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. 

 

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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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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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Creating Peace in Your Classroom- Three Things You Can Do Tonight by Amanda Baker

“Establishing peace is the work of education.”-Maria Montessori

We teachers love teacher movies. You know the ones I’m talking about- bad kids, low-performing schools, difficult administration, absent parents, and the rising star teacher who inspires the kids to “come together to learn and be their best selves.” And it works out every. single. time. “How do I DO THAT???” we ask from our post on the couch, covered in ungraded papers and potato chip dust. They make it look so good and so easy!

We want to create that sense of belonging in our own classrooms. We want to give our students that sense of peace that passes all understanding when they step through our doors. We want to be inspirational too! And so, we pack up our papers, adjust our ties and our attitudes, and head out in the morning ready to HAVE A GOOD DAY IN OUR CLASSROOMS AND CREATE OUR OWN PEACEFUL LITTLE COMMUNITY, DAMMIT.

And the same student that you normally have trouble with doesn’t respond to your smile and chirpy greeting of “Good morning! Welcome! It’s a great day to learn!” And the same skippers skip. And the same kid who is sullen is still sullen. That kid still got into a fight in the hallway. This kid still cussed out a fellow classmate. Your greeting didn’t matter. Your new lesson plan with an article about achieving inner peace, written by the Dalai Lama no less, and your carefully-crafted guided reading worksheet and thoughtful journal response flopped. Most of the kids refused to write the journal, and the worksheets had one or two-word answers that didn’t really make sense. You think, “If only this kid wasn’t in my room,” or “Uuuggghhhh… if those two kids were just different,” or instead of the awful “he’s/she’s a bad kid,’ we say the equally damning but more polite, “Well, she’s/he’s a ring leader, you know.” Insert extreme teacher eyeball roll here, add resigned slow head shake for full effect.

THOSE kids just RUINED it.

Relax. Take a deep breath.

One worksheet is not going to “fix” a decade or more of a chaotic home life, undiagnosed learning difficulties, substance abuse, physical abuse, neglect, or even a rumbly tummy from no breakfast and lunch.

Banishing one kid to in-school suspension every chance you get isn’t going to help your classroom climate more than temporarily. Blaming the classroom disruptions on one kid as the “ring leader” and wishing for their family to suddenly move away isn’t going to make your classroom Hollywood perfect either.

There are some things you CAN do, however.

Things that aren’t blinking neon arrows that say “HERE IS THE WAY TO PEACE AND HARMONY!” They are subtle and quiet, they don’t require you to chang e your seating chart (which we all know is a nightmare), or for you to send out “that kid” again.

1. Do some self-care.

Normally we teachers see this at the bottom of lists like these, as an afterthought. But you know that whole “If momma ain’t happy, ain’t nobody happy” cliché? It works for classrooms too. If you, dear teacher, are tired, stressed, overwhelmed, and burnt out, your classroom is going to feel that stress, and your stress negatively impacts everything you are trying to do. The University of Groningen in the Netherlands did a research study on the effects of teacher stress on students. They found that teachers “…who showed higher levels of stress at the beginning of the year displayed fewer effective teaching strategies over the rest of the school year, including clear instruction, effective classroom management, and creation of a safe and stimulating classroom climate for their students, than did the teachers with lower initial stress levels” (Sparks).

So, whatever you do to get unstressed, do that. Use the “check plus, check, check minus” grading system for some minor worksheets if it helps you clear that stack off the desk. Ride your bike after class. Force yourself to stop grading by a certain time so you can have time for a bath and a book. And do not feel guilty about it at. all. If you’re less stressed, then you’ll be more at peace, which means that feeling will carry over into your classroom too.

