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.

Thursday, December 29, 2016

The Beautiful Sleepy Vacation

In today's rush we all think too much, seek too much, want too much and forget about the joy of just Being.  ~ Eckhart Tolle
Right now I flying home from Key West, Florida.  I know, I am very privileged and lucky.  If I could name this past holiday vacation anything, it would be, “The Beautiful, Sleepy Vacation.”  Because of I-don’t-know-what, I have a very annoying condition where if I don’t get to sleep in until at least ten a.m., then I usually stay sleepy for the rest of the day.  I am extremely grateful to have a job that accommodates my need for late mornings.  Because we couldn’t sleep in much AND because I did not have a day to rest in between a work-day and the leaving-for-vacation-day, I was sleepy for most of the trip.  The only day I did not feel sleepy was ironically the day we left, because I got to have a good nap in the morning.  Such is a disabled life.

However, I still had a great time!  The weather was perfect and so was the sea.  I have never been to a beach before that practically had no waves!  My favorite experience was when we went to the beach at Bahia Honda state park and I got to sit down in the water.  The water was clear, calm and warm – no fighting the surf in order to relax.  I just sat down in the water and let the smooth sand run through my fingers.  I realized then how much one could be happy with almost nothing and how tied I am to the threat of boredom.

Before leaving for the beach, I had fretted about whether I should bring my IPad, with its Kindle app, or my purse. My purse is always full of books, markers, pens, bits of drawing paper, candy, headphones – anything to keep me distracted in case the boredom monster should appear.  I wonder what I am so afraid of?  There is a world to see, hear, feel, and think about always in front of me.  Do I really need to be constantly distracted?  Is time alone with my thoughts really so bad?  Ok, so sometimes, yes, but often no.  AND what about all those mindfulness exercises I participated in my Dialectical Behavioral Therapy classes?  With the sand running through my fingers, I realized that I do not even need to think.  As I’ve said before, life should not always be about productivity, which is the lie of capitalism, but in learning the value of just being. During my days of sleepiness, I have to look for ways to let go of my productive expectations and just be – otherwise, I will be miserable.  I posit that that might be true for other people too even if they do not have energy issues.

I had a wonderful time in Key West, practicing being content with the little I could do, taking in copious amounts of beauty.  Here are some of the beautiful pictures my family and I captured:
 Of course, I am glad for my energy being back and will have to remember the gift of just being when I am back at work. Just being is the way towards gratitude and peace – just striving is the way towards frustration and anxiety.  May we all be content today, even as we strive towards a more just society.

Tuesday, December 20, 2016

Finding Your Holiday Spirit When Feeling Bitter

Christmas is not a time or a season, but a state of mind.  To cherish peace and goodwill, to be plenteous in mercy, is to have the real spirit of Christmas. ~ Calvin Coolidge
Until last week, I was not feeling the holiday spirit.  I guess you could call me the Trump Grump.  With so much uncertainty and fear in the air, I just did not feel like celebrating anything.  Being in the holiday spirit means a lot to me.  I have always thought it important to relish the joys of the season - it fills the coldness of winter with love and gratitude and kind warmth.  I eventually was able to pull myself out of the pit and into genuine holiday happiness and so I wanted to share what I've learned with you.

Lesson 1 - Authenticity and Validation

 It is a terrible, although common, feeling to feel like one has to lie and say they're fine when they're not.  When at my church two weeks ago and all I could think of was the fact that Trump is going to be president soon, I decided that I would tell people what was on my mind if asked how I was doing.  So I did and both times it opened up genuine conversation instead of mere pleasantries.  It felt good to know that I was not the only one internally struggling.  This is getting validation and it's something everyone needs.

Two caveats:
1. There is a difference between sharing and wallowing - sharing in an effort to receive validation is usually good; sharing but then refusing to switch to a cheerier subject after a long time of talking, so that one is only surrounded by negativity is usually not good - I know because I used to do the latter all the time years ago.

2. Be careful of who you go to for validation.  Fortunately, I go to a very liberal and progressive church, so I already felt sure that whoever I talked to would probably be understanding.  There are other people in my life, however, that I would probably not share why I was struggling with, as I know they would blow it off as an unimportant concern.

Lesson 2 - Opposite Action

Opposite action is a DBT skill that can be hard to do.  It's basically doing the opposite of what you are feeling like doing in an effort to produce a different feeling.  After church that Sunday, it was time for our annual caroling around the Kirkwood area.  I love caroling and look forward to this event all year long - when I was a kid I learned all the verses from almost every carol because I loved it so much.  Now, I amaze people by knowing how Miss Fanny Bright got upsot in Jingle Bells and how we are supposed to strike the harp and join the chorus in Deck The Halls.  Unfortunately, I was still feeling a bit gloomy and didn't want to join in the caroling this year.  I thought about how I had switched shifts at work so that I could go and how I loved going in previous years.  I remembered the opposite action skill and decided to get on the truck and go for an hour in the hopes that I would feel more like in the Christmas spirit afterwards.  It worked!  I sat beside a good friend of mine and we made jokes and sang the whole way.  I impressed her with my knowledge of obscure carol lyrics.  Basically, by totally immersing myself in something that has given me pleasure before, I was able to change my mood and I am so glad I did.

Lesson 3 - Traditions

Traditions make us feel in touch with our roots and be grounded.  Unfortunately, it can be hard to have the motivation to do them if with different people or in different environments than in the past.  When I was younger, my mom and I would make cranberry bread every year - Christmas just didn't feel like Christmas without it.  It's moist, tangy and sweet at the same time - so, so good.

Unfortunately, ever since I moved out of my parents' house, I haven't been as engaged in the old traditions and I hardly ever do holiday specific cooking anymore.  Last Wednesday, I had my peers and I make my family's traditional cranberry bread for whole health.  It's not really a healthy bread but I told them being mindful of holiday traditions is.  It's funny how what we do to teach others usually ends up helping ourselves most of all, because making that holiday bread with my peers is what finally totally turned my frosty mood around.  I had thought that I wouldn't like making a family food away from my family but I found that wasn't true - instead, I felt more connected to the people around me while still feeling connected to my roots.  Eating that tangy, yet sweet bread again and sharing it with new people that I love and care for finally opened me to feeling the holiday spirit.

Of course, there is no rule that you have to get immersed in the holidays, but I will posit that getting connected to people that care is always a good thing.  Thinking of others outside of ourselves, honoring traditions, receiving and giving validation and being authentic are all good things no matter what time of year.  If you are feeling bitter or cynical this year, and there are many good reasons to feel that way right now, I urge you to look for something that you can do to alter your state of mind.  Despite the long road ahead politically, we must never let those who hate steal our joy.  
 

Tuesday, December 6, 2016

A Vegan Thanksgiving?

