January: Human Trafficking Awareness Month

Graphic created by Liza Zoellick 2023

Most people have a basic understanding of what human trafficking means, but they aren’t aware that it could be happening right next door in their suburban neighborhood. Here is the best definition I found, which also includes the methods typically employed by traffickers: Human Trafficking is the recruitment, transportation, transfer, harboring, or receipt of people through force, fraud, or deception, with the aim of exploiting them for profit. Men, women, and children of all ages and from all backgrounds can become victims of this crime, which occurs in every region of the world. The traffickers often use violence, fraudulent employment agencies, and fake promises of education and job opportunities to trick and coerce their victims.1 The five types of human trafficking are: trafficking for forced labor, trafficking for forced criminal activities, trafficking in women for sexual exploitation, trafficking for the removal of organs, and people smuggling. We tend to only hear about the trafficking of women for sex and people smuggling. This includes coyotes trafficking in immigrants over the border, or smugglers cramming trucks, boats, box cars, or virtually any other mode of transport, full of people, without proper ventilation, food, or stops, and who regularly “abandon migrants in the desert or mountains with no food or water, leaving them for dead.” 2

grayscale portrait of woman
Photo by NEOSiAM 2021 on Pexels.com

This is a tragedy, and yet, there are other, equally tragic forms of human trafficking that happen right under our noses. Some of which could be happening right in your neighborhood or at your favorite restaurant or bodega, and you would not know. Traffickers frequently operate under the radar because of the complexity of the crime, and people who are trafficked are unlikely to identify as victims, frequently blaming their circumstances on themselves. Because victims rarely reveal their circumstances, it is harder to pinpoint the crime in this context. Frequently, victims are re-categorized as criminals or unauthorized immigrants and treated as such. They may be concealed behind doors when working as domestic labor in a house. In other situations, victims interact with people regularly, live in public places like restaurants, factories, and exotic dance clubs, and are subjected to forced labor or commercial sexual exploitation under harsh conditions without being recognized because of a lack of identification training and awareness. 3

It is critical to understand that human trafficking is the modern equivalent of slavery. It is people who are being held against their will, who are being violated or are in danger of violence, and who are unable to leave (even if they initially decided to leave, as is the situation with coyotes and immigrants trying to cross the border). They might not be paid or compensated in a timely manner. It could come in the form of food or a sum of money that is far less than the minimum wage and just provides for basic needs. They are imprisoned in farms, factories, mines, brothels, and a variety of other businesses. 71% of the victims of human trafficking are women and girls. As a result, one in every 130 women and girls is subjected to this atrocity. 4 The majority of the time, somebody they know—such as a family member, caregiver, romantic partner, or employer—recruits trafficking victims. This is called “familial sex trafficking,” when a relative (the trafficker) trades pornographic access to victims for another item of value on the market. Children and teens are “deliberately used by family members searching for payoff in the form of drugs, money, or something else of value” in 36% of human trafficking cases, according to the CTDC (Counter Trafficking Data Collective). 5

adult alone boy building
Photo by Pixabay on Pexels.com

I decided to write a blog post about human trafficking this month for two reasons: 1.) to raise awareness of human trafficking among those who read it, and 2.) because I am a lifelong crime junkie and a HUGE fan of the Crime Junkie Podcast. https://crimejunkiepodcast.com/missing-natanalie-perez/ They recently did a podcast focusing on Natanlie “Naty” Perez. Naty disappeared in Miami in June of 2012. She was 19 years old then, 5’1″ and 130 pounds, and she was last seen at Burke’s Motel on Southwest 8th Street. She graduated from Sebring, Florida, but moved to Miami to chase her singing dreams. Instead, she was ensnared in a violent sex-trafficking ring that catered to wealthy men in fancy suits. There are many reasons why Naty was unable to break away from this ring, as well as why her family was powerless to help her. It really highlights how someone can be caught up in this horror and be unable to escape it. Please listen to learn more about Natanlie Perez. You might be the key to learning what happened to her. 6

Natanalie “Naty” Perez Blog Miami Trafficking CST

How You Can Spot Human Trafficking

[Most Common Signs] 7

  • Someone is living with their employer.
  • Someone is under 18 and involved as a sex worker.
  • Someone has very poor living conditions and/or there are multiple people living in a very confined space.
  • You are unable to speak to that individual alone.
  • Someone’s employer has confiscated and is holding their passport or other identity documents.
  • There are signs of physical abuse, like bruising or other injuries.
  • The individual seems submissive or fearful.
  • The individual is underpaid or is paid very little money.
  • The individual’s response seems to be rehearsed or scripted.

If you suspect that you’ve come across human trafficking, you should seek help immediately. If you are in the United States, call (1-888-373-7888) or text (233733) the National Human Trafficking Hotline and explain the situation. If the situation is urgent and you think someone is in immediate danger, call 911. If you are in another country, contact the authorities there right away.

