Daily Archives: December 1, 2014

Midwinter Festivals

Yule, Christmas, The Extreme of Winter, Soyalangwul, Tekufah Tevet

This morning I received the December 2014 L7 Lifestyles newsletter from Lotus 7 Yoga, a local Rancho Santa Margarita, CA yoga studio. The newsletter summarized different mid-winter celebrations. The newsletter motivated me to finally get off the couch, go to the studio, and take a gentle restorative yoga class. Here I quote the newsletter regarding the world’s major winter festivals:

Soyalangwul (Native Amercan) is the winter ceremony of the Zuni and the Hopitu Shinumu, “The Peaceful Ones,” also known as the Hopi Indians. The main purpose of the ritual is to ceremonially bring the sun back from its long winter slumber. It also marks the beginning of another cycle of the Wheel of the Year, and is a time for purification. Pahos (prayer sticks) are made prior to the Soyal ceremony, to bless all the community, including their homes, animals, and plants. The kivas (sacred underground ritual chambers) are ritually opened to mark the beginning of the Kachina season.

Tekufah Tevet (Hebrew) is one of four Tekufot, solstices and equinoxes recognized by the Talmudical writers. Tekufat, the beginning of winter, or “‘et ha-koref” (stripping-time) was when Jephthah sacrificed his daughter . A long standing superstition is that on any of the Tekufot, water that was kept in vessels turned poisonous and must be thrown out. Some believed the poisoning could be prevented by placing iron in the water over the Tekufot. This observation’s solemnness is unlike the following holiday, Hanukkah. This celebration carries much of the ‘light’ symbolism present in solstice-connected holidays and has become more prominent in western cultures.

The Extreme of Winter (Chinese, Japanese, Korean, Vietnamese) is one of the most important festivals celebrated by the Chinese and other East Asians when sunshine is weakest and daylight shortest; i.e., on the first day of the dongzhi solar term. The origins of this festival can be traced back to the yin and yang philosophy of balance and harmony in the cosmos. After this celebration, there will be days with longer daylight hours and therefore an increase in positive energy flowing in. The philosophical significance of this is symbolized by the I Ching hexagram fù (“Returning”). Traditionally, the Dongzhi Festival is also a time for the family to get together.

Christmas or Christ’s Mass is one of the most popular Christian celebrations as well as one of the most globally recognized midwinter celebrations. Christmas is the celebration of the birth of the God Incarnate or Messiah, later known as Jesus Christ. The birth is observed on December 25, which was the winter solstice upon establishment of the Julian Calendar. Universal activities include feasting, midnight masses, good deeds and gift giving in the tradition of St. Nicholas by not admitting to being the actual gift giver.

Yule or Jul (Northern Europe, Scandinavian, Norse and Germanic) In 960, King Håkon of Norway signed into law that ‘Jul’ was to be celebrated on the night leading into December 25, to align it with the Christian celebrations. Yule logs were lit to honor Thor, the god of thunder. Feasting would continue until the log burned out, three or as many as twelve days. Early Germans (c.500-1000) considered the Norse goddess, Hertha or Bertha to be the goddess of light, domesticity and the home. They baked yeast cakes shaped like shoes, which were called Hertha’s slippers, and filled with gifts. During the Winter Solstice houses were decked with fir and evergreens to welcome her coming. When the family and serfs were gathered to dine, a great altar of flat stones was erected and here a fire of fir boughs was laid.

Resources: Wikipedia.com

Filed under: About God, Mindfulness Tagged: winter festivals, winter solstice, yoga

Writings from the Mother of Bipolar Bandit Part 8: A Mental Health Advocate Lives On

mom gazeboIt has been so hard to write this blog as it is just another way that it confirms  my mom, Sue Lande,  is only in my heart and mind from this point forward.  I will no longer be able to email her, call her, or see her when I need encouragement and advice.

My mom, one of the best advocates I know for mental illness died November 16th. It is still hard to say or think. It does not even seem like reality yet.

She  blogged in hopes that other parents could learn from her mistakes and be encouraged when their children are struggling with mental illness.

She was my mental health advocate for over 25 years after I was first diagnosed and also advocated for others afflicted by mental illness who she did not even know. When she saw injustice, she was ready to fight for the rights of those with bipolar disorder or other mental illnesses.

She also helped by giving input to local meetings that dealt with mental health and often voiced her opinions and even got upset enough to try and do something about some things. She encouraged and was proud of me when I wrote letters to the editor regarding mental illness and they got published.