I am grateful for what I am and have.  My thanksgiving is perpetual.  ~ Henry David Thoreau  
I used to hate Thanksgiving, but every year of my recovery, I am starting to like it more and more.  I actually can appreciate it being about gratitude instead of cynically thinking it is only about stuffing ourselves silly. 

One of the reasons why I used to hate Thanksgiving was because of the rich food.  While traditional food does contain some happy family memories, the richness makes me feel overly full and slightly sick.  I have a very sensitive stomach, so sensitive that even the Morningstar veggie burgers at Burger King are making me feel queasy nowadays.  My brother's fiancĂ© and my mom are both vegan and this delighted me, as it meant I could try my hand at some lighter, healthier versions of classic Thanksgiving dishes.  We had turkey and nonvegan stuffing, but the mashed potatoes and sweet potato dishes were both without dairy.  I was a bit worried about the mashed potatoes, as I do enjoy the ultra rich, cheesy ones I usually make, but I must say that I was very impressed and can truthfully say that I did not miss the butter, cheese, or milk in either dish!

Vegan Mashed Potatoes with Onion Gravy

From the blog, Fried Dandelions.

 Ingredients
3lbs Yukon Gold Potatoes
 2T Olive Oil
 4-6 Cloves of Garlic
 1t Salt
 1 cup nonsweetened soy milk
  2T nutritional Yeast (I didn't have it so I didn't use it and it still tasted great)

 Onion Gravy
 1 Large Onion
 2-3T Olive Oil
 2-3T Corn Starch
 1t Salt
 1 Chopped Garlic Clove
 2Cups Water

  Directions
1. Peel Potatoes and dice them into one inch cubes.
 2. Place them in a large pot of room temp water.  Once all of the potatoes are peeled and cut, place the pot over high heat and bring to a boil.
 3. While the potatoes are cooking, begin the gravy - directions below.
 4. Once the potatoes are fork tender, drain them and return the empty pot to the stove over low heat. 5. Add the olive oil and garlic to the empty pot and lightly brown the garlic.
 6. Mix in the nutritional yeast and salt and mix well.  It will become a thick paste.
 7. Slowly stream in the milk while stirring and mix until well incorporated.
 8. Add potatoes on top and mash until desired consistency.

  For The Gravy:
 9. Heat the olive oil in a large pan over medium heat.
 10. Slice onion into thin half moons.
 11. Place them into the pan and sautĂ© them over medium heat for at least twenty minutes.
 12. Once the onions are translucent and browning, add the corn starch and stir well.  This will form a roux and will be quite dry.
 13. Add the salt and garlic and continue to stir.
 14. Let the gravy simmer for ten minutes to thicken.
 15. Use an immersion blender to blend the sauce.
 16. Pour over potatoes!

 Notes: I was really impressed with this dish!  Who knew that olive oil and garlic could make potatoes taste incredibly rich?  I really didn't miss my usual additions of cream cheese, sour cream, butter and cheese whiz.

  Vegan Sweet Potato Casserole

 From the blog, Happy Healthy Mama

  Ingredients
3.5 lbs Sweet Potatoes
 1 Cup Coconut Milk
 2T Maple Syrup
 3/4 t Salt
 1t Ground Cinnamon
 1/2 t Ground Cloves
 1/8t Ground Nutmeg
 2T Orange Juice
 1/2t Orange Zest

  For The Pecan Topping:
1 Generous Cup Whole Raw Pecans
 1T Coconut Oil, Melted
 1T Maple Syrup
 3/4 t Ground Cinnamon

  Directions
1. Preheat your oven to 350 degrees.  Pierce the sweet potatoes with a fork and place them on a baking sheet. Bake them in the oven until they are soft, 60-90 minutes.  Turn the potatoes once during their baking time.
 2. When the sweet potatoes are finished, allow them to cool.  Once they are cooled, use a knife to cut open the skin and peel it out.  Discard.  Put the sweet potato flesh into a large bowl and mash well.  Add the next 8 ingredients (through orange zest, if using) and mix well.  Place the sweet potato mixture into a 2 quart baking dish.
 3. In a small bowl, mix together the pecans, coconut oil, maple syrup, and cinnamon.  Place the mixture on top of the casserole, completely covering it.

  Notes: Like the original blogger, I never understood why sweet potato casseroles usually have so much sugar - they don't need it!  With some maple syrup and coconut milk as sweeteners, the casserole is plenty sweet and very tasty.

Having healthier food this Thanksgiving helped ease my food fears, my body felt better and my taste buds were still happy.  However, if you love the traditional rich fare, do not feel guilty.  Recovery is all about being able to enjoy the present moment and I hope you enjoyed your Thanksgiving.  Six years ago, I was incapable of feeling gratitude and now I feel it every day, even on my bad days.  I hope that you are able to experience some gratitude too.

   

Sunday, November 20, 2016

My Letter to Governor Nathan Deal

Your silence will not protect you.  ~ Audre Lorde
Last Thursday, like many people, I was devastated.  I cried and did not want to interact with anyone, even though I had a job to go to.  Worse yet, at my job I am expected to be an optimistic person who embraces recovery, but I did not feel that way at all then.  I am still devastated, but fortunately I am no longer in the pits of despair.  Just because Trump is the president elect does not mean that all hope is lost - it does mean, however, that no one with a conscience can rest and be silent anymore.  A friend of mine said that we just need to wait and trust in the Lord, well, my theology is different.  I believe that the Lord acts through us and so the time for waiting is over if we truly want to show others that ours is a God of Love and not a God of discrimination.  Activism, for me, is also a form of self-care.  It makes me feel powerful and useful and it prevents the darkness from consuming me.  I decided to write my governor about my concerns and I urge you to do the same.  I decided to keep the letter positive, so that he would be more willing to listen to me and I kept it personal.  I think it's important for our elected officials to know how their policies and actions actually will affect their constituents.

