Frozen Pines

Not a whole lot to say, really. The sunset was pretty. There’s a cold front moving in. My spine hurts.

Currently listening to this album, one I’ve listened to many times before.

Psychiatry in Alabama

This subject is a very familiar one within my blog but I write about things I know and this particular subject is one I’ve been exposed to every weekday for years, so I know a little bit about it. I think it is an important subject and should be talked about more often, but I seem to be one of very few people willing to openly discuss mental health in my local area. However, we have a problem, and the problem seems to only be getting worse.

The internet, in my opinion, is both a blessing and a curse. With the ease of use and access to tools we never before imagined possible, half of my life has been engineered to adapt to these technological advances and increasing speeds. The problem is that many people in my neck of the woods have resisted these advances for decades. But thanks to passing generations, and with most processes becoming automated, common people are basically forced to adapt or opt out of particpating altogether. As a result, we have seen more and more (for lack of a more accurate term) backwoods people either learning how to use the internet, or learning how to make meth.

We have also seen how this has impacted society over time- on any level you prefer to measure. But for the sake of my argument, I’m keeping it local– and appropriately so, as I’ve been incessantly encouraged to shop, eat, listen and live my life locally within the confines of this triangular county for as long as I can remember. That alone can drive a person to the brink of insanity- as I begrudgingly learned during the God forsaken pandemic.

The impacts of social media and the increasing access to the world wide web has done a number on the locals. On one hand, it’s driven people to a level of crazy I didn’t think possible. On the other, a lot of people are getting a deeper understanding of how truly important it is to care for your mind, and not only that- but also that there is no shame in doing so. The stigma around mental healthcare is beginning to dissipate around here and that gives me hope.

I think about the year I was going door to door to offer flyers for a clinic, and the confused, eye roll, or otherwise brutal reactions I received, and compare that to my day today, when the phone endlessly rang as people on the other end were biting their nails, praying for an appointment. Unfortunately, offline access and resources are incredibly limited, and it’s wearing me the fuck out.

I’ve worked in patient access and as a front desk receptionist for three different mental healthcare facilities across the Tennessee Valley for basically a decade. I have helped two of those companies in marketing, intake coordination, scheduling, insurance verification, and more. I have seen first hand how difficult it is for a person to get on a schedule to see a provider. I have seen the quick turn arounds of providers within facilities. I have witnessed countless patients come and go based on their levels of income or whether they were able to have access to insurance. And, as I mentioned yesterday, I have received news of suicide more times than I can count. My heart has been broken on a regular basis for a very long time, and my God- something needs to change.

My plea and prayer is that anyone who works in the field of Psychiatry and has a heart and maybe a nugget of bravery take a moment to examine the dire need of prescribing providers within the sick, sad state of Alabama. Every single day I see reports of child rape and abuse, domestic violence, drug convictions, murder, and so forth. I realize that it is everywhere, but these are the lines that are published on a daily basis- these are the stories that are shared. Each day that passes, I count higher numbers of intakes that I conducted. People are trying to take care of their psyche and the wait time to see a provider is up to nearly three months into the future.

Locally, we have two facilities that house M.D.’s who are able to write prescriptions for psychiatric medications. Our ever expanding population is making it more and more difficult for low income families to have any mental health access at all because many are unable to make the forty-five minute drive north or south to Huntsville or Birmingham. So they feel literally stuck, with no one to turn to. This is disastrous for a growing town. Jobs have increased dramatically, which is great, but access to schools, housing, and medical needs have not. It is creating great problems for facilities like that in which I answer phones for. It is gut wrenching to me when I have to inform someone seeking help that, well, sorry- we can’t take your case. And here’s the only other number I can give you to try elsewhere. And good luck, because their turnover is atrocious because they don’t get paid shit.

If you are qualified and willing to take on a great challenge, Alabama needs a helping hand that can write drug names on prescription pads.

Priorities

Two of my most recent blogs (yes, I have kept more over the years) have held a central theme throughout: starting from the bottom and working your way up. This could be taken literally in fact, as I do encourage anyone who cares to read what I care to write to begin at the beginning, and then continue reading in the order in which my entries are posted. It may make more sense this way, and the natural timeline allows the reader to see how I may have progressed- both as a writer and as an individual human.

As I get older and wiser, I can look back on my writing and the subject matter and opinions which I once held sacred. Tonight, I wanted to touch on this subject because I’ve been doing a lot of reflecting lately in between busting my ass (I work… a lot). My first therapy session entailed a lot of recounting and brought me back to mental spaces I’ve kept buried down deep for a long time, and others I’ve replayed like a broken record to the point I feel completely helpless.

