Sunday, December 14, 2014

Coping with Stress-Inducing Events, but Finding Ways to Fulfill my a goofy photo shoot

It's been a while since I've written here! Sorry, folks who read, that it has been so long. Things have been busy for me. 

Recently, as I've mentioned before, I've been facing being laid off from my job. However, there is one bit of good news on that front. I'm still being laid off, along with everyone else in my position, sometime in the upcoming months, and we don't know when. However, at the end of January, I start a new 4-hour per week position as a Library Resources Paraprofessional, something that is right up my alley as I love libraries! Well, this is not actually in a library. It's in a tiny campus of the college which has no library, but does have a computer lab. So I will be assisting students with doing research. I feel honored to be hired for this, as some of the other people who hold the position are far more educated than I am, degree-wise, but I am educated (a little bit degree wise, but mostly......) in my own way, self-taught. And I do enjoy research, as well as helping people, so I think this will be something I could like. If, perhaps, I do well at it, then in the future, I would be, perhaps, able to get a few more hours per week. And that would be wonderful, because if I did even 13 hours per week at this job, I could pay my bills just as well, almost, as doing 24 hours per week at the job I have now.

Also, I am trying to go back to school this fall. On that front, I am facing having to reapply for an appeal to financial assistance so that I can get financial aid at all, since I have so many credits, of course, I should have graduated years ago. But I changed my major, changed my mind, had many mental health setbacks, and changed my life, periodically, over 20 years of being in and out of college, therefore, I have over 180 credits, and no Bachelor's Degree yet. But I'm getting there! I only need five classes to graduate. And if I can get the financial aid, I plan on taking two this semester. So I'm all registered for those, and that's exciting.

Unfortunately, the process of filing an appeal takes extensive paperwork, and medical records, or, at the very least, a letter from a doctor verifying what you say in your appeal. And that's difficult, since I had no doctor for most of my years with mental illness. I had many doctors for physical problems, but none for psychiatric ones, for many years. Or, if I did, it was for a short time. I had many hospitalizations, but I never kept in care for my disorder(s), and I wasn't correctly diagnosed until 2006. So, as you can see, I have a challenge here. I have to find the time to write this lengthy appeal, and I have to make sure my doctor writes a letter which will work for me, which I hope he will, as I have a great psychiatrist.

On another unfortunate note, I have gotten removed from Social Security Disability. I got a call Thursday that my benefits were being denied, because, after visits to the Social Security office, and extensive paperwork gathering from my job, it was learned that during one month, I made more than the allotted amount of $1,070, by about $100. So, according to the intellectually challenged Social Security Administration, I am not disabled at all now. And so, I was told "we will send you the paperwork, and as long as you get it filled out this upcoming week, hopefully we can reinstate you". So I thought, okay, I can do that. On Saturday, the paperwork came in the mail (today is Sunday). The paperwork involves such things as declaring where, when why I was at any doctors' or therapists' offices I've been at in the past year, but also, the dates. Not exactly stuff I remember. So, number one reason there why the paperwork cannot be done over the weekend and turned in on Monday as I had planned.

Number two, the paperwork involves totally reapplying for SSDI as if it was for the first time! What? Are you serious??!! This involves going back to 1990, when I was first diagnosed with a mental illness. This involves mentioning the name, address, phone number and dates of visits and reasons for visits of every single medical professional and hospital I have been to since 1990. Are you serious??!! Yes, they are serious, apparently. Not that I can ask them, as there is no one there on weekends, and you're quite lucky if the person you're dealing with there answers the phone or calls you back on weekdays. So this kind of sucks. I now have to take time off work tomorrow to deal with all this stuff, and with very little money right now, Christmas coming (for which I cannot buy presents, so my plan was to make some, but I haven't had time to make more than one), and the prospect of not getting my SSDI check for January, I have to miss time from work, which means losing money that I do not have in the first place! I am also off work, unpaid, as I work for a college, from December 20 - January 5th! That means missing even more money.

I have already been to the two food pantries I usually go to this month. I have little food left, and little money. I'll be eating a lot of pasta and potatoes - the fattening stuff I try to avoid now because I'm trying to lose more weight (I've lost 30 pounds since August).

But, now I will get to some good news. Today, I was introduced into the congregation of my new church, which is a Unitarian Universalist church. I call it my "unchurch church", because I do not believe in attending church. I do not believe in god. But I go here, as I have mentioned before, for the sense of community. I go because I like the minister who is currently there, the poetry that is sometimes read, the music, the people, the social justice issues that addressed ALL the time, the acceptance of absolutely everyone, regardless of gender, age, gender identity (there is an LGBT committee), economic status, ability, and whether or not one chooses to believe in a deity. I don't choose to believe in one. I believe in science. And I have come to find this community, not only accepts, or tolerates, but embraces and welcomes people who share my ideals and beliefs. I love this place.

