Advocating For Yourself: Admitting and Admitted by Brigid Hokana

This is part 2 of how I advocated for myself during my time of crisis.

This is my story of how I admitted myself to a hospital to save my own life.

 

I arrived at the hospital via ambulance.

While they escorted me to an emergency room,  doctors, nurses, social workers, and psychologists wandered the halls holding their clipboards to their hips. Bulky 80s looking computers and modern monitors strung along the ceiling and desks.

I was frightened out of my mind. And when I say that, I mean that. I felt like I was standing next to myself watching myself shiver on the hospital bed, waiting for someone to approach from behind the curtain with a clipboard.

And they did, one by one, a nurse practitioner drew my blood and asked me to pee in a cup. Next a psychologist asked what sort of drugs I was on and why I was there that day.

Then a social worker came in, she explained to me this was not the only hospital she visited today, nor was it her last. Her first response when meeting me was, “I am so sorry you have to share your story so many times today, I know this can be a very difficult place, but feel free to tell me as much or as little as you need. Please give me what information you can.”

But they all asked the same question, “What were you planning on doing before you came here today?”

And I told them, “I wanted to kill myself.” I looked at myself looking at my hands.

I imagined all of the ways I could kill myself with the objects in the room, there was a biohazard containers, I believed it would be too slow. Maybe the syringe or scissors they got out from the drawer, one of the nurses forgot to lock to drawer behind them, I could find a way to cut myself with-

“How?” they all asked. ”How did you want to kill yourself.”

I stuttered, held my shaking shoulders.

The nurse practitioner was kind enough to finish my word for me. “Pills.” She nodded, then I nodded. Then she clicked her pen, and scribbled on her clipboard. 

            “Now, this is a very important question, Brigid,” she said.” During the time you have been sitting sitting here, have you thought about hurting yourself or worse?”

            I nodded, “I was just thinking about how I could use the syringe to make myself bleed out.”

They admitted me immediately. But what the hell does that even mean?

That means you walk with whomever is with you in the hospital, in my case my mom and dad, up to the behavioral unit. They ask for your everything. In my case, I gave them my shoes, my jacket, my keys, my wallet, my phone, my necklace, and my earrings. Once those things are taken away, so are the people from outside. My mom and dad were told they had to come back during visitors hours.

The nurse practitioner typed in a code next to this steel door, it clicked, and unlocked. Then, I entered the behavioral unit. It smelled like lemon bleach and it singed my nose. 

“Sit right there.” an old nurse said. She grabbed her clipboard from the tall, oblong desk before me.

            I looked at this old blonde pixie in aqua scrubs, then at the metal stackable chair before me. I sat down. Time started to slow down as I looked at the beige hospital floor. A yelp from the other side of the unit, two nurses gabbed about ending their shift soon, tapping keyboard keys, but all I could see were my knees shaking before me. I needed someone to know I was scared; I was here.

            The pixie nurse asked me a few questions about myself, I nodded or answered; I’m not quite sure I remember now. The first day in a new place is always hardest to remember, because there are so many stimuli to remember, the taste, the smell, the scrubs. However, I still remember that she wore a powder sugared scented perfume, which made this beige hospital floor look a little like cream for a moment.

“It’s time for us to go into the room now,” she said as she held her clipboard on her hips. It was a larger room with two beds inside, a trash can that held  a paper bag inside it, a sink in the bed space right outside the bathroom. She said, “This isn’t something I’ve never done before, but I have to check you while you’re naked.”

I nodded as though I knew more than I did. I knew she needed to check if I brought drugs, or a razor, or anything really that I would use to hurt myself. I knew I wasn’t that way, but I also wasn’t so sure since the other room.

I stripped. She asked me to bounce up and down while my legs were open. She explained that this was done in case I held or had hidden anything in my body; it would fall out. She told me to put my hands above my head and turn around. She did not touch me once. “You’re clean.” she said.

I felt far from that. 

“There are some fresh, folded clothes on the bed if you want something clean to wear. If you feel more comfortable, you can put your other clothes back on.”

I was her last patient for the night and when she left, the cream left with her and the beige set in again.

I changed into the scrubs that had a tie at the front, but wrapped around at least twice or something.

I didn’t cry that night, but I did hold myself. Curled into myself.

            The door kept opening and closing every hour, nurses kept checking if I was okay.

Sometimes they’d say, “Hokana.” I usually sat up in the bed, but they said, “Hokana, it’s okay now, go back to sleep.”

***

 

I want to make clear that this is an account of just my personal experience, and I am aware that the experience of others may vary. But I feel it’s too important to not share my experience, to maybe help someone understand what can happen when you call for help in a mental health crisis and are admitted to a hospital.

 

Things to expect if you are admitted:

1.     Upon arrival to the hospital, a nurse, a doctor, a social worker, and a psychiatrist will ask more questions about your mental/emotional condition.

