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, March 17, 2019

Discomfort Signals Growth

Newness is possible; the future does not have to replicate the past; the dream of God is alive. (Marcus Borg, Reading the Bible Again for the First Time)
I'm going through a lot of change and that is good.  It is also stressful.  I started worrying that my increase in anxiety was a signal that I would relapse into my illness.  I am so glad that I finally completed my big goal of publishing a book but trying to figure out how to not overdo it has been really hard.  Fortunately, we had another intentional peer support training at the peer center where I work and it prompted a few "aha" moments.

























Turn From Fear Towards Possibility

Discomfort Means I'm Growing

"Aha!" I said. This additional anxiety is not so bad - it doesn't mean I'm relapsing; it means I'm growing! I need to not run away from my fear and discomfort but embrace the change instead. I feel comforted by the fact that I don't need to pathologize my emotions.  I decorated a page in my journal to remind me of the direction I want to keep going in my recovery.
























donot worry - choose joy
My thoughts are like butterflies - they flit and move on!
Be mindful! Slow down!
Affirm my self worth
I am valuable!

Does this mean that I should strive to always be anxious so that I can always grow?
Ugh. NO
But it does mean that I can appreciate it, even if not enjoying it.

I HATE ANXIETY

But it does make me feel victorious when I remind myself that every low point in my life has prepared me for something wonderful later.  I don't think God intentionally gives us suffering to punish or teach us but I do think that through mindfulness we can be open enough to see the creation of good even despite our suffering.

How to do this?

I remind myself that my thoughts are not real - a bad thought does not make me a bad person.  I can choose to give my thoughts power or I can choose to simply notice the thought and then go to something else.  Creativity, watching kid's movies, cuddling with my cat, and talking to my supporters are probably the biggest and best ways I distract myself from my intrusive thoughts.  I will also say that taking my medication is another key for me.  My anxiety is just too severe without it; it is much easier to simply notice my thoughts when I have some medical help.

This is all hard but so important.  I read an article the other day about the difference between a "fixed mindset" and a "growth mindset."  Someone with a fixed mindset has been told that they are talented and so they feel pressure to keep up with their accolades.  This means they feel like a fraud and don't take as many risks-they are even more prone to lie about how well they are doing in order to keep up their talented image.  However, people with a growth mindset have been praised for their hard work.  This means they enjoy a good challenge and taking risks.  They have less inner conflict because they don't see mistakes as failure in themselves but as another challenge to overcome.  They are more honest and content.

This is the type of person I want to be.

Growth isn't always fun but it is satisfying.  

Embrace your discomfort and take care of yourself. Validate your self-worth and grow.
(from the graphic novel version of A Wrinkle in Time-an excellent read.)

Saturday, March 2, 2019

You Can

"Whatever I have, wherever I am, I can make it through anything in the One who makes me who I am." (The Message Bible) 
"Why don't they ever tell us that we can recover? 
Why don't they ever tell that us that we can be well? 
My doctor and therapist never told me that my symptoms can go into remission and that I can be really well! 
It's true, because I am!"
These were the words said by a peer a few days ago in a conversation about dynamics with mental health clinicians. I am grateful to have a mental health professional team that I trust, but so many people don't.  If you are uninsured, you have to take what you can get and often these clinicians are over worked, under paid, and burnt out.  They don't have time to share hope anymore.

In case your doctor or nurse or case worker or therapist or social worker doesn't say it, I will:
You can recover from mental health challenges.
You can be well.
You can go into remission from mental health challenges and substance abuse and experience a life worth living.
Will there be more hard times too?  Of course.

Will you relapse or lapse?  Most likely, but each time you will come back even stronger and this will build up resiliency.  Life will get better more and more often.

Life is like a roller coaster - sometimes we are on the top of the hill and sometimes we are hurtling down in a stomach turning rocket.  The one constant in life is change and your roller coaster keeps on going.  At first, riding the roller coaster is very scary but after a while, you start to get used to it.  In fact, you eventually feel thrilled and excited by the twists and turns - it's a hard experience, but it's also an adventure.  You learn that you are strong and can keep on going.  You scream and laugh.  You swear that you will never take another risk again, but then discover that you are standing back in line to ride another adventure roller coaster ride.

