Monday, January 31, 2011

I've been hard at work...

...on learning to love myself!
First I made a list of things that I like about myself:

 Today I found this quotation here and have been meditating on it all day:

I also wrote the following paragraph in response to the question, "How are you making a difference?"

At first glance it may look like I’m working hard to make a difference: volunteering at an animal shelter, tutoring illiterate adults, working with “at-risk” youth. The truth is, however, I am not making as much of a difference as I could be because I’m holding a lot of myself back. Marianna Williams said, “As we are liberated from our own fear, our presence automatically liberates others.” I realized recently that I am being held captive by my fears and this is causing a lot of pain for me and anyone who interacts with me. Therefore I believe that the real way that I am making a difference is by investing in myself, learning to love myself, and overcoming my fears. I want to make a huge difference in the world with my life, but I can only do that by first taking care of myself.

And finally,  another one of my favorite blogs is writing on the theme of self-love this month. Check it out:

Thursday, January 27, 2011

Self- Love

Last year I wrote this post about why I love Valentine's Day. The gist is that I love Love and I wanted to spend last February learning to love myself.

I didn't do a very good job. I still strongly dislike myself.

I know, I know, I'm awesome, sexy, creative, etc. There are many reasons for me to like myself. Unfortunately these are overshadowed by the myriad, mysterious reasons why I dislike myself.

I haven't been able to identify these reasons because, instead of facing them for what they are, I've projected them on to other people. I've been highly dissatisfied and critical of the world around me and therefore have also been highly unfulfilled and generally miserable. I've been trying to fix and save the world around me when in reality I need to fix and save myself.

So, it's time for another Radical Self Love Month. I have once again been inspired by Gala Darling and plan to follow her Guide to Radical Self Love. I'd also like to go deeper and this is where I need your help.

Does anyone know of some good resources to help me learn to love myself? This could mean books, websites, movies, e-books, poems- anything! I am ready to learn.

And to get a head start I made this really fancy self-love collage in Microsoft Paint:

Sunday, January 23, 2011

A Butterfly Builds A Cocoon

Allow me to take a moment to point out something obvious: I have changed a lot since I moved to Tucson two years ago.

I like to think that the changes that have occurred are good ones, that I've matured, become more confident, and generally healthier.

This month, some doubt was cast on those thoughts.

I had the pleasure of hanging out with my friend Kerry Ann, who I haven't seen since I left Rochester. Kerry Ann is great fun: outgoing, carefree, and loves to dance. When we hung out in Rochester, we spent time at The Bug Jar, waving our arms like crazy to indie dance music. We stayed up late, and dressed up for a 70s themed going away party. In some ways, I feel like the carefree person I was at the time was epitomized during the times I spent with Kerry Ann right before I left for Tucson.

When I found out that she would be spending about a month in Phoenix and wanted to visit me, I was excited. I was looking forward to showing Kerry Ann around, being spontaneous, and most of all, dancing.

I let myself down.

I went to bed early. I spent a lot of time fighting off a strong desire to stay home and be alone. When we went hiking, Kerry Ann explored the view from atop the strange silo while I stayed down and to the side for fear that someone would emerge to yell at us.

On another day that we went hiking, Kerry Ann wanted to continue up the mountain until the very last moment before it got dark. I kept checking my watch and comparing the time to the level of the sun in the sky, anxious that we might get caught in the desert at dusk.

Finally, on Kerry Ann's last night in Tucson, we went dancing. I dressed up, I drank, I danced. But after only an hour I began to get tired and frustrated with the crowd. By the time we were ready to leave I was full blown grumpy.

I am disappointed and a little sad. Don't get me wrong, we had a great time. But the time I spent with Kerry Ann in Tucson drew attention to how much I've changed since I felt a surge of courage and moved across the country two years ago. I often found myself explaining, "I'm a lot different than I used to be" while feeling apologetic and confused. 

