I talk honestly and openly about my experiences with mental illness, fibromyalgia, and chronic fatigue syndrome through the lens of feminism, fat acceptance and process theology. I also do recipe and book reviews. My mission is to spread the message that hope is always real for a better life, despite living in a world that is often very harsh.

Tuesday, May 31, 2016

Infinite Compassion Towards Sarah, Tobiah, And All

Tobit 8:16b You have shown your infinite compassion and dispelled our worst fears.
I've started reading my Bible semi-regularly again.  The version I am reading is The Inclusive Bible by Priests for Equality, which includes the Apocrypha.  I've been posting my thoughts in my Facebook group, Feminist Bible Explorers, which you are all invited to join.  I've been posting about the story of Sarah and Tobiah from Tobit lately.                                                
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I really don't understand why the Apocrypha is not included in all Bibles - there's some really great stuff.  I'm reading Tobit right now and there's a really great story of a woman, Sarah, who had been married seven times and her husbands all died before they could consummate their marriage.  She wanted to die. Meanwhile, Tobit wanted to die because he had become blind.  He sent his son, Tobiah, out to get some money.  An angel told him to go and marry Sarah.  The angel describes Sarah as "wise, brave and beautiful."  Then he says, 
"You have nothing to fear. You and Sarah were meant to be together from the beginning of time.  She will be liberated from her oppressor and the two of you will be together.  You and Sarah will have many children who will give you much love.  So don't be afraid." 
 I wonder if it's not included because it talks about liberating a woman?  In any case, it gives me warm fuzzies and the emphasis on Sarah's liberation and love makes me happy.  I love that during all of her hardship that the angel still describes her as wise, brave and beautiful.  Our hardships do not have to define us. 
Tobit 7:16 
 Raquel called Edna and told her, “Prepare the spare room and bring Sarah there.”  Edna went and prepared the room.  She then led Sarah into the room and began to weep.  But when she had wiped away her tears, she said, “Don’t be afraid, my daughter, I’m certain that this time the Most High God will bring you happiness to overcome sorrow.  So don’t be afraid.”  Then Edna left the room.
 I love the humanness of this story.  I can just feel all of her trepidation and fear.  I feel that way too about this disability process – I feel like staying on will be limiting and have to remind myself that doing too much this Winter really hurt me and that I do still need help.  It’s hard to admit that when I know I look so great on the outside to other people most of the time.  I feel a lot of sorrow and defeat related to having to stay on.  It’s hard to keep things in perspective – that this time a year ago, I wasn’t even working and doubted my ability to ever handle a serious job.  So much has happened this year – it’s astounding – I need to catch my breath.
As I read more of the story, I am just loving all of the human emotion and love that seeps through every passage - the story reads more like a romantic love story.  I love how there is just as much emphasis on Sarah's liberation as there is for Tobiah and Tobit's. As the story goes on, you read about how Tobiah's mother breaks down thinking her son has died on his journey home and then is overjoyed when he finally returns. In the moment rare for the Bible, it seems the women's pain in this story is just as valid as the men's. I will leave you with this passage that makes me happy because it reminds of God's compassion and fulfillment of promises:
Tobit 8:15-17 
 Blessed are you, YHWH, with every blessing pure and true.  May your people praise you and bless your Name forever.  I praise you for th happiness that you have brought to me.  You have shown infinite compassion and dispelled our worst fears.  Praise you for looking with kindness on these two, who are the only children of their parents.  Show them your mercy, O God, and keep them safe in happiness and love.    
 

Tuesday, May 24, 2016

Emotion Myths

Our feelings are not there to be cast out or conquered. They’re there to be engaged and expressed with imagination and intelligence.” 
― T.K. ColemanFreedom Without Permission: How to Live Free in a World That Isn't
Last week in DBT we were asked to go through a worksheet full of emotion myths and to write down ways of challenging them.  The worksheet also had some answers in case one got stuck.  I did not do all of the myths but just the ones that really resonated with me.  I thought I would share my own challenges and the included challenges that really moved me.   

Myth: Letting others know that I am feeling bad is a weakness. 
Challenge: My job is not to please others.
Myth: Being emotional means being out of control. 
Challenge: Being emotional means that I am human.
  Myth: All painful emotions are a result of a bad attitude. 
  Challenge: All painful emotions provide useful information.
 