Sources

  1. “Human-Trafficking.” United Nations : Office on Drugs and Crime, //www.unodc.org/unodc/en/human-Trafficking/Human-Trafficking.html. Accessed 10 Jan. 2023.
  2. “Eight Indicted in Joint Task Force Alpha Investigation and Arrested as Part of Takedown of Prolific Human Smuggling Network.” Eight Indicted in Joint Task Force Alpha Investigation and Arrested as Part of Takedown of Prolific Human Smuggling Network | OPA | Department of Justice, 13 Sept. 2022, http://www.justice.gov/opa/pr/eight-indicted-joint-task-force-alpha-investigation-and-arrested-part-takedown-prolific-human.
  3. “Human Trafficking.” Human Trafficking | ICE, 12 July 2022, http://www.ice.gov/features/human-trafficking.
  4. “What Is Modern Day Slavery? – Voices4freedom.” What Is Modern Day Slavery? – Voices4freedom, http://www.voices4freedom.org/what-is-modern-day-slavery/?gclid=CjwKCAiAwc-dBhA7EiwAxPRylDsvQX_af0GBmohaZl9lANnYBqUCtRZ12Wsm1yCiN8R97uQ_tYCpCxoC8n4QAvD_BwE. Accessed 10 Jan. 2023.
  5. Powell, Mara. “Familial Sex Trafficking: Victims Hiding in Plain Sight – Face It.” Face It, 9 Jan. 2020, faceitabuse.org/2020/01/09/familial-sex-trafficking-victims-hiding-in-plain-sight.
  6. “A Family’s Heartbreak: ‘We Just Want Her Home.’” National Center for Missing & Exploited Children, 1 June 2020, http://www.missingkids.org/blog/2020/a-familys-heatbreak.html.
  7. McKissock. “Do You Know the Signs of Human Trafficking in a Home? They Might Help You Save a Life – McKissock Learning.” McKissock Learning, 8 Jan. 2019, http://www.mckissock.com/blog/real-estate/human-trafficking-signs.

Ditch the Resolutions

a woman writing numbers on sand with her hand
Photo by Engin Akyurt on Pexels.com

It’s almost a full week into January as I write this, and it’s been a whirlwind, for sure. Coming back from the holidays, you can feel exhausted and energetic all at once. You’re exhausted from parties, get-togethers, family, and vacations, while feeling energetic and optimistic about the New Year and the new changes you’ve decided to make in your life. I purposefully say ‘new changes’ instead of ‘resolutions’ because I’ve always hated the mandatory resolutions that came with New Year’s Eve. It felt like before that ball dropped or before it turned 12:01, if you didn’t have a resolution, you had failed in life. But the truth is that most resolutions fail. As I open up my handy-dandy statistics book (OK, it’s Google, but listen anyways), only 9–12% of people keep their New Year’s resolutions. [1]According to a 2016 study, of the 41% of Americans who make New Year’s resolutions, by the end of the year, only 9% feel they are successful in keeping them. [2] I won’t continue throwing statistics at you, because statistics give me a headache, but mostly because that isn’t what this is about. What is this about, you ask? Let me tell you.

Like most of you, I keep up with my friends out of state on Instagram and Facebook. I was scrolling through the other day when I came to a halt on one of my old school friends. Her name is Jennifer, and she is a pastor in, Pennsylvania. You can tell through her posts that she is an inherently kind person, that she puts forth great effort to practice what she preaches, and that she has a great sense of humor. I have been a great admirer of her posts for a long time now, and during the pandemic lock-down, I found her to be incredibly inspiring. Her New Year’s post is equal parts inspirational and motivational.  

Taken from FaceBook
Taken from FaceBook

As we head into the New Year, we are often looking backward into the year before or even further back to mistakes we’ve made, failed accomplishments, or things about ourselves we need to fix. We are seeking ways to “try again” instead of starting over. A new year should be about starting fresh, and I love her idea of choosing a word to focus on instead of something to fix. I am the type of person who can get bogged down in details and lose focus on the whole picture. It’s why I practice meditation, and this is a lot like meditation. You choose one word to be your focus for the year, and then you use that word to set intentions for the year.

“Willpower,” for example, could encompass passing the cheesecake or wine at a party if you are watching your weight; it could include hitting the pavement at 5 a.m. to get that run in; or it could entail setting boundaries and having the strength to say no to a toxic relationship in your life. Another word is “journey.” Maybe you have a goal like finishing school or getting that extra degree. Is there an idea for a business that you want to get off the ground? These are all journeys that we take in life that are sometimes long roads with ups, downs, and detours.

silhouette of man sitting on grass field at daytime
Photo by Spencer Selover on Pexels.com

Your journey may be a physical one, like a move across the country or out of the country. Maybe a trip by plane, train, or car is something you’ve been putting off. Or is this a metaphysical journey of the self or a spiritual journey of the soul? These are all journeys, and while your focus word may be that one word, it can unite with so many different aspects of life, allowing you to delve into different parts of yourself, your life, or your relationships.This is also an invaluable tool for the Spoonie community. These intentions that you set for the year allow you to focus on all these different aspects of your life at your own time and pace. I think it’s a kinder and gentler way to approach New Year’s goals without having a resolution breathe down your neck, that most of the time fail miserably. Let’s look forward to the New Year and all the possibilities that await us and what are you waiting for? Choose that word for the year! Here are few to get you started.

