Link – a great book!

http://www.amazon.com/Media-Madness-Public-Images-Illness/dp/0813522137/ref=pd_bbs_sr_1/002-1508261-1613615?ie=UTF8&s=books&qid=1183495254&sr=1-1

“Media Madness” by Otto Wahl

A book about public images of mental illness in the media.   I used the book for a school paper in 2002, so the information you’ll find is a bit outdated but the book is still an eye-opener!

Check out the link.  You can use the “Look inside” feature to browse the book.  It’s a worthwhile read and I would recommend it to anyone working in the mental health field.

“Telling is Risky Business” is also a good book.  It’s about discrimination.

Now, why the heck don’t day programs have groups about discrimination and how to deal with it?  Why don’t they teach patients in the hospital how to deal with the discrimination they’re going to face when they come out of the hospital?

Your friends aren’t your friends anymore.

Your family treats you weird.

You lose your job (they give you some wild excuse as to why they’re “letting you go.”

You lose custody of your kids.

Your landlord finds out.

And so on.

There are things they don’t tell us in hospitals.  But back to Wahl’s book.  It’s fabulous.  And funny in a weird way.  You wouldn’t believe the advertising he finds to use as examples.  He argues for political correctness in language pertaining to madness.  I have mixed feelings about that…..

After all, what am I supposed to say when Puzzle is–er, acting, er, crazy?  I can’t say she’s “having a fit” because that is offensive to epileptics.  She’s not “going mental” or “having a nutty” either.

How about, “Having a Schnoodle”?

<IMG src=”/images/27466-26086/Pz_face_1.JPG”>

As promised

Yes, I did find a bunch of QB photos that I had taken that I had completely forgotten about until I discovered them just a few days ago!  Here are two of him at the tender age of four weeks–with me:

1 mo old

And here he is at all of 19 days:

4x6 QB 19 days #3

4x6 QB 19 days

Teensy, isn’t he?  I’ve cropped the photo, because I wanted you to see him better, but I think the reason I hid the photo (from everyone including myself) was that it showed my figure, and I thought I looked too fat.  Aw, man!  On close look, I was about five, more likely ten pounds less than I weigh now, totally acceptable according to Weight Watchers.

**************************************************************************************************************************

Dear Readers, I am about to show you something I could never have shown you when the photo was current, in 2005.  Perhaps it is because of the anonymity of online life that makes showing you this photo feel “safe” right now.  Perhaps it’s the distance that I feel between the time I took the photo and now.  Or the progress I’ve made.

I would not let anyone else take this photo.

Here it is:

Scroll down…

Scroll down…

Scroll down…

and down…

downer

and downer

way down

fat for blogNo, I wasn’t sticking my stomach out.  I was holding it in.  Desperately holding in everything, hiding from everyone.  I weighed close to 200 pounds.  I squeezed into a size 22.

Now do you believe me?

****************************************************************************************************************************

Yesterday I was on the phone with my mother, and decided to take a chance, a big chance, by telling her I went clothes shopping.  The idea was to get her to contribute some $$$$$ for clothes for my teaching experience (yes, I got the job!) but our conversation turned sour.  I said, “Mom, I was pleased that I fit into a smaller size!”

She replied, “Yes, well, they make the sizes larger these days.”

I used to think that I developed an eating disorder because my sixth grade teacher once told me I was fat.  But look at what I had to live with at home from day one!

I wore a size 10 to the job interview, which went off very well, by the way.  It’s a volunteer teaching position for my school teaching practicum.  I can’t tell you much about it because of the nature of the place and issues pertaining to confidentiality, but I will periodically share a writing exercise.

I told my brother what my mother said and he wasn’t the least bit surprised.   Then why do I come back, time after time, seeking her approval?  Why do I endlessly wish for her to someday say to me, “Julie, you did a good job and I’m proud of you.”

************************************************************************************************************************************

I did a damn good job at my semester at school and I’m proud of myself.  I’m doing a damn good job at losing weight and I’m proud of myself.  I’m doing a damn good job raising Puzzle and I’m proud of her and myself.  I did a damn good job at that interview and got my reward.

And now I’m tired.  Good night.

An exercise – try it!