Here is my letter that I wrote last night to Governor Deal of Georgia.  I kept it focused on two main areas - standing up to discrimination and religious freedom bills and to increase mental health and social security funding. I hope that you will become more active in your local politics too.

 ~~~~ 
 11/19/16 

 Dear Governor Deal,

 I am writing you to thank you for some of things of you have done this year.  I was very proud when you stated that you, “do not think we have to discriminate against anyone to protect the faith-based community in Georgia,” in response to HB 757.  I want to urge you to remember this powerful statement during the next four years.  As a member of the LGBT community, a Christian, and a Georgian, I hope that you will remember your previous words if another “religious freedom” bill comes forward and never take them back.

 I am also very proud that Georgia is a state with mental health courts.  We need extensive criminal justice reform in our country and mental health courts are a big step in the right direction.  I am a constituent who is evidence that recovery is possible.  I am a certified peer specialist that works at the Decatur Peer Support and Wellness Center.  We are a nonclinical, trauma informed environment that works to prevent psychiatric hospitalizations and empower our peers.  I am also on social security disability insurance.  Many people think that getting on SSDI means that a person’s life is over but for many people it is the beginning of a wonderful recovery journey.  It was for me.  Because of obtaining SSDI, I was able to move out of my parent’s home and work on myself.  It enabled me to move towards my true life goals and now I have a wonderful career where I do not feel stigmatized.  I would like you to remember people like me during the next four years when pressured to make cuts to the budget.  Mental health services and social security funding needs to be increased – recovery is real but is hard to obtain without the right supports.

I am a Georgian constituent whose life has been made better by some of your decisions – please continue to fund mental health services and to veto discrimination during these next four years no matter how much pressure you face – the very lives of many Georgians depend on it.

Thursday, November 3, 2016

DBT Class Over But I'm Not Done Growing

All around us we observe a pregnant creation.  The difficult times of pain throughout the world are simply birth pangs.  But it's not only around us, it's within us.  The Spirit of God is arousing us within.  We're also feeling the birth pangs.  These sterile and barren bodies of ours are yearning for full deliverance.  That is why waiting does not diminish us, any more than waiting diminishes a pregnant mother.  We are enlarged in the waiting.  We, of course, don't see what is enlarging us.  But the longer we wait, the larger we become, and the more joyful our expectancy.  (The Message Bible, 322)
It's hard to believe that I started my third Dialectical Behavioral Therapy class six months ago, but it's true.  I wish I could say that my life is magically stress free now, but that would be a big, fat lie.  What is true is that I am able to handle my stressors a whole lot better than I could before.  Now, when I am stressed out, I try to focus on the moment.  When that doesn't work, then I cheerlead myself by repeating mantras to myself that make myself feel better.  
Everything's gonna be alright. 
 Things will eventually work out.
 Everybody gets in trouble sometimes.
 This situation/emotion is going to change.
I know now that my recovery/sanity absolutely cannot withstand putting myself down anymore - my goal is wellness and when I put myself down, I instantly start spiraling into an anxiety that is out of control.  I really try to check myself and turn my thoughts around when I realize that I am putting myself down.  Fortunately, I have many supporters who help me check myself too. 

Besides being able to handle stress better, my energy is a whole lot improved too.  That's because of many factors:
  1. I recognize my sadness now.  DBT got me more in touch with my emotions - I had no clue how much sadness I was carrying around!  When I first took the class, all I knew was that I was always exhausted.  I was tearful and miserable.  The therapist asked me what I felt and the only feeling I could identify was exhaustion, so imagine my surprise when she told me that exhaustion is actually not a feeling but a physical state.  I learned that sadness often shows up as tiredness/exhaustion.  Of course, this is not always the case, but it is a helpful thing to remember.  When I become tired and there's no logical explanation, then I look inward to see where my sadness lies and I meditate on it.  Confronting and exploring my emotions helps relieve them a lot faster than just shoving them down does.  Similarly, I have begun to work on recognizing my anger also - another emotion that I am used to just shoving down deep.
  2. I pace myself better now.  I do still have chronic fatigue syndrome - no amount of emotion exploring is going to negate that, so I have become a lot more conscious of how I spend my time.  I take more naps; I spend more time in quiet.  I am still very, very busy but in order to be happy amidst the busy-ness, I have to factor in moments of stillness.  
  3. I go to bed a lot earlier now. I know that probably seems like a very obvious solution to the problem of tiredness but I had to do a lot of inner work in order for me to feel ok going to bed at an earlier time.  I discovered that I had a lot of harmful preconceived notions around the idea of going to bed early - that I would become a boring person or would miss out on something great.  What I have replaced those harmful notions with is the drive to be well.  I do not want to dwell in exhaustion, panic, and negativity anymore - I want to be well from the depths of my being.
Like I've said, just because I handle stress better now, does not mean that I don't still have it in my life. It is a wonderful thing though to no longer feel controlled by the effects of stress.  It still gets me down but I no longer feel totally crippled by it. To support me in my transition from a weekly DBT class to none, I am increasing my individual counseling sessions and I am continuing to track my progress using the The Dialectical Behavioral Therapy Wellness Planner by Amanda Smith.  It's a shorter, easier diary card that is helping to keep me motivated. 

I hope that hearing about my progress gives you hope if you are struggling.  Change is the only real constant in life and I do believe our lives will change for the better if we work hard for it.  We cannot eliminate stress but we can increase positive ways of living with it.  I am very happy and proud of myself for my hard work and subsequent change in my personality and life.
         

Wednesday, October 19, 2016

Everything's Gonna Be Alright

 Recovery is a whole series of storms, storms that help to sprout new growth, storms that flush clean our own clogged drains.  The peace that comes after a storm is worth singing about.  ~ Each Day A New Beginning: Daily Meditations For Women by Karen Casey
A few weeks ago, I performed with The Rise Theater as the goddess of creativity.  I strolled around a recovery fair and sang songs to people with flowers in my hair: 
 
One of the songs I sang was the Bob Marley song, Three Little Birds.  If you can't recall the song, it's the one where the chorus sings, 
Don't worry 'bout a thing 'cause everything's gonna be alright
 
It's a really lovely song and I enjoyed singing it.
 
About half a week ago, I was late for an event and I was beginning to lose it.  I could feel myself begin to become agitated in the car when the song lyrics popped into my head.  Internally hearing the song lyrics again enabled me to be able to pause and take some deep breaths.  I was able to reassess the situation: I was not actually going to be late but right on time.  I would have to cook my dessert as soon as I got there but it should be done in about an hour.  Well, that's fine - the guests will still be there and besides people usually eat dessert after any meal, anyway.  I realized that, in essence, everything would really be fine and that I had blown an annoying situation out of proportion.  As I made my way to the event, I kept on taking deep breaths and chanted to myself that everything was gonna be alright.
 
And the event was more than alright - it was a great success and I was quite proud of myself.
 