Yesterday, my best friend found two small toddlers playing in the middle of the road. Thankfully, he saved their lives. Earlier today, I spoke to a mother who felt helpless, as she described her son who has been feeling hopeless. Thankfully, I was able to reassure her and help is on its way, and she even told me I had such a peaceful tone and my voice alone helped her relax, which in turn brightened my day and gave me more confidence to continue doing my extremely challenging job to the best of my ability. This evening, I spoke to a childhood friend who gave me some terrible news about someone we know who ended their own life. Thankfully, uh… well…

nevermind

There is no upside or happy ending or saving grace in suicide. There are only broken hearts.

A lot of shit happens throughout a person’s life when you allow yourself to live long enough. Sometimes, things do not make a lick of sense. Sometimes, pieces of the puzzle look like they just don’t want to fit into that frame. Sometimes, Bob Ross paints the trunk of a tree down the fucking middle of the canvas and you think he must be completely insane. But that’s life. And that’s Bob.

I hear the phrase “it is what it is” multiple times a day it seems. Yeah… it IS what it is, I GUESS. But could we perhaps look at life using a different lens? Could we possibly see the world for its possibilities? Are we able to treat ourselves and each other with mutual respect, kindness, gratitude, and love? Can we offer help even when we need help ourselves? Can we offer hope when our own situation appears hopeless? Can we extend any morsel of understanding to those who desperately seek to touch another human soul so they not feel so utterly alone in the world?

Is it really what it is? What else can it be?

It can be better. That is the one thing I’ve known from the beginning. And every day that passes- every entry I’ve ever posted, every soul I’ve ever touched, or that’s ever touched me… I know beyond a shadow of a doubt- it can be better.

Priorities.

When I Was Your Age

My work day was absolutely chaotic, but during difficult times in my personal life, absolute chaos at work is what I prefer. I wasn’t allowed any time at all to give my daughter’s situation harder thought. However, I did have a five minute window to speak to someone whose son goes to my daughter’s school, and unfortunately, her son is being harassed as well. The difference is- he is being harassed by the school officers. And so, while the situation sucks for her- and us- it could be much worse.

Without going into too many details, I will describe the basic scenario. Student isn’t doing well in school. Having difficulties both at school and at home. It isn’t necessarily all of his fault- he has legitimate reasons for being behind and appearing to be somewhat troubled. But the GROWN ADULTS seem to be making his situation much worse. His friend has been experiencing an even more disparaging situation. An officer wrongly accused him of doing an activity (vaping in the bathroom), which led to a body search, which produced no evidence- and while it should have ended there, the GROWN MAN then searched the MINOR CHILD’S vehicle. The GROWN MAN discovered some hiking boots and a pocket knife INSIDE THE VEHICLE and the MINOR CHILD received out of school suspension for TWENTY ONE DAYS. The parents, naturally, were infuriated. He began having more issues (duh), and so, was pulled out of his high school, away from the peers he had grown up with, to be homeschooled.

On the flip side of being hyperactive and goofy as a minor child, I could be quite verbally and physically aggressive. I kicked a girl in the leg (elementary school), punched a girl (middle school), slashed a girl’s tires and got into a car chase which resulted in threatening physical violence (high school), and other terrible rage filled activities, because I honest to God felt as though I had no other choice. I legitimately felt as though my life, when threatened in any way, depended on it.

I am small. I was always the runt of my class. My bark was bigger than anyone’s because it had to be. As I grew older, I realized that my bark would some day get me killed. It took a four year physically and emotionally violent marriage to put me in full check. It was that terrible relationship- which almost literally killed me- that saved me in the long run. I turned myself around. I can still have a temper in certain situations, but I am much more cautious and use much wiser judgment before acting on impulse. Working in mental healthcare, reading self help books the better majority of my life, and just learning from mistakes in general have also aided in calming my shit down.

When I hear stories that indicate history is repeating its stupid self again- in any capacity- it usually makes me feel negative emotions and I at least provide the world with my locally famous eye roll. But when I hear stories as mentioned above, I feel absolute rage. I physically tremble. Sometimes I go numb. And, on nights like tonight, I curl up in the bathtub and sob like a baby.

Oh how I miss the days of softball and volleyball and war ball. Swinging a bat, hitting a ball, running hard as hell, getting people out. I love being physical and aggressive. I love getting that out of me. If only I could challenge these assholes to a game. I’d sift through the cliques and push back the squares.

