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, September 12, 2017

Intentional Peer Support vs. Advice Giving: A FaceBook Dialogue

The best advice I ever got was that knowledge is power and to keep reading.    ~David Bailey  
 What most people need is validation, not advice.   ~Me
4 tasks of peer support: connection, world view, mutuality, moving towards.    ~Anonymous
A Facebook friend posted about her feelings of frustration when she tried to give another friend advice.  What resulted was a really long and thought provoking post.  I asked my friend if I could post our exchanges on my blog, as I think we talked about some really important concepts.  There were a lot more people commenting than just me and her but if I posted the whole, entire conversation, I think people would roll their eyes at such a long post.  For the most part, I have simply summed up my friend’s comments and have shortened some of mine.  The point is not our exact words but the general message behind them.  
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Friend: I tried to give advice to a person who is constantly negative and they did not appreciate it.

Me: What the person was looking for was validation, so giving advice was not going to be appreciated no matter how much you may want to give it.  Best response is “that sounds hard,” and then to drop it.

Friends: You’re right, the person was looking for validation, but not giving advice is hard.

Me: It’s a hard lesson to learn but I've had to learn it on my job as a Certified Peer Specialist. One of my duties is to talk on the warmline where people call for support. We're actually not allowed to give advice, although we can say what worked for us if asked. I say the phrase, "That sounds hard," a lot. In my own experience, I've found that sometimes it was years of searching for validation until I finally got to the point that I realized I needed to change. It's a hard lesson to realize that there are many pathways to recovery and that everyone comes to their solution in their own time, but it's essential in order to not get caught up in one's ego. For me, it's all about myself - I will detach from a friend if I find I'm getting resentful or am draining energy, but I am really trying not to give advice anymore unless asked. I just say, "that sounds hard," and "you can do it," and then leave the conversation if a person isn't looking for solutions. (when it comes to friends, of course. I can't leave my job. lol). Giving advice is all about controlling someone else's situation and that's really not my job but theirs. Not feeling like I have to fix people frees up my energy in a big way. 

Friend: Thank you for making me think about things….

Me: ha you're welcome! I'm certainly not perfect in it myself, yet. I have to watch that I don't say, "this is what has worked for me..." in a manipulative way, as in, "so it's what I think you should do too..." Easier to talk about than practice!

Friend: Good point! I suggested to the other person to make a gratitude list…

Me: HA. I used to hate it when people told me to make a gratitude list and now I make them all the time. However, telling someone to be grateful when they're depressed comes off as very off-putting even if you're right. One way that I can slip in advice if I really feel the need is to provide it after validation (which is not the same as saying you agree). An example:

"I used to struggle with feeling that way too. I used to constantly compare myself to others and I thought life was really unfair. One day I realized that even the people that look perfect have something big that they are probably hiding. I've found that looking for one thing that is going right even amidst all the chaos helps me feel like all is not doomed. I still struggle with personal pity parties sometimes but remembering what I am actually good at helps me feel better about myself again." 

People will be much more likely to listen if you state the advice as coming from your own experience and if you're real about how you relate to it in some way. People listen to authenticity, not to platitudes. Rarely does just suggesting making a gratitude list go over well with anyone who is struggling with negativity. Six years ago, I would have probably stopped talking to you if you had suggested it to me. lololol

(I kept going…)

Intentional peer support is all about building a connection. Once you make a connection, the magic starts.  Intentional Peer Support is used by both CPS and CARES. CPS - Certified Peer Specialist; CARES - Certified Addiction Recovery Empowerment Specialist - The only mental health certifications that are based on lived experience rather than a college degree. It's fantastic stuff and being a CPS has enabled me to grow in my recovery and how I relate to my peers in a way nothing else has.

Friend: Cool!  I have a fascination with neuroplasticity, neural regeneration, over-imprinting, etc. and I like to share that with people.  It’s changed my life.

Me: The last thing is that your suggestion of the gratitude list totally reminds me of a funny story. Six and a half years ago, I was a totally different person, very very negative, in treatment. One day, we were told to say one thing that we were grateful for and I could not think of a thing. I was not happy to be alive. I was not grateful for any of the things that I knew logically I was supposed to be grateful for. When it came to my turn, I said, "family" because it was the first thing I thought of and I knew people wouldn't argue with me but I wasn't! I mean, I have a wonderful, supportive family, but I was so depressed that I felt no gratitude towards anything. It makes me laugh now that there was a time when I felt the need to make up stuff to be grateful for because I could not feel it at all anywhere and trying to explain that to people that didn't get it was too much. When my therapist explained to me that some people have to practice being grateful before they can actually feel it, did the practice of a gratitude list make more sense. Practicing mindfulness was one of the main ways that I started being able to experience gratitude again - I bet your neuroplasticity stuff says a lot about mindfulness! Now I text two people every day with one thing that I am truly grateful for and it's often hard to narrow it down just to one. lol


Friend: That is so wonderful and uplifting to hear about your experience and the tools you used to shift and change yourself/your life! Depression can be such a difficult challenge to work through. Esp because it requires doing things that are the absolute opposite of what you feel like doing (or even feel that you can do). I agree with what you pointed out - feelings follow actions (and shifted thoughts). Much of what we experience is centered around choice. Some people do not react well to that concept, while others find it empowering. And I love what you point out about personality being malleable. The brain is quite dynamic and malleable as well. About 90% of what we now know about the brain was discovered in the last 10-15 years, and it negates much of what was previously thought. Imaging technology and the ability to more accurately measure wavelengths, etc has brought us so far. Yet we have so far to go, which I find exciting! (Wave types/lengths are incredibly fascinating. These reveal things such as why you can 'feel it' if you are, for example, standing next to an angry person in the store and you don't even have to look at them to feel their anger. And the most powerful wavelengths are not emitted from the brain, which seems how it would be. The most powerful/influential wavelengths are actually emitted from the heart center, and can extend to approx a 60 ft radius! Isn't that amazing??) 
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In another conversation, I talked about how medication is not a simple conversation.  People are often overmedicated, however, there is a stigma both for and against taking it that makes me hesitant to say any sweeping generalizations either way about what is good or bad in regards to it.  I did find this interesting scholarly article about how taking antidepressants can help the mind more clearly think and so then can actually help the person be able to move in ways that increase their neuroplasticity.  It is true that many people are prescribed too much, especially in the beginning.  I think what people often miss in these conversations though is that in my experience, people are usually able to lower their dosages, or even get off them completely, as they gain more and more competence in skills over time.  In order to gain the ability to be able to learn skills though, one often does need medical intervention, at least in the beginning, to clear the head and be able to focus in the first place.  I think good meaning people often make the mistake of thinking that a severely depressed or anxious person can learn skills if they just try hard enough or push through.  I know for me though that when severely depressed and anxious I need extra help in order to do any of these things.  In any case, it is ultimately not my job to promote medication or non-medication in any way, but to support the specific needs and wishes of the individual peer.
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Don't listen to people who tell you what to do.  Listen to people who encourage you to do what you know in your heart is right.  ~ Anonymous

