Kiss5Tigers

The 5 Tigers represent the big things in life. This blog is about facing them.


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Vision Board Presentation

I did my first vision board workshop today. It went very well.

So, vision boards. In simple terms, it’s a sort of affirmation meets arts and crafts proposition, but it actually works.

When you think a thought often, you strengthen that pathway through your brain. It becomes easier to think that thought again. So if you are thinking something negative, it becomes easier to keep thinking it. That’s why we get caught in thought loops about being, say, ugly or worthless or stupid.

But the reverse is true too: If we get into the habit of thinking positive thoughts, those also become easier to think. That’s why affirmations work. You spend more time thinking a positive thought, it becomes easier to think it, and eventually it becomes second nature. I am a good person replaces I’m worthless.

Now the left side of the brain contains the language centers. Working with words like affirmations activates the left side of the brain. But there is another side of the brain, one that does not think in words but in pictures. You are familiar with its way of thinking, you call it intuition. It’s the things you know that you don’t have the words to express, because you don’t know it in words. In order to make changes, you want to activate the whole brain. So how do we activate the non-verbal righthand side?

Turns out, art and imagery are a good way to engage the right side. So if we want to fully activate the entire brain, working with words and images together is one good way. So if we combine the words of an affirmation with pictures, we get vision boards.

There are several benefits to creating one yourself. First of all it causes you to think about the topic. In my presentation, the topic was “live your best life” so people had to think about what their best life would be like. Then they had to find words and images that spoke to those ideas. Now some magazines have content that fits exactly, but lots of time it’s just a case of symbolism. You might, for example, find the word “relaxation” or you might find a picture of a hammock. They speak to different parts of the brain.

People find that once they go through these exercises, the ideas really do stick. And because they stick, we act on them. Maybe not consciously, but we open ourselves to possibilities and take actions in line with the new way of thinking. Both halves of the brain work together to bring about a change.

So my little group of people, they are going to find themselves experiencing some changes in the future. They have developed an idea of what their best life looks like and feels like, and they have worked it into both sides of their brains. The non-verbal side will influence their behaviors even if the verbal side still provides negative messages.

People had fun with the activity. One of the ladies found an image that clearly depicted the kind of confidence she wanted to have. One of the men found wonderful words that spoke to his self-described zen self. Several people asked for another piece of paper to do another one at home.

The only complaint was that there weren’t enough male images. Now that’s no surprise. I get mostly women’s magazines, and for some reason I didn’t have any Wired or Fast Company in my stack. I did have some National Geographics. But it’s a valid concern, so I will have to hit up Half Price Books and see if I can find some Sports Illustrated or GQ. Maybe Men’s Health.

So I would say this was very successful, and I’m excited to be doing it another several times. After this, I start to monetize it. Because I need something I can do when I’m not working for the government.

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9 Tools for Health

I was watching a documentary called Heal on Netflix.

One of the experts said she looked at what people with chronic or fatal illnesses did to promote health, and came up with a list of 15 items. Now not everyone did all of them, but they all did 9 of them. She didn’t provide the entire list, but she did provide the 9:

  1. Radically changing your diet
  2. Taking control of your health
  3. Following your intuition
  4. Using herbs and supplements
  5. Releasing suppressed emotion
  6. Increasing positive emotions
  7. Embracing social support
  8. Deepening your spiritual connection
  9. Have a strong reason for living

So here I am, just an average person, not having a life-threatening illness. I believe I can benefit from following the same guidelines. So this is my assessment of my general health from these traits.

I am working on changing my diet. My roommate has gone keto and I have shifted to low carb in solidarity. I admit that I eat sandwiches and burgers away from home, which involve bread. But I don’t bring carbs into the house and I eat most meals here. I’ve lost about 10 lbs since starting this, which is not a lot but it’s better than gaining which has been my default for the past several years.

I can take control of my health. I can be proactive about making healthier choices, like more exercise. And I can be more outspoken with my doctor in terms of advocating for myself.

I can definitely learn to follow my intuition more. We all have that little voice that tells us when things aren’t quite right. It can also tell you when to move forward, even if you don’t think you’re ready yet. For me, intuition is that moment when the universe opens up and gives you a hint about what’s coming and what to do. I can pay more attention to that and act accordingly.

Using herbs and supplements. I’m not so good at that. I do have a multivitamin that I try to remember to take in the morning. I don’t succeed that often. I should just add it to the box with my other meds. I have used to take potassium; calcium; fish oil; vitamins B, C and E; liver powder; and cinnamon. I don’t know if I felt much different on any of them. Except the fish oil, because I have no gall bladder so it’s difficult for me to digest that kind of fat. I guess I can look into different herbal supplements and see if anything else makes a difference.

