Monthly Archives: April 2008

carnival of eating disorders #16

hello people! this is the new edition of the carnival of eating disorders. unfortunately, i’ve been having problems with the blog carnival site (the site that administers all the carnivals) so i have had only a few submissions this month, two of which i’ll be including.

to substitute for the slim pickins, i’ll feature this time a poem – last day of poetry month! – and two topics that twitter friends of mine have suggested.

a bulimia poem

imagine yourself in a room of people eating.
jaws break down and digest tiny nutrients
absorbed by miniscule pores, countless internal mouths
in the stomach lining, fissures in nerve tissue.
by the window, there is a girl frozen with fork raised,
distanced from the herd”a cautious lone zebra
crouching in the reeds, spying lions at the waterhole
and hiding her stripes.

go here for the rest.

anorexia promotion to be outlawed in france
the first topic suggekeira knightley, super skinnysted is by jan, who thought it would be useful to talk about a bill adopted by france’s lower house of parliament this month which could be the catalyst for the worldwide fight against eating disorders. the bill still needs to be approved by the senate but if that occurs, it would make it illegal for anyone — including magazines, web sites and advertisers — to publicly promote extreme thinness or unhealthy methods of dropping a few dress sizes.

here are three views on that.

girl – woman – beauty – brains says

with the jury still out on the cause of eating disorders, i can’t condone france’s hard line approach to dealing with the media. you know what happens when the government gets involved in free capital issues. not only does corruption loopholes or other means to circumvent the system arise, but usually the legislation and ensuing laws are ineffective.

looking at how this might play out in the courts, particularly in the US, carrie from ed bites takes a more favourable view, citing the ideas of a father of a person with anorexia who also happens to be a lawyer:

while the first amendment probably protects pro-dieting and pro-ed speech from government censorship, it does not protect that kind of speech from civil liability. the tobacco industry, for example, was nailed for huge money damages for failing to disclose the dangers of smoking and for evil practices like marketing cigarettes to children. those practices violated general tort law and consumer protection statutes and were found by the courts not to be protected by the constitutional right to free speech. it would be interesting to look at the marketing practices of the diet industry for examples of where it crosses the line. like failing to warn of the dangers of dieting.

finally, the people at 5 resolutions are pretty clear on their positive take on this and urge others to go along:

if you think the u.s. government should play an active role in eating disorders research, treatment, and prevention, go to the eating disorder coalition’s website and sign up for their newsletter. we just did.

what do you think? should any form of favourable communication about anorexia and bulimia be banned? or is that a form of censorship? what kind of effect would such a law have on people with anorexia or bulimia, and on the population as a whole?

anorexia and exercise
the second alert i got from my twitter friend rob cottingham, who pointed out that the april/may edition of the running room’s magazine has an article about eating disorders. i tried my best to find anything on the internet about that but wasn’t able to. going onto the running room’s forum, there is a small section on anorexia. interestingly, it has a poll asking whether anyone on the forum knows a runner with an eating disorder. 25% said they did. i think the idea of a sporting goods company talking about eating disorders is fascinating, and if any of you know anything more about this, please let me know!

and here are the two submissions that made the cut.

obesity and overeating
the weight loss continues to report on his particular way of losing weight – trying a new diet every week or so. here he talks about eating raw.

at small steps to health, people who are struggling with their weight are encouraged to

take a few days (at least one weekday and one weekend) to write down any emotion related eating. on a sheet of paper, put in four columns: triggers, behaviors, consequences, and action plan.

she then goes into a bit of detail for each one of these. this is a method that works well for people who are really ready to beat their demons. it works for any habit, and i highly recommend it.

so, people, that’s it for this month. if you have written an article on any of these topics or have seen one you like, please, submit it to the next edition of carnival of eating disorders, to come out on may 31. please use the carnival submission form.

(image by jo salmon

ernesto cardenal: verses from the pluriverse

still in the spirit of poetry month, an excerpt from ernesto cardenal’s versos del pluriverso (verses from the pluriverse):

if there is an endless number of worlds, they say,
there is also a world where napoleon won the battle of waterloo.
and a world where she requited my love, in granada.
but these worlds and ours will never find each other.

quantum waves are vibrations of the possible.
“quantum waves” they called empty waves.
but in quantum theory there exists no “nothing”.
and an electron “literally has no dimension”.
or:
“to our understanding it is no object.”
(an electron)
the particles are no firmer and no more durable,
they say, than a stream of water from a fountain.
for heisenberg, less substantial than a promise.
if space-time was visible, they believe,
it would have the shape of foam.
bertrand russell still owes an answer to the cab driver.
very old, he hailed a cab and the cab driver recognized him and asked:
“so, what is it all about?”
for the first time in his life he could not respond.

when the universe expands:
then from which centre does it expand?
or is each point the centre?
then the centre of the universe
is also our solar system,
also our planet
(and she, who once was it for me).

one of the things that fascinates me about this work of poetry is that throughout, cardenal expands his views to the unimaginable and then always comes back to the minute particular – the centre of his universe, once, a woman in granada.