Link Love:

Brain Pickings
26-Year-Old Frida Kahlo’s Compassionate Letter to 46-Year-Old Georgia O’Keeffe

Literary Hub
by Helen Sword

Psychologist Carol Dweck distinguishes between people with “a fixed mindset,” who believe that talent is a finite commodity, and those with a “growth mindset,” who believe that our innate talents can and should be stretched, challenged, and changed. For fixed-mindset people, Dweck explains, “effort is a bad thing. It, like failure, means you’re not smart or talented. If you were, you wouldn’t need effort.” For growth-mindset people, on the other hand, “effort is what makes you smart or talented.” 

The Atlantic.com
The First White President by Ta-Nehisi Coates

To Trump, whiteness is neither notional nor symbolic but is the very core of his power. In this, Trump is not singular. But whereas his forebears carried whiteness like an ancestral talisman, Trump cracked the glowing amulet open, releasing its eldritch energies. The repercussions are striking: Trump is the first president to have served in no public capacity before ascending to his perch. But more telling, Trump is also the first president to have publicly affirmed that his daughter is a “piece of ass.” The mind seizes trying to imagine a black man extolling the virtues of sexual assault on tape (“When you’re a star, they let you do it”), fending off multiple accusations of such assaults, immersed in multiple lawsuits for allegedly fraudulent business dealings, exhorting his followers to violence, and then strolling into the White House. But that is the point of white supremacy—to ensure that that which all others achieve with maximal effort, white people (particularly white men) achieve with minimal qualification. Barack Obama delivered to black people the hoary message that if they work twice as hard as white people, anything is possible. But Trump’s counter is persuasive: Work half as hard as black people, and even more is possible.



Saturday, August 26, 2017

Prevent Regret By Following Your Intuition

May was saying that when it is time to die, go ahead and die, and when it's time to live, live.  Don't sort-of-maybe live, but live like you're going all out, like you're not afraid.  (211, The Secret Life of Bees). 
The way to all-out live is to follow your intuition, to follow in the way that the Holy One compels you to live.  (Me). 
Go confidently in the direction of your dreams.  (Henry David Thoreau)

The other day I was talking with some peers and I was asked if I have any regrets.  It's a hard question - there are many decisions that I have made that I would do differently if I had another chance.  Then again, it is precisely those mistakes that have made me the person I am today, so I cannot truly say that I regret making them. I have learned that mistakes are often opportunities to grow and learn.  It doesn't mean they don't suck in the moment though.

I kept on thinking about that question the whole day and I realized I do have some regrets. 

I regret the times when I did not follow my own intuition.

So many times I have looked to others to supply the answers for my problems when I already knew what I needed to do.  In this society, we are taught to place certain people's opinions and beliefs above our own.  We are taught to never question our doctors, parents, romantic partners, best friends, sponsors, mentors, life coaches, teachers, therapists, bosses, religious leaders, police workers, our history, our culture, the worship of capitalism and material things, commercials, fitness gurus, Oprah, Gillian Michael, Gloria Steinem, the medical model, etc.  It is good to seek direction from those we trust but there have been times in my life when I knew in my gut what I needed to do, the future I really wanted, or the society I wanted to help create and have been told to do something different.  These people had logical arguments and usually meant well but the truth is that nobody knows me better than me, except for my higher power.  And what's funny is that I usually end up following what I felt inside anyway but it would be nice if I could actually go confidently in the direction of my dreams instead of first falling into the fires of others expectations.

I have written about this before.

I am getting better but it is still hard.  I think the author of the famous "Go confidently in the direction of your dreams" quote (Henry David Thoreau) forgot to add that confidence does not come easy.  What has helped me is learning how to listen to my body.  I have learned the importance of silence and self exploration.  I ask God less for things and instead sit in silence with my mind open to what She has to say.  If the body is a temple, then I already have my answers, even if sometimes guidance and outside validation is helpful.  I do not need a dietician to tell me to measure my portions - I can learn to listen to my body and with practice, stop when I am full.  I do not need a doctor's fears to force me into a hospital but I may need some extra support for a while.  I do not need to base my existence onto making other people happy but I do believe it is good to strive to be kind and loving.

When I close my eyes and am completely still, I can become more aware of the smells, sounds, sensations of the world around me, of my own inward pain and pleasure, and to the voice of The One inside me that knows that I am enough, that I am powerful, that I am all that I need.  At these times, life becomes easier.  The voice of The Holy One is warm and wraps itself around me.  The Holy Spirit beckons me to act in a way that I cannot refuse.  I search myself and distinguish what is the pull of fear and what is the pull of love.  Once I open my third eye, I find that I actually can distinguish between right and wrong, between fearful inertia or panic and a love force that is so strong that it practically pulls my heart out of my chest.

I am going through both a wonderful and a hard time, but that is not unusual.  The whole world is going through both a wonderful and a terrible time.  So much frantic, fearful chaos everywhere - it is time that we all learn how to be in touch with ourselves and the force of love.  It is time to listen to ourselves, to Mother Earth, to the cries of the past and to the dreams of the future.  Let us go confidently in the direction of our dreams, not ignoring our fears but still keeping our allegiance to our hearts.

Blessed be.

I Think I Understand by Joni Mitchell

Daylight falls upon the path, the forest falls behind
Today I am not prey to dark uncertainty
The shadow trembles in its wrath, I've robbed its blackness blind
And tasted sunlight as my fear came clear to me
I think I understand
Fear is like a wilderland
Stepping stones or sinking sand
Now the way leads to the hills, above the steeple's chime
Below me sleepy rooftops round the harbor
It's there I'll take my thirsty fill of friendship over wine
Forgetting fear but never disregarding her
Oh, I think I understand
Fear is like a wilderland
Stepping stones and sinking sand
Sometimes voices in the night will call me back again
Back along the pathway of a troubled mind
When forests rise to block the light that keeps a traveler sane
I'll challenge them with flashes from a brighter time
Oh, I think I understand
Fear is like a wilderland
Stepping stones or sinking sand

You can hear me sing this song in an earlier post.

