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.

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.


Saturday, June 11, 2016

Emotion Regulation Insights Week 2

Take your everyday, ordinary life - your sleeping, eating, going to work, and walking around life - and place it before God as an offering. (The Message Bible 331)
In week 2, we looked at the model for describing emotions. We all have preexisting vulnerabilities (triggers).  Almost immediately, we interpret the event.  This is where we hold the most power, as it is our interpretation that determines how we feel. The interpretation brings on biological changes, such as hot flashes, headaches, sweat.  Our facial expressions, body language, words, and action change in response to our emotion brought on by the interpretation.  This brings on secondary emotions.  Another event occurs and the process starts all over again. And so...
  • Feelings make a lot of sense.
  • Knowledge is power.
  • Once we know, we can change.
The goal is to use mindfulness in order to slow down in order to determine the original interpretation of an event and to widen the possibilities.  Oftentimes we assume that an event is "bad" and so we feel negatively but if we look at our interpretation then we will realize that we have a lot more control over our negative emotions than we originally thought.  We are often like a person who only picks the top result in a Google search - we pay attention to the option (interpretation) that is the most threatening regardless of whether it is the most likely.  Our job is to sift through the possibilities and move towards the most likely interpretation - not the most threatening one. 

When looking back at an event, approach it with beginner's mind - how would someone with no previous history interpret the event? This is a good phrase to remember for CPS's talking with their peers, especially on the warmline.  After thinking of all the possibilities, look at what is probable vs. anything that is possible.  Basically, one has to learn how to balance first looking at an event with fresh eyes and then looking at it logically using past experiences.  The example that the therapist gave was that say someone delivers flowers to my office and I read the card. Before reacting to the event, it would be good to think of all possibilities of why that person would send me flowers (approaching with beginner's mind) and then looking at which possibility is the most probable.  This will prevent me from assuming the situation is bad if that person usually sends me flowers for a positive reason.  (It will also prevent me from assuming the situation is great if that person usually sends me flowers to cover up a huge mistake.)

Slowing down to be able to examine the possibilities and to make smarter interpretations is a process that takes some time.  More and more I am realizing that it will take daily intentional practice of mindfulness and I am trying to incorporate that more into my routine.  Even that will be a process, as new habits take time to form.  I am encouraged though when I think of the power this will give me.  I am so impressed by this potential power that I am quite motivated and excited to up my mindfulness game.

Two Tips: 
 If feeling overwhelmed, then refer to HALT - Hungry, Angry, Lonely, Tired.

 Anger is a secondary emotion, like wrapping paper - it covers the underlying emotion with more intense sensations. 

In conclusion, take all of your preconceived notions and interpretations that no longer serve you and place them before your higher power or maybe just banish them to the air, look at your life with a beginner's mind and then use your wise mind (the balance of emotion and logic) to make an interpretation that will be more effective and beneficial for you.

Wednesday, June 8, 2016

My Biggest Wish For NAMI Parents

Last night I did a presentation for a bunch of parents at a NAMI Family to Family class.  It was a great experience - I really love talking to parents.  Here is what I wrote on Facebook about it: 

 Wonderful time sharing my story tonight.

 However, my biggest wish for NAMI is to stop being so medication driven.  People are holistic beings, not problems needing to be fixed.  Many parents seem to view their children as problems, which is sad.  I've started becoming more blunt with parents about how to approach their often adult children. Don't lecture. Dialogue is healing. Don't focus on the medication, focus on the person.  Ask what's holding you back?  There may be a valid reason why someone doesn't want to do something. Love. Validate.  Communicate. Don't lecture. Dialogue is healing. 

 We are all different people who need different things-just because I take medication doesn't mean that the next person needs it too. I can't decide what another person needs-we all have to decide for ourselves.  However, we all need validation and support and to be heard.

 Thankfully, parents seem to be really liking my words and seem to view what I say as insights on helpful communication.  I'm so glad. Life is so much better when I allow myself to be authentic.  I think people appreciate candor and openness more than we think they will.  One parent wrote on my evaluation that I am a good woman and it really touched my heart.

Wednesday, June 1, 2016

Spiritual Happiness

Here are today's reflections based on chapter 13 of Tobit.
Tobit 13:6b See the wonders God has worked for you, and thank God at the top of your lungs.
This song of praise reminds me of my gratitude practice and why it is so important to always be grateful for something.  It is called practice for a reason.  Doing a gratitude practice consistently has changed my heart from looking for the negative to looking for the positive, which has helped my state of mind and helped my relationship with God. Today I am even thankful for my misery for it prompted me to take action and change.  People who never truly feel their pain become complacent and do not grow.
Tobit 13:10b May God bring happiness to all the exiles and show love to those of us who are suffering, for all generations and all times.
The more I read the Bible, the less Biblical evidence I see for the ways of Trump and other fear-mongers on keeping exiles, immigrants and refugees out of our country.  God wants us to bring happiness to the exiles – not harm and not indifference.  We are supposed to be a people of acceptance, generosity and welcome, not a people of hatred and fear.
Tobit 13:14 Happy are those who love you, and happy are those who rejoice in your blessings.  Happy are those who grieve with you and witness your glory forever.
  Happy are those that walk with God and happy are those that walk with the God found in other people.  God wants connection with us and for us to connect with each other.  Even when people are sharing pain, their load is lightened.