Cooking is good for the soul

I taught myself to cook during my 2nd year at Georgia Tech. My mother had bought me 1000 Vegetarian Recipes, an inexpensive set of pots and pans, and the necessary implements to cook. She promised to replace my starter set if I learned how. I sat down with a set of then sticky labels and marked the recipes that I wanted to cook, and then with another set of labels the ones that I thought I could try to cook. I remember that the first recipe that I cooked was Rattlesnake Stew. It was named so for the rattlesnake beans that were supposed to be in the soup. These beans are nearly impossible to find, but adzuki beans are a nice substitute. It was wonderful, and I thought, maybe I can do this.

In the beginning, cooking was like math, which I am very good. If you follow the recipe and the recipe is not written by an idiot then your recipe is going to turn out. Baking is chemistry, and I struggled with chemistry. This is the reason that I avoid baking if possible. Now, I am more comfortable in the kitchen, I trust my palate, and I can cook from my experience and not a book. Of course, I love my books. I also have an amazing number of kitchen gadgets and beautiful pots and pans thanks to my Mom. I learned how to cook and she kept her word.

I cooked multiple times a week until my sweet husband and I married. We had 3 children living in the home and none liked my style cooking. The didn’t like that one day would be Indian food, the next Italian, and the next something that I came up with off the top of my head. Then I became pregnant with the Queen, bed rest, and I stopped cooking altogether.

I also hated the kitchen, with the lack of counter space, and glass top stove. I hate a glass top stove. When we moved south, the house that we are renting also lacks counter space and has a glass top stove. I just can’t make myself cook most of the time. However, the kitchen in our new house has a wonderful amount of counter space. The meals that I look forward to cooking.

Friday or Saturday, let’s be honest I have no idea which one, I commented on Facebook that reading and watching Julie and Julia with my current abdominal ailments made me want vegetables, butter, and cream. Tonight, I decided that misery be damned and I made my Spiced Cauliflower Soup, dairy (butter, milk, and sour cream), chipotle powder, and onions and shallots. It was delicious, so very delicious. The type of meal that leaves you full and happy. However, I’m up at 1:20 writing this due to the misery of my decision. But, I am not complaining, it was worth every bite and swipe of bread.

I look forward to the next meal that I cook. The catharsis of cutting up vegetables. The first bite with family.

The snake

In Native American teachings, the snake is seen as a symbol of transmutation because it sheds it’s skin once each year. The snake is enigmatic as it embodies sexuality, psychic energy, alchemy, reproduction and immortality.

A tarot reader reached across the table after our reading. He said that the snake was a real person in my life. He told me that I must get this person out of my life no matter what.

I am not a believer in the occult. I had done the reading on a whim while walking through Jackson Square in New Orleans. However, before he spoke, I saw the face of the man that he meant. Over the next few weeks, I tried to extricate myself from the relationship  (loose term). I somehow always failed, but I kept trying.

Then I remembered, certain personality disorders will always want there own way. They can’t stand to be challenged and they certainly can’t stand for you to continue to do what they don’t want. So, I set things up to do just that. It was personally painful as I had to pretend to engage, pretend to be hurt, pretend to care about a relationship that was as interesting to me as paint drying, and pretend that my little heart had just been broken by a shitty friend. It worked though, and I’m glad to be done.

I wish that my path to cleansing didn’t include apologies and truth telling to some others. But, that too, was necessary.

Take my advice when you think someone isn’t acting in your best interest, don’t wait until it takes these lengths. Don’t wait for the grizzled hand of a psychic to bring you to your senses.

Clearing my head in the smelliest place in America

This blog is stream of conscious. I apologize to those that are bothered by this style, but I knew of no other way to write it.

I had a panic attack at the Audubon Aquarium of the Americas. There were just so many kids there, buses full of them swarming everywhere. It didn’t help that I was coughing like someone with consumption and hadn’t slept for days. It was one of two touristy adventures while in New Orleans, and a repeat of a much-enjoyed experience with my sister 14-years ago. When the docent found me hiding behind some plant life and digging desperately in my bottle of sedatives, he merely said, kids, and walked away. Even after the drugs kicked in, the trip was rather ruined, and there were still swarms of children. I walked back to my hotel shaking my head and lamenting that nothing is ever as good as you remember it.