Link Love:

Intuition Is The Highest Form of Intelligence - Forbes - Bruce Kasanoff

Wise Mind: Experiencing Integration & Intuition - DBT Self Help

Tender Photos of Black Men That Redefine Masculinity - Vice - Antwoin Sargent

Studio 8 is Developing Comic Series Where Only Black People Have Super Powers, as a Feature Film - Shadow and Act


Wednesday, August 2, 2017

Phone Banking As Self Care

Christ is the change that occurs in humanity, in art, in philosophy, everywhere.  (90, Monica A. Coleman, Making a Way Out of No Way). You have to be open to Christ for this change to occur.  (Me)

You can substitute "Love" for the word, "Christ", if you prefer.  I believe that whenever you are open to trying new, positive ways of being, then Christ is in your midst.  I thank God for the three Senators that were open to Christ and followed what is right instead of what is expected two days ago.  I thank God especially for Senators Lisa Murkowski and for Susan Collins, as they were under the most pressure.  While I am glad for John McCain, I am disappointed that  people are not praising the accomplishments of these women more.

Monday I was open to Christ when I participated in my first phone bank for Planned Parenthood.  The rest of this post is hobbled together from various writings I posted on Facebook that day about the experience.

I began my day by calling my senators, like I do fairly often now.  5 Calls is an app I recommend that makes calling your legislatures easier.  Like practically everything I do, I posted my experience on Facebook, which prompted a friend to ask:


While I admire the effort, why do you call the Georgia senators?  [...] It feels like a waste of time with such hardcore conservative senators in office.

This was my response:


Activism is one of my forms of self-care.  If I didn't do anything, I would be so depressed.  If there is a way to encourage the few that might listen to do the right thing, then we have to try.  If we fail, at least we can say we tried instead of wondering what if.  By focusing on what I can do, I do not get as depressed thinking about how horrible this current administration is. 

I've talked before about how self-care is not just about bubble baths but can also be about being an advocate and an activist.  Although it takes more effort, activism usually feels more satisfying than apathy does. It actually helps, too!  Most of activism is like the ripple effect - one action may not produce an immediate effect but when others see your activism, they may join in.  The more that the common people act, the harder it becomes for those in power to ignore their demands.  One person may be able to make a difference but I believe  that true power comes collectively.


Together we were able to call 2000 people in Nevada in under two hours! (We were calling Nevada because Senator Heller said he would vote no and we wanted to make sure that his vote stayed that way, so we were asking Planned Parenthood supporters if they would call his office and ask him to vote no.).  I was nervous at first but then I reminded myself that I already work at a warmline, so it could not be that much different.  I mostly left a lot of voicemails asking people to call their Senator when they could.  Sadly, Senator Heller did not vote the way he said he would but that is okay.  I know that that may seem defeating but honestly, I am just so glad that the horrifying bill was not passed that I do not care how it happened.  Phone banks do work sometimes but sadly, not all the time.  Fortunately, my experience was pleasant enough that I will definitely participate again if I am available.  Here are some tips that I learned from my first time:

1.  Modify the provided script so that it feels more natural.  The first time I actually talked to someone, I failed miserably.  The script felt too long and so I stumbled and hesitated through it, which prompted the poor woman to say she did not have enough time to listen.  After the call, I promptly removed all of the extraneous material, so that I could get to the point faster.  That way, I was not so concerned about taking up strangers' time and the flow seemed more natural.  I did not have any problems communicating with the people afterwards.

2.  If you reach the wrong person, do not bother reading your script.  The first time I called a number and was told that that person did not live there, I thought it might be a good idea to read the script anyway.  Surely this random stranger was also a Planned Parenthood supporter, right?  Wrong.  The person told me she would be no help because she does not support Planned Parenthood.  Welp!  I should have just apologized and moved on to the next person on the list.

3.  Speak with a smile - be pleasant and polite no matter what!  I tried very hard to always sound pleasant and respectful in my tone.  When I called the woman who turned out not to be a supporter, she actually listened to my whole spiel and then very nicely and respectfully told me that she would not help.  I responded by simply wishing her a nice day before hanging up.  I then marveled to myself that I had just inconvenienced a perfect stranger and yet the whole experience was still pleasant.  If only more people could tell each other they disagree without shouting and disrespecting each other, then this world would be a much better place.

4.  Don't stop and think about each call, just keep going.  The point of phone banking is to make as many calls as possible, so don't stop to debate anyone.  If someone disagrees with you or is busy, stay pleasant, and just keep it moving.

At the end of the phone banking, we participated in a video call where we could share our experiences.  One woman held up her one-year-old baby for all of us to see as she explained that she had had her daughter on her lap the whole time because she wanted her daughter to also become an activist.  Seeing the little baby, I thought of how there is no way of knowing the consequences of what we do in the moment.  Even though we had not reached Senator Heller, by passing on the tradition of activism to this woman's daughter, there may be a great change that we will never know about.  In fact, I am realizing more and more that there is no way to ever know the full extent of how my actions may affect another, which is why I believe it is important to strive for loving kindness and bringing truth to power always.

My favorite interaction between me and another caller was when I called a man named Gary who interrupted me and told me that he agreed with everything I was saying and in fact, was on the other line trying to reach that particular senator already.  I laughed and congratulated him.  I told him to keep up the good work and that I appreciated what he was doing.  Even though phone banking for Planned Parenthood did not achieve its goal of convincing Senator Heller to not change his vote, it did much to counter my skepticism of men: to my surprise, most of my callers identified as male.  

In this society, we are constantly surrounded by negativity, and the negativity constantly in the news lately has been proven to affect people with mental health challenges more intensely.  A number of close friends have been struggling more so than usual and I cannot help but think that it is at least partly due to our culture's current diet of negative news.  To counteract the negativity and the resulting apathy, we must look for ways to uplift ourselves.  Activism can do that, for it lets the oppressed person know that they are not alone in their fight for justice.  Once a people know they matter and are not alone, then their power will become greater than they ever could have imagined, for they will be following the will of Love.

