in that they both have a shared experience (in this case, self-identifying as having a mental health challenge and very likely also having an addictive disease) and can learn from each other in a mutually beneficial way.  This IS anarchy and it is good.  In the United States, anarchy has been twisted to mean chaos, but that is not classically so - libertarian anarchy is a system where people govern themselves in a mutual and interdependent way.  It is compassionate and life-affirming - it is outside the patriarchy and I believe it is a possible way to bring heaven to earth.  It is about building relationships between equals and feeling personally responsible for one another because while the one in power will abuse power, the one in love will uplift all. (This is why I still resist the title of Jesus as king and favor instead the image of Jesus as friend).  To those who work from a place of love, redeeming, empowering abundant life is given - to those who come in power death of the soul is certain.

The traditional mental health-care systems torture many souls by keeping them alive, but retraumatizing them at every turn by constantly re-enforcing systems of power over and dominance.  It is only when systems embrace  a philosophy of power with that true healing can begin.  Good therapists do this by earning clients' trust and then teaching them how to trust in themselves.  CPS's do this even further by saying,
I, too, have through Hell and am now well - you, can do this too, so let us learn and grow together.
 This is a concept that I believe in my whole soul, both as a theology student (Self-directed studying counts!) and as an experiencer of life who has been shown and thus follows the way of faith and hope.

I work in a profession that promotes anarchy - shhh! don't tell the government agency that funds us - we just might dismantle the harmful mental health system and achieve true loving equality despite ourselves.

*Many thanks to Noam Chomsky's book, On Anarchy, for helping me understand the true redemptive and equalizing force of libertarian anarchy (not to be confused with the United States' libertarian political party).


Wednesday, July 22, 2015

Mark 5, Mental Health and a New Job

I spoke at my church last Sunday in a service about mental health based on the scripture Mark 5.  Here is what I said about my new job:
I just got a part-time job at the Decatur Peer Support and Wellness Center, a place that believes in focusing on strengths, not illness; on hope, not fear; on compassionate peer support, instead of cold, clinical diagnosis. I believe in these things too. I feel like my possibilities are endless now.  
Here is Mark 5 and how I related the verses about the man living among the tombs to my own life.
Mark 5 New International Version (NIV) Jesus Restores a Demon-Possessed Man 5 They went across the lake to the region of the Gerasenes.[a] 2 When Jesus got out of the boat, a man with an impure spirit came from the tombs to meet him. 3 This man lived in the tombs, and no one could bind him anymore, not even with a chain. 4 For he had often been chained hand and foot, but he tore the chains apart and broke the irons on his feet. No one was strong enough to subdue him. 5 Night and day among the tombs and in the hills he would cry out and cut himself with stones. 
6 When he saw Jesus from a distance, he ran and fell on his knees in front of him. 7 He shouted at the top of his voice, “What do you want with me, Jesus, Son of the Most High God? In God’s name don’t torture me!” 8 For Jesus had said to him, “Come out of this man, you impure spirit!” 
9 Then Jesus asked him, “What is your name?” 
“My name is Legion,” he replied, “for we are many.” 10 And he begged Jesus again and again not to send them out of the area. 
11 A large herd of pigs was feeding on the nearby hillside. 12 The demons begged Jesus, “Send us among the pigs; allow us to go into them.” 13 He gave them permission, and the impure spirits came out and went into the pigs. The herd, about two thousand in number, rushed down the steep bank into the lake and were drowned. 
14 Those tending the pigs ran off and reported this in the town and countryside, and the people went out to see what had happened. 15 When they came to Jesus, they saw the man who had been possessed by the legion of demons, sitting there, dressed and in his right mind; and they were afraid. 16 Those who had seen it told the people what had happened to the demon-possessed man—and told about the pigs as well. 17 Then the people began to plead with Jesus to leave their region. 
18 As Jesus was getting into the boat, the man who had been demon-possessed begged to go with him. 19 Jesus did not let him, but said, “Go home to your own people and tell them how much the Lord has done for you, and how he has had mercy on you.” 20 So the man went away and began to tell in the Decapolis[b] how much Jesus had done for him. And all the people were amazed.
I am like the man in the tombs and so are many others.  Borderline personality disorder and schizophrenia are labels that scare many people.  I have seen papers where psychiatrists and psychologists have called people with BPD “monsters” and it is common to see schizophrenia associated with violence in the media, when the truth is that people with mental illness are much more likely to be abused, scapegoated and bullied than to cause the violence themselves.  Because of the stigma, I have felt that I could tell no one what I was going through and that there was no way that people could truly love or value me.  This belief caused me to do desperate things in order to get my needs met.  The good news is that the man in the tombs was healed and so was I.  I believe he was healed by the bringing of him back into community, for it is community where we belong and it is community that we are healed.  We need people and we need God-just as we are in a relationship with God, we are in a relationship with the world and our communities.  It is a reciprocal relationship, as God and community have given so much to me, so I too have much to offer the world.  It needs to be recognized that people with mental illness, no matter how severe, have community value and the potential to change and grow.  We all have value.  We all have the ability to change and grow, just like Jesus and the man he healed, into our own resurrection and redemption. 