I don’t know about releasing emotion. Part of it is, I’m bipolar and letting big emotion express itself is likely to increase my symptoms. That said, I can work on letting go of negative stuck emotions even if I can’t release them to the desired degree. I don’t have to hold onto toxic emotions.

I’m pretty sure I already work to increase positive emotions. I’m equally sure that everybody on the planet does that. People don’t usually choose to stay in the negative place. People usually choose to keep doing what makes them happy. I think this is part of human nature.

Ah, social support. So necessary and so hard to find. That’s part of why I go to group so often, pure and simple support. It’s difficult to ask for support. It’s almost like dating, people are afraid of being rejected. If you ask for help, you have to be open to the possibility that the answer is no. No doesn’t feel good. It takes courage to ask for support.

I don’t really have any plans to deepen my spirituality. I’m not a religious person. I do believe in a higher power of some kind. Mostly I believe in science to explain what is going on, and the idea that everything is made of energy which we get from quantum mechanics. Matter seems to be made of waves of energy. If it’s all energy, and I am energy, then the fields can interact and I can make actual changes to myself. That sounds very airy-fairy new age, and yet . . .

I do have a strong reason for living. I am bipolar, my ex husband was bipolar, and our daughter is bipolar. About 3 years ago, my ex completed a suicide. I need my daughter to know that having this diagnosis is not a death sentence. Having this diagnosis is just a way to explain my experience of life. It does not limit me or define me, and it does not mean that I can’t handle living in this world.

So I think I’m doing pretty good on my way to health, and I still have a lot to do. What are you doing?


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Take Up Space

I found this on reddit. I don’t know who the artist is. If you know, please tell me so I can give them credit.
The artist’s name is Kat Kissick, and here is a link to the image, which is for sale:
https://www.etsy.com/katkissickart/listing/695095597/take-up-space-9×12-digital-print-of-a?utm_campaign=Share&utm_medium=social_organic&utm_source=MSMT&utm_term=so.smt&share_time=1554061508000&fbclid=IwAR15SEvkuMt83bIvgs0bg97oYTmdsyh_YKyPwap8RMrPRgJtwpdMaOUt4Hw

I found this image on Facebook and traced it to reddit, but I don’t know where it was posted originally.

This picture gives me strong emotions, both good and bad.

I am a plus-sized woman. I am actually what I would call fat. And for the most part, I’m okay with it. I know what I need to do to lose weight and I don’t do it. One day I will, but for now, not. But every now and then, I think this is not good.

Now I’m generally in favor of women taking up space. I believe part of the cult of thinness is about women being as close to invisible as possible. Standards of beauty for women become ever nearer to looking like a 9 year old with breast implants. We are infantilized and diminished.

And we buy into it. We police ourselves. I have had more women comment on my, ahem, lack of personal grooming of the lady parts, than I have men. Or as a friend of mine says, “Once you get naked with a guy, he has pretty much decided that what you got, he’s willing to work with.” Women are more, well, they put you down about it.

Taking up space is one way to equalize the playing field. Men take up space. They stand tall, they gesture large, they sit in a chair with arms and legs akimbo. They have no problem owning their space. Women, if we’re ladylike, sit with our legs together and tucked under the chair. We don’t make big gestures, we cover our mouths when we laugh. We try very hard not to take up space. If we want to be treated as equals, we need to learn to act like it.

I”m also down with the body positive aspect of this. Have a body. Have a big body. Don’t be ashamed or embarrassed. Be proud and carry yourself well and dress beautifully. Go skyclad. You carry the universe within you.

There is a goddess perspective in the image. Much like Venus of Willendorf, this is a good sized mother goddess. She is free and dancing and all of creation is within her. She is mother nature for the cosmos. She has literally taken space up into her body.

But taking up space. That is exactly the point at which I become uncomfortable with my size. I don’t fit comfortably in airplane seats. I love live theater and my body crowds the people around me. My size is rude. I am not a rude person, but I infringe on other folks’ personal space, and that is impolite. It makes other people uncomfortable, and that makes me uncomfortable.

Fat is a feminist issue, as Susie Orbach has observed. Body size is nobody’s business. But is there a limit? At what point am I taking up more than my fair share of space? When am I eating more than my portion of food? And how much of this is a uniquely American concern?

Size is political. What does my size say about my politics?


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Hoarding Taskforce

I went to my Recovery International meeting this morning and got invited to stay for the Hoarding Taskforce meeting. So I stayed.

It’s a community meeting with everyone touched by hoarding. So it included EMT’s and other emergency personnel, code enforcement, public health, adult protective services, animal control, and of course individuals who deal with hoarding disorder. I was surprised that a crime scene cleaner was there, because they also do clutter clearing, as well as several people who identified as organizers, which I understand to mean folks who organize someone’s stuff.