No Justice, No Peace - Know Justice, Know Peace

Black Lives Matter

Healthcare Is A Universal Right  

Femininity Is Power

Link Love:




Tuesday, June 27, 2017

Expressing Gratitude for Bipolar Disorder

And now, isn't it wonderful all the ways in which this distress has goaded you closer to God?  You're more alive, more concerned, more sensitive, more reverent, more human, more passionate, more responsible. (The Message Bible, 381)
I often attend Javamonkey Speaks, which is the open mic spoken word held every Sunday at Javamonkey, a coffeeshop near where I live.  I went there two weeks ago with some peers; when I go with peers I usually make a deal with them that if they present a poem, I will too, but I just wasn't feeling it that night.  I told them I would just support them this time.  But sometimes when I tell myself that I will be quiet at a function, something will happen that will make me feel compelled to speak anyway.  First, my favorite Javamonkey regular announced that he had been diagnosed with bipolar and that it was very hard and challenging.  I felt bad for him, as even though we haven't talked together much, I hold a lot of fondness towards him.  He is one of the most vulnerable poets I know, very quirky and special.  That night, he did a hilarious monologue as a German radio show host that  made me laugh until I cried.  I felt for him but I did not yet feel compelled to say anything.  A few poems later, another regular came on stage and announced that she had bipolar too.  It was the way that she said it that made me feel that now it was time for me to speak up.  She is a teen who I admire for bluntly putting her struggles out there week after week.  Unfortunately, being a melodramatic teen, her poems are almost always epically cringe-worthy.  This one was no exception.  Her life, as she sees it, is terrible, pure misery, and having bipolar disorder just makes it that much more excruciating.  I get it, I do.  When I was first diagnosed with my illnesses, life was hard.  It was excruciating and I was melodramatic too.  Yes, it was reassuring to talk with other people who were struggling but what I truly needed was hope, which unfortunately, very few people gave me in the beginning. Hearing this teen's troubles let me know what I needed to do.  I quickly found a poem that I didn't mind too much and signed up to share.  When I got on stage, this is what I shared, as much as I can remember:

I also have bipolar disorder but I want to say that I am actually grateful for it.  Yes, life is hard, but life is hard for everyone for different reasons.  Because of my experiences with bipolar, I have learned how to have more compassion, be less judgmental and I have met many wonderful people.  I have gone through many hardships but each time it gets easier and I have found that getting through hardships is what gives us resiliency, which is essential for a good life.  

I then read a poem that I posted here way back in 2011.  How life has changed since then for the better and how I can now trust it will continue to change for the better, even as these good times will, I know, be interrupted by hardships from time to time.  I think people were a little shocked when I followed my diagnosis with the statement that I was grateful for it but I really truly am.  I am never thankful for it when in the throes of depression or anxiety but I am thankful that I at least have the tools now to get me through it.  Earlier today, I had an anxiety attack, which was frustrating but at least I knew what to do and why it was happening - I was experiencing some joint pain and pain usually triggers anxiety for me, so I took some Advil, took my anxiety PRN, and turned up the air conditioning to get myself comfortable again.  I really would make a terrible homeless person because being physically uncomfortable isn't just annoying for me but actually triggers my anxiety.  In a pretty short while, my anxiety passed, and I laughed at myself out of relief, so grateful that I know how to manage myself now.  I believe everyone has their own challenges but as long as we keep trying new things and reflecting on what works and what doesn't, we will grow and get better, despite our setbacks.  

I hope this post provides some encouragement; feel free to share it with those who are struggling, especially with a new diagnosis.

Wednesday, May 17, 2017

What An Ally Looks Like

Nobody's free until everybody's free. - Fannie Lou Hamer
 Recently I read an article from the queer point of view and was surprised at how many people were defensive about the advice given.  Of course, I should not have read the comments but it did prompt me to think about what I consider to be the hallmarks of a good ally. Here is what I have come up with - none of it is really original thinking but hopefully it is helpful to someone.  I have written these guidelines in generic language because there are many types of oppression and I do not believe that any oppressed group should be freed before another.  We all need to be allies to each other in order to end ableism, racism, sexism, classism, ageism, size-ism homophobia, transgender hate, environmental abuse, and the rise of fascism.

1. A Good Ally Does Inner Work & Sets Aside Their Ego
I think sometimes people think they can be successfully supportive without doing inner work and that is just not true.  In order to knock down oppression, we must set our own egos aside.  All of us have biases and prejudices - it is the responsibility of all of us to be willing to examine ourselves and what we may be doing that is problematic.  If we do not understand what are doing that is wrong, then we cannot change our behavior and we cannot change our world.  The process towards understanding can be painful but is necessary to make a more peaceful community.

2. A Good Ally Wants to Learn
Some people want to say that they are supportive but they do not want to put any effort into learning about the issue.  Curiosity is a wonderful thing and I believe that a desire to learn is one of the greatest ways that we can show value - showing interest in another's experiences and hardships shows that you value them as a person.

3. A Good Ally Studies Their Own Culture
Of course, a good ally strives to understand the worlds of others, but if they do not understand their own world, then they will not be able to truly change it.  Black people understand the world of White people more than most White people do-that's why most Black people I talked to were not surprised when Donald Trump became president.  I was, because I did not take the time to understand my own culture-I stayed in my own liberal bubble, not understanding what has always been a part of white culture.  But this does not apply to just white people-heterosexuals, cis-gender, able-bodied, thin, neuro-typical, Christian, young, rich-you, we, all need to understand yours, ours, culture.  We need to understand the way it brainwashes us and the way it hurts us-the way it convinces us that we are superior to someone else.  Until we look closely at our own selves, we will not be able to change.
   
4. A Good Ally Does Their Own Research
I used to have a friend that would constantly ask me to define words I used and it got very aggravating.  It is disrespectful to repeatedly ask a person to explain themselves.  We live in an age with google, so use it. Taking the time to do research shows others that you respect their time. If a person tells me that they looked things up but still have questions, then I feel gratified and respected and I have no problem with answering a few questions.

5. A Good Ally Practices Empathy
Sympathy is feeling sorry for a person-empathy is feeling what they feel.  Sympathy involves a sense of superiority, while empathy brings mutuality and connection.  We do not want to do advocacy work because we feel sorry for another but because we feel connected to another and know that their struggle is our struggle is everybody's struggle.  I am not free until everyone is free.  Empathy involves active listening and admitting when we do not know what to do or what to say - in fact, I think admitting that we do not have all the answers but being willing to stay with someone through the uncomfortableness, through heartache, and say, "I do not know what to do, but I am here," can be very healing.  It is not the ally's job to solve all problems, but it is the ally's job to empathize in a way that others do not.  I think a person that strives to be empathic will be more willing to learn, to listen, to apologize if needed, and to ultimately act in a way that is helpful than a person who says they want to support/help but doesn't take the time to truly understand what the oppressed party is feeling and experiencing.

6. A Good Ally Gives Preference To The Other's Lived Experience
It may be tempting to assert your own opinion on a topic, but when an oppressed person tells their story or preference, it is your job to listen.  If what the person says bothers you, take some time to think about it and set your own ego aside before critiquing them.  The person with the lived experience knows more about what their oppression is like and what they need than you do.