She tried to help my friends and family understand my illness so they could help and accept me.

She helped  me organize an event called Embrace Life Day last year in honor of mental illness awareness week.  It was very successful and it could not have been done without her help.

I am planning to do it again this year to honor her and let all her hard work last year pay off.

It is a hard thing to say, but…Mom, I love you and will miss you always!  You are in my heart, but there is such a void that I don’t ever see being filled.

I know that all the work that you have done as a mental health advocate will not be done in vain. You tended to work behind the scenes when it came to helping others. You were humble and wanted no recognition. However, I want you to know that I recognized and that is what really matters.

So many others have talked about your smile and how you have helped others by writing cards and jumping in when things needed to be done.  Constant reminders of how great you are keep your legacy alive.

Sue Burghardt Lande Scholarship Fund will be going towards children who are suffering. If you would like to contribute, you can post it anonymously and/or say you are a mental health advocate. You don’t have to, but you would not know about this unless I told you.  Even $5 would help her legacy live on.  Thanks for considering.  If you would rather write a check: checks made payable to Susan Burghardt Lande Scholarship Fund can be mailed to Epiphany Lutheran Church, 5220 Silas Creek Pkwy, Winston-Salem, NC 27106 – (336) 765-621



I’m Not Gonna Miss You

Kitt O'Malley:

This post by Lynne of curvyroads.info hits close to home, as my father, like her mother, has dementia. For more information about dementia and Alzheimer’s disease, visit the Alzheimer’s Association at alz.org.

Originally posted on The SisterWives:

She’s probably going to forget my name even though she gave it to me. She will one day not recognize my daughter, her only granddaughter, even though she looks just like her. One day, I am going to sit in front of her and weep because the woman I call “Mom” no longer exists. I can prepare myself as much as I want, but I will never be ready for that day. My mother has Dementia and will one day probably develop Alzheimer’s. As it stands, we have good weeks and bad weeks. One day the bad weeks will outweigh the good weeks, so what do we do in the meantime?

We cherish the time that we have and appreciate the moments when she is herself and the moments when she isn’t. I will miss her, but in this beautiful post by Lynne, she puts things into perspective from my…

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Filed under: Dementia, Family, Mental Health Tagged: ALZ.org, Alzheimer's Association, Dementia

Setbacks and What Can Help in Tough Times

  This is one of the rare occasions that I wish I could be an anonymous blogger.  If that was the case, then I’d write in detail about what recently happened to me.  Since I can’t reveal specifics, I’ll stick with the basic … Continue reading

The Place I Chose To Die


The other day we were driving back from my Immunology appointment at our local hospital , the same hospital where I was incarcerated for nine long weeks in The Dungeon. Anyway, we passed this little motel, the kind of establishment that is a mix between being super twee and super dodgy, and suddenly this chill spread through my body. I remembered the motel. But I couldn’t think of why.

I started to rack my brain for information. I was sure I had never stayed there. I mean, why would I want to stay in a slightly dodgy motel situated on a major road, in a slightly dodgy area of town, in my own city? I didn’t know anyone who had stayed there. I couldn’t recall ever visiting it for whatever reason. Then suddenly I broke through the ECT induced memory loss and the reason hit me like a tonne of bricks.

Of course. I thought. That was the place I chose to die.

You see, when I was admitted to the Dungeon I was suicidal. These feelings got worse and worse as time progressed. None of my meds were being absorbed due to the pesky autoimmune disease. Things were going rapidly downhill. I heard voices which told me to kill myself. I began to see people who followed me around and continually tried to convince me that my loved ones would be better off without me. That I was a burden. That if I REALLY wanted to help people I should get rid of the problem. Me.

Of course, when I expressed this to the medical staff they told me that the voices were wrong. But those voices…”The People” just used to ask me “Who ya gonna believe, Rachael? The doctor who has known you for five minutes? Or us, who have been with you for most of your life, know your intricacies and your family? We WANT to help you. Let us help you” These “people” were twisted but somehow they always made sense. And so they kind of grabbed hold of me.

So I began to make a plan. I managed to hack into the hospital university’s wi-fi through my own university. I searched the net and chose a place, this particular motel, to die. I decided how to do it. I had cash, a credit card, and a bus card. I was a voluntary patient on an open ward. I knew I could walk out at any moment and just never return.

Somehow, and I don’t recall how, around this time the doctors twigged that I was losing grip. I was placed on one-to-one supervision, and much to my frustration at the time, my plan was foiled. Thank god.