I found out about a workbook called Buried in Treasures. I understand you should get the 2nd edition because it includes new diagnosing guidelines from DSM 5. (DSM 5, or Diagnostic and Statistical Manual version 5, is the handbook for diagnosing mental health issues in the US. I don’t know if the ICD or International Classification of Diseases manual put out by the World Health Organization, known as WHO, includes mental health diagnoses.) If you are interested in the topic, you want the most up to date information. One of the host organizations offered free copies of the book to the group, so I signed up for it.

The presentation was about long term care and hoarding. The idea is, people usually enter the system for other mental health reasons but the hoarding gets included along the way.

So, using me for an example, though I don’t claim to be a hoarder. I am bipolar. When I am manic, I shop and I am disorganized. When I am depressed, I don’t clean. That leaves a very small window for dealing with my accumulated possessions, which I often find overwhelming. I could easily enter the system by being bipolar. I could have needs that I can’t meet myself, that can be supported by community agencies. In dealing with the shopping and disorganization, I would also have to face any hoarding tendencies. Though in reality I may fall into the category, based on guidelines in the DSM. But I would need to examine that more. So I might get long term care as a bipolar person, and it might include a certain amount of housekeeping since I am apparently bad at it. And in dealing with the housekeeping issues, we would have to deal with hoarding.

Now there was one very vocal lady there, who pretty much insisted that non-hoarders don’t understand. She is probably correct. She wanted speakers who were certified for working with hoarders, for example, not simply people who had experience with hoarding. She also endorsed the book, which the hoarding support group is working through. She passed around her copy, a hard-used book with underlines and highlights. I know because I flipped through it, looking for a section she hadn’t used that I could look at without invading her privacy. I couldn’t find one.

So now I have a new area of mental health to explore.


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Well World

I had brunch with my friend R today. We went to a place called Henk’s which is behind the Half Price Books flagship store. HPB was having a tent sale that looked amazing but I hardly need more books. I have no place to put them! Henk’s is a German diner. I had the Polish breakfast, which is pretty much eggs and fried potatoes with Polish sausage. It was good, especially the potato, which I miss terribly while I am low carb. (I can’t in good conscience call myself keto.) R had blintzes, which he said were like eating dessert, and a reuben.

We talked about 10,000 things, as friends do. R works in community education for mental health. He teaches Mental Health First Aid mostly to educators. Eventually the idea of a healthy society came up.

R is gay, no children. He is also an atheist. He tells this to people in his presentation because he believes it is useful in helping educators to sit with situations they might not agree with. Now my atheist friend went on to tell me an interpretation of the Biblical story of the Good Samaritan which I thought was pretty interesting. Yes that sentence is knowingly ambiguous.

If you’re not familiar with the story, it basically goes like this: A man gets mugged and beaten up on the road to Jericho. The thieves leave him for dead. Several people pass the man and ignore his plight, including people you’d expect to help him, like religious leaders. Finally the Samaritan walks by. This is someone who is looked down on for his ethnicity. He sees the man in distress, takes him to an inn, and pays the bill for the man to stay until he recovers.

Jesus asks, who is the true neighbor? And it becomes a story about how to treat other people. But like most parables, there are other interpretations. My friend R says, this is a good example of appropriate care, both care of other and care of self. The Samaritan did not take the man to his own home, and he did not allow the man’s needs to derail him from his task in Jericho. He did not try to help the man directly, instead he took him to a place where he would be cared for appropriately. He paid the bill, which apparently was not a hardship for him. So, says R, we should be willing to help out others while also taking care of ourselves.

Another friend of mine has an issue with paying school taxes since they don’t have any children. I say, pay it. One day those young people will be in charge and I want them to be basically educated and hopefully able to think for themselves. I will live in a world they shape, I am invested in what these people are like. I don’t own a home so I don’t pay property taxes which includes the school tax, but I don’t begrudge the schools money. Money makes a better school, better schools make better people. Can we do it on less money? Well we keep trying and we know what public education looks like, so I suspect we can’t.

What does a healthy society look like? I don’t claim to have the final say on that, but I do know a few things.

Yoga moms are not the face of wellness even though they are the face of wellness culture. They are what could be called “the worried well”. That is, for the most part they are doing just fine and don’t need to worry in general that they will become unwell.

Homeless people are a sign that society is unwell. How can it be that we have abandoned houses and homeless people? Seems like a no brainer, put people into homes. And yet there is all kinds of resistance to the idea. You can no doubt think of some of the reasons: who wants those people in their neighborhood, why should we give a house to someone who is too lazy to get a job, or even when do I get my free house as a contributing member of society? So now we have to look at the factors in why a person becomes homeless, because very few choose this as a life path.

Any of the isms are a sign society is not healthy. Ageism, racism, sexism and others are rooted in fear; fear that somehow there are only so many resources around and if someone gets a piece of the pie, they are taking it away from me. It’s easier to scapegoat someone if you can make them a “them”, that is, not one of us. A healthy society knows we are stronger if we share the resources rather than hoarding them.