I know I've wrestled long and hard with my problems over the last two years and this fight is probably what has made me so anxious and withdrawn. But I was also under the impression that I was healing and that I still knew how to have fun. I guess I still have a long way to go.

Friday, January 21, 2011

Fill in the Blanks Friday

Sometimes I write really serious posts about the importance of mental health, and then sometimes I decide to participate in fluff like Fill in the Blank Friday. Today is one of those latter times (was that grammatically correct????)

1.   My favorite quote is probably something I've said. I'm a genius, so I don't have any reason to quote anyone else.

2. A bad habit I have is talking too much.

3.  The first time I felt like a "grown up" was when I was a child. I think I have aged backwards (like [a better looking] Benjamin Button) because right now I feel like I'm 16.

4.  Weekends are strange. They happen at different times every week.

5.  When I was a child I wished my name was Emilie. I started spelling it that way at school and only my art teacher took me seriously.

6. I wish I could afford to work part-time.

7. A secret I have is I want to be on the show America's Next Top Model.

Saturday, January 15, 2011

Let's fight crazy.

On January 10th, with the help of John Oliver, Jon Stewart began his Daily Show with an approximately nine minute monologue about the shootings in Tucson and whether or not they could have been prevented. The monologue was beautiful and encouraging, but I have to pick on one thing he said:

"Boy, would it be nice to be able to draw a straight line of causation from this horror to something tangible because then we could convince ourselves, is that if we just stopped this the horrors would end. To have the feeling, however fleeting, that this type of event could be prevented forever. It's hard not to feel like it can. You know, you cannot outsmart crazy. You don't know what a troubled mind will get caught on. Crazy always seems to find a way. "
We may not be able to stop an unhealthy mind from acting out in violence, but we sure as hell are trying.

In the week that has passed since the shooting occured I have spent ample time reflecting on how Jared Lee Loughner could have been stopped from acting on his delusions. Through this process I am reminded of the myriad ways in which Tucson as a community is reaching out to people with mental illnesses, from people like Jared who are delusional to children with behavioral issues to adults with PTSD.

Tucson is home to a plethora of support groups, community service agencies, therapists, and people reaching out to those who are hurting or struggling. This has increased exponentially since the tragedy: free support groups are being offered, a fund has been started for the victims and their families, and an enormous response was organized when it was rumored that the Westboro Baptist Church would be picketing at the victims' funerals.

This response, of course, must go deeper than just what is being offered. Reaching out to people with mental illnesses must occur daily on an individual level. This can be something as simple as a hug or as involved as accompanying someone to an appointment. Many people with mental illnesses will not seek help out of fear, lack of knowledge, or simply the inability to do so.

If we as a community and a nation hope to prevent future tragedies we need to change much more than just political rhetoric. We need to be more aware of what it means to be "crazy", of the obstacles that are faced by people whose minds are not fully functional and we need to act on this knowledge. If you know someone who is struggling with a mental illness, help them get help. Show them support and, at all costs, avoid judgment. Help to eliminate the stigma. If you are personally struggling with a mental illness, don't be afraid to get help.

It may be true that we can not eliminate all of the things on which a troubled mind could get caught. But we can address the troubled mind at the source. We, as a community, as a nation, as individuals, all have the power to help heal troubled minds. In doing so, I believe we can prevent future tragedies from occuring as a result of "craziness".

"From this sadness...make a better world" A note left outside of Gabrielle Giffords' office.

Thursday, January 13, 2011

My dear, sweet Tucson

I have tried several times to put together a coherent, meaningful blog entry about what happened last Saturday but I just can't seem to pull it together. It's too recent and still too present. Along with a media overload, there are messages, signs, flowers and vigils all over Tucson.

So, instead of my own thoughts on the situation, here are links to what I feel is some of the better media coverage of the event:

I am also reminded of this post. Again...what MORE can I do? How can I make positive changes in my community and help to prevent future tragedies?