2.     The psychiatrist will ask if you had any suicidal ideation and how. Answer honestly.

3.     You will possibly be admitted.

4.     If you are admitted, they will escort you to the behavioral unit.

5.     They will ask for your belongings to hold. Now this is important, they are not taking your things forever. They make sure to take care of your things while you are admitted. They do this to ensure that you will not hurt yourself with the objects you brought.

6.     A nurse will examine, without touching, to ensure you did not bring something that could hurt you.

7.     You will get a new optional set of clothes to wear and a bed to sleep in.

 

           Keep asking for help until someone hears you. There is no shame in asking for help.

           

            If you have or have had thoughts of suicide, know that you can advocate for yourself.

 

            If you need help in making that call, don’t be afraid to ask a family member or friend to help.

            If you live in the Richmond area, call their Crisis Prevention Hotline: 804-819-4100

 

Your mental health is as important as your physical health.

Don't be afraid to ask for help.

Overcoming Fear of Death by Stuart Nicholson

After Halloween is a strange time for us death positive folks. For almost a month, people have been engaging in conversations about death and the afterlife. But after the 31st, the skeletons get put back in the closet and any interest in death becomes morbid again.

I went back home recently and celebrated All Saints Day at my grandmother’s church, where people asked what I was getting up to these days. They were all shocked when I told them that I wanted my certification in end of life counseling. Nearly everyone responded with the  judgmental brush-off of “well I don’t know why you’d want to do that,” and “that’s bit morbid, isn’t it?”

The truth is, we live our lives avoiding our fears, so an interest in them becomes baffling to those who aren’t genuinely interested. Consider snakes and spiders for instance. If you are afraid of them, you’d never dream of holding one or keeping one as a pet. But there are people who find snakes and spiders to be adorable and who love them. It’s the same way with death. Society tends to treat people interested in death as morbid and creepy, up until the time a loved one dies. At that point, working for a funeral home and aiding the family in the care of the body is noble and respectable work.

So I think it’s time we acknowledge our own fears when it comes to death in order to empower ourselves to be prepared for our own eventual mortality.

Some of the fears we have surrounding death come from the unknown that lies ahead. Others center on our insecurities in our lives. Addressing the fear brings a sense of power of over the fear. We know what it is, so we know how to fight it. The six most common death fears are:

            Fear of the pain of the dying process.

 Look at hospice care options or insist not to be put on life-prolonging treatments.

            I don’t want my family to suffer.   

 Of course they’re going to be sad, you’re gone, but you can make sure it’s less stressful on them when you make all of you post-mortem wishes known and work as many of the details out while you can.

There’d be no one to care for my dependents.

Make sure your next of kin or god parent is ready to accept the responsibility of raising a child, if you have one. If you have a pet, find out who of your family and friends want the animal.

            I don’t want all my life’s work to be for nothing.

If you’re a business owner, talk with your employees. Make sure there is someone who can step into your shoes after you die. Make sure your finances are in order. It’s not going to be for nothing as long as there are people to carry on your legacy.

            I haven’t had enough life experiences.

LIVE! Go on a road trip to Massachusetts. Take that week vacation in Cabo. Have another slice of cheesecake. Climb Mt. Everest. Do the things that make you happy. Live and enjoy your life while you have it.

I’m afraid of the afterlife.

There are so many religions that preach life after death. What do you believe? What brings you peace? With all of the hundreds, if not more, religions out there, there is an afterlife waiting for you.

We can always reach out to our fellow person for support when it comes to heavy topics like death and mortality. When we open the dialogue, it becomes much easier to address the issue. Don’t get me wrong, death and fear aren’t easy to talk about. But any conversation can be a healing one.

            So discuss. Talk. I’m excited to hear about your death fears.

Important Read! "Colleges Are No Match for American Poverty Amarillo College, in Texas, is working hard to accommodate low-income students—but it can only do so much." from The Atlantic

"....A 2017 surveyfound that 42 percent of community-college students nationally experienced food insecurity within the past month—which could mean missing meals altogether or not being able to afford balanced meals—while 12 percent were considered homeless at some point in the previous year...."

"....What separates Amarillo College from most of its peers is not any particular program, but how much it focuses on addressing the effects of poverty. The school and Lowery-Hart are being watched by college leaders all over the country, because finding realistic solutions for student poverty could be transformative for the U.S. higher-education system...."

Read the full article here

Good Read! "Comic book artists and survivors address gun violence" by Chauncey K. Robinson (from People's World)

...

he anthology contains over 70 stories from over 150 different creators who collaborated with Las Vegas locals to come up with both fictional and eye-witness accounts. One hundred percent of the proceeds for the “Where We Live” anthology will be donated to the nonprofit organization Route91Strong, which seeks to help “survivors with support through financial assistance hope, strength, change, and love.”