It was a good lunch, and a good conversation. I like my friends, they are good and interesting people.


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Facilitating

Today I had the opportunity to facilitate a DBSA support group. The regular facilitator was out of town.

It went well, I thought. Though we had many more people than usual.

Usually there are about 6 of us, today there were close to 15 people, many of them new. That is really a LOT of people. I didn’t have performance anxiety but I was concerned about the size.

Additionally, the reading today was a story from African folklore. We had 2 black ladies from the US, and a black couple from Africa. I was like, this will either be really good or really bad. And it was a mixed bag. The black ladies stayed, the African couple left. I hope they weren’t offended. I can’t help what the material is, I just facilitate.

I did notice a few people were less involved than usual. A few people passed on responding to questions, which also doesn’t usually happen. We read the lesson out loud, a few people passed on that too.

After the lesson, I asked a couple of the regulars how they felt about the size of the group. Mostly, the response was negative. Too many people. Especially for my folks with social anxiety, just too much. I want people to be comfortable. I can’t suggest the group will be that big every time, but how can we make people feel safe to share.

I think, when there are more than 10 people, we should consider breaking the group up. I could take half, and the regular facilitator could take the other half. That way, people would feel more comfortable opening up about their stuff. I have texted this idea to the regular guy, we’ll see what he says when he gets back.


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Ah, Dating. No I’m Not Doing It But I Might Wish I Was

Thinking about dating again.

Thinking I might like to be dating again.

It’s been a long time since I thought that.

But let’s be clear, I actually mean dating. It is not a euphemism for fucking. I am at a weird place where I really don’t care that much about sex. I understand it’s common for those of us going through menopause. Maybe it’s just not knowing someone I’m attracted to. Or the few who I might think are cute, aren’t interested in me.

Attraction is a funny thing. Physical is part of it. Now I have friends who thing people are good looking that I don’t agree, but I’d never say that to them. You think he’s hot, he’s hot. Not my version of hot, but that’s okay. And yet the most beautiful person can be ugly inside. And I’ve dated some people who were not good looking but their personality made them attractive. So sure, I have a list of physical preferences, but I’m not married to them.

My biggest part is my must-have list. Must have a job. I can’t tell you how many boyfriends I’ve had where I’m the bread winner. Nice if he has a career rather than just a job, but shit happens. Must have his own car. I used to say, must have his own place, but now not so much. I mean, by my age, people often move back home to take care of parents. I have roommates because with my job it doesn’t make sense for me to pay for an apartment that I’m gone from for months at a time. Handy is good, but if he isn’t handy, have the money to pay for repairs. Not everyone is good with cars, but getting the brakes done shouldn’t be a hardship.

Then traits. Let’s see . . . Smart. Doesn’t have to be highly educated but can’t be ignorant. Probably liberal or at least progressive; conservative would probably kill me. Some kind of creative life, whether it’s building stuff in the basement or playing guitar. Cat person, because I will have cats. Cares about people, so that would be . . . humanitarian? Some kind of spiritual life but not a fundamentalist or an evangelical. It’s just not my shtick. Be active. I don’t mean athletic but I do mean like to get out of the house and do stuff most days. I don’t want someone who spends every weekend crashed on the sofa “watching” football or NASCAR. I want to do stuff on the weekend. I’m not much of a sports person so that would be a bad match for him.

Be honest. I have been married to a manipulative liar, I don’t need that again. Be trustworthy. Be into me. I have dated that, too, where I know someone is settling for me. That’s no fun. But don’t be obsessive. I don’t want to live in your back pocket, don’t want you in mine. Choose me, don’t cling, I get claustrophobic. Trust me. I am not going to hurt you because I choose you. Fight fair. Arguments are going to happen, though I prefer to keep them to a minimum, but listen to my side, don’t just yell me down. My concerns are important too. Support me emotionally. I can support myself financially — I can’t support both of us — but I can always use encouragement. Be kind not just nice.

Teenage to adult children are okay but not required. Divorced is understandable. Pets are okay, even the unusual ones like reptiles or hedgehogs. Hobbies or interests are a good thing. Be a sci fi buff or a theater geek or a homebrewer or something. I prefer something I can share with him, but that’s not cast in stone. I mean, I want to spend time doing my hobbies and hanging with the girls, he should be able to pursue his interests and hang with the boys.

Oh, and I am back to the ex’es. Don’t lie to me. Don’t say things with the intent of deceiving me. Don’t be looking for the next girlfriend. Don’t put your vices ahead of me. Don’t mock me. Don’t put me down to your friends. Don’t ignore me. Don’t avoid me. I have had men do all those things. And they hurt.

I need to think some more, now, about what I bring to the table. Because otherwise I am just making demands, and that’s not fair.