- “Risks For Some Medications Rise as Temperatures Climb” (2020)
- PsychCentral Article “Psychiatric Patients at Elevated Risk for Heat-Related Illnesses” (2018)
- Medical Alert from the NY Office of Mental Health (2020)
- Peer Reflection “Could Meds Make It Harder to Take The Heat?” (2019)
These are the notes from my session with Soleil – a few days before the drawing. I just couldn’t get a grasp on the message to draw. God told me, “I’m holding you,” and spoke of forgiveness and courage. So true, I wrote, “The thing I hold tight is a cactus. It hurts too much to let go.” Jesus was the ultimate fallback and you see me in the drawing above doing a trust fall on God off the letter A.
After much internal writhing the word “Allow” kept coming back. Allow acceptance AND the screaming, acceptance AND the shame. Be open to everything.
©Michelle Routhieaux 2020
Can you see your cookie???
MARLA KEAYS VIA FLICKR // CC BY 2.0
I realized tonight for the first time that if I closed my eyes I couldn’t see or reproduce the pattern on an Oreo. So I spent some time staring at one, pondering. And then I googled around. I found two articles I like that describe the history and meaning (if there is one).This one is my favorite.
If you close your eyes can you see the pattern on an Oreo or your favorite cookie??? Now I can. :)
PS – I’m still trying to wrap my mind around accepting how the designs on the two cookies don’t line up. ;)
© Michelle Routhieaux 2020
WE ARE NOT IN THE SAME BOAT
I came across this on Facebook. Not sure of the author.
WE ARE NOT IN THE SAME BOAT … ⛵️
I heard that we are all in the same boat, but it’s not like that. We are in the same storm, but not in the same boat. Your ship could be shipwrecked and mine might not be. Or vice versa.
For some, quarantine is optimal. A moment of reflection, of re-connection, easy in flip flops, with a cocktail or coffee. For others, this is a desperate financial & family crisis & mental health crisis. Some are safe in their homes while others must go into the front line and face this virus head on.
For some that live alone, they’re facing endless loneliness. While for others, it is peace, rest, & time with their mother, father, sons & daughters. This can also be a time where someone is literally trapped with an abusive partner or parent.
With the $600 weekly increase in unemployment, some are bringing in more money to their households than when they were working. Others are working more hours for less money due to pay cuts or loss in sales. Some don’t qualify.
Some families of 4 just received $3400 from the stimulus while other families of 4 saw $0.
Some were concerned about getting a certain candy for Easter while others were concerned if there would be enough bread, milk, and eggs for the weekend.
Some want to go back to work because they don’t qualify for unemployment and are running out of money. Others want to kill those who break the quarantine.
Some are home spending 2-3 hours/day helping their child with online schooling while others are spending 2-3 hours/day to educate their children on top of a 10-12 hour workday.
Some were thrilled that school ended abruptly because they struggled or were being bullied. Others are missing some of the most important events of their lives and didn’t get to say a proper goodbye.
Some wear masks in public. Some choose not to. Some don’t have them.
Some have experienced the near death of the virus, some have already lost someone from it, and some are not sure if their loved ones are going to make it. Some have had it and survived. Some have had it and don’t even know it. Some are carrying it. Others don’t believe this is a big deal.
Some have faith in God and expect miracles during this 2020. Others say the worst is yet to come.
So, friends, we are not in the same boat. We are going through a time when our perceptions and needs are completely different.
Each of us will emerge, in our own way, from this storm. It is very important to see beyond what is seen at first glance. Not just looking; actually seeing.
We are all on different ships during this storm experiencing a very different journey.
Be kind. Don’t judge. Love. Not just now but when the storm passes and we prepare for the next one.
Giving Tuesday – Indeed
Well, it’s three in the morning and I don’t actually want to be up. (I know, right?) It’s officially #GivingTuesdayNOW. In case you didn’t know, that’s today’s version of the Giving Tuesday that happens after Thanksgiving (right after #CyberMonday). It’s been a huge deal to the nonprofit community for the past few years and COVID-19 has provided the perfect opportunity to have (or establish) a second one during the year. It’s not just for COVID-19 relief or for non-profits providing direct services to COVID-19 patients. #GivingTuesdayNow is a day dedicated to helping out ALL non-profits, since a lot of the burden of holding up society in both supply and morale has fallen to them/us in the past several weeks. It comes at a cost. (In case you don’t feel like reading, my list of ideas for how you can help my group is here.)