I wish I could say that I have not had more incidents of anxiety but I would be woefully wrong.  In fact, the past few days have been painfully anxious and overwhelming for me at times.  I really hate it that I am not perfect!  Sometimes I think it would be nice to be a programmable machine but then I would not be to sing at all and the arts really are my saving grace.
 
Fortunately, these lyrics have continued to help.  They have not been able to save me from making mistakes but they have provided me solace.  When I have started to struggle, I eventually am able to remember the lyrics and then reflect that no matter what happens, everything will eventually work out.  I don't mean that the situation is guaranteed to work out in the way that I want - of course not - I mean that life is change and eventually what stresses me out today will barely be a memory.  Accepting that is the key to maybe not bliss, but probably contentment. 
 
To me, that is a life worth living.
 

 

Tuesday, October 4, 2016

Grieving for My Younger Self - A Poem

Through the heartfelt mercies of our God, God's Sunrise will break in upon us, shining on those in the darkness, those sitting in the shadow of death, then showing us the way, one foot at a time, down the path of peace. (The Message Bible, 121)
Clinical words can hurt immensely - the picture they paint seems so drastic and horrible at times, which if you think about it, is sort of funny considering that usually clinicians are trying to get us away from all or nothing, doom and gloom thinking.  The other day I was cleaning up my art room when I stumbled upon a big binder with no label.  Curious, I opened it to discover that it was my clinical records from when I attended an outpatient program a few years ago.  As I thumbed through the pages, I was overcome with sorrow and empathy for the person I had been at the time.  Memories of a much worse time flooded me and I cried.  Sometimes I just wish that I could go back in time and treat my younger self with loving kindness - the kindness that I and others denied it then.  I want to give her a big hug and tell her that everything will eventually work out, although I know that she would not have believed it.  I wrote a poem about my feelings that I thought I would share with you:

  Grieving For My Younger Self

 She was so vulnerable, 
        So scared,   
              Corned into a box of clinicians.
 One day she found the strength  
        To overturn their boxes
 And now she runs,  
         Turning boxes over,      
                Trying to find the girl she used to be.
 She is stronger now,    
         And wiser too.
                 But all she wants to do
 Is give her younger self a hug    
     And cry over all that was lost-
 And all that will be even more triumphed    
          Through great pain,         
                   Misery,            
                         And yet,                          

               More joy.
                        

Sunday, September 11, 2016

Morbid Positivity

The acceptance of death gives you more of a stake in life, in living happily, as it should be lived.  Living for the moment. ~ Sting 
You're blessed when you're at the end of your rope.  With less of you there is more of God and Her rule. (The Message Bible 18)
This is something I wrote during a concert at DragonCon:

 (I am such an introvert that I had to get away from the crowd and instead plopped down in a corner, pulled out my tablet, and started blogging.)

 Listening to Voltaire and feeling sentimental.  He just sang Hallelujah. sigh  Shortly before that, he told a story about how he was bullied in school growing up because he wouldn’t play football and liked puppetry and sci-fi instead.  He was called horrible names  and told to kill himself. (What a horrible thing to tell anyone!)  One day, he accepted death and said that he would kill himself the next day – but that for this last day on Earth, he would stand up for himself.  That day, he found that all the people that bullied him were so shocked that he stood up for himself that they basically ran away.  That night, he realized that he had the best day of his life and that he wouldn’t kill himself in the morning…but maybe the day after….and that has been his motto ever since – accept death, because once you realize that you’re going to die, nothing can be worse than that.  That’s how I live too and it’s why I think morbidity is a positive thing.  I accept death, and that makes me a happier person than if I was trying to run away from it.  When I accept death, it is easier to stand up for myself and to take care of myself – my days are numbered, so I need to make every day count.  (I often think of how I need to read more because the worst thing I can think of is dying before reading certain books I haven’t read yet – I can’t die before I’ve read more Audre Lorde and all of Anne Sexton, for instance.).

I once had a sponsor tell me that my morbidness was one of my character defects and I've always been offended by that - there is nothing wrong with being morbid, especially if it leads to a greater appreciation of life.  I think morbidness oftentimes makes other people uncomfortable if they themselves are not comfortable with death.  I feel sorry for them - to not be comfortable with death is not to fully embrace our life on Earth.

I love all of you all readers and I hope you do not fear death, but a life lived in ignorance of its importance, sacredness, and inherent motivation to make the most of our precious time while alive.

BTW, I started a Facebook group called Morbid Positivity and Voltaire could be our mascot.  He is a very personable, friendly guy who is wonderfully morbid.  Here is a link to my favorite song of his - Death, Death (Devil, Devil, Evil, Evil) Song - it's very positive, actually!

Morbid Positivity

The acceptance of death gives you more of a stake in life, in living happily, as it should be lived.  Living for the moment. ~ Sting 
You're blessed when you're at the end of your rope.  With less of you there is more of God and Her rule. (The Message Bible 18)
This is something I wrote during a concert at DragonCon:

 (I am such an introvert that I had to get away from the crowd and instead plopped down in a corner, pulled out my tablet, and started blogging.)

 Listening to Voltaire and feeling sentimental.  He just sang Hallelujah. sigh  Shortly before that, he told a story about how he was bullied in school growing up because he wouldn’t play football and liked puppetry and sci-fi instead.  He was called horrible names  and told to kill himself. (What a horrible thing to tell anyone!)  One day, he accepted death and said that he would kill himself the next day – but that for this last day on Earth, he would stand up for himself.  That day, he found that all the people that bullied him were so shocked that he stood up for himself that they basically ran away.  That night, he realized that he had the best day of his life and that he wouldn’t kill himself in the morning…but maybe the day after….and that has been his motto ever since – accept death, because once you realize that you’re going to die, nothing can be worse than that.  That’s how I live too and it’s why I think morbidity is a positive thing.  I accept death, and that makes me a happier person than if I was trying to run away from it.  When I accept death, it is easier to stand up for myself and to take care of myself – my days are numbered, so I need to make every day count.  (I often think of how I need to read more because the worst thing I can think of is dying before reading certain books I haven’t read yet – I can’t die before I’ve read more Audre Lorde and all of Anne Sexton, for instance.).   I once had a sponsor tell me that my morbidness was one of my character defects and I've always been offended by that - there is nothing wrong with being morbid, especially if it leads to a greater appreciation of life.  I think morbidness oftentimes makes other people uncomfortable if they themselves are not comfortable with death.  I feel sorry for them - to not be comfortable with death is not to fully embrace our life on Earth. I love all of you all readers and I hope you do not fear death, but a life lived in ignorance of its importance, sacredness, and inherent motivation to make the most of our precious time while alive.
BTW, I started a Facebook group called Morbid Positivity and Voltaire could be our mascot.  He is a very personable, friendly guy who is wonderfully morbid.  Here is a link to my favorite song of his - Death, Death (Devil, Devil, Evil, Evil) Song - it's very positive, actually!