Myth: Drama is cool. 
Challenge: I used to think drama is cool, now I know that it is exhausting.
 Myth: It is inauthentic to try to change my emotions. 
 Challenge: I do not need to suffer. 
 Provided Challenge: Change is itself authentic; it is part of life.
 Myth: Emotional truth is what counts, not factual truth. 
Challenge: Emotional truth and factual truth both count.
 Myth: People should do whatever they feel like doing. 
Challenge: Balance is key. 
Provided Challenge: Doing what I feel like doing can be ineffective.
Myth: Acting on your emotions is the mark of a truly free individual. 
Challenge: Being able to regulate my own emotions is the mark of a truly free individual.  I will no longer be a slave to intense  emotions. 
Provided Challenge: The truly free person can regulate emotions. 
My Response To The Provided Challenge: The truly free person honors boundaries.
Myth: My emotions are who I am. 
Challenge: My emotions are a part of who I am but not my totality.
 Myth: My emotions are why people love me.
Challenge: People love me because I am a cool person!  
 Myth: Emotions can just happen for no reason.
Challenge: Every emotion is produced by an interpretation to an event.  Recognizing this will mean that I will have simultaneously more freedom and more control - I will be able to more thoroughly have the life I want.
 Myth: Emotions should always be trusted. 
Challenge: Emotions should always be honored and honoring their information is not the same as trusting them as truth. 

Sunday, May 15, 2016

Self-Awareness

I am the only Guinea pig I have. ~ R. Buckminster Fuller
Here is my latest roundup of Facebook writings: Periodically, I try getting off my meds and always get back on and at this point, that's actually good, I think.  I'm very self-aware and am determined to never be hospitalized again.  So as long as I am self-aware, why not give it a try?  I'm back on my meds, mainly for my depression, pain and anxiety.  I've finally found a good combination for me and I do think I will always be on my antidepressant, as I use it for  physical symptoms, as much as mental.  I would like to be off my antipsychotic one day, the whole cost being higher than my rent being enough of a reason on its own, I think. (Don't worry too much, I am able to get free samples from my doc, but still, the knowledge hurts my heart and soul.}. But as it also helps with anxiety, that might not happen.  (I got disability for my schizo affective disorder but we all know my main issue is anxiety.  I mean, really.}. I'm tired of the stigma against and for medications. I'm tired of people not knowing that psych meds, including antipsychotics are used for many uses, including chronic pain, IBS, and many other less stigmatized things.  (I'm actually going to up my antidepressant to help with those two things! Keep your fingers crossed.}.  So hey!  Less meds over the long haul I think should be the goal but even better there should be less pushing by other people for more or less medications.  No one knows what works best for a person than the person taking them and every person is different.
I created a group called Morbid Positivity to be a space where people can be morbid but not in a super depressing way.  It will range from spiritual to practical to funny to pop culture references to social justice issues to poetry to whatever we want.  It is not a group to glamorize suicide or mental illness.  We can be a support system for each other, however the main point of this group is to be practical and fun. We will be talking about death/nihilism/burial practices/living wills, etc., so if those topics trigger or depress you, then this may not be the group for you.  If you are interested in joining, let me know!  If not, then just be amused... Lol
 
  I love social media, i love smartphones and tablets.  They let me connect to people on the other side of the world and carry both The Complete Poems of Emily Dickinson and Bad Feminist on MARTA.  Focus on the positive in this world, not the negative.  (But work to change the negative too) I love all my people!!
 

Friday, May 13, 2016

Intentional Peer Support Week 1

He has shown you, O [wo]man, what is good; and what does the Lord require of you but to do justly, to love mercy, and to walk humbly with your God? Micah 6:8
When I give a tour of the place where I work, I tell people that every staff has taken a training called Intentional Peer Support.  So now we are actually having the training.  It had been a while since the last time.  I'm really enjoying it.  Sometimes the videos we watch or the topics we talk about are a little intense but in the end, the premise is simple - to learn how to better intentionally support our peers.  I thought I would share my notes, just like I did for the DBT class.  This is the first week out of two.  (Unfortunately, I lost my notes from the first night of training. I am heartbroken.]

 Peer support is all about having a connection.  When a person has a connection but also has an issue with someone, they can express themselves by saying, "I see, I feel, I need..."  When using this formula, do not say, "I feel like," or "I need for."

 When Listening To Peers:
  • Remember LOVE - Listen, Ask Open Ended Questions, Validate, Empathize
  • Listen from a position of not knowing - Approach each call as if it is the first time speaking with the caller.
  • It's not about our perception - It's about their reality.
  • Listen for the person's own worldview - to each person, what they are saying makes sense.
  • Don't ask "why" but think of Grease: "Tell me more..."
  • Find comfort in the discomfort - it is not our job to fill up space or to entertain.
  • Have no agenda - Our job is not to fix people but to walk with them in their journey.
In the scripture, it states that we are to do justly, to love mercy and to walk humbly with our God, well, I see God in other people.  Our job is not to fix or tell people what to do - they can all listen to their inner God and decipher it for themselves.  We are simply here to walk with each other on our journeys to something better.  We are called to empathize, to validate, to be merciful and to love.    Let us remember that no matter who you moving with - we are all in this together.