I find it very awkward to write about this. I feel an intense shame that I even THOUGHT about killing myself – much less making an elaborate plan. I feel like someone reading this is going to shout out “See! Unfit mother! Disgrace to society!” This is such a difficult topic to talk about.

Suicide is such a stigmatised issue. I mean, God, it’s a HORRIBLE issue. There’s no doubt about it. But it’s real. And it should be talked about.

The leading cause of death in Australians aged 15 to 44 is suicide. And, you know, that’s just looking at “successful” suicides (and wow, I hate that term). For every death around 30 people attempt to end their lives. This is MASSIVE issue. (see Lifeline for more horrifying statistics https://www.lifeline.org.au/About-Lifeline/Media-Centre/Suicide-Statistics-in-Australia/Suicide-Statistics)

But we don’t like to talk about it, because those who kill themselves, or try to kill themselves are selfish. They are weak willed. People who attempt suicide are looking for attention. They are all sorts of negative things that  definitely do not encourage those struggling with suicidality to seek help.

Let me just make something clear. When I was meticulously plotting my own death in hospital I was not looking for attention. Quite frankly, that was the last thing I wanted. Also logic doesn’t come into it when you are suicidal. Although it is true that “suicide is a permanent solution to a temporary problem”, in the depths of despair you don’t think that way. All of your thoughts become warped. I truly believed it was my best option, and would be kindest to those I loved. Obviously, I was also, and this is really important, very very sick.

People who are well generally do not want to kill themselves. There is this thing called human survival instinct. Against the odds, humans want to survive. That’s why people fight and fight through terrible adversity and illness. We WANT to live.

People who decide that the best option for them is suicide are generally very unwell and urgently need help. I truly believe that if the issue wasn’t so stigmatised, people may feel more able to ask for help when they need it, and perhaps unnecessary deaths could be prevented.

While I was in hospital I was afraid to tell the staff the extent of my suicidality. I was scared to tell them because the last time I felt suicidal I presented to the emergency department and was seen by a bored psychiatrist who said to me “You have a roof over your head. You have a husband. You have a baby. Why would you want to kill yourself?”

Yeah that made me feel great.

This type of experience, which is unfortunately, so very common for people with suicidal thoughts, just encourages stigma, and perpetuates the cycle. Different doctor, different place, but I was still scared of talking about how I felt.

I was really lucky though. I got the help I needed. I had a hospital keep me safe. Many other people aren’t this lucky. There are so many deaths out there that could be prevented.

But still, despite my feelings on stigma, I feel the shame. This is not something I will ever discuss, even with those closest to me. It feels like a dirty aspect of my life that I wish I could change, and this post feels like a confession.

I hope that one day I will be able to accept myself, and my experiences. I hope that I will learn to stop the self stigma. I hope that one day society will be able to talk about the issue that is killing so many people.

Jeffrey Eugenides – The Marriage Plot

Mitchell loves Madeleine. Madeleine loves Leonard. Things blur, stuff happens, a novel ensues – but the reason for reviewing it here, is the fact that one of the main characters is manic depressive. (The word bipolar never appears. It’s the 80s.)

“My God!” Leonard said. “A noun! I’ve never even dreamed of being a noun.”

“What would Bankheadian mean?”

Leonard thought for a second. “‘Of or related to Leonard Bankhead (American, born 1959), characterized by excessive introspection or worry. Gloomy, depressive. See basket case.’”

We meet Leonard as a college hottie with a deep soul and a shiny mind. His neurobiological disorder (ahem) is introduced as the plot in general thickens. It’s portrayed in respectful, simplistic, but frequently poetic fashion and it doesn’t put a foot wrong.

For a while, the Disease—which was still nameless at the time—cooed to him. It said, Come closer. It flattered Leonard that he felt more than most people; he was more sensitive,

You know how in some books, the research is as visible as Bridget Jones panty line? In this book, only the manic depression has that characteristic. It gives a good overview in a blatant way. It diminished my empathy for Leonard a bit, unfortunately. He came across as sulky and his alleged dark depths seemed contrived to me.

“What’s the matter with you, Leonard?” Rita asked.

