Empowering Women

Standard


I’m not usually one to make political statements but the latest banter about Hilary’s issue with the emails bugs me.  As a woman who has witnessed so much injustice personally regarding fair wages and sexual infidelity, I can’t help but see that people who are criticizing Hilary for her “secrecy” as being completely negligent of the fact that she was the victim of a lot of secrecy from her husband.  With his many sexual escapades, who is to blame for the security issues in our government?

Technological competence is a luxury that elite and usually simply younger people only can afford.  I can barely understand what was wrong with this server issue, and I am someone who was coding in html and working with plenty of different computer systems.  How can I blame just her for this email scandal when I myself wouldn’t know how to do what those people were asking for right now?  This problem was and probably still is systemic, and endemic of a political structure full of discrepancies, especially with regard to sexual, racial, and international politics.

In fact, I bet that Hilary had a right to being an angry, neglected wife who really needed to vent. Who could trust this “security” protocol which was also keeping her husband’s secrets from everyone?  Shouldn’t I write emails as a form of therapy to anyone who would listen?  I can’t imagine how horrible that kind of emotional stress must have felt to each and every one protecting the First Lady and the President.

My only problem with having Hilary as the President would be having Bill as the First Gentleman.   I am very uncomfortable with that.  It feels like a position that should go to the man of her choosing.  I suppose if she forgave him, there must be something worth looking at there.  I’ll have to follow their ideas more closely before I vote for anyone.  But as someone in the field of recovery and healing from addictions, I think it’s my responsibility to give people a second chance.  People do change.  Perhaps this role as First Gentleman would heal something in us as well, because we’ve all been lied to before, and we’ve all had to forgive.  Maybe it’s time to see things change by giving Hilary a chance to allow him to help her.

 

 

 

 

Pot poet

Standard

I’m outgrowing this pot

My feet are aching

My roots have no more space

I feel my spine curling under

As I push upward, I fall out

The cups are too small

My skull fractures

My brain wrinkles

Tiny, tight, innumerable folds

One day we realize

Fun as it was

The sand, too hot

Was the only music 

So we dance

Awaiting the next wave

Blowing us out

Like a gunshot

Into a more comfortable pot

NAMI In our Own Voice Presenter

Standard

My name is Sandra Cheng, I work as a peer specialist at Didi Hirsch, and I love cheese.  My Taiwanese parents chose to come out to America for the love of cheese. My boyfriend hates cheese that smells like feet.

I had my first physical relationship when I was about thirty-five.  He was the person who encouraged me to volunteer for Didi Hirsch.  I helped people with the computers making resumes at the Employment services team. Sara, Khaki, Gary, Angela, Lanette, Herman. I was promoted by Michelle McBurnie and NAMI Urban LA after being a Jumpstart intern in 2009. It’s been my privilege to help my peers find their passions. I lead support groups, and I am still learning from everyone here.

 

Dark Days:  I grew up in New Jersey, and I was uncomfortably shy as a teenager. When my environment changed, and we moved away from my new friends in high school, I decided to make as little contact as possible with pretty much every one.  I had stopped talking to people including my family. I sat in front of the television with my cartoons Gummy bears.  I loved sleeping and dreaming of flying. My love for lucid dreaming kept me going through some of my darkest days.

I was admitted to the psychiatric hospital twice when I couldn’t stop crying. The first time, I was put into a straight jacket.  They were very polite about it, saying that everyone who comes here gets one, and they chose a pretty flower pattern jacket for me. I still hear voices when I’m stressed out, and at my worst I isolate. My first diagnosis was schizophrenia disorganized type. Abut two years later another diagnostic tested me with schizo-affective disorder. The labels don’t bother me. I am comfortable with being different. Words are just there to help people learn more about each other.

Acceptance:  My work is important to me, but it has been a difficult path. I have learned to not take things personally. I accept that I hear voices and I am mindful about my own emotional health. I used to say I don’t care and tried to ignore my feelings.  That used to be my way of trying to stay positive. I looked for reasons not to trust.

My family has supported my decision to continue taking medications, in spite of some early disagreements about it.  I am lucky that they have been financially supportive of me through some of my hardest times. As a peer, my work is subsidized. The government helps me with maintaining my job. I can continue to work while receiving occupational and financial support with both disability (SSDI) and SSI.
Treatment:  The mind is a magical thing. It needs a lot of care.  My work allows me to learn how to recover and stay well. I create a supportive social environment by sharing ideas and linking people to healthy lifestyles working with the community.

I came out to Los Angeles in 2002 to pursue a career in animation, to draw cartoons.   I link myself to my community, I engage myself in mental health services, and I set healthy boundaries with friends, family, and peers.  People help me communicate what I usually struggle with.