I am a realist and have never placed any stock in psychics and the like. With the exception of ghosts, I definitely believe in ghosts. So it shocked me when I was drawn to stop at a tarot reader on the northwest edge of Jackson Square. I sat down in front of him, and not wanting him to “read” me, said nothing and took a neutral body posture. His first question was, “Are you descended from an Indian tribe?” I answered simply, “Yes.” He looked at me again and said, “Creek” I shook my head, yes. He handed me a deck of cards to shuffle, and when I handed them back he said, “I don’t need to read these cards for you. You know what they say.” As he placed the cards on the table, I felt impressions. As he read the cards, I realized that he was absolutely accurate. Then he said, there is a man in your life that you must get rid of forever.

Sitting in the chapel of Christ Church Cathedral waiting for the 12:15-weekday service, the vicar told me about the church, when it was built (1840), and how it had to be built outside the city limits of New Orleans. Episcopalians were not welcome in a city filled to the brim with Catholics, but evidently, there were enough of them that they built a magnificent cathedral.On the trolly ride back from the Garden District, I reflected on being an outsider when your beliefs were only slightly different. I mean, we are the Anglican Catholic Church after all. As someone who has always been an outsider, I found sitting in that church strangely fitting. I could imagine myself a hundred odd years ago worshipping in a way that my neighbors would not approve. The only place that I ever “fit-in” was in Austin and that is because no one “fits in.” We are all a bunch of misfits who find other misfits that we like enough to tolerate.

If you can’t sleep because you are coughing so much that you are afraid that the neighboring room is going to complain about the noise, you might find yourself reading and watching a great deal of television. At some point, though, you have to admit to yourself that you are getting sicker and call your insurance for permission to go to urgent care. And what an urgent care that it was! It had 18-foot ceilings with plaster walls, marble floors, ancient wooden benches, worn smooth by wear, and leather chairs. I saw a doctor within 5 minutes of arriving, was given prescriptions for an antibiotic and the good cough syrup and was out the door in 15 minutes. Lesson learned, you are not invincible at 40, and if you are coughing like a crazy person then you shouldn’t be walking 8

Checking out for my sanity

My friends, I admit it, I checked out sometime early last week and I’ve yet to check back in again. I enjoyed New Orleans, talked to no one but shopkeepers and waitstaff. It was blissful. More than anything, I was able to knit together some of my still unraveling ends. Sometimes, you have to admit to yourself that you aren’t at 100% or even 50%. That you are climbing your way out of a very deep hole and there are some things that you can’t handle yet. You have to leave it to others, who you trust to act in good faith, to carry on the good fight.

Because, right now, I can’t afford to read, watch, or listen to the news. I know what’s at the bottom of that shaft. I’m not sure that I will make it out again, and my legs are still wobbly and my hands are still shaky. I will get stronger. Until then, know that I love each and every one of you. Each voice, each post, and each protest. Someday soon you will have a sister in arms again.

Not quite mid-life

Earlier this week, a friend called and congratulated me on being middle-aged. I assured her that I wasn’t as I planned to live long past 80. Since she and I both trained at The Population Research Center at The University of Texas at Austin, you see that this conversation became boring very quickly to the casual observer.

It did make me think. What does it mean to be “not quite mid-life?” I look at my closest friends from college, and we all have young children (under 5-years-old). There are years of jiu jitsu, ballet, art, etc. classes to drag children. Eighteen birthday parties to plan, throw, and remember the specific allergy of each child. Years of school plays, class parties, teachers’s presents, and school supplies. It’s difficult to equate that with the traditional idea of middle-aged parents, who are either empty-nesters or have children in high school. Where do we fit in? Hmm… I’m trying to determine that. I’m 40 and I have a 2-year-old.



All my little princelings

“He should appear to be compassionate, faithful to his word, kind, guileless, and devout. And indeed he should be so. But his disposition should be such that, if he needs to be the opposite, he knows how ” – The Prince, Niccolo Machiavelli

I have been thinking about Machiavelli, and I think that he got a bad rap. Sure the first part of The Prince is a royal bore these days, but the second half is pure psychological gold. That man understood human nature in a way that most people haven’t the capacity to comprehend.

In the quote above Machiavelli acknowledges that a person must be capable of all things. That appearance is as important as actuality. But, more than anything that it is important to know when it is time to change tactics and to do so with grace.

Though my favorite piece of advice is one that every mean girl learned in elementary school, it is better to be feared than loved.

Walking the edge

Don’t tell me it doesn’t matter.

Don’t tell me that even you believe.

Loneliness makes you both blind and dumb

But that doesn’t last forever.

I’ll always be the truth teller

The harsh reminder of flaws

It’s the way I live my life

I know exactly who I am

The flaws of my life

I am my own harsh reminder

2017, I have no hopes for you

First, I apologize for the lack of proofreader.