Wednesday, August 31, 2016

Empowering Inspiration

Change your life.  God's kin-dom is here! (The Message Bible, 15)
I've been thinking about inspiration lately and when it is empowering and when it becomes harmful.  This is what I posted in response to the article, Inspiration Porn: What It Is and Why It Hurts:

I have much conflict with this.  I feel like it applies if a person is born with a disability.  But if it happens later in life, then choosing to give up is a much more realistic choice. I feel like especially when it comes to severe mental illness, the success I've achieved IS rightly inspirational.  I graduated college and it was one of the hardest things I've ever done and the only thing that made it so hard was my disability-severe mental illness. So yeah, I'm proud of that.  I do a lot of mental health presentations where I put myself as an inspiration to others. On the other hand, sometimes I am used as a commodity.  Like people only see me as inspiration and not as human, like I've got supernatural inspirational powers, almost.  People don't have hope for their loved one or themselves, so I get the sense that they're trying to squeeze all of it out of me.  A very unpleasant feeling. I even turned down a presentation once because I was told that My inspiration was needed, which made me feel objectified.  So I think inspiration porn is on a case by case basis and doesn't just apply to all disability inspiration situations.
Yesterday I expressed to my therapist my conflict of misrepresenting myself when presenting myself as an inspirational speaker.  More and more I am feeling like people do not see the real me.  Yes, I have come a long way.  Yes, I have gained a lot of wisdom.  Yes, sometimes I have it all together.  But when I am tired...then I am still very prone to panic attacks that cause me much misery.  I am getting better and better but I do not by far have it all together.  Also, like I said in response to the above article, sometimes I feel very objectified, commodified.   

 The therapy appointment was a DBT catch-up appointment for the interpersonal effectiveness section.  This section is filled with acronyms and unfortunately, I usually have trouble remembering what the letters in an acronym stand for, so she told me to just try to remember what the main point of each acronym is instead of trying to remember the exact words and I found that very helpful.  

The first acronym is DEAR MAN and is about getting one's needs met in a relationship.  I was told to think of it as, "What is my objective in this relationship?" - "What do I need?"   I was then asked, "What is your objective in your presentations?  It seems like you are being taken as an inspiration when that may not be your objective..."   That was an a-ha moment for me, as I thought about what I really people to take away from my speeches and I realized she was right.  I don't want to be an inspiration anymore - I want to make people think about mental illness in a different way.

 I usually start my presentations saying that I want to educate, dispel stigma, and inspire hope, and so, of course, people are being very inspired.  I have now come to realize that way I am being perceived is all my own doing and that is a very liberating feeling because I can do something about it.   I will now say, "I am speaking with you today to educate, combat stigma, and to help you think about mental illness in a different way than perhaps you have thought of it before.  There are many common assumptions about having mental illness that I want to talk about and disprove."

 Inspiration is not a bad thing at all and I do want to leave people feeling hopeful but I also want to be seen as myself, not as a superhero, not on a pedestal.  I don't want people to think that they need regular doses of me in order to make changes in their life - ultimately, we must all find our own inspiration within.  I think now instead of saying that I want to "inspire" hope, I will say that I want to "empower" hope. 

Wednesday, August 10, 2016

Summer Vacation 2016 - Take My Body Love Pledge

I am now traveling home.  It will take approximately ten hours, so I should have plenty of time.  I am condensing the rest of my vacation into one single post in several parts because I always struggle with timeliness after getting home from a vacation.  This last post is about the most important lesson I learned-to love my body. I. I could not be totally body positive forever. As the fattest woman in our group who is woefully athletically challenged, my self-confidence and self-love started to diminish.  So I took a picture of me in my bathing suit to see if I looked as awful as I felt and to my surprise, I loved the picture!  Here it is:
This is not an expensive bathing suit-I got it in the plus size section of Target for twenty-something dollars, but it's a superb suit.  But this is not just about the bathing suit. I took my picture fully expecting to see an image that I would have to berate and instead, I felt nothing but love.  I love my haircut, I love my bathing suit.  I love the fact that I am not depressed so that I am caring about my appearance again.  I love how happy I look because I really am. I see a person who is proud of herself despite what society says she should be.  Today, I wear my fat with pride, as it means that I am not trying to control myself with neurotic food rules. My funky hairstyle that is long in some places and shaved in others makes me feel proud because it means that I no longer am hiding who I am. I am an artist, I am self confident, I am queer, I am happy, I am peaceful, I am proud, I am gorgeous and I will not be ashamed of being these things.
 
II.
After taking the picture and analyzing it, I had to accept that I am a. fat b. Not as fat as I thought c. Still happy and beautiful even so.  I also started noticing what it felt like to eat as a person on vacation. I let myself eat and drink more often and eat and drink things that I normally would not because I would deem them too unhealthy.  I reintroduced myself to moderation. I also realized that I had mentally poisoned myself when I started weighing myself on my roommate's bathroom scale several months ago.  I am not able to weigh in moderation-I am ashamed to say that I had gotten to the point where I was weighing myself five times a day and eating less to get my number to one more desirable.  When it comes to the scale, I am very much like an addict-I weigh myself once and soon I am craving more steps on the scale and less food to somehow make me feel more in control and more worthy, acceptable of I-don't-know-what.  As I said in a twelve-step meeting once, I make the scale my god.  The only way I can get on a scale safely is under my therapist's or doctor's care. (Unlike most people's therapy sessions, before we begin therapy, I am weighed.  Whether I need to process the number is the first topic on the table.). This week I noticed that I felt freer and happier directly as a result of not weighing myself.  I must not have gained an obscene amount of weight - my fear when I don't weigh myself - because my clothes still fit in the exact same way as it did when I left for the vacation.  
 
III.
My Personal Promise
 
I seem to have to realize and internalize the lesson on my weighing neuroticism over and over again.  Will you take a pledge with me?
 
I solemnly swear to love my body.
*To recognize the truth that our bodies are not objects to control and diminish.  
I solemnly swear to take up the space that is rightfully mine-
That all humans deserve but few realize.
I also swear that I will take up space in a way that is respectful to all people.
That I will remember my own privilege and empathetically listen to others
While still honoring my own heart.
I swear to listen to my body and treat it with compassion
Even when I feel depressed and hateful.
I believe that it is only through self-love that the gospel can be realized-
For myself to truly love others, I must honor the sacredness of my own soul.
Tending to my heart and sanity will be my highest aim always
And I will fight anyone who tries to convince me that I should strive for anything else.
With my higher power's support, I will conquer my deepest fears.
Nonjudgement shall be my guide and love my salvation.
 
Come join me-let us love our bodies together.
 
*As said by my therapist
 
Link Love:
 
 
 
 
 

Friday, August 5, 2016

Slow Kingdom Coming - Book Review

