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.

Friday, January 23, 2015

It's Time to Talk About Suicidal Ideations

Only through consciously remembering the past can we resolve the difficulties and strength that often lie within our past. (Monica A. Coleman, Making a Way Out of No Way, 104)
********Trigger Warning: I talk about Suicidal Ideation
I just completed writings about some of my biggest memories of my life about my episodes of suicidal ideation.  I did this for the "Paul G. Quinnett Lived Experience Writing Contest" for the American Association of Suicidology.

I had suicidal ideations almost every day for over half my life and it is only been one year since I stopped having them entertain me on a daily basis.  It is glorious! I feel free, which I wrote about in my contest entry.  I also wrote about how desperate I felt after being infiltrated with suicidal thoughts day in and day out for so many years.

At first I thought that my subject matter was too morbid to be worth writing.  I thought that surely a narrative that is solely focused on hope and recovery is a much better endeavor, but as I was writing a new thought formed-is not suicidal ideation the most untalked about and stigmatized aspect of mental illness?  We can talk to our friends about feeling a little down and bipolar disorder has even gained some acceptance in popular discourse, but talk about suicide?  That's too scary.

It is scary to think that someone you love is struggling with suicidal thoughts.  Or perhaps even worse, that those thoughts are so common that the person has gotten used to them.  Is that even a life worth living?  We do not want to think about it.  We want to talk about pursuing recovery and offer hope, which are, of course, very good things and worth talking about, but one thing that I have learned from DBT is that I cannot progress if I do not acknowledge where I have been and where I currently am.  If you suspect someone is struggling with suicidal thoughts, don't ignore the issue.  Do not pretend like if you do not talk about it then it will go away, because most likely, it will not.  We worry about how to prevent suicide, well, the first step is to get people comfortable with talking about it.  Right now, there is a stigma against talking about suicidal feelings and thoughts, so people do not talk about it and feel that they are alone, when they are not.  The only way to overcome the stigma of talking about suicide is by talking about it.  There is no other shortcut.  I know it is uncomfortable to think about and to talk about, but the only way that we can grow as a culture is if we throw our insecurities aside and actually talk about how we feel.

We may find that we are not alone.  We may find out that we are loved.  We may be able to get help sooner, but we cannot find out any of these thigs if we do not first talk about the hard thoughts and feelings that we experience.

And so I think my experience of living in a suicidal Hell is an important story.  Perhaps when people read my story they will see that they are not alone too.  Hopefully, they will get a sense of realizing that telling my story has not made me worse, but, in fact, has made me better.  Our stories give our lives meaning and my story ultimately is one of hope.  I lived for over twenty years with suicidal thoughts on a daily basis and that is not my reality anymore.  I know what it is like to suffer and to feel invalidated and so I want to validate your story: you are important, no matter how you feel or think.

If you are struggling with suicidal ideations, you can always call the National Suicide Prevention Hotline at 1-800-273-TALK (8255).

Link Love:

The New York Times -ToFall in Love With Anyone, Do This 

It’s astounding, really, to hear what someone admires in you. I don’t know why we don’t go around thoughtfully complimenting one another all the time.

The New York Times - What’s Wrong With ‘All Lives Matter’?


When we are taking about racism, and anti-black racism in the United States, we have to remember that under slavery black lives were considered only a fraction of a human life, so the prevailing way of valuing lives assumed that some lives mattered more, were more human, more worthy, more deserving of life and freedom, where freedom meant minimally the freedom to move and thrive without being subjected to coercive force. But when and where did black lives ever really get free of coercive force?  […]Whiteness is less a property of skin than a social power reproducing its dominance in both explicit and implicit ways.   
                   
Shakesville – I Write Letters
There is no neutral in rape culture. Being silent is not neutral, and talking about what a great guy an accused rapist is sure as shit isn't neutral, either.                   
                                                                                  