7. A Good Ally Tries Not To Take Criticism Personally
Often times advice may be given in general terms - if it doesn't apply to you, then it's not about you.  Try not to get defensive when someone is sharing anger.

8. A Good Ally Does Not Get Offended By Anger
Oppressed people have a right to be angry about their oppression - don't police their tone or tell people that you would listen if they were nicer.  That makes the issue all about you and not about their own experience.  Remember, if it doesn't apply to you, then it's not about you.

9. A Good Ally Supports The Work Of Others
Once a person gets it, it can be tempting to want to save the day, but that is really putting the focus back on you.  White feminists have a long history of doing this.  Instead of forming your own rescue mission, find out what advocacy groups are run by the oppressed group and support them.  Become a follower rather than a leader if you are not part of the oppressed experience.

10. A Good Ally Uses Their Privilege To Speak Out
While it is good to let the oppressed group take the lead, you do have an important part to play in the move towards equality.  Talk about oppression and ways to combat it with your friends.  Do not let the people you know get away with using oppressive words or speech.  It is not that we are trying to be politically correct but that we are trying to create a more peaceful world.  If I hear a friend use the word, "retarded," I will gently ask that friend to use another word.  Here is what I usually say, "Please don't use that word-I have friends with developmental disabilities and that language has been used to hurt them.  Just say what you mean."  Be sure to have some suggestions ready in case they ask what they should say instead.  The appropriate term is developmental disability, although most people that say the r-word are actually referring to people they do not like or think are ignorant.  I have never had pushback when people hear that it is actually hurtful to use certain words and when given other words as options.  As a person of privilege, others will especially listen to you.

11. A Good Ally Promotes Dialogue
This is a hard one. I am troubled by how all or nothing our society has become and I believe it is  dialogue that can help save us.  We must be willing to have hard conversations with people who deeply disagree with us that are not shouting matches if we are to build unity.  It has become popular to make a grand pronouncement on Facebook telling people who do not agree with a certain issue to just go ahead and unfriend us and I find that disappointing.  The more separated our society becomes, the easier it is to turn certain people into an other and an enemy, which paves the road to fascism and genocide.  Here is my caveat though - in my quest for dialogue, I will not tolerate abuse and negativity in my space - I do not unfriend people just because they disagree with me but if they are rude, negative, demeaning, abusive, trolling, etc., then they have to go.  I promote dialogue, but I do not tolerate negativity in my sacred, safe spaces.  (That's called having boundaries.)

12. A Good Ally Owns Their Mistakes
We are all human and we are all going to make mistakes.  If a person makes an inappropriate assumption or uses the wrong language, that's okay.  Listen, learn, apologize, and then commit to not doing it again.  There is no need to beat yourself up or shower yourself in guilt, for no one is perfect.  Sincere apologies and dialogues can be healing, as it shows that a person really cares.

13. A Good Ally Practices Self Care
This actually applies to everybody.  You cannot help others if you are totally burned out.  Take good care of yourself.  Tell yourself good things and be with people that lift you up.  It is easy to get overwhelmed by all the negativity in the media but an atmosphere of despair helps no one.  Activism and protesting actually can be a wonderful form of self care, as it brings people together and helps people feel like they are being productive.  No, protests alone will not change the world but the coming together of many people for a single cause should never be underestimated.  It benefits the current social order to keep people isolated and think they are alone.  If you cannot protest, then do something else and do not feel guilty - there are many ways to bring about peace and they are all important.  This includes taking care of our wellbeing - the patriarchy feeds on isolation, negativity, and despair and we must fight it with optimism, unity, and hope.  These are not shallow feelings, but ways of being that require concrete action.  Pursue community, curiosity and creativity in healing and kind ways always in order to create a more just, equal, and peaceful society.

14. A Good Ally Holds Hope
If a person says they are a support person for a person with mental illness but does not believe that person will get better, then they are not really a support person.  This may be the hardest requirement for an ally, or anybody, to do though.  It's really hard to be hopeful when the world is as it is. Personally, I try to look for articles that report on the good side of things-what things that are being done that are actually positive and who are the people that trying to do good.  I follow groups and people that are trying to make change and participate in the ways they suggest.  I think hope is something best cultivated in community and action-it is hard to keep hope alive if all one does is sit at home and read/watch horrible stories all day.   I do not think we can be hopeful all the time-or empathetic or non defensive or any of the things I am suggesting.  I put these ideals out there because I think they are important-not because I think it is remotely possible to be this kind of person all the time.
*****
This writing exercise sort of turned into a monster-I had no idea that I had so many things to say when I first started writing this!  I came to the realization that these guidelines really transcend being a good ally and could be considered guidelines to being a good person.  Our society needs to support each other by employing empathy, understanding, compassion, kindness, dialogue, and love or else we will continue down our path of destruction and end up annihilating us all.  No one is perfect but together we can make a difference.

Nobody's free until everybody's free. - Fannie Lou Hamer

Saturday, April 15, 2017

The Hearing Voices Network Introduced Me To First World Trauma

Let us not ask, "What is wrong with you?" but, " What happened to you?"
I recently took a life-changing, empowering, and validating training to be a support group facilitator for the Hearing Voices Network (HVN).  HVN is an organization that started in England and is now worldwide that provides nonclinical, nonjudgmental support groups for people that experience voices and visions, so that they can find their own meaning in their unique experiences.  I am so excited to be a part of this social justice movement that is trying to change the mental health system by giving the power of meaning back to the people, instead of in the hands of clinicians.

A key value of the Hearing Voices Network is the trauma informed model, which recognizes that people with mental health challenges, including those who experience "symptoms of psychosis" are 500 times more likely to have experienced major traumas in their lives.  The symptoms that are usually labeled as psychosis are actually the brain's way of processing traumatic experiences and so are a natural and normal way for a body to process an abnormal event.  We should not be asking people what is wrong with them, as if they are a problem to be fixed, but what happened to them, because they are actually people in great pain deserving of empathy and validation.  This turns the idea of mental illness on its head: what if we did not have to call ourselves sick in order to gain compassion, but instead received compassion simply because we are all human beings with the capacity to experience great pain in different ways?

In the training, we learned that disturbing voices and images can be looked at as metaphor that is in our best self interest to explore.  For instance, a person who hears voices telling herself to kill myself may actually benefit from learning from those voices and asking herself what in her life does she need to kill - certainly not herself, but perhaps a destructive relationship, job, community, belief, etc. needs to go.  This is a much more compassionate and holistic way of looking at experiences that the behavioral health industry typically looks at as bad and as something to be feared.  In my experience, what gives us the most fear may be the very thing we need to explore.

