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, May 28, 2018

You Are A Badass - A Book Review

We are all perfect in our own, magnificent, fucked-up ways. Laugh at yourself. Love yourself and others. Rejoice in the cosmic ridiculousness.  ~ Jen Sincero from "You Are A Badass"

What makes Jen Sicero’s self-help book special is its fun language - with the playful swearing, you feel like you’re talking to your older, wiser, and wise-cracking sister. It’s an easy to read book - in fact, I’m a little embarrassed to admit that I skimmed through a few of the sections.  There really wasn’t anything super new in the message, but I think sometimes you need to hear the same words over and over again until you finally get it.  The best thing about the book is how it gets you bubbling over with excitement-I resorted to skimming towards the end because I was so excited about starting my next project.  

A consistent theme is the importance of loving yourself - instructions telling you to love yourself are just about every other page.  If there was one thing I could give one of my ex-girlfriends, it would be the realization that she is worthy of self love, but alas, there is no way to teach another that lesson.  

Another theme is the importance of following your joy.  That message seems to be following me everywhere I go lately - I guess I should listen! Reading self-help books like, “You’re A Badass” are hard to read because they challenge you to be more optimistic, positive, and joyful than what is generally considered “normal.”   We’re supposed to be beaten down with everything that is going on in the world; we are supposed to be depressed and anxious and mediocre - me especially, since I am already on disability, but I do not have to follow the old pattern anymore.  

I must say that the most frustrating thing about the book is how overly simple all of these type of self-help books are. They’re great for everyday people, but the ones who are disabled, or extremely poor, or who are too depressed for just a self-help book are often left out.  

The question I was left with is, ok, I get that we’re supposed to just jump off the ledge of employment predictability but what about the people who depend on Medicare?  Entrepreneurship seems like the holy grail sometimes but it makes it harder to get affordable health insurance.  With my healthcare needs, I feel like it would be foolhardy to just jump off of disability in our current political climate.  I know that one can continue to receive Medicare for the next five years after one gets off of SSDI - my hope is that Trump and his cronies will not last too long and that I will eventually feel secure enough that I can venture off disability even without a standard forty hour a week job.  I love my current job but after just two days of working in a row, I am bone tired.  It would be really nice if the work I enjoy did not exhaust me so.  I feel like it must be possible to achieve that kind of balance, but I have not found it yet. 

I wish self-help books addressed specialty groups - where are the self-help LGBTQ, disabled authors of color?  

WHERE?!

I know they must be out there somewhere... 

Perhaps I will be the one to write a disabled, anarchic self-help book one day.  

I feel like I am in a new era of myself.  Ever since my last hospitalization, I realized how important it is to dwell in joy - I was just so tired of anxiety, misery, and depression.  I am never giving up this dwelling place again.

Tuesday, May 22, 2018

Evolve with Joy and Love

we have two choices: embrace and love what we have and feel joy as deeply and fully as we can, and eventually lose everything—or shield ourselves, be miserable… and eventually lose everything. Living in fear won't stop us from losing what we love, it will only stop us from enjoying it.  ~ More Than Two by Franklin Veaux and Eve Rickert
Another school shooting.

Today in a coffeeshop I overheard an elderly white man say that he thinks school shootings are happening because kids aren't spanked enough today.  If there was better discipline, then kids would know the difference between right and wrong.

That is a horrible thing to believe and say.

I wanted to say something, but in the end I didn't because I knew it would not have changed his mind.  I think of people like that as dinosaurs on the way to extinction.  It is better to focus on the young people who are changing the system, rather than the people who are stuck in a bygone era.

What do you do after another school shooting?  Another cop called by a racist person?  Another tweet by a dehumanizing president?

It helps when I remind myself that there have always been many horrible tragedies every day since the world began-it's tough now because we are bombarded with the horrible-ness of everything all at once, all the time, if we let it.

I think we have several options: focus on joy and love or focus on fear and pain.  My mantra is to move towards love, not fear, but it's hard when confronted with the awful news so often.

I feel like if I let myself succomb to despair, then I have let evil win.  I don't want to grow up to be a bitter person who thinks violence is the answer.

The other day, I thought to myself, "the world is so bad - everyone should have a "mental illness."  Mental illness diagnosis are rising, at least partly, because people don't know how to handle our society's constant stream of negativity.  My solution is to get out of the stream.

For myself to be productive, I have to focus on what I can do, instead of what I can't.  I have to focus on the people who are changing the current paradigm for a better one - otherwise, I will get stuck in despair and misery.

Last weekend, I attended an LGBT schi-fi convention called OutlantaCon.  It was a lot of fun - I even bought myself a unicorn horn!

Why?

Because it brings me joy!

I attended a panel on activism at the conference because I wanted to meet Park Cannon - the representative for Georgia district 58 - a young, queer, woman of color who is making a difference.  It is important to take notice of those who are upsetting the system - we need to follow them instead of the negativity on the news.

Of course, we don't want to be ignorant, but my wise mind tells me that too much news watching is a recipe for bitterness instead of loveliness.