The non-profit dearest to my heart is DBSA San Diego – the Depression and Bipolar Support Alliance of San Diego. As many of you know, I’ve been a part of it for many years. DBSA San Diego at its core is a network of free peer-led support groups for people with any kind of mental health challenge (mental illness) and their family & friends. That means that groups for people with a diagnosis are run by a person with a diagnosis and family groups are run by a family member of a person with a diagnosis, and so on. In order to facilitate groups, those leaders first had to be active participants in the support groups for a minimum amount of time and be stable. Groups are held almost every day of the week all over the county with our home base and office/library being the VA in La Jolla. All groups are drop-in, no RSVP necessary, no copay, no limited number of visits and you don’t even have to tell us your real name. ;).
When the world started shutting down for COVID-19, we were given a courtesy call – 1.5 hours notice that we would be locked out of the VA and unable to hold groups there, or even get to our stuff, “indefinitely.” When I said I hardly believed the forever aspect of “indefinite,” I was told it wasn’t likely we’d be back. Since then I’ve been told we will NOT be kicked out of there for forever, but that doesn’t affect the impact it has on the groups and our people.
We continued meeting in person for as long as possible, missing only 2 days of meetings. A local pizza place helped us out with space (SUPER grateful to RoundTable) and after a LOT of research a small team of us rolled our meetings over onto Zoom, learning together, training others across the country. Despite my fighting it tooth and nail, all of our in-person locations folded. Some will not be coming back to life after the Quarantine is over. We are currently offering 6 Zoom groups per week, including one dedicated Family & Friends group. (schedule can be found on our Meetup group www.Meetup.com/DBSA-San-Diego)
As I watched org after org shut down their groups, close their doors, stop their services, I’d shout at my email and the tv. While others were bored out of their minds and learning to make banana bread while day-drinking in their sweats, we weren’t.
DBSA San Diego provides all support groups free of charge and has continued to provide support groups and crisis services throughout the pandemic. We have a saying in the La Jolla group that we really have lived up to. We say, “Mental illness doesn’t take a holiday and neither do we.” Indeed. Our outreach activities have been cancelled since there are no events in the community, but crisis support and advocacy are still happening. And support between members is as strong as ever. We are still saving lives. I pray it stays that way. I also pray for all the group members who don’t have a computer or internet connection, or don’t/cant for whatever reason get online for a Zoom meeting. We don’t collect information so there’s no way for us to reach out to everyone.
I don’t know what “re-opening” DBSA San Diego will look like. I know it will not be too soon. In the meantime, there is this pesky thing called #GivingTuesdayNow. As my inbox has filled for weeks with orgs asking for money and orgs telling us how to ask for money and when or whatever, I thought I might ask you. I don’t have it in me to make everything just the way it should be – to fix all the data and make pretty campaigns that are well thought-out and put together. I did have a little in me tonight though to piece together the different ways available for people to give to DBSA San Diego today. The easiest way of all is just to share this or share our services with someone who needs them. We at DBSA work incredible magic with very little.
DBSA San Diego is a 501(c)(3) non-profit organization led by ALL volunteers and funded entirely through donations from people like you. (EIN 46-4731973) We do not receive state or federal grants or funding. 2019 was a really rough year for fundraising and we haven’t gotten to “pass the bag” in any meetings since the shutdown. We could really use your help!
Anything you can do is greatly appreciated. According to the how-to emails and webinars I’m supposed to draw on the fear and uncertainty of the Coronavirus/COVID-19 and these “unprecedented times.” I swear I HATE that word now. When it comes down to it, here’s the deal – DBSA San Diego is awesome. They are saving lives every night and every day and will continue to do so. Please help. Here is a good collection of ways you can help DBSA San Diego.
Thank you for caring.