So today, I got dressed up in my prettiest dress (okay, I have one more pretty, but it is too fancy for this), a dress I've worn maybe three times ever, and I did my hair forever last night and today to make it straight as I wanted it to look, which is silly, I know, but it's what I wanted to do to look the way I felt like looking. And looks don't matter, of course! Looks are unimportant! But, I felt like looking good because I was getting up in front of all these people, and I wasn't used to being in front of them, and also because I was supposed to be getting my picture taken for the unchurch church directory. Well, I stood against the wall, all primped like some silly woman who isn't a feminist, waiting for my photo to be taken, and maybe Bella Abzug, may she rest in peace (Happy Hanukkah, Bella!), was trying to tell me something, maybe Alice Walker, maybe some feminist somewhere who I've admired all my life (or at least, most of my life), because, the photographer's camera battery died right when he went to take my photo. And there was no extra battery or charger to be found. Therefore, I'm going to post a photo shoot here that I did at McDonald's where I am right now, using my laptop.

But first let me tell you what my introduction said. It said that I grew up in a born again, Pentacostal, Christian home (well, that's not totally accurate because my dad was an non-practicing Catholic, but my mom was the religious one, and still is, who reared me in that religion), where I was forced to watch Pat Robertson daily, and a Christian school where I had to listen to rock music records played backwards so I could hear that Satanic messages in them (all true). Then, at age 15, I found myself a bit, and became a feminist, vegetarian, peace-loving, rock music-listening agnostic. And that is true. And that is why, at 39 (almost 40! ugh!) years old, I am now entering my first nonchurch church, which I have joined by choice, not by force. I do not like religion. But my soul yearns for community, and I have found community at this place. I attended the humanist potluck dinner, for which I actually cooked real food, and I enjoyed it soooo much. There were great conversations, and music, and it was fun. And I need more fun, more friends, more people, more enjoyment in my life. I also need more outlets for my sense of purpose in the world. So I have joined the unchurch church, officially, and I quite like a lot of people there.

Now for the photo shoot:

Happy Sunday! Don't let the holiday stress get your down. And I hate McDonald's.

P.S. Borderline Lil: I've been publishing your comments as soon as I see them on my email. For some reason, sounds like you're not seeing them.
I'm not online much anymore compared to before, due to lack of net access, so sometimes it takes me time to publish comments.

Wednesday, November 26, 2014

The Importance of Telling Your Story and Things I am Grateful for Now. Thanksgiving is Not the Only Time for Gratitude.

Today I am grateful for the Unitarian facility I attend, which some would refer to as a "church", but it is technically not named a church, due to the fact that they openly welcome and accept everyone, including atheists, agnostics, humanists, and others who might not like to be affiliated with a "church". And that is why I go there.

I mention this because my post before the last post, was about "telling your story". I would like to tell you what happened on Sunday.

There was a visiting minister who spoke about "telling your story" at the "church" that day. He said how there are four questions we should ask ourselves:

1. When did you stop singing?
2. When did you stop dancing?
3. When did you stop playing?
4. When did you stop telling your story?

He spoke about coming out as a gay man to his parents and to people he worked with when he was an elementary school teacher. His speech was moving, and of course, I loved it because, if you read my post on telling your story recently, I strongly believe that this is the way social change is created. If people in populations that are discriminated against never tell their stories about what their lives are like, then no end will come to that discrimination.

No one will ever end the stigma against mental illness if people who have mental illnesses never talk about their experiences or let people know, "Hey guess what, you know someone with Schizoaffective Disorder. It's me."

Just like gay people come out as gay, when they are able to, when it is safe, when they are ready, if that time comes, people living with mental illness need to come out too, when they are able to, when it is safe, when they are ready, if that time comes.

So after the service, which was lovely, all of it, even singing there is fun to me now, I went up to the minister and said, "Thank you so much for your message about telling our stories and how important that is. As you can see, I am carrying this bag that says "NAMI" on it, it's from the National Alliance on Mental Illness, and I do public speaking about living with Schizoaffective Disorder."

He said, "That is really wonderful, and you know some people are coming out now about their experiences with things like depression, in my congregation, and opening a dialogue about how depression is not just this thing that everybody has, but rather, it is an illness that is real."

I thanked him, and then, just then a woman came up to me. She said, "Jennifer I've heard you tell your story through NAMI" and we had a discussion about her involvement with NAMI and why it interested her and I was so happy to hear that someone in my beloved new "spiritual home" is a person who has heard me tell my story and seems so friendly. What synchronicity! She said she had kept looking at me, wondering where she knew me from, and now she had finally figured it out.
It may have been a couple years ago that she heard me tell me story or months ago, I'm not sure, but in any event, she remembered it and she thanked me for it.

This is one of many reasons I am grateful today. I am grateful for many things. I am grateful for the people at this new "congregation" who have accepted me wholly, without criticism or judgement, who have been warm and welcoming, who are kind and intelligent and intellectual and interesting. I am grateful for this place. I have taken the new members' course, and I am planning on joining.

Other things I am grateful for are: my brother's sobriety (that's his to claim, I'm just saying I'm grateful because I love my brother and I'm glad he's not suffering like he used to), I'm grateful for my cats of course, and for the food pantry that I'm going to today to get some things to eat as I have no food left in my apartment except some "sandwich thins" that came from a food pantry, and some canned corn, that came from a food pantry. I'm grateful for the people who donate food so that those of us who cannot afford it can eat.