One of the contributors, best-selling author Neil Gaiman, remarked about the project, “It’s a strange place, this time and this country, in which having tools that can only be used to murder is seen as human right… It’s about wounds and healing, about death and forgiveness, about pain and childhood and the dark. I hope it helps make people think, and I’m honored to be part of the conversation....."

Read the full article here on People's World

Buy the anthology Where We Live here from ImageComics

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Advocating for Yourself: Making that Mental Health Crisis Call - First in a Series by Brigid Hokana

This past year, 2017 into early 2018, was one of the most difficult of my life. I was diagnosed with a Traumatic Brain Injury after a work-related incident, and this experience, opened me up to a world I hadn’t known before, the world of mental health treatment.

I have since been diagnosed with Post Traumatic Stress Disorder and Depression in January 2018.

This is my story of making a call that saved my life.

February 2017

Doctor’s office, the room’s lights were too bright, headache, stomach ache. Lemon bleach from the office’s cleaner.

“You were hit by a child?” The doctor smiled and cocked her eyebrow. “He must have been a big child, I guess…How old do you teach again?”

“Five and six year olds,” I said, the paper overlay on the semi-plush bench crumpled in my hands. “I was slammed against a steel framed door about six to eight times. I lost count.”

She swirled her rolling chair closer to her laptop. “Oh, okay.” She side-eyed me, then looked at her laptop monitor, typed a couple of things. “Now I’ll perform a couple of tests.” She shone a light into my eyes, and stopped, the side-eye back. “Your eyes are really dilated, you haven’t been smoking weed, have you?”

No. I was not high. My head injury had only been a couple of weeks before. I blinked a couple of times, immediately thinking: was this my fault?

I defaulted to how I handled moments like this: joking. “I heard when your eyes are dilated it can mean you’re in love, too.” I chuckled, then held the back of my head against the now everpresent pain.

She didn’t laugh. “But you don’t smoke or drink, correct?” She shone the light in my eyes again.

“No.” That light. The back of my head ached even more intensely than before. “Can you stop that, please? It hurts.”

She narrowed her eyes, “I recommend seeing a neurologist.”

She handed me a business card. “We’ll give you more information on the way out.”

March 2017

The neurologist said as she looked over her clipboard. “Yep, you definitely have symptoms of someone who has a Traumatic Brain Injury.”

I fiddled my sweaty fingers, hoping she’d help me understand what was happening to me. “I feel dizzy. Most days I can’t see straight. Or the fact that I don’t want to get out of bed most mornings.” I said.

She nodded, but that was the end of our visit. “I’ll prescribe you this medication, and we’ll see if your situation has improved. Until then, I will see you in August.”

August 2017

I missed that appointment because family members said I looked like I had improved since March. I was better, right?

September 2017-November 2017

I’m better, right? Like a broken arm, or a bout of flu, it eventually just heals, and goes away...Right? This sadness, this anxiety, it goes away, right?

November through December 2017

I wasn’t better. Vertigo, headaches, anxiety that increased with every day. A series of panic attacks that left me useless, drained. I talked with some people about the anxiety. But the other things I didn’t talk about, to anyone.

Thoughts of ending the pain, ending the hurt.

January 12, 2018

Someone who cares about me, though, noticed. “Go back to the doctor--now,” she said.

I did. This time I told my primary care physician everything, about the vertigo, about the escalating anxiety, about the sorrow that grew darker and deeper every day. I couldn’t work. I tried, stayed in my job, even though I was drowning.

The doctor said turned her chair away from me to peer at her laptop. “There’s not much else I can do,” she said over her shoulder.

“This is just to get out of your contract, correct?” she asked. “It would probably be better from a psychiatrist; we’ll print a list for you before you leave here today.”

“But the headaches haven’t gone away--they’re getting worse, and I’ve had two panic attacks this week--” My chest felt like it was being crushed in a vice, and my throat burned with tears.

“I will give you some anti-anxiety medication, maybe that will help.” Her fingers pattered over the keyboard. “Here, I will give you a note for one week, that should be enough time for you to find a psychiatrist who will fill out this doctor’s note for you and identify you. Now for the rest of your examination.”

I cried a little bit, wiped up the tears.

She smiled, an efficient smile, then said, “Just think happy thoughts.” she said. Then she added, “And pray..” With that, she walked out of the room. I cried. This wasn’t about just needing to get out of my job.

I wanted help. I needed help.

Later in my apartment, I clenched my chest, and I cried, “I don’t know- I don’t know-I don’t know.”

I called a mentor. She lives in a town more than an hour away, but she heard me. I knew she heard me, because the next link she sent me was a psychiatric clinic, “It is a walk-in, there’s no guarantee they can see you,” she said. “ Call them, then call me right back.”

I left them a voice message asking for an appointment. I called her back, crying, gasping, “I couldn’t reach anyone.” My heart beat like a hammer clashed against my ribs; my breath slowed and quickened, deepened and shallowed. I felt like I would throw up.