Created by Liza Zoellick w/ texture by Spidergypsy @ DeviantArt

By the way, I chose Grace. <3

Merry Holidays

Hello! It’s been a minute, huh? Sometimes, life gets a little crazy and as much as I’d love to, blogging becomes an impossible task. There’s just no other reason for it and I hope those who read this will understand. Between feeling crappy and watching the grand-baby, and then gearing up for holidays that feel like they are one after the other, I’ve been busy.

However, no rest for the wicked! I have been carefully planning this next year of blogs and I will be getting more content out there this next year, 2023. I am hoping to have more time with the baby going into day-care and because of my new infusions. I had to change from Remicade to Inflectra, due to insurance and my body did not like it at all, even though they are supposed to be virtually the same. Now, I am on Simponi Aria, and had my first dose about two weeks ago. I can’t say I feel different, but I am hoping to be stable. Even a little better would make life and blogging easier.

I wish all of you out there a Merry Solstice, Happy Christmas, and Happy Hanukkah or whatever you may be celebrating this time of year. I hope you are able to spend this time with those you love. If your loved one is deployed, I hope you are able to see them soon and wish you strength until then. I know how difficult it is during the holidays when loved ones are serving. Thank you for your service as a military family, and their service. I will be back in 2023!

Accepting or Not accepting chronic illness

Your Relationship with Chronic Illness is Personal

Let me begin by stating that I do not have multiple sclerosis, Let me also say that how one deals with their chronic illness is extremely personal and cannot be deemed as right or wrong. However, this is something that people who struggle with chronic illness face, and it is not something that ends after you decide. For example, perhaps you decide to accept your illness. This doesn’t mean that 5 years down the road you aren’t willing to re-evaluate, or vice versa. Chronic illness is a beast, and because it is something you have for the entirety of your life, it can be a very fluid, ever-changing beast.

Be Pissed. Be Accepting. Be Both.

I read the article in Hollywood Life about Christina Applegate’s struggle with MS and how she admits she’s “never going to accept this.” When I read this, I was admittedly a little torn in my sentiments. I have several chronic autoimmune disorders that have absolutely changed the trajectory of my life. This isn’t where I thought I would be and what I thought I would be doing at 48 years old. The last ten years have been turbulent and much of it spent trying to accurately diagnose my illness. In the beginning, I was very much in that same camp of, “No, I am not about to let this defeat me. I am pissed.” But then, after a few years, I migrated toward an acceptance of my illness and how it changed my life. But after another year or two, I realized that you can live in both camps. I accept my illness. After all, it’s not going to change; there is no cure, and all I can do is manage from day to day. But I can still be angry and unwilling to allow this beast to take any more from me.

The complexity of Chronic Illness.

It is also scary. It can fluctuate from day to day. Hell, it can change from hour to hour. Sometimes, it can change so drastically that you look in the mirror and you don’t recognize yourself or your life anymore. Chronic illness means living life “a quarter mile at a time.” Enjoying things you can when you can; taking time to slow down and rest when you need to, despite what anyone else thinks. It also means fighting like hell and railing against your illness when you can. Hating it. Mourning your life before. There’s no right or wrong way to accept this change in life. You deal with it each day in whatever way you think is most effective.

What You Choose Is Enough.

I applaud Christina Applegate’s authenticity and her perseverance through this ever-evolving illness. It isn’t easy for anyone to accept that they aren’t able to function as they once did or to accept help, whether from a walking aid or a human. It isn’t easy to watch your body change helplessly because there isn’t anything you can do about it. After all, your body is fighting against you. There’s no other way to say it, other than it is hard- really hard. There’s no cookie-cutter approach to handling this kind of diagnosis or how you proceed with your life afterward. You do what you need to do when you need to. That is all. It’s enough.

The Positive Aspects of a Mid-Life Crisis

Many people experience a mid-life crisis, defined as feeling dissatisfied with their life and the choices they’ve made personally and at work. It can hit around the age of 50 or if you are going through a time of change, such as kids leaving home, the declining health of your parents, or progressing as far as you can in your current career. This crisis isn’t necessarily a bad thing. Instead, it can be the catalyst to take a fresh look at your life and work and move into more fulfilling activities. LoveKarmaFood shares some inspiring ways to deal with your mid-life slump.