Also, the word trauma is commonly used in a dangerously narrow way which discounts and minimizes experiences that are really traumatizing.  One of the most popular phrases that I hate hearing is the phrase, "first world problems," as if the people in first world countries do not face real problems and traumas.  I thought of this the other day after hearing about the U.S. military dropping the "mother of all bombs" in Afghanistan-as a person who believes in nonviolence, I was horrified
 about us dropping such a large bomb and felt ashamed to live in the country I do.  I began to have very negative thoughts towards myself that started to scare me and I wondered if I should call my doctor to up my dosage and then I thought, "NO!  Living in a country where a leader I did not vote for and do not support is doing things that I find immoral and horrifying is traumatic.  My disturbing thoughts are a normal and natural way of dealing with an abnormal and unnatural situation!" Once I came to that realization, my negative thoughts ceased to have power over me and I held myself in compassion and acceptance of my sadness.

First world problems may be different than third world problems but they are still full of trauma.  It is traumatic that our country has the highest rate of people held in prisons; that healthcare is inaccessible to many; that we have racism, sexism, ableism, classism embedded into the fabric of our police system, the system that is supposed to protect us-indeed, it is embedded into our very society; that mass shootings have become almost commonplace; that our jail systems have essentiallyreplaced
 mental institutions; that students leave college mired in debt; that we treat children like machines, always to be kept busy; that we value production over mental well being.  We are proud that this country is so rich and frivolous - look at me, with my Starbucks coffee, we say - but this richness erodes our sense of self and overall serenity.  We constantly crave more in order to fill the raging hurt inside of us at being lied to all these years, for even if we possess great privilege and power in this society, somewhere deep inside we know that all is not right and good.

I do not wish for third world problems - I wish for a world where people are allowed to be their authentic selves and not be judged, where people can ascribe their own meanings to phenomena without being diagnosed, a world in which total freedom means living in total interdependence with one another and in supportive, accessible community.  Next time you are about to minimize your seemingly tiny problem by labeling it a "first world problem," stop and acknowledge your frustration as valid and with compassion - the frustration you are experiencing, even if it is just for being stuck in a long line at Starbucks, is really the tip of the anger iceberg at living in such a  seriously flawed and messed up Capitalistic system.

In a society that wants to tell us what our meanings are, I am refreshed to belong to a organization that encourages its members to find their own meaning out of their unique experiences.  For them, it is up to the individual to decide what works for them-medication and therapy can be wonderful helpmates if handled skillfully and carefully, but they can also be destructive and debilitating if handled without skill and care.  It is up to us to decide how we want to address our distresses.

I think it is worth noting that it has been proven that people are not bothered by their voices and visions when they are allowed to ascribe their own meaning to them and in countries where those people are considered shamans, holy people, or healers, mental illness is far less stigmatized and those with unique experiences are far more happy with themselves.  This kind of thinking is what is found in many of the countries considered third world and less than our own.  (That is not to say that these countries do not have other horrible flaws and traumas inherent in their system.)

I believe that we should look at people with curiosity, empathy and love and that it is traumatic to live in society that instead looks at people as dollar signs.  I want to be part of something that helps to right this demented system and I hope the Hearing Voices Network, and other similar networks, continue to push back against the current paradigm.  I believe that pushing back in love may be the greatest thing we can do to heal ourselves and our first world trauma.

Link Love:

HVN International Site

HVN USA Site

Wednesday, March 29, 2017

Accepting The Limitations Of Creativity

Because of the extravagance of those revelations, and so I wouldn't get a big head, I was given the gift of a handicap to keep me in constant touch with my limitations.  (388, The Message Bible)
About a month ago, I heard someone who was in a position of power make the statement in front of a group of people that everyone can get their needs met if they are creative enough.  I have been thinking about that statement ever since and I have got to say that it is a bunch of privileged, ableist bullshit.

I learned way back in elementary school that needs are the things that keep you alive - you need them to survive.  The fact of the matter is that there will come a day for every single person when they will not be able to use creative means to stop their own death.  We all know that death is as certain as taxes...or do we?  Perhaps for some it is easy to deny that death will ever really happen to them but I seem to have escaped that ability.  I think about death a lot and I do not believe that there is anything wrong with that.  As I have written before, I believe my morbidity is one of my greatest strengths.

I think it must be fairly easy to not think about death if one is able in both body and mind, white, male, and of a higher class but what if one is not?  Was Sandra Bland not creative enough to get her out of the binds of being a woman of color?   What about Jaquarrius Holland, Chyna Gibson, Ciara McElveen, Mesha Caldwell, Jamie Lee Wounded Arrow, Keke Collier and Jojo Striker - the seven transgender women of color who have been killed so far this year in the United States for the crime of disregarding racial gender norms?  Was Anthony Hill's death due to a lack of creativity or to the stigma of mental illness and lack of proper police training?  What about all the poor people I know that cannot afford their medications?  Would a more positive attitude erase their need for medication or would it enable them to bring in more money on their own?  I do not think so.

I keep thinking of the picture of the little Syrian toddler, face caked with tears, blood and dirt, made famous a few months ago and how his needs are most definitely not being met.  He may be physically alive but he is bereft of home, family and safety.  I was taught in DBT that when one is in a situation where their needs are not going to be met, a person has the option to radically accept it and in so doing, may at least experience peace.  I am struggling to make sense of the fact that that famous little boy probably does not have the maturity and brain power to radically accept his situation.  He is in a miserable situation and I see little way out.  I can try to console myself that one of the workers
perhaps has adopted him and that he now has a good home but there is no way to know this for sure.
Reality insists that I have no way of knowing what has happened to him and that he very well may be dead.

I am very much alive, with my physical needs currently being met, but I have many unmet inner needs.  I have a deep longing for a world right with God, a world that honors the sacred in everyone, a world in peace and harmony with all living beings.  I am continually disappointed as I am assaulted with the knowledge that this will never happen while I am alive.  In a way, I wish I could delude myself to believing that if I am creative enough, I can meet all my needs and desires but I am smart enough and disabled enough to know that I cannot.   I have fibromyalgia, chronic fatigue syndrome and a host of different mental illnesses - no matter how healthily I live, the possibility of developing an illness that I cannot manage well one day is always a concern of mine.  Ironically, it is precisely when I accept this reality that I experience the most inner peace.