My life has gotten better since I started thinking of my life as a grand adventure.  Sometimes it sucks, but there are always changes that surprise me and keep me going.  There are new lands to discover and people to greet.  There are new lessons learned and exciting foods to try.

I am well, although still disabled.  Most days I feel pretty good and I accomplish a lot.  This triumph comes from knowing myself and from taking care of myself.  I take my medication; I balance sleep and food; I create art.  I participate in many communities and I both receive and provide support to others.  The only reason why I still say that I am disabled is because my wellness comes with stipulations.  If I worked the hours of a full-time employee, I would probably not be as well as I am.  I have to take extra care of myself so that I will not be burnt out and exhausted-rather a lot like the social worker who no longer can provide hope! I believe there are many people who are not well in positions of power.

Being well requires a lot of hard work and a little bit of luck, but it can be done.

And...sometimes it can't.  Sometimes we can't sleep no matter how hard we try-our bodies hurt and from no fault of our own, we are not well.

It's true.

But-

It's also true that we can be well.

If you are struggling right now, take comfort in the fact that life is change.  You will get better. You will fly up and then hurtle towards the ground in a free fall - you will laugh and scream.  You will learn and grow stronger.  If no one has told you this lately, then let it be me:

You can be well. 
You can recover. 
You can possess a life worth living. 
You can.


















At a recent blog-to-book workshop with recovery authors Bicchiere Alta and Ashley Smith.  (left to right) 

Monday, February 25, 2019

Upcoming Events




Friday, March 1


 Saturday, March 2

Saturday, March 9 & Sunday, March 10
The mental health first aid workshop is free for members of Kirkwood United Church of Christ and $20 for non-members.

Saturday, February 2, 2019

Both Broken and Whole


"Life is funny like that, when the dust settles at the end of the day - and we’ve said all we can, we’ll realize every part of us, even the loving ones, were a little broken.” 
I like that you're broken Broken like me Maybe that makes me a fool I like that you're lonely Lonely like me I could be lonely with you
~ Broken by lovelytheband
The song, "broken," by lovelytheband is on the radio a lot and it's my current favorite pop song.  It's catchy, musically very similar to Pumped Up Kicks by Foster the People, which was the big song on the radio a few years ago.  Catchy melodies are nice, but the reason why I love this song so much is that its words speak to my soul.  It seems sort of funny to me that such a pop-y song can make me cry, but it sometimes does.

We are all broken and it is refreshing to hear a song that acknowledges that deep, spiritual wisdom in an accessible way.  Now when I say we are all broken I do not mean that we are bad or wrong.  I've heard the sentiment from many a troubled warmline caller, so let me be clear:

You are not broken because you have emotions or cry
You are not broken because you have a mental health challenge
You are not broken because you struggle with addiction
You are not broken because of the way you look
You are not broken because you take medication or go to therapy

You are perfect and whole just the way you are.

We are all human and humans feel complicated emotions.
Humans cry and struggle and face challenges.
Disability is natural.

Having a disability does not mean that one is broken or defective or bad or wrong; it simply means that one needs extra support in order to make money in our society. (Literally, this is how the American government defines disability-it's all about whether a person can keep a job.)  Money helps people live but it does not give a person moral value.  (Sorry, Trump.  #sorrynotsorry)

When I say we are all broken, I mean it in the way of Audre Lorde:
“I am not free while any woman is unfree, even when her shackles are very different from my own.”
I am broken because our world is broken.

It's another dialectic:

I am a whole person who can declare her goodness to the world - I don't have to let the world convince me that I am bad.

Like the beginning intro to the music video, we are all a little broken due to the trauma of living in this world.

Immigrants and their children separated, mass incarceration of people of color, gun violence in our schools, emotional abuse in mental hospitals, women giving birth while in shackles for nonviolent crimes, hate crimes, rape culture, genocide, dead zones in oceans - There is no way a person can listen to the news and not acknowledge that something in our world is very wrong.

It is our ego.

When we think of ourselves only, we are living in brokenness - when we think of ourselves as inseparable from all, then we are closer to wholeness.