Get Serious About Your Health

Cheerful Choices notes that pursuing a healthy lifestyle offers you many positive benefits, such as:

  • Prevents cardiovascular disease
  • Boosts your energy level
  • Improves your mood
  • Better physical and mental health
  • Saves money spent on doctors visits

It all starts with eating nutritious food that fuels your body with the nutrients it needs to thrive. Focus on eating fruit, vegetables, lean protein meats, fish, eggs, nuts, beans, whole grains, and low-fat dairy products. Avoid processed and fried foods and sugary drinks or desserts.

The second way to get healthy is to follow the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention recommendation to get two days of strengthening exercises and five days of 30 minutes of moderate physical activity. Ways to accomplish these goals is to join a nearby gym or work out at home. 

Get Emotional Support

If you feel overwhelmed emotionally, you can look for a therapist to provide mental health support. There are therapists available online who offer virtual sessions, giving you a private, secure, and convenient way to get the counseling you need. You also save travel time and pay less for this virtual mental health care. You have various licensed professional therapists to choose from in online therapy. Many counselors offer a free initial consultation to ensure you are a good match for each other.

Move Into New Surroundings

Sometimes a move to new digs helps you to refocus, re-energize, and meet new people. Consider moving and finding a new home to make a fresh start in an area you’ve always loved; you can always rent instead of buy, too. When scouting homes, look for homes in neighborhoods with the amenities you need. View online listings to find properties in your price range with your desired number of bathrooms and bedrooms to locate the perfect place.

Pursue Learning Opportunities

Have you always wanted to learn how to speak French or play a musical instrument? Mid-life is a great time to fulfill that goal and start taking lessons. Or perhaps you always wanted to get certified as a fitness instructor or a nutritionist but kept putting it off. Take the time to pursue those growth opportunities now.

Start Your Own Business and Utilize Content Marketing

If your career is stalled or no longer fulfilling, consider starting your own business doing something you are passionate about. All the skills and experience you gained in your career can now be used in your own business. Improve your chances of entrepreneurial success by creating a detailed business plan. In your plan, describe your company and how you plan to sell your products or services. Add in how you will structure your company, financial projections, and any funding you need to get started.

You’ll also want to include your marketing plan, a large and important part of which should contain your content marketing strategy. As a specialized area of business promotion, effective content marketing can help you reach your business goals by increasing interest in your products or services. When you create and publish content on social media, blog posts, and your website, you can more effectively brand your business and drive traffic to your site. There are a few free resources to help you along like tips from Ahrefs, and to learn the ins and outs of content marketing check out Cornerstone Content.

Find Ways to Relieve Stress

Stress harms your physical and mental health. Therefore, it is essential that you find stress relief strategies that work for you. It could be as simple as taking time for a relaxing bath or starting a yoga or meditation practice. On the other hand, maybe spending more time outdoors is the best choice for you.

A mid-life crisis can inspire you to make positive changes in your life, such as prioritizing your health, moving to a locale that interests you, and even launching your own business. It can lead you to find the fulfillment you’re looking for in your personal life or career.

Image via Pexels

LoveKarmaFood informs and educates those that are misinformed about chronic pain and chronic illness while elevating those who struggle with pain and illness- and reminding them that they are not alone. Contact us today for more info!

Chronic Help: How to Be There for a Friend With a Chronic Illness

This is a wonderful article by Lexi, detailing easy things that friends or family can do to help those with chronic illnesses. It can be a daunting task to figure out where or how to help, but she offers some simple ways to help you get started. I’m so very appreciative of Lexi’s continued, valuable input. Thank you and enjoy!

by Lexi Dy

Chronic Illness

When you have a loved one suffering from a chronic illness, you want to help
in any way you can. By trying things like helping them get to doctor’s appointments,
providing home upkeep, and designing a stress-free home and work environment, you
can help your friend or family member and create a stronger bond. The following guide
presented below by Love.Karma.Food can help.

Help them get to doctor’s appointments

Your loved one may not be able to drive themselves to the doctor. When this is the
case, offer to give them a lift. Head over the night before to make sure all preparations
are ready. Make sure you have all the right forms of ID, a medication list complete with
dosages, medications needed during the appointment, snacks, and a change of clothes.

Arrive to pick up your loved one early, but don’t rush them out the door. Ensure
everything you arranged the night before is ready to go, then head out. As AARP
explains, you should be prepared to stay in the waiting room during the appointment;
your loved one may want privacy.

Help with home upkeep

Offer to help with cleaning (at least) once a week. It doesn’t have to be a deep clean
every time, but do wipe down surfaces like countertops, appliances, and mirrors. Clean
and disinfect the shower, tub, and toilet. Do laundry, especially bedding and towels.
Make sure that all of these items are on your loved one’s list and tackle anything else
they might ask you to do.
Some tasks will require the assistance of a professional. For instance, getting up on a
ladder to clean the gutters always seems easier than it actually is. Enlist the help of
trained gutter cleaners who have the right tools and knowledge and can inform you of
any issues. This is a task you usually only need to do twice a year depending on your
location.