I'm grateful for the job interviews I've had recently, for the job I have right now which is ending at some unknown time in the upcoming months, for the friends I have at work, especially Cynthia who is hilarious and always makes me laugh. I'm grateful that ten people (or couples) bought my book and that I can now send them signed copies on Friday and that they were willing to pre-order it which was incredibly kind. Jessica Leach and I don't make money on this book. I believe we get 64 cents per copy to split between both of us, so that is not going to ever amount to anything, however, as I can sell them I can make a tiny bit and that is helpful, but more importantly, I wanted the book to reach people who want to learn about Schizoaffective Disorder, and I wanted to write books since birth, so I have now  gotten some copies of the first one and I am grateful for that. I am not planning on just leaving that as the only book I write, though! Certainly there are more books in me!

I am grateful for my ability to use my arms. Yesterday, it was raining hard, and when the small group of us working the late shift finally got to leave to go home, I said, "I wish all the umbrellas I buy didn't always break because it's pouring." And a woman with a physical disability who has to use crutches said, "You're lucky you can even use an umbrella."
And I said, "Oh, I am so sorry. You are right. I did not even think about that. Thank you. Maybe the security guard will let us borrow his umbrella and I can hold it for you and walk you to your car."

And that reminded me of something - at .least I have the physical ability to use both my arms and legs and walk without crutches.

I'm grateful I've lost thirty pounds in the past couple months too! I wanted so badly to get rid of a lot of my weight (I'm really overweight) and to be more healthy. I've worked very hard at it. I still can't exercise much, but I do not drink diet soda anymore. I drink water or green tea. I do not eat fast food or restaurant food or frozen dinners or any other food that is totally too expensive and also unhealthy. I do, when I have the ingredients, make green smoothies and drink two of them a day. I also watch my portion sizes more. And all of this has helped. The other thing that has helped is getting of the Clozaril, which, for me personally, was a weight-gaining drug. I'm not saying it affects everyone that way, but most of the antipsychotics I have ever taken were weight-gaining drugs,which is how I ended up obese after being 100 pounds until I was 30. It's very hard when you have lived through years of anorexia as a young woman to end up obese. It is very, very hard. And I can't be obese anymore. I don't want to be diabetic, and I'm very tired of people assuming I am some sort of fat, lazy pig.

I'm grateful for my 86-year-old grandmother, who I adore. She lives far away and I don't get to see her. She's in bad health now and she might be nearing the end of her life. But I am grateful that she is still alive today and I can call her on the phone and hear her voice. I am going to miss her so incredibly much when she's gone, and I don't know how I'll be able to handle that.

I'm grateful for the friends I have and for the learning experience of having to come to terms that some people I thought of as friendly are not my friends and are not friendly to me. At least now I know where I stand with them. I am making new friends, branching out, talking to many new people at my non-church, and I will have a new social life there which will enhance my existence greatly.

I am grateful for poetry.

I am grateful for music.

I am grateful for my laptop which, right now, is working! Sure, it has on Microsoft Word, and I don't have internet at home, but I'm grateful to own it! Lots of people do not have working computers at all.

I am grateful for the woman I met at Walgreens last week who said to me how she had been sober 22 years and she was proud of that so she talks about it all the time. This led to a conversation about making boxes. She has a "God Box" someone made her where she writes down her troubles and puts them in there. She also has a "Principle Box" where each day she takes out a principle, such as honesty, or something like that, and then makes that her principle to live by that day. I told her how I make Hope Boxes (I might also call them Dream Boxes), and I told her exactly how I made one and and she loved, loved, loved the idea. She exclaimed, "Oh this is so wonderful that I just happened to meet you here and I am so happy to have this great idea you gave me which is so creative, and I'm going to go home and make a Hope Box! I'm going to make them for people for Christmas presents!!" And that made me smile. She was a really lovely human being. And we just happened to meet while sitting there waiting for pills.

I'm grateful for the warm sweatshirt I'm wearing. It's the only really warm thing I own and I'm awfully cold a lot lately, so it's helpful.

I'm grateful for friends, family, and this universe where magic can happen, where good things can occur, where, even when you are under incredible, incredible stress like I am right now, there are flowers, and there is a blue sky, and there are birds, and there are humans who are beautiful and warm and lovely.

Also, I'm not sure it will work yet, but I've put up a Paypal button where you can purchase Episodes of Schizophrenia and I can send you a signed copy.

Sunday, November 23, 2014

PTSD? Let's discuss how to defend yourself when people abuse you and terrorize you. Let's discuss legal rights. I am not a scared, little girl. I am a grown woman and I am a feminist and I am a fighter, thank you.

Sometimes life becomes a real nightmare.

It's interesting to me, particularly as a feminist, that I am actually in a situation where people are trying to force me to pack up all of my belongings and move into a place that I DO NOT want to live in, especially after seeing the inside of it (it is a dump without an actual kitchen), because a sociopath has been allowed to live below me now for like 11 months. Maybe 9 months. Whatever.