2. Watch your mouth.

Sometimes, we are own worst enemy. I teach high school, and every year I hear stories about “the mean thing that Ms. So-and-so called me when I was in 3rd grade…” or a class reminisces about how they drove Mr. So-and-so to yelling in 5th grade and how red his face gets. Those throw-away words stay with a kid FOREVER. They internalize the “Oh my god, why are you so stupid??” comments. They never forget the “You just need to shut up” snap. The frustrated “What is wrong with you? It’s a simple word!” sinks into the deepest parts of them, and it trickles up to effect that student’s response to every teacher they have after that. It’s hard for us to look at ourselves in the mirror and think, “Ohhhh… I’m the problem here,” but many times, we are. In the article “When The Teacher Is The Bully," one teacher admits that he bullied his students, particularly special education students. He was eventually forced to resign because of parent complaints. It took him three years to come to terms with the damage he had done, and when he returned to the classroom, he said he hasn’t raised his voice even once. Your mouth can wreck a kid for life.

3. Create a space for peace to live in your room.

“Flexible seating” is all the educational rage right now, and I am lucky enough for the first time in fourteen years to have a classroom big enough for a loveseat, a rug, and a pretty floor lamp… and thirty desks. You might not. But a rug under your desk, a glider rocker in the corner, and a nice desk lamp might be do-able. Pinterest is full of ideas for small classrooms spaces. The point is to create a physical place that the kids see, can access if they need it, and offers peace and quiet when needed. That bit of peace in your room might be the only peace they experience all day. And for a kid to know day after day, week after week that that space is there for them to use when they need it gives them something special to look forward to in your room. Montessori schools are experts at creating peaceful, safe spaces for their students. Their entire model is based on the “prepared environment” that makes for peaceful, productive learning. Make time to go check out one someday and see how it’s done.

Dear Teacher, you are the author of your own peace and the peace of your classroom. I’d like to say that my classrooms are always peaceful, but they aren’t. I teach teens, notorious for outrageous language and fights and rebellions, but every grade level is challenging for different reasons. I will say that I have very few arguments even though we discuss tough and controversial social issues. In fourteen years, I’ve had only two scuffles in my room. I do yell sometimes, but it’s mostly “STOP TALKING!!!” five thousand times. Last semester a kid gratefully threw their bookbag on the floor and sank in relief onto the couch and said, “I am so happy this couch is here. I really needed it today.” You and I can’t control what is going on at home. We have very little say in what they do from 3:30pm to 8am, sixteen hours of NOT us. In many schools, teachers aren’t allowed to touch their students at all, never mind give them the hugs they so desperately need.

We have a small window of opportunity to model for them what life CAN be like, what they can create for themselves and their futures, the endless possibilities of peace for all of us. Don’t waste it.

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References

Kelmon, Jessica. “When The Teacher Is The Bully.” Great Schools, October 2017. https://www.greatschools.org/gk/articles/when-the-teacher-is-the-bully/

Miller, Alice Lawson. “Cultivating Peace In The Classroom.” Montessori Services, 2011. https://www.montessoriservices.com/ideas-insights/cultivating-peace-in-the-classroom

Sparks, Sarah. “How Teacher Stress Affects Students: A Research Roundup,” Education Week Teacher, June 2017. https://www.edweek.org/tm/articles/2017/06/07/how-teachers-stress-affects-students-a-research.html

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Amanda Baker is a member of the Central Virginia Chapter of Writing for Peace. Mother, teacher, daughter, friend, writer, Amanda has been teaching high school English for fourteen years and in two states. Currently living in Southside Virginia, this Yankee transplant has been a waitress, a technical writer, a truck driver, a business owner, a corporate secretary, and an educator. In addition, she volunteers for the Halifax Dog Squad helping to rescue and transport dogs, and in the summers, she helps to sew costumes for The Prizery's Summer Theater Celebration. 

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Volunteers & Donations Needed! Madeline's House Domestic Violence Shelter, Central Virginia

Madeline’s House is a non-profit organization, providing comprehensive services for individuals and families experiencing domestic and sexual abuse.

We receive and are dependent upon support from local sources: civic groups, religious groups, businesses, private citizens and grants. Income is also generated through various community fundraising events.

Southside Center for Violence Prevention, Inc. was established in 1999 in response to the cries of persons who experience domestic and sexual violence, and their primary need for immediate help and safety by:

  • Providing temporary housing

  • Empowering clients and residents to become survivors

  • Assisting them in regaining control of their lives through a wide range of appropriate services, and

  • Supporting these individuals in ending their experience of violence and homelessness through client advocacy, counseling, and community support systems.

