There are two words that bother me greatly when I see, hear, or read them. They are: “Mental Illness”. Why does this wildly popular and acceptable term bother me so much? I’ll elaborate.
Quite a few of my friends are “mentally ill” at their own admittance, and those that aren’t, continue to use the phrase easily and without conviction. It’s just what people are known to be that have “mental problems”, right?
But who doesn’t have “mental problems”? Who hasn’t at some point broken down and cried? Who hasn’t felt afflicted spiritually, emotionally, psychologically, financially, health-wise or otherwise? How did it affect you as person? Did you feel defeated? Did you feel like giving up? Did you fret? Worry? Call people? Overeat? Not leave your house for the day? The week? Pace your floors? Cuss? Scream? Throw something? Drink? Drink more? (See where this is going?)
How do we differentiate between a person who is exhibiting (fatigue, duress, insomnia, depression and other) physiological manifestations -very natural responses to his or her sexual abuse or other traumas- combined with their chaotic environments, and a person who is exhibiting these signs when everything is hunky-dory?
One would be classified as appropriate behaviors given the circumstances, and the other would be classified as exhibiting psychological disorders. Both examples describe the same behaviors! But the environmental norms surrounding them separate the two.
If a person has been sexually abused and placed in a normal environment with siblings and other happy folks who have a swell life, there is no way the sexually abused person is going to behave in an expected manner. Who would behave at optimal performance in school, church, family gatherings, etc. after being sexually abused and having to “guard it” like Fort Knox gold? A person who tries to keep it together year after year will eventually break down while trying to process massive amounts of: guilt, anxiety, shame, anger, rage, confusion, blame, self-loathing, envy- the list is very long.
Given the circumstances, it’s actually very normal behavior to exhibit signs of distress, anxiety, anger, OCD-like tendencies, insomnia, night terrors, and other maladaptive behaviors that are associated with trauma. People who have not suffered these traumas do not understand and it is extremely unsettling for them that they do not have answers that they can file away, shelve, and dress up with a tidy bow so that it’s sorted out in their heads.
But there needs to be an understanding in this area that these odd behaviors are very normal for sexual abuse survivors. What wouldn’t be normal is having suffered sexual abuse (especially as a child) and then sailing through life with little or no behavioral quirks. I dislike the word disorder because I challenge anybody to say that surviving sexual abuse is a disorder.
It is a triumph. Sexual abuse is a violation like no other and people give medals to those in wars who have been violated less and call them heroes. Sexual abuse survivors fight in the battlefields of life, and there’s no hero’s welcome. There’s no parade. No medals. We have to be our own heroes and rescue ourselves from the collective trenches of societal stigma and hate bombs that others throw at us and that we throw at ourselves.
Being a sexual abuse survivor is like being locked in a dark, dirty cell and given 5,000 keys: Only one will unlock the door, and you have one hour to find the right one, or you could die! Doom. Doom doom doom! And lots of crying, worry, and fears that you will never find the right key in time.
But again, I reiterate that these horrible feelings are absolutely normal given the circumstances. We need to carefully select the words and labels we assign to people who have suffered such traumas. What if they believe you?!
God forbid I ever believe any labels that have been placed upon me in life. I would be the biggest mess in the world. But I have assigned healthier labels for myself: loving, compassionate, real, honest, valuable, happy. After all, I am the one who has to live with myself and why would I want to live with a pessimist?
The term mental illness came about in the 1800’s after various psychological perspectives disagreed on what actually defined a person to be mentally ill. Some believed that it was evil spirits. Some believed it was “psychogenic”, or psychologically induced, and others believed that it was somatogenic, or “of a biophysiological nature” (that’s a fancy way of saying “relating to your body” rather than your mental processes).
They locked “mentally ill” people up on psych wards and in chains where they were beaten and starved, or placed in a metal contraption that rendered them motionless for hours and days at a time. When the patients in these asylums exhibited paranoia, fear, depression, sleeplessness, excessive anxiety and other abuse-related behaviors (as a direct result of the abuse), their friends and families sadly accepted what the doctors had prescribed them all: mental illness.
Many of these patients were exhibiting very normal responses to being held against their wills and physically and psychologically abused. People were quick to swallow the ideology of “mental illness” because it satisfied their need to classify and understand what was happening to their family member.