PS – When you donate to DBSA San Diego, the funds STAY in San Diego. Make sure which DBSA you’re donating to before you give. ;)
© Michelle Routhieaux 2020
I am so sick of this stupid fucking COVID-19 response. It’s RIDICULOUS and WILL kill more people than it saves. It’s quarantine this and cancel that EVERY FUCKING DAY. I don’t give a shit about COVID-19. What I do give a shit about is how the people “fighting” or “preventing” it are interfering in my life.
Is this random virus the next Ebola come to wipe out whole states at a time in a bloody gory mess? Or is it just a new illness that happens to be smarter that we are at the moment but is still being managed, for the most part, by modern medicine? Seriously.
It’s the numbers that make me sick. (No not Donald Trump’s precious numbers).
There are 19 deaths in this country from COVID-19. (see WHO Situation dashboard for up to date numbers ) There is ONE, yes ONE, “presumptively” positive woman diagnosed in San Diego and ALL the town goes nuts! The VA shut itself down, declaring a Level 2 Infectious Disease protocol. UCSD made all its classes virtual for the Spring quarter. Everyone’s FREAKING OUT!
Besides just being annoying and totally interfering with my life and others, the actions and inactions the government is recommending are GOING to kill people. Think about it. When you isolate or “quarantine” people (or recommend that people quarantine themselves), PEOPLE GO CRAZY. In a society already suffering from depression, and anxiety and pathological loneliness, suicide rates should be set to spike. Pharmacies can only mail-deliver certain medications. What about the rest and the pharmacies that don’t? And what about the controlled substances that require us to go in to the doctor every month and for them to submit electronically? And what about the mailmen? The businesses that provide for communities are shutting down and the stores that are open are being raided. Caregivers who are isolating or quarantined are not caring for those who can’t care for themselves. What happens to them? Death. People don’t eat. Random swaths of children or teenagers just congregate wherever since school is out. Parents who aren’t even sick have to leave jobs, shutting down more businesses, to take care of children who aren’t sick but whose schools have been closed due to the panic.
Even instructing people to wash their hands for 20 seconds at a time will push us closer to being back in a drought we just escaped. Or for people who prefer to “sanitize” their hands constantly, good luck on not having terribly dry hands, killing all the good bacteria, and totally messing with your body’s natural balance. Don’t get me started on the people making their own hand sanitizers. This is also a great public validation for all the people with contamination fears or harm obsessions as part of OCD. I can hear it now, “See? The world really IS a terrible place and I should wash my hands in bleach forever.”
I was trying to figure out the other day why this disease response bothers me most. Then I realized it’s financial. My dad had Huntington’s Disease, what’s known as an Orphan Disease because there are so few patients with it that finding a cure is not fiscally responsible. There aren’t enough patients who would take the drug to pay for the development of the drug, even if they know it would work. This COVID-19 is a gold mine, a race to the cure for biotech companies who know that people and, presumably, governments around the world will buy their medication and possibly require their vaccine. Whoever gets there first wins. Safety requirements and timeframes will be waived because SO MANY people are affected or at risk. Me? I went to chicken pox parties as a child. I’m no fan of disease but I don’t think anyone should be separated from society or that big pharma profits should allow for the spreading of hysteria.
Think about it. What if we could have this kind of attention and serious concern for things we ACTUALLY deal with on a regular basis? This illness has killed 20 people in the US and people are going nuts. But according to the CDC, “34.1 million adults aged 18 years or older—or 13.0% of all US adults” have diabetes. That’s a disease we know how to treat and yet more than 80,000 die here of it each year. We lose 22 veterans per day to suicide alone. (You know the number is higher.) In California, someone dies by suicide every 2 hours. 1 in 5 Americans will experience a mental illness sometime in their life. 1 in 25 will experience a severe mental illness. The suicide rate for some mental illnesses is as high as 25%. We HAVE treatments that work, therapies that are proven to work yet it’s not profitable enough to freak out the public enough to convince them to pay for the treatment and engage them enough to follow through it. No. Toilet paper raids and mass hysteria sounds so much more productive. Grrrrrr…
I spend a lot of time helping people and this nonsense not only makes that more difficult but makes all of our lives worse. No one is addressing the high number of highly suggestible people who will develop purely somatic symptoms. I’ve seen anxiety addressed once in the news-frenzy but not the paranoia and delusions this is creating. I’m also very concerned about the push for people not to touch each other or be close. Touch is SO extremely important. What is the effect on the human body when we remove touch? It’s nasty. It’s worth the rant, even though I know it will change nothing.