Public awareness is the key to changing long term attitudes about domestic violence (DV) and sexual assault (SA). Finding a safe haven from this abuse is an immediate and life saving concern. Madeline’s House has been established in response to the cry of DV and SA victim’s immediate need for help and safety.

It is our intent to inspire these women and children to become survivors and assist them in regaining control of their lives. In addition to the wide range of services we provide, our goal is to help them restore their self-esteem. Counseling, therapy, and a supportive family environment within the shelter help to rebuild the independence necessary for reentering the community to live a safe and productive new life.

If You Need Help, Call : 1-888-819-2926

 

Learn More About Madeline's House Here

 

How You Can Help

Volunteer Or Donate

 

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Fighting Addiction in Hampton Roads: Where to Go for Recovery by Chad MacDonald

Opioid and heroin deaths have been rising for the past two years.Since 2015, Hampton Roads has seen a nine-percent overdose increase, a trend that doesn’t seem to be settling in the latter end of 2017. 850 such deaths happen annually now, with Portsmouth carrying the brunt of the load. Newport News itself has had an increase with homelessness, and an industrial explosion in drug abuse, following the April shipyard layoff. It’s no surprise that drug abuse, and homelessness piggy back off each other in a collapsing military industrial economy.

As recently as last Christmas, drug dealer Terry Glen Williams was busted by DEA agents in Newport News for maintaining prostitutes’ heroin addictions, using them to expand his business to other clientele, and prolonging their addictions to keep them as a commodity. If you live in the 757, none of this is shocking or new.

These daunting economic circumstances and rising deaths create a grim and bitter outcome for anyone coastal trying to overcome these hardships.

 

But there is hope, and there are opportunities.

 

Where to Find Help with Addiction in Tidewater Virginia

Better Substance Abuse Rehab

BSAR is willing to give free consultation, and a step by step walkthrough for a sit down intervention. Interventions, in no way, shape, or form, the same as rehabilitation. It’s not even the first step towards recovery; it is however opening a gateway to a loved one in need, and reminding them that they are part of a concerned community that loves them enough to sit them down in the first place. Environments stimulate addiction more so than the actual chemicals themselves. Sometimes, a reminder to someone that they’re surrounded by people that can be trusted and reached out to, can change a life or death situation. BSAR can consult and walkthrough a proper intervention with concerned friends and family members.

Phone: (757) 216-1595

Site: http://addictionrehabhamptonva.com/substance-abuse-intervention/

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Right Path: Recover Your Future

Right Path understands addictions from an addict’s perspective, blatantly stating that addiction is not a choice, but a disease to be dealt with. A series of environmental factors in need of changing. Right Path also accepts VA Medicare, making them a more accessible program for those financially suffering in the economic environment that contributed towards their addiction. VA Medicare, in most cases, will cover the entirety of the recovery process, ranging from meeting with a counselor, to the medication itself. There is no shame in financial help along the way.

Phone: (Accessed through local Department of Social Services)

Norfolk: (757) 664-6000

Virginia Beach: (757) 385-3200

Chesapeake: (757) 382-2000

Suffolk: (757) 514-7450

Richmond: (804) 646-7000

Newport News: (757) 926-6300

Hampton: (757) 727-1800

Site: http://www.dss.virginia.gov/benefit/medical_assistance/index.cgi

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The Healing Place of Hampton Roads

The Healing Place is a non-profit, non-medical recovery and rehabilitation district for the homeless, with a twelve step program that leads into permanent housing. They are a product of the 2009 Hampton Roads Regional Task Force To End Homelessness. The Place has received multiple accolades for the programs it runs, including Model that Works by the U.S. Dept. of Health and Human Services. They also have a volunteer program for those that are looking to make a positive impact on their community, and do their part to end the epidemic. The entirety of this process is free for those signing themselves up for it.