In other words, people created the term “mental illness” to be able to better control individuals, societies, groups, and religious wars were often the fuel that kept these controversial fires burning. With the classification of mental illness, the acts of physical and emotional abuse on those who broke society’s norms were not only unpunishable; but sanctioned, approved, and rewarded!
Just as toxic as any sexual abuse is the belief by the victim that he or she is mentally ill, because somebody said so. This is such a powerful weapon of self-destruction, and only the act of sexual abuse itself is stronger.
We need to start tossing out terms like “mental illness”: those two words alone are TOXIC. I will never accept terms like “mental illness” and “psychological disorder”. Those are conceptual words made up by people who do not understand what it is like to live in a world with wild, technicolor vision. How about that?
How about, “I have a family member or friend who has really been through it, but they have still been able to [insert accomplishments here] despite their setbacks.”
It’s all about perception and presentation, and I think we owe one another a sum of decency as to how we present each other.
I wrote this post so that other sexual abuse survivors might gather strength and comfort. Know that there are others who have suffered the same things in life, but refuse to be labeled! You are who and what you believe you are.
You have to believe yourself into something positive, constructive, hopeful– and be fearless in your conquests! Be bold in who you are, and acknowledge that you are a survivor rather than a victim. And when you learn that, teach others that too. Choose positivity rather than negativity.
Those 5,000 keys?
They all open the door.
Lighting is your friend, ladies!
Seeing how I’ve been getting all this extra attention lately, I thought it a good time to make a post about how to take a good selfie (technically speaking). Anybody that knows me truly knows that:
a.) I don’t take myself too seriously. Ever.
b.) I look 20 years younger than I actually am, thanks to Photoshop. (I’m 44.)
c.) I don’t shave my legs and I really don’t care. (But that’s beside the point.)
Normally, I stay oblivious to my “audience” and rarely write for others. Not that I have anything against that, I’m particularly too lazy to keep up with all of the hooplah and riffraff. But tonight, I decided to address selfies and lighting and that sort of thing, because, who doesn’t have a few bad selfies lying around? (I have hundreds.) Not that I’m a narcissist, I’m a photographer: there’s a difference. (Not really.) But if you have a guy-friend that pilfers through your hard drive like I used to do with my ex’s, then you can just tell him “you’re a photographer” and he won’t think twice about it.
I have a bit of a cheap wine hangunder at the moment, so I’ll keep this list short and sweet. I know there are all sorts of one-click filters out there to make you look all selfielicious and everything, but if you stick to these pointers, I promise you, you’ll cut a few corners, save time, and look a heck of a lot better.
- Go into the light!
Find a “window light” source. It doesn’t have to be fancy; everything I do is cheap and at a fraction of the cost that others spend. Natural window lighting is the best light in the world for selfies- I promise! Don’t use midday lighting: it’s harsh and will either blast your pupils, simulating an unflattering meth-addiction, or it’ll highlight your shadows and age you instead. (You don’t want that.) The best time for good-selfie lighting is early morning to midday (just before noon), and late afternoon to early evening. Also, apart from professional and expensive lighting, nothing puts beautiful catchlights in your eyes like a window. (See pic above.)
- Embrace your flaws
As you can see in my selfie, I’m make-up free and alright with showing a few lines and pores. It’s natural. Guys want to sleep with Barbie but they really don’t want to take her to lunch. Don’t be a Barbie.
- Look like you’re going to kick somebody’s ass
This is my go-to look that works for most pictures. It’s alright to smile! But this is always good to fall back on and believe me, you’re going to need to fall back on this at some point.
- Stretch your face muscles before a shoot. Mimic the word “WOW” in excess, raising your eyebrows simultaneously; it’s a little weird at first, but it loosens up the expression and circulates the blood. Do this about 50 times, and really, it’s good do get in the habit of doing this daily because it tightens up the facial muscles. (I’ve done it for years.) After you’re finished, your face will relax into a “default” comfortable expression. If that doesn’t work, look like you’re going to kick somebody’s ass.
- Keep the camera slightly above your head, point your chin down a hair, and lock your eyes into place.
There’s nothing worse that enlarged nostrils, double chins, and bad angles. Keeping the camera above your head slightly (preferably at 3/4ths of an angle) will flatter your angles.
There you have it.
