Still working on my pop addiction…

Cherry Coke

Cherry Coke lines my insides.
The bubbles elevate my brain
Higher
Lighter
Until my whole world is floating.
My sacred temple gave in
To its insistent cravings.
Bad choices
For momentary smiles.
The drink’s grasp wakes me
Opens my crisp cold eyes
Glues me to the happenings.
A steady stream of Cherry Coke
Pulls me through another uncertain day.

What was your tipping point?

What was the tipping point that made you finally call yourself an atheist?

I’ve shared a bit of my story and my struggle with schizoaffective disorder. Before I sought treatment and was medicated, I thought my auditory and visual hallucinations were spirits. While I’ve never been religious, I was always searching for an explanation for what I was experiencing.

My tipping point was taking Risperdal. It was the first antipsychotic medication I tried and it seemed to do the trick. I quickly learned that I no longer need to search for an explanation because the spirits weren’t real. Seeing is believing and they were no longer there. The hallucinations were the only thing connecting me to any sort of belief in the supernatural. At that moment I realized religion was absolutely useless in my life. It never made sense to me anyway.

So Risperdal was my tipping point. What was yours?

 

Dating Partners of Different Faiths

I dated a lot before I met my husband, and I don’t regret any of it. I met lots of interesting people and learned a lot, not just about others, but about myself as well and what I want. 

I dated a lot of different people, including those of different faiths. New relationships were always exciting and I always had hope for the future. Inevitability, they didn’t work out or else I wouldn’t have met my husband.

Oftentimes, my partner’s faith would prevent a relationship from ever becoming too serious. Or even worse — they wanted to convert me. Being an atheist is too important to me and I would never give in for the sake of a relationship. 

It’s really kind of funny because I dated so many people from so many different backgrounds, but the person I ended up marrying is just like me in so many ways. My husband and I are from the same area and both from German backgrounds. Our families are Christian and we are not. I even frequented the bookstore he worked at years before we met.

My husband and I are like puzzle pieces — our personal strengths and weaknesses balance the other out. Everything just seems to fit. I’m not saying we’re perfect, but I’ve never worked so well with someone before. We love each other, but it takes so much more than love to make a marriage work.

So I am really curious — I have seen in some of your comments that your partner is of a different faith. How do you guys make it work?

Does well-educated mean less religious?

I have read that the more educated you are the less likely you are to be religious.

Do you think that’s true?

I don’t consider myself well-educated. I was diagnosed with schizoaffective disorder as a young adult and dropped out of college four times. However, I really love school and I’m a very persistent (and sometimes stubborn) person, so I kept going back. Finally, in my thirties, I graduated from a local community college with an associate’s degree in commercial art. But I am itching to go back. I would love to get a four-year degree and maybe even go further. As I said, I really love school and there’s no doubt in my mind I could do it.

That went a little off-topic, but that’s my story. Am I the exception? I have been a pretty passionate atheist for most of my adult life.

I posted an article about this on Facebook a couple of years ago and it really pissed some people off. Apparently, there are some pretty well-educated religious people out there, too — even among my friends and family.

I think most people would agree that college is more than an education; it’s also a life experience. Being from a rural area, a lot of the diversity that surrounded me in college was new. Maybe it’s also that part that influences a student’s feelings about religion.

If you google this topic, a lot of articles and studies pop up supporting that the more educated you are, the less likely you are to be religious, but here’s an interesting article that states Christians maybe be the exception.

How do you guys feel? What do you think plays more into this — the college experience or the education?

 

Dark Clouds Over Toledo

Dark Clouds Over Toledo

The topic of conversation
Most days
The forecast throws us a lifeline
We feel the extremes
But still, make it through
Low rumbles in the distance
Soon leave us drenched and cold
Our wind-swept brains
Are exhausted
We retreat indoors
And wait for a peek of the sun

Phrases Derived From Religion

How do you guys feel about saying religious-based phrases in everyday conversation?

I say “oh my god” and “thank god” a lot. I still say “bless you” when someone sneezes. 

Saying these phrases are just an automatic reaction that I would usually not even think about. A couple of years ago I had a coworker and fellow atheist tell me that he avoids these phrases. If someone sneezes, he says nothing. I can really see his point. Even though these phrases are so ingrained in me, I am now more aware when I use them. They’re still coming out of my mouth though, and now I feel a little awkward about using them.

Do you guys use these phrases? Do you avoid them?

Unfortunately, my 40th post is about COVID-19

How are you all doing? This has all been a little rough, to say the least.

I am staying home from work and my daughter from daycare. Tomorrow a stay-at-home order goes into effect in Ohio.

My husband is a fire and rescue dispatcher for the city of Toledo so he will be going to work no matter what.

We’ve gone grocery shopping a few times and we get what we can. The shelves are pretty bare. Stores now have limited hours and people are outside their doors early in the morning waiting for them to open. Tonight we’re getting delivery for supper. Thankfully that’s still a thing.

Shit got real this morning when I learned that a couple of people I know personally are now sick. It’s no longer just a story on the news. Needless to say, my husband and I are now taking this quarantine thing a little more seriously. 