Help them find assisted living

Deciding to move to an assisted living facility is a major life decision, and it’s important
to consider all of the pros and cons beforehand. If your friend has decided this is the
best course of action, spend some time helping them find a facility that suits their needs.
There are many websites dedicated to listing area assisted living facilities throughout
Houston. Not only can you check ratings and look at the services they provide
(transportation, pet-friendly, hospice, etc.), but you can also request pricing information
to see if the facility fits their lifestyle, medical needs, and budget.

Always invite them out

AgingCare notes that you shouldn’t let your loved one be defined by their condition.
Treat them as you would anyone else and include them in activities whenever possible.
Simply put, always invite them and don’t be offended if they don’t come. Let them know that it’s OK if they can’t make it and ask if there’s anything you can do to help. Don’t, however, get the idea that if they came to more events that they’d be “better.” Don’t try to fix them. A little encouragement to join in is fine, but don’t push too hard.

Be empathetic and compassionate

More than anything, you want to be an excellent listener. Don’t just sit and nod, really
listen. Avoid interjecting; it’s important that your loved one knows they can vent to you
without interruption. Ensure they know that you’re there because you love them, not
because you feel obligated. Validate their concerns; if they’re worried they didn’t
complete enough work that day, just note how frustrating that must be. Don’t offer
suggestions or try to pep them up. They’re allowed to have a bad day like anyone else.

Help design a stress-free home environment

The state of one’s home can have a major impact on mental well-being. Start by
removing clutter, especially in places like the bedroom, kitchen, and home office. Items
needed the most should be out in the open, while items that are used less should be
tucked away. Further, make the most of natural light.
If your loved one works from home, it’s especially important to make their office a calm, relaxing space. Ensure their technology is up-to-date, particularly if you’re very tech-savvy and you know shortcuts. Check that their desk chair is ergonomic and comfortable.
For some, an unsupportive chair can increase pain from their illness.
Supporting a loved one with a chronic illness is vitally important to your relationship.
Just be there for them. Whether you transport them to doctor’s appointments, help them
find assisted living facilities that suit their specific needs, invite them out regularly, show empathy and compassion, and design a stress-free work and home environment, you can show your support and love.

Photo by Unsplash

Life Changing Career Shifts for Women

When the Thomson Reuters Foundation collaborated with the Rockefeller Foundation to poll women at work in G20 economies about the challenges women face in the workforce, they found that the issues women are most concerned about are work-life balance, equal pay, harassment, career opportunities, and the choice between children and career. During the global coronavirus pandemic, women were disproportionately impacted by lockdowns that shuttered non-essential businesses and closed schools. This was especially true for the high percentage of women considered essential workers who found themselves without child care and socially distanced from their previous support systems. If you’re looking for some ways to enhance your life and improve your prospects in Houston, TX, consider starting your own businesses, seeking more sustainable careers, and pursuing promotions. 

Starting Your Own Business

Women entrepreneurs have greater control and flexibility in their personal and professional lives. The first step for starting your own business is to create a business plan. Business plans increase your chances of success, help you get funding, and guide the path of your business from start-up to expansion. Your business plan should describe your company, its structure, the funding needed, and its financial projections. Think of your business plan as a tool that projects the future of your business over the next three to five years in the areas of sales, marketing, pricing, and operations. Once you have a business plan, your next steps may include finding a mentor in your business industry, hiring a business coach, networking within your industry, and searching for grants and loans.

Seeking a More Sustainable Career

As your life evolves, career choices that seemed promising when you were young may not be a good fit for your life as your passions and priorities change with time and circumstance. Mid-course career corrections may not be easy but they can be incredibly rewarding if executed with a growth mindset. A great way to get started on a new career path is to take classes or volunteer in your field of interest while evaluating how well the change will help you meet your goals. Researching the salary, culture, and lifestyle of the new career path can help you make the leap with confidence.

Pursuing a Promotion

Many professional women react to the challenges that women face in the workplace with the desire to be the change they want to see in their chosen industries. The way to do this is to get promoted and gain the authority to make policy changes that support and uplift working women. For many women, that means going back to school for their bachelor’s degree or postgraduate degree, as well as taking continuing education courses and certification classes. Going back to school can sharpen your skills and enhance your career prospects while giving you a competitive edge over others vying for the same position. 

Finding Work-life Balance

Work-life balance is critical in the lives of women because women typically have many people who depend on them for care and support. This includes children, parents, extended family, or the community. For another example of how women can adjust their lives to meet challenges, check out the LoveKarmaFood blog.

