Guest Blog Post: Discovery and Connection in Stories by Maria Alfieri

Exciting books — thoughtful stories — across land and time, into ourselves and others, they take us everywhere!

Author/blogger Maria Alfieri, who lives in Sussex, England, is on a mission. She’s out to create peer support and community when it comes to our mental and emotional wellbeing. Her most powerful tools are reading and writing…

“Freedom.” Photo of Maria Alfieri by Flora Westbrook.

How I Rediscovered Myself through Reading and Writing by Maria Alfieri

I came to collate The Silent Scream Anthology based on my own experiences of struggling silently in dealing with my childhood sexual abuse. I developed anorexia aged 11, for which I was eventually hospitalised aged 12-13. Anorexia was a physical demonstration of a trauma I could not vocalise. I spent many years starving myself and self-harming. My anorexia developed into bulimia. All my reckless and self- destructive behaviours were a way of me yelling to the world ‘I am not okay!”

Despite gaining some control over my eating disorders, I still struggled, sometimes daily, with that inner dialogue, which told me that I wasn’t worthy. That I needed to harm myself. My mind would sometimes take me to dark places, and I would have to talk myself back from the edge.

I found a way to heal through reading, as this was the first step on the ladder to connection with others — something I’d run away from for most of my life. I’d self-isolated much of my life, as many of us do when struggling emotionally. Mostly because of a deep sense of shame and a belief that I was unworthy of belonging. But reading stories similar to mine made me realise that I wasn’t broken and that I wasn’t ‘the only one’ feeling this way. Through stories, either fiction or non-fiction, we share empathetic connections, reaffirming our humanity. They remind us that we are part of a collective. Through reading, and then writing, I came to understand myself better.

Reading and writing are part of the process of connection; firstly, connection with ourselves, and then connection with others. And connection is vital for healing, growth, and change. Writing about my past, in particular, was an extremely cathartic process. Ultimately for me, reading and writing were the tools through which I recovered the person I want to be.

They brought me into this shared community that we created through The Silent Scream Anthology — a community of courageous and inspirational people who empowered me in many ways and helped me to unravel further the depths of my own unhelpful conditioning. It is my greatest wish that The Silent Scream Anthology is the passing of the torch for its readers — the light which sparks hope in moments of darkness and a stepping stone on the path of connection, healing, growth, and change.

As a collection of raw, honest and inspirational memoirs, anecdotes, poems, and artworks about a variety of mental health topics, The Silent Scream Anthology is aimed at anyone who has ever struggled silently, felt trapped by shame and felt alone in their experiences, no matter what those experiences are.

Cover of “The Silent Scream Anthology,” by Maria Alfieri.

Prior to collating The Silent Scream Anthology, I qualified as a teacher and taught English across secondary schools before having my four children. Stories have always been an important part of my life, and today I make it my mission to promote the power of connection through empathetic literature.

More about Maria Alfieri here. Her “The Silent Scream Anthology” is available in hardback here and here, in paperback here, and in both here.

What book or story has made the most impact on you?

Guest Blog Post: The Tao of RELATIONSHIP by Bryan Wagner

Communication is not easy. Whether I’m listening, reading, looking… all my interactions are colored by my perspective that’s shaped by my present and past. Sometimes my simplest, most straight-forward conversations are with my dear doggie.

Who do you interact with most easily? Blogger/writer Bryan Wagner presents workshops on Zen, Tao, and Shamanism. Here’s his take on relationships…

Bryan Wagner and a friend spending quality time together.

“The Tao of RELATIONSHIP” by Bryan Wagner

Communion is creating and embracing an emotional, spiritual, sharing of each other.

We can enter a state of communion if we are present and each of us has the desire, openness, and willingness to remain so. 

We can also use that willingness of communication to build a more intimate exchange that leaves traces of each participant within the other. That is the act of communion. Communion is not just language and sharing. Communion is a process further than language, it is the art of complete communication in the moment. Genuine communion happens when things move between those in relationship that is grounded in the awareness of the moment.

I believe that the sharing of emotional content is important to the state of being in communion. That means to express emotional, non-verbal content, and then allow the receiver to process it in whatever form that action takes.

Communion happens inter-species because spoken language is only a very small part of communion. Some of my happiest moments are in communion with animals. I think in part because they are aware and painfully honest in how they respond. Being with animals has the effect of clearing the detritus and fog from my thinking and reference frame on life. I engage in the state of love so readily with animals!

I honor and value those that I commune with and actively seek out building those relationships that offer that place of intimacy. I encourage people to embrace the idea of communing with others and seek those relationships out in their own lives.

Today I will spend some time communing with Spike and P’nut and a horse named Anastasia. I can’t think of a better way to share life. – Bryan Wagner

Who do you interact with most easily?

Guest Blog Post: Caregiving for Men by Dan Zeorlin

News alert! Caregivers are not only women.

Since Kansas blogger Dan Zeorlin (a.k.a. MLBerg) became one, he’s shared what he’s learned by writing, “Care Giver’s Manual for Men.” It is absolutely free, neither emails nor strings attached, as a downloadable pdf file. He’s also looking to start a support group.