Wednesday, July 1, 2015

A Recovery Revolution

Cause my dry bones to live and breath life into my soul. Awaken my senses. Fill me with wonder. May I speak with Spirit. Ezekiel 23 7:19
Again, you can replace "Spirit" with "Recovery."

As a feminist, I love the word and the notion of revolution.  As a Christian, I think all forms of revolution should be loving and soul-affirming.  That's why I loved the certified peer training - it was continually reiterated that we were part of a mental health recovery revolution dismantling the harmful beliefs and practices of the old medical treatment model.  The old system is patriarchal, dominating and invalidating, seeing people as problems, diagnoses and disorders who need to be controlled.  The new recovery way affirms the whole person, looking to build upon a person's strengths instead of their weaknesses, to motivate and encourage instead of simply stabilizing and managing symptoms.  Yesterday I had a job interview at the Decatur Peer Wellness Center and I was impressed on how the goal is to always support the peer, no matter what.  As I told the director, "if the person is not presenting an issue like a problem, then I won't treat it as a problem."  This is different from the old model that tells you whether and when you are ready for your next step, instead of letting the person decide on their own.  In my experience, when people do not put their own assumptions in the way of my dreams then I soar.

 There was a time while attending the treatment center, SkyLand Trail, that I expressed that I wanted a job.  The staff encouraged me to find one myself in something I was interested in and I got a volunteer job helping a music therapist.  It was great and I flourished.  When I had a family meeting a month later, a staff member said that they were glad that it was working out because they were worried in the beginning that I was becoming manic.  If they had acted on their fear and stopped me from applying to jobs, then my recovery would have suffered and my dreams would have been crushed.  Fortunately, they did not give in to their assumptions and I was allowed to soar.

 When we do not allow people the freedom to make mistakes, we also do not give them the freedom to fly.  Before one flies, one will fall - what we need is support, encouragement and resources for flight, not negativity, discouragement and preconceived notions of what we can do.  There is no way to know what one can do without trying it out first.

 We need to be encouraged to see mistakes as learning and growth opportunities and not as symptoms of our diseases.  We need validation that we are loving beings always capable of doing better.

 We are not manipulative, but seeking ways of fulfilling our needs.  We are not "non-compliant," but dissatisfied with our options.  We are not "attention-seeking," but needing encouragement and validation.

This is my revolution - let us awaken mental healthcare's senses and fill them with the wonder of what we can achieve.

Wednesday, June 24, 2015

Who I Am

I am making a series of videos where I answer questions about mental health.  This one addresses my identity and what I would like people to know about mental health and mental illness.  Enjoy my pictures!

Thursday, June 18, 2015

CPS Inspiration

I am nearing the end of the first week of my consumer peer specialist (CPS) training and I am tired.  I have many topics that I want to write about, but I am too exhausted to put a lot of thought into a blog post and yet I still want to share.  And so, I am going to post something that does not require a lot of thought, but still might be helpful.  As we have talked and learned about so many recovery topics this week, many helpful and inspirational phrases penetrated my mind and each time I wrote them down to remember.  Many times I posted them on twitter! I am going to post the sayings that have helped me - let me know which ones you like best.