I am the website manager for the LACCC, where peers work for DMH and share information about conferences, trainings, and other events. I am a facilitator for the Wildflowers’ Movement. We often use Dr. Weiss’s Healing the Mind and Spirit cards to share spiritual inspiration.

I chose stand up comedy and belly dance to help myself physically overcome shyness, gain intellectual and emotional confidence, and be better potty trained by focusing on my core.

I am a speaker for NAMI’s In our own Voice presentation. This is why I’ve been saying random words like “Dark Days,” “acceptance”, and “treatment”.

I make quilts with the wizened women of Quilts from the Heart. I foster hamsters for kids and the young at heart. I helped the National Asian American Peer support group speaking with their panel at the Alternatives conference.  I sing with temple Akiba, now a synagogue,  and the cal Phil where we will be performing at Disney hallike twice this summer. In August I will be at the Santa Barbara triathlon, as part of a coed sprint swim 500 yards, bike 6 miles, and run, 2 miles with my boyfriend, Ed. That’s why it’s coed.

 


Coping Skills:
   I am grateful for my famity putting up with my bologna.  I am happy to be in a loving relationship with Ed. I am committed to making life both enjoyable and healthy.  Coping with voices for me is getting why I feel like this and not how or what.  I slow down, take risks, and have fun.
Successes, Hopes, and Dreams:  I have a Master’s degree in Fine Arts, and I manage a small website company. As a peer advocate, I lead groups such as WHAM. It involves the 8 dimensions of wellness (F, O, Em, I, Sp, P, & En) and IMPACT goals for improvement and positive, calling healthy habits.  I lead excerise, cooking, and creative expressions. No matter what group, I see each person, hear them out, and understand who they are.

I see people become mindful, people who share words that help others in groups. I help people find jobs and become supports to the community, learn resilience in difficult situations. I know how humbling it can be to get here and how difficult it is to ask for help. This is what makes this job important to me. The best part of this job is the culture. We care.

 

I am using the Plan to Achieve Self-Support, an incentive from the SSA to make my financial and educational goals attainable. I want to be more independent, and for me that means eventually making enough money on my own without relying on SSI and SSDI.

I dream of eventually moving to Paris, France.  My boyfriend has rekindled in me a love for the arts and French culture where I will eat all the cheese.

My sister Emily

Standard

I’ve been hearing about people being angry about the President of the Asian Coalition being someone who is not receiving services from DMH at this time. For me, this is part of our epidemic as an Asian American. Because we are often over-achievers, and many of us want to bother as few people as possible with our own problems, we tend not to seek services unless there has been a terrible crisis. I don’t feel the anger others do about this primarily because I see our culture, the mental health piece in Asian American politics as being one that we all need to come to terms with in our own ways. As long as our leaders are people who can be accepting of all the different ways we cope with trauma, I don’t see a problem with allowing someone who is not currently being supported by DMH as being part of DMH. It is a tricky issue, though, I understand as most groups tend to want their leaders especially to have experience with the field in a way that no one can surpass.

I am grounded by the fact that my recovery is ever-changing, and I want to emphasize the fact that we don’t all need any one particular path in this field. Leadership after all is its own reward, and if we can see our leaders as part of a larger community, there shouldn’t be a problem with having someone who doesn’t have the preconceived notions of what a leader should look like. I just worry that we are all a little prejudiced by our own personal experiences to not be able to accept the paths others choose. The big question is, does the President of the Asian Coalition for Mental Health consumers have to be a current mental health consumer, if each of us understands that recovery might mean that we don’t necessarily need that at all moments after a diagnosis?

The Queen sized bed

Standard


Hey, we built a bed which I reworked from Somethingisdone.com which contains a king size set of instructions.

I thought it would be fun to add some details here about the highlights of what I learned in this process.

First of all, Google sketch up is pretty cool and easy to learn with some very intuitive  and practical ways to visualize for woodworking.  BedFrame_SomethingIsDone_queen18 BedFrame_SomethingIsDone_queen20 We ultimately decided against the collapsible version which would make it less stable.  I’ve included a bit of wall in one of these sketchups to show whether or not it would be possible to move this frame into or out of this narrow and tiny hallway dividing the bedroom from the bathroom from the common room.

Second, nail guns seem a little too fussy for a small project. You need a min of 1000 nails to make it worthwhile and this project was barely 250 nails worth.  Had there been no mistakes it would have been about 100 nails or screws.IMG_0409 IMG_0411 There were a lot of interesting tools we used to make this work, including a dremel to help sand up the rough edges, an adjustable right angle ruler, and the mini jig kit that “Something is Done” recommends from Amazon.  I don’t think we used the kit more than ten times, but it was fun and interesting to use. It also helped secure the center spine with the crossbars where normally we may not have been able to line it up without a lot of fuss.  We made the mistake of buying 9.5″ x 1.5″ planks for the outer frame, rather than the 7.5″ ones in the original plans.  That meant some more cuts, which was easy work with a dozuki bear saw which cuts on both the up and down pull directions.  All the other cuts were made by someone at home depot, which luckily were free after a long wait for assistance.