Currently, I carry the burden of loving the life I have built for myself and the job I have but also wanting to attend seminary and become a theological writer.  I have a feeling the speaker I heard a month ago would say that there is a creative solution in which I can have it all, but I know the truth - I am not Wonder Woman and if I were to become seminarian and career writer then it would be the death, at least for a while, of the mental health career that I love.  I absolutely do not know what to do.  Fortunately, this decision is not life or death but I do believe that easing the longing for perfection in this imperfect world may be a need that will always be partly left unmet.  Perhaps that is one of the great joys of life - accepting that there will always be some kind of dissatisfaction in this life, for without dissatisfaction, I would never strive to be creative and to be creative is to be one   universe, with the one who co-created the universe to be.  Therein lies the paradox that I tried to explain to the man - when I accept my permanent state of dissatisfaction then I enjoy the highest sense of satisfaction.  I imagine that I will wrestle with dissatisfaction my whole life until the day it is that I cease to be and who knows what will happen then!  Until that day, there is no way to creatively get out of being a disabled woman and all the vulnerabilities that come with that fact.  Perhaps one day I will develop Alzheimer's and so forget who I am - all the more reason to appreciate who I am now and call out bullshit as I can.  

Monday, March 13, 2017

Call or Write Senator Isakson

The new healthcare bill has many harmful parts to it that are concerning to me.  Here is a nice summary of what they are:

1. It allows health insurance companies to charge older Americans up to five times more.
2. It repeals the employer mandate, causing many families covered by their employers to lose coverage.
3. It will take insurance away from millions of individuals and cripple state budgets by phasing out the Medicaid expansion.
4. It gives health insurance companies a tax break for CEO pay over $500,000.
5. It defunds Planned Parenthood, leaving millions without access to breast exams, birth control, and pap smears.
- Call your representative in Congress. You can dial the Capitol switchboard at (202) 224-3121.
- Tell your friends to call their representatives in Congress.
- Show up at your representative’s town halls.
- Spread the word about this plan on Facebook (COPY/PASTE) and other social media

It also looks like there will be no insurance cap for those with preexisting conditions, making it unaffordable for millions.

In his telephone Town Hall yesterday, Georgia Senator Johnny Isakson said that his decision to support or not the current GOP Health Plan will depend on how it will actually affect Georgians. So, if you have evaluated, for instance, how your ability to afford health insurance will be affected by the Plan, please send him that information and reference his statement at tonight's telephone Town Hall. You can reach Senator Isakson here:
ATLANTA OFFICE
One Overton Park
3625 Cumberland Blvd, Suite 970
Atlanta, GA 30339
Tel: (770) 661-0999
Fax: (770) 661-0768
D.C. OFFICE
United States Senate
131 Russell Senate Office Building
Washington, DC 20510
Tel: (202) 224-3643
Fax: (202) 228-0724

I urge all of my readers in Georgia to call or write  Senator Isakson with how this new bill will negatively affect you.  Here is my letter, which I will send out later today.

Dear Senator Isakson,

You stated in your last town hall meeting that you wanted to know how the new healthcare bill will affect Georgians, so I am writing you to know how it will affect me and my concerns.

I am currently on disability for several mental illnesses, so I am on Medicare.  That is good news, as it means that I will not be negatively affected at first.  However, I would like to be able to get off of disability one day.  I believe that I will continue to get better and may be able to work more in the future.  However, there are practical considerations besides my health that affect whether I will ever get off of SSDI and that includes whether I will be able to afford my healthcare and I am afraid I won’t.  While preexisting conditions will be covered under the new healthcare bill, as I understand it, there will be no cap.  I am afraid that the insurance cost for people with preexisting conditions will be too high for people to afford.  I will never be able to work the kind of fast paced job that will earn me tons of money and I will always be part of a vulnerable population.  I would like to get off of SSDI one day, but if there are no caps on insurance for those with preexisting conditions, then I may never be able to afford any insurance besides the Medicare that I currently use and so my dreams of one day furthering my career are effectively stopped.

I cannot simply just not be on insurance – what if I have to be hospitalized again?  I hope you can see now that no caps on preexisting conditions still discriminates on those with disabilities or who have been sick in the past.  The most vulnerable population should not be penalized for something beyond their control.

Thank you for taking the time to read this.

Tuesday, February 28, 2017

Metro Atlanta Eating Disorder Resources

Since I am in recovery from an eating disorder, I get asked about eating disorder resources in the Metro Atlanta area from time to time.  Recently, I decided to compile them in a list so I could just send it to whomever asks.  I think it's such a good resource that I'm sharing it with you.  Feel free to print it out and give to anyone who needs it.  All of the treatment centers and support groups listed are ones that I recommend.  I do not recommend most food related twelve step groups because I firmly believe that abstinence does not work with food  - it does nothing to remove the obsession, as people who are constantly hungry and deprived are going to constantly still be thinking about food - they are replacing one "addiction" with an eating disorder.  I do approve of Eating Disorders Anonymous because they focus on balance, not abstinence.  I have not attended the Atlanta ANAD support groups but I have friends who have and they come highly recommended.  I would feel comfortable attending these EDA or ANAD groups should I ever need extra support in regards to my eating disorder recovery.  I am very lucky to report that I am doing very well right now with it and am far enough in my recovery that I think I can safely say that I do not see a relapse in my future at all.  Being that obsessed about food takes up a lot of mental energy and I just don't have the time or the energy to be that obsessive anymore!

  Ridgeview Women’s Unit (Only inpatient unit in GA but would be fairly short term – I recommend it though if someone needs to go inpatient)
 http://ridgeviewinstitute.com/pat_serv_womens.html

  ACE – Atlanta Center for Eating Disorders (Intensive Outpatient Center – been in Atlanta a long
time – I’ve heard good things. Average length of stay is 12 weeks.  Only place in Atlanta that treats boys and men with eating disorders)
 http://www.eatingdisorders.cc/ 

  Renfrew Center (New to Atlanta – seems good but its too new for reviews – treatment that would be the most long term)
 http://renfrewcenter.com/ 

Veratas Collaborative
Child, Adolescent and Young Adult Outpatient Treatment in the Dunwoody area
Also too new for reviews, but has therapists that are respected.
https://veritascollaborative.com/eating-disorder-treatment-locations/atlanta-georgia

  MANNA  (Christian based eating disorder treatment for adolescents in Lawrenceville) http://www.mannatreatment.com/  

Eating Disorder Therapists

Tara Arnold
  http://www.taraarnoldinc.com/ 404-964-6629
  WholeHeart Psychotherapy
http://www.wholeheartpsychotherapy.net/