At the convention, I got to meet people who make their living by having fun and bringing people joy. Stiletto, A drag queen with backup singer puppets; a steampunk couple that makes beautiful clothes; people singing songs from my favorite musicals accompanied on their ukuleles (the ukulele seems to be the "in" nerd convention instrument right now); a ridiculous entertainer named Magnus Moxie, who claims to be the cosmetologist on The Enterprise with an endless supply of horrible puns.


So much joy!

That's what I love about conventions - it's people together who share a passion and passions bring us joy.  It's why I will never give up ice cream.

I want to focus on the Park Cannons and Moxie Magnuses of this world, rather the ignorant, white dinosaurs.  I ate vanilla cinnamon gelato and attended a drumming event (not at the same time) tonight.  Right now, I've got a peaceful cat sleeping in between my feet. Right now, I have everything I need.

Sadness is a valid emotion, but so is joy.  We need to honor both to evolve.  When I feel the urge to detach and ponder evil, I must instead connect with others and move towards love instead.  To move towards joy is to live - to move towards fear is to die: let us evolve and bring new life to this world.
(at the Decatur Square on my birthday)

I have several events coming up, including an open house for The Hearing Voices Network.  Click on the link for more info.

Tuesday, May 8, 2018

Sometimes Sadness Is Just Sadness

Jesus was portrayed simply as having the courage to be himself under any set of circumstances.  The Being of Jesus thus issues in enormous freedom. It delivers us from the need to impress, to win, or to protect ourselves.  It calls us only to be the self we are, the deepest self, the most real self.  (332, Spong, Liberating the Gospels: Reading the Bible with Jewish Eyes)
I can be sad and still be myself in recovery.  I don't need to hide.  (me)
My doctor declared me, "normal," today, which makes me laugh.  My energy is low again and I was worried that my depression was coming back, but he said no.  "You don't look depressed and it seems like you're pretty motivated," he said.

Yes.

Despite a lack of energy, I took care in my appearance, put on new clothes, complete with bright red lipstick before going out today.

 I went to where I work and talked with a few people who are affiliated with the National Alliance on Mental Illness (NAMI).  I just love networking and sharing with people my passion for wellness centered mental health.  On the way home, I stopped and got my emissions tested.  (Of course, I waited til the day before my birthday to get it done.) And THEN, I went to the bank and got a temporary debit card because of course, I had lost it a few days ago.

*sigh*

It wasn't even noon yet and I was exhausted.  Nothing appealed for food - too tired to cook, but instead of just fixing a bowl of cereal, I found a microwaveable meal with protein.  I've discovered that eating more protein and drinking more water really do help elevate my energy.  I smiled as there was a time when a microwaveable pizza would have made me anxious about the calories and fat grams.  Now I think of it as a source of energy that tastes good.  I ate and then cuddled with my cat for a little while.

*sigh*

I had to leave just an hour later for the second round of "must do's."  I saw my doctor and told him about my lower than average energy but also that I was dealing with the disappointment of breaking up with someone that I had really liked.  It's no big drama and we hadn't dated long, but it had been a long while since I had felt so hopeful about a romantic relationship.

"I think that's normal," he said.  "You're sad, but that's okay.  Everyone gets sad sometimes.  You still have motivation-you're not depressed-just going through some sadness. You're growing! Do you want to meet again in two or three months?"

Holy Sh*t, I'm just sad?! Hmmm...

On my way home, I stopped at the Kroger's that had the Georgia license tag kiosk and was delighted that despite my procrastinating, I am not going to get a ticket for no new tag.  I took the moment to look for manager's specials and was able to score a few deals for dinner.  At the checkout, I asked for money back to pay the neighbor's son for mowing my lawn a few days ago.

VICTORY!!!!

I got in my car with a big bravo - despite feeling tired and sad, I got every single of my mutha-f*ckin' chores done for the day!  (my mind swears when I'm excited, apparently...)

Maybe that doesn't sound exciting or grand to you, but it is to me.

I asked a coworker a few weeks ago what recovery means to her and she surprised me by saying,
"it means you've got your sh*t together.  You do what you need to do, whether you want to or not." 
It may not be the prettiest definition, but I think she's right.  Recovery is about doing what one needs to do, despite how one feels.  It means not giving up.  In order to get things done, we may need help, and that's okay.  The point is that one does not need to self-harm or self-medicate in order to get rid of unpleasant feelings.  You use your skills or call someone for support.

Now, okay, obviously that definition is a little simplistic.  Recovery is a process and I don't want to insinuate that someone who does not get all their errands accomplished in one day is not in recovery. That would be ridiculous.

However: not giving up, despite how one feels.  Doing what one needs to do, even if it's boring, even if it's stressful, even if it's tiring - that's recovery.

I'm no longer sad; I'm still romantically frustrated, but hey, that's life.  I've got sh*t to do.  Breaking down will just have to wait for another day.

 Read the May Edition of the Hope Is Real Newsletter and subscribe!  There are some metro Atlanta mental health events and info you may want to know!