 

Wednesday, May 11, 2016

Emotion Regulation Week 1 Insights

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
I've returned to taking dialectical behavioral therapy class - I guess you could say that it's one of the ways I return to God.  I mean, it is the way that I stop living in chaos and trying to be perfect.  It is the way that most helps me reach my goals and feel successful. I like feeling that way and I was still struggling with too much intense anxiety, even though I had made some changes.

Yesterday I started the class and I love the new, to me, teacher.  I love the feeling of validation that pervades the room and how she will not let us focus on what we did wrong, but on the progress, however small, we have made.  In my experience, people who are validated in what they do well will feel stronger and more capable and empowered.  As we say where I work, focus on what's strong, not what's wrong.

I took notes as the facilitater was talking and I had many a-ha moments and I am sure I will have them during the other classes, so I have decided to share my notes after each session.  I really think it is great how I learn something new each time I take the course.  Each time adds another layer of depth and meaning to the way I approach life.

DBT has four themes: mindfulness, emotional regulation, distress tolerance, and interpersonal effectiveness.  Yesterday was the first day of learning about emotion regulation, which was exactly what I wanted!

Emotion Regulation: Week 1
  • Regulating our emotions is a learned skill that we are normally not taught growing up.
  • Emotions are data points, bits of information, that tell us things we need to know.
  • All emotions are a request for action, either to keep going or to change.
  • Emotions are a messenger that knocks at our door.  We might not want to obey the messenger, but we do want to listen.
  • There is a difference between one's affect, or current emotion, and one's mood, which is one's general theme of emotions over an extended period of time.  It can be good to look at what emotional theme is playing most often in one's general background.  Do you want that theme to continue or change?
  • There is more than one right way to see things. Emotions are not right or wrong; they just are.
  • You can have a perception without judgement.  You cannot have a judgement without a perception.  The more nonjudgemental a person can be, the better.  Judgements can fuck us up.  (That last sentence is all me.} 
What I like about what I am learning is that it goes so well with the philosophy at my work, which just furthers the feeling that I am right where I am supposed to be.

Tuesday, May 3, 2016

Liar, Temptress, Soldier, Spy by Karen Abbott - A Book Review

The Lord God is my strength; [S]he will make my feet like deer's feet, and [S]he will make me walk on my high hills.  Do not fear, Zion, let not your hands be weak.  The Lord your God is in your midst, The Mighty One, will save; [S]he will rejoice over you with gladness, [S]he will quiet you with His[Her] love. [S]he will rejoice over you with singing. Zephaniah 3:18
Hooray! I really am beginning finally to feeling like my old, good self again.  Today, my mom helped me clean and I signed for DBT again.  It's always helped with anxiety before, so I know that it will help this time too.  I am ridiculously excited-I feel like I am taking back my life.
I am also back to doing book reviews!  I needed to take a break but I have read so many good books that I have just got to talk about them!  It will be easier now that I use my iPad as a kindle and take pictures of my favorite comics.  Kindle is great for leading book discussions because the passages I highlight are saved for quick reference.
 Liar, Temptress, Soldier, Spy by Karen Abbott was the book my feminist book club read a few months ago and it was great!  It was also a bit too long and could have really used some editing.  It is the telling of four women's lives as spies during the civil war, two for the South and two for the North.  I wish that she hadn't jumped around from woman to woman-it made it hard to remember who was who.  However, the book was utterly fascinating!  

  1. It made me understand why there is still racism and anger towards "Yankees" today. The way many people in the South behaved was bone-chilling in their hate and savagery.  After all they did, of course that spirit is still going to survive. That's not a good thing.  
rebels slashed throats from ear to ear. They sliced off heads and dropkicked them across the field. They carved off noses and ears and testicles and kept them as souvenirs. They propped the limp bodies of wounded soldiers against trees and practiced aiming for the heart. They wrested muskets and swords from the clenched hands of corpses. They plunged bayonets deep into the backsides of the maimed and the dead. They burned the bodies, collecting “Yankee shin-bones” to whittle into drumsticks, and skulls to use as steins. (One arithmetic book posed the problem: “If one Confederate soldier kills 90 Yankees, how many Yankees can 10 Confederate soldiers kill?”)
2. It made me understand that the civil war really WAS about slavery.  The Southern states wanted to keep their slaves. Say all you want about preserving heritage or being against big government but just remember that that heritage and that desire was to keep people as property. Saying that is not good would be the understatement of the year. (Nowadays, unfortunately, Republicans seem to think that women are property as they try to control our bodies and make it clear that all we are to them are baby-making machines.) 