Friday, January 16, 2015

December 2015 Book Reviews

The Dark Crystal 1983 Comics – I got this two comic series at the last DragonCon and they are delightful.  It’s interesting to see how comics have evolved over the years-the quality of the graphics are definitely not up to today’s usual standards, but reading the story was great.  (I am a huge Jim Henson fan and I own the movie version.  An acquaintance recently said she hated The Dark Crystal and my heart literally hurt.)  While I love so many of the characters, Fizzgig stole the book.  OMG-the pictures of him were just hilarious and adorable.  I will absolutely name my next pet after him. 
It was also much more apparent when reading the story of the Christian elements present-it speaks of the trinity in metaphor and the story took on even more spiritual meaning for me.  I had never gotten that the Skisis and the Mystics are two parts of the same being, who must die in order to be whole again and move onto a higher enlightenment.  Very deep.  I am in awe of how Jim Henson took Christian and other spiritual religious concepts and made them palatable to all kinds of people.  I love him.
Fire in the Streets by Kekla Magoon – This is the follow-up to The Rock and The River and I loved it.  In fact, I liked it better than the first book, which is rare.  It is the continuation of the story of what happens with the burgeoning Black Panthers group in Chicago, but this time told from the point of view of Sam’s on-and-off-again girlfriend, Maxie.  The story doesn’t start where the last book stopped and while you could read it by itself, I think it makes more sense to read it after reading the first in the series.  The book is much more fast paced, as Maxie doesn’t wrestle with indecisiveness that Sam did, but has already made up her mind to be a Panther.  It tackles issues of race, gender, class and growing up too soon.  While Maxie is concerned about her relationship with Sam, her main concern is her family and politics and it is so nice to meet a female character-a teenage one, at that!-who looks beyond impressing boys, but into justice and making her community a better place.  The book continues with the theme of family alliances and sacrifices by explaining a possible reason why someone might rat out their own group.  Maxie learns about the world’s complexity and that sometimes a question has more than one right answer and by the ending, so has the reader.  This is a book full of heartache and hope.  I loved rooting for Maxie and for her future-I would love to read more books about her.  The first book in the series won a lot of awards, which is great, but I wish this book would get more attention-it was my favorite of the two and I don’t want people to skip reading it.
Camo Girl by Kekla Magoon – I just like each new Magoon book more and more and this is my favorite of hers so far.  This book, set in the present day, really moved me.  It covers issues of race, mental illness, class, and identity all with subtlety and grace.   All of the characters felt very real and relatable and again, I respect Magoon for tackling some tough subjects with great skill.  My only complaint is that I was left wanting more and I really hope that there will be some sequels soon-the characters feel so real, that I long to know what happened to them and their relationships after the story ended.  
The Hunger Games by Suzanne Collins-OK, I know everybody else has read this series, but I was very skeptical of a book where the plot is about children killing children.  Call me weird.  BUT, despite the depressing subject matter, the series is definitely worth reading.  I listened to the audiobook and the narrator was fantastic.  Collins’ style is mesmerizing and incredibly relevant to the #BlackLivesMatter movement-the fact that some do not seem to make the connection between the book’s story and the news astounds me.  Some themes are how poorer kids are considered easy to throw away; a divide and conquer mentality by the state; violence, extreme fashion and body modification considered acceptable even for children and how far our society is willing to accept in the name of entertainment.  I can’t wait to listen to the next two books!
Gregor the Overlander by Suzanne Collins – Catching Fire was not immediately available at the library, so I decided to listen to another book by the same author.  I was really surprised because the writing style and story is incredibly different from The Hunger Games.  I do not think it is written as well, but it certainly is interesting, if not also weird.  The story is about how an eleven-year-old boy and his young sister travel under the earth and go on an adventure to find their father.  I found the boy annoying, egotistical, and unbelievably mature for his age.  However, I kept on reading because I found the story interesting.  I was surprised that I ended up liking the cockroach characters!  I found the story both inventive and predictable, which is a hard task!  I do not think I will read the other books in the series.
Fun Home: A Family Tragicomic by Alison Bechdel – This graphic novel was for my feminist book club and I enjoyed it, although if it had not been a graphic novel, then I think it would have been quite dry.  I thought it was interesting the way Bechdel was able to draw parallels between her life and those of great literature and wish I was that creative-I wonder what famous stories and plays could signify the events in my life!  Sadness permeates the book and is a reminder of why the closet is not a good hiding place.  When a person denies who they are, the suppression of their true self will eventually suffocate their spirit and they will end up even more miserable than they would have been if they had been true to themselves in the first place.  And many times they still end up hurting other people too.  I was glad that Bechdel was able to get some closure after her father’s death, but I did not like how his relationships with boys was downplayed-I thought that was a more serious subject than the author made it out to be.  Conversely, sometimes it seemed like the author was a bit self-indulgent, giving more weight to memories that seemed not that important to me.  All in all, I recommend it, but it was not my favorite out of the graphic novels that we have read in the past.  It has, however, been made into a Broadway musical, which I think is way cool and would love to watch.
Haunted Horror Comic #14 was a lot of fun to read!  I love old horror comics from the 50s & 60s and this was a compilation of some of the weirdest.  The artwork was great and the stories were more funny than scary, which is what I like.  “Horror of the Cannibals’ Dinner” is exceptional because it actually has a social justice ending; “I Walked at Midnight” is cute, but my favorite is “While the Iron was Hot.”  I love the line, “But life was not all beer and skittles for Jeremiah Krump…not with a wife like Mamie!” I will have to start wishing people a life of “beer and skittles!”  That story was not only funny, but also had the most horrific ending and it reminded me of a story that would have been a part of Tales from the Crypt.  I want to read more from the Haunted Horror comics and I also want to start reading “Weird Love,” a collection of weird love stories from the 50s & 60s that was advertised in Haunted Horror.  I am sure that it is also hilarious!