I tell you, school couldn’t come fast enough. For some people, beginning their next semester entails stress, anxiety, uncertainty, procrastination-anxiety, feelings of being overwhelmed, and feelings of general excitement mixed with doom. For me, it’s just the opposite. When I’m in school, I’m completely in my element: I know what to expect and I work best when I’m in the pressure cooker! It’s just how life has molded me to be.
I’ve added my 14 exam dates for Abnormal Psychology onto my wall planner, as well as my deadlines for my case studies and oral case study presentations. (Isn’t that a bucket of fun waiting to happen?) I’ve watched my video for Anorexia and other eating disorders for my Social Work Practice class and have submitted the accompanying assignment work sheet. My homework for the evening is to read 25 pages in each of the first chapters and take 10+ pages of notes that I’ll be tested on this week.
And then there’s my Biology lab course and Intro to Social Work! I’m still sorting out those assignments, dates, deadlines, video presentations, and other important assignments/folders. Apart from my oral presentations (and 30 + hours of volunteer work), I’ll also have two separate 15 page research paper projects in two different classes.
I’ve been hammering away at getting things sorted for the past 5 days solid: it’s a lot of work, but the preparation beforehand saves me stress later. You can hardly be too prepared for college classes.
I’m really hoping that I’ll be able to squeeze a vacation in soon as I won’t be taking a summer break this year. Four months this spring at VU and then it’s straight over to SNHU to begin work on my BA in Sociology where I’ll work without a break for the next year. I can now say that my life is planned out for the next several years!
I haven’t had a horrific migraine in more than two months; that in itself is borderline miraculous. I believe I’ve made a profound discovery. There are triggers that set off migraines when you’re a chronic migraine sufferer, as I have been for several years now. I have specific triggers that I avoid at all costs:
- too much sugar and salt
- too much audial, radial, and visual stimulation
- weather/change in barometric pressure
- grinding teeth [bruxism/night grinding]
- lack of sleep
- alcohol [never more than two glasses of red wine- ever]
- no yelling or heightened displays of anger
- insufficient exercise
- too much heat
- being too cold
In other words, I have to walk very softly or I can get a vicious migraine that lasts for 3 days. (My blog is filled with days like that.) I’ve been my own guinea pig for more than a year in experimental home trials where I’ve undergone numerous self-testings: I’ve made some very important discoveries.
The most important discovery of all is that it could be allergens which are triggering the histamines to go to war against my own body. The result? Migraines! Through my own researches, I’ve come to learn that the sinus cavities swell when the body is under attack from various allergens. The most common ones come from cats and pet dander. Several of my family members are allergic to cats and need to take antihistamines when they’re around cats. Armed with this knowledge, I decided to start taking 1/4th of a Phenergan (prescription: it’s a powerful antihistimine that fights nausea) daily, without fail, to dry up the almost constant sinus drainage I have and have had all my life. It works like a charm! Benadryl is too strong for me, so the quarter strength Phenergan is ideal.
I’ve been doing this for a while now, and have noticed that since my histamines are regularly controlled, my triggers have become subdued as well. I haven’t taken a whole Phenergan in more than 5 years- that stuff’ll knock you out cold, but at 1/4th the strength; it allows the antihistamine to do its job (dry up the sinus cavities) while mitigating the histamine and body’s histamine reaction, resulting in a dramatic decrease in migraines, so much so that I seldom get them at all any more.
I used to think that the arachnoid cyst in my head caused these severe migraines; not any more. Perhaps the neurologist was correct: he suggested the migraines weren’t caused by the cyst and shared with me that arachnoid cysts are often congenital. Many people have them (from birth) and never know it. Some people have problematic cysts though, and the sinuses and arachnoid membranes flare up, which exacerbate the onset of migraines greatly. I believe my own body’s histamines have been the culprit the entire time. My daughter loves the kittowies too much to let them go, so I have to adhere to a strict code of health and watch my “triggers”, but hey, I’m practically migraine free now, and as a result of my super-tight-lifestyle, I’m healthier than I’ve ever been. No complaints here.
(You know you’re getting old when you actually want to be healthy…)
Of course, this isn’t such a mystery as I know who the caller was, but in my great compassion, I won’t name names.
“Hey. You know the other day when I was telling you about that store?”