whatever we follow is what we’re transformed by - Slow Kingdom Coming by Kent Annan.
Slow Kingdom Coming by Kent Annan - I hated the first part, which seemed like an advertisement for his friend's church but the book got better.  The book is basically about the fact that there are many ways to superficially, consumerally show support for justice but that with more focus and careful consideration, a person can make a better contribution to bringing God's kingdom to Earth.  I liked his section on confession as part of justice work.  I don't confess enough.  His book had nothing I had not heard of before but I put some of his quotes in my inspirational quote book.  I liked what he said about needing gratitude and joy. 
Joy can be a kind of lifeline as we work for justice, which exposes us to suffering and exacts a toll on us.
 I have also found them to be instrumental in keeping me going.  His book seemed to be basically spiritual intentional peer support (IPS) to me.  IPS is a training that I took at work and we also emphasize partnering with, empathetically listening, cultural competency, and showing respect towards all.  It was nice to see what I believe mirrored in a spiritual book, although it would have been nice if I had been introduced to something new.  Instead,  I had what I already believe and practice reaffirmed. (Although I did appreciate the reminder to confess.)

Thursday, August 4, 2016

Summer Vacation 2016 - My Queenly Self

We find ourselves standing where we always hoped we would stand-out in the wide open spaces of God's grace and glory, standing tall and shouting our praise. (The Message Bible, 315)
On day three, the sea was very calm, just like me:
  The perfect weather for my brother to paddle me around the ocean.  I felt like a queen on the Nile:
And really, I am like a queen-I am the queen of my life. I get to choose how I react, think, and feel.  It takes hard work to realize a certain way does not serve me anymore but I am the one who gets to decide when I have had enough and how I am going to change.  I believe that I have the support of my higher power, whom I call by many names. I believe it is my higher power that prepares me and shows me new ways of being that I would not think of on my own.  It is up to me to open my heart to Her whispers.
 
A being who has far less choice is my brother's dog, Bee.  I've had fun taking pictures of her, as she is the queen of the questioning look, of peering around corners.
 
 Bee and I have the same happy look:
 
 
 My canine namesake, Corey, looks like a queen in this picture:
 
 I cannot be calm forever-I know that emotions tend to cycle but I am enjoying it while it lasts.  I feel very powerful as I take selfies and look at the ocean because I know that I have the power to decide how I want to be.  I want this awareness to stay with me past vacation so that I can have a more peaceful life.  May you be peaceful too.  Blessed be!

Tuesday, August 2, 2016

Summer Vacation 2016 - Recognizing Privilege

Live out your God created identity.  Live generously and graciously toward others, the way God lives toward you. (The Message Bible, 22)
Yesterday, as I looked at my big family getting along and being merry together, I thought to myself,
I am so privileged.
I am not saying this because I think I am better than others or because I think I think I deserve more because of somehow working harder.  I do not have time for bootstrapping myths.  What I do have time for is to appreciate the good things in my life.
  • I have a big extended family that gets along for the most part.
  • My family has superb cooks who cook in a way that doesn't upset my stomach.
  • We know how to relax.
  • Despite my lack of money, my needs are fully taken care of.
  • I do not feel judged by my family.
  • I feel comfortable around my family.
  • I feel comfortable in my own skin.
  • I am surrounded by beauty.
  • I am safe.
  • I am loved.
Now do I always feel comfortable with my family or in my own skin? Of course not! However, life for us is much better than it used to be.  Should I hide away in my privilege and pretend that others less fortunate than I don't matter or even exist?  The world really is a hard place often times.
 
No.  I am hoping that this vacation will renew me-that I can reflect on the good things I have, the fact that I am loved, and that the world is achingly beautiful. When I get home, I will work even harder to make it this way for everyone.  My goal is to share the love I have for the world and the hope that one really can create a life worth in the midst of chaos, for even in heartbreaking chaos, there is a beautiful and logical order behind it. 
 
Blessed be for the universe!
   
 
               
 

Monday, August 1, 2016

Summer Vacation 2016-Sacred Sanity

You're blessed when you're content with just who you are-no more, no less.  That's the moment you find yourselves proud owners of everything that can't be bought." (19, The Message Bible)

 

It is time for for my summer vacation posts!  I didn't do them last year because I was too busy.  Fortunately, this summer vacation is more relaxed, so I should be able to post every day.

 

We are at Nag's Head, North Carolina, on the outer banks. I wish we were boycotting North Carolina but as my family decided not to, I figure I might as well enjoy the vacation.

 

Yesterday, as I was climbing the stairs to the house, I thought to myself, 

 

nothing is more sacred than sanity.

 It is so refreshing and wonderful to be on vacation and not be exhausted and depressed.  I feel free.  DBT has helped me the way I knew it would and today I am not anxious but very happy. I feel comfortable in my own skin and it is a very luxurious, utterly enjoyable emotion.  Thanks to mindfulness, I am able to recognize these feelings and fully revel in them. Today, I am emotionally rich.

 

To celebrate my new found confidence yesterday, I took many selfies. So what if I am fat?!  I am still flabulous!  Because of my fibromyalgia, I am not able to exercise as much as I would like but I do genuinely enjoy eating healthy.  Many people assume that I am dieting when they see how I eat but I do not and never will.  One really can be healthy and happen to be fat.  Of course, even if I was not healthy, I would still be flabulous because health does not actually equal self-worth.

 

Here I am being happy:

 

I can take pride in how I look, no matter my weight.

Time to relax!

Saturday, July 30, 2016

The Rise Theater

And it shall come to pass that just as you were a curse among the nations, O house of Judah and house of Israel, so I will save you, and you shall be a blessing.  Do not fear, let yor hands be strong.  Zechariah 8:7-8

 

It's funny how the universe works.   All my life I wanted to be part of a theater company and I thought I would need extensive schooling and training to be great.  When I had to switch majors from music performance to English because of my anxiety and depression, I felt like a total failure.  I was giving up my dream, I thought, forever.

 

All those years spent thinking and dreaming of being onstage since a young child did not go to waste, however. I am now part of a theater company. I've found that our intentions come true but never on our own time frame.  In order to perform successfully, I had to learn how to be totally in the moment and how to let myself go - two things I learned in DBT.

 

The Rise Theater is a theater company in Georgia made up of people in recovery.  We collaborate and figure out ways to tell little snippets of our recovery stories in the most creative way possible.  Our stories are powerful, deep, and empowering.  It occurred to me yesterday after a performance that I am now living my dream - it's not in the way I originally wanted it to be or in the time frame I wanted but I am now doing what I love and have always wanted to do.  I always wanted to support myself as an artist and while I am not there yet, I no longer see it as a failed dream.  I am currently working on another altered book to submit in an art contest and the goal is to get enough funding for The Rise Theater players to be paid.  In short, I now feel like there are possibilities where I used to see failures.  I am on my way. I do not know exactly what it will look like but I now know that I will one day be able to support myself, at least partly, onstage and on canvas.

 

