Mental Health: No Stigma

Image result for World Mental Health Awareness

Today is World Mental Health Day, with the 2017 designated theme of “Mental Health in the Workplace.”

There are two huge and simple things we can do as employees and employers in our jobs: help to end stigma, and human kindness.

I live and thrive with bipolar disorder. It wasn’t always that way. I was (mis)diagnosed with depression at 14, and due to a negative stigma around treatment thanks to religion I went untreated for many years. Sure I tried therapy here and there, but fought it until I stopped going. I tried meds until I stopped that too, believing God healed me. Religion tending to feed into stigmas around mental health aside, although that is huge story that could be told, going untreated for so long culminated in a suicide attempt in 2010.

After that, I got onto this antidepressant and that one, struggling through the uninsured system of having a pre-existing condition before ObamaCare was a thing, until I got onto the antidepressant that would trigger my manic episode, 4-days with no sleep, and eventual involuntary hospitalization under a 5150 hold. Not uncommon for someone with bipolar who is misdiagnosed as depressed to be diagnosed this way, but unfortunate.

During all of these instances and hospitalizations, I had jobs. Myself, or my caretaker, usually boyfriend, would have to go to my manager and explain what had happened and where I was. We always went with compete honesty. They always gave complete kindness and confidentiality.

Many years and struggles later, and I’m on a regimen that works. I can report that I am currently more manic than otherwise, and that be ok because I know what it means for me. I know it’s who I am, that I have two main emotional states and where my boundaries lie. I know how to ride the waves, and how to take it easy on myself. Some days I don’t, and some days I need to take a mental health day from everything. Some days I can’t be around people, and some days I’m tackling projects left and right better than anyone around me.

I function. I thrive. I live and I love. I’m a person with a mind, and a heart, and a career. I just happen to also have a disease for which there is no cure – but there is help for.

What we can all do is make it so that speaking about my disease is no more strange and uncomfortable than someone telling  you they cannot have that cookie because they’re diabetic.  My friend who sees things that aren’t there is no more different or strange than my friend with Celiac disease. End the stigma.

And be kind. Be kind to everyone. Always assume the best. It’s so much better for everyone when we are kind to each other. When we don’t say mean things, or assume the worst. When so-and-so calls out for being sick – again – don’t feed the negativity by talking shit about her. You don’t know her story. Be kind, be empathetic and compassionate.

Read more great things you can do with this great article including 5 way to show support this year for mental health.

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The Jesus Drug

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“Feel you when I’m restless, feel you when I cannot cope

You’re my addiction, my prescription, my antidote

You kill the poison, ease the suffering

Calm the rage when I’m afraid to feel again

 

You’re better than drugs

Your love is like wine

Feel you comin’ on so fast, feel you comin’ to get me high

You’re better than drugs

Addicted for life”


“Better Than Drugs” by Skillet was one of the many songs that permeated my young life, as did its message. The concept of Jesus’, or more accurately the Holy Spirit, as this thing that can make one experience a “high” is not all uncommon to many denominations of Christianity. Go into any Pentacostal-esque church and you will witness speaking in tongues (that is, gibberish speaking where those inflicted believe they are speaking in an angelic language), falling on the floor where they proceed to either go catatonic or writhe, moan in a strangely sexual way, weep, or laugh, and all sorts of ecstatic behavior.

In the teenage life of many Christians, the use of Jesus as a drug is more exemplified by the first line: “feel you when I cannot cope.” Turning to Jesus becomes an escape. When the teenage angst gets too hard, the answer is to pray, read the bible, listen to Christian music, or anything at all relating to God. To completely saturate oneself with the Gospel in anyway possible. And only the Gospel: only Christian music, only Christian books fiction and non-fiction, only Christian games, movies with only Christian values (we skip through any sexy scenes, btw). If someone got sick, we’d hold prayer meetings and saturate ourselves in prayer, so we’d learn quick that it’s not medicine that heals, it’s God. We’d have youth groups for teens where we’d get to unleash our pain to each other, and instead of giving advice, we’d lay hands on each other and pray. We’d get to cry, sure, but ultimately “give the pain to God,” have a worship session, and go home happy and drugged up.   