Here is a poem by David Ignatow:

ABOVE EVERYTHING
By
David Ignatow



I wished for death often
but now that I am at its door
I have changed my mind about the world.
It should go on; it is beautiful,
even as a dream, filled with water and seed,
plants and animals, others like myself,
ships and buildings and messages
filling the air – a beauty
if I have ever seen one.
In the next world, should I remember
this one, I will praise it
above everything.


Okay, now that you’ve read the poem, try this: Here’s the poem with some lines missing.  Fill in the blank space with words of your choosing.  Copy and paste the poem onto a document and print it out so that you can write your words on paper.

ABOVE EVERYTHING
By
David Ignatow



I wished for death often
but now that I am at its door
I have changed my mind about the world.
It should go on; it is beautiful,
even as a dream, filled with         





– a beauty
if I have ever seen one.
In the next world, should I remember
this one, I will praise it
above everything.



Okay.  Did your poem contain words like “love,” “gratitude,” “God,” “faith,” “kisses,” “hope,” “sharing,” “hugs,” “warmth,”  …oh, the list goes on and on….STOP!!!!!


Here’s an example of what I was looking for:

ABOVE EVERYTHING
By
David Ignatow

with a little help from me

I wished for death often
but now that I am at its door
I have changed my mind about the world.
It should go on; it is beautiful,
even as a dream, filled with coffee
in a styrofoam cup, a jerk on
a motorcycle, cigarettes
stashed in a shirt pocket,
the commute home–
a beauty
if I have ever seen one.
In the next world, should I remember
this one, I will praise it
above everything.


The difference between the cigarettes stashed in the pocket and the less concrete words, such as “love,” and “hugs,” that I mentioned above is–well, just that–they are less concrete.  I am looking for “things” that have “details.”

Slightly torn moth wings
last night’s lipstick
cookie crumbs on the pillow

Have a nice evening.

History, Truth, and Memory

Just about everyone remembers where they were and what they were doing when they first heard the news about the events of September 11, 2001.  I had just walked into my first class that semester, a class of all 18-year-olds away from home for the first time taking Expository Writing with a grad student who himself was barely out of the nest.  These kids, when they heard the news, were scared.  At the same time, some of them compensated by pretending they were tough and that they didn’t care.

That was my 8am class.  10am class was different.  The news had a little more chance to sink in by then.  A girl started crying in class.   She had long, dark, tight curls in her hair, and wore glasses.  I remember the writing exercise we were working on at the time.  I’ll post that next.

Do you remember what you were doing the night before 9/11, the night of September 10th, 2001?  Do you remember what you had for dinner, what you did that night, whether you slept well, what you dreamed?

Here’s a piece of writing I did in July 2004.  It is set in Japan.

The night before the A bombing I saw at least fifty black birds in an old, sprawling maple.  Half of the tree had been taken down years before I was born.  My brother tried to count the birds on his fingers.  I noticed he still bit his nails down very far, and his hands were pink from chewing.  Suddenly, the birds scattered and I saw a dark cloud.  Maybe it was a rain cloud but I don’t remember if it rained.  We had just had supper, but I hadn’t eaten much at all.  I had a toothache.

A Syllabus

I’m going to be teaching soon!  Here’s my syllabus:

CREATIVE WRITING
Julie Greene
Class meeting time:
Dates:

In this class, we will explore the act of putting ideas into words through in-class exercises and discussions as well as reading and writing assignments to be finished at home.  We will discuss poetry as well as fiction and creative nonfiction.  At each class meeting, we will begin with discussion of a particular method or genre, then work on prompts, done both separately and as a group.  By the end of each class meeting, we will have ideas and tools that will help us put together workable pieces.  These can be shared with the class, or submitted to me for feedback.

Rather than getting bogged down with matters of grammar, spelling, and punctuation, this class will explore the creative aspects of writing.  We will work on expressing ourselves well in written words and phrases, paragraphs or stanzas, not necessarily the nitty-grit mechanics of writing.   In a broader sense, however, our work will focus on craft rather than content.  Whether you choose to write about growing up on a pig farm, FOR EXAMPLE, or the importance of the pooper-scooper law, is up to you; this class will help you write it.

I would like you to keep a private journal, at least for the duration of this class.  Remember, you don’t have to share these writings with anyone, though occasionally you may wish to do so.  I would like for you to keep record of your writing ideas, images, phrases, and whatever else comes to mind.  Getting into the habit of writing every day will loosen up your creative juices.  Instead of running out of ideas, you will provoke ideas to grow into full works of poetry or prose.

