Think Locally, Act Locally

Recently, I began to research various organizations in my county. I found some good ones, doing great things. I found wonderful people with divine visions.

Tonight, I went on Twitter and began to think. The internet has made us think we are best friends with people clear across the globe. It has made us think our ‘likes’ mean something as important as putting food in people’s mouths or money in their pocket.

I highly value the internet and social media. It has done wonderful things for humankind. However, it also makes us feel like we are more important than we are and that our ‘likes’ and ‘follows’ mean something great when they mean relatively little most of the time.

Want to do something great? It takes more than a follow and a like. It takes reaching out in your own community. That’s right. It’s time to come back to our local environments.

This doesn’t mean you can’t ‘follow’ that person you adore halfway across the world. It simply means that your efforts may be best suited for doing something in your own community, probably even face-to-face. The more grounded you are in your community, the better off we will all be.

Take some time to search your community for organizations you can help. Learn to love your local environment. Whatever you give globally can often be translated locally. And people around you will be better served.

It’s time to think locally and act locally.

Lessons Learned: Notes to the Philosophy Profession

By medical necessity, I left graduate school 10 years ago. I suffered a major psychotic episode that left me hospitalized, on medication and unable to work. I was an A student who contributed to the field by way of service. I was a TA, then an RA and, also, a mom. (Not to mention a first generation college student from a poor background and former teen mom–perhaps the only teen mom in philosophy at the time.)

It has been a decade, but things change slowly in academia. Therefore, I wanted to write this note for current students, as well as professors and gatekeepers of the profession.

  1. If you are a student, get enough sleep. I cannot stress this enough. I know you have papers due, papers to grade and professional papers to read. I know this all too well. During grad school, I got about 3 hours of sleep a night. New research suggests the brain sort of eats itself when one is sleep deprived. This damage may be repaired sometimes, but it takes a long time and it’s not certain.
  2. If you are a professor, be aware of your words and actions. I was a blogger for my department’s blog. In that role, I came across other philosophy blogs. In that capacity, I saw that not all philosophers are very nice. There are disputes, sure. But then there’s just bad form. I saw a lot of bad form. It made me walk on eggshells and have extreme anxiety. I was a budding student who didn’t know everything. Yet, people more knowledgeable than me were being treated like scum. I understand now that everyone is human. Even philosophers. But I also understand one can strive to be a good human. So: Try.
  3. Know the basics of sexism and racism and know what to do about them. What should have been my first red flag that made me run as fast as I could was when I was told by a fellow student that the profession is bad for women. This student didn’t seem to have any solutions to remedy this. Just a report that the profession was bad for women. (Later, the same student sexually harassed me.) I also witnessed our only racial minority student, whom I was friends with, work harder that any of the other students and subsequently drop out for health reasons similar to mine. The lesson from this? Know not only that philosophy is bad toward minorities, know also how to remedy this.
  4. Understand that diversity is good. I was a minority of my own kind in philosophy. It’s known that all kinds of diversity leads to great things in academia, science, organizations, and more. Don’t select the standard young, single, childless, able-bodied, middle class, white male. Be flexible in your choosing and change your schema to be adaptive to other kinds of people. Philosophy will die if it doesn’t respond to the needs of diverse students and faculty. And rightly so.
  5. Don’t be so snobby. I came from a poor background, but I was introduced to snobbery by philosophy. I began to look down on less educated people. I started to remove myself from my roots. All of this to fit into your schema.
  6. Don’t be elitist. I know, I know. You now think I’m a Republican because I associated elitism with academia. Untrue! I am fully progressive, which is why I have come to detest the elitism in academia. Everything is ranked: departments, journals, universities. Everything. I believed in equality, but was taught early on that philosophy is a brutal hierarchy. Disown that shit! Brutal hierarchies are so 80’s. We now know that egalitarian institutions thrive better than stratified hierarchies.

With these things in mind, I wish everyone in philosophy well.

On Toughness

I grew up thinking that if I was tough enough I could accomplish anything. Until the age of 27, when I fell ill with schizophrenia, I thought I was Wonder Woman–a person who could do anything and had no limits.

For the past 10 years, I have tried and tried to accomplish things–sometimes big things, sometimes small things. Often, I fail. I have come to accept that I have a mental illness that limits what I can do.

I thought about all of this today when I saw a job advertisement that called for someone who “works well under pressure.”

Stress. It’s a killer.

Unless your job is ever-so-important, there’s no need to add stress to your life. Stress is one of the things that triggers my episodes. Stress contributes to a lot of health conditions.

In the past, I would have thought that being able to work well under pressure was a badge of honor. Now, I know there’s hardly a job worth it.

We grow up thinking that being “tough” is the highest good. In fact, taking risks that make us so-called “tough” shortens our lives and makes us less healthy.

I’m done with being tough. I don’t even care if you call me a snowflake. I’ll be a snowflake with a longer, healthier life.