What happens when one goes without the drug? Does one go into Jesus’ withdrawal?

 

“I hate feelin’ like this

I’m so tired of tryin’ to fight this

I’m asleep and all I dream of is waking to you

 

Tell me that you will listen

Your touch is what I’m missin’

And the more I hide I realize I’m slowly losin’ you

 

Comatose

I’ll never wake up without an overdose of you

I don’t wanna live

I don’t wanna breathe

‘less I feel you next to me

You take the pain I feel

(Wakin’ up to you never felt so real)

I don’t wanna sleep

I don’t wanna dream

Cause my dreams don’t comfort me

The way you make me feel

(Wakin’ up to you never felt so real)

I hate livin’ without you

Dead wrong to ever doubt you

But my demons lay in waitin’

Tempting me away”

Christians would often call this withdrawal, as seen above from, again, lyrics from Skillet, “doubt.” There was one night in particular I will never forget when I put this song on repeat, and knelt in tears, singing/praying the lyrics over and over again. Every word I meant. It was one of my last cries of desperation in a stage of very deep, tormented doubt. I wept for hours, and I would again for many nights. It physically, mentally, and emotionally hurt like nothing I’ve ever felt.

You see, I was born an intellectual person. I always had an unquenching desire to know. When I was very young, this showed itself best in my little 6, 7, 8 year old self sitting during the worship service reading the Bible instead of singing the songs (which weren’t boring hymns like most churches, but the jump up and down kind). Instead of watching Veggie Tales and playing games in the little kids Sunday school, I got put in the big kids’ class where we read the Bible, memorized verses, and asked questions.

I did Christianity hard. By my teens I’d been baptised, in water and the Holy Spirit with manifestation of gifts of the Holy Spirit (tongues and prophesy), gone on a healing crusade where I “healed” people, read the Bible front to cover in multiple versions more times than I could keep track of, and started a Bible club at my High school by petitioning the principal of the school. I read commentaries, took notes in the margins of every bible I read, highlighted, did devotions twice a day, read and listened to everything by Dr. Dan Brown and got certified in Healing Ministries and Gifts of the Spirit through Kenneth Copeland Ministries. I consumed everything I knew to consume. And I believed, damn it. I loved Jesus with everything I was, with every atom of my being. I talked to him every moment and believed he talked back. I lead hundreds in the Sinner’s Prayer, personally. Jesus was my everything.

And then I got the call to ministry.

And I went to a federally accredited Christian college.  

And long story short- I read Richard Dawkins, Timothy Keller, The Dead Sea Scrolls, Socrates, Plato, Kierkegaard, Robert Wright, Christopher Hitchens, I read commentaries by Atheists, Jews, Agnostics, Muslims, and Christians of all types. I read the Bible in Hebrew. I read anything, and everything. I wrote my Pastor with questions, I wrote and spoke with my (very Christian) professors, I spoke with students, I typed on message boards and forums, I asked questions everywhere I possibly could. And one by one my doctrines came to be questioned by reason and logic until they all fell away.

And there I was at the end of it all, an Atheist with no Jesus drug to help me cope with the pain of my long untreated mental illness and dysfunctional upbringing, or to comfort me from the loss of friends and family who wanted very little to do with me now that I wasn’t a Christian. But that, not the doubt it self, was the withdrawal. All the pain, the loss, the “oh shit how do I cope now?”, was the coming down process.

I wouldn’t wish it on anyone, but neither would I ever go back to the addiction. The addiction kept me blind from reason – from seeing two sides of the argument, not just one, and discerning for oneself, from seeing science and philosophy and logic and doubt and tasting it all -, from entirely healthy parts of life such as sexual exploration, love in all its forms, making mistakes, and living life to the fullest, and from proper self care, not faith [[ many sects have an irrational fear and/or outright contempt for psychology and all its medicinal help for people with mental illness]].