Phone: 757- 217-0408

Site: http://www.thehealingplacehr.org/get-involved/

The issue that permeates Hampton Roads is not the economic conditions that create homelessness. It’s not the homelessness that creates addiction; it’s the apathy and loathsome reaction that 757ers have towards those less privileged.

If at least a tenth of our community could actively care about those starving and freezing in the streets, recovery rates would skyrocket, the rising tide of overdoses could possibly be overturned.

Until this happens, volunteer, donate, share, and let someone in need know that they’re loved. They could be one less body, one less death. 

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Chad MacDonald, a member of the Central Virginia Chapter of Writing for Peace, is currently a student of West Virginia Wesleyan's MFA program. He graduated from Longwood University with a degree in English/Creative Writing, and is a contributor to 5 to 1 Magazine, Calamus Press, and Word Gatherings. 

 

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IMPORTANT READ: "Finding What Works For You: 12 Ways You Can Be an Activist Without Going to a Protest" by Felecia Fitzpatrick

"When you’re a woman of color, every day, every moment, you’re fully engaged with white supremacy....

While I believe wholeheartedly in protests, acts of resistance, and raising your voice, I have never felt comfortable at physical demonstrations. I often feel guilty about this—especially, when facing the question that’s all over Twitter right now: What would I have done during the Civil Rights Movement? Honestly, I’m not sure how many marches I would have attended. But I still would have taken action...."

"ACTIVISM COMES IN ALL SHAPES AND SIZES....""

If we all have the same goal, why not use our skills and passions to create our own specific type activism? Create a surround experience of activism, if you will—through events, civic engagement, donations, dialogue, art, and digital platforms.

Wondering where to start? Here are 12 different ideas/types of activism you can engage in besides attending a physical demonstration:...."

READ THE WHOLE ARTICLE HERE ON BLACK GIRL IN OM

 

 

"A Gentle Corrective for the Epidemic of Identity Politics Turning Us on Each Other and on Ourselves" by Maria Popova, Brain Pickings

Important Read.

"Two decades after O’Donohue’s beautiful words, we have somehow found ourselves in an era where even the brightest, kindest, most idealistic people spring to judgment — which is nothing other than negative wonder — in a heart-flinch. Questions invite instant opinions more often than they invite conversation and contemplation — a peculiar terror of wonder that O’Donohue presaged:

'One of the sad things today is that so many people are frightened by the wonder of their own presence. They are dying to tie themselves into a system, a role, or to an image, or to a predetermined identity that other people have actually settled on for them. This identity may be totally at variance with the wild energies that are rising inside in their souls. Many of us get very afraid and we eventually compromise. We settle for something that is safe, rather than engaging the danger and the wildness that is in our own hearts.'

Paradoxically, in our golden age of identity politics and trigger-ready outrage, this repression of our inner wildness and fracturing of our wholeness has taken on an inverted form, inclining toward a parody of itself. Where Walt Whitman once invited us to celebrate the glorious multitudes we each contain and to welcome the wonder that comes from discovering one another’s multitudes afresh, we now cling to our identity-fragments, using them as badges and badgering artillery in confronting the templated identity-fragments of others. (For instance, some of mine: woman, reader, immigrant, writer, queer, survivor of Communism.) Because no composite of fragments can contain, much less represent, all possible fragments, we end up drifting further and further from one another’s wholeness, abrading all sense of shared aspiration toward unbiased understanding..."

READ MORE HERE

 

RESOURCE: Richmond VA Cold Weather Overflow Shelter Open December 29- January 4

PLEASE SHARE. 

 EFFECTIVE IMMEDIATELY, DECEMBER 1, 2017 UNTIL APRIL 15, 2018 THE COLD WEATHER OVERFLOW SHELTER HOURS OF OPERATION WILL BE 7 P.M. UNTIL 10 A.M.

The Cold Weather Overflow Shelter will be open Wednesday, December 29 – Thursday, January 4th, 2017 as temperatures are forecast to remain at or below 40 degrees.