Exposure to Safety
© Michelle Routhieaux 2019
Choosing the Smoke
What did I do to make the fire so upset that it had to burn the forests, the homes? Chasing the smoke doesn’t put out the embers. The beautiful glow envelopes me. Is controlling the fire like killing the Jews? Emotional holocaust? Can’t put out the fire by chasing the smoke. When it no longer appears, I’m not gone. Am I just hiding or have I found my home? Stop pursuing and the smoke may kill me. Alas, we chase my smoke. We dance.
Inspired by a story about being a log in a burning fire and instead of others taking you out, them chasing the smoke instead. For me – chasing the smoke is maintaining the secrets & lies. Sweep the path. It’s all in my head. Nothing is actually real.
© Michelle Routhieaux 2019
I was asked recently by a therapist to make a vision board for myself. I really struggled with the assignment and it took two weeks but this is what I came up with.
©Michelle Routhieaux 2019
The Grand Kidnapping
I wrote this in a group I was supposed to be paying attention to. Something really caught my attention and I found myself in a place I haven’t seen in years. Blessed and understanding. I was close to God. I’d like to spend more time there.
© Michelle Routhieaux 2019
I don’t understand
I don’t understand. I may have written about this before but I don’t remember and I don’t really care.
I don’t understand. To me it’s a simple phrase with a simple meaning. There is no extra fluff attached, no alternate meaning. Last year my therapist and I got into it because I kept telling him I didn’t understand what he was saying and he told me he believed what I meant was that I didn’t agree. Nope, only disagreed with that.
I don’t follow like other people do. Or maybe I follow too closely. I am cursed with the ability to spot errors, omissions, incongruities, however small. I need the info coming at me to make sense and if it doesn’t I will say that I don’t understand. I am blunt. I ask questions. I have no qualms with raising a stink to get an answer. It is especially disturbing to me when someone “answers” my questions with responses that are unrelated. I will state so and repeat the question, rephrasing it if necessary. A few years ago I started giving up after a few tries but not before stating that my question had still not been answered. I have somewhat of a fan base in some settings because of it. It’s not fulfilling to engage with someone who’s not the slightest idea what I’m talking about. In fact, it’s maddening – probably to both sides but for different reasons. I’m looking for information. If the person doesn’t have it, or won’t give it, it would behoove them to just say that.
People think I’m being rude or annoying. They jump to conclusions about my motives or what I really think or mean. I’m accused of alternate intentions. They tell me what I should say or do or think or not think instead. They often get very upset that I don’t understand and/or that they don’t understand what I mean when I point out whatever they said doesn’t make any sense – in general, not just to me. If they stop to follow the line of thought and learn what’s missing, sometimes they will admit that it really doesn’t make sense. Usually instead I just get confronted with anger, accused of things or people just walk away or insult and then ignore me, then pretend it never happened.
Sometimes the topic is important to me and I’m upset AND don’t understand. Usually though, I’m somewhat devoid of emotion or visibly confused or disturbed when asking questions attached to, “I don’t understand.” I can’t always communicate very well in that state. It’s the mockery and invalidation that usually push me over the edge. I’m not stupid. I can read body language and I understand your words.
Over the years I’ve learned how to convert curiosity/question/notice/wonder straight to bitter hopelessness and move on with my day. I can feel my self turn to ash and float downwards inside me as I do nothing or walk away. Fighting the thought that I don’t matter isn’t worth it because in those moments it’s completely true. What I have to say or my concern or thought doesn’t matter and if I pursue matter-ing it could (and has) make things worse. I ask much like Sheldon Cooper, with a level of non-intellectual understanding only slightly higher.
So I end up hating people. That I very much understand. I “speak Michelle,” as a provider of mine said long ago, and not many others do. I am cross-lingual in a few other person-dialects, but in observation the two-way mirror only reveals one side. This morning’s argument was me asking for details about an event I was asked to donate something to for a raffle, which I believe is questionable but didn’t point out.