This may suck but I still feel grateful in our current situation. We are safe, we are healthy, and we haven’t killed each other yet.

How are you guys holding up?

Sharpies Mend My Brain (And I’m Not Alone)

I work as an artist and mental health advocate and my work is very important to me. I am staying home right now due to the COVID-19 outbreak and I am really missing my job. I want to share with you a little article I wrote about my work.

 

Mental Illness and the arts seem to go hand-in-hand. Makes sense. Deep emotions. Losing touch with reality. It seems like all the greats were afflicted. However, this article is not about the greats; it focuses on the everyday life of everyday people struggling with mental health issues.

I always carry big purses so I can take Sharpies and paper everywhere. Waiting at a doctor’s office? Draw with Sharpies. Slow day at work? Sharpies. Sneaking away for a quiet moment alone at a family get-together? Definitely Sharpies.

It wasn’t that long ago that Sharpies were my lifeline. I was isolated — stuck in a different world — when I was experiencing auditory and visual hallucinations. I discovered art was a way I could communicate what I was experiencing. Everyone else got to see the world I was stuck in. Over time, I didn’t feel so isolated anymore.

A couple of drawings turned into dozens of drawings. I really loved creating them but I also needed something to do with them. Maybe this was my passion so I took it up a notch and started entering exhibitions. I let everyone into my world of living with schizoaffective disorder.

Art gives me purpose. It calms me and boosts my confidence. It’s part of my identity now. What started as a tool to cope with mental health symptoms has now become a way of life. So why not make a career out of it?

I love participating in exhibitions, but I feel the experiences that influence the artwork are just as important as the piece itself. My art is a part of my story and vice versa. I’ve learned that I can use my story to help others and I was searching for an opportunity to make that happen.

And I found it right here in my own community.

I now run a small arts center that is part of a local nonprofit helping the homeless. The participants at the center are all struggling with mental health and addiction issues. I facilitate art groups for the participants and our time together feels magical. The atmosphere is supportive and we bond. Our artwork is everything from a distraction from life to a way to express our symptoms. Whatever role artwork plays for the participants, it is an obvious driving force in their recovery. 

The participants come from all walks of life. It is very clear that mental illness and addiction do not discriminate. We find common ground in our daily battles. Then we make those battles beautiful, thought-provoking works of art.

We hold our art groups in a small space near downtown. It’s bright and welcoming with tall windows allowing lots of natural light to flood the room. Canvases line the window sills because there’s just not enough space on the wall. There are colors and emotions everywhere you look. It’s a new location for us but it already feels like home.

Sharpies still hold a special place in my heart and I make sure there’s plenty of them at the center. Sharpies are unforgiving and require very deliberate lines. However, their colors are bold, stark against the paper, and beautiful. I see my recovery (and the participants’) in every stroke. 

 

I hope you are all well during this crisis.

Ask the Questions (with an Added Jab at the US Government)

Just because something is unexplained, doesn’t mean it must be god’s work. Everything has an earthly explanation — even if we haven’t figured it out yet. Nothing just happens — there’s always a cause or reason.

New discoveries are being made every day and it’s not a miracle. Let’s give the doctors and scientists credit and support their work. They — not god — are making our lives better.

The most admirable trait of good scientists, doctors, scholars, and others making a difference is that they’re not afraid to ask the questions. “God’s work” is not an answer anyone should settle for. Curiosity should be embraced, not squashed with a blanket response from religion. They keep it vague to cover all bases.

Religion has always been about giving power to a corrupt few to control the masses. They were never in the business of explaining the world or answering big questions. They were never there to help. 

Funny. I feel the same about the current system of government in the US. You got to admit, there are a lot of parallels.

Babies aren’t “blessings” or “miracles”.

When you get pregnant, people tend to throw around words like “blessing”, “gift”, and “miracle”. It was annoying and even offensive sometimes, but I didn’t let that ruin the awe I was feeling when I was expecting my daughter. 

I was in awe of my body and nature. It’s just amazing to feel a tiny person form inside you. Our bodies are capable of some incredible things.

I was in awe of modern medicine. There were some complicated things to consider when we conceived, and although the pregnancy was high risk, everything went smoothly. Everyone was and is healthy. The tests and procedures I went through while pregnant were absolutely fascinating and they kept my baby and myself safe.

I know pregnancy isn’t the right choice for everyone, but I feel really grateful I got to experience it. It has actually made me feel more comfortable in my own skin. My stretch marks are like battle scars — I can wear them with pride because they were a part of my daughter growing in my belly. 

Becoming a mother also felt like joining the biggest support group ever. I now have a special connection to all the other moms in my life. Good or bad, we can all relate.

My pregnancy was never a “blessing” or “miracle” and my daughter isn’t a “gift”. Having a baby was an amazing, natural event and I now feel joy watching my daughter grow, learn, and explore. 

Let me also take this opportunity to thank my amazing doctors who brought my healthy baby girl into this world. They were knowledgeable and professional. They get the credit — not god. 

Has anyone else experienced this? Was your pregnancy a “blessing”?