“That store…they sell Wonder Woman costumes and-”
“Ok. Look. I told you, do not drunk call me. If you drunk call me, I’m going to hang up on you. Don’t frikking drunk call me!”
“Well, well, see…”
“Are you drunk?!”
“You’re drunk, aren’t you?”
“They have these Wonder Woman costumes there. I’ll buy it.”
“Dude, I don’t care about your Darth Vader crap, and I don’t care about Wonder Woman. If you call me one more time with your ^%$# in your hand, I’m going to-”
“You’re beautiful, Birg! I’ll buy the costume!”
“Ok, You know what? I’m hanging up. Do not drunk call me again.”
Yeah. This really happened today.
Somebody stop this ride…
Apparently, I made the Dean’s List and didn’t even know it.
I received this peculiar letter yesterday from my university. I’m a Phi Theta Kappa (Honor’s Society) member (1992 & 2010/Ivy Tech) already, but the Dean’s List at my current University had always eluded me, barely. I made the mistake of choosing a guy I was dating (three years ago) over my education and dropped several courses during our short time together. My GPA took a nose dive and I’ve spent the past three years working feverishly to rebuild it. Lesson learned!
My ultimate academic goal is not to make the Dean’s List: My goal is to apply and integrate what I learn in school into my every day life, for myself and others. Making the Dean’s List is a necessary affirmation that I made the right choices along the way and as a devoted goal-setter, I’ve reached my personal goal. Finally.
My accumulative GPA for this past semester is 3.75. (Not good enough by my own standards, but I’ll take it!)
Tonight, I’m a happy camper. 🙂
I’ve also started the Master Cleanse cleanse. It’s not a “diet”, but rather a lifestyle. I made a delicious supper of mesquite chicken, broccoli and cheddar (real cheese only!), stuffing and polenta squares, but since it’s after 9, I settled for a glass of “master cleanse goodness” instead: water, cayenne pepper, maple syrup and lemon juice.
I don’t know when I became such a health nut, but it’s not entirely a bad thing.
The Dean’s List!!!
…and only two gallons to drink.
My pipes froze during “The Big Freeze” last week; I had left the water dripping from all faucets and the water froze up regardless. Last night, a neighbor was kind enough to knock on my door and inform me that the yard was flooded and a small river was flowing down into the neighboring properties: one of my pipes had burst.
He was able to shut off the main valve, despite the full-on geyser he blasted through in order to do so. (I owe that man a roasted chicken.) Today makes day four without running water and I feel like I’m in a 3rd world country in a hut somewhere, cut off from civilization. My head is throbbing and I’m fresh out of Ibuprofin. Luckily, my childhood was spent much in the same way so frozen pipes and a lack of water are not foreign territories for me: I’m quite the expert by now.
One of my brothers dropped off a few gallons of water (bless his heart) and I have a plumber scheduled to meet me tomorrow for an estimate. All of this and my new classes start Monday!
But, all things considered, things are still pretty good.
Apart from the “not having water” thing.
And the overheating car.
I’ve lived through worse.
That’s always nice to fall back on…
Frozen fountain/Helios 44-2 film + digital rebel
Twenty years ago I went to an actual brick and mortar college when I was studying Nursing. After my first semester I was inducted into Phi Theta Kappa after receiving:
Anatomy & Physiology I – A
Medical Office Procedures Administrative- A
Medical Terminology- A
English Comp- A
Medical Law and Ethics- B
My first college semester! It was pretty awesome, and that was before Google, Wikipedia, and the internet. Then some really bad crap happened in my life and I had to drop out the following semester; I had a few more kids and took a 20 year detour to stay at home and raise them. No regrets! But four years ago, when I decided to return to school, I still wanted the liberty to get an education while remaining at home with my teens. I didn’t want to be a career mom while they were toddlers, and so I carefully planned exactly when I did want to return to school. My children were all 13 and older so I felt that was just about the right time to head back to college.
Rather than return to a brick and mortar college, I researched distance education so I could work from home. Today, it’s standard for universities to offer hybrid classes (brick and mortar and distance ed, mixed) or brick and mortar and distance ed. courses separately. Four years ago it wasn’t as common as it is today even; it was still in its infancy, particularly here in Indiana. I had been a dedicated, top student in Nursing, and knew I had what it takes to have the same dedication as an online student. (I was’t wrong, having just graduated Sum Laude from Vincennes University: Behavioral Sciences + CPC in Substance Abuse.)