Wisdom

Today started out with my very first therapy session. It was a basic get to know you in a nutshell hour which I fully expected and was somewhat prepared for. It all went well and I enjoyed meeting my new therapist and she was, of course, very gracious and kind- and already giving me words I feel I had been missing internally.

My mind is a strange place. When you have lived thirty years in one small place, a place where everybody knows your name (and full background), it can be incredibly challenging to get through and around major life events- especially events that didn’t just impact you directly, but also, an entire school or church (not random examples).

Tonight, I learned that my daughter is being bullied at school. Now a Junior, this is the first time either of us is hearing about this type of behavior from her peers. She is autistic, and social situations can be harder to navigate. She enjoys school because of the wealth of information she is taking in, not because of the cliques- which, by the way, are generations old.

I explained to her that other people’s opinions of what she may or may not do or who she is or isn’t may confuse her or hurt her feelings (she is the sweetest person I have ever met in my entire life), but she should always reassure herself of the truth. Lashing out, getting revenge, or any other negative reactions would probably result in negative consequences- thereby worsening the situation. I encouraged her to continue being her true self, and any time a situation arises, to seek assistance from a trusted adult and always come to me for any reason. We hugged, we cried, we smiled, we laughed, we moved forward. That is what peacemakers do.

After completing my bedtime wind down process, I decided to do that thing I do every so often. I randomly flipped open my Bible, and my eyes read James chapter 3, verses 13 through 18. And so, I cried and smiled some more.

Sweet dreams, Peacemakers

Dr Caroline Leaf – Still Contradicted by the Latest Evidence, Scripture and Herself

I often tend to overlap my studies of science (specifically in the psychological realm) with my studies of The Bible and spirituality, and as this post describes, more and more people are falling into similar spaces that- on the surface- appear totally accurate and enlightening. On the other hand, if a person isn’t well versed in these subjects below Scripture or Neuroscience, it can be disastrous.

I encourage people to research these things for themselves and come to their own full understanding before coming to the conclusion that Ted Talker is providing factual information and treating it as literal gospel truth. Otherwise, a lot of people might find themselves living in a hopeless situation full of disappointment- which apparently is what most people in her (Dr. Leaf’s) audience are trying to avoid, hence the quest for this knowledge. They are seeking truth. But beware of false prophets… they profit from your lack of understanding.

After reading Dr. Pitt’s entries, I felt compelled to open my Bible. Each time I open my Bible, I do so with a clear and open mind and heart. I typically never intend to choose a passage unless I am seeking out answers to specific questions. Tonight, I opened my Bible as I randomly do and my eyes saw the words “False Prophets” immediately. If only I were lying- but with everything I am, I assure you this is the truth. And so, I felt compelled to reblog and share this with you. Whatever you get from this, take it straight to your heart.

Matthew 7:15-18: A Tree and Its Fruit

“Watch out for false prophets. They come to you in sheep’s clothing, but inwardly they are ferocious wolves. By THEIR fruit you will recognize them. Do people pick grapes from thornbushes, or figs from thistles? Likewise every good tree bears good fruit, but a bad tree bears bad fruit.”

Dr C. Edward Pitt

Leaf Cognitive Neuroscientist

Dr Caroline Leaf is a communication pathologist, world renowned author, public speaker, and self-titled cognitive neuroscientist. Her influence continues to grow. She is regularly invited to speak at some of the world’s largest churches. She spoke at her first TEDx conference in February, and she’s about to host her own conference for the second time. She has more than 120,000 Facebook followers, with many more on Twitter and other social media platforms. And she continues to top the sales charts of Christian best sellers.

She is a self-marketing machine.

But there are cracks appearing. More and more, people are realizing that beneath the facade of her numerous Instagram posts, happy snaps, and the allure of popular success, Dr Leafs teachings on science and the Bible don’t match up with actual science and good theology. While many in the church adorn themselves with her teaching, a growing minority are starting to…

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Bad Credit? No problem!

Today is Halloween day, which has always been a personal favorite. I babysat last night for some friends who visited a haunted house. So I watched Sing and Toy Story until one a.m. and then laid my head down around two.

This morning as I was having my coffee, I was thinking about something that apparently scares me the most- being broke. I thought about the possibilities of what I would do in a different situation. Then I realized how many people I know who openly talk about things like this on a regular basis.