If there is something you really want, think about it night and day.  Think about it in a positive way - don't dwell on your fears.  Take a deep breath.  Unfortunately, our intentions do not manifest instantly.  The universe - higher power - God - has to prepare us and make us ready to step into success.  We have to let go of fear in order to embrace our future in a positive, recovery centered way.

 

Let go.  Divine Love will not let you fall.

 

Tuesday, July 19, 2016

Thankfulness for Sadness

Though the fig tree may not blossom, nor fruit be on the vines; though the labor of the olive may fail, and the fields yield no food; though the flock may be cut from the fold , and there be no herd in the stalls-yet I will rejoice in the Lord, I will joy in the God of my salvation. Habakkuk 3:17-18
I am very sad.  Yesterday, my roommate and I had to put our other roommate's dog down.  It was one of the saddest things I have ever done.  Opal was a beautiful black lab with a sweet heart.  She greeted everyone at the door with a shoe and in fact, often would wait up for me late at night, even though she was not my dog.  I thought it was funny how she would turn to look at me and give me a little kick with her back leg when I would stop petting her. 

 I petted and petted her yesterday as she was dying. I cried off and on yesterday, took a nap, ate ice cream, visited with a friend late at night and colored to soothe myself.  It's funny, but as I was doing my nightly gratitude list, the main thing that I thought of was that I was glad for my heartbreak.  I still am.  I am glad that I can feel.  I am glad for the reminders of such a sweet being.  I am glad for the joy that she brought while on Earth. I am glad that she is no longer in pain.  I am nervous for what the house will be like when the roommate-owner returns.  I am sad.  I am glad that I can feel all these things and not want to die. I can get what I need done and still be gentle with myself.  This sadness will probably last a while and the waiting is hard too, but it still does not have to turn into depression.  I can take care of myself and for that I am grateful and proud.

 I am glad I can feel, for if I could not, then I would not be aware of just how much Opal meant to all of us. 

 Give your pets a hug today and be glad.

Tuesday, July 12, 2016

It Seemed Like A Good Idea: Creative Writing

Your task is to be true not to be popular (The Message Bible)
Often I lead creative writing at work.  These are two little pieces I wrote one day during the activity:

It seemed like a good idea at the time: putting it off til tomorrow.  Not saying anything right now.  Not saying what I want to say.  Not speaking my mind.  Not standing up for myself. 

I need to stop ignoring my own internal demands.  My needs are just as important as anybody else's but I am the only one that can enforce them.  Therefore, taking care of my needs are more important than pleasing other people, even if I love them.  By taking care of myself, I give myself validation and love, which frees me to better validate and love others.
 
The cosmos is within us.  We are made of star stuff.  We are a way for the universe to know itself.  (Carl Sagan, Cosmos)
Without the dark, we'd never see the stars...
 Unless the stars aren't there. 
 And why is it dark? 
 Maybe it's smog.
 Maybe I'm so busy examining my soul that I forget to look up in wonder. 
 I wonder...
 Is my internal darkness brighter than the sun? 
 Where do I look when I forget to look up? 
 I look inside and I remember -  
 That we are all made of the same matter that makes up the stars. 
 That even on the darkest night, we all have an inner glow that shows the way home.
  
                                 

Saturday, June 25, 2016

Going Through Grief - The Pulse Shooting Memorial

 Caring for myself is not self-indulgence, it is self-preservation, and that is an act of political warfare.”  ― Audre Lorde
A week ago, I was still really struggling and sad about The Pulse Shooting.  Ok, so I'm still struggling and sad about it but I was much more so that day.  I decided to do a memorial service during the two LGBT support groups that I facilitate where I work and I had written something long and angry.  Fortunately, I had a therapy session before the service and it was so helpful.  "I want you to feel how connected you are," my therapist said.  She reminded me that I needed to be part of my community, the importance of not hiding and taking care of myself.  I felt bolstered up, being reminded of the interconnectedness of all people and I left knowing that I needed to rewrite my service.  I majorly edited what I wrote, which was a mix-match of several blog posts, and ended it with a question about self-care.  In our quest to make sense of the horror, we need to reach out, support each other, and take care of ourselves.  It is essential for our survival.  

Here is what I read last week: 

 The point of recovery is not to be perfect. 

 The point of recovery is not to never feel pain.

 We are grieving.

 The best way to feel better when something tragic has happened is to allow yourself to go through the grief. Ignore the grief and it will gradually catch up with you. 

 The point of recovery is not to never be anxious but not to be crippled by it. 

 The best way to allow myself freedom is to let myself grieve. In our grieving, let us remember that we are all connected. 

 We have community.  We are not alone. 

 Grief is natural but let us not isolate in it–let us come together and be there for each other. Let us not wallow in misery but take care of ourselves and for each other.  

What do you do to take care of yourself, your emotional, physical, and spiritual self?  
         

Tuesday, June 14, 2016

Going Through Grief

The point of DBT is not to be perfect.

The point of DBT is not to never feel pain.

I am grieving.  

The best way to feel better when something tragic has happened is to allow yourself to go through the grief.

Ignore the grief and it will gradually catch up with you.

I am grieving The Pulse shooting.

I feel like the world is no longer safe.

But it was never that safe to begin with.

I worry.

I go to a church with a large gay population, plus our minister is a lesbian.  What if it gets blown up?  My church is both a safe space and it is not.

I lead two LGBT support groups where I work.  What if someone comes in shooting?

These are questions, anxieties, that I have had that have gone unspoken until now.

Unless you are LGBT, you do not know the fear I feel when I go to church or when I agreed to lead not one, but two, LGBT support groups.

The point of DBT is not to never be anxious but not to be crippled by it.

The best way to allow myself freedom is to let myself grieve.

I give myself permission to grieve.

I give you permission to grieve.

We have not moved on - it is not yet time.

I am not crazy - my fear is legitimate.
                                
I am not crazy - my fear is legitimate.

I am not crazy - my fear is legitimate.

And right now, I do not want this fear conquered - love me enough to sit with me in my fear and pain.

I want this fear acknowledged and I want this fear to be met with action by others.

I want gun control.

I want unadulterated embracing by the straight world.

I want love and acceptance.

I want Dan Cathy to issue an apology for the way his father's policies damaged me as a young adult.  I want all the Chick-Fil-A supporters to spend one day in my shoes.  Free food for blood donors is way too little, way too late.  The anger I feel is immense.  I want the young adults at Berry College to be allowed to advocate for themselves, instead of having to please the Chicken God.   (You might not get why I am so angry if you do not know about Chick-Fil-A's relationship with Berry.  That's okay but do a little research.)

I do not want to be the picture of recovery tomorrow and I especially do not want to put on a happy face - I want to be real, which I suppose is what recovery is really all about.

Apparently the word, "safety," is a trigger for me right now - we found that out today in my DBT class.

My only safe space is being alone and I know isolation is not the answer.  But perhaps a little alone time is.  I don't know.

I do know that I am angry, I am sad.  Today I choose to feel my emotions instead of putting on a mask.

Let us take off our masks together.

Monday, June 13, 2016

Unchurching by Richard Jacobson - Book Review

Return to the Lord your God, for [S]he is gracious and merciful, slow to anger, and of great kindness; and [S]he relents from doing harm.  Joel 2:13
Speakeasy sent me the book, Unchurching: Christianity Without Churchianity by Richard Jacobson.  Here is my review: 