The Jesus’ drug culture is not healthy. When these two songs came on my playlist, because yeah I still listen to my old Christian stuff, I cringed. There is nothing ok with raising young people to seek a thing that does not exist to give it a placebo like high for all of life’s ills, and to drown their mind, senses, and psyche with nothing but that drug.

Just say no.

Learning Objective: Bless Me, Ultima Christmas Play

The Objective of this activity will be to assist students in understanding a particular scene in the assigned reading of “Bless Me, Ultima” where characters are taking part in a Christmas Play.

Instructional Strategies

1.) Re-presentation

Using the TESI re-presentation strategy, the students will re-present 5 key events in the reading portion described above through a Powerpoint presentation. Students will be in groups of 5, one student per event. The powerpoint must be formatted in succession of events (the first slides representing events that preceded the succeeding slides), and must include graphics either drawn in paint or via clip art that can be loosely attached to the event described in the scene.

2.) Bridging

Teacher will facilitate bridging of understanding of how the Christmas play scene unwravels in the reading, with their prior knowledge or experience of the Nativity Scene. We will discuss how the scene differs, and either play a game such as found here, or for those not familiar with the Holiday watch a youtube video of a nativity scene Christmas play and discuss the differences and similarities between this and the reading.

3.) Modeling

We will go over in class an exemplar of assignment in above re-presentation to show students what the finished product will look like. A template can be also provided for students to fill in and more easily construct their powerpoints.

One Computer Classroom

1) How will you ensure that all students have an opportunity to use the computer? 1a)How will you manage the taking of turns?  (be very specific, would you have groups, popsicle sticks??)

I think this really depends on the size and nature of the class. In the High School setting, classes can range anywhere from 40+ in a general studies class, to 10 a specified elective class. For larger classes, I like the idea of small group work just for its practicality, as well as for its usefulness. Students would have to plan and write up a rough draft of what they will be using the computer for whether it be research based, or design based, so they can tackle it efficiently when their turn comes to use the computer. In either setting, I think a randomized system works best.

As an idea, I think I would use a dice rolling app, and have students assigned numbers. Either myself, or a student can be assigned to do the “rolling.” In this way, students are also taught how to utilize a randomization program which can be very useful for many different applications. It can be edited to not repeat numbers, or go up to a set number. Whichever number it “lands” on, would be the small group who goes in the assigned time slot.
2) Think of a topic you would like to teach in class and identify three ways you could have students use computers to study this topic?—Please provide detailed information.

Admittedly, I’m having a hard time thinking of a way that a single topic could be studied in three separate ways….

But to wing it, let’s say current events is a topic I could teach. We could do 1.) individual work and have students use the computer to print out a single article of interest from a local newspaper. Students could, 2.) in a small group, find trending news videos to watch together and discuss. Or we could, as a class, decide on a topic of interest and use the computer to find 3 different perspectives on the issue, and use the information to do a quick write on their stance.
3) The computer can also be a tool for instruction (by you). How might you use the computer as an instructional tool?

One of the topics I stumbled upon that had a wealth of resources online was in poetry such as Edgar Allan Poe. As his works can be quite lengthy and thus have copyright issues that restrict printing, the internet has multiple resources for teachers to assist in teaching his works. For example, there are recordings of voice acted recitations of “The Raven” that can help in setting the ambiance for absorbing such a dark poem. We could watch short documentaries of his work, or even clips from the movie made after his life.

4) In what ways may use the computer to assist you with your job of being a teacher, beyond what you’ve answered above?

Charts! Excel is a necessary resource. It makes recording grades, attendance, tardies, class participation a piece of cake. Grades can be entered and calculated in an instant. Everything can be seen on one screen. Also, communication and consultation with other teachers and staff can be accomplished with ease and efficiency. Rather than using a disruptive phone call, for example, an instant messaging app can be used to communicate across classroom walls.

Excel in the classroom

The assignment for this post is regarding the use of Excel spreadsheets in the classroom as an activity that engages the students as a cognitive tool that can aid them in gathering and effectively organizing data. Playing off of the example found here in our assigned reading, I like the idea of using excel to track daily activities. It’s grid format makes it quite easy to do so.