“Okay, I’ve got one more link,” my mentor said. “But I want you to read this one carefully. I think this one will give you help, but I want you to understand what will happen if you call. Call me back once you’ve looked at it,” she said.

I clicked open the link she had sent. The title read Richmond Behavioral Health Authority. It read: “Crisis Intervention” with white lettering and a red background. I dialed the number..

A black haze covered my view. I spoke with a person, I couldn’t say anything except “Help,” then “I need help” and then finally, I gave them my address and phone number.

I tumbled inside myself, drowning in feelings. Shame: maybe I shouldn’t have asked for help. Fear: maybe I should have considered pills again or the car or-

I called my mentor back, “I did it.”

“I’m scared,” I told her. The tears were different now. ”I don’t know what they’re going to do when--when they get here. Are they going to handcuff me? My mom told me about a teenage girl they handcuffed to get her to go to the emergency room.” I stared at my front entrance, waiting for a swat team to kick down my door. Or maybe a nurse with a stretcher.

Oh my god, everyone is going to know I am crazy. People are going to think I am insane.

I felt pretty crazy. Panic burned up through me.

“No, no, sweetheart,” she said. “They are going to take you to the emergency room, then they’re going to do a psych eval. After that.sweetie, you will probably admitted. You understand?” she asked.

I nodded, then said, “Okay, I am going to hang up and wait for them.”

When the first responders arrived--no swat team--they were attentive and gentle, answering my questions, and taking me, I realize now, to the very place I most needed to be.

I want to make clear that this is an account of just my personal experience, and I am aware that the experience of others may vary. But I feel it’s too important to not share my experience, to maybe help someone understand what can happen when you call for help in a mental health crisis.

When you make the call, this is what will happen:

  1. The person on the other line will ask your emergency. They will ask if you think you are a danger to yourself or others. If you say you are in Crisis or an Emergency, they are required by law to help.

  2. Police Officers will show up to your door. They are just acting as first responders, people to wait with you.

  3. An Ambulance comes next, and they ask you a series of questions about your physical condition.

  4. Upon arrival, a nurse, a doctor, a social worker, and a psychiatrist will ask more questions about your mental/emotional condition.

  5. The psychiatrist will ask if you had any suicidal ideation and how. Answer honestly.

  6. You will possibly be admitted, but they will give you the care you really need.

This is my account with the mental health care system and while it was a good experience, if someone else doesn’t have as good an experience, then you do not need to give up. Keep asking for help until someone hears you. There is no shame in asking for help.

If you have or have had thoughts of suicide, know that you can advocate for yourself.

If you need help in making that call, don’t be afraid to ask a family member or friend to help.

If you live in the Richmond area, call their Crisis Prevention Hotline: 804-819-4100

If you are advocating for someone else’s life, don’t be afraid to look over the step-by-steps from NAMI. You can find those here. 

Click here for more information on advocates for Mental Health and Virginia NAMI

Your mental health is as important as your physical health.

Don't be afraid to ask for help. 

 

_______________________________________________________________

Brigid Hokana lives in Richmond, Virginia, and is a member of the Central Virginia Chapter of Writing for Peace. She is an ABA Therapist for Building Blocks and a MFA student at West Virginia Wesleyan College. She wants to pursue a career as a Teaching Artist and Webcomic Artist. Brigid loves being a part of Writing for Peace and cannot wait to see this organization grow.

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Great Read! "CANON FODDER: Books by immigrants, foreigners and minorities don’t diminish the ‘classic’ curriculum. They enhance it." by Viet Thanh Nguyen (From Washington Post)

"We must read Shakespeare and authors who are women, Arab, Muslim, queer. Most of the world is neither white nor European, and the United States may be a majority-minority country by mid-century. White people will gain more by embracing this reality rather than fighting it. As for literature, the mind-set that turns the canon into a bunker in order to defend one dialect of English is the same mind-set that closes borders, enacts tariffs and declares trade wars to protect its precious commodities and its besieged whiteness. But literature, like the economy, withers when it closes itself off from the world. The world is coming anyway. It demands that we know ourselves and the Other....."

Read the full article here

Ingredients: Activism, Anxiety, and a Dash of Privilege by Courtney Rose

I was diagnosed with anxiety disorder and clinical depression in 2014, and while I have it mostly under control, there are still days where I’m paralyzed by irrational fear (I recall a particular evening where I found myself in fetal position on the floor because I couldn’t figure out how to use my friend’s washing machine). I even had a good cry over what to write for this blog post.

So how does an individual with anxiety live an activist lifestyle?

Life with anxiety does mean that we are weary of many things in this world, but often the only thing of which we are more weary is doing something about it.

The thought of marching in a rally (particularly one that could become violent), making a poster, or even writing a post on Facebook can be enough to shut me off from the world.

There’s a lot of evil in the world, but what if someone hears me? Worse, what if they disagree? What if I go viral and now I’m receiving death threats?

Now, here is where I’ll digress for a bit.