  1. Bring the good when everybody sees the bad.
  2. Shared vulnerability is powerful.
  3. When people do not think recovery is possible, they need to see role models of possibility.
  4. It is not the diagnosis, but the beliefs about it that determine the outcome.
  5. You got to meet people where they are at.
  6. There is no growth in the comfort zone.  There is no comfort in the growth zone.
  7. Accepting my mental illness put me on the road of recovery.
  8. Feelings aren't facts, just feelings.
  9. Life breaks us all.  Some of us become stronger in our broken places.
  10. The pain of our past is powerful.
  11. Generational poverty is traumatic.
  12. Bullies are bullies because they do not feel empowered.
  13. Listen to learn and support, not to fix.
  14. What you listen for is what you will hear.
  15. Scars and scabs are signs that healing has occurred or is in the process.
  16. What is it you don't think you can do?  Maybe you can.
  17. What are you afraid of?
  18. Why do you think people think you cannot do something?
  19. What is the story that is holding you back?
  20. We have a right to decide what goes on and in our bodies.
  21. I know myself better than any doctor does.

Tuesday, May 26, 2015

Vlog - Disability is Natural

Here is a vlog that further explains something I was talking about in my recent post, Combating Ableism at a Wellness Fair.
Link Love:

 I recognize that everything might not turn out okay.
To live without acceptance is to live in a world that doesn’t really exist.  It’s to block our reality in the hopes that not mentally acknowledging something will make it not really real.
But it’s also to deprive ourselves of the ability to change situations we don’t like.  Because when it comes down to it, we can’t really change that which we don’t accept.


Thursday, May 21, 2015

Recovery Is... The GA CPS Code of Ethics

I will put my Spirit within you and cause you to walk in my statues, and you will keep my judgements and do them Ezekiel 36:26-27
You can call that Spirit recovery if you want.  Recovery is when you are no longer totally defined by your mental illness.  Recovery is when you want to tell people about your redemption - that you will always have mental illness, but that it does not control or demean you.  Recovery is when you make mistakes, but you do not let them turn your life into a crisis.  Recovery is when you recognize your worth as a valuable human being, deserving of dignity, respect and love.

I am very excited because I have been accepted to the next Georgia CPS (certified peer specialist) training.  A CPS is a person doing well in recovery who helps other people who have mental illness by relating to them as a peer.  Fundamental to the CPS training is the belief that all people deserve respect and to be as integrated into society as much as possible.  We have a code of ethics that I think are pretty great, so for American Psychological Association's Mental Health Blog Day (unfortunately, I am a day late), I am posting most of the GA CPS Code of Ethics.  I hope they inspire you as much as they inspire me.

GA Certified Peer Specialist Code of Ethics

  1. The primary responsibility of Certified Peer Specialists is to help individuals achieve their own needs, wants, and goals.  Certified Peer Specialists will be guided by the principle of self-determination for all. 

  1. Certified Peer Specialists will maintain high standards of personal conduct.  Certified Peer Specialists will also conduct themselves in a manner that fosters their own recovery.  

  1. Certified Peer Specialists will openly share with consumers and colleagues their recovery stories from mental illness and will likewise be able to identify and describe the supports that promote their recovery.

  1. Certified Peer Specialists will, at all times, respect the rights and dignity of those they serve.

  1. Certified Peer Specialists will never intimidate, threaten, harass, use undue influence, physical force or verbal abuse, or make unwarranted promises of benefits to the individuals they serve.

  1. Certified Peer Specialists will not practice, condone, facilitate or collaborate in any form of discrimination on the basis of ethnicity, race, sex, sexual orientation, age, religion, national origin, marital status, political belief, mental or physical disability, or any other preference or personal characteristic, condition or state.

  1. Certified Peer Specialists will advocate for those they serve that they may make their own decisions in all matters when dealing with other professionals.

  1. Certified Peer Specialists will respect the privacy and confidentiality of those they serve.

  1. Certified Peer Specialists will advocate for the full integration of individuals into the communities of their choice and will promote the inherent value of those individuals to those communities.  Certified Peer Specialists will be directed by the knowledge that all individuals have the right to live in the least restrictive and least intrusive environment.

  1. Certified Peers Specialists will keep current with emerging knowledge relevant to recovery, and openly share this knowledge with their colleagues.

Monday, May 18, 2015

Combating Ableism at a Wellness Fair

Recently I attended a wellness fair and on the brochure was this ableist statement:
Health is a state of complete harmony of the body, mind and spirit. When one is free from physical disabilities and mental distractions the gates of the soul open. ~B.K.S
I say "ableist" because it does not acknowledge that the concept of health is on a spectrum and it discounts those with chronic disabilities.
It is ableist to say that a person with a chronic disability cannot still be healthy.
When a person has a chronic disability, their locus of health must be resituated.  Health is no longer not being physically and mentally unwell, but on having peace of mind, on having a life worth living, however differently that may look to each person.  To say that a blind person or a person with depression can never have "the gates of the soul open" is oppressive.  It puts society's view of health on a hierarchy over an individual's view of health.