In past years, I have begun January 1st with either hopes or trepidation. However, this morning, I woke up with an empty feeling inside and realized that I have no hopes 2017. No good. I merely have a feeling that things may go terribly wrong, that our country is being run by those with no concept of history or politics, and that we should all be afraid of Vladimir Putin. Then again, why should anyone listen to me when the greatest political and academic minds of our time worldwide have been warning about this for the last 6 months.

My final statement on the new year is that I hope to see you all in 2018.

Choosing me

I’m not sure when I started losing friends. Well, not losing them exactly, but having them convert from people that you see weekly to people that you may call, text, or message every six months. A lot of this is me, I’m an extreme introvert, and it is difficult for me to replace a faded friend with another. Also, I live in the small town South, and I am by their definition a “raging liberal.” Having lived in Austin, where my tepid support for the death penalty for serial killers, child sex abusers, and rapists labeled me a rabid Republican, it’s difficult to meet like-minded people.

It doesn’t help that I live in a small town South, and I am by their definition a “raging liberal.” Having lived in Austin, where my tepid support for the death penalty for serial killers, child sex abusers, and rapists labeled me a rabid Republican, it’s difficult to meet like-minded people. So, I’ve tried to connect with like-minded people online over the years and some of those friendships have been fruitful. Some have been stalker-level disasters, but most have just fizzled away to nothing.

Maybe that has always been the way that friendships have been with the relationship just ending by atrophy. Perhaps it is that one person pulls away and the other person is left wondering, what the fuck happened. Maybe it is none of those. I’m good at understanding other people, but the people in my life are a complete mystery.

Today, I did something that hurt so much that it felt like I had been punched in the gut, and I’m not sure how long that it’s going to keep hurting. I’ve been sick for so long now, and this friendship was not helping me get better. If anything it was making worse. So, I had to choose me. I had to let go. Maybe things will get better.


It has come to my attention that there are some people who have a poor understanding of bipolar disorder. I thought that I would take this post as an opportunity to clear things up.

Bipolar Disorder is considered a Severe Mental Illness

Bipolar Disorder, schizophrenia, schizoaffective disorder, and severe major depressive disorder are considered to be severe mental illnesses because they have  complex symptoms that require ongoing treatment and management, most often varying types and dosages of medication and therapy. They often have long  periods of remission, but medication failures are common leading to emergence of symptoms.

Bipolar Disorder is covered by the Americans with Disabilities Act

In 2008, the ADA was amended to cover Bipolar Disorder  to protect people with bipolar disorder from discrimination in hiring, job assignments, promotions, firing, pay, layoffs, benefits and other employment-related activities. It states that if a disability causes impairment that “substantially limits” a person’s ability to handle “major life activities,” whether on or off the job, the employer must follow ADA rules in treating the disabled person.For ADA purposes, major life activities that may be limited by a mental health disorder could include learning, thinking, concentrating, interacting with others, caring for oneself, speaking, or performing manual tasks. Sleep also may be limited in such a way that daily activities are impaired.

So, we’ve established that bipolar disorder is a pretty serious illness. It’s not something within the control of the individual who has the disease. So, what can you do to help?

Helping someone in Crisis

  • Stay calm. Talk slowly and use reassuring tones.
  • Realize you may have trouble communicating with your loved one. Ask simple questions. Repeat them if necessary, using the same words each time.
  • Don’t take your loved one’s actions or hurtful words personally.
  • Say, “I’m here. I care. I want to help. How can I help you?”
  • Don’t say, “Snap out of it,” “Get over it,” or “Stop acting crazy.”
  • Don’t handle the crisis alone. Call family, friends, neighbors, people from your place of worship or people from a local support group to help you.
  • Don’t threaten to call 911 unless you intend to. When you call 911, police and/or an ambulance are likely to come to your house. This may make your loved one more upset, so use 911 only when you or someone else is in immediate danger.

Help with Symptoms and Treatment

How can I help someone who has symptoms of depression?

Depression may cause someone to have feelings of unbearable sadness, guilt, worthlessness, and hopelessness. The person does not want to feel this way, but can’t control it. Make sure the person’s doctor knows what is happening, and ask if you can help with everyday tasks such as housekeeping, running errands, or watching children. Help your loved one try to stick to some sort of daily routine, even if he or she would rather stay in bed. Spend quiet time together at home if he or she does not feel like talking or going out. Keep reminding your loved one that you are there to offer support.

How can I help someone during a manic episode?