Putting myself in the hypothetical classroom, I could imagine having students use a spreadsheet to track time spent in daily activities, including amount of sleep. Students would input the amount of time in hours, and calculate in the adjacent row the % of daily time used. After a set amount of days or weeks observed, students would average the time in a total row and thus be able to see, concretely, what they spend most of their time accomplishing.

I think this would be a great example of  cognitive tool that a student can use to learn with. Although can be done with a pen and paper, the ability to turn the information into graphs and percentages aids the learning process into seeing the data they record visualized for them.

Personally, I think it can teach a necessary life lesson on budgeting and using time wisely and seeing the finite nature of time when put in numerical expressions. Many a good discussion could come out of this lesson. I know it has changed my perspective of my time when I think of how much of my day I spent on certain tasks.

What think you, reader?

Confessions, changes, and goodbyes

Societal wisdom seems to dictate and encourage young people to settle down and marry after college. I can recall professors, friends, and family to give such advice repeatedly. For whatever reason, I never listened nor fully understood the pertinence of doing so, especially as a woman, until recently.

My dream in college was to ride the train of academia all the way to the top and become a Dr. of something. Research, write, lecture and do general scholarly stuff – that was the plan. That started to become difficult when love, marriage, and the maternal instinct kicked in.

At first it seemed entirely feasible to accomplish in tandem. My first husband was in college with me and had the same plan of obtaining a Doctoral degree in Psychology, the daughter field of Philosophy. So, dreams of sitting in arm chairs with a glass of fine wine in our study against the backdrop of a crackling fireplace filled our heads. We talked about that study, what we wanted it filled with. How we wanted a room for exotic animals for studying purposes. There was that connection of two scholars.

But there were many problems.

We were married and living in his parents basement along with his grandmother, aunt, uncle, brother, and two god-children. This was not how I pictured married life to be. Quickly, fighting ensued. I was getting the baby itch: he was adamant against doing so until entire financial and career security, I was set in my ways that I wanted a family and wanted it now. We didn’t have our own place to live, and neither of us wanted to live like that but neither could fathom nor obtain a job that could come close to affording such a thing while full-time students.

As a Philosophy student, I was also very rapidly changing my personal philosophies and finding my niche in the field. The more I studied, the more who I was before college came to change. What started as a Christian wife, became an Atheist wife shaking the very foundations of the marriage. I started living out my new morals and philosophies the more they became integrated into my core being and mind.

Needless to say, it went down in flames.

Fast-forward through the parts I’ve already blogged about (falling apart, debt to the college preventing me from finishing my education, re-marrying…)

And here I am at a similar place.

My debt is freed, my last course is completed, and my Bachelors of Philosophy is on its way. The divide that was there before has reared its ugly head and I came to a point recently when I had to chose. My philosophies and studies were not complete, and more changes occurred. The baby itch returned in even fuller force (the woman’s clock ticking away) and I have maintained an apartment and successful, albeit entry-level, job for quite a few years now. Academia and scholarship was not fitting into the model I currently had at all. From the pragmatic, not book-ish husband, to the accumulation of factors that secure me tightly to where I am, and all the way to my thesis revolving around universal doubt and how a polyamourous society frees the female self.

Do I chase my academia, uproot all I’ve built, live in polyamory and ethical skepticism? The change is too abrupt, too destructive, too painful.

When one chooses love, marriage, family, the paradigm shifts. There is a reason many a philosopher and social activist lived the independent life.

There is a reason why it is admonished to young people to settle down after their studies. The dreams shift, they must. Especially when they are exclusive and variant from their partners.

For the time being, I have chosen love and family. For the time being, this stings. Before my studies I dreamed of being a mother and living the simple life. I would work, sure, but I would thrive most in the simplicity of familial happiness and love. I had lost his dream for some time, and it has been combating the alternate dream for my attention in the background but while returning to school was not an option, it lost by default.

The pursuit of Philosophy and academia must be bid farewell. Who I am in it, is no longer who I am now. She has tried to remain, but has only caused pain and raged to uproot me from all I know and have become.

A new day is dawning. Whether the old dream will resurface, or will crash in flash, only time will tell. One must die and fall to the ground for another to rise and give birth to new life.

Illness of the mind

I haven’t typed about this publicly so this will be a very vulnerable first. Something that I am tired of not being talked about by too many people. It’s embarrassing and filled with social stigma.

They tell us to get over it, to stop being so melodramatic. They ignore us because they can’t handle our constant “negative talk” and pain. Tell us to smile. To be happy. That there are people in worse shape than us. That suicide is selfish. That we’re being self-centered. When all we feel is nothing. Not sadness, not anger. Depression as an illness is nothing. A void of emotion.

My dad was found in the one position we who battle our mind’s dysfunction know all too well: curled on the floor. Unresponsive. Numb. Closed to the world and lost.

I say, the silence is what is killing us. The hiding only breeds more hiding. We don’t express because we fear what everyone will say.

We fear.

But we function. When allowed to. In previous posts, I shared about three individuals who opened themselves to be: one a female in a man’s body who suffered rape, horrid hate-beatings, slander and in her deepest unseen self struggled with self-mutilating depression; a schizophrenic who was finding her voice, A Beautiful Mind, fully functional despite the hallucinations that scare too many people from her; and a heroine addict who poetically found her expression in Sixx A.Ms The Heroine Diaries and whose eyes would alight when people talked to her as a person, vulnerable and herself, struggle and all.

We insist on accepting the physically handicapped and do all we can to tell them they are not less, just different. But still stigmatize mental illness, too many ignoring it as curable if we only tried hard enough.

I say be. Everything you are, and fuck the naysayers and degraders. Find your dance. Don’t smile if you don’t want to. Be manic, then crash. I’m not saying not to get help, do. Don’t allow it to handicap, and don’t be ashamed when it does. This is our struggle and our hand and it’s not less. Just is.

I’m going to do all I can not to delete this because I fear the pity comments or the ignorant “this isn’t a real disease” or whatever shit people do when these things go public. I did all I can to express this, but novels can and have been written on it.

To see more and my poetic ode to my father and myself, see:

https://poeticdoubt.wordpress.com/2014/09/21/an-ode/

Penny for your Thoughts? A nickel for your introspection?

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Person tree by Pooktre

“When you’re green, you’re growing.”

My pastor used to say this constantly. It has always stuck with me. Agriculturally, once ripe the product is on it’s way towards death. There is nothing more to obtain. If green, the product is still in the growth stage.

It’s life applications are immense. Surely, we have all encountered people who believe they have obtained – something. Whatever it is, they are complete. Finished. They have closed themselves to growth or change. Whether it be a profession, an idea, or a state of being.

There are also those who are growing and ever open. Society seems to at times see this as an immaturity, with “maturity” being a goal.

Why?
If we cognitively believe we have obtained the goal, we can go no further. Perhaps there is some truth in the Jesus of the Bible exclaiming that it is the children who lay hold of the kingdom of god. Stripped of it’s theology, it holds much truth. Imagination, curiosity, exploration: that is living.

Or is it? What are your thoughts? Is there anything in life that should necessarily be obtained at some stage? Is greenness a weakness?

Penny for your thoughts?

Future food shortage crisis

WorldFoodCrisisFig05

It really is real. It’s one of those problems those of us who live in third world countries find it easy to ignore. We also find it very easy and convenient to keep having babies. We’re like the domestic cat, populating like bunnies, unwanted children dying in streets or in “shelters”, and spreading disease.

Start sterilizing.

I’m serious. The people who say “but it’s our natural right to have babies” are the first to go. Get that ignorant shit out of the human genome and fast.

Making more food isn’t the answer. We are destroying ecosystems and the stability of thousands of species too quickly, giving them no time to adapt and survive.

Why is snipping people in the testes/Fallopian tubes not being talked about?

Someone with more ethics than me: Penny for your Thought?