It's interesting how, when you get off a drug like Clozaril which can (for me, anyway, I am certainly not telling anybody not to take any particular medication) make your mind turn to mush, you become aware of the things that are going on around you such as an absolute terrorist screaming his head off and banging on your walls with hammers and banging on drums, and banging with his fists and knocking things around, and yelling stuff like, "YOU'RE MOVING!! I GOT YOU OUT OF HERE!! MOVE NOW!! I WANT YOU GONE!! GET OUT!! GET OUT!!" because he is, quite obviously, a total sociopath who has also, incidentally, been arrested numerous times for drug trafficking and drug possession, along with little things like "false imprisonment" and "domestic battery".

But he is allowed to live beneath me for months, with me the only female in the entire building, with me paying $445 a month to live there and with him paying not one cent. He is allowed to do that, and he is allowed to have no job, no volunteer job, no college work to do, nothing at all to do, but to sit around and TERRORIZE A WOMAN.

And as a feminist, I have actually had to come to terms with the fact that despite EVERY SINGLE BONE IN MY BEING wanting to see this sociopathic misogynistic terrorist put where he belongs - back behind bars (and no, I really don't believe in prisons and jails as good places, but there are some people who do indeed beg to be put in them) - even with all of that - nobody, nobody, nobody is going to help me get this guy away from me. Nobody. I have turned to everyone. Nobody is doing it. Nobody. I have been told that it is my job to collect documentation, police reports, file a law suit, or get a restraining order if I can by a couple people, but I have also been told by the powers that be will never allow a "formerly homeless veteran" with "PTSD" to be evicted, that no judge would do it, that it is a much, much better idea for me to get up and move.

Do you have ANY IDEA how stressful "getting up and moving" is for someone who lives with severe chronic physical pain from Lupus, Fibromyalgia, Endometriosis, and Osteoarthritis for which she takes a zillion medications, on top of being a woman who has issues with organization and cannot keep her own apartment neat and tidy enough to let people inside to help? Do you have any clue? Obviously these people I am dealing with do not have a clue and also do not care.

I am just told, "hey, if it bothers you so much, pack up your stuff and move". So I have two friends who have offered to help me pack some stuff up. To move into an apartment with no kitchen. To live on microwaved food for years again, something that I stopped doing four months ago, which is why I have lost 30 pounds. I am told "You'll get to redecorate!" Oh, yay! I get to waste another three years of my life trying to situate and decorate a place like I did for the past three years living at this unit in this building where I was forced, three years ago, to move from one unit to another unit, in the same building, in order for the units to be refurbished so that the veterans could move in. Three years. So I am supposed to look forward to having to take all of those decorations down and hang them all up somewhere else, in some disgustingly filthy, stinky apartment that has no kitchen? Seriously? Is this some kind of joke?

I have paid $445 a month, never bothered anybody at all, gave presents on Christmas to my "neighbors" (yes, that includes the sociopath who used to live upstairs and not beneath me so I did not know then what a sociopath he was) every year, even got people to donate t-shirts and socks and wrap them up for all the veterans, I have paid this for eight years while EVERYBODY ELSE paid nothing or next to nothing to live there, where this sociopath has NEVER paid rent to live there, and now, I am the one who has to move. To a place I don't want to move to.

And that is fair? That is what we have to call equality in 2014? Is this a joke? Someone, please wake me up and tell me what planet I'm on. I carry NOW signs around in my trunk, and you expect me to put up with this kind of crap? Seriously?

..........I stopped this post two days ago. I decided, no, don't put that out there, after all, who knows who will read it and how they will react. I thought, no, you might get sued (though no names are mentioned obviously), and then I thought, NO. I Will Stay in My Home. I Will Not Be Chased Out of My Home by Any Abusive Maniac.

You see, there is this thing about PTSD. It actually exists of course and many people have it. I have it. I have it due to years of abuse and due to three sexual assaults in my 20's when I was psychotic and unable to protect myself, from three different men. I know a thing or two about PTSD. And this is what involves:

  • the Fight or  Flight Response. You either run and hide, or you get aggressive. I never am a very aggressive person. I spent much of my childhood in my bed, hiding under the covers, and actually, I still do it now. I do it now because of the ABUSE I have been put through due this misogynistic piece of garbage who harasses me every day. The flight response kicks in and you hide. You leave your home. You go somewhere where you don't have to be around this abuse. You hide in your bed, and play music and hope it will all stop. And it doesn't stop because the abuser has not faced and repercutions for his actions. But that's done now. NO more of that flight response from me. I was ready to pack everything up and move into the first place that was offered to me to go to. That has changed. I have gone into the fight mode now. And I will stand my ground. I am a die-hard feminist and have been all of my life, and no man, I don't care if he has PTSD, and I don't care if he's a veteran, and I don't care if everybody thinks he's so scary I should run and pack up and escape, NO MAN who ABUSES ME is going to force me to pack up and move into a place where I do not want to live, leaving behind me a home that I took YEARS to set up the way I like it, leaving him to be allowed to get EXACTLY WHAT HE WANTS ("I'm getting you OUT!! GET OUT!!! GET OUT NOW!!" he likes to chant), no man is making me do what I do not want to do with my one, very precious life. NO man.
  • PTSD involves FEAR. And this man has made me very, afraid. I am not going to let  FEAR rule my life. NO way. NO more.
Here is what PTSD does NOT involve:
  • PTSD doesn't make you abuse people. It doesn't make you terrorize people. It doesn't make you violent or volatile just because you have PTSD. It doesn't make you devote your life into harassing another human being. It doesn't make you think that you have the RIGHT to harass, harm, and violate the personal rights of other people. It doesn't make you a misogynistic sociopathic maniac. I know, because I have PTSD. And I don't even eat animals other than fish. I respect you, I respect life, I treat people with the dignity they deserve to be treated, and that is because the way you treat other people is not deformed by having PTSD.
  • PTSD doesn't make you tell lies to everybody in your apartment building about how this "girl" who lives beneath you (and you think IS beneath you), is "moving furniture at 3 AM every night". Maybe if you really believe that is happening you have a problem with auditory hallucinations (something I know a thing or two about), or maybe you're just a very, very manipulative asshole of a person who wants to get everybody around you on your side and alter their opinion of a woman who has never been anything but kind, generous and polite to all of them. Maybe you're just a really sick human being in need of serious therapy, but it has nothing to do with "PTSD".
  • PTSD doesn't make you do drugs. It doesn't force you to get involved in TRAFFICKING drugs either. Further, it doesn't make you involved in prostitutes coming into your apartment building. Enough said.
I am not moving into that place that was offered to me. I know that people will criticize me for my choice. I know that the agency that owns my apartment is sick of my complaints and wants to do the only thing they seem to be able to do in their opinion, and get me to move. I understand that they are probably tired of this maniac calling them 15 times a day, as I've been told he does with his complaints about me, and they are probably tired of hearing from me about him even though I have said nothing in comparison to all the things I could say at great length. I know that they think this will solve everything. I am not stupid. I know that people think that being offered this other apartment with no kitchen is a gift to me and I should accept it.

Thanks, but no thanks. I'm not a scared little six year old with a screaming mommy anymore who makes me curl up into the fetal position under the covers. I'm not a scared, ,little girl who is going to run away and hide even if it means she becomes suicidal over the process of what is involved with the running and hiding. I am not running and I am not hiding, not anymore. NO way. I have an internal fighter in me who will fight back. I will stand my ground. I will live in my HOME. I will walk in my HOME. I will listen to music in my HOME (never loudly even). I will cook in my HOME. I will eat in my HOME. I will let my cats run around in their HOME. I will go to the bathroom in my HOME. I will vacuum the carpet in my HOME. I will do the dishes in my HOME. And I have EVERY legal right to do ALL of this without a maniac banging on the wall and screaming when I do these things. 

I will talk on the phone in my HOME, and I have the legal right to do that too. I will laugh in my HOME, and I have the legal right to do that too. I will take showers in my HOME, and I have the legal right to do that too.

I pay rent to live where I live. I have always done so for eight years. I will not be treated like I am some sort of degenerate person with NO RIGHTS. I have rights. And I will make them be respected.

Saturday, November 15, 2014

Speak up, agitate, organize, liberate, change the world by combatting stigma now! Tell your stories. Live with mental illness? Say it. Formerly homeless? Put it to words. Experienced chronic illness? Tell people.

Hey folks,

Today was a great day! I got to attend a National Organization for Women function in a town about an hour away from where I live (a ticket was kindly donated for me, which was very nice as I otherwise would not have been there).

The keynote speaker was a woman who helped shape my feminist mind in the 1990's, Patricia Ireleand. She was the national president of the National Organization for Women (NOW) from 1991-2001, the years during the Anita Hill hearings, the Monica Lewinski scandal, and the changing of my viewpoints. These were the years when my intuition that had always felt Ms. Piggy and Wonder Woman were more awesome than others realized, led me to become the black sheep liberal, vegetarian, feminist, who I still currently am. I started reading Ms. Magazine and Sassy. In Ms. people were actually saying things like "I believe Anita Hill". People were actually writing "listen to the woman in this story". People like Patricia Ireland were on CNN saying this, and I paid attention. They were so different from ultra-conservative, totally Republican family, and I had no idea before then, really, that such people even existed. After all, I spent elementary and part of middle school in a evangelical Christian school where were taught that memorizing Bible verses was more important than science, that there was no such thing as a dinosaur, and that rock records, played backwards, held Satanic messages in them. We were taught that the band name, KISS, stood for "Kids in Satan's Service". And I could go on, and on, and on.

I was a feminist from a young age, when I declared to my misogynistic grandfather that I would never be a slave to any man (in those exact words), and would never get married. He made me put it in writing, so, at age 8, I did. I wrote my "affidavits" and had them notarized by family members. He saved them for years because he planned on humiliating me about it when I eventually did get married. Well, he's dead now, and I'm still single, so that day never came, may he rest in peace.

In the 1990's the world was embroiled in changes, and so was my young mind. I refused to do any dissection of animals in my high school biology class and stopped eating meat after I saw what a dead fetal pig looked like and realized why bacon had always  disgusted me. I started an environmentalists' club with some science teacher whose name I don't recall. I began to believe in women like Anita Hill. I refused to go to the pentacostal, crazy church where I grew up any longer, particularly after the day that the assistant pastor was on the news for molesting some of my friends.