Third, it is tricky to line up all these measurements perfectly. I had to let go and allow there to be spaces and gaps in awkward places. I feel very secure in the bed, but the sheer weight and size of the thing makes it feel unwieldy. I’d also recommend that if you do it yourself, allot a week of rest to recoup from all the back pain after completing it.  You will need at least two people to share the tasks here to get the job moving quickly.  We were able to finish this within two weekends after having drawn up the plans the month prior.IMG_0424 IMG_0414

If I had to do this again, I’d say it might be worth buying a hardwood mostly because this soft pine had a tendency to be slightly warped, which makes a difficult job.  When you have a nice hardwood, the project would probably feel more like a very nice piece of furniture rather than the cheap and quick job it really was.  It might double or triple the budget, but ultimately, you would have a piece you would tell stories about to your kids.

The Selkie, La Mere, and bottling up emotions

Standard

     I have been obsessed for a month with “Song of the Sea”, an animated film by the same folk who made “Secret of Kells”.  This animation company was recently backed by producer Angelina Jolie. I fell in love with the beautiful geometric design and haunting music that they created in addition to the wonderful story about a child who loses his mother, but transforms into the best older brother to his baby sister who cannot speak for herself. 
     The reason I chose to write about it in this blog is the beautiful way it symbolically includes a discussion of mental health,  using a character who is both a witch and an old woman who is able to absorb the feelings of others inadvertantly turning the victim into stone.  In the words of the main character,  “and the worst part was that she was his own mother!” This story plays upon that basic fear that we all have of taking new medications and losing our spirit or our personality to it, without making any judgment about whether or not medication is acceptable.
     I have the DVD and was able to listen to the director’s commentary. This film took so many years in the making, and he gave some great advice about how to give it the care it needs to stay motivated and complete it.  This is very inspired and important film for me that will help me find more logic in what makes a great story.

the spectrum of permission

Standard

I’m realizing that we have a lot of clients that have issues with knowing what is socially appropriate behavior.  I realize that this is also a personal ethic and part of a person’s identity so I will try to write this without sounding judgmental.

I can relate to both ends of the problem.  As a child of parents that were very strict about how we made friends and whose house we were allowed to play at, I remember asking for permission so much that I couldn’t make heads or tails of what was an appropriate thing to ask permission for.

I remember being in grade school when some teachers wanted you to ask permission to go to the bathroom, and others, especially in late grade school years and high school asked you not to ask permission anymore.  There are still older people at my Wellness center, my age and beyond who ask for permission to take breaks and to go to the bathroom.  There’s a difference between people who ask to be respectful to the group, and those who ask for attention.  It’s a fine and sometimes difficult task to see that difference.

And then there’s the other end of this spectrum where you sneak out without talking to anyone in the group about any of the feelings you’ve been having all day. Oh dear G-d, how well do I know this feeling?  I was shy for the better part of my childhood years, and worse, I worked hard at not talking to people during my high school years, at a time when I was truly depressed.  Along with this kind of behavior comes the predictable and usually questionable behavior of taking things that you don’t know and probably don’t care who actually owns it.  Maybe there’s a basket of apples, and you’re not sure if it’s okay to have it.  Maybe you see other people taking them, and then you go ahead and surmise, maybe it’s okay for me to take one too.  But not a word of appreciation uttered?  This is where my animal self tells me I was surviving and not thriving in this America, a land of so many freedoms we often confuse them for undeserved privilege.

So there are a few clients who would rather not ask permission and simply take things or give things that they assume is theirs.  These people walk a thin line between socially appropriate behavior and possibly unknowingly socially irresponsible behavior.  And I must take responsibility for it because I am a person who myself does not communicate to everyone about everything either.  These are clients that are also learning from observing me and how I interact with them.  I am not unaccountable for their wrong actions.  Sometimes I am so overwhelmed with the madness that is our Wellness Center which has very few rules except to help clients, that I don’t myself know what is appropriate anymore.

There is a middle ground, and it is always our job as adults, people who consume and take care of our environments, to make sure everyone has enough to share.  And we as socially responsible people must help others understand what is not plain to see about what is going on inside of ourselves.  I wonder how to do my job better with all these grey areas, and I always see in myself and others so many possibilities.  Breaking the stigma involves a lot of soul searching and hoping that we will show ourselves something new, brave, and beautiful.