The truth is, I am surrounded by men and women who are gifted in the art of carpentry and yet the majority find themselves settling for prefab or manufactured homes solely based on cost. If given the opportunity to purchase a plot of land, I wonder what these people would build with their own hands. Many who have been awarded this opportunity have built impressive structures, built to withstand tornadoes.

I cannot count the number of people I know who have openly expressed their ideas for saving energy, or using natural materials in building. One engineer carved his home out of the side of a mountain, and the steel beam work and air system is outstanding, while the natural rock formations on the exterior are just breathtaking. There are so many brilliant minds and callused hands around this region and the vultures in suits are circling above.

I dream of building my own house some day and passing out candy to the kids who make it past the magnolia tree.

Happy Halloween.

Cold Air

As a nature loving explorer who doesn’t mind critters, the winter months involve things I’m never quite prepared to embrace. One of those things includes cold air. Being very small and having fractured my spine on two separate occasions, cold air tends to be quite painful in the literal sense. I am hoping that my upcoming therapy sessions will help to alleviate my extreme anxiety while I am driving, which in turn, should help relieve some of that physical ache.

Growing up, while I read and watched shows about Hank Williams, it never occurred to me to pay much attention to his death. In those days, I was far more interested in his music and how he wrote such sad songs based on his circumstances. Only when I had turned thirty and learned Hank didn’t make it beyond twenty-nine did I realize how prevalent those circumstances were in his habit of numbing the pain by way of whiskey (like so many before and after him), which subsequently resulted in his untimely demise.

Mr. Williams experienced severe back pain that often kept him from making his magic in front of an audience. Upon learning of his condition, Hank reportedly said, “Cure me or kill me, Doc. I can’t go on like this.” Even after surgery, Hank still struggled with the pain, like so many of us to this day.

And like Hank Williams, we find ways to numb the pain. This, I feel, is why seasonal depression affects so many people all over the world. Extract the hustle, bustle, stress, pressure, fear, conflict, guilt, regret, and whatever else we are tortured with during the holidays, you still find evidence there is a population (and growing one, at that) of folks who are just very plainly having difficulty going on like this: desperate for any relief from anywhere.

In addition to whiskey, Hank’s other choices for temporary numbness involved extremely unhealthy and dangerous (especially mixed with alcohol) drugs, like heroin, morphine and cocaine. After a certain line is crossed, all it takes is adding a snowstorm and torturous car ride to do in even a famously creative, artistic, talented genius. And he will sing to us no more. He will only have left behind his entire being, who was desperately pleading for help to an audience who was only invested in devouring his broken heart.

Winter is a beautiful time of year. Creatures tuck themselves away, life lays dormant, all is calm. Naturally. When we would naturally feel inclined to just relax in a hot, Epsom salt bath, the majority instead is focused on creating a wild and wonderful atmosphere of bright, shiny, colorful things that blink and twirl and rock. Our eyes become permanently fixated on highly impermanent cardboard and wrapping paper. The traditions flow like whiskey. Anyone and everyone is invited to join in the chorus of praising, thanking the Almighty for our many blessings and toys.

My house made these attempts for years. We genuinely and thoroughly enjoyed participating in the annual celebration and my tight-knit family somehow pulled it off so that each and every one of us- from Papa Bennett at age ninety-three to my brother at age three- had a grand ole time. Good food, fun and carefree atmosphere, Scrabble, coffee, live steel guitar and piano playing, singing, movies, story telling, loud laughter, sentimental presents. We still make our attempts today, but it is evident to every one of us that is left, how slow and more challenging these attempts have become.

Since I was eight years old, I have numbed my back pain in a variety of ways. I have tried and cried and lived and learned. Winter is certainly the most wonderfully challenging time of the year, especially once I turned thirty. Working at relieving my body pain becomes a greater priority as I age. Ever wonder why people retire to the South? Or why your grandmother keeps fuzzy socks on her feet and the thermostat set to 82 degrees? Good. Don’t even bother.

Finding healthy alternatives to synthetic drugs and whiskey has been something I have researched and actively implemented for years. Prayer and meditation, as I’ve written about many times, also become more and more frequent and useful.

My prayer this winter is that I reduce my anxiety. Have fun shopping.

Bad Religion at The Tabernacle

War on Women, Alkaline Trio, and Bad Religion put on amazing shows last night at The Tabernacle in Atlanta, Georgia.

My daughter stood at the front of the stage, while I lounged in my balcony chair, like a senior at the back of the bus.

She got a Bad Religion set list after the show, and I giggled at the fact the word “encore” was typed and printed.

Go Braves (haha)!

On to the next show, comrades.