Image via Pexels

Image via Pexels



Spoonie, Interrupted

(a lil’ bit)

Hello, everyone out there! It has been crazy here, as always, and here we are already looking at the end of July! Where does the time go? There are 92 days till Halloween (as of today, 7.26.22) and 152 days till Christmas! Before you know it, 2023 will be here! Sometimes, I’m bewildered at how quickly time flies by. I remember when I was a wee girl how the days would just drag on and on. Now, I feel like I need a lasso to reign it in. My kids are all grown now and living their lives, even though two remain at home and I have a grandbaby! It’s nuts. I try to purposefully slow things down in my mind and savor every memory.

a person sitting at a table with halloween decorations and a bucket of candies
Photo by Yaroslav Shuraev on Pexels.com

Let’s see, where to begin… Alright. In spoonie land, things have been meh. My recent rheumy appointment has at least supported my belief that pain management could be doing more, but the question remains, will they do more? This is not to imply in any way that my doctor is bad or doesn’t listen to me. He’s quite wonderful, and I’ve referred the family to him. However, amid this ongoing opioid war, my doctor, along with many other doctors, has taken a more conservative approach when it comes to managing pain. We regularly do injections, nerve blocks, and radiofrequency ablation for both my S.I. joint and my neck. I can, and will, bring him the recommendations of my rheumy, but it is difficult to say what he might do. I’ve been very open to procedures of minimal invasiveness. I have two spinal stimulators and I take fairly low doses of opioids. If my rheumy feels like there’s more room to go up on meds, I would hope he is open to listening.

My pain is from both the R.A., Ankylosing Spondylitis, disc degeneration, and failed S.I. joint fusion and failed spinal fusion, but also from fibromyalgia, which is more soft tissue related. There are multiple areas plagued by pain, and I know one pill can’t cover everything, so I’m hoping there is something out there (or a combination of some things) that could help reduce pain. I even brought up at my last appointment the possibility of an intrathecal pump, which would allow the medication to bypass my liver. Pain meds and medications, in general, can be taxing on the liver to filter out, so if there is something that could help alleviate the strain, it would be something to look at seriously. We’ll see what the future has in store for us.

In other news, I’ve also been watching my grandbaby. Mama went back to work and I’m happily watching him so she doesn’t have to put him in daycare. Unfortunately, both of them contracted COVID, and although they are doing well, she hasn’t been able to work and I haven’t seen the little guy. I miss him terribly, and I’m looking forward to being able to spend some time with him again. It’s amazing how quickly you become attached to their little souls. I’ve always loved children and growing up as an only child, I knew I wanted a big family. I wanted to see the relationships between siblings, and I wanted to teach them that, no matter what, they would always have each other’s backs. And they have. Now, I have this little grandbaby-a boy-and I get to share his life in this different role as Mimzy. I’m looking forward to being there for him, giving him a safe space where he can learn and grow. I know all his aunties will be there for him, keeping an eye on him and gently steering him back onto a path of goodness should he veer off the path. I know that they will defend him but also respect his space to grow and experience life and make his own decisions. I’m sure it will be quite an adventure for everyone.

My grandson and his favorite pacifier.

My other “crazy” has been because of mental illness. My anxiety and OCD have been quite active and difficult to manage. This has been affecting my dermatillomania and other body-focused repetitive behaviors (BFRB) that I struggle with. I hate doing it, but sometimes I don’t even know that I am doing it, which makes it difficult to break the cycle. One of my BRFB is morsicatio linguarum—where I bite the sides and tip of my tongue until it bleeds. I can remember doing this as far back as I can remember. It was a way of diverting the pain of childhood bullying and dealing with anxieties. I never knew what body-focused repetitive behaviors were until maybe five years ago, and only a year ago did I dare bring it up to my psychiatrist so I could deal with it. It was shameful and embarrassing. I didn’t know anyone else who did it, and then I began reading about others who struggled with the same thing, and it made me feel “normal.” I use quotes because the picking or biting may not be normal, but I am. I am just a human being who has problems like so many others, and this is comforting. I’m trying to work through breaking the cycle of biting, but it’s difficult. Oral BFRBs are one of the most difficult to break habits from because your lips, cheeks, and tongue are all accessible to your teeth. But I am gentle with myself and forgive myself when I do it, because most of the time, I don’t even realize it. If you think about it, I’ve had this problem for 40 years. It’s not going to stop overnight.

It may seem that I have abandoned blogging, but that couldn’t be further from the truth. I think my previous and more consistent posts way simply be more random. I plan on working on things around watching the baby and everything else I need to do, so be patient with me, please! There are more posts coming!

I am 1 in 4

**TRIGGER WARNING**

protest against roe v wade overturning in los angeles ca
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I’ve been on an emotional roller-coaster since Roe vs. Wade was overturned, swinging from white-hot fury to inconsolable grief, and it’s been difficult to put pen to paper and find the words I want to share with you. I never thought I would ever have to (or need to) share my abortion story with anyone (except maybe a few). I am not famous or influential; I am simply a woman like you.I am 1 in 4 women who have had to make that decision, and it’s okay. It doesn’t mean you are a bad person. You aren’t an evil person. You are human and your body is your own to make any decision that is right for you. 