He first wrote for Happiness Between Tails here. Read on for six of his insights into caregiving…

Caregiver/blogger, Dan Zeorlin (a.k.a. MLBerg), has an absolutely free manual for you!

Observations of a Life Well-Worn: Reflections from a Caregiver, by Dan Zeorlin

  1. Choices: I love to see young, recently-married couples at church with crying babies. Where else would one expect to find such enthusiastic subjects and empathic, experienced audiences? A beautiful encounter is in becoming a Caregiver for someone that you love – and to grow more fully human in sharing life: joys, struggles, strengths, and acceptance. Great opportunity to meet and know God through awesome presence! Of course, it is assumed that a new parent of the crying baby loves her/him. And through the gradual series of choices, we become seasoned Caregivers. 
  2. Disappointment and Farewell to Regret: Show some resolve – grow backbone where it is needed. Do the research to find out what you want and then go for it! If drawbacks are identified in every proposal, then deliver them in a positive manner. Don’t shoot yourself in the foot by creating impossible expectations. In other words, allow yourself space to dream big.
  3. What am I waiting for? Get over it! When will it be over? When will my life be through? I don’t know about you, but I need to request a review As Soon As Possible! This doesn’t mean I want fewer days to breathe, eat, sleep, and etc. but merely that I do not wish to spend my life preoccupied with “me” when there is so much more worth living for. Worse off than some…Better off than most – I do not deserve a charmed life. But isn’t this what I have every time I escape into my comfort zone? I need to be taking chances and reach new levels of shared experience. After all, sharing is caring.
  4. Enabling vs. getting a leg up: How do we become better Caregivers? The opportunities to help run rampant; the desire to leave everything neat and tidy is innate; the willingness to clean while becoming exposed to filth, getting dirty, and experiencing heartache can be devastating. Each of us has certain norms and standards, but none of these are absolute. What’s more, the object of desire often moves, and it changes. So instead of keeping the focus on trying to reach a target’s bulls-eye, sometimes the goal becomes quite unimagined and may take on slight variations or be radically different. Approach unforeseen consequences and not-prepared-for conclusions with confidence.
  5. The point is… When you sign up to love unconditionally (i.e., become a Caregiver), you do not control the rules. Pray for strength to say “Yes” each time something is asked of you; have the courage to say “No” whenever it is in the best interests of life. Try to recognize and respect those times when there is no answer other than to “hang in there.” We can be certain that love is served through Caregiving.
  6. What can I do to help? Look for ideas (try reading this: Caregivers Manual for Men) and get on board.

More about Dan Zeorlin: He is a blogger, a supporter, a follower, and a learner. He believes there’s no need to reinvent the wheel, but sometimes we must build a better mousetrap. His desire for sharing methods to enable persistence in giving care is simply a calling to do the right thing.

Do you know any men who are caregivers?…  

Honoring World HIV/AIDS Awareness Month by da-AL

Pessimistic about the world? Have you written off activism as a dead end? Think again. Thanks to the courageous efforts of one activist at a time, we’ve come a long way since the hellish first days of AIDS. Once upon a time, being HIV positive meant early death and having to endure enormous bigotry.

Image by Oberholster Venita from Pixabay.

Fortunately, these days we have ways to prevent it. Folks who are tested early and are found to be HIV positive can live long lives with treatment.

Moreover, the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services is working to end the U.S.’s epidemic within the next ten years!

In addition, it’s working to end discrimination in the U.S. against patients with HIV!

Since 1988, each December, people worldwide show their support to end HIV, both as a disease and as a stigma. We pay our respects to those whose lives have been cut short by it, and to those who live with it.

Here are some of my impressions of the early days of AIDS, which I wrote in reply to my good David Hunt’s post here. He also wrote about it here. Another site with historical information is Gay in the 80s.

Do you ever feel like activism is useless? How do you keep from getting down?

Pirongia, New Zealand: Hospitality and Recipe by da-AL

Vicky Apps (with her kitty) is a wonderful hostess!

We had less than a week to sample beautiful New Zealand. We’d landed in Auckland, spent a night in Rotorua, hiked a few hours in the Redwoods, strolled along Huka Falls, peered into Craters of the Moon and visited the Waitomo Glowworms Caves, and then river rafted in Taupo — then later Hamilton Gardens. (Eventually, in Australia’s Gold Coast, we visited family and birds of Australia Part 1 of 2 plus Part 2 of 2, then we marveled at the Spectacular Views in and Around Gold Coast, enjoyed a delicious meal on the beach, saw some wild things and cute things at Currumbin Wildlife Sanctuary, had fun with Rita Rigby, met the beasts of Brisbane and the beauty there, and enjoyed Sydney this much and that much, as well as the purring there!