Residents in need of overnight shelter are asked to report to Commonwealth Catholic Charities (511 W. Grace Street) during operational hours for a comprehensive intake and referral to the appropriate shelter. Shelter registration is from 7 p.m. to 9 p.m. For individuals who are not eligible for existing shelter space or if all available beds have been filled, Commonwealth Catholic Charities will provide a referral to the Cold Weather Overflow Shelter....."

"City residents are also advised the Department of Social Services provides emergency assistance with gas and electric disconnection notices for residents who qualify. Residents may also call the Fuel Line at (804) 646-7046.

The elderly or residents with disabilities should contact Senior Connections for assistance at (804) 343-3000, Monday through Friday; 9 a.m. to 5 p.m....."

MORE DETAILS HERE

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RESOURCE: Lynchburg, Danville: Cold Weather Shelters

"The Coordinated Homeless Intake and Access - known as CHIA - helps locals facing homelessness get placed in a shelter with just one phone call to the program coordinator, Megan Wood.

Shelters are not just for those facing homelessness.

Folks who don't have working heat in their homes can also get assistance.

Contact the Salvation Army any time at (434) 845-5939 or call CHIA at (434) 485-7200 between 8 a.m. and 5 p.m."

MORE DETAILS HERE

Pleas share. 

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Oh, Empathy: First in a Series by SarahGrace Gomez

Let’s be honest. 2017 was hard.

When I finished my Master’s thesis, I submitted the document and then I curled up in a ball on my bed and I cried for an hour. Researching racism and using zombies to communicate the totality of death and violence that characterizes racist action left me feeling broken. While I wrote about premature death and the dehumanization of marginalized peoples, cops kept shooting unarmed black men in the streets. Donald Trump was finishing his first 100 days in office.

I cried because I felt like my thesis was a warning of what would come. The future toward which we hurtled felt more apocalyptic than utopic, and fighting for peace was becoming too much. By August, a neo-Nazi had murdered an anti-racist activist in the streets of Charlottesville. By November, they had gathered on the Boston Common twice. By December, I was tired, and supremely over the year as a capsule of America unraveling. I did what the self-help blogs on Buzzfeed and Huffington Post told me to do; I bought some face masks. I got my hair cut. I ate a kale salad. True to the narrative of self-care that has become so popular in these uncertain days, I excavated time for myself. It did not help.

2017 wasn’t just hard. It hurt. When the stakes were so high, and there was still so much work to be done, I was burning out fast, and I wasn’t alone. My entire network of change-makers and justice warriors ached under the pressure of our work, and we were all searching for respite. My friend who works with Crisis Text Line showed me her notes on compassion fatigue, and they sounded exactly like the tips my friend who works in an animal shelter said she and her colleagues discuss. My friend who used to work at a needle exchange suggested we bring in 2018 by doing face masks, putting on makeup, painting our nails, and practicing the kind of self-care we think will work. In comparison to the work we do, the methods we have for self-care feel commodified, one-dimensional, and insufficient.

This leads me to a few questions:

Why is it so exhausting to practice empathy? And how has the language of self-care ultimately failed us? More importantly, how do we make it work for us?

I decided to write this post because I wanted to put to practice the vision we have for Writing For Peace regional chapters. This content was supposed to be a way to not just discuss empathy exhaustion as a huge problem in activist communities, but to also try to find my own peace in the face of my fatigue. When I told my friends, many of whom are involved with Aids Action Committee, Crisis Text Line, Food Not Bombs and addiction harm reduction, that I was going to write about empathy exhaustion, the resounding response was, “Oh my GOD, I so know what you mean.” It no longer was that selfish project of blogging about exactly how tired I was, it became an ethnography of activists who are at risk of losing hope despite all efforts to avoid that fate.

This will be a series of blog posts dedicated to giving activists the space to contend with their empathy, their exhaustion, their forms of self-care, and where they fit taking care of themselves into their mission of saving others. In the new year, I will continue to explore how the rhetoric of self-care has become insufficient in the face of the work we do and the exhaustion we face, and how we can all fight back so we can all keep fighting.

Happy New Year. Let’s learn how to take care of you.

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