I changed. And one of the people who helped me make that change was Patricia Ireland. I got to pick her brain today at the luncheon where she was keynote speaker, and I was honored to sit at her table. "What was Betty Friedan like? Do you know Gloria Steinem well? Have you met Hillary? What about Bella Abzug?" She probably got sick of my questions! But what she said to me were some of the most important words anybody has said in a while. She told me that it was very good that I speak out about my "issues" I've lived through because most people do not do that, and telling the truth about things is the main ways that social changes are created.

There are things I don't talk about on Facebook, but which I have talked about here. Things like being sexually assaulted while psychotic (three times), for example, I do not write there because such persons as my mother, my father, my one living grandmother, etc. are on Facebook, and they cannot handle that information. There is a reason why the book I co-authored with Jessica Leach, Episodes of Schizophrenia . There are things I rarely ever talk about at all, with and I had to delete the info here, sorry. There are things nobody really wants to hear about, which is why it is so goddamn hard to get social changes created. We would rather be like the "ostrich" (checkout a great song called "Ostrich" by Carla Duren). It's one of my favorite songs, sent to me once on a cd by my great friend Lauren "Wildflowyr", and I am listening to it on Spotify as I type this.

So there are things, like everyone, that I don't advertise about myself. However, there are things that NEED to be talked about. The fact that people don't talk about them hurts us all who live through them. The fact that people don't talk about them is why they will continue to happen until, someday in the next millenimum, people do. So here is what I wrote about it on Facebook. I wrote, that Patricia Ireland told me that it is very good that I talk about the issues I've been through, as that is the way change is created. And....

And that, folks, is a belief I have long held at the molecular level. As one of my favorite, feminist poets, Adrienne Rich wrote, "Lying is done with words, and also with silence." As Audre Lorde, another famous, feminist writer who greatly influenced my life wrote, "Your silence will not protect you." As Zora Neale Hurston, a greatly underappreciated author wrote during the Harlem Renaissance, "There is no agony like bearing an untold story inside you."
Florida needs two monuments in Tallahassee: One, for Patricia Ireland (she lives in Miami). a groundbreaking long-time national President of NOW who, when I was a teenager, helped me became a feminist. Secondly, one for Zora Neale Hurston, a well-respected author who died in a poor house and whose reputation as one of the best American writers of all time comes from the fact that Alice Walker, another great African American feminist author, resurrected Zora's work in the 1970's, If you ever want to see what one of America's beloved author's former hometown (which was at the center of her books) looks like, take a detour from your way to Disney on I-4 and visit Eatonville. You may be surprised that, not only is it in shambles, as I discovered in the 90's, but also, there's no freakin' monument to Zora there.

Thanks to women like these people, I firmly believe that, as a woman, as a feminist, as someone who believes in social change, the incredible stigma against those of use living with "severe and persistent mental illnesses" needs to be bashed, like, tomorrow. And it never will be, unless we all speak out. Your family may not want to hear it; you may need to find friends who accept as you are when others don't. But this is the only way we will change the world for everyone who lives now with mental illness, and everyone who comes behind us on this planet and has to live with it. Big Pharma is not going to save us. Eli Lilly may profit from us, but social change doesn't come from corporations. Social change comes from opening your mouth, or typing on a keyboard. Social change comes from talking and from writing and from advocacy and from activism and from not shutting up when everybody around you thinks you should. That is where social change comes from.

So, yes, I have Schizoaffective Disorder, formerly diagnosed as Schizophrenia. It's something I live with and it does not define who I am. However, it is something that you probably don't know anything about. It is something that you cannot tell I live with by looking at me. And it has radically affected my entire existence for many years. So if you don't know anything about it, please ask questions. Please read. Three feminists gave me checks for my first book today, because they probably believe, more than the average person, in the importance of women trying to create change.

Yes, I have Lupus, another illness probably no one knows about and it took 19 years for the diagnosis to be definitely defined, along with Sjogren's (have you heard of that?), and Fibromyalgia (which I got in the 90's as a 19 year old and no one had heard of it then, there were no Lyrica commercials then, and all of us were told "it's all in your head"). What do these illnesses have in common? 90% of the people who have them are female. Why do you really think there is no cure for them? And with Lupus, those women are often African American.

Yes, I have also experienced homelessness. How many people have you met who would tell you that without your being able to guess it from looking at them? People are ashamed to say the words. Adrienne Rich also wrote, in "Diving into the Wreck", "the words purposes; the words are maps". And indeed this is true.

Thank you, Patricia, and all of my Facebook friends and people I've met in life who were willing to listen and who cared. Thank you, National Alliance on Mental Illness, for stopping the myth of the "Schizophrenogenic Mother" along with the help of feminists, when society tried to blame this illness, as has been done since Adam, on women. Thank you truth-tellers, blog writers, book authors, public speakers. Thank you advocates, activists, and world changers. You are who will create a better future for this planet.