Getting Rid of Toxicity and Adding Positive Relationships for Mental Health

Health.

It’s not something I take for granted. As my one-year-anniversary of health approaches, I am reminded of just how bad things have been for me in the past–and how thankful I am that I haven’t experienced these things for a year.

Having a psychotic disorder like mine is tricky. I never know when psychosis will sneak up on me. My family and I, along with my doctors, try to identify patterns that contribute to it. Sometimes, trying to understand these patterns just adds to stress, though.

However, there are a few things I have done, in addition to taking a new medication, to reduce the likelihood of another psychotic episode.

I suppose the biggest thing I have done is get rid of toxic relationships in my life. There was one person in particular who was toxic and abusive. I haven’t spoken to that person for months. They are permanently out of my life.

Instead of being engulfed by a toxic relationship, I have added a positive relationship in my life. Remember, being a victim of toxicity and abuse is never the victim’s fault. If you are such a victim, you are worthy of fulfilling and positive relationships. Abuse is never what you deserve.

You deserve positive relationships. You deserve to be fulfilled. You deserve to be appreciated and loved.

I have found that by getting rid of toxic relationships and adding positive relationships, I have added tons of value to my life. No longer do I tread on eggshells or get yelled at. This is a huge relief and, no doubt, this contributes to my mental wellness.

You can start today. If you are enduring a toxic relationship, there’s no law that says that person has to be in your life. You don’t even need a reason to remove someone from your life. But, if the person is toxic, you have ample reason already.

It took me a very long time to see myself as worthy of having positive relationships in my life. If you learn anything from me, let it be this: Don’t wait to replace the toxicity in your life for something better.

The Case of Delonte West

If you haven’t heard about the startling news about Delonte West yet, you can click here to begin to understand. I wanted to write a post about his often misunderstood condition so people may understand and assist.

Possibly living on the streets, West is diagnosed with Bipolar Disorder. This can be a severe disorder affecting one’s ability to think and behave. It is also rumored he has an addiction disorder.

There are many things he needs, if these rumors are true, to be healthy.

First, he needs to get off the streets. Mental illness and addiction disorders are only exacerbated on the streets. He needs a stable, healthy environment in which to live.

Second, he probably needs medication and counseling. He needs to be hooked up with a treatment center where he can get the medical care he needs. He may also need a mental health case manager.

Third, he needs an income. If his Bipolar Disorder is documented and severe, he may qualify for Social Security Disability (either SSI or SSDI). He needs someone who will assist him with the paperwork if his doctors think his condition makes him unable to work.

I understand that many people do not comprehend mental illness and its effects. But it can literally take you from being a star on top of the world to sleeping on a sidewalk.

Frequently, we praise and blame people for their various success and failure. But it’s incorrect to blame someone for an illness. It’s not necessarily that he needs to be pitied. It’s that he needs consistent support in order to thrive.

Mental illness is difficult to navigate, sometimes especially for the person who is suffering. No one, unless he is a danger, can force any type of help on him. He needs to want it.

I hope he gets the care and support he needs in order to thrive.

Creating a Healthy Relationship with Race: A Lesson for White People

It started when I was in undergrad. An unhealthy relationship with non-white people. I did my undergraduate research on Native American issues. I concluded that decolonization is the answer, but I didn’t spell out what that means.

What was clear was this: I thought nothing could ever make right what had gone wrong for hundreds of years regarding non-white people.

This fact ate at me. I have never wanted to kill myself, but I wanted to die. Because I am white. I didn’t think I deserved anything good in life. I put up with various kinds of abuse and torment–sometimes in the name of race. No doubt, this behavior contributed to my psychotic episodes.

It’s been about 8 months since I set that chapter aside in my life. I now have a healthy new life. And a different relationship with race. I have gone back to the basics when it comes to race. And here’s what I conclude:

  1. See people as people first. I know they say not to be color blind. But we are all human beings first and foremost. Act that way.
  2. Stick up for non-white people when the time arises. That means, if someone is being attacked in some way due to race, speak up.
  3. Take race into consideration when it’s appropriate. There are times when race is relevant. It may be when a Native American has diabetes and you know that they have high rates of diabetes. It may be something else. You can see someone as a person without ignoring relevant race-related things.

This is my new relationship with race. I’m not saying it solves everything, but racism assumes that non-white people are less than human. Doing the three things above corrects for this. It also keeps you healthy and safe if you are white. Because undoing racism is not about obliterating white people or making them want to die. It’s about equal footing, friendship, solidarity and our shared humanity.

New Collection of Poems: Wildflowers

My latest collection of poems, which you can buy here, is my most revealing yet. Trapped by loneliness and lack of love and friendship, I struggle with finding human connection in each poem. In addition to that, I deal with my mental illness, which creeps up at the most inopportune times.

Every poem is crafted to display the true me.

I hope you enjoy them.