I recognize that this line of thinking is partially a result of my privilege.

I walk this world as a white woman, which I realize affords me the ability to successfully avoid activism. I could live out my entire life without “getting political,” and still feel safe, happy, and fulfilled. My life does not depend on me fighting for my basic rights. I am capable of sitting at home, feeling scared to post my beliefs on Facebook, ultimately deciding not to, and carrying on my day without a hitch.

I know there are those who are not clinically diagnosed with anxiety, but live with the very real fear that they will not survive to see the next day. Afraid to wear a sweatshirt, walk on a particular street, or simply be alone. Being silent could turn to being dead.

So in one of my less anxiety-ridden moments, I pondered my thought process: what if someone does indeed hear me, but what if, instead of my slightly irrational fear of death threats, they actually agree with me? What if they, too, have been afraid to speak up because they thought they were the only one who felt that way? What if now they feel empowered to speak or act because they are certain that they are not alone in their thoughts?

And that is my challenge to anyone like me who struggles with anxiety, but desires a life of activism. Refocus: away from those who might stand against you, and towards those who might stand behind you.

It’s not a change that happens overnight. I’ve been working on myself for years to be more intentional about leading an activist lifestyle. And I’m nowhere near “cured.” Rallies still terrify me, and I still hesitate sometimes to make comments on Facebook or broach certain subjects.

I have found the most growth in starting conversations with those I trust-- a kind of activism practice. I identified those people in my life who will react respectfully to differing opinions, and topics that make me cringe transformed into easy, open dialogues. In this safe space of trusting dialogue, you can more easily identify what you believe, and become more comfortable with vocalizing it.

For some (and I include myself in this category), standing up for what you believe will always be scary, especially with realities of division, injury, and death looming in the back of our minds.

As an individual with anxiety disorder, I discounted myself from an activist life, but even those of us living with anxiety can create methods of overcoming paralysis towards activism.

________________________________

Courtney Rose studied English & Creative Writing at Longwood University, and her fiction has appeared in Sante Fe Review. She is an aspiring wedding planner, currently pursuing that dream as an intern, and member of the Central Virginia Chapter of Writing for Peace.

 

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Conversation vs. Retaliation: Passion, Advocacy, and ‘Fairness’ by Joel Worford

We live in an age where it’s difficult to lobby for restraint, and in many respects, this is a good thing.

Last weekend’s March For Our Lives serves as an excellent example of the beautiful showing of humanity that can come as a result of some groups’ (in this case, young students’), uninhibited exhibition of passion in working towards a goal. It was the students’ and marchers’ uncompromising position towards what they believed in that made last weekend’s event so powerful.

The March For Our Lives campaign shows one of the many positives that strong, peaceful resistance to compromise can result in.

In other words, passion is not the enemy. One can be passionate and have a respectful conversation with someone who holds an opposing view. Passion is necessary for change—without passion, nobody would show up to get things done.

Passion is the difference between one and one million.

There is no change without the presence of strong-willed, bold individuals who refuse to compromise, and so—join together in lobbying for their beliefs. Passion, advocacy, and outspokenness are qualities we should celebrate in this time where listening to and learning about the opinions of others is essential in building a better society. Passion is not to be stifled.

What we need to come to distinguish, however, is passion, advocacy and frankness from meanness, superiority, and revenge.

Regardless of how it may seem, there is no universal moral high ground. Believing that one’s opinion is the “right belief” is no justification for telling someone that their view is completely invalid and that they are stupid for believing it. The reality is that oftentimes when we seek change, we don’t know for certain that the result will be better; we just hope it will be. While this may be a bleak view, it is useful in discussing the dialogue on today’s controversial events, which often seem polarizing, antagonistic, and useless.

Social media is a blessing and a curse when it comes to progressive movements. On the one hand, social media provides a voice to those individuals who, otherwise, might go unheard. However, social media also becomes somewhat of an opinion cesspool—a place where everyone and anyone can express themselves anyway they want, and have an audience.

Expression is great, but the way one goes about expressing oneself can sometimes do more harm than good. Starting conversations is the best way to make progress on controversial issues, but it’s difficult to reach a level of understanding with someone when the discourse started with disrespect or condescension.

People often justify inflammatory and instigating social media posts with oppressed group’s past hardships. Lines that go something like, “How could you ask [oppressed group or individual speaking on their behalf] to be calm after all they’ve been through? How is that fair?”

Calmness isn’t so much what we’re asking for, but let’s be honest—when has anything been fair for these groups, and why do we choose to believe that there’s a necessity for fairness now that there’s actually a chance to change things? There is a time for anger, and there is a time for expressing those negative feelings, but taking them out on others is conducive to nothing but more hatred.

This might sound idealistic, and it might be disappointing, but the reality is that showing compassion and patience towards someone different than you is the best way to get them to listen.