Being disabled is not a deficiency but a world that does not want to recognize and include the talents and gifts of those with disabilities is.

Do you understand the difference?

I like the song, Broken, because it speaks to my experience.  I am dating and I am looking for someone that is willing to admit that they are sometimes lonely and who recognizes the brokenness of this world.  But I also want someone who values themselves and is confident.

One can be vulnerable and confident at the same time.  One can admit their brokenness and still value themselves.  In fact, maybe those states of beings help each other out-perfectionism often comes from a person feeling so completely inadequate that they feel the need to go too far in the other direction.

I am a broken person and my heart aches.

I am a whole person and my heart sings.

I am both and that is good.














(a journal entry from a few weeks ago) 

Saturday, January 12, 2019

Gratitude for 2018 - Excitement for 2019

A devout life does bring wealth, but it's the rich simplicity of being yourself before God. ~ The Message Bible
2018 was my year for healing and for accomplishing my goals - I completed my book challenge by reading thirty books in a year!

My Favorites:

Graphic Novels/Comics:

Can't We Talk About Something More Pleasant? by Roz Chast

Mary Shelley's Frankenstein: A Graphic Novel adapted by Pete Katz

Ms. Marvel Vol. 7: Damage Per Second

Ms. Marvel Vol. 8: Mecca

Supergirl: Being Super by Mariko Tamaki

Young Adult:

The Absolutely True Diary of a Part Time Indian by Sherman Alexie

Self Help:

The Posttraumatic Growth Workbook: Coming through Trauma Wiser, Stronger, and More Resilient by Richard G Tedeschi

You Are a Badass: How to Stop Doubting Your Greatness and Start Living an Awesome Life by Jen Sincero

Nonfiction: 

Hope in the Dark: Untold Histories, Wild Possibilities by Rebecca Solnit

More Than Two: A Practical Guide to Polyamory by Franklin Veaux

Women Who Run with Wolves: Myths and Stories of the Wild Woman Archetype by Clarissa Pinkola  Estes

The Complete Poetry of Anne Sexton

At the end of the year, I self-published my own book!

Hope Is Real: I Have A Purpose.  















You can now read the journey of my recovery after my last hospitalization, available on Amazon as a paperback or for your kindle.

In between, I started my own online mental health newsletter and I started my own business:

Hope Is Real Mental Health LLC

My business is the vehicle for my mental health presentations, art workshops, books, and art.

I led an LGBT Cultural Competency Workshop at the GMHCN St. Simons Conference to rave reviews.

I performed with the R2ISE Theater at Emory - I wrote a piece called, "The Gift of Psychosis."

I led a few mental health workshops for my old youth group with lots of enthusiastic participation.

I sold some art.

 I helped my church qualify for the United Church of Christ mental health designation (Mental Health  Hope and Wellness).
Holy Shit!  I did a lot!!  
lol. That's not even everything!
Last year was for completing goals and new beginnings-this year is to see those new beginnings grow and blossom!  Out of my trauma grew many redemptions fed by the waters of hope, love, and support.

When I reflect on all I accomplished last year, I am filled with gratitude.  Surely, I could not have completed any part of it without the help and support from my family, my therapist, my peers, my friends, my church.  I would say, "my God," except that I feel like that name puts human limits on a force that is so much bigger than what we can comprehend.
























I will leave this post with a gratitude poem I wrote last year:

God, 
Thank you for air conditioning.
Thank you for water.
Thank you for the ability to be happy with myself.
Thank you for coffee, half and half, and Nutella brownies.
Thank you for all the foods society says is “bad” and “guilty”-
We both know that there are more serious things to feel guilty about.
Thank you for laughing with me over the ridiculous seriousness
That people attach to things that could give a lot of joy.

May I always take joy in the simple things of life.
May I always be grateful to be myself, 
While never forgetting that I am not actually a single person,
But just a part of this astounding universe.

May I renounce my female pronouns and embrace they-
We are all a “one” and a “they” all at once -
Many parts make a whole.

God is everywhere, filling in the cracks.
There is gold in between my joints!
May my movements shine with joy-
I am the Georgia humidity and 

God is the air conditioning unit with no power bill.