I request that you come to class prepared to work hard on your writing.  Please bring a pen or pencil to class as well as paper (preferably lined).  You will also need a small notebook that can be carried in pocket or purse for those ideas that “just can’t wait,” and these notebooks you should carry with you wherever you go.  I will be distributing material to read both in class and at home, so if you require reading glasses, please bring them.

Remember that people are working at different levels of experience.  We will be supportive of all endeavors regardless.

You can share any writing you wish unless it is racist or obscene.

Some days will go more smoothly and easily than others.  Some days, you may find yourself loaded with energy while other days will be more difficult.  Don’t give up!  If you’re stuck, consult with another class member or with me.  I hope that this will be a fun experience for all of us.

****************************************

On Wednesday, I will meet with the director of a program where I might be teaching soon.  The teaching will satisfy a requirement for school of 15 classroom-hours of instruction (plus lots of out-of-classroom hours) and a subsequent essay about the teaching experience.

I must admit, I’m nervous.

More, much more on this later, dear readers.

Being tolerant: what it means

I ran across an interesting topic in my e-mail box today.  Goddard sent out their policy on gender-neutral housing and I wanted to share it with all of you.

I have always wondered how transgendered students (also known as transsexuals) feel when they have to share dorms with non-transgendered students.  I would imagine a few awkward situations might arise, and not everyone is tolerate of differences among people.

Goddard’s solution to this dilemma was to designate a dorm, or as many dorms as necessary, as “gender neutral.”  As you shall see, this is more than simply a co-ed dorm.  This dorm is totally neutral to gender differences among students.  No student will be housed in gender-neutral housing unless that student specifically requests this housing.  As for myself, I would prefer to stay in a dorm with other women.  I don’t want to walk out of my room and come face to face with a guy in his underwear.

So, here is the policy.

“Goddard’s goal is to make the diverse college community a safe and welcoming space for all people. There are many ways to create a welcoming community; from sensitively reflecting on our own and other’s identities, to improving buildings, grounds, and housing options in ways that ensure people are as comfortable as possible. This residency cycle, for example, we will offer gender-neutral housing.

“What is gender-neutral housing?

“Gender-neutral housing allows same-gender roommates, opposite-gender roommates, other gender-expression roommate pairings, and their allies, regardless of physical sex, to room together. In particular, Goddard, like other colleges around the nation, understands that single-sex housing leaves transgender students without a safe or comfortable housing option. We have studied the advances of other progressive colleges and consulted with Goddard students and professionals. We believe our approach will meet the needs of Goddard students. (To clarify, gender identities are numerous and include male, female, and transgender, among many others.) Thus, residents of gender-neutral housing may request any roommate whosoever.

“How will gender-neutral housing work?

• Placement priority will be given to students that request gender-neutral housing and/or notify residency staff of their need for housing sensitive to their gender identity/gender expression

• Single rooms (when available) and doubles will be options.

• If a student wishes to live in a double room in gender-neutral housing but does not request a particular roommate, they are asked to get in touch with the housing staff at    xxxxxxxxxxxxxx@goddard.edu to discuss their preferences.
Gender-neutral housing will feature lockable, single-person restrooms and shower facilities, providing privacy.

“Will gender-neutral housing affect other policies and practices at the college?

“No student will be required to live in gender-neutral housing.  We will continue to offer a variety of housing options to all Goddard students including queer friendly space as well as single sex housing.

“How can I help make sure our community is welcoming for all?

“We ask that all residents of this dormitory as well as of any other Goddard College dorms, continue to build a healthy community by supporting common standards of civility and respect regarding diverse gender identities, expressions and sexual orientations as noted in the Community Life Agreements.”

Some people with mental illnesses feel comfortable only with other people with mental illnesses.  I can understand why.  We have a special understanding among each other.  We have all experienced hostility from our non-mentally ill peers in some form or another.  I recall–I know I’ve mentioned this before but I’ll mention it again–the time when someone said to me, upon our making acquaintance, “So, when you first became ill, did you lose all your friends?”  And sure enough, yes, I had lost all my friends, and all the other mentally ill people in the room had lost all of their friends upon becoming ill.  And in this way we shared a bond that we couldn’t possibly share with members of the larger community that didn’t have this experience.

The only reason I’m making this parallel–between transgender and mental illness–is that mental illness is something that sets me apart from others.  For the transgendered person, that is what sets that person apart more than anything else, I would imagine, though perhaps I’m assuming too much.

Mental illness is very isolating.  For me this was mostly because of what was going on in my head.  The illness made me painfully shy.  I am still shy.  I tend to stick to myself and not trust anyone.  Sometimes I get paranoid (see previous article on paranoia).  Paranoia is the loneliest illness of all.

I imagine that it’s very isolating to be transgendered.  It must be incredibly tough to be transgendered in a politically conservative (“religious right”) community in this country, or in other countries where transsexuality is not tolerated or is forbidden by law.  It must be incredibly tough to be transgendered in any community.

I imagine that, common to both scenarios, friends and family may back away, employers may discriminate.  Society has its way of poking fun at both the mentally ill and people who are transgendered, in advertising and the media, and showing us as objects of disgust and deformity.

Needless to say, I don’t think it’s necessary for a college to have a “mental-state-neutral dorm;” in fact, it would probably be a bad idea.  Sounds like something a little pscyhedelic, doesn’t it?

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One can only hope that people are as trustworthy and faithful as possible, that one’s friends stick around through the rough spots, and that when all is lost, when one’s friends have given one up, one can come home to a happy, welcoming, trustworthy, faithful dog instead.

Puzzle says, “When in doubt, squat on a few lawns.”

Abilify Pioneer – conclusion of experiment

I realize that some of you may not know this, but a while back I published an entry called “Abilify Pioneer,” in which I described how I was starting a new dose of Abilify–40 mgs, which is generally considered higher than the recommended dose.  Here’s what happened:

1. I immediately noticed that I needed less Thorazine.  I no longer needed the PRN doses.  This was a good thing, because the PRN doses made me sleepy.

2. I noticed an general elevation of mood.

3. I noticed a continuation of the mood swings that had started when I had QB put to sleep.

4. I noticed a worsening of these mood swings.  The mood swings got more intense, higher highs and lower lows, and the cycles became shorter in length.

5. As a result of these rapid-cycle mood swings, I had episodes of binge-eating periodically.

So Dr. P and I decided that the trade-off wasn’t worth it.  The increase in Abilify, we concluded, was definitely responsible for the mood swings, as it can cause mood elevation in some patients, and the problem had worsened with the increase.  So now I’m taking 30 mgs Abilify again, but if I have trouble I take 40 in the morning temporarily.

It’s been two and a half weeks.  Already I’ve felt the effects of the lowered dose.  My moods seem leveled off and I’m not bingeing.  But I experienced paranoia as described in the previous blog entry (see “Paranoia.”)  I took extra Abilify for two days and the thoughts subsided, gradually.

I have a choice between taking PRN Thorazine 100 mgs (I’m allowed up to two a day) or taking extra 10 mgs Abilify.

Paranoia

~~~~~PARANOIA~~~~~~

This is what paranoia is like:

First, you feel very suspicious of one person.

You are worried that this person doesn’t like you.  You think about things you don’t like about this person, and worry about what kinds of things the person sees in you and dislikes.

You keep on thinking of more and more things about yourself, reasons why the person dislikes you, hates you maybe.

You wonder why the person acts the way he/she does toward you.  You wonder if the person–let’s call her Elena (I don’t know anyone by that name; that’s why I picked it)–has a particular grudge against you and you in particular, and singles you out, and whenever you see Elena–let’s say Elena is a neighbor–you feel a certain fear, fear that Elena might say something, at the same time you are afraid Elena may not say anything at all, not even “Hello,” and that may mean something, too.

You watch for signs, maybe secret signs.  You watch for signs that Elena may be giving to other neighbors.

You realize that most of the neighbors are in cahoots with Elena.

You overhear conversations among the neighbors; some of these conversations are about you.  Soon, all conversation centers around you–where you are going, what you are wearing, the way you walk, what music you listen to, what you spend money on, what you eat, the way you talk to your dog.

People are following you.

Elena and a few other people are following you for a specific purpose.

Elena is planning to hurt you.

Elena has a gun.

Watch out.