Now is not the time for anger and retaliation. With society listening to oppressed groups and asking “How can we change for the better?” now is not the time to spit in the face of those engaging in conversation for the sake of avenging past mistreatment.

Is the anger justified? Perhaps, but regardless, accepting the aggressive, rude, and harmful acts of those who’ve been oppressed because they’ve been oppressed sets a nasty precedent. Granting this kind of invincibility ends up placing individuals in a sort of competition to see who’s been the most oppressed—a sort of battle for superiority and power based on past hardships. We need to treat aggression based on past mistreatment with understanding, but not acceptance.

The idea that oppressed groups need to restrain their anger to move society further away from the hatred that causes their anger is unfair. However, as earlier stated, the situation has never been fair for these groups, and when it comes to making sacrifices, the right to retaliate must be one of them.

___________________________________________

Joel Worford is a singer-songwriter from Richmond, Virginia, and a member of the Central Virginia Chapter of Writing for Peace. He currently studies English at Longwood University with a concentration in Creative Writing. Joel’s short story “The Naked Eye” appears in the 2017 edition of Good Works Review.

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Great Read! "Why Do We Turn to Stories in the Midst of a Disaster?" By Madeleine Wattenbarger (From LitHub)

 

Why Do We Turn to Stories
in the Midst of a Disaster?

ON NARRATIVE AND TRAUMA IN MEXICO CITY

"“In this version of the story, a disaster has a beginning, middle, and end, a narrative arc.”

Storytelling requires a listener, and post-disaster storytelling tends to take place in the context of communities, as Rebecca Solnit examines in her book A Paradise Built in Hell. “A major loss usually isolates us from the community, where no one else has suffered thus, and we are alone in being bereft of beloved or home or security or health,” she writes. “When the loss is general, one is not cast out by suffering but finds fellowship in it.” To an extent, communities are always held together by shared narratives—the Scriptures that undergird a religious community, or the histories that fraternity pledges commit to memory, or the origin stories that shape a nation. But Solnit argues that the shared experience of a disaster tends to create a new, momentary utopian community out of its victims. “[Disaster] drags us into emergencies that require we act, and act altruistically, bravely, and with initiative in order to survive or save the neighbors,” she writes. The suspension of everyday routine brings, if only briefly, a new social order...."

Read the full article from LitHub here

Explore More--Articles & Great FIction--on LitHub here

 

 

 

Great Read! Walking Wildwood Trail by Artist, Activist, & Poet Amelia Williams

Amelia Williams is an artist/poet/activist from the Rockfish Valley area of Nelson County, Virginia, and author of Walking Wildwood Trail: Poems and Photographs.

Walking Wildwood Trail is more than just a beautiful books of poems. It is a brilliant artful act of protest against the Atlantic Coast Pipeline. Amelia is planting copyrighted art works with poems incorporated into them along the pending path of the Atlantic Coast Pipeline and copyrighting the entire installation.

When the proposed pipeline path was changed, another alarmed landowner contacted Amelia, and she started a second series of art installations. The newest project in Bath County consists of three parts in a large triangle, each separated by a thirty minute walk from the next, made of materials that include rocks, bone, copper pipe and jewelry parts. They represent the pipeline itself, the blast zone for construction, and the threatened homes.

Williams decided to begin this creative journey when she read about Canadian artist Peter von Tiesenhausen, who waylaid a mining company when he registered his 800 acres as intellectual property in the form of land art.

Now Amelia is teaching others how to do this, both the art and the copyright process, in an ongoing fight against the construction of this dangerous pipeline through farmlands, old growth woodlands, national forest, and near homes and schools.

“Amelia’s artworks are designed with place in mind; the sixteen on the Wildwood Trail are in muted earth tones and made of biodegradable materials. They will not be permanent in the landscape. A GPS map and trail map allow people to track down each piece, often located off the ground in trees. Working with wool, recycled paper, wood, found materials and beeswax, both plain and colored, her work looks almost as if it has grown there.”

Read More About Amelia’s Art Activism Here

Buy Amelia’s Beautiful Book Here!

Proceeds donated to Wild Virginia for the battle against construction.

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Good Read! "Visualizing the invisible: Arab women artists reveal untold stories" by Aisha Doherty (from Middle East Eye)

Arab women artists talk to MEE about breaking stereotypes, pushing boundaries and succeeding where politicians have failed

"I make autobiographical works about my identity and childhood, but I am rarely featured in it. I am always the observer rather than the one being observed," ElKalaawy said. 

ElKalaawy says that the West only shows interest in the Middle East, including Egypt, her country of origin, in times of unrest, rather than for its art and cultural scene.

I noticed my homeland and the Middle East in general do not really matter to the world other than at times of crisis 

- Nada ElKalaawy, artist

“When I relocated to the West, I noticed my homeland and the Middle East in general do not really matter to the world other than at times of crisis,” ElKalaawy said. “I feel responsible for showing the Western world what the place I come from looks like and to share the Egypt I know with others."