Anger flared in him. For a moment, it felt like old times. “Well, let’s see. First of all, my parents are alcoholics. One of them is probably manic-depressive herself, only undiagnosed. I inherited my condition from her. We both suffer from the same form of the illness. We’re not rapid cyclers. We don’t go from high to low in a few hours. We ride these long waves of mania or depression. My brain’s chemically starved for the neurotransmitters it needs to regulate my moods and then sometimes it’s oversupplied with them. I’m messed up biologically because of my genetics and psychologically because of my parents, is what’s the matter with me, Mom.”

As the plot thickens further, the dynamics become more complex and interesting. Other people’s reactions to Leonard’s manic depression are eerily accurate. Once the intro to the disorder is over with, it’s much easier to just get into the story.

Leonard stood rooted to the floor. His eyes were filling, but if he kept blinking fast enough, no tears fell. As much as he hated his lithium, here it was his friend. Leonard could feel the huge tide of sadness waiting to rush over him. But there was an invisible barrier keeping the full reality of it from touching him. It was like squeezing a baggie full of water and feeling all the properties of the liquid without getting wet. So there was at least that to be grateful for. The life that was ruined wasn’t entirely his.

The Leonard/Madeleine segments of the novel become a tragedy of manners, as issues beyond manic depression begin to show.

Eugenides keeps getting it right:

Leonard understood why psychiatrists did what they did. Their imperative, when confronted with a manic-depressive patient, was to nuke the symptoms out of existence. Given the high suicidality of manic-depressives, that was the prudent course of action. Leonard agreed with it. Where he differed was in managing the illness. Doctors counseled patience. They insisted that the body would adjust. And, to an extent, it did. After a while, you’d been on the drugs so long that you couldn’t remember what it felt like to be normal. That was how you adjusted.

It’s right, but somehow unsympathetic; it’s all too superficial. Eugenides is not bipolar.

The Guardian‘s comprehensive review sums up the disorder’s (clunky) role in the plot well:

He also turns out to be clinically bipolar (Eugenides’s one concession to his old interest in pathological conditions) but Madeleine marries him all the same, and therein lies the book’s main source of tension: how is “positive, privileged, sheltered, exemplary” Madeleine, who “instinctively avoided unstable people”, going to acquit herself, having chosen this loose cannon for her mate? Will she stay the course? Will the long-suffering Mitchell, trying out various forms of religion and do-gooding (including a stint with Mother Teresa in India) while he endures his rejection, begin to look more tempting when Leonard goes off his meds and starts cracking up?

What do you reckon? Does the manic depressive get a happy ending? Will you care?

I’d like to recommend that you read Juliann Garey’s Too Bright To Hear Too Loud To See instead. And apologies if I got that title arse-about-face yet again.


WTF Walking Dead

Okay on a non-bipolar note. Did you all watch walking dead tonight? I’m in complete and utter shock. I’m not gonna say what happens because I don’t want to spoil it for those who are waiting to watch it. All I can say is OMG WTF.

Now onto the bipolarity and general health. I’m feeling like crap, I spent most of my day in bed nauseated and in pain. I’m still in pain, aching all over and I haven’t had much to eat but some oyster crackers. I’m actually a little hungry so that is something.

Emotionally, I’m having a lot of anxiety but I think it is because I am not feeling very good. I hate to feel sick around other people and once again not being in my own home has made this harder then it has to be on me. I  guess I just am ok right now. Haven’t been awake enough to figure out what my mood actually is. If anything I am a little sensitive. I think sensitive can be an ok emotion though, it makes you more apt for be empathizing. That’s always a good thing.

Well, this fucking sucks

I woke up not wanting to get up, then decided to get up, and went to the ER about my left shoulder.

My right shoulder, well, in 2011 (Dec 12) I got thrown off a horse into a jump and shattered my shoulder, fractured my humerus (which isn’t as funny as it sounds) and tore my rotator cuff. I’ve got rotator cuff repair surgery in June or July (go Canadian health system!) with a LOT of rehab after.

My left shoulder has been bugging me. Maybe from compensating for the right. I am right handed. So I went to the ER, its clear on x-rays, which I didn’t want, because that means its a severe sprain (muscles) or my rotator cuff.


They just did an x-ray, no ultrasound, so I don’t know what it is. But if the pain persists for another 2 weeks, its my rotator cuff and I’ll need an ultrasound or MRI.

Hopefully if it IS my rotator cuff, it won’t need surgery. I did a shitload of damage to my right one requiring surgery, and I barely met the requirements for surgery.

But please, DO NOT be my fucking rotator cuff because I really, really do not want to go through the hell again.

I don’t even know how I fucked up my shoulder. They didn’t even give me painkillers. Thanks!