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.

Monday, February 19, 2018

Ethics and Repentance

Produce fruit that shows you have changed your hearts and lives.  (Matthew 3:8)
Last Tuesday, I spent the day in Macon taking a continuing education workshop on certified peer support ethics. The presenters kept reminding us of the Hippocratic oath, which begins with the famous phrase, “First, do no harm” and I kept wondering to myself, “Why doesn’t this apply to mental hospitals?” 

It seemed to me that the staff at the last hospital I was in thought that as long as they weren’t hitting us, then they were being ethical, but there are other kinds of abuse other than simply physical.  Ignoring, gaslighting, coercion, calling people names, condescending tones, raised voices can all be a part of emotional abuse.  I consider chronic understaffing, poor training, and no deescalation skills as the breeding grounds for emotional, spiritual abuse and neglect.

Now, not all hospitals are the same - a few mistakes everywhere is expected, but the last hospital I was in stood out - the chronic understaffing meant that  all the patients had to stay in a fairly small room to be watched, people got angry that they had nothing to do all day and then the staff got defensive and started telling us that we were acting like children.  At one point, I thought there was going to be a riot and was genuinely scared. 

It seems to me that as long as we look at people as dollar signs, as objects to be bought, sold, told what to do, and drugged, then the mental healthcare system will be guaranteed to harm  their patients, the opposite of the Hippocratic Oath.  I am not against medicine or safe spaces, but I am also for the ethical treatment of human beings no matter where they are.  I believe that the concept of safety should apply to the whole person and should promote holistic healing, not further PTSD.

dictionary.com defines ethics as, “the branch of philosophy that deals with morality. Ethics is concerned with distinguishing between good and evil in the world, between right and wrong human actions, and between virtuous and nonvirtuous characteristics of people.”

It is evil to view people as an “other.”  Whether calling someone an, “illegal,” or a “mental patient,” the separateness causes the worker to put the other person down and believe that “those people” are not quite as human as they are, which leads to abuse and even death.  In a capitalistic society, it is the almighty dollar that always comes first - that is why we have not passed gun control, despite the horrifying number of public shootings - politicians favor the NRA’s money more than the people they are supposed to serve.   
How do we begin the undoing of capitalism?   
Our very nation was built by people who were bought, sold, and considered property.  It seems to me that this is the way the insurance, drug companies, and politicians view people with disabilities and if a disabled person is a person of color, then the risk of being abused or killed goes up even higher.  

This country needs major reform in all areas of life.  I do not believe it is ethical to view people as property or as objects.  It is not ethical to continue taking money from the NRA when the people are crying out for change.  Parents should not carry the fear that their  children will  be killed during class.

In the Bible study I attended just last week, we talked about how the kings of Israel always needed prophets to keep them in check. 
“People in power need truth tellers,” we said. 
I believe we must ALL tell our leaders how sad we are, how sad our society has become, how angry everyone feels - every person in our country is in a state of trauma and so to try to separate us into groups of an “us” and a “them” is even more demeaning and offensive.  Our country is struggling with a collective case of PTSD.

 When are we going to come together and say that community and love and kindness should be our focus, not guns, money, or false ego?  The American Dream was always just a mirage, anyway; what about a Human Dream instead?

A land without "others" and a land where all people are valued. It is fitting that this recent shooting happened during the Christian season of lent, for only a period of political repentance will bring about positive change.

How many children have to die before the politicians realize that there is no other - we are all connected, we are all struggling with trauma, we are all on the brink of insanity. A news reporter the other day said that the shooting was the result of mental health stigma, however, it is not the people with mental illness that we need to fear but the politicians causing the stigma in the first place.

Our society is standing on the brink of something potentially great - let us choose to systemically repent and change our ways.

Thursday, February 8, 2018

Writing Was My Saving Grace

They were so absorbed in their “God projects” that they didn’t notice God right in front of them, like a huge rock in the middle of the road. And so they stumbled into him and went sprawling.  (The Message Bible, 325)

The two writings below feel very special, almost sacred, to me.  They helped me and they helped my peers.   The first piece was when I was in a super angry, emotional state and the second piece was written when I was still partly sedated from the night before.  I’m amazed that my writing was still pretty good considering I wasn’t “in reality:”

“I already am the person I want to be.  Just because there are areas for me to work on doesn’t mean that I am not already the person I want to be.  I am proud of myself because I am taking care of myself. I have been responsible with letting my work know where I am.  I resent the idea that I am not already a success in my own way.  My emotional outbursts may be extreme but they are a normal traumatic response to an abnormal situation.  It is traumatic to live in a society where the number one reason for people to be killed by the police is to have a disability (50% of all cases of police violence involve a person with a disability).  I want to know how to constructively handle the rage I feel at living in such an unjust society.  I know my strong emotional outbursts are due to inner shame towards being here and I need to work on that.  It would help if my current strengths were noticed instead of just my weaknesses.”

(yes, I did, in fact, use accurate statistics in my hospital writing.  I cracked my peers up that I was so serious.)

“Funny how a crisis can make you see what is important to you.  Usually when I am hospitalized, I clothe myself in shame but today I am happy because it made me realize just who I love.  I’ve always said that I would never go back to the hospital - my goal was to be done. Now my goal is to do whatever it takes to stay alive, for I have people to love, animals to cuddle, books to read and books to write.  The world needs to know of the resiliency found in people who have mental illness.  Those who are beautiful glow with an inward light no matter where they are.  Those in houses with many lights will still never be able to see the light unless they are ever able to close their eyes and become one with the true beauty of us all.”

(I can’t remember her name but the woman sitting next to me wrote “thank you” after reading what I wrote.)
Writing was my main way of taking care of myself in the hospital. The expressive arts therapist had noticed how important my writing was and so saved it for me when I was transferred to another unit.  The fact that he remembered and gave it back to me is something I will always be grateful for - few places are all bad and he was a good one.  I used my writing to remind me of my goodness and what I valued, and I used it to ask myself questions about what I thought was going on with me.  I would love to do a workshop on the power of journaling one day - I absolutely feel that the journaling I did in the hospital worked saving magic - having something that I was good at reminded me of my worth and confirmed that despite being in a stabilization unit, that I still had strengths.  Perhaps most importantly, it gave me hope and it encouraged my peers.  

I left the hospital knowing that despite everything, I had a purpose and that purpose was to write.  The same thing happened when I left the trauma therapist - I told her I needed to get on with my life and start writing and she agreed.  The way I currently feel is that while my mental health struggles are not fun, if they give me a purpose and a talent, then they can be redeemed.  There is something special hidden in the deepest pain if we will take the time to fish it out, analyze it, throw away the parts that are no longer useful, and stand in awe of the strengths that shine despite having developed in mud and muck.  Writing is my way of polishing myself and turning my dirtiness into a diamond.

(Captain Marvel from 

Captain Marvel: Earth's Mightiest Hero Vol. 1 by (Text) (Text) (Illustrations) (Illustrations) (Illustrations)