Distance education isn’t for everybody, however. If you lack focus, drive, dedication, commitment, and patience, you may want to consider going to a brick and mortar. Not that that will be much easier; you have to have all of these things anyway if you want to excel in college. Numerous people stumble upon my blog daily based on keyword searches alone, so this particular post is for inquisitive people who will be researching distance ed. Here are a few things you should know before getting started, and I hope to dispel any myths one has about distance ed.:
- Distance Ed/Online college is not easier than brick and mortar schools
I’ve done both, it can actually be much more challenging.
- The books, syllabi, rubrics, course outlines, expectations, rules, regulations, policies, deadlines, and other course materials are identical to what you receive in brick and mortar colleges. (And if they’re not, don’t go to that college!) There’s no “special treatment” just because you get to take tests in your jammies. (Although I must say, that’s a nice perk.)
- Did I mention you get to take your tests in your jammies?
(Apart from the ones that are proctored, and there are actually quite a few.)
- Google helps, but not really.
Instructors devise clever methods to keep students from Googling during unproctored exams. One of the more frequent ones at my university is allowing 60 minutes for a 50 question exam. And that’s a Microeconomics test! Not an easy course. It makes for very difficult standards, but a smart tactic. Some professors will allow open book exams, but when you have only 60 minutes for 50 “paragraphed” multiple choice questions that are four and five lines long (and that’s just the question), there’s no room for error, or, “mind-stuttering” for that matter. Daydreamers beware, this is like academic NASCAR.
- The stress can be incredible.
Procrastinating is not a good idea. It’s an enticing thought when your assignment is approaching and there are still several days remaining, but you can really feel the hangman’s noose tightening around your greedy little throat as the deadline rushes upon you. Better to pay your academic dues early: the interest is far too expensive, and believe me, you pay in stress.
Here are a few of my personal tips on succeeding in Distance Ed:
- If you want to be an A/B student- kiss the next four months of your life goodbye.
- Never settle for C’s! Never. Never ever ever. (“Settle” being the key word.)
- Work hard and go the extra mile.
Your professors know who’s lazy and who’s not by the paper you write. You can BS your way through only so much, and then they’re onto you! Take the time to show them that you give a damn. Write a stellar paper! If they say 3-5 pages, make it 5- don’t be lazy.
- Follow the 20 formal writing rules (always) when writing an academic paper. If you’re unfamiliar with that, you can go here.
- Never write an academic paper based on “opinion”. Gather facts and write about facts only. Unless you’re writing a personal essay or other form of first person paper, you should never deviate from this.
- Develop a routine and stick to it.
- Don’t make excuses for academic failure! Learn from the negatives. Study, revise, regroup, move it around, strategize and get back in the ring. Failure is only failure if you give up.
- Be communicable with your professors.
An open line of communication is KEY for academic success.
- Take criticism. Criticism usually hurts because it’s tinged with truth. Be thankful somebody took the time.
- Take vitamins, get proper sleep (no all-night cramming sessions- be prepared instead), exercise regularly, step away from the machine- take a walk- look at trees, clouds, breathe deeply, etc.
- Get off of Facebook! Facebook + good grades don’t coexist harmoniously. One will suffer, the other will benefit. (Make wise choices.)
- Make a “school folder” and keep it on your desktop. Within that folder, create individual class folders, and in those folders, download each class syllabus, course outline, instructor’s email along with email instructions (not every instructor has the same preferences), assignments, deadlines, and special instructions for that particular course. Staying organized can be the difference between being an “A student” vs. a “C student”.
- Submit work early. Words are cheap, and lip service and excuses have no place in the classroom. If you want to show your professor that you care, submit your work early. Nothing says “I care” more than staying on top of your game!
These pointers aren’t only applicable for school but in every area of life.
Oh, and never send your professor an email with a smiley face included! (Keep it brief, professional, and to the point. They’re incredibly busy.)
I hope this helps (whoever you are).
The day started as any other. I woke to make coffee and feed the animals. Nothing seemed amiss. I quickly discovered that the hot water heater had frozen, as did the water in the holding reserve of the toilet. There would be no baths or flushing toilet today. After many hours with a modified Aunt Jemima box (funnel), a blow dryer, two large pans of boiling water and a good amount of sea salt, I’ve made little progress in melting the block of ice that remains in our toilet tank tubing. I have the heating pad close by as I may need to wrap it around the water heater tonight.
