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.

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.