Pirongia was a lovely village (by the way, it was interesting to find that as far as I know, here in the U.S. we only use the term ‘city’, not ‘village’) to spend our final night before returning to Auckland. Short as our visit to Pirongia was, our hostess, Vicky Apps, made it memorable. If you’re ever in the area and need a cozy room at a reasonable price, I highly recommend emailing her at apps@xtra.co.nz

Vicky and her charming kitty, made us feel like family at her gorgeous, spacious home. We so enjoyed sitting in her flower-filled backyard and chatting with her. Moreover, she even washed (and folded!) my clothes at no charge. For breakfast, she shared delicious homemade jams and preserves, including one that was made from a guava type fruit found only in New Zealand. (By the way, New Zealand has its own variation of sweet potato too, which I regret not getting a chance to sample.)

Photo by Daria Nepriakhina on Unsplash.

When I much enjoyed some of Vicky’s Anzac biscuits, an immensely satisfying sort of oatmeal cookie that was devised for the Australian and New Zealand Army Corps (ANZAC) during World War I, she generously hand-wrote the recipe for me!…

Vicky’s recipe for Anzac biscuits, page 1.
Vicky’s recipe for Anzac biscuits, page 2.

Do you have a biscuit or cookie that’s special to where you live?

Guest Post: 7 Signs of a Toxic Relationship by Looking for the Light

Looking for the Light blog avatar logo
Looking for the Light blog avatar/logo.

Even in the best of times, relationships can be complicated. Sometimes we know something is wrong, but we’re not sure whether we should keep trying to make it work and whether the problem lies within our own actions or those of the other person. On her Looking for the Light blog, Melinda Sandor of Texas offers a link to a list of insights on how to ‘Keep Moving Forward’ in the worst of times…

Looking For The Light

Bustle

By KRISTINE FELLIZAR

When you’re in an unhealthy relationship, the best and obvious thing for you to do is leave. But sometimes that’s easier said than done. If you’re in a trauma bond, therapists say it will make leaving that situation even harder

“A trauma bond is an intense emotional bond between people that usually forms as a result of a toxic or abusive dynamic,” Samantha Waldman, MHC, an NYC-based therapist who specializes in trauma and relationships, tells Bustle.

A past history of abuse or exposure to it can make a person more likely to form trauma bonds. For instance, people who experienced some form of neglect or abuse from childhood may normalize this behavior as an adult because it’s what they “learned.”

As Dr. Connie Omari, clinician and owner of Tech Talk Therapy, tells Bustle, trauma bonding includes the tendency for a person to connect…

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Guest Blog Post: “Focus on what you can do, not what you can’t” by Caz

My inner cynic can loom monstrous enough to be laughable. When it skulks, it can be harder to address. Caz, who lives in England, understands that emotions are part of being human. Without being syrupy, without promoting denial, she offers practical help. Her Invisibly Me site deals with living with invisible chronic pain, including living with an ileostomy (not to be confused with a colostomy). Here’s a sample of her best advice…

Graphic: Focus On What You Can Do. Not What You Can't.

Photo of blogger Caz of InvisiblyMe.com
Caz made her first website when she was 13!

I wrote this with chronic illness in mind, but it also applies to other spheres of life, from living arrangements to your financial situation. 

Focussing on what you can’t do. It can become a vicious cycle, leaving us exhausted and disheartened before we even begin. It can happen for various reasons. Looking at how things used to be in the past, such as before chronic illness took hold. It may be from social pressures concerning what we ‘should’ be doing at this point in our lives. It may be from comparing your life to how you thought it would look, or comparing your situation to that of your peers.

For whatever reason, it’s good to work on acknowledging and accepting the situation and what you can’t necessarily change right now. Then, redefine what’s important to you, not what you feel you ‘should’ value or want. Write your own rules. Find new paths to explore and get creative to find ways to get there. Maybe you can’t do certain things, but there will always be options and alternatives. There are always small changes you can make and actions to take to improve your situation or live your best life. You may just have to look a little harder to find them.

It’s also about readjusting expectations and making them more realistic and manageable. Take note of the things you can be grateful for that often get lost in the midst of pain and illness, or stress and worry. It’s about looking at the things you’re good at and the positives you can eek out of your situation and experiences. You’ve become stronger and more resilient. Perhaps you’ve met new people in person or online, such as through blogging or support groups. Maybe you’re more compassionate, empathic, have found a new skill or have become more appreciative of the small joys in life.

When we focus on the negatives, the limitations or the things we can’t change, we give up our power. By honing in on those things you can’t do or have, or the ways in which you feel constrained, it limits your perspective and experiences even more so.

By focusing on the can’t-dos, you’re reducing yourself & your life. You are more than just the things you can’t do. 

Empower yourself by looking at what you can do, no matter how small. Look at the things you can change, the tasks you can accomplish, the things you can choose to do. 

Instead of ‘I can’t do…’, change it to ‘but I can do…’.

You’re doing the best you can, with the cards you’ve been dealt and the situation you find yourself in. A little jiggle of perspective can make a big difference. Don’t close yourself off from possibilities. Instead, think outside the box and take back some control over your life. You may just find that you’re capable of more than you imagined.

– Caz

Visit Caz at her blog and her facebook page and her Instagram.

Blogger Caz of InvisiblyMe.comInvisiblyMe.com logo graphic

How do you deal with invisible pain?…