I say the gates of the soul are open whenever someone has an open mind, heart and spirit.  Whenever a person is willing to entertain the thought that there might be more creative, more positive ways of living then their soul is opened.  Whenever a person is willing to forgive or love more deeply then their soul is opened.  Whenever a person strives towards justice and peace instead of vengeance then their soul is opened.

It is healthy to strive for less "mental distractions" even if one is still experiencing them.  It is healthy to try to take care of one's body, even if one's body will always be disabled in some way.  As I have said over and over on this blog, all bodies will become disabled one day - disability is a natural process that happens as one ages and so it is also ageist to say that physical and mental handicaps automatically make one unhealthy.

Our society likes to put people in divisive categories such as, fit and unfit, well and unwell, healthy and unhealthy, but it would actually be a lot more accurate to put people's conditions and characteristics on a spectrum.  One can be disabled and still be healthy. One does not need to be in perfect health to have an open and willing soul.
 (in Ashville)

Link Love:
Sadly, we spend just under 50% of our life in the present moment. “That means for almost 50% of our waking hours we’re worrying about the future or ruminating over the past and not engaged with, or enjoying, what we’re doing in the present moment,” says Soloway.


New research suggests that in matriarchies, there is no divine masculine per se, because though men have their own important roles, both males and females are encouraged to embody the values associated with mothers and mothering—in other words to be loving, giving, caring, and generous. In this context there is no opposition or sharp contrast between the divine masculine, the divine feminine, and any other divine gender or transgender.

People with SEID needed a term to better describe what’s going on in their bodies: systemic (affecting the whole body); exertion (associated with both mental and physical exertion); intolerance (specific impairment, like in gluten intolerance); disorder — a very real and very serious medical condition.
/
He adds that parents shouldn’t be concerned that serious talks about mental health will somehow suggest suicide to teens. “Adults are often worried that if they talk about suicide it will put the idea into their kid’s head. This just isn’t how it works


Monday, May 11, 2015

Faraway - A Book Review

Here is my last Speakeasy book review for a while:
Faraway: A Suburban Boy's Story as a Victim of Sex Trafficking by R.K. Kline and Daniel D. Maurer  - I must say, I was a little wary of reading a book about sex trafficking, but I was pleasantly surprised.  The book is a fast read and actually enjoyable, although tragic.  I would NOT recommend finishing reading it at your psychiatrist's office like I did, as you will have to quickly dry your tears.

We first saw Daniel D. Maurer's work in Sobriety, which I thoroughly enjoyed, and he expertly makes R.K. Kline's important story engaging.  Kline's story is important because it highlights how common sex trafficking is in suburbia and for boys.  It is a misconception that all sex trafficking victims are women, but it is women and girls who get the most attention because of homophobia and misogyny.

 Homophobia is the real villain in this book.  From an early age, Kline knew that it was not okay to be out as gay.  His desperation for intimacy and validation from other men was part of what made him such an easy target for the sex trade.  The knowledge that he could not tell anyone of what was happening for fear of being outed made the situation that much worse.

It is sad to note that the place that put young Kline in danger also provided him with his most real and faithful friends.  Through shared adversity, Kine found friends that acted as surrogate family and protectors.  The place that showed him what true friendship and validation is also ended up being the thing that destroys his and his friends' lives.  Now Kline lives with PTSD and wants people to know more about the complex issues surrounding male sex trafficking.  I was very glad for the afterward by Drs. Anthony Marcus and Ric Curtis that detailed relevant research about today's attitudes and issues surrounding teenage sex trafficking.

Faraway is a sobering book that will shock and sadden you and yet it is very readable.  I recommend it for parents and activists alike.  You can also follow Daniel Maurer on facebook and on twitter.

Link Love:
Dippyman - Throwing the book at depression
If you can find something positive in each day, however small, it starts a positive cycle. It gradually builds up so that you’re encouraged and reminded to keep looking – and when times are particularly hard, the stuff you’ve written down is your evidence against the accusing voice telling you you’re not good enough and that nothing good ever happens

CNN - 'Alone time' is really good for you

Our brains need to rest and recharge in order to function as well as we want them to. So even if you're not an introvert, alone time is still important for processing and reflecting.