 If I could sum up this book in one word, it would be, “unity.”  It is what the church needs to be and why so many are leaving it. 

 If I could sum up this book in one phrase, it would be, “the priesthood of all believers.”  All the members of a church are capable of leading and teaching church members.  In fact, it is our responsibility and we are all equal in this. 

 Why don’t we do this?  As Richard Jacobson points out, “we desperately want someone  else to take responsibility for our relationship with God” and I think this is true.  He also says that, “the church was never meant to become a corporation.[…] the way to unlock  our calling as a genuine church community is to remain focused on Christ, not by becoming distracted by all our ideas about genuine church community.[…] the church isn’t something you go to; it’s something you are.” I think all of these things are true. 

 I read this book at just the right time for me.  Because of my job, which has a flexible schedule, I am not able to attend the church as regularly as I like.  I have been dealing with this truth ever since I started the job almost a year ago, which means either I quit my job – not going to happen – or that I radically accept my situation and figure out how to make it work. 

 I do think my church is better than most at being a community and with giving power to the congregants to lead the church.  I told my recovery story as part of the sermon one day and I used to write the liturgy.  We have ways of staying in touch online and we gather often for fun, for work and for shared decision-making.  What I need to do is to take responsibility of making my own connections with God and with my community. I have started reading my Bible and writing about my insights semi-regularly again.  I am hopeful that I can gradually able to make this into a new habit.   Reading scripture keeps me positive and uses my brain.  Ultimately, it leads to insights that enriches my life and others’.  I also need to be more intentional about being with my church.  Because the members of my church get together so often, theoretically, I should be able to see them more often.  Perhaps not as regularly as I used to but more often than I do now.  Right now, I am in a period of forming new habits and getting my messy life back into more of an order, so I feel less overwhelmed by the prospect of more intentional spiritual community.  It would have been too much this past Winter.

 I appreciated Jacobson’s feminist readings of scriptures concerning women, even if his tone sometimes seemed too authoritative.  I would recommend this book if you have questions about why mainstream church is the way it is and are trying to think outside the box.  If you really love dissecting scripture, then this book might be for you.  Or if you want to be introspective about your spiritual journey and what is and is not working for you.  Do NOT read this book if you are not prepared to question the big, institutional church or if you view your church service as needing to provide you entertainment.   

 The church is supposed to be about unity and about everyone sharing responsibility.  I know I often fall short but I am excited to try to make things right.
   

All I Have Are Questions - The Pulse Shooting

Moreover, the Kingdom is not somewhere else, rather it is among you, inside you, and outside you.  Neither is it some time in the future, for it is here, spread out on the earth; people just do not see it. ~ Marcus Borg
I pass as straight most of the time and so I have a lot of privilege in many ways.  But still, I possess a lot of fear related to my queerness.  It is a level of fear that I think a lot of people don't realize.  For instance, for the past sixteen years I have attended a church with a lesbian minister that is attended by a lot of LGBTQ people, which means that for the past sixteen years I have feared that someone will bomb or otherwise terrorize the place where I worship.  That may sound extreme to some but hate-filled shootings and bombings are on the rise and have been for a while now.  I don't have ease of mind before telling someone about my pansexual poly relationship for the first time.  I have not had any negative reactions so far but I know I will one day. 
 
One of my strongest memories is how homophobic the first college I attended was.  (Although I must give a shout-out to the wonderful friends I made there - we really tried to support each other as much as we could.). Because of that religiously based homophobia, I am extremely wary of people that talk about hellfire. And yet, it's not all about me.

Today fifty people were killed who frequent an LGBT nightclub and I really do not care if the person was connected to ISIS or not.  To me, there are plenty of hateful organizations that rail against queer people and it easily could have been from another group.

Today, at a supposed to be fun bicycle event in Atlanta, two separate homeless men who probably have a mental illness were holding signs and yelling about repentance and how we all have sinned.  Another man, obviously homeless and having a mental illness, sat beside me outside and proceeded to tell me about how he would break the neck of any person that bothered him. 

They're right - we have all sinned and we do need to repent.  One of the men spoke about how he sleeps outside and my heart broke.  I was triggered beyond belief by their words and yet I was still full of compassion for them.  Our nation does need to repent of our greedy ways.  Our ways that place money above mental healthcare, guns above homes, judgment above tolerance.  We need feminism because older white men are the group with the highest suicide rate, we need tolerance because it seems that people no longer know how to properly communicate. 

We need hope.

I don't have any solutions. 

My wish is that people would care more and that people were taught in schools how to respectfully dialogue with one another. 

I try to be an example but I cannot be everything. 

I tried to go do something fun today and just ended up getting more triggered, more mournful. 

Maybe that's the point. Sometimes life sucks and it cannot be ignored.  If we, as a nation, are confronted by our evil, then maybe we will have to do something about it.  

It seems to me that having a mental illness is a pretty logical reaction to a world gone mad. 

Why don't we require people to take a gun safety class when they buy a gun? 

Why don't we require gun owners to properly store their guns? 

Why do we let people with a violent history, including domestic abuse, keep a gun? 

Why don't we encourage thoughtful dialogue instead of making everything sensational? 

Why can't we teach comprehensive sex education in school that also addresses sexual orientation instead of pretending that abstinent only sex ed will somehow magically prevent pregnancy, regret, and disease? 

Why do we let the media only follow hateful men? 

Why do WE follow the hateful men? 

How can we hear the news and still be bringers of hope? 

I doubt the men who were screaming about repentance today even knew what had happened.  In my mind, I was brought back to college when it was common for a student to go to another and say that they were going to hell for being gay.  Where my feminist student group continually had to re-hang our flyers, as they were continually being torn down.  Where the gay-straight alliance had to meet at a professor's house in secret because we were not allowed by the school to officially meet on campus.  And who decreed that?  Good ol' founder of Chick-Fil-A, Truett Cathy, who threatened to take away his money from the school if there was an official gay-straight alliance on the grounds.  Nowadays, his son, Dan Cathy, allows the alliance, as long as the students only gather for social purposes and not for activism.  How very Christian of him. 

I am Christian and yet I hate Christians.  When hearing the loud repentance proclaimers, I often wonder if the old prophets weren't just assholes.   Yelling at me to repent when I am already hurting seems like an asshole-ish thing to do.  Or maybe, like these men, they were all mentally ill and just didn't know how to best express themselves. 

I don't know what to do with these feelings, except to try to be the best that I can be.  To not let the loudest speakers take away my soul and all of my joy.  To continually love, even when hard.  To continue to be a sensitive, emotional person in pain. 

We all need a hug today.  

Let the violence stop with you.