Read This Artist's Story and More Here

Getting Ready for the Death Talk: First in a Series from Stuart Nicholson

I visited my alma mater recently and found the most wonderful little poster advertising a Death Café. While I had never heard of such a thing before, I know well the general concept.

The Death Cafe is a worldwide movement dedicated to bringing discussion of death into a relaxed environment. The Death Cafe is a group-directed discussion of death with no agenda, objectives, or themes. It is a discussion group rather than a grief support or counseling session. The event seeks to provide a forum for death understanding and death positivity in a less daunting, less facing-your-own-mortality way.

It’s a forum where attendees can ask questions that they may have not only regarding their own death, but the deaths of their parents and perhaps spouses.

It’s no secret that I am fascinated with death. Much of my own writing deals with the subject and how it affects people. In my perpetual search for new information and sources to color and add to my understanding of Death, I happened upon a licensed mortician and funeral director, named Caitlin Doughty, whose mission is to educate everyone about death and funeral practices, but also to answer any questions people have about the process of death and burial.

Caitlin has enlightened me on many areas of the American death culture that I, as I am sure everyone else has, just accepted as part of what happens.

As a delivery driver, I spend a lot of time in my car; and I’ve heard several ads recently encouraging people to sign up for life insurance policies. It occurred to me that the discussion for insurance is a great way to incite the mortality conversation, but there needs to be more going into it than just making sure there is enough money to cover expenses. I am not discrediting the need or importance of life insurance. I just want to present more opportunities for understanding.

The sudden death of a loved one is devastating to the heart and finances. But even with savings and insurance, a family may still be unable to pay the $30,000 funeral costs of a traditional burial. Cremation is a bit cheaper, but not by much; only like $5-10,000.

It is essential that we begin to think about these different topics and decisions regarding death as they may be the solution to the problems that come up around them.

I’m hoping to make a future posting regarding opening the Death Discussion and give further details about modern death practices, such as green burials and death laws that funeral homes may not mention. Perhaps our very own Death Café may pop up here in Richmond…

Read More About Death Cafe Here

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Stuart Nicholson, an actor and fiction writer in Richmond, as well as a member of the Central Virginia Chapter of Writing For Peace.

 

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Art in the Age of Understanding by Joel Worford

Art shifts with culture while culture shifts with art—making it difficult for us to determine which one needs to change first when we decide something needs to change.

The popular idea that the artistic community holds the progressive mentalities while everybody else lags behind is largely a misconception.

Consider this: the lead single from Bruno Mars’ 24K Magic contains the clearly misogynistic line “bad bitches and their ugly ass friends,” among others, yet that didn’t stop the song from winning Record of the Year or from selling over one million units in less than 12 months. Some would argue that the success of Mars’ music, along with the success of a number of popular Hip-Hop, Country, RnB and Rock artists who play large stadiums and sell millions of records every year, regardless of the antiquated stance their music may take towards women, or the problematic ways they may represent race and/or sexuality comes down to the difference between popular music circles and underground music circles. This idea falls apart, however, when one considers that, even within the independent music scene, artists tend to separate themselves by genre—genres built around cultures whose make-up often reflects the prejudices and racial distinctions of the United States’ socio-economic situation.

As art shifts and shapes with culture, its communities grapple with the cultural climate of the time, just like any other group.

So how are movements such as Black Lives Matter and #MeToo affecting artists? Surely the same musicians who perform at The Women’s March and speak out against bigotry and hate on social media are taking such ideas into account while they’re producing and presenting their art?

I believe the difference is small, yet substantial in the way that it manifests. I listen to Bruno Mars’ new album and enjoy the 90s throwback style quite a bit, yet as a working musician and singer-songwriter myself, I would never cover the song 24K Magic, because that one line about “bad bitches and their ugly ass friends” makes me uncomfortable. The reason it makes me uncomfortable is because I understand that it makes some of my friends who are women uncomfortable. This understanding is crucial, and represents the moment where the conversations brought to the forefront by Black Lives Matter and #MeToo begin to influence culture. As people begin to understand one another differently, culture will shift to accommodate, and so will art. When I listen to Bruno Mars’ new album, I skip that song, because the moments of misogyny take me out of the album’s groovaliciousness and remind me of the stories that my roommate tells about her negative experiences with men—some of whom surely mistreat women because they hold mentalities similar to the ones Mars glorifies in his song.

Skipping that song is my choice, just like it was Bruno Mars’ choice to write that line, record ’24K Magic,’ and include it on his album.

Both choices are valid—to regulate art and creation would be to regulate conversation, and such artistic stifling isn’t conducive to understanding. Our choices are just different, and reflect different ideas. I wouldn’t say that my choice is so much an act of protest as it is an act of necessity. Why should I listen to a song if it makes me uncomfortable? With that, you could ask—why should Bruno Mars change his song if he feels comfortable with it? Plenty of people, both men and women, love the song, and that line.