Dr. Judi Lee Webb
http://newdirectionsatlanta.com/staff/judi-lee-webb-ph-d-ceds/

Dr. Dina Zeckhausen
(Founder of EDIN)
http://www.atlantapsychologist.com/eating-disorders.html

    Eating Disorder Nutritionists
  Jacy Pitts (love her – I’m sure she could recommend others) http://newdirectionsatlanta.com/staff/jacy-pitts-ms-rd-csp-ld/  

Page Love
770-395-7331
Http://nutrifitga.com
(Two free groups of hers are recommended – one is her monthly “Breakfast Club” and the other is her “Fit for Life” group)

Christine Engstrom
Private Practice at the Ridgeview Institute in Smyrna; also works at ACE
404-683-6557

Support Groups:

EDIN – Eating Disorders Information Network 
http://www.myedin.org/
 http://www.myedin.org/groups-in-the-community.html
 (Fabulous resource - lists all the ED support groups in GA)

  ANAD (Anorexia Nervosa and Associated Disorders-Support Groups) 
http://www.anad.org/get-help/find-support-groups-treatment/
 ANAD Helpline: 630-577-1330. Hours Mon-Fri 9am-5pm Central Time
(The one started by Page Love at St. Luke’s Presbyterian Church is highly recommended.
10-11am. 1978 Mount Vernon Rd., Atlanta, 30338)


  EDA (Eating Disorders Anonymous – “Balance – not abstinence – is the key to recovery”) http://www.eatingdisordersanonymous.org/meetings.html
 There are meetings in Lawrenceville, Tucker &aAtlanta

Saturday, February 25, 2017

Tips on Navigating The System

When everything was hopeless, Abraham believed anyway, deciding to live not on the basis of what he saw he couldn't do but on what God said he would do.  (315, The Message Bible)
I was recently asked to speak about “navigating the system” to a NAMI group.   I decided to share some of the lessons I’ve learned after almost fifteen years of receiving mental healthcare.  Here are my notes:

 1.CSBs – Every county has a community service board.  They’re not the best but if you don’t have insurance they can be a lifesaver.

 2.Use Insurance if possible 

3.Good therapists may require to pay out of pocket – my therapist does

 4.A good fit is key – change service providers if not a good fit; if a service won’t allow you to change, then it is not a recovery oriented service; ask your child what therapies, services THEY are interested in, don’t force them into something they don’t believe in – no matter how great it is recommended, it will fail without the consumer’s interest and belief

 My Story: Depression after first year of college.  Mom recognized it and took me to see her psychiatrist.Took years to find the right medication.  Terrible doctors and incompetent therapists – if I
could do over, I would spent more time looking for the right fit in both.  Someone who is knowledgeable and compassionate and takes a person seriously and has good rapport is important, especially for young people.  I wish I had taken finding the right person more seriously instead of getting worse with people who weren’t helping.

 5.Pursue recovery oriented services – individualized; honors choice; no coercion; collaborative; can choose own doctors/therapists; offers more than medication; validates the individual; talks about wellness more than illness – SkyLand Trail, Wellness Centers

6.Research treatments – research services in your area, especially if going to college or about to move – be prepared – I learned that from going to rural colleges and relapsing after not getting my needs met

7.Advocate for what you need

8.Obtaining disability may be the key to independence!  I thought my life would be sad as a “disabled person” but the extra money enabled me to move out of my parents’ house.  I ended up being ready to work just six months later.  I became a CPS and I discovered that one can still work while on disability.  Getting disability escalated my recovery, instead of diminishing it, so beware of inner ableism.

9.There are people called Benefit Navigators whose job it is to info you on how to go back to work while on disability.  They are fabulous people.  Sally Atwell is the benefits navigator that serves the Atlanta area and is a great resource. There are a lot of myths out there about working and disability but don’t despair until you find out the facts!  Her phone number is 404-350-7589.

10.Notice cycles/patterns of behavior and ruts – a change may be needed – for goodness sake, if someone keeps on going back to the hospital, ask yourself what they are needing and see if it can be accomplished outside of a hospital setting – Breaking cycles and patterns of behavior is key in recovery

11.Always remember that recovery is consumer driven.

12.Art and music and horticulture can be just important to recovery as medication or talk therapy.

13. Medication is not the cornerstone of recovery.  I take medication but… Medication is great
For some and not for others.  It is never a cure.  If a service is more focused on medication than the individual then it is not recovery oriented have found sleep to be the most important factor in my wellness.  Healing begins with validation and feeling heard.

14.Do not underestimate the value of peer support.  DBT is the therapy that changed my life but I was introduced to it long before I took it seriously.  What made me take it seriously is seeing results with other peers and hearing how excited they were.  I was inspired by peer bloggers and wanted what they had.  When someone is in the depths of despair, the only thing that can reach them is validation
and being heard and this is easiest supplied by someone who has already been there.

I wish that I had been introduced to peer support earlier.  When I first started hearing and feelingthings, I felt so stigmatized and weird.  If I could have been introduced to someone else who
experienced those same things but was doing well, my life would have been saved much earlier.  I would have been given hope when the professionals were not providing it.  This is why I am so excited to get training in the hearing voices network and to offer their support groups soon.

To sum up, I want to leave you with three things that I have learned:

Advocate for yourself – no one knows what you need better than you.

Secondly, if you believe you need clinical care, then spend time making sure you have the right fit.  Feeling heard and validated by your mental health professional leads to trust and being able to trust others is essential to one’s well being.

Finally, believe in yourself and in your loved one.  You are worth fighting for and you are worthy of being heard, validated and treated with respect.  No matter what obstacles are in your way, I firmly believe that every person has the right and the ability to lead a better life for themselves if only they will put forth the work.  I believe in you!

Friday, February 3, 2017

Rising Out Of Fire

In my creative writing activity at the center where I work, I had peers write their thoughts in response to this picture:
This is what I wrote:

It used to be that all I could think of was my pain.  It was all I felt. I called my story The Girl Who Couldn't Stop Crying.  It seems a bit melodramatic now but it was how life was.  Eventually I wore myself out.  I got tired of always being miserable.  I got tired of always crying and wanting someone else to fix me.  Gradually I learned that I had to validate myself.

I had been through the fire but I was not burnt.  I had scars but underneath everything, I was okay. 

I learned to move towards people that emphasized my okay-ness, that do not put me down or dwell in the land of troubles all day.  I learned that it is okay to ask people for reassurance and that it is okay to let myself believe it.  I learned that although life is hard, it is full of joy too.  I learned to embrace the joy and be grateful for the simple things in life.  I grew into the free person I am today. 

I may have been through fire, but I am still cool.