Why I’ve been absent

I haven’t been “engaged’ on social media (such a weird word – engaged) for a week. I could explain why but my brain can tell the story better in illustrated (badly) form I think.

So here is the story of why I’ve been absent…

***Trigger warning for depression***

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So that is the story of why I’ve been absent. I’m sure I’ll be back soon and I will answer ANY AND ALL NOTIFICATIONS, you beautiful people, you.

Much love to you,

me.

(And much destructive love from Fang the Kitten Of Destruction)IMG_4880

P.S. sorry I misspelled taint-squeegee in that one panel. It’s spelled TAINT-SQUEEGEE just for posterity.

Letter To My Senator Regarding Repealing The ACA

This is the brief letter I sent my Senators (Ted Cruz and John Cornyn) regarding repeal of the Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act.

Hi Senator Cornyn.

I am a resident of Texas and an active voter. I’m writing to urge you not to repeal the ACA before it is replaced with a health care program that is affordable to Americans and does not discriminate based on preexisting conditions. I understand that you are pro-life so I ask you to please consider the hundreds of thousands who died because they were uninsurable in the decade before the Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act. Please know that I will not vote for anyone who allows pre-existing conditions to be used as an excuse to prevent people from obtaining the health care they need. Thank you for your attention on this matter.

 

This is the answer I received from Senator Cornyn (I did not receive a reply from Senator Cruz but please note that I did not request an answer from either senator. I assume then that it is Cornyn’s habit to reply to all emails)

I’m going to try to make sense of this politispeak. Any parts of the Senator’s reply that cause me concern are highlighted in red. My comments are in blue.

Dear Mrs. Craig:

 Thank you for contacting me with your suggestions regarding health care reform. I recognize the time and effort you are dedicating to actively participate in the democratic process, and I appreciate that you and other concerned citizens have provided me the benefit of your comments on this matter.

 The existing American health care system faces a myriad of complex challenges. The 2010 passage of sweeping health care reform continues to holds dramatic implications for our health care system and for all 300 million Americans.

 I often hear the frustration of many Texans struggling to meet their health care needs in the existing system, and I understand the importance of implementing common-sense reforms that achieve results. This is a vague sentence. What does common-sense reforms entail? What type of results are you talking about here, Senator? According to the Congressional Budget Office (CBO), if current laws remain in place, spending on the major mandatory health care programs would grow from 5.5 percent of Gross Domestic Product today to about 8.9 percent in 2046 and would continue to increase thereafter. Additionally, the Medicare trustees most recently reported that the Medicare program’s unfunded liability—benefits Washington has promised but lacks a plan to pay for—is more than $3.6 trillion and growing. There is no question that meaningful health care reform is needed. So far, sir, the only reforms you’ve addressed are cost. No mention of making sure people can obtain health care regardless of preexisting conditions. No mention of making sure people have a system of health care in place if they are to lose their current health care. No mention of tackling the prohibitive cost of health care for individuals as was experienced in the decade prior to implementation of the ACA.

 I support realistic reforms that lower health care costs I’m all for lower health costs but wonder how this would be achieved, address entitlement spending My read here: you, sir, wish to get rid of programs like medicaid, medicare, (and social security) and any form of government-assisted health care. And if my read is correct, you want health care to be paid thoroughly out of pocket (which, due to the exorbitant cost of health care, will bankrupt most sick people and their families) or to have the system return to the days of relying on insurance companies to cover some of the cost of health care (which, as has been abundantly and repeatedly shown, insurance companies are in it for profit and deny coverage at every chance and put obstacles such as preexisting conditions in place as excuses not to pay. That [insurance] system failed us, we the people, spectacularly and was the reason the ACA was a welcome relief and a life saver for millions of Americans), and increase access to affordable health coverage Increase access across the board? Or only for those who have decent insurance through their companies? What about the self-employed? What about for those whose companies don’t provide insurance? What about for the poor? Again, this is a vague and therefore almost meaningless statement. The right kind of reform will emphasize individual choice and allow patients, their families, and their doctors—not government bureaucrats—to make their own health care decisionsDoes this include the decision to obtain health care without going bankrupt? Does this include the decision not to die if one has a preexisting condition(s) and insurance companies turn them away? You, sir, never addressed this concern of mine (and millions of my fellow Americans). 