As society shifts in response to conversations on human rights and morality, the way we interact with each other will change, and the way we interact with art will change. Lyrics deemed bigoted or misogynistic will cause songs to fall out of the mainstream, and at that point, it will be the artist’s choice on whether to change with society, or to try and change it back.

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Joel Worford is a singer-songwriter from Richmond, Virginia. He currently studies English at Longwood University with a concentration in Creative Writing. Joel’s short story “The Naked Eye” appears in the 2017 edition of Good Works Review.

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Great Read! "What Is Literary Activism?" by Amy King (from Poetry Foundation)

"This past summer, I was asked to talk about my literary activism as part of an acceptance speech for an award I was receiving. This request threw my current actions into sharp relief. Was I doing "literary activism"? How to define if this is a thing and not simply a medium used on behalf of another movement (I.e. a poem as vehicle a movement can utilize)? Or is literary activism stepping back and looking at how the cogs and wheels of the literary world go together or grind and crunch in order to respond critically?...."

Read the rest of Amy's excellent article here.

Visit Amy King's website here. 

 

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Oh, Empathy: The Language of Exhaustion: Second in a Series by SarahGrace Gomez

It is hard to find a new way to write about a popular topic, and I struggled with piecing together this blog because my research on empathy exhaustion made my work feel like a drop of rain in an ocean of psychological study. A quick “empathy exhaustion” Google search yields 441,000 results. People also ask, what is emotional exhaustion? What are the symptoms of compassion fatigue? Psychology Today, Mental Floss, even the Harvard Business Review, have all taken on the subject. We are all attempting to define the concept and list its effects in the hopes that we can overcome the consequences, where the consequences are our inability to provide care for others, to produce content, to return to work. We’ve all determined that empathy exhaustion, compassion fatigue, burnout, whatever term we use to capture that gut feeling, is a bad thing.

We have all come to the same conclusion, using different terminology to do so. These words are different, but they mean the same thing. Counseling Today defines empathy fatigue as “a state of psychological, emotional, mental, physical, spiritual and occupational exhaustion that occurs as [a] counselors’ own wounds are continually revisited by their clients’ life stories of chronic illness, disability, trauma, grief and loss.” The Compassion Fatigue Awareness Project says the symptoms of this fatigue “are normal displays of chronic stress resulting from the care giving work we choose to do.”

The discourse on empathy and compassion is expansive, but it is not varied. It seems that empathy exhaustion is such a popular topic, we’ve managed to conform all discussions on it. The “solution” to the problem is the same on every single website I visited: self-care, awareness, and education.

I am probably not alone in this response, but:

I KNOW that.

I know because I’ve read the blogs. I know because I’ve done this research, scouring The Compassion Fatigue Project’s website, taking their Stress Self-Test that puts my life somewhere in the 500 score area. My self-care falls short in a post-graduate world where loans must be repaid every month, and the literary field is both small and competitive. My awareness only takes me so far when my self-care is suspect. And my education? How many times can I read the same advice, done up in such objective, emotionally distant language before the void starts to fill? Whoever decided that was the language we needed to communicate our emotional landscapes never took a creative writing course, because they’ve let our words fail us.

Now is not the time for objectivity and clinical dialogue. That is not the direct action we should take when it is time for activists to advocate for themselves. “Take positive action to change your environment” is a hollow suggestion for folks who organize to get clean water to inmates living in unsanitary conditions. “Be kind to yourself” is a silly thing to say to workers uniting for equitable pay and proper healthcare. “Accept where you are on your path at all times” feels vapid for teenagers marching forward to D.C to save their own lives.

The language of exhaustion should not be timid, because our empathy is full of sound and fury, and it is dying to speak. We should take care to let it.

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Who We Are & Why We Care: WFP Member Profile: Courtney Rose

Hi! My name is Courtney Rose and I am an aspiring wedding planner and flash writer from Richmond, as well as a member of the Central Virginia Chapter of Writing for Peace.

As an only child growing up in a single-parent household, I have always been curious about the concept of family—what it means for me, as well as for others, and for humanity in general (For example: For me, the idea of family is inherently female.). This led me to pursue a career in marriage where I have the opportunity to start two people off on the right foot through their wedding, most people’s idea of the traditional start of a “family.”

Family dynamics tend to be prominent in my writing. I have always been a very observant person, and, as a child, I noticed how different my friends’ home lives were from mine—sometimes better, sometimes much, much worse. I became hyper aware of divorce, abuse, hunger, and homelessness. My writing is an extension of that hyper-awareness: how family is defined, and how the idea of family survives (or doesn’t) in suffering.

I am involved in Writing for Peace because words have the power to open eyes and hearts. Too often we use words to divide us, but I believe that a far better purpose for our words is to connect us. Peaceful activism is so important in our society, perhaps now more than ever. Not everyone has money or time to donate to a cause, but everyone has a voice.

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