a liberation theologian, he always brings philosophy and theology down to earth. we see the brilliance of bertrand russell bursting into foam at a simple question from a cab driver. theory needs to inform us but we have to be able to touch it, at least here and there, at least for a moment. yes, we really do not have good words and concepts (yet) for the form of water in a stream – but it’s there, very real, very important.

ernesto cardenal studied in mexico and at columbia university in the US, and with thomas merton at a trappist monastery in kentucky in 1957. nicaraguan dictactor anastasio somoza declared cardenal an outlaw in 1957 for his support of the sandinista movement. in 1965, he was ordained a priest and founded a christian commune, solentiname. during the revolution, cardenal served as a field chaplain for the FSLN. after the triumph, he served as minister of culture from 1979 to 1988 and promoted literary workshops throughout nicaragua. at present he is the vice president of casa de las tres mundos, a literary and cultural organization based in managua.

i translated this from the german translation by willi zurbrueggen – i couldn’t find either an english translation or the spanish original on the web. the english translation in book form is about to come out, with some amazing translators, including thomas merton and kenneth rexroth.

go here for more information about ernesto cardenal.

frozen pea friday: poems about cancer

today friday, as usual, a post having to do with cancer. to finish off april, the poetry month, i’ll serve up three poems.

winter sun lace

the first one is one i wrote shortly before my friend nikaiah jaguar left us.

nikaiah
butterfly woman
your bones are so thin the moon shines through

some say
the moths are eating you
but we know
you are becoming one with the light.

here one by denise larrabee, from the cancer poetry project:

you are in my thoughts
are with you are part of
the ?prayer chain? at our
church will say a mass
for you accept all
prayers on your behalf we
will say a rosary for you
tonight lots of people
are calmly, psychically
cheering you on sunday
will light a candle for
you are in our thoughts
and prayers are being
said for you need all the
health karma there is a
candle lit for you in
front of my madonna has a
special place for young
women in trouble require
positive and healthy
energy to kiss someone
you love when you get
this letter and make
magic.

and lastly, one that has been floating around the web for a while, by an author whose name we don’t know. i found it at ma walking wolf:

what cancer cannot do

cancer is so limited…
it cannot cripple love
it cannot shatter hope
it cannot corrode faith
it cannot destroy peace
it cannot kill friendship
it cannot suppress memories
it cannot silence courage
it cannot invade the soul
it cannot steal eternal life
it cannot conquer the spirit

(image by nancy waldman, a fellow canadian)

a little exercise: from dread to like

i was going to send this as an email to someone but why not post it here?

the question is – how do you turn something dreadful into something you like? actually, the words used were “purgatory” and “heaven” 🙂

i have a few exercises for this, and one of them has something to do with how we feel when we’re not 100% good at something. so here we go.

somewhere i read this: “the fact that we do not know how to be or do everything perfectly is not a good reason to lose confidence in ourselves.”

this can be turned into a little exercise:

list a few things that you don’t do perfectly, e.g.

  • paperwork
  • play with kids
  • exercise regularly
  • look after bad back
  • perform well at presentations

then ask yourself – what’s fun about these things?

what’s fun about doing paperwork?
e.g. i like paper! like, the actual paper. makes me think of books and writing and drawing.

what’s fun about playing with the kids?
e.g. i like finger puppets.

what’s fun about exercising regularly?
e.g. the cute guys at the gym

what’s fun about looking after my bad back?
e.g. lying on the floor with the TV on.

what’s fun about presentations?
e.g. i like powerpoint.

it’s a good idea to come up with at least 5 fun points for each activity you feel you’re not perfect at.

(p.s. it was much more fun to write this than to finish round 1 of my taxes. i soo dislike doing that this time around. so i’m going to take my own medicine. what’s fun about doing the taxes? 1 – i get to go on the web site of one of my favourite financial institutions; 2 – when i’m done, i can phone my husband and GLOAT; 3 – i get to walk my talk – one of my biggest motivators; 4 – i get to have a better overview over my finances – something i always enjoy; 5 – i enjoy looking at the neatness of spreadsheets. ok, i’m off now!)

(p.s. some time later – i actually did it and it worked!!!)

this post was listed in the carnival of motivation and inspiration

a global community celebrates earth day

lovin' mama eartha friend of mine sent me this for earth day:

* think of no-one as ‘them’
* don’t confuse your comfort with your safety
* talk to strangers
* imagine other cultures through their poetry and novels
* listen to music you don’t understand
* act locally
* notice the workings of power & privilege in your culture
* question consumption
* know how your lettuce and coffee are grown: wake up and smell the exploitation
* look for fair trade and union labels
* help build economies from the bottom up
* acquire few needs
* learn a second or third language
* visit people, places and cultures, not tourist attractions.
* learn people’s history. redefine progress.
* know physical and political geography
* watch films with subtitles
* know your heritage
* honor everyone’s holidays
* think south, central and north, there are many americans
* look at the moon and imagine someone else, somewhere else, looking at it too.
* read the un’s universal declaration of human rights
* understand the global economy in terms of people. land and water
* know where your bank banks
* never believe you have the right to anyone else’s resources
* refuse to wear corporate logos; defy corporate domination
* question military/corporate connections
* don’t confuse money with wealth, or time with money
* have a pen/email pal. honor indigenous cultures
* judge governance by how well it meets all people’s needs
* be skeptical about what you read
* eat adventurously. enjoy vegetables, beans and grains in your diet.
* choose curiosity over certainty.
* know where your water comes from and where your wastes go.
* pledge allegiance to the earth. avoid nationalism
* assume that many others share your dreams
* know that no-one is silent though many are not heard. work to change this.