It dawned on me, standing over the toilet- blow dryer shoved into the Aunt Jemima box-funnel- surrounded by a pool of water, that I could possibly be electrocuted and wasn’t sure how I hadn’t been already. I slowly backed away from the would-be catastrophe and made my way to the kitchen.
In times such as these, great decisions must be made.
Wine or cake. Wine or cake!
I go with the wine and pour myself a glass of red. There are still seven days of my “vacation” before school begins again. This isn’t quite how I envisioned spending it, but hey, I still have the internet, cable TV, a working phone, a box of wine, AND more than 15 rolls of toilet paper. (Am I the only one that calls it “white gold”?) Yeah, I’m sitting PHAT compared to several weeks ago. No complaints.
Other than not being able to flush my toilet.
Or…take a shower.
Will write soon.
I’ve decided that I need a vacation. I’m considering:
- Turkey (Cappadocia, in particular: the “Land of Fairy Chimneys” and Star Wars-like lunar landscapes)
- Morocco (Marrakesh & Casablanca- and a desert trek on camel’s back to stay in a smelly tent with indigenous desert tribes in the Sahara- Heaven!)
- Puerto Rico, AKA “Zombie Island” (due to a startling rise in the number of krokodil recipients). Krokodil is a flesh-eating drug that drug abusers shoot up: they then wander around the island in a semi-comatose trance (or, fully-induced) and do things like stumble into traffic begging for change, or, shove their intestines back into their abdominal cavities as they wander off in search of more of the drug; I’ve seen both in documentaries.
I’ve told a select few that I’m considering Puerto Rico, as I’ve researched the place for years and is in large part why I’ve studied Spanish for the past year; they think I’ve completely lost it because I want to venture off to a place that’s loaded with drug addicts. Hello…the town I live in is loaded with drug addicts who are multiplying rapidly due to the pill mill on the main strip! People stumble around in their pj’s here- doped up- glazed look in their eyes, robbing the Dollar Tree. How high do you have to be to rob the Dollar Tree? I’ve spent my whole life in this area: I’m used to drug addicts.
And really, after dealing with these people all the time, I could use a break- switch up the drug addicts for a change.
Also though, I’m drawn to the El Yunque Rain Forest located near white-sanded Luquillo Beach. I’ve spoken with a woman who owns chalets there in the rain forest: 15 minutes down a jungle path leads you to a waterfall that you can swim in. There’s a hammock on the chalet deck which allows one to relax while listening to the Coqui frogs that fill the night air with their croaks and stories of all the others who were ever there on the deck, sipping a chilled Corona. I want to hear them.
I told my daughter once: “We have $1,000. Pick a city. Wherever you choose- we’re going.” She chose New York City, New York. (I wasn’t expecting that one!) But, I made arrangements and booked the Crowne Plaza on Broadway of Times Square/Manhattan (with wrap-around views of NYC- amazing…) and we drove right into that mug like we owned the place: fresh from Podunk, Indiana! The New Jersey Turnpike threw us off for a minute, but we regained our bearings quickly and found our hotel without (major) incident. It was
cold freezing, but we dined on Broadway, toured Times Square at night, and sampled the broad spectrum of ethnic cuisines that New York City is known for.
Apart from having her camera pick-pocketed during a trip to the Museum of Modern Art (MOMA),
we I had the time of our lives my life and was able to shoot Times Square at night: a dream-come-true for a photographer.
So yes, I can feel it in my bones that I’m getting ready to jump ship and fly somewhere halfway around the world. I have to scrub the disease of 2013 off my skin and out of my hair…
I’m going to have to squeeze my vacation into my next semester somehow. My spring semester and work on my 2nd degree (A.S. in Social Work) begins January 13. My four new classes are:
Biology: Connections and Impacts
Elements of Economics
Intro to Social Work
Human Behavior in the Social Environment
Let’s get this party started!
Museum of Modern Art- NYC/Man in hallways- stairs
Sigma 17-70/Canon Rebel
View from Crowne Plaza Hotel- overlooking Broadway in Times Square/Manhattan/NYC
[Sitting on business desk- Indian style/Sigma 17-70- Canon Rebel]