My choice was based on having two children already and being in an emotionally and physically abusive relationship. I was using birth control. However, 1.) chronic illness and antibiotic use may have caused the birth control to be ineffective, and 2.) I suspected my (then) husband of tampering with my birth control. The second time I got pregnant was a result of my husband raping me before I finally left him. I had no idea at the time that a husband could rape his wife, but I knew that if I had another child, I would have no other choice than to stay with him. I had no higher education and no means of caring for my children on my own without his help, and I made the painful decision to terminate in the best interest of the children I already had. 

people woman street new york
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Women shouldn’t have to explain themselves, justify themselves, or prove to anyone that their decision is the best one for them. She is the one who has to bear the duration of the pregnancy, bring that child into the world, and possibly raise that child until they are 18 years old. No argument against abortion makes sense to me. Women are not vessels to incubate a child until birth because it fits their moral or religious beliefs. You cannot force a woman to bear a pregnancy to term because you think it is best for her. We are human and the overturning of this decision has painfully reminded all women that we are less than. That we do not know what is right for us and, worst of all, that our body is not our own. 

This is emotional and even as I write this, my fingers almost unable to keep up with my ping-ponging thoughts, I am forced to take a breath. My third abortion, or D&C as it was called, happened because of an ectopic pregnancy after my third child was born. Had it been a viable pregnancy, it would never have been terminated, but ectopic pregnancies that have gone untreated can sometimes cause death. I was lucky to have had the pain that brought me to the doctor, or I might not have had my last child. But I will never forget the pain of that loss. 

As women, we are given the gift of bringing life into the world, but it should be a life that is wanted or a life that you are willing to grow until you give it to someone else to love and cherish. Pregnancy should be on our terms. No one should be forced to endure the pregnancy of incest or rape unless they want to give that life to another. No woman should lose her life to a botched abortion because they didn’t have access to one close by. There are millions of reasons why a woman should be able to terminate her pregnancy, but the biggest one is: Bodily Autonomy

road people art new york
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What is bodily autonomy, you ask? It is the power of the individual, in this case, women, to make decisions about their bodies without coercion or the fear of violence. These decisions can be about what they are comfortable doing with sexual partners, husbands, contraceptives, and as basic as health care. Forcing a woman to continue a pregnancy that she is not willing to sustain, or that is unviable, goes against recognized human rights. It is beyond cruel to force a woman to breed against her will. It is beyond cruel to tell her that she has to travel to another state to have the procedure done when she may not have either the support or resources to get her there. It is beyond cruel to force upon her the responsibility of a child, who will impact everything from her ability to continue school to her earning potential. The argument that she could give the baby up for adoption and choose life is grand, but there is still the gestation of that baby in her womb. Does she even have the resources available to care for herself or to see a doctor regularly? Will she be safe, living on the streets, or forced to be in an unsafe environment because she has nowhere else to go? Will she be mentally capable of letting the baby go after it is born, if adoption is an option? Making the callous decision to restrict women’s access to abortion health care will have long lasting consequences for the women of this country. 

Mental Illness: The Myth That All Mass Murderers Are Mentally Ill

Mental illnesses include a whole range of different conditions that vary in degree of severity from mild to severe. Within this are two broad categories that can be used to describe these conditions: 

Any Mental Illness (AMI) and Serious Mental Illness (SMI) 

AMI encompasses all recognized mental illnesses. 

SMI is a smaller and more severe subset of AMI. 

So, for clarity, AMI is defined as “a mental disorder, behavioral disorder or emotional disorder. Those within the AMI category may have disorders that impact their lives mildly, moderately, and even severely. Those that fall within SMI are defined as having a mental, behavioral or emotional disorder resulting in serious functional impairments, which substantially interferes with or limits one or more major life activities.1 NIMH

School Cross Walk Sign

Is someone who commits murder, or mass murder, mentally ill? If they do not have a history of mental health issues or behavioral issues that fall into a mental health category, are they mentally ill? Do we look at all the people who have murdered anyone and just say, “Oh, well, they must have been mentally ill?” It makes me simultaneously angry and frightened that our legislatures chalk up tragedies like our most recent in Uvalde, Texas, to a “mental health issue.” It angers me because the idea that all mass murderers must be mentally ill is simply false. 

It is true that severe mental illnesses are found more often among mass murderers. About one in five are likely psychotic or delusional, according to Dr. Michael Stone, a forensic psychiatrist at Columbia University who maintains a database of 350 mass killers going back more than a century. The figure for the general public is closer to 1 percent. But the rest of these murderers do not have any severe, diagnosable disorder.” 2Are Mass Murderers Insane

In an article by Michael Friedman LMSW, in MedPage Today, “People with mental illness rarely commit homicide, and few homicides are committed by people with mental illness. About 5% of homicides are committed by people with psychotic conditions.3 Mental Illness Doesn’t Mean Mass Murder People with mental illness are far more likely to be the victims of a crime and far more likely to take their own life, than the reverse.