it turns out this is on a beautiful poster – the one you see here. you can get it at at the syracuse cultural workers tools for peace shop.

mental illness stigma in churches: an occasion for self reflection

thanks to barry for taking the time and care to comment on the post about how some christian churches deal with mental illness.

one of the habits i have fallen into is that when i feel critical of someone, i then turn to myself and ask myself how i, or groups i belong to or identify with, behave in that way, as well.

in many ways, i agree with barry. that’s why i’m going to do this exercise here. here’s what barry says:

the moment you mention mental troubles to the evangelical/charismatic christian spectrum they tend (not in every case) to talk of scripture in a pronouncedly denouncing manner.

when we feel we’re right, it’s incredibly tempting to find a piece of authority to support it. on a conscious level, i try to watch out for this but i’m aware that i’m always driven a bit more by the desire to have someone/something agree with me than to find someone who disagrees with me.

having said that, there is a big difference between getting someone to agree with you in general, and getting someone to agree with you and then using that in a denouncing manner.

i cannot help but think of the inquisition here.

barry then points out

there are several reasons for this

1) they’re comfortable with their critical views and change means humility and hard work

we’re all comfortable with our views – that’s a rock-bottom human condition. and in this comfort, we rarely label our views as anything even remotely negative. i bet most people who espouse this view do not see it as critical at all. to them it’s just – well, right.

i find the use of scripture to speak ill of people with mental health issues horrible. this is my view. is there something that i could change? something where i need more humility?

my immediate reaction is – i’m already doing my darndest to be understanding. enough already!

well – maybe i am doing a lot to be understanding. but “enough already” is not humble!

2) they think that they can heal any illness by immediate prayer (and if the person concerned isn’t immediately healed, they become very worried that their prayers have failed, thus passing same on/back to sufferer, with the inevitable ‘your faith wasn’t strong enough’ or ‘you weren’t co-operating with prayer’ – anything to avoid facing the terrible and ashen fact that god , for whatever reason, has said no to them, which he’s entitled to do after all).

again, what a human thing to do. i’m powerless over something, i can’t stand that powerlessness, so i turn around and make it all someone else’s fault. and since i’ve just experienced the extreme discomfort of powerlessness, i’m going to do my best to make sure that the person/persons i blame can’t defend themselves. that way i can feel a bit more control.

i bet you if we’re honest, we can all easily name an instance like that – probably something quite innocuous. for example, i find it much easier to criticize my children than my husband, and that includes situations where i don’t shoulder as much of the responsibility as i truly have.

in a much more serious fashion, this happens not infrequently in therapy (“you’re not getting better because you’re resisting!”). i go out of my way to not do this. it’s a difficult road to tread because it can easily move over to the other extreme: collusion. (“of course you can’t get better – see how bad your wife is treating you!”)

3) they can’t bear to think of themselves (or their children) suffering such intractability and so they respond with judgemental attitudes driven by fear and apparent need to placate the almighty

irreverently, i call this the “monkey pimple syndrome”. we see illness and become afraid. when we become afraid, we regress. when we regress, we become irrational (more irrational than we are to begin with). in this irrational state, we believe that all illness contaminates – as soon as we “touch” the person who is ill, we are in danger of catching it, too.

this situation that barry describes is something that i come across frequently when working with people with chronic pain. most anyone – health care professionals definitely included – is terribly afraid of pain. the cold distancing and the blaming (“it’s all in your head”) stems at least partly from that fear.

this is where the hard work comes in that barry talked about earlier. i need to keep learning about when and where i have such fearful knee jerk reactions and go into regression – that’ll make it easier to catch myself early in that process and hopefully not even go there at all.

finally, barry says

the trick ( if indeed there is one) is to rebut ignorance with dignity and knowledge and when you’re given judgemental opinions on your illness, to request the personally graduated medical school it came from.

to that bag of tricks i’ve just added compassion, honesty and personal responsibility.

or maybe it’s not about tricks. maybe it’s just about being present with our brothers and sisters, even in painful moments.

thanks again, barry, for inspiring this post. and let me just make it very clear again – while i did take this as an occasion to reflect on my own faults, i certainly don’t condone the attitude you’ve found. these reflections are explanations, not excuses.

let’s also take this as an occasion of inviting people to talk about where churches of all stripes have been helpful to people with mental illness. i’d be happy to host a guest post about that.