Excerpts from convo this morning:
Person B: We always have raffle giveaways at our events to promote wellness…
Person B: Why what (sic)
Me: Why have a standard of giving things away?
Person B: It’s not a standard. It’s something we like to do for our members. Why not? It’s generous. Omg!! You don’t like free mental health stuff??? Interesting.
Me: Don’t put words in my mouth. Free mental health stuff is fine sometimes, but it all costs money and at the end of the day I have to sit with and justify on paper what we spent the group’s money on. Does that make sense? I don’t mind contributing to your raffle. I just wanted to know the details.
I was livid but calm in text. If in her language “always” doesn’t equal a “standard,” there is no purpose in trying to get through.
It’s harder for me to interact with other humans I don’t understand than to harm myself by attempting to fill my own needs without engaging them. This afternoon’s debacle is within myself about why the HELL I can’t do anything today because I can’t think because my head hurts on the one day I have actual time. (PRN)
So very alone. I hate myself.
I don’t understand.
© Michelle Routhieaux 2018
I don’t understand why more guys don’t do Zumba. It’s free or cheap live exotic dancing in a socially acceptable setting. No one expects the dance to look great. In fact, most of us hate those skinny bitches who do it all perfect and sexy. Fuck them. Since I’ve lost weight and can dance I think I might be one of them now. But I don’t care. It feels fucking good.
I do things in Zumba I’d never do in “real life.” I want to be watched, complimented, to be in the dance and then walk away. It’s all a practice. This one’s just more sexy. And currently mostly a reprieve from men seeking women. What a comedy that might be…
© Michelle Routhieaux 2018
As I stared out from the log/cave (bottom center of the page), S- asked what I saw. Squirrels. There were two squirrels eating nuts at the base of a tree. There was a black bear and a mountain lion, each peaceful. The air was hazy, debris floating free. I could see the bottom of the legs of two firefighters as they ran past me in slow motion. I couldn’t hear. It was that soundless-emerging that happens after an explosion or emergency, sometimes with loud high-pitched ringing. This though was a thick lack of sound that stopped communications, put itself between me and everything else. The sound becomes the glass that separates me…
And as I drew I remembered the reddish glow of the sky. I wasn’t sure what words would accompany. Since I drew the other half of the fire-people I thought they could use a hose. And out of the hose came PRESENCE, and it put out the PAIN.
© Michelle Routhieaux 2018
The Only Safe Space
We talked a lot about the concept of impermanence. The colors were bright and the idea scared me. I was present, some of the time, but answered, “Bubbles!” at a less than ideal moment. I went outside in a very dark space and started blowing bubbles I had in my purse. As I pondered, I watched the bubbles pop – like Cinderella does when she’s scrubbing the floor and singing. I watched the bubbles pop. And it dawned on me that they were proof I am capable of accepting an impermanent thing without freaking out.
Then I figured I should probably go someplace safe. At first nothing came to mind, but then I remembered I have a list of places on a crisis plan in my journal. I tried to recall them instead of looking and, as the places came to mind, I asked myself what they all had in common… The only thing these places had in common was me. So, the only safe space is me. It’s a lot to take in.
Session 5/30/18, Drawing 6/19/19, Description 7/7/18
© Michelle Routhieaux 2018
Permission to Breathe
From Session Work – 5/15/2018
Excerpt from related writing:
“S- is right. I have been losing weight… If I inhale just right, like in lyrical dancing or turns, that feeling comes back. Bone sticking out, ribs expanded, hollow underneath, organs hug my spine, shoulders down, hips squared, head high, sometimes on my toes with beautiful arms, or just the torso part with the rest dancing in my head. I haven’t had the privilege of that feeling in a very long time. And if I can do that again, then it’s okay to make shapes when I breathe. The crescent moon – belly soft and round on one side but when you spin it around the other side is concave. Just like my belly when I breathe or dance. I’ve been thinking about this symbol. I drew it on my hand so every time I look down I see it. It gives me permission to breathe. I AM the crescent moon… I even hate my body less today.”
© Michelle Routhieaux 2018