Also, I want to add, the reason why people assume every homeless person is pan-handling on the streets or sleeping in a park, is usually because they see men doing this. Homeless women often do not do such things, since homeless women, and more particularly homeless women suffering from mental illnesses, are at a huge risk of being assaulted, and many are, and they all know that that this risk exists. Therefore, try to banish from your mind the idea that everybody who looks homeless to you defines what a homeless person looks like. You might see homeless people at libraries. What I did when I was living in a shelter the first time was spend all my time in libraries (shelters kick you out during the day; you have to find somewhere to go), and I worked on a Women's Studies website to complete a women's studies honors course at the Community College of Baltimore County at Essex. Thank you, Dr. Rae Rosenthal. I was supposed to go to Smith College that year. I ended up sleeping in the back of my car in a Kmart parking lot instead.

Please try not to make assumptions. You probably know many people who have lived through many, many horrific things they never talk about. That's part of the reason so many folks continue to believe horrific things don't happen and then crucify those who say they actually do.

Thank you, to all of you blog readers like "Borderline Lil" and Leslie from Baltimore, and everyone else who ever reads this, because you mean a lot to me, more than I can ever express.

I encourage everybody who wants to change the world for those of us living with mental illnesses to begin talking about the ghosts in their hypothetical closets. If you can't talk to your dad about it, like I can't either, try writing about it. Blogger is awfully easy to use, and from what I've been told, so is Wordpress! There are numerous Facebook support groups for people with Schizophrenia and Schizoaffective Disorder. There are all manner of outlets. If you want to write anonymously, do that too. But there is something that counts about your name. Your name means, "You may know who I actually am and I am not ashamed to tell you it." 

My name is Jennifer. And I am not afraid to tell you that.

Thanks for reading.

Tuesday, November 11, 2014

Coping Through Tremendous Stress: Finding the Calm Inside the Storm

So this is going to be a post about coping skills. It's not going to be a litany of complaints about my life. I would prefer to briefly describe what's going on with me, and then get to the positive ways of coping with things which I've been trying to implement.


My cancer scare, thank the Universe, is over. However, I still have pain. It's most likely due to Endometriosis, because I've had that for most of my life and have had surgery for it before. I've opted out of surgery for the moment and am using a form of birth control to try to deal with it.

I have to find a new job ASAP. The college where I've worked for over six years is laying off everyone in my position in January. This sucks. I wish to hell that we had a union, but of course we don't because this is Florida and you don't find a lot of unions in Florida. Florida sucks. Did I ever mention how much I hate living here? The Communication Workers of America Union actually had a drive to try to save call center jobs from being outsourced, and I remember the times I collected their pamphlets on that, meaning to distribute them to my coworkers, but then realizing the idea was futile, and would most likely result in me getting myself fired.

Did I ever mention the college fired me for being in the hospital? They did. There were three of them on the phone, a human resources manager and my boss, and my boss' boss. They told me that my services were no longer needed. Since I had previously filled out a request for reasonable accommodations under the Americans With Disabilities Act, I told them they were violating the ADA (which they clearly were), and that I would see them in court. The next day, I suppose after they consulted their lawyers, and after I had my plan to kill myself re-embedded in my head - they called to give me my job back. Interesting. Lovely way to treat your staff.

So anyway, I am in the middle of a job search, and finding a part time job which will not pay too much, so that I do not lose disability benefits I desperately need, is difficult.

Further, Social Security, once again, is putting me through the tremendous hassle of trying to prove to them that, yes, I am, indeed "disabled" and that I do, indeed, qualify for the stupid benefits they are supposed to be giving me. They do this to everyone. Like regularly. They seem to exist solely to torture people more than to help people. So I am dealing with that, without much help from anyone.

Additionally, due to the fact that the man who lives in the apartment below me has been terrorized me for all the months that he has lived there, and he has a huge criminal record, and I have had to call the police on him, and the landlord agency will not get him out of there, as well as due to the fact that I'm losing my job, now I have to move.

The only place I have to move to that is available and affordable for me is an apartment in this town I dislike, in another unpleasant neighborhood. But it is better than becoming homeless again.

So I have to move.

There are three big stressors in life, according to The Experts: Moving, Changing Jobs, and something else I don't remember (watch whatever it is occur tomorrow!!).

So I am going through a lot of stress. And that is enough to say about that.


These are things I am doing to help myself:

Until my blender broke this morning I was drinking green smoothies almost every day. Green smoothies are very healthy. They are full of nutrition, and they can make a good meal replacement. Especially if you hate cooking! I use spinach, kale, or other "power greens", which you can purchase at any grocery store or produce stand in the U.S. (I obviously do not know about the vegetables for sale in the rest of the world, sorry), and I add almond milk, or yogurt, then frozen fruit, and sometimes flax and/or peanut butter. They are very tasty! It's like a healthy dessert. I've been doing this since August, and I've come to really enjoy it. It's unfortunate I have to save up now to buy a new blender, but that's okay. You don't need a really expensive blender to make green smoothies.

I drink green tea every day. I make a pitcher of it, and I use Stevia to sweeten it. There is a product you can get at Walmart (I know Walmart is the Evil Enemy, but sometimes it is necessary in a pinch), called "Pure Vita", and it is organic. Instead of the Diet Pepsi and Diet Coke I lived on for most of my life, with such a huge habit everybody whoever knew me commented on how bizarre it was the amount of diet soda I consumed, now I drink green tea instead, or cold, filtered water. I bought a filter for my sink, it gets the bad stuff out and makes the water taste better. I attached it to the sink myself, and actually it was quite easy.