Looking closer to home, and as someone with mental illness, I find the statements of Governor Abbott [Texas], to be particularly distressing, misleading, and perpetuating the myth that the mentally ill are violent. It is upsetting to me that the only time the conditions of our mental health system are brought up is to bolster his agenda that stricter gun laws won’t save lives and that his concern for mental health issues is solely a diversionary tactic. No, it’s not only upsetting to me, it’s horrifying. Horrifying because there are many, many reasons to fix the mental health system, many more reasons than the violence of a mass shooting and not just in Texas. For example: 

4Mental Illness Doesn’t Mean Mass Murder

Has Governor Abbott done anything to help the mental health system of Texas? No. “Texas ranked last out of all 50 states and the District of Columbia for overall access to mental health care, according to the 2021 State of Mental Health in America report.” Oh, and by the way, “in April he slashed $211 million from the department that oversees mental health programs.” But, according to Governor Abbott, “We as a state, we as a society, need to do a better job with mental health.” We do. But slashing $211 million is not the way. 5 Abbott Calls Texas School Shooting Mental Health Issue

Original public domain image from Wikimedia Commons

It is also my opinion that chalking up an individual’s twisted thought process which leads them to kill 19 innocent children and two teachers to being mentally ill, diminishes his culpability in this heinous crime while at the same time stigmatizing the mentally ill. Why? Because claiming mental illness implies the person is insane. They didn’t know what they were doing. It is not right and it is not fair. Not only to those who suffer mental illness (which already bears the weight of stigma attached) but to those grieving parents attempting to make sense of what happened and all those other families who still grieve the loss of a family member taken too soon. 

Extensive case history shows that mass shooters don’t just suddenly break — they decide. They develop violent ideas that stem from entrenched grievances, rage, and despair. In many cases, they feel justified in their actions and regard killing as the sole solution to a problem. They arm themselves and prepare to attack, choosing where and when to strike. Often this is a highly organized and methodical process.” 6 Mass Shooters Don’t Snap. They Decide To Kill

Our minds can’t help but try to unravel and understand what can bring another human to this point. We look at it and think there is no way this person could be thinking with a clear and rational mind, and yet…if not suffering mental illness, what? I believe we have to look between what is normal and what is mentally ill. That space between, because a person that goes out and kills indiscriminately can’t be “mentally healthy.” 

metal and wooden swing in park
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There are warning signs that can be looked for in some, such as: “threatening comments, personal deterioration, patterns of stalking and other aggression, as well as fixating on guns, graphic violence, and previous mass shooters.”  7 Mass Shooters Don’t Snap. They Decide To Kill

I believe wholeheartedly with Follman that to make progress it’s, “going to take everything we’ve got: strengthening our nation’s gun laws, quashing a surge in violent political extremism, raising cultural awareness of shooter-warning signs — and, yes, investing in a lacking mental health care system to give troubled people the help they may need before it’s too late.” 8 Mass Shooters Don’t Snap. They Decide To Kill

We can’t just talk anymore. We can’t just offer condolences and prayers. We can’t shake our fists at one another blaming. We can’t hide behind the Second Amendment when innocent people are dying. When our children are dying. Change never came easy. Sometimes it requires sacrifice. Sometimes it hurts. But those families are hurting. And that hurt will never go away.

clear glass candle holder
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Sources:

1National Institute of Mental Health (NIMH). 2022. Mental Illness. [online] Available at: <https://www.nimh.nih.gov/health/statistics/mental-illness> [Accessed 26 May 2022].

2Carey, B., 2017. Are Mass Murderers Insane? Usually Not, Researchers Say (Published 2017). [online] Nytimes.com. Available at: <https://www.nytimes.com/2017/11/08/health/mass-murderers-mental-illness.html> [Accessed 26 May 2022].

3,4Friedman, LMSW, M., 2018. Mental Illness Doesn’t Mean Mass Murder. [online] Medpagetoday.com. Available at: <https://www.medpagetoday.com/psychiatry/generalpsychiatry/76884> [Accessed 26 May 2022].

5Hixenbaugh, M. and Siemaszko, C., 2022. Abbott calls Texas school shooting a mental health issue but cut state spending for it. [online] NBC News. Available at: <https://www.nbcnews.com/news/us-news/abbott-calls-texas-school-shooting-mental-health-issue-cut-state-spend-rcna30557> [Accessed 26 May 2022].

6,7,8Follman, M., 2022. Op-Ed: Mass shooters aren’t mentally ill people who suddenly snap. They decide to kill. [online] Los Angeles Times. Available at: <https://www.latimes.com/opinion/story/2022-05-21/blaming-mental-health-mass-shootings-buffalo> [Accessed 26 May 2022].

How You can help families in Uvalde, Texas.

How to help victims of Texas School Shooting

Texas Elementary School gofundme Shooting Relief

https://www.goodmorningamerica.com/living/story/victims-families-responders-uvalde-community-school-shooting-84967792