Sobriety: A Graphic Novel written by Daniel D. Maurer & Illustrated by Spencer Amundson – I read many fabulous books in December, but this Speakeasy book was actually my favorite!  Sobriety explains Alcoholics Anonymous’ Big Book in a fun form that I think will be easier to digest for young adults.  I liked that its main angle was how the spiritual aspect of the twelve steps can apply to different types of people, from the already uber religious to atheists.  Yes, everyone in recovery from addiction has to follow the same twelve steps, but it is not true that everyone has to think about them in the exact same way and I think that is a powerful point to make because a lot of people get hung up on that.  I also liked that the book had characters from different races, genders, sexualities, religions and ages-in the past, I have felt that addiction portrayals of people have been too homogenous, but this diversity both modernizes the Big Book and makes it more accessible.  This book covers a lot of material in a fairly small book, including a part about Viktor Frankl, which really made me happy, as his book, “Man’s Search for Meaning,” also has strongly influenced my life.  I recommend this book to anyone who wants a fun and novel way to read about addiction recovery.  It would especially be good for a young newcomer.
 

Princeless Book 1: Save Yourself Written by Jeremy Whitley & Illustrated by M. Goodwin - This comic was my other favorite!  Like The Dark Crystal comic, I discovered it at Dragoncon in the comic gallery.  It has been voted one of the best feminist comics and I can see why: a teenage princess of color gets locked in a tower, but gets tired of waiting for her prince to rescue her, so she hops on her dragon, rescues herself and goes on a quest to rescue her sisters!  It's funny, touching and groundbreaking in how it teaches feminist concepts to youngsters.  Even though it is probably aimed at the middle school crowd, I love it for myself.  I want to give it as a present to some young person, but I don't know who!  I think it has enough action so that it would appeal to both girls AND boys and would make a wonderful gift to a young person who needs to expand their feminist and reading horizon.

Link Love:

Complexity is a wonderful thing.    

Friday, January 9, 2015

New Year's Goals and Pumpkin Pie Oatmeal

One of the first recipes I tried out this year was a "pumpkin pie smoothie," which unfortunately turned out awful!  I thought it sounded so good, but I was wrong.  First, it was a little too thick to really be a smoothie-it had more the consistency of oatmeal.  And it wasn't sweet enough, so I tried adding honey, but that did not work-it still tasted too bland.  Then I tried adding my favorite oatmeal and then even chocolate chips!

It looks pretty, but it did not taste pretty.  So after eating the bits with granola and chocolate chips, I still had a lot leftover and then I had the bright idea to use it as a base for pumpkin steel cut oatmeal.  Fortunately, the oatmeal turned out fabulously and I have been eating it every morning this week.  Just add a little brown sugar before eating.  

I got the recipe from the blog, "Rachel Cooks."

INGREDIENTS:

  • (I added one cup of Greek vanilla yogurt)
  • 2 cups steel cut oats
  • 7 cups water
  • 2 cups skim milk
  • 15 ounce can of pumpkin puree (not pie filling)
  • 2 teaspoons pumpkin pie spice
  • 1 tablespoon pure vanilla extract
  • pinch of salt
  • extra milk for topping, optional
  • brown sugar for topping, optional
  • extra pumpkin pie spice for topping, optional
  • toasted pecans for topping, optional

DIRECTIONS:

  1. Mix all ingredients in a large (6 quart) slow cooker and cook on warm overnight or at least 8 hours
~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~
I recommend putting aluminum foil on the bottom of your crock pot, so that you have less to clean.  I used the smoothie as the base and just added a little bit more of the pumpkin pie spice.  Of course, add some sort of topping before eating.  It is really creamy and sweet, letting me get my pumpkin pie fix first thing in the morning!