 3. On the other side, I can see why Southern states would be enraged about having Abraham Lincoln as president-I didn't realize he had so few Southern votes:   
In Maryland, the Lincoln ticket received less than 3 percent of votes cast; in Virginia, barely 1 percent. Nearly every member of the Confederate government had once been a Federal official and, as such, possessed intimate knowledge of government operations. Jefferson Davis himself had served as secretary of war
4. It broke the stereotype of the damsel in distress and that women long ago were all just helpless, boring creatures:
Young girls carried daggers and pistols in their crochet purses and fired at marks in the street. 
5. It made me see that many more women were soldiers and spies than I had originally thought.  Even more so than today, women were underestimated-they were able to use that to their advantage and get access to places not granted to men:  
For now, at least, her social position and gender served as her most convincing disguise. No one would believe that a frail, pampered spinster was capable of plotting treasonous acts, let alone carrying them out right under the government’s nose. pondered how to contend with female traitors, a situation that had seemed unthinkable before the war began. War, like politics, was men’s work, and women were supposed to be among its victims, not its perpetrators. Women’s loyalty was expected, and even considered a defining characteristic of femininity itself, but now there was a question—one that would persist throughout the war—of what to do with what one Lincoln official called “fashionable women spies.” Their gender provided them with both a psychological and a physical disguise; while hiding behind social mores about women’s proper roles, they could hide evidence of their treason on their very person, tucked beneath hoop skirts or tied up in their hair. Women, it seemed, were capable not only of significant acts of treason, but of executing them more deftly than men.
6. It affirmed that women have always led exciting and interesting, fascinating lives.  Maybe not all of them, BUT not every woman was waiting around for a husband, even in the 1860s.  My two favorite characters were Emma, a young woman who joined the army dressed as a man, so that she would not have to marry. (BTW, there were over 400 women in the civil war posing as men!) : 
“In our family the women were not sheltered but enslaved,” she wrote. “If occasionally I met [a man] who seemed a little better than others, I set him down in my mind as a wolf in sheep’s clothing, and probably less worthy of trust than the rest.” After Emma turned fifteen, her father announced she would marry next, promising her to a lecherous neighbor, a farmer dozens of years her senior. When the time came she would invert Fanny’s plan, becoming a man in order to avoid one.
  And Mary Jane, a slave with an eidetic memory who spied on Jefferon Davis:
No one, not even sister-in-law Mary, knew that Mary Jane was highly educated and gifted with an eidetic memory, capable of memorizing images in a glance and recalling entire conversations word for word.
7. It made me proud to be a woman, for traditional femininity can equal strength and resourcefulness, as women would hide letters in their hair or dresses. They would sew morse code into blankets:  
She devised a system of communicating by needlework, knitting tapestries in specific patterns based on the Morse code, a precise vocabulary of stitches and colors.
 
             
 
                 

Monday, May 2, 2016

Children Mental Health Day 2016

I offer the radical nature of honesty and the intense humanity that is found in seeking truth freely apart from the authoritative pronouncements of yesterday. (spong, Rescuing the Bible from Fundamentalism, 21)  
I won't be able to attend children's mental health day at the Atlanta Capitol but as its for a good cause, I thought I would let y'all know about it.   Host: Rheba Smith 404-758-4500 Thursday, May 5 9am-12:30pm The GA Freight Depot (65 Martin Luther King Dr. NW, Atlanta 30303)

MESSAGE FROM HOST

 

Join Georgia Parent Support Network, Inc. as we bring the community together to raise awareness about children's mental health.  This is a free event, but we ask that you please register to ensure we have enough seating.  Also, don't forget to live tweet Finding Help, Finding Hope  using #FHx2 

  9:00 AM    

  • Registration & Breakfast at The Freight Depot.
  • Cast your vote, in the Blue Room, for the winner of theFinding Help, Finding Hope  art and poetry contest. Remember to tweet  # FHx2

  9:30 AM    

  • Walk to the Capitol for presentation in the south wing
  • Peers from Georgia Parent Support Network, Inc. Welcome
  • Frank Berry, Commissioner, Department of Behavioral Health and Developmental Disability Master of Ceremony
  • Dante McKay, Director, office of Children, Young Adults & Families

10:30 AM    

  • Return to The Freight Depot
  • Last chance to cast your vote for Finding Help, Finding Hope  art and poetry contest. #FHx2

11:00 AM - 12:30 PM 

  • Brief Overview by Erica Fenner Sitkoff, Ph.D. Policy Director, Voices for Georgia's Children
  • "By the Numbers" Presentation by Garry W. McGiboney, Ph.D. Assistant Superintendent, Georgia Department of Education