I don't eat fast food anymore or frozen dinners. Can't afford it and it's not healthy. I go to food pantries, out of necessity. I eat a lot of what I get there supplemented by the occasional purchase of cereal or potatoes, or something like that.

I've lost 22 pounds so far since August, and kept it off for a while now. So that is good, because I am overweight and prediabetic.

This week I started exercising again - walking, and doing some stretches. I do stretches regularly, actually, for the heinous Fibromyalgia pain in my neck and shoulders, but I had not done any kind of aerobic exercise in ages and ages. So twice now, I've gone for good, long walks through a local park which you can walk to from my apartment. It's a lovely park, a great place to take in the beauty of nature, see fish jumping in the lake, and birds all about. I do deep breathing and focus on the walking and the stretches and try to shut up the voice in my head telling me what a horrible, stupid, disgusting person I am. "Shut up! Shut up! Shut up!", I say. I even sat on the kids' tire swing the other day and swung around. No children were there. It was kind of fun! I definitely recommend spending time in nature to refresh your body and your mind.

My rheumatologist says that the way I am writing down all my medical symptoms and questions and reading them to her indicates that I am really trying to heal myself now and I am getting more organized. She said I am actually helping her be more organized in her efforts to help me. Of course, mostly she can only prescribe more pills, and I am on way too many pills, but she's kind, and patient, and I like her.

My therapist said she sees me on a healing journey, too.

I've been doing writing, journaling at home. My laptop doesn't have any software like Word on it to be able to write with. So I just use the old paper and pen variety.

I barely ever watch TV. I don't miss it. I don't miss having cable either, except when I would like to see the election results on MSNBC. When Hillary runs for President I'm going to have to invest in cable again, I guess! Or, at least, internet at home.

When I've got no one to talk to - which is usually the case - I always have had the habit of talking to my cats. They enjoy it. Ribbit actually tries to converse with me. He meows, I respond, and he meows some more. I ask him how his day went, if he played much, terrorized Spooky a lot like he enjoys doing, and made enough noise to irritate the maniac downstairs who likes to bang on the wall and scream that he's going to call the cops when my 11-pound cats are making noise. I read poetry to my cats. If you talk to pets in a friendly tone (well I don't know much about dogs as I don't like dogs much, but this is true of cats), whatever you're saying doesn't really matter, they just like to hear your voice. It calms them, makes them purr, makes them happy, makes them sit with your lie on you. My cats always do that. They greet me at the door when I come home and they hear the key in the lock. Ribbit is generally by my side at all times. When I'm not feeling well, they lie on my body right where it hurts, which, actually, make it hurt more, but that's not their intention. They're very intuitive, intelligent cats. And they never got tired of their Mommy, like most people probably would if they had to be around me all the time!

Another thing I do that is helpful is see a chiropractor twice a week. He's not a full-fledged chiropractor, as he's really an intern who I see for free because I work for the college, but he's very good at his job. This has been helping me with my pain in my neck, shoulders, and back quite a bit. I think, more and more, that it's better to utilize alternative therapies for chronic illnesses than to simply rely on allopathic medicine, which basically involves me swallowing 30 pills a day and not really feeling any benefit from that.

I take a multivitamin, B12, B Complex Gummies (gummy or sublingual vitamins are better to digest than the kind you just swallow), Fish Oil, and sometimes magnesium with malic acid, and sometimes Vitamin C. I'm going to try to get off some of my medications really soon. Like, perhaps, tomorrow. Not the mental health stuff, but some of the other things for my stomach and for Fibro, which I just don't want to be swallowing all the time without knowing that they even help at all.

So, what I'm trying to say here is that there are various ways to help yourself. I'm trying to find the calm within the storm. When I walk to the park, I walk onto this deck which goes over the lake, and I take a moment to look around and take in the beauty there. It reminds me of when I was in the hospital this past July and August, and I would walk around outside in the little, enclosed courtyard, and there was this one guy who would just sit at a  table and stare at an American flag in the distance. He had been in the military and he said that this reminded him of the freedom he currently lacked. He called it his "Serenity Spot". So I was thinking, you know, we all need some kind of "serenity spot", or some place, some thing that makes us feel more calm, maybe, multiple things, maybe it takes tons of work to cope, maybe it's like a full time job. But you have to do it because nobody can do it for you.

Also, people have been pre-ordering copies of the book I co-authored with Jessica Leach, Episodes of Schizophrenia, so I have been able to purchase some copies to be sent in the mail. You can still order the Ebook online if you like. But soon, when I can get more copies, I'll be putting up a way for you to by signed copies from me, via this website, using Paypal. So do come back, please, if you are interested in that!

And, if you don't mind, please take the poll on the right hand column of this blog, about what topics you would like to read about in future blog posts and/or a future book. Thank you!

Lastly, some people have emailed me at, an email account I do not often check, because they wanted to contact me and were not comfortable leaving comments. I have enabled the ability for you to leave anonymous comments, all of which will be reviewed first to prevent spam, so you do not have to worry about having a gmail/blogger account to leave a comment now. And I really, really appreciate it when someone takes the time to leave a comment or email me! I apologize if your emails take a while for me to respond to.


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