I am sharing this recipe because the trial and error approach sort of reminded me of my new year's goals.  (I prefer calling them goals instead of resolutions, as I feel that term carries less pressure.)

This year, I am going to try to be more reliable in responding to people on time, and to continue walking more often. There are some people in my life that I would like to get to know better. I want to spend more time being productive than being lazy on the couch. I want to get back into letter writing and to read more. I want to start volunteering at the nursing home again, because I really enjoyed it when I was there. I want to start building a business as a DBT coach.
Whew!  That's a lot!  Fortunately, some of them are just to continue the good work that I am already doing, like continuing to walk and read.  They are simply goals set with good intentions not meant to be a bat to beat myself up with if I don't fulfill some of them. If I go through a period of depression where I am not able to be productive, so be it. I know the negative feelings won't last forever and I am looking at these goals as a long-term venture and not something to achieve or fail at in one day.
In fact, I fully expect myself to fail at accomplishing these goals sometimes.  I will not walk every day or magically turn into the most reliable person on the planet in one day.  No, just like the oatmeal, first I will have to fail before I will have the desired outcome.  My goal is to be the best person that I can be, but that does not mean that I will be the best out of everyone or even be my personal best at all times.  That is totally normal.  
When I was in the throes of my eating disorder, my goal was to be perfect and perfection meant being unhealthily skinny and having people give me attention.  Now I crave foods that give me energy and an outlook on life that gives me energy and motivation too.  A goal of perfection is unreasonable, stressful, and sets myself up for major failure, while the goal of slow progress and becoming my better self is actually achievable.
One of my major goals this year is to start a business as a DBT coach.  I will not be a therapist, but a person who can help someone remember what skills to use when they are stuck.  I am working on the website now.  I know that starting a new business will be tough, especially since I am an introvert and I expect it to go slowly and perhaps feel like a failure at times and that's okay.  I have many people who are supporting me and will keep me grounded.  I am confidant that some good will come out of the venture, even though I will not have a clue what that good will really look like until after I have started working, which is life.
I am so glad that I embrace failure, stumbling blocks, and even anxiety now. Since I now know how to be mindful and use the DBT skills and supportive people in my life to help get me unstuck, I no longer suffer in paralyzing fear about the future anymore.  It is fear that holds us down and hinders our progress-today I choose love and acceptance.
Link Love:

BY MEGHAN HOLOHAN

Even worse, re-stigmatizing people through lazy labeling may scare some folks away from getting needed help, Reynolds said: "The terms denote disorders of the brain … that frequently have good treatment and can lead to good recovery."

BattyMamzelle - For Feminists Who Resort To Racism When Slut Shaming Is Not Enough

when the simple fact is that BeyoncĂ©'s feminism is not FOR white girls. It's not going to work for you because it's not supposed to. That you might benefit from it is incidental and completely tangential to the point.


I genuinely think that this is the way Suzanne's mother saw her; as a black body from whom difficulties were to be expected and endured.
Most of our congregations were designed in an age when hierarchical, corporate structures brought order and stability to our institutions. Today, we live in a networked, adaptive world where we’ve got outdated structures that are now destroying those congregations. Try simplifying some of your bylaws, bureaucracies, and committees in 2015. Free your people to be in ministry, not management.

Rebecca Hains - LEGO  Friends Comic  Goes  Viral: An Interview with Illustrator  Maritsa  Patrinos

I actually don’t have a problem with the content—I know there’s absolutely nothing wrong with playing with juice bars or shopping malls. I just don’t know if those things should be associated with gender. I thought about the girls who don’t like those things, and the boys who do like those things, and wondered if they felt alienated at all.
I’m sure LEGO’s heart was in the right place and I’m sure they’ve done tons of research to pick their content. But when I saw the men in this documentary talk about how to connect with girls, it sounded a little like they were trying to decipher how to make contact with an alien species.

Scott Dannemiller - The One Thing Christians Should Stop Saying


The problem? Nowhere in scripture are we promised worldly ease in return for our pledge of faith. In fact, the most devout saints from the Bible usually died penniless, receiving a one-way ticket to prison or death by torture.