Remember that mania may cause a person to believe things that aren’t true, make big plans or life changes, spend money to excess, or do other things that may be dangerous. Sometimes a person might be more outgoing or enthusiastic during early stages of mania. Do your best to keep your loved one from doing things that might be harmful. Urge him or her to put off any plans to start a big project, spend a lot of money, drive a long distance, or anything that sounds dangerous to you. Keep in mind that he or she may insist that everything is under control. You may need to ask other friends, family members, or mental health professionals to intervene and help keep your loved one safe.

Encourage your loved one to see a doctor as soon as possible. Don’t make demands, threats, or ultimatums unless you are fully prepared to follow through with them. Keep yourself safe. If your loved one becomes abusive, call a friend, a family member, a mental health professional, or 911 for help.

What can I do to make sure my loved one gets good treatment?

  • Encourage your loved one to seek treatment. Explain that treatment is not personality-altering and can greatly help to relieve symptoms.
  • Help him or her prepare for health care provider appointments by putting together a list of questions. Offer to go along to health care appointments.
  • With permission, talk to your loved one’s health care provider(s) about what you can do to help.
  • Encourage or help your loved one to get a second opinion from another health care provider if needed.
  • Help him or her keep records of symptoms, treatment, progress, and setbacks—in a journal, in a printed DBSA Personal Calendar, or in the DBSA Wellness Tracker online or phone app.
  • Help him or her stick with the prescribed treatment plan. Ask if you can help by giving medication, therapy, or self-care reminders.

What if hospitalization is necessary?

Sometimes, when symptoms of depression or mania become severe, it is necessary for a person to be hospitalized. This might seem scary at first, but the safe, controlled environment of the hospital can help the person return to stability.

If you think your loved one might benefit from a hospital stay, find out all you can about local hospitals and the inpatient and outpatient services they offer. Try to do this before a crisis. Find out if his or her insurance or Medicare/Medicaid covers hospitalization, and if not, find out about community or state-run facilities.

If your loved one is open to doing so, suggest discussing the possibility of hospitalization with a doctor before the need arises, and making a list of preferred hospitals, medications, and treatment methods for use in a crisis.

While your loved one is hospitalized, be supportive by visiting frequently and bringing comforting or familiar items. Ask the staff questions; if theydon’t have the answers, find someone at the hospital who does. Don’t be afraid to be assertive about making sure your loved one receives the best treatment. Keep records of the people you talk to and when.

How can I support someone during outpatient treatment?

When your friend or family member begins seeing a doctor or therapist, show that you support the decision to seek treatment and ask how you can be most helpful. Learn about your loved one’s symptoms. Each person needs different kinds of help keeping symptoms under control. Learn about medications and what side effects to expect. Some people find it helpful to write down mania prevention and suicide prevention plans, and give copies to trusted friends and relatives. These plans should include:

  • A list of symptoms that might be signs the person is becoming manic or suicidal.
  • Things you or others can do to help when you see these symptoms.
  • A list of helpful phone numbers, including health care providers, family members, friends, and a suicide crisis line such as (800) 273-TALK.
  • A promise from your friend or family member that he or she will call you, other trusted friends or relatives, one of his or her doctors, a crisis line, or a hospital when manic or depressive symptoms become severe.
  • Encouraging words such as “My life is valuable and worthwhile, even if it doesn’t feel that way right now.”
  • Reality checks such as, “I should not make major life decisions when my thoughts are racing and I’m feeling ‘on top of the world’. I need to stop and take time to discuss these things with others before I take action.

How long will it take before the person feels better?

Some people are able to stabilize quickly after starting treatment; others take longer and need to try several treatments, medications, or medication combinations before they feel better. Talk therapy can be helpful for managing symptoms during this time. If your friend or family member is facing treatment challenges, the person needs your support and patience more than ever. Education can help you both find out all the options that are available and decide whether a second opinion is needed. Help your loved one to take medication as prescribed, and don’t assume the person is not following the treatment plan just because he or she isn’t feeling 100% better.

Help with Relationships

Depression and bipolar disorder pose a challenge not just to our health, but to our closest relationships as well. As friends and partners struggle against the fallout of guilt, confusion, and anger, genuine affection and/or intimacy often become difficult to maintain. Below are several resources to help you better understand and navigate relationships with your loved one.

How can I let my loved one know I’m here to help?

Learning how to navigate in an ever-changing world that is still relatively new to mental health treatment can be overwhelming and sometimes isolating not only for those who live with a mood disorder, but also their friends and loved ones. The DBSA I’m here… campaign offers suggestions—for both people living with a mood disorder and those who support—on ways to open up a channel for communication and to say, “I’m here…” Listen to or read advice from other friends and family members on ways to offer help or start the conversation.