 I am always appreciative when Texans take the time to reach out and share their concerns.  Which you did not address. Thank you for taking the time to contact me.

 Sincerely,

 JOHN CORNYN

United States Senator

So this is the type of letter some of my fellow Americans may also be receiving in answer to their concerns. I don’t know about you, but my fears were in no way alleviated by this letter from the person who is supposed to represent me and my concerns.

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1 John 3:17-18

But if anyone has the world’s goods and sees his brother in need, yet closes his heart against him, how does God’s love abide in him? Little children, let us not love in word or talk but in deed and in truth.

What Carrie Fisher Means To Me

“At times, being bipolar can be an all-consuming challenge, requiring a lot of stamina and even more courage, so if you’re living with this illness and functioning at all, it’s something to be proud of, not ashamed of. – Carrie Fisher

Carrie Fisher is a hero for those of us with mental illness. She was open about her life and struggles and victories and helped people understand manic-depression. She helped people empathize. She educated others even though it was never her job to do so. She voluntarily put herself out there, risked judgement and bullying, so that others may never have to face stigma. Thanks to her and others like her, the raging stigma that has caused so much harm is finally lessening. I owe her a huge debt, not only for myself but for my daughters, both of whom live with mental illness.

 

*TW* bipolar, depression, eating disorder, anxiety, PTSD, rape

 

I am bipolar. I don’t talk about it. Maybe I should. Maybe I should be as open as Carrie Fisher about my mental illness. Not maybe…should. I should be more open. I’ve talked about my depression but never my mania, never about being bipolar 1. In a future post, I’ll describe in more detail what it’s like living with manic-depression. For this post though, I want to thank Carrie Fisher by telling her and the world about three people with mental illness (me and my girls) who owe her much thanks: who we are, what we’ve overcome, and all that we’ve accomplished.

Why talk about our accomplishments? Because one of the stigmas people with mental illness face is that we are less-than, that we are incapable, that we are worth less than those who don’t have mental illness. I assure you, this isn’t the case. Maybe this insight into our worlds will help others understand. Maybe it will invite empathy. Maybe it will show anyone who doubts the potential and worth of those with mental illness, that we are amazing individuals who live great lives and accomplish incredible things, and deserve respect and an end to the stereotypes and stigma that try to misportray or limit us.

Me:

What is it like living with bipolar 1?

I take medication and have been stable for many years. When I wasn’t on medication, my mood was far from stable. At the start of a manic cycle, thoughts raced through my head. My words couldn’t come out fast enough. I could write for sixteen hours straight at lightning speed or clean the entire house, do all the yardwork, wash and wax every car we owned, and still feel driven to do more. Someone needed some volunteer or charity work done? I would volunteer or charity-ify until I collapsed.

As the manic cycle proceeded, my racing thoughts would lose cohesion and become thought-salads. Ideas would jump around in spastic starts and stops. My over-the-top energy, once productive, would become problematic. I’d find myself in the gym trying to lift waaaaay more than was safe, or doing hundreds upon hundreds of repetitions until I gave myself a wicked case of subacromial bursistis. Or I’d find myself racing down steep hills on my bike, oblivious to the danger. I, grown ass woman, would try to climb to the top of trees just to feel the thrill. I’d wake in the middle of the night and decide, much to the neighbors’ dismay, that NOW IS THE PERFECT TIME TO VACCUUM OUT MY CAR. My concentration evaporated. My appetite evaporated. All that existed was ACTION. ACTION NOW. My attention darted from one shiny object or idea to the next. I craved excitement, danger. And that craving often got me into trouble. I was out of control. Mania controlled me. And then meds came along and the mania settled. I no longer have manic episodes and I’m thankful for that.

When manic, I was pretty much the same person inside: empathic, a caregiver, generally happy, creative, a people-pleaser. I didn’t become a Jekyll and Hyde. I wasn’t mean or nasty or hurtful. I was quite fun to be around, or so I’m told.

I was, however,  driven to irresponsible and compulsive actions. I put myself in stupid or dangerous situations.

 

What have I, as someone with bipolar 1, accomplished?

I’ve graduated Summa Cum Laude with a Bachelor of Arts in Exercise Science.

I graduated with honors from University of Colorado with a Masters of Science in Kinesiology.

I taught a course at the University of Colorado.

I’ve worked in research laboratories, taught fitness classes, and worked in physical  therapy.

I’ve written seven books, the first of which will be published this year by Glass House Press. Yay!

I’ve made and sold my art in various forms.

I’ve painted murals (many gratuitous).

I’ve made and kept beautiful friendships.

I’ve volunteered as a mentor to children in need.

I’ve volunteered for Mobie Loaves and Fishes, serving meals to homeless people.

I’ve volunteered at schools.

And I’ve been a great mom and a great wife.

 

My eldest daughter:

What is it like living with a severe eating disorder, depression, and anxiety?

From observation, I can tell you it is hell. My daughter has been in eight different mental health facilities in eight years. Her body is covered in self-inflicted scars. She has nearly lost her life on multiple occasions.

 

What has my eldest daughter, as someone with multiple mental illnesses accomplished?

She graduated near the top of her class in high school.

She was accepted into the University of Texas (which only accepts the top 7% of graduates)

She has worked at several jobs, always putting her all into the job.

She has volunteered at Mobile Loaves and Fishes, serving food to homeless people.

She’s been a model but has decided to forego that as a career because it is not a healthy profession for her.

She has a steady boyfriend and plans for her future.

Her artwork has been displayed at the city level.

She is a caring, loving, and generous person and beloved by many.

 

My youngest daughter:

Lives with depression and PTSD after being raped two years ago.

 

What is it like living with depression and PTSD?

As an observer, I can tell you it is hell. I’m not sure I can explain the horror and pain.

What has my youngest daughter who lives with depression and PTSD accomplished?

She graduated valedictorian of her graduating high school class.

She has been the leader of several organizations on her high school campus.

She is attending a prestigious university.

She excels at math.

She has worked several jobs, and is always admired by her bosses.

She has a close-knit group of friends and is beloved by many.

 

So there you go, three people with mental illness who are doing awesome things in the world and who are, in no way, to be stigmatized. Yep, I feel a little weird shouting myself out but I’m taking a lesson from Carrie Fisher and letting the world know:

I have mental illness and so do my daughters and we’ve all been through the darkest of hell and back and guess what? We’re strong af and the world is better for us being here!

 

Thank you, Carrie Fisher, for giving me the courage to say that.

 

I love you and I am grateful you graced this world with your light. I hope I make you proud.

 

Me

 

“Bipolar disorder can be a great teacher. It’s a challenge, but it can set you up to be able to do almost anything else in your life.” – Carrie Fisher

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A not-so-great picture of one of the murals I’ve painted. But I love the message: never, never, never give up.

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Another not-so-great picture of a mural I’ve painted (replete with dried food on the plexiglass because the mural is in an Elementary School cafeteria). 😀

But the seal seems happy despite the dried food (maybe BECAUSE of it) so I wanted to post it. Hey, maybe Happy Seal is telling us something profound – maybe we should all try to be like Happy Seal – no matter what life flings at us, find our happiness.

Then again, maybe it’s kinda gross, splatted, dried cafeteria tortureloaf or something.

 

Either way, much love to you,

 

Me

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Oh Come Squee ‘Til You Puke

Times are kinda dark right now so I figured we could all use some in-your-face, Extremis Maximus, galaxy-wide-supernova-level cheer this holiday season. Therefore I decided to blast you all right in your beautiful faces with Complete and Utter Cuteness That Will Make You Make You Squee ‘Til You Puke From The Cute.

So without further ado, here is Criminal-Level Cuteness (sing to the tune of Oh Come All Ye Faithful) (“illustrated” after the song)

Oh come all ye pandas

pandas with bananas

and pupper, this pu-uh-per-er, photobombing

come little floof cloud

and you Born King of Cuteness

Oh come let us adore them

baby bat burritos

and this little concerned bir-ird

and Sir Dude too!

 

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Oh come all ye pandas

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pandas with bananas

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and pupper, this pu-uh-per-er, photobombing

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come little floof cloud

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and you, Born King of Cuteness

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Oh come let us adore them

baby bat burritos

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and this little concerned bir-ird

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and Sir Dude too!

 

And there you have it: a not so well-written musical encore to ALL THINGS CUTE.

Happy Holidays, you weirdos!

 

Love,

me

and Fang The Kitten Of Destruction of course.

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What do you when the darkness wins

What do you when the darkness wins

When hatred wins

Good is supposed to triumph over evil and all that

But real life ain’t hollywood glossy-wrapped in a neat bow

In real life sometimes the monster wins

In real life evil can rise to power

And stomp on all the bright things, gloating at its puissance. Gloating at its chance to ruin and break and soil, devalue and dishonor, as if by defiling that which is good, the brute will somehow be made elevated

In real life greedy man babies in expensive suits grab and snatch and steal

Hoarding all the shiny things for themselves

With one to rule them all. And in the darkness bind them

This covetous evil, ever feeding its empty ego, a bloated walking talking leech

A prancing, poisonous jester gleefully spreading a toxic brew of hate and bigotry and fear

Because this attention-craving professional trickster and con man lives to be worshipped, lives for the hollow approval of cheering mobs thrusting their arms at skewed angles.

What do you when this darkness wins

When hatred wins

When it is loosed and encouraged and emboldened and inflamed

Drooling now, eager to attack, strutting about, engorged with validation, impatient to flaunt its power

What do you do

You grieve of course

Camelot invaded

…I say to them tonight, there is not a liberal America and a conservative America — there is the United States of America. There is not a black America and a white America and Latino America and Asian America — there’s the United States of America.*

And most of all, I see Americans of every party, every background, every faith who believe that we are stronger together, black, white, Latino, Asian, Native American, young, old, gay, straight, men, women, folks with disabilities, all pledging allegiance, under the same proud flag, to this big, bold country that we love.**

Oh bright beacon of hope and inclusiveness, your far reaching beams of light fractured by giggling bullies slinging rocks

Such a terrible day 11/9

What do you when the darkness wins

When hatred wins

You lift your lowered head so heavy with sorrow

You patch your broken heart

And you grasp hands with those who would fight the darkness

And you pledge to fight fight fight the darkness

And you vow to protect those whom the darkness desires to crush

And you sign petitions and make calls and you take to the streets in protest

And you RAISE YOUR VOICE

and say NEVER AGAIN

NEVER AGAIN

Never again will we allow hatred to rule

Never again will we allow hatred to terrorize and brutalize our fellow humans

NEVER AGAIN will you strip us of our rights

NEVER AGAIN with your internment camps

NEVER AGAIN with accepting hatred of the other

We will not sit passively by as darkness consumes the light

What do you when the darkness wins

You stand up and shout against the darkness

NEVER AGAIN

NEVER AGAIN

NEVER AGAIN

And you emulate that bright beacon in the darkness and you do everything in your power to bring back the light

* http://www.washingtonpost.com/wp-dyn/articles/A19751-2004Jul27.html

Transcript: Candidate for U.S. Senate in Illinois, Barack Obama, delivered the keynote address at the Democratic National Convention

** https://www.washingtonpost.com/news/the-fix/wp/2016/07/27/president-obamas-speech-at-the-democratic-convention/

Transcript: President Obama’s speech at the 2016 Democratic Convention

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Self Care When You Feel Like You’re Living Through A Raging Suckfest Of Utter Doom

Without getting political, it’s rather glaringly apparent that many people are hurting right now. Heartbroken, horrified, shocked, grieving, swinging between seething rage and hopelessness and back again. I empathize because I’m in the same ocean liner that just slammed into a Glacier Of OMFG WTF Is Happening????

During times of great uncertainty and pain, we need self-care. As many of you know, I’ve lived for many many years with major uncertainty and fear and great pain, the details of which aren’t important right now. What is germane is that I have acquired some coping techniques and self care tips from some great minds along the way. I’m going to offer them (the techniques and tips – not the brains of those great people) to whoever may need them. Take what you’d like and leave the rest.

Breathe

Yes, I’m seriously gonna start with that one. Sounds cliched as all hell but it’s damn effective. One technique I was taught is this:

  1. Sit comfortably and no, it doesn’t have to be in the legs crisscrossed, palms up and resting on your knees position, but it can be if that’s what you’d like.
  2. Think of what you wish for in life, not material things per se, but stuff like hope, peace, healing, health, to be heard, to be seen, to be loved, to have featherless dinosaurs etc. Narrow your choices to three or four per meditation session.
  3. Breathe in for 5 seconds, exhale for 5 seconds, and then say a  metta* for yourself. *metta – (n) lovingkindness, the Buddhist virtue of kindness; also called maitri.  Example:
    1. May I have peace
    2. May I have hope
    3. May I have healing
  4. Breathe in for 5 seconds, exhale for 5 seconds, and then say a metta for someone you are thankful for.
    1. May (insert person) have peace
    2. May (insert person) have hope
    3. May (insert person) have healing
  5. Breathe in for 5 seconds, exhale for 5 seconds, and then say a metta for someone you feel neutral about – neither positive nor negative.
  6. Breathe in for 5 seconds, exhale for 5 seconds, and then say a metta for someone you dislike.
  7. Breathe in for 5 seconds, exhale for 5 seconds, and then say a metta for everyone universally: e.g. May all beings everywhere have healing.

Repeat these slogans as needed (from al anon)

  • One Day at a Time.
  • Let Go and Let God.
  • Easy Does It.
  • Listen and Learn.
  • Together We Can Make It.
  • First Things First.

One Day at a Time

For me, this slogan means: stop obsessing about the future and all the horrible things that might happen. Stop catastrophizing. Live this day, in this moment, and quietly seek out beauty and peace. Don’t grasp at it, just let it happen. And if I can’t feel peace, then I need reach out to someone I trust and ask for their help, with the expectation that the universe will respond with love.

Let Go And Let God

I’m not a religious person. At all. I rejected the religion of my childhood (Evangelical Southern Baptist) long ago. I don’t believe in a deity of any sort. So for me, “God” means two things:

  1. The group of fellow human beings whom I have learned to trust
  2. The belief that hope and loving kindness actually do exist in the universe

When I’m thoroughly stessed to the max, when matters are out of my control, I try to pause. All this raging against the machine or frantic worrying or pacing is getting me exactly nowhere fast. I take a moment and I do one of a few things:

  1. I think back on conversations I’ve had with wise people, or about quotes that wise people have said. I gather strength from their wise words.
  2. I ask the universe to “Hey universe, how about sending some of that seemingly illusive peace and loving kindness my way? Thanks, kinda need it right about now.”

For you “God” may mean something different and that is perfectly fine. When you feel overwhelmed, try to Let Go and Let Your God and see if this helps.

Easy Does It

Basically this one means “Relax, already!”. Anger, fear, and worry make us tense. Our muscles contract, we grit our teeth, our heart beats like a crazed horse inside our chest. This is a healthy response in a flight or fight situation. But unless a rabid rhinoceros is bearing down on our ass, this biological stress response isn’t doing us a lot of good if we maintain it for long periods. The flight or fight response was designed for the quick battles, for sprints – not marathons. And as we all know, life is a marathon, not a sprint. If I spend hours getting worked up about the sucktasticness of certain aspects of life, I’m gonna wear myself out in no time. And if I’m worn out, I can’t be of use to myself, my loved ones, or the world at large.

Righteous anger and justified fear are useful and neccessary, but we can’t function 24/7 in MAXED OUT RAGEFEST or HOLY SHIT WE ARE ALL DOOMED mode. So when I feel like roadkill run over by a convoy of ten-ton stressmobiles, I stop and say “Easy does it, You can be a warrior later, self. But for this moment, park your hammer of Thor, and take it easy. Relax. Recoup your strength.”

Listen and Learn

For me this one means: Girl, you do not have the answer, alright? Accept it. You’ve been beating this dead Velociraptor for days now and no matter how hard you whack on this thing, you ain’t bringing it back to life, you hearing me? So what you need to do now is turn to sources outside yourself. Go read. Go listen to others. And I mean listen, not just sit there ruminating on shit while the other people are talking. Listen to them and you’ll be surprised what wisdom you’ll find out there.”

Together We Can Make It

I’ve felt alone in many of my traumas in life. As I look back, I realize this didn’t need to be the case. Now I know that if I am willing to reach out, I will most likely find others who are going through what I am going through. Who are feeling what I am feeling.  We humans , no matter how reclusive or introverted, are social beasts. Knowing we are not alone in our pain/anger/fear is therapeutic for us. When I’m angry/scared/worried, I now reach out to those I trust, to people who I know will empathize and listen without judgment. To people who won’t beat me up for my feelings but who will lift me up and – if I ask for it – provide me with advice or words of wisdom.

First Things First

When a great trauma happens, a lot of times our first reaction is to go “OMG LOOK AT ALL THESE PROBLEMS NOW AND OMG I MUST FACE THEM ALL RIGHT NOW RIGHT THIS SECOND OMG THE ENEMY IS EVERYWHERE AND I AM A METAPHORICAL LONE SPARTAN WITH A POCKET KNIFE  FACING TWO ZILLION PERSIAN ENEMY FORCES WITH ALL MANNER OF ADVANCED WEAPONRY AND FIGHTING ELEPHANTS AND SHIT ALL BY MY LONESOME SELF OMG! When life feels like this, I have to remember to do One Thing At A Time. AND to do the most important thing first. Sometimes that most important thing is paying a bill. Sometimes it’s putting food in my body because – hello – I can’t face the hordes of fighting elephants when my blood sugar is tanked. Do the most important thing first. Then breathe and do the second most important thing. I often put everything else ahead of me. I let other stuff, other people take priority. But I’ve learned that if I let my physical, mental, and emotional energy be depleted, I’ll shortcircuit. Now I do first things first and if that means taking time for self-care before I take on the BIG SUCKFEST OF RAGING SHIT-COVERED HORDES OF PUKE-WORTHY VILENESS then that is what I prioritize. After my tank is filled, then I can ramp up my engines and face the Suckfest Elephant Horde.

Some other things I’ve found helpful when I’m feeling thoroughly crushed by the ten-ton suckmonkeys of life is to:

go outside

play with Fang the Kitten of Destruction

watch a comedy

cry without judging myself for crying

do some small nice thing for myself

distract myself with drawing or doing a mindless craft

listen to upbeat music (music is a powerful mood alterer)

do a good deed for someone

That’s all for now. I need to get out of this chair and get some sunshine. And then I’ll be back, replenished and ready to FIGHT THE GOOD FIGHT AGAINST THE SUCKTASTIC HORDES OF GROSSNESS!

Before I go, I’ll leave you with some cute shiz. Go, my fellow humans, look at cute shiz, and then FIGHT THE GOOD FIGHT AGAINST THE SUCKTASTIC HORDES OF GROSSNESS!

much love,

me

drawinghusky1A rare photo of a Hoppy Huskerpupper of Floofhappiness

drawinggecko2A baby GrabbyToesLoveyGazeHuggabooGecko

newfuzzykittydonetext2A tiny fuzzy kitty who loves you soooooooooo effing much