Shadow On A Tightrope 30 Year Celebration!

November 9, 2013 at 9:16 pm | Posted in 1980's, 1990's, 2013, Activism, Anorexia, Aunt Lute Books, Bailey Coy Books, blog carnival, Blogging, Body, Body Image, Body Narrative, book, Books, Bulimia, Bullying, Discrimination, discussion, Equality, Fat, Fat Acceptance, Fat Hatred, feminist, Gastric Bypass, Grrls/Women, Hate, Health, identity, Kristin Bell, library, Magic, Plus Size, Psychology, Reading, Scales, self-care, Self-Harm, Self-Injury, Shadow on a Tightrope, Shame, Supersize, Support System, Weight, Weightloss, Weightloss Industry, weightloss surgery | Leave a comment
shadow

Kaweria (mom) and Nayeli (daughter) reading “Shadow on a Tightrope”

This year is the 30th anniversary of the publishing of Shadow on a Tightrope by Aunt Lute Books, and there is a blog carnival this week for the book! I am so happy to be participating. I can’t think of a lot of books that have changed my life, but I would say that this one has. I was about 19 years old when I first picked up SOAT. I was bulimic and fat, and had always been told that being fat was the worst thing in the world to be. In high school I had starved myself down to a “normal” weight, but I gained back some of the weight by the time I was 19 when I was trying to starve myself again. I remember being in Seattle at Bailey Coy Books (now out of business) where I found the book, and later reading the book during my lunch break at the University Bookstore where I worked for a short time. I could not believe what I was reading! For one thing, there were these other fat people out there! Who knew?!? And some of them had endured horrendous surgeries that I didn’t know existed back then (which are all too common now). AND then they were saying that fatness wasn’t the horrid devil wrapped in bacon strips that I had always been told it was! WHAT?!? Did I read that correctly? I didn’t know it at the time, but the book forever changed my outlook on fat and fat activism. Maybe not all at once, but it all stayed with me. It found a little space in my brain, and when everyone else and all of society screamed at me to be thin I remembered the words in SOAT. I remembered (for once) that this experience of being fat was not something I had to do alone, and even though I didn’t stop the bulimia for years, and hated myself for being fat a lot, the messages from SOAT were there working their magic. And, I really think it was like magic that these words in a book could so profoundly alter my view of the world. Years later I stopped the bulimia, and I now consider myself to be a fat activist of sorts, and SOAT is still helping me to figure out how to live with my body and how to live with a world that hates my body. I am forever indebted to Aunt Lute and all of the people who put the book together. I hope that this book can get in the hands of more fat people just so they know that it doesn’t have to be like this, they don’t have to hate themselves, and they aren’t alone.

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Let’s Talk About Suicide

October 13, 2013 at 5:14 pm | Posted in 2013, Bipolar, Bullying, Dead, death, Depression, Fat, Gay, Mental Health, Mental Illness, Obsessive-Compulsive Disorder, ocd, Panic Attacks, Queer, schizoaffective disorder, Schizophrenia, self-care, Self-Harm, Self-Injury, Suicide | 2 Comments

Suicide

October 12, 2013 at 9:25 pm | Posted in 2013, Addiction, Alcohol, Alcoholics, Anorexia, Bipolar, Borderline Personality, BPD, Bulimia, Bullying, Compulsive Eating, Compulsive Exercising, Counselor, Dead, death, Depression, Dyke, end of world, Fag, Fat, Fat Hatred, Gay, GBLT, gender, Homo, Homophobia, Homosexual, Hope, insanity, Lesbian, Lithium, Lunatic, Mania, Manic, Manic-Depressive, Mental Health, Mental Illness, ocd, Panic Attacks, Pansexual, Paranoid Schizophrenia, Problems, Psych Meds, Psycho, Psychosis, Queer, Schizophrenia, self-care, Self-Harm, Self-Injury, Sleep Disorders, Suicide, Support System, Surviving, Trannie, Trans | Leave a comment

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International Suicide Hotlines  USA Suicide Hotlines

 

 

You Know Your Symptoms the Best!

October 4, 2013 at 5:56 pm | Posted in 2013, Abilify, Abilify Maintena, Anti-anxiety meds, Anti-depressants, Anti-psychotics, Anxiety, Anxiety Attacks, Bipolar, Borderline Personality, BPD, Brain, Bulimia, Compulsive Eating, Compulsive Exercising, DBT, Depression, Eating Disorders, EDNOS, Education, Haldol, Haldol DEC, Haldol Decanoate, Happy, Health, Injections, Kristin Bell, Lithium, long-acting injectables, Mania, Manic, Manic-Depressive, Mental Health, Mental Illness, Mood Stabilizers, negative symptoms, Obsessive-Compulsive Disorder, ocd, Paranoid Schizophrenia, Prescription Meds, Psych Meds, Psychiatrist, Psychiatry, Psychiatry Denial, Psycho, Psychoactive Substances, psychoanalysis, Psychology, Psychosis, schizoaffective disorder, Schizophrenia, self-care, Self-Harm, Self-Injury, stigma, Stress, Support System, symptoms, treatment, Zoloft, Zyprexa | Leave a comment

pills

Recently I made a medication change (with the help of my psychiatrist), and as you might know from your own interactions with meds sometimes it can cause issues to develop. I was happily strolling along for a couple of months with a few bad days here and there, and then I started to notice the bad days piling up more often. I was really irritable, sad, became unmotivated, and suicide starting sounding better. I became alarmed, because I knew something was going wrong, but how was I supposed to explain to my psychiatrist that “irritable” is a symptom for me?

The problem with mental illness is that even when we fit into a diagnosed category of disorder, we all have our own unique symptoms that we need to pay attention to. I have schizophrenia, but for years I didn’t appear “sick enough” to most doctors, because they expected me to be talking to the walls and completely disheveled. There were times when I was talking to the walls and completely disheveled, but the doctors rarely saw me during those times, so they figured I wasn’t that bad off. Because I could communicate relatively well most doctors dismissed schizophrenia as a diagnosis.

Over the years I have come to realize what my symptoms are (for the most part), and now that I am doing better I can advocate for myself more effectively. However, it still isn’t easy to call up my psychiatrist and say “wow, I’m extremely irritable, this isn’t normal for me, and I need to increase my meds.” Most psychiatrists won’t believe that “irritable” is in any way related to schizophrenia, but for me (and many others) it is. I don’t become psychotic over night, and I don’t believe that I should have to be talking to walls in order to get the help I need. I also don’t believe that people should have to try to kill themselves before mental health professionals take people seriously.

Unfortunately, a lot of mental health professionals won’t take a person seriously unless they are debilitated to the point of needing to be hospitalized. So, as people living with mental illness or people who love people with mental illness, we have to be very proactive about getting the help we need before it turns into a crisis. Think about the good days and what you are like on those days, and compare them to the bad days. What are YOUR symptoms? How do things manifest in your day to day life? You might want to write down what you know your symptoms to be, and take that list with you when you talk to your doctor. It isn’t easy or fun, but we have to advocate for ourselves even when we are not doing our best.

In the end, you know your symptoms the best. Remember that you aren’t “crazy” for wanting to feel better and you aren’t making up excuses. Be pragmatic and straightforward, and get the help you need.

New Abstract Art by Me + Discussion

March 27, 2011 at 6:24 pm | Posted in abstract art, Art, art journal, Autobiography, Bipolar, Borderline Personality, BPD, DBT, Depression, drawings, EDNOS, Handmade, Hope, Illustrated, insanity, iPad, iPad Art, journal, Kristin Bell, Marsha Linehan, Memory, Mental Health, Mental Illness, Mindfulness, pain, Painting, Photography, process, Prozac, Psych Meds, Psychiatrist, Psychiatry, Psychiatry Denial, Psychoactive Substances, Psychology, Sculpture, Self-Harm, Self-Injury, sketchbook, Stress, Suicide, Support System, Surviving | 2 Comments

Process:
I was reading a book by Marsha Linehan, the creator of Dialectical Behavior Therapy treatment for people with Borderline Personality Disorder, and I was struck by the theoretical concepts that she was discussing in the book. At the same time, I had been thinking about my friend who has BPD. I thought about the unending pain she suffers and how there is so much rage and turmoil in her life. I wanted to incorporate both Linehan’s concepts and aspects of my friend into the art journal that I just started working on as a collaboration with my friend, John.

So, John began the journal by preparing many pages and providing inspirations and prompts, then he mailed it to me and it was my turn to lay down something on the pages.

The first thing I did was use a handheld scanning pen to scan vertical snippets of text from the Linehan book. I then printed out the scans and cut them up into various pieces. You can just make out some of the text, like the words “dysfunction” and “BPD” and “DBT” if you look closely at the first piece.

Next, I began by glueing down the various text scans onto the journal…all over the top of what my friend John had already done. You can see bits of the yellow wash that he had laid down already. I added handwritten elements with text that expressed how I felt about my friend with BPD. Some are “rage and flounder,” “escape impossible,” “improbable at best,” and “hermedically sealed” (which I spelled wrong, but ends up being seen as “medically sealed” in the final product which I think is just as good and apt).

I colored over parts with a reddish pen, because for me, reddish colors always seem to represent pain and suffering, if not outright blood. I also used my label maker to add “A FACE TO YOUR PAIN,” because I felt like this was my way of giving her pain a face. There is also a scrunched up scribble of a face contorted with pain on the journal page just above the label. Then I started adding layers of cut out graph paper, because I wanted part of the image to have some linear and quantifiable aspects, like the discreet squares of red in contrast to the smudgy blob of red elsewhere. I also added a cut out plastic sleeve that I applied color to.

I then decided that I wanted to cut out some of the page and expose the treatment that was done on the other side of the page by my friend John. I likened this to an escape hatch to relieve the immense pressure and pain of the page and my friend’s actual pain. I cut out “hermedically sealed,” which is how it seems my friend’s pain is stored, and I pasted it onto the next page so that it could be seen as “medically sealed” through the cutout. A lot of my friend’s history involves intense and traumatic encounters with the medical establishment, so I thought this was appropriate. I cut out and folded over some of the page to make more linear elements and to add to the color use on the page as well. I also wanted to do this to incorporate the idea of overlapping aspects of our lives and our histories.

When I cut out “hermedically sealed” it left an opening that for me seemed like a window and represents the hope I still have for my friend despite what seems like endless suffering. I painted the page that can be seen underneath with blues and greens to represent the sky and grass, and I placed a puffy Hello Kitty sticker in the window as a kind of whimsical “hello” with friendship. Part of the other cutout seemed organic and flower-like to me, so I also added a stem of a flower for more aspects of light and living, but also change and death. With some of the folded over cutouts I felt like there was too much color and light, so I blacked out the spaces with a magnum black Sharpie.

Throughout the process, I was concerned not only with symbolic aspects of representation, but also with the aesthetic elements of line, color, space, balance, etc. So, part of the experiment was definitely symbolic, but I also spent time adjusting the image elements to try to make an interesting and unifying picture.

When I felt like I was done with the journal page, I took a photograph of it and posted it to Facebook to keep track of the process aspect of the journaling project. I was then compelled to go further with the image by enlarging parts of the image and cropping them in interesting ways. I took snapshots of the screen with my iPad and then emailed them to my desktop machine where I processed them in Photoshop and then printed them out. I really didn’t know how they would look printed out or if I would use or like them at that point.

I liked how the prints looked, but I felt they really should be juxtaposed somehow, so I combined them.

The closeup crops that I made were deliberate. I based my decisions on aesthetics and also on what words would be incorporated into the image. “A FACE TO YOUR PAIN” was cropped into “TO YOUR PAIN” for one image and “OUR PAIN” for another image. I wanted to bring together these two aspects of the experience of pain, the self and the other, and comment on the interaction between the two. For my friend who suffers, it seems that her pain is hers alone and that it is an isolated state of suffering, but she also has friends, family and care providers who care about her and interact with her pain and suffering. We, of course, have our own pain and suffering, but seeing her in pain is also difficult and informs our own pain and our own worldview.

When I combined the crop prints, I was “mindful” of the tension between the different images on the page and wanted to incorporate Linehan’s ideas about thesis, antithesis and synthesis in the overall picture. For me, the synthesis is the final completed work, but up until then I felt that I was going back and forth trying to find the finished piece. I felt that I needed to bridge the piece to make it more cohesive, so I added a red ribbon that tied the gaps that I saw together, also tying my friend to the world and people outside of herself. I then added sculpted copper wire to put back in a bit of the organic that I thought was lost and to act as a core and a crowning jewel.

For the second image, I employed much the same process. I printed out crops of the journal and then cut and fit the pieces together like a puzzle. For me, the second piece is more about hope, so I used the “A Window Opens” text in part of it and the overall image is less dark and red. The border of the image is a handwritten excerpt from Linehan’s text that talks about dialectics and how it is a process that persuades and encourages movement. I used the red yarn to imply some movement, but also tension. The yarn is tight, but not so tight that it tears the page. It also helps to unify the image I think, adding that aspect of synthesis.

The journal page.
The first finished piece.The second finished piece.

Review: Loud In the House of Myself by Stacy Pershall

February 20, 2011 at 5:33 pm | Posted in Acceptance, Anorexia, Anti-anxiety meds, Anti-depressants, Anti-psychotics, Anxiety, Ativan, Autobiography, Binge Eating, Bipolar, Black & White, Body, Body Image, Books, Borderline Personality, Bulimia, Compulsive Eating, Compulsive Exercising, Depakote, Depression, Eating Disorders, EDNOS, insanity, Internet, Kristin Bell, Lithium, Loud In the House of Myself, Mania, Manic, Manic-Depressive, MAO Inhibitors, memoir, Mental Health, Mental Illness, Mood Stabilizers, Navane, Prozac, Psych Meds, Psychiatrist, Psychiatry, Psychoactive Substances, Psychology, Reading, Review, Self-Harm, Self-Injury, Stacy Pershall, Stories, strange girl, Suicide, Surviving, Thin, Weightloss | Leave a comment

Loud In the House of Myself: Memoir of a Strange Girl is a new book by Stacy Pershall. Of course, I was immediately drawn to this memoir, because it is a) a memoir b) about a “strange girl” and c) deals with mental illness. Yay! Since I’m undoubtably a strange mentally ill girl, I knew I had to read this. Pershall writes about her life growing up in Arkansas and her morphing from an über-sensitive child into a teenager and young adult with Borderline and Bipolar issues. Anyone familiar with the mental illness memoir genre will certainly have heard of Elizabeth Wurtzel, and I just bring her up, because UNLIKE Wurtzel, Pershall is not whiny in her writing! Pershall is matter-of-fact about her trials and symptoms, even though the reader can imagine the actual playing out of illness to be much more harsh and unbearable.

Pershall describes her unrelenting eating disorder, mood swings and suicide attempts with a steady and precise hand. This book seems really accessible to me, because Pershall speaks not only to those of us who have been through the mental health care system, but also to people who might not really understand this special weirdness. The only thing I would like to see more of in this book is more OF this book! haha. Seriously though, I enjoyed reading this memoir and would love to read more from Pershall. I would especially recommend this book to people struggling with Borderline Personality Disorder. There is a special misery only known by Borderlines that is never really represented in the books that ostensibly deal with Borderline Personality Disorder. I really wish there were more accounts like this that show the uncrazy through the crazy of Borderline Personality Disorder.

Steps To Body Acceptance: A Process

November 5, 2010 at 3:51 pm | Posted in Acceptance, Anorexia, Binge Eating, Body, Body Image, Bulimia, Compulsive Eating, Compulsive Exercising, Discrimination, Eating Disorders, EDNOS, Extended Plus Size, Fat, Fat Acceptance, Fat Hatred, Health, Kristin Bell, Mental Health, Plus Size, Self-Harm, Steps To Body Acceptance, Supersize, Thin, Weight, Weightloss, Weightloss Industry | 4 Comments

It has been a long while since I’ve written about body acceptance. I sort of ran out of “steps” that I could think of. For me, it really is a process. I told my therapist that when it comes to weight, weightloss and size acceptance, I feel like I am walking on a balance beam. Not quite a tightrope, but still balancing nonetheless.

Over this past year quite a lot has changed. My blood sugar levels were elevated with an A1C level of 6.3, so my nurse practitioner qualified me as diabetic. She also did other blood work and discovered that I was really low in Vitamin D and that my thyroid was off (hypothyroidism ), so I started meds for those too. I decided that I was sick of people suggesting that I get a gastric bypass, and I felt like I really could be in better shape, so with the combo of meds for my thyroid and blood sugar, watching what I eat a little more, and getting a bit of exercise, I have lost some weight.

However, I still want to maintain my outlook as one of size-acceptance. I know it seems kind of weird to say I am for size-acceptance and still be trying to lose some weight. There really is no manual for this kind of thing, so I’m just working on it as best I can. I am taking steps to improve my health. I got my A1C level down to 5.3 (non-diabetic) so far and my other labs are looking better. I’m still taking meds, but I’m TRYING to take a bit better care of my body. I know that at my size I am not quite as healthy as I could be, but I also know that I am not going to starve myself and turn into a raging bulimic again to try to maintain and lose weight (well, I really hope not at any rate!!!).

But, it is hard in some respects, because when I do make some attempt to pay attention to what I am eating, all of those negative thoughts tend to come back to haunt me. Thoughts like if I eat something “bad” I am being a “bad” person. My therapist calls thoughts like that ANTS (automatic negative thoughts). You know, some months I might gain some weight or not lose weight, and I have to be okay with that.

As a person who has struggled with weight issues all of my life, it isn’t like losing weight is just a matter of calories in and calories out. It is a whole quilt of past experiences, thoughts and feelings related to weight and how I have dealt with things throughout my life as a fat person.

So, I feel like I’m in a process of understanding how to accept myself and my body while trying to take some steps to improve my health. For me, it is important to remember that at the end of the day, the whole world drifts away and what matters is how *I* feel and how *I* can function and accept my body in this life. So, maybe I want to lose some more weight, but I still eat. I still eat “bad” stuff and I’m not ever going to live on a diet of celery, that is for sure. I don’t want to give up my life and I don’t want to give up eating. I just want to live my life the best I can!

P.S. And just so you know I am not anywhere near skinny, I have posted a picture of myself that was taken a couple of days ago! lol

President Obama: It Gets Better

October 22, 2010 at 12:40 am | Posted in Acceptance, Activism, Allies, American, American History, Bisexual, Bullying, Children, Dan Savage, Depression, Discrimination, Dyke, Fag, Friends, Gay, GBLT, Hate, Homo, Homophobia, Homosexual, Hope, Kristin Bell, Lesbian, obama, Pansexual, Protest, Queer, Same Sex, Self-Harm, Self-Injury, Straight, Suicide, Support System, Surviving, Trannie, Trans, Video, Violence | Leave a comment

It Gets Better…

September 25, 2010 at 12:15 am | Posted in Acceptance, Activism, Allies, Bisexual, Bullying, Cool, Dan Savage, Depression, Discrimination, Dyke, Equality, Fag, Friends, Gay, GBLT, Hate, Homo, Homophobia, Homosexual, Hope, Kids, Kristin Bell, Lesbian, Mental Health, Protest, Queer, Same Sex, Savage Love, Self-Harm, Self-Injury, Shame, Suicide, Support System, Surviving, The Stranger, Trannie, Trans, Violence | Leave a comment

Review: Understanding the Borderline Mother

September 2, 2010 at 10:15 pm | Posted in Anxiety, Books, Borderline Personality, Counselor, Depression, Eating Disorders, Kristin Bell, Self-Harm | Leave a comment

“Understanding the Borderline Mother” by Christine Ann Lawson is an interesting book, but I felt that it focused far too much on the negative aspects (yes there are many) of the Borderline Personality. If you pick up this book, but didn’t know anything about Borderline Personality Disorder you would probably think that people with the disorder are pure awful with no redeeming qualities. The book does have some good aspects and is compelling to read, but it seems too one-sided and lacks any understanding of any of the pain and suffering that might motivate the behavior of a person with this disorder. Borderlines are often difficult patients and difficult people to understand, but many times it seems they are completely misunderstood in therapeutic situations. This book does not really attempt to “understand” the Borderline